In the UK, the World Cup matches are shared between two television stations: BBC and ITV. So as you might expect, comparisons between the duo are rife, as each channel strives to provide the best World Cup package for terrestrial viewers.
Both broadcasters have extremely impressive studios on the Copacabana beach. Both have a stellar list of pundits who are decorated with a plethora of club and international honors. Both are doing their utmost to provide the most rounded, immersive World Cup coverage possible. But which of the two is doing the best at this early stage of the tournament?
ITV had the privilege of broadcasting the curtain raiser between Croatia and Brazil, but immediately there was an eyesore on screen. The display that informs viewers of the score and time in the match is not something that you would typically notice. But ITV had decided to make this standout; it was enormous — covering about an eighth of the screen— staggeringly garish and downright unnecessary.
Adrian Chiles anchors the ITV coverage, and his abilities as a host have constantly come under scrutiny via various social media platforms. He has a very irritating patent for interrupting the pundits in the studio mid-discussion, either intentionally or unintentionally shifting a lot focus onto himself. His rant over Thomas Muller’s playacting in Germany’s game against Portugal was especially grinding, leaving guest pundits Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro a little aghast and Lee Dixon doing his utmost to put Chiles’ inane rambling into more coherent terms.
By comparison, Gary Lineker continues to be a serenely slick presenter for the BBC. He is amicable, appropriate and unwaveringly professional in his duties, and when the situation demands — as a former World Cup Golden Boot winner — he can also provide an insightful opinion. The only minor criticism of the former England man is that he should probably lend his opinion to proceedings a little more readily.
The pundits at the BBC have also been a lot more tuned in, with the typically eloquent Thierry Henry impressing with his astute observations about the matches and Alan Shearer showing a marked improvement in his analytical skills as of late.
But it’s not all been plain sailing for the BBC, with a host of their co-commentators coming in for some pretty severe stick (as well as commentator Jonathan Pearce for his comments about goal line technology). The most notable of which has been directed in the direction of former England international Phil Neville, who made his co-commentary debut during the England vs. Italy game.
The BBC received official complaints about Neville’s efforts, with viewers branding him boring and muffled throughout the game. It prompted Neville to admit in the aftermath that the co-commentary gig is a little harder than he first expected.
Obviously taking on board the criticism that was beset on his colleague, Robbie Savage was at the complete other end of the spectrum when he called the United States vs. Ghana match. The Welshman was abrasive, extremely critical and blatantly forced in his excitable rants. How about some middle-ground, lads?
Meanwhile, Mark Lawrenson has unashamedly bemoaned the standard of football in both his commentary outings so far. The former Liverpool man has the remarkable ability to emit genuine disdain for being at the game, puncturing the 90 minutes with a ton of sarcastic quips and dismissive suggestions. I suppose it must be difficult for him, though. Getting paid a handsome sum to watch a host of matches at the World Cup from one of the best seats in the stadium can’t be easy. It’s a hard life, isn’t it Mark?
ITV have fared little better when it comes to co-commentary, though. The former Republic of Ireland international Andy Townsend is their go-to guy for the big clashes and he continues to litter his calling with repetitive phrases and confusing contradictions. But he’s not quite as baffling as Clarke Carlisle, who despite his obvious intellect, seems to struggle to provide the swift insight that’s demanded in this sector. Plus, his observation that “it’s easy to see why Jackson Martinez doesn’t get into this Ecuador team” was just plain embarrassing.
In terms of the coverage of the England team, it’s the BBC that has provided the most streamlined product. Gabby Logan offers concise and considered reports when it comes to the Three Lions, giving viewers the key information about the camp and what that’s likely to mean going forward.
By comparison ITV try to spark their features up with a little more razzmatazz, quirky camera angles and flippant shots of the players laughing nonchalantly. Gabriel Clarke is ITV’s man closest to the Three Lions, and the questions he puts to both the players and Roy Hodgson are regularly tinged with a toe-curling awkwardness, leaving interviewees and viewers alike squirming uncomfortably in their seats.
Overall, the coverage provided by BBC far surpasses ITV at this early stage of the tournament. With Lineker, Logan and Henry, they have the best presenter, reporter and pundit between the two broadcasters, making their World Cup package a lot more proficient and effortless. Unfortunately, the insufferable Lawrenson will never change in his broadcasting style, but hopefully the likes of Neville and Savage will improve in their co-commentary duties as the tournament roles on.
ITV have some wonderful pundits, with the duo of Vieira and Dixon capable of making some very pertinent comments about the action, but with Chiles’ bizarre outbursts and all-round trying persona, ITV is just a little too in-your-face and forceful at the moment. But as we move into the second week of the competition, there is plenty of time for them to get their house in order.