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BBC to up the amount of free-to-air sport on TV

Monday, November 6th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The BBC has announced plans to increase the amount of free-to-air sport on TV.

The corporation is working with sports associations including the FA and the All England Lawn Tennis Club in the hope of adding at least 30 extra sporting events to its annual calendar.

More than a thousand extra hours of live sport could be available to watch online every year through BBC Sport and BBC iPlayer, including Rugby League’s Challenge Cup, Women’s Super League football, the British Basketball League, wheelchair tennis and the early rounds of the FA Cup.

The BBC has already secured the rights to the Olympics and the Wimbledon Championships until 2024, the football World Cup to 2022 and Euro 2020, as well as the Six Nations and FA Cup to 2021.

The increase in coverage has been made possible by the BBC’s development of low-cost streaming technology, which is now being shared with sporting bodies.

Barbara Slater, the head of BBC Sport, said: “We’ve seen the nation get behind a whole host of sports in recent years, especially at major events.

“We want to use BBC Sport’s live streaming service to showcase more of those moments that inspire people to take part. Put simply, it’s a huge expansion in the availability of free-to-air sport in the UK.”

Tony Hall, the BBC director-general, added: “This shows how we’re reinventing the BBC for a new generation. We’re giving people more of what they love by working in partnership with the sports industry and making the most of digital technology.”

British Basketball on the BBC

The London Lions and Sheffield Sharks in BBL action

British Basketball has confirmed that 32 games will be streamed live on the BBC Sport website, the BBC Sport app and via connected TVs.

Games from both the British Basketball League (BBL) and Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) will be featured including all three showpiece finals, which will also be available via the BBC Red Button.

The action gets underway on Friday 15 December when Northumbria take on Caledonia in the WBBL before Newcastle and Leicester clash in the BBL.

The 2018 British Basketball Cup Finals will be shown live from Birmingham on Sunday 28 January, the British Basketball Trophy Final comes live from Glasgow on Sunday 4 March and the Play-Off finals, which take place at The O2, will be streamed live on 20 May.

Women’s Super League football on the BBC

A selection of matches from the Women’s Super League (WSL) are being streamed live on the BBC Sport website and via the Red Button, with others broadcast on BT Sport and some shown on the WSL Facebook page.

The season kicked off on 22 September and the BBC has already streamed four games live on its website as well as covering others with live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The Beeb’s TV coverage continues this Sunday 12 November with Reading Women v Chelsea Ladies from 12.30pm, on the BBC Sport website and Red Button.

The FA Cup on the BBC

The BBC showed a live game from each of the FA Cup’s qualifying rounds, starting back on 5 August with a Merseyside derby between Litherland REMYCA FC and Liverpool AFC.

Its coverage continued last weekend with Hyde United v MK Dons in the first round proper. The draw for the second round is live on BBC Two tonight (Monday 6 November) and the BBC is expected to show at least one live game from each round up to and including the final in May. Round two will be played between 1 and 4 December.

Free-to-air football on other TV channels

England's friendlies against Germany and Brazil will be live on ITV

ITV will be showing live coverage of England’s upcoming friendlies against Germany this Friday (10 November) and Brazil next Tuesday (14 November).

Welsh fans can see Wales Under 21s take on Bosnia-Herzegovina in a UEFA U21 Championship qualifier on Friday night on S4C, then switch to BBC One Wales for coverage of the senior side’s friendly with France. BBC Two Wales is showing Wales v Panama next Tuesday.

BT tends to broadcast one Champions League game and one Europa League game on its free-to-air channel BT Sport Showcase for each game week of the competitions. The next round of Champions League matches takes place on 21 and 22 November, with Europa League sides in action on 23 November.

Formula 1 on Channel 4

Lewis Hamilton may have already wrapped up the championship but the last two races of the season should be worth watching.

Channel 4 has highlights of Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying on 11 November and race highlights the day after. It also has live coverage of the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, starting with the first and second practice sessions on 24 November.

On 25 November there’s coverage of the final practice and qualifying. The season finale itself takes place at 12pm on 26 November.

BT Sport and Sky Sports

It's fair to say that in the case of most televised sports, being restricted to free-to-air channels means you will be seeing a limited selection of live events. Having the power to pick and choose what matches matter to you comes with the price of a subscription service.

If you want to see every televised FA Cup or WSL game, for example, you'll need to sign up to BT Sport – if you have BT broadband or a BT Mobile account it'll cost you £5 a month. If you're with EE you can currently get BT Sport free for three months, after that you can cancel at any time or carry on for £5 a month.

Likewise, the only way to watch every Formula 1 race is to subscribe to Sky Sports. Adding just the Sky Sports Formula 1 channel will cost you £18 a month on top of a Sky TV package, with no minimum contract. Alternatively, you can get all of the Sky Sports channels for £20 a month as long as you're happy to commit to an 18-month contract.

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