“ Sky Sports Xtra was the fourth Sports Channel launched by Sky Sports. It airs repeats and live events of many Sky Sports programmes, such as La Liga. The channel launched in April 1999, and is a free bonus channel for those who subscribed to both Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2. The channel was originally launched as Sky Sports Extra but later rebranded to Sky Sports Xtra. The name Extra rather than Sky Sports 4 was chosen as the original intention of the channel was to simulcast sporting events showing on the main channels with the addition to interactive services. More recently the channel has stopped simulcasting, and the interactive services have moved to the main Sky Sports channels. Sky Sports Xtra now shows live and recorded sports events, and is in an effect a fourth main Sky Sports channel. „
Wow, it would appear I'm the first person to ever review Sky Sports Xtra...and you have to ask yourself why? Sky Sports is massive. A multi-million pound component of BSkyB, with millions of viewers...yet Sky Sports Xtra is often the forgotten, ugly sister of the station!
Sky Sports Xtra launched in autumn 1998 when Sky Digital first began broadcasting. It was originally developed to broadcast interactive programming and would be simulcast with the other Sky Sports channels to offer the interactive coverage. Of course, as technology has developed, there's been no need for this as the interactive element is now available of Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3, so Sky Sports Xtra is an additional channel with airtime to fill.
So, low and behold, they fill it with 'lesser' sports. Never will you find a Premier League game or England International here...unless perhaps it's netball... Instead what the majority of programming consists of is shows varying between half an hour and two hours of 'highlight' based programmes rather than live footage.
A quick look at the schedule as I type sees a WWE Special (there's nothing wrong with wrestling though in my eye!) looking back at the history of WCW. Then throughout the day there's shows such as 'Powder Adventures' (Snowsports), Aerobics Oz Style (aerobics, but with scantily clad women from Australia), World Series of Poker (again, this isn't live, just a round-up) and a personal favourite of mine - Premier League Years; a trip down memory lane with a two hour show reviewing an entire Premier League year from the past. These are often shown around Xmas/New Year and before the start of a new season.
There will be the occasional bit of live sport on Sky Sports Xtra - for example when it's a Heineken Cup weekend in rugby union, the sheer number of matches means there'll be a need to broadcast a couple of them on Sky Sports Xtra. The same applies to international cricket that's on at the same time as England. England obviously take priority and will tend to sit on Sky Sports 1 or 2, but if two other teams from around the world are playing and Sky have the rights, it may well be found on Sky Sports Xtra.
Now, being called 'Xtra' is a bit silly nowadays as with the sheer technology being available there's nothing 'Xtra' about it, so it will become Sky Sports 4 in January 2010 - something which is long overdue and will make everything look a bit tidier in the TV Guide!
There you have it - those who love their sport will appreciate Sky Sports Xtra for what it's worth. Those who don't, will happily go about their day safe in the knowledge they're not missing much...