The London Series: the BBC’s coverage review

For those who were unable to go down to London for this weekend’s London Series games, we instead had to rely upon the BBC’s coverage of the games, which were shown on iPlayer and the BBC Sport app. 

I was hesitant to give the BBC’s coverage a chance on Saturday given how disappointing the BBC’s NBA game coverage initially was at the start of the year – the BBC had a commentary team in the arena for the Detroit Pistons vs Chicago Bulls game that was played in Paris in January. However, the commentary team was talking over visuals that were about fifteen seconds behind the action in the arena, resulting in an audio track where we at home could hear in the background what was about to happen in the game fifteen seconds before we then saw it on-screen, which made for a very frustrating viewing experience at home. After a couple more games that featured noticeably out-of-sync commentary, the BBC eventually had the good sense to start taking ESPN’s commentary as well as its pictures. 

Thankfully, these issues did not afflict this weekend’s coverage of the London Series games – the BBC instead partnered with the MLB Network to show its coverage of both games from London Stadium, tailored specifically for the BBC. 

Coverage review 

In short, I thought the BBC’s coverage of the games was excellent, and this was thanks in no small part to the great job done on commentary by Melanie Newman and Xavier Scruggs, along with sports journalist and BBC Tailenders podcast host Felix White. For me at least, the three of them were entertaining, informative and very funny, which helped make the games extremely enjoyable to watch at home. 

In particular, the job the three of them did accommodating any newcomers to the sport was fantastic. Felix White clearly knows more about baseball than he was letting on during the games, but he did a great job of acting as the conduit for the viewers at home, asking Melanie and Xavier to explain what everything in the box score meant, and (during the second game at least) encouraging the viewers at home to send any questions they had about the game or baseball in general to him via Twitter to be answered by Xavier on the air. 

Importantly, the three of them didn’t treat newcomers as if they were children, explaining the rules in a patronising fashion, either. Rather, they instead realised that baseball is a complex sport with a lot of rules and explained everything in a straight-forward fashion, treating the viewers with respect. I’ve been watching baseball for years, and even I learned a couple of things that I didn’t know before! 

On this point, if or when the BBC does show any more baseball games, they would do very well to work with MLB Network to put Melanie, Xavier and Felix on-air together again given the excellent job they did building a relationship with the viewers this weekend.

Furthermore, what the BBC and MLB Network did during the inning breaks was also thought-out very well and executed fantastically. Whether it was the 2023 season highlights, breaking down the rivalry between the Cubs and the Cardinals or highlights from Team GB’s games at this team’s World Baseball Classic, it filled the game breaks with interesting content that served to further educate the viewers at home and bring them into both the London Series games and the game of baseball even more. 

Xavier Scruggs shows us a three-foot-long ‘boomstick’ of nachos. As you do… (Courtesy of BBC iPlayer/MLB Europe)

Special mention also has to be given to the ballpark food review segments that Melanie, Xavier and Felix did during both games (video of which can be found here). It gave the viewers at home extra insight into what the gameday experience was like, leaving us wanting to be at the games even more than we already did, and was done in a spectacularly funny way too – Melanie, Xavier and Felix all realised just how ridiculous a three-foot-long ‘boomstick’ of nachos or such a thing as a doughnut cheeseburger sounded and made sure to heavily lean into that ridiculousness when showing the viewers said items, along with the rest of the culinary treats that were on offer at London Stadium this weekend. (Sidenote: if someone at London Stadium wants to send me a bacon-wrapped hotdog or a doughnut cheeseburger, I would be very open to that!) 


All-in-all then, the BBC hit it out of the park with its coverage of the London Series games, and I would hope that it takes note of how well the London Series coverage worked this weekend and now applies those lessons to its NBA coverage going forward.

When not watching the London Series from home, Brett is BFN’s Oakland Athletics Team Contributor, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSports.

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