As noted earlier this morning, it has been confirmed today that Jake Humphrey is leaving the BBC at the end of 2012, to join BT Vision from 2013 as presenter for their Premier League football coverage.
Since I wrote that article, Media Guardian have revealed a few details about Humphrey’s contract. They say that Humphrey’s contract is four years long (so from January 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2016), at approximately £250,000-plus per year (the Daily Mail say £800,000 per year). Interestingly the article also says that the deal is ‘not exclusive’ and that he can work for the BBC outside of his contract period. I am not quite sure what that means, as far as I read it, he cannot work for the BBC between January 2013 and December 2016, I won’t claim to be an expert in how these things work, so I may be reading that wrong.
Some will argue that Humphrey has left the BBC, as a result of them sacrificing half of their Formula 1 rights to Sky Sports in July 2011. I do not believe that is necessarily true. If it was true, then why did Humphrey not move to pastures new at the end of 2011? Personally, I suspect the reason he is leaving is due to his wife having a baby, due in March 2013. It is a perfectly reasonable reason, after all if you want to start a family, would you rather have work based in England an hour or two away, or be travelling around the world twenty times a year? A no brainer for me. The interesting point for me is when did BBC find out that Humphrey was leaving? I can see why Humphrey wanted to continue with BBC for 2012, because of the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012 and the Olympics, whereas in the next few years on BBC, there is not much ahead for Humphrey apart from Formula 1. This tweet from Humphrey twelve days ago now makes a lot of sense: “If I was Lewis, I think I’d give it a go elsewhere. New faces, new challenges. As my old boss once said ‘never sit in the comfy chair’…” – new faces, and new challenges is what lie ahead in his future.
In my opinion, Humphrey has been the best Formula 1 presenter we have had in this country, and he will be missed on the BBC F1 show next year. The thing about Humphrey is that he makes presenting look effortless in the Formula 1 paddock, it is a joy to watch. Humphrey’s four year stay as BBC F1 presenter between 2009 and 2012 compares with Jim Rosenthal’s nine year stay as ITV F1 presenter between 1997 and 2005, and Steve Rider’s three years as ITV presenter from 2006 to 2008. Hopefully the three amigos, Humphrey, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan can go out with a bang at the end of the season.
The question now is, who will replace Humphrey? The most obvious, and likely, choice is Lee McKenzie. This year, she has hosted the Canadian, German and Hungarian highlights shows as well as presenting live coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix in 2010. McKenzie is a safe pair of hands, has motor sport presenting experience, and is already a BBC employee, so is therefore the most likely candidate. Outside of McKenzie, could David Coulthard step up to be presenter? Unlikely, but we seen Martin Brundle present the Japanese Grand Prix in 2008 on ITV, so it is not impossible. I don’t see that myself. Moving outside of the BBC Formula 1 team, but staying within the BBC, one sports presenters I was thinking of is Gabby Logan. Logan does not do a lot of work at present at BBC Sport and if they do draw up a shortlist, I think Logan would be on there with nearly fifteen years of sports presenting. As far as I know (someone correct me if I am wrong), she has not presented a motor sports programme before, which may count against her. The other BBC Sport presenter I was thinking of is Matt Roberts, the current MotoGP presenter. Surprisingly, his name has not been mentioned once, but Roberts I think is a definite contender, having already ousted Suzi Perry as MotoGP presenter at the end of 2010. I’m unsure of whether Roberts is contracted through BBC directly or whether he is contracted through Century TV, the company which produces BBC’s MotoGP coverage, so that may complicate things slightly.
Outside of the BBC? Steve Rider potentially, but I don’t see him wanting to present on location at every race again, his current deal with ITV for the British Touring Car Championship and Sky for the F1 Legends programming seems to suit him at the moment. There are no other obvious people to me, I don’t forsee anyone moving over from the Sky Sports F1 team to present Formula 1 on the BBC. The shortlist is a short one, but I think McKenzie and Roberts are the front runners here.
The above however all relies on one assumption: that BBC are not planning on pulling out of Formula 1 at the end of the year. I don’t think they are, personally I anticipate the deal that was signed last July will remain in place. But no doubt the announcement today may well fuel speculation that the BBC may be about to pull out of showing Formula 1 live altogether. I sincerely hope that does not happen, but we were surprised with the news last July. I just hope, we are not about to be surprised again with news for the worse…
As always, your comments, thoughts and speculation about the future of Formula 1 on BBC, as well as who will be the new host of BBC F1 are welcome.