Could Michael Owen, Jake Humphrey and David James be about to become football’s Clarkson, Hammond and May?
As the trio kick off BT Sport’s first season of live Premier League coverage, Owen says the newly-launched subscription TV service is set to be “a major player in the world of football for the foreseeable future”, challenging established rival Sky Sports with an offering that combines exclusive match rights, value for money – and a Top Gear-style programme.
“We involve the crowd,” Owen told RadioTimes.com. “It’s like Top Gear where you’ve got a few hundred fans in and they’re asking questions and you're interacting, so it’s a really relaxed-feeling atmosphere and just a different sort of slant on things."
But it’s not just about the banter. BT Sport’s state-of-the art studio will house a tennis court-sized football pitch where Owen and fellow ex-players will perform footballing demonstrations.
“We believe we’ve got as good a studio as anywhere in the world," said Owen. "It’s absolutely fantastic. We’re going to be trying new things, it’s innovative, we’ve got a football pitch inside the studio where we can do demonstrations and re-enact situations. We’re trying to push the boundaries, we’re trying to make it a fun programme to watch.”
The former England and Liverpool striker also believes BT Sport’s live football package will impress fans with the breadth of its coverage and value for money.
“We’ve bought a good set of rights for the Premier League this year,” said Owen. “We’ve got the rights for the next five years for the FA Cup. There’s Bundesliga [top-flight German football], there’s French football, there’s football from all over Europe. I certainly think it’s a channel going places.
"We’re pitching much cheaper than most other channels and with the rights we’ve got then it’s obviously great value."
BT Sport offers subscribers 38 live Premier League games each season, including 18 'first pick' fixtures, compared with Sky Sports' 116 matches. But at £12 per month (and free to BT Broadband subscribers) it’s in a lower price bracket to Sky.
Owen starts his new job as one of the channel’s senior football co-commentators on the first day of the new Premier League season with a fixture involving two of his former clubs, Liverpool and Stoke.
The coverage will be fronted by Jake Humphrey and will also feature punditry from former England goalkeeper David James.
Just one question remains – if these three really are football’s answer to Top Gear, who’s Clarkson, who’s Hammond and who’s May…?
Michael Owen is co-commentator on BT Sport’s coverage of 38 exclusively live Barclays Premier League Football matches. Coverage begins this weekend with the first game of the season Liverpool v Stoke at 11:30am on BT Sport 1. BT Sport is free with BT broadband, to find out more visit www.btsport.com