Sunday, February 28News For London

Controller of ITV Sport on best and worst moments — and life after the Champions League

In a glimpse behind the scenes of some of the country’s biggest broadcasters, Mark Demuth shares his experiences at the BBC and ITV. He discusses what ITV really think about losing the Champions League and what it’s like to work with Roy Keane.

Reporter and interviewer: Kait Borsay 

Cameras: Cristiana Ferrauti and Jipsa George

Video editor: Cristiana Ferrauti

Sub editor: Jaideep Vaidya

ITV will broadcast live Champions League matches until the end of the 2014/5 season. Credit: Credit: Alberto Sanchez Frenandez
ITV will broadcast live Champions League matches until the end of the 2014/5 season. (Credit: Alberto Sanchez Fernandez)

Mark Demuth, Controller of ITV Sport, Production, joined students of the University of Westminster for an hour-long Harrow Conversation in March.

From Fleet Street to the BBC and ITV, Demuth offers valuable insight into the profession. From his early career at Hayters Sport Agency to becoming a producer for the BBC, programme director for Radio Solent and the first editor of the award-winning Match Of The Day 2.

After a career spanning decades, he now leads the in-house production team for ITV Sport. Being successful in sports broadcasting isn’t an exact science though, as Demuth explains:

“It’s not fair, some people will put all the hours in and they won’t get the break… but once you get the break, it’s what you do with it.”

The FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil produced some of the most rewarding moments of Demuth’s career. (Credit: himanisdas)
The FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil produced some of the most rewarding moments of Demuth’s career. (Credit: himanisdas)

After covering three Olympics, numerous football World Cups and European Championship finals, Demuth reveals his top tips for getting on in the industry: from knowledge, to knockbacks:

The Crystal Palace fan spoke in-depth about his experiences at last year’s World Cup, during which he had one of his most “exhilarating and frightening” moments in television production.

In last year’s most-watched TV programme, England played Uruguay at the tournament in Brazil, pulling in an audience of 20m viewers. However, as Demuth explains, the show very nearly didn’t make it to air:

Having the right talent in front of the camera has been a huge part of the success of the numerous sports programmes Demuth has produced. He describes Des Lynam, who presented BBC’s Grandstand, as “a fantastic presenter, who could work to every level.”

“You know instinctively if you like a presenter or not,” Demuth says. “Why you like them is not always clear, but you feel comfortable with them.”

Hear more from Demuth on why he thinks Roy Keane is “fascinating” and find out which current Premier League star recently took him by surprise in front of the camera:

As the man in charge of live production for ITV, Demuth looks after the Champions League. The channel will no longer broadcast the competition though, after being outbid by millions of pounds for the rights by rival BT Sport.

Although ITV will show highlights, starting from September 2015, live games will not be available on free-to-air, something which Demuth admits was a “surprise” decision by UEFA.

How did ITV really feel after losing out to BT Sport’s cash? And will they bid for the Champions League again?

The loss of live Champions League and Europa League games throws open opportunities for other sports to be shown on ITV. The channel recently got into big-time boxing again, something that used to draw huge audience figures for them in the 1990s. Darts and cycling, says Demuth, are potential areas of expansion.

Carl Frampton’s (c) fight against Chris Avalos in Belfast marked the return of big-time boxing to ITV (Credit: DUP Photos)
Carl Frampton’s (c) fight against Chris Avalos in Belfast marked the return of big-time boxing to ITV. Credit: DUP Photos)

It’s an exciting period for ITV, who are actively looking to create the next big audience-puller in sport.

The channel will show the Rugby World Cup exclusively in the autumn. If England perform well, Demuth predicts we’ll be watching a lot more rugby in the next five years:

“This year is a big year for rugby,” he says. “England vs. Wales at Twickenham on 26 Sept… has moved X-Factor out of its usual slot…

If England were to go on and win it, that could catapult it into another dimension.”

Here more from Mark Demuth here, as he discusses the lack of women in sports broadcasting.