BBCA Strategy: Throwing Darts At A Dartboard

Watch out, NFL and Olympics -- there’s a new televised sport in town, and it is the second-most popular televised sport in the United Kingdom, according to BBC America.

Believe it or not, the sport is darts, second only to soccer as a television pastime in the UK, says BBCA -- which helps explain why American sports leagues such as the NFL now play some games in England every season.

If darts is the second most popular televised sport in Britain, then the NFL must believe that getting viewers there to watch football should be a walk in the park.

However, American football has no cultural foothold in the UK, but apparently darts do (or does). A BBC America press release about its darts content neglects to explain the fascination that BBCA implies is widespread -- not only in England, but across Europe.

One is left to assume that the popularity of darts stems from the pubs and watering holes of the UK, where darts is a traditional means of passing the time -- along with drinking.

At the moment, BBCA is in the midst of airing four months of “Premier League Darts” matches, including live coverage on Thursday nights, plus highlights on Thursdays and Saturdays, all starting at 10 p.m. Eastern. “Premier League Darts” started on BBCA on February 1 and will wind up on May 17.

“Ten superstars of darts battle over four months in Britain's biggest indoor sporting event -- and the 2018 tournament sees a visit to Rotterdam as well as a debut in Germany with a league night in Berlin,” says a BBCA press release.

The current run of “Premier League Darts” comes hot on the heels of BBCA’s coverage of the World Darts Championship over several weeks in December. The coverage ended with a three-hour live finale on New Year’s Day.

The umbrella title for BBCA's darts content is “Thursday Night Darts.” Take that, “Thursday Night Football”!

Credit the writers of BBC America's press release announcing its dart programming with showmanship.

“Darts is a pre-eminent world sport,” they wrote in the press release that went out this past December. “The World Darts Championship … is the biggest darts tournament in the world,” they said. Punctuation tip: When writing sentences like these in press releases, it is OK to use exclamation points instead of periods.

“Darts is a fringe sport like no other [!, exclamation point added],” said a prepared statement in the press release given to BBC America President Sarah Barnett. “It appeals to the obsessive soccer fan, requires the skill of poker and has some of the high entertainment quota of wrestling.

“As home to some of the world’s largest global franchises, adding a unique, world class sport to BBCA’s fresh and entertaining line-up feels like exactly the right move, giving viewers a live fix of a spectacular world class sport.”

Note the adjectives and descriptive phrases: “requires the skill of poker,” “high entertainment quota of wrestling,” “unique,” “spectacular” and “world class” (twice in one sentence!).

Full disclosure: I never saw this press release when it was issued in December (and may have never received it), but I got wind of this “Thursday Night Darts” series for the first time the other night while watching “Blue Planet” on BBCA and saw a “Darts” promo. The promo was certainly eye-catching, and I might even check it out on Thursday.

But as a topic for a TV Blog the subject is irresistible. It has long been the contention of many that the selection process that TV networks apply to picking shows is no more scientific than throwing darts at a dartboard.

This attempt on the part of BBC America to interest American audiences in watching people throwing darts at a dartboard is the first time that this phenomenon has ever been demonstrated literally.

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