Monday 22 January 2018

Sky Sports all but abandons Friday Night Football in April TV picks games

Sky Sports' Jeff Stelling launched a stinging attack on Hartlepool boss Dave Jones. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Sky Sports' Jeff Stelling launched a stinging attack on Hartlepool boss Dave Jones. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Ben Rumsby

Sky Sports appears to have all but given up on showing regular Friday night Premier League football this season after only four matches.

The broadcaster selected no Friday games among its live April fixtures, having also picked none in January, February and March.

Unless it selects a Friday match in the first two weeks of May, Sky will end the season having used less than half of 10 available slots in a package it paid the Premier League hundreds of millions of pounds to acquire. Having been awarded the rights to the first wave of regular Friday fixtures since the Premier League began, Sky started the season by showing three such games in the first seven rounds.

However, its Friday Night Football programme fronted by Jeff Stelling and Countdown's Rachel Riley then took a three-month break before returning on December 30 for Hull City's match against Everton. Sky's non-selection of Friday matches in favour of its flagship Monday Night Football programme comes amid falling television ratings for Premier League games this season.

Perfect Its first Friday game, Manchester United v Southampton on August 19, also attracted 811,000 viewers, almost half a million fewer than the Super Sunday clash between Arsenal and Liverpool five days earlier.

Riley had said at the time: "I was watching Liverpool v Arsenal in the pub on Sunday with a pint but Friday night is just the perfect time to watch football."

Sky insiders claim its failure to pick Friday night games is not for the want of trying and that it has struggled to juggle the Premier League schedule with that of other competitions.

The televised fixtures for the first weekend of May will be announced on April 6, with further releases on April 13 and possibly April 20.

Sky's April fixtures include the Merseyside derby (April 1, 12.30pm), Arsenal v Manchester City (April 2, 4pm), Manchester United v Chelsea (April 16, 4pm) and the North London derby (April 30, 4.30pm).

Live TV games for April and May

Saturday, April 1: Liverpool v Everton (Sky Sports), 12.30; Southampton v Bournemouth (BT Sport), 5.30. Sunday 2: Swansea v Middlesbrough (Sky Sports), 1.30, Arsenal v Man City (Sky Sports), 4.0. Tuesday 4: Manchester Utd v Everton (BT Sport), 8.0. Wednesday 5: Chelsea v Manchester City (BT Sport), 8.0; Saturday 8 Tottenham v Watford (Sky Sports)*, 12.30; Bournemouth v Chelsea (BT Sport), 5.30; Sunday 9 Sunderland v Manchester United (Sky Sports), 1.30; Everton v Leicester City (Sky Sports)*, 4.0; Monday 10 Crystal Palace v Arsenal (Sky Sports)*, 8.0; Saturday 15 Tottenham v Bournemouth (Sky Sports), 12.30; Southampton v Manchester City (BT Sport), 5.30; Sunday 16 West Brom v Liverpool (Sky Sports), 1.30; Man United v Chelsea (Sky Sports), 4.0; Monday 17 Middlesbrough v Arsenal (Sky Sports)*, 8.0;

Saturday 22 Man City v West Brom (Sky Sports)*, 12.30;

Sunday 23 Leicester City v Tottenham (Sky Sports), 12.0; Burnley v Man United (Sky Sports), 2.15; Liverpool v Crystal Palace (Sky Sports), 4.30; Saturday 29 Crystal Palace v Burnley (BT Sport), 5.30; Sunday 30 Manchester United v Swansea City (BT Sport), 12.0; Everton v Chelsea (Sky Sports),2.15; Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal (Sky Sports)*, 4.30. Monday May 1 Watford v Liverpool (Sky Sports)*, 8.0.

* Subject to Leicester involvement in the Champions League ** Subject to Arsenal involvement in the Champions League /FA Cup semi-finals

Irish Independent

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