The NIFL Highlights Show was axed by BBC Sport NI this summer — but may yet be afforded a reprieve amid continued debate over how best to promote Irish League football.
ith live streaming in greater demand globally, the highlights program — fronted by former Northern Ireland international Nicola McCarthy and broadcast late on Monday evenings — was considered to be somewhat behind the times in terms of maximizing coverage of the Danske Bank Premiership.
In recent years, BBC Sport NI has been rewarded for laying on live broadcasts of domestic matches with healthy viewing figures as the game continues to grow in popularity.
As a result, the Beeb intends to increase its coverage of streamed games on the iPlayer by 50%, while retaining the Irish Cup Semi-Finals and Finals on terrestrial television.
In an ever-changing world, streaming live games is becoming increasingly popular and may change the way football fans watch games on television globally.
With the highlights show usually listed for 11pm on a Monday, most Irish League fans would have already watched the weekend goals either on the BBC Sport NI website or their Facebook page, prompting a review.
The highlights program was set to be dropped with resources redirected elsewhere into covering football, but may now be retrieved to satisfy regional BBC broadcasting protocol.
BBC Sport NI will broadcast four live games in August — Larne v Glentoran (Friday 12), Glentoran v Crusaders (Friday 19), Newry City v Linfield (Sunday 21) and Portadown v Glentoran (Friday 26).
Northern Ireland Football League Chief Executive Gerard Lawlor professed himself to be very happy with both media coverage and spectator numbers for the burgeoning game here.
“Television viewing figures are very healthy,” Lawlor told Sunday Life Sport.
“The figures are in growth, attendances are in growth and these are exciting times for Irish League football.
“Live streamed games are to be increased this season and there is a massive global debate about the future of televised games, whether they will be streamed or shown live on television.
“Fans are responding well to streamed games and it may well be that streaming is something we will look at closely.
“My personal opinion is that we have to give the customer what they want and we have to offer continuity.
“I believe games should be shown in the same place every week, streaming is much more cost effective and could possibly offer viewers more of what they actually want.
“By the time 11 o’clock on a Monday night comes, most people have seen the goals online, whereas the most positive response has been to live games.”
A BBC Northern Ireland spokesperson said: “We are constantly reviewing our NIFL Premiership coverage to make sure that it reflects the viewing habits of football fans in Northern Ireland.”