Rosenthal latest casualty in ITV Sport cuts

ITV Sport has abandoned plans to cover the final of football’s European Championship this summer, when the absence from the tournament of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is estimated to cost the commercial broadcaster around £10 million in advertising revenue.

And in the latest shift at ITV – which is also reviewing its commitment to covering boxing – the channel has opted to part company with Jim Rosenthal, pictured, the frontman for so much of the channel’s coverage of athletics, boxing and football, F1 Grands Prix and in the past year the host of the channel’s acclaimed rugby World Cup coverage.

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According to Charlie Sale in today’s Daily Mail, “the move not to renew Rosenthal’s contract after 28 years with the network will send shockwaves throughout the industry”.

Mark Sharman, ITV’s head of news and sport, told Rosenthal, 60, he would not be receiving another full-time contract when his current deal ends in August because ITV were looking for new talent.

“Anyone who has seen the word-perfect way he handles an outside broadcast would assume he’s talking with an autocue. He’s the best there is and he doesn’t shout about it,” Sale reported an unnamed ITV source as saying.

Sharman said: “Jim Rosenthal has made a magnificent contribution to ITV Sport over a long period of time but we will no longer tie him to an exclusive contract.

“He will be free to explore other challenges while ITV Sport will have the opportunity to make on-air changes, particularly with the new FA deal.”

Last year, ITV Sport signed Craig Doyle, the former BBC Holiday programme presenter.

ITV, which has not covered the Olympic Games since 1988, seems to be setting another precedent over the Euro 2008 final on June 29, the first time the channel has failed to televise the final of a major international soccer tournament.

The announcement came on the same day that the BBC unveiled its plans for showing some of the Euro 2008 online, the latest instance of a broadcaster harnessing the web to “narrowcast” sporting events to an avid audience in an ever-more fractured, multi-channel environment.

In contrast, ITV will show only highlights of the Euro 2008 final. It marks another step in ITV’s retreat from sport coverage when put head-to-head with other channels: when ITV and the BBC both showed the World Cup final between France and Italy in 2006, BBC’s audience was measured at 14 million, compared to ITV’s 3 million.

This summer the BBC and ITV will each broadcast 12 group matches from Austria and Switzerland, plus two quarter finals and a semi-final. ITV has the first pick of which of the two semi-final matches it prefers to broadcast.

“We are not setting a precedent for the future,” an ITV spokesman told Guardian Unlimited. “The decision has been made because there is no home nation representation at this year’s tournament and we don’t believe that it is in the public interest for both broadcasters to show the final live.”

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