MacKenzie makes online sports move

TALKSPORT founder Kelvin MacKenzie is preparing to go head to head with the commercial radio business he sold to UTV Media for £92m in 2005 by launching an online sports TV channel, Sports Tonight.

MacKenzie (pictured), who pitches the web TV channel as “Sky Sports News meets TalkSport”, is soft-launching the venture with an estimated £5m to coincide with the start of the Premiership season on 13 August, before a full consumer launch in early to mid-September.

The sports channel will broadcast three to four live shows between 7pm and 11pm every day, with talk-based sports programming mixed with live video footage.

“Football is the driver, but any time there is a big discussion about sport, we want to be the place to go,” former Sun editor MacKenzie told City A.M.

However, he ruled out paying for sports rights. “We won’t be going down the Setanta route of competing with Sky to see how quickly they can bankrupt our business. That model could never work.”

Sports Tonight will initially be distributed via PCs, smartphones and tablet devices, although MacKenzie is open to potential carriage deals with internet TV providers such as BT Vision and Virgin Media.

The channel will be funded by advertising, sponsorship and product placement and will broadcast from studios in central London.

MacKenzie has so far signed one presenter and is keen to secure additional hosts with “strong opinions they are not afraid to voice”.

“We want to nurture talent that people will want to follow,” he said.

Former TalkSport presenter Mike Parry, who resigned shortly before the station signed disgraced Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys, is understood to be a potential frontman.

“I wanted to do this when I was at TalkSport, but we didn’t have the money and the distribution wasn’t there,” MacKenzie said.

“Today, people are using smartphones and tablets more and more, and internet-connected TVs will turn the TV in your living room into a static iPad, so you will be able to watch web shows in glorious HD.”

He added: “I hope the new online distribution system where there is no gateway [to rights] will ensure the channel’s success. It will be a fabulous, exciting journey.”


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