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The history of sports broadcasting

Sporting events have been broadcast to mass audiences in the UK since as early as the 1920s, when an international Rugby Union match between England and Wales was transmitted via radio live from Twickenham. While radio is still the medium through which many sports fans follow games – even if the standard of commentary may have evolved significantly in the decades since – there’s no doubt that the invention of television was a significant step in bringing fans closer to the events as they happen.

The first televised sporting event was a historic event not only for the technological implications, but also for the political issues it raised – the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games were notorious for allegedly showcasing Nazi Germany’s supposed superiority over other international entrants. However, the honour of the first truly live televised sports broadcast goes to the BBC, which transmitted a specially arranged match between Arsenal and its reserve team in 1937 to showcase the capabilities of the new medium.

Since that time, sport has remained a permanent and growing fixture on British TV as well as overseas, with magazine programmes such as Grandstand and World of Sport being naturally succeeded by dedicated sports channels available on satellite, cable and later digital TV. With sports broadcasters arranging exclusive deals to televise major events such as the Premier League and World Cup, terrestrial TV networks found themselves increasingly struggling to compete.

Today’s sport lovers have a wealth of options when choosing which sports channels to include as part of their TV packages, whether they’re just interested in the major channels, international networks such as ESPN or pay-per-view channels to access premium content not available elsewhere. Some of these channels are included as part of standard packages, meaning that even casual fans of football, tennis, horse racing and other popular sports won’t have to worry about missing the major events or signing up to channels they will rarely use.

Some big-name football clubs and other sports groups have also launched their own channels to bring content to fans around the clock, such as Manchester United’s MUTV, and viewers whose sporting interests are more specialised can find dedicated channels for certain types of events too. With advances in high-definition TV and now 3D TV being earmarked as especially significant for the sporting market, watching sport at home or in the pub has never been more life-like – a true substitute for heading down to the stadium yourself.

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