The region's football fans are about to be given a distinctly new opportunity to vent their post-match spleens as ITV Anglia launch a 606-style football phone-in show as part of their rapidly expanding broadband internet TV service.
The show – christened 'Soccer Night Extra-Time' – will be broadcast on the web only and will hit the net-waves for the first time this Saturday, kicking off at 5.30pm. Viewers will be able to e-mail or call 01603 753000 to take part in the debate, to be broadcast off www.itvlocal.com/anglia.
It is the first time that ITV Local Anglia has created a show specifically for broadcast on the web only and for those interested in the East Anglian media landscape – both of you – it marks an intriguing development as Anglia, in effect, start to re-invent themselves as a radio station and park a tank on the BBC's audio lawn.
For the corporation already offer their 606 phone-in show on Radio Five Live to a national radio audience – as well as more local offerings on both Radio Suffolk and Radio Norfolk tailor-made to air the post-match views of Ipswich Town and Norwich City supporters.
Both the BBC and ITV have set their Internet sights on drilling themselves down to local web platforms and the launch of 'Soccer Night Extra-Time' is part of that process – bringing the Anglia Soccer Night 'brand' nearer to a local, web-based audience.
The show will even be hosted by a very familiar face from Anglia's long-running midweek TV show, Kevin Piper, who will be joined by reporter Linda O'Brien.
“We're aiming to give local football fans a platform for lively debate, to call it like it is – good, bad, or plain indifferent,” said Piper, with the show designed to cater for all of the region's football teams.
“Broadband is very much part of the future of broadcasting, so it's great to be leading the way,” he added.
No other ITV region has stepped foot down this particular web-based path, so it is very much an exciting pilot project according to producer Jo Drewry.
“It's very exciting to be working on such an innovative programme,” she said, as the competition for the ears of East Anglia's football fans hots up.
“And that's who it is designed for – the fans. It's very much for them. Whether they just want to phone up and complain about the pies or whether their team has just won and they're so elated that they want to tell everyone else how well their team has done, this is their chance. It's their show.”
It also touches another big, new media 'button' in terms of audience inter-activity – giving the great East Anglian football public a chance to guide and shape the post-match debate. Again, Anglia's move into offering a digitally-based audio show is another good indication as to which way this new media world is going – as everyone seeks to develop a multi-media platform for their own Internet audiences.
Hence MyFootballWriter runs regular podcasts – in effect, 30-minute radio shows – to complement it's strong written content. The BBC and Anglia have, obviously, long cornered the local TV market; Soccer Night Extra-Time now sees Anglia moving into offering an audio package.
Both can be expected to expand their local written content as the BBC's 'MyLocal' web initiative gathers pace and www.itvlocal.com rolls out and develops across its own TV regions.
The challenge for the local newspaper websites is to take on both ITV and BBC at their own game and bolt TV and audio offerings onto their strong, written content and become a competitive, multi-media outlet of their own. The fact that everyone is developing such multi-media platforms with football at its core merely reflects the passion, the interest and, above all, the Internet traffic that the sport drives.
“There are few things in this world more passionate than a football fan,” said show presenter Linda O'Brien. “When I started going to games the Internet was unheard of, but now if I think there's been a dodgy decision, I can get on the web and gauge from the messageboards whether other fans agree with me. This show will hopefully take it a step further.”
Head of News David Jennings said: “Anglia Tonight prides itself on leading the way in coverage of regional sport and this exciting new service will give fans a unique opportunity actually to take part in the coverage.”
He said the new service would complement Anglia's commitment to regional news and sport, and would be a welcome addition to Soccer Night and ITV's Sunday goals round-up.