Half way through the motor sport year, I tend to write several posts looking at BBC’s and Sky’s teams and programming in detail. In both 2012 and 2013, I went down this route, each member of each team was analysed one-by-one. For this year, I’m going to do things a bit differently. The main reason for this is purely because I haven’t watched as much of their broadcasts as in previous years, and also because I talk a lot about non-F1 motor sport now on this site as well.
As readers will know, back in April, I did not watch the Chinese Grand Prix live, and in addition to that, to be honest, not a lot has changed on the Formula 1 front. There are some things though, that have changed. Instead of focussing on everything, the next few posts will be limited to those points, and look at what should be changed going forward. The first two posts of the mid-season verdict I published last month, exactly half way through the Formula 1 and MotoGP seasons. The Formula 1 ratings piece can be found here, with the MotoGP article located here, both containing comments from the respective broadcasters.
The Sky Sports F1 team seen no departures over the Winter break and one addition in the form of Bruno Senna. Their programming slate has remained largely the same, the highlight no doubt being ‘Senna Week‘ from the beginning of May. Arguably, that was the channel’s best week since its inception in 2012. The main visible change for 2014 concerns The F1 Show. The show has been broadcast live from March to November on Friday’s since 2012. Previously, on non-race weeks, the show was presented from a studio, with no audience present. This was changed for 2014. After a successful trial pilot last Summer, the channel opted to switch studio’s permanently, with the studio audience a firm fixture for this season.
Every change has positives and negatives, and that is definitely the case here. Starting with the positives. The first, and I suspect there may be disagreement here, is social media. Sky promoting and actively encouraging social media involvement during the show with polls is a good thing. It is something that I have advocated in the past, and I am glad to see that Sky are doing live polls during the show. I can see the other arguments, for example “why are we wasting time on Twitter polls”, but in my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives. Social media interaction is vital if you want the show to thrive and reach a new, bigger audience – across both Facebook and Twitter.
Another positive, in the words of Daniel Puddicombe who wrote about this in April, is that the audience brings an extra element to the show. It makes the show livelier with a studio audience, which was lacking a lot in 2013. The F1 Show in 2012 worked with Georgie Thompson and Ted Kravitz, because they bounced off each other brilliantly, however once Thompson left, the show fell off the rails. Last year, this was clearly evident, the Midweek Report with Anna Woolhouse was easily the more superior show, despite an infinitely smaller budget to play with thanks to the quality of guests and the discussion within the show. What Sky have done for this season is make the Midweek Report feel like The F1 Show of 2012, with The F1 Show becoming a lighter magazine show, rightly or wrongly with Natalie Pinkham now as one of the hosts. Pinkham works better with a studio audience, which is perhaps one reason why the format change was brought in for the first place.
Whilst there have been positives, one of the biggest negatives for me has been the quality of the guests on The F1 Show. In a few weeks time, MotoGP Tonight will be broadcasting live from BT Sport’s studios with current champion Marc Marquez as one of their guests. Unsurprisingly, tickets for that edition sold out fast. BT’s MotoGP coverage is five months old, and they’ve managed to get the world champion on. Two and a half years into The F1 Show, and I don’t think we have had one top-tier current racer in the studio. Having a studio audience is fantastic, but only if the calibre of guests live up to the standard.
Why can’t we have a member of the audience ask ‘a decision maker’, for example Christian Horner about double points? If Sky are to have a studio audience, they should exploit it. One of the biggest criticisms of Formula 1 this season is that the teams do not listen to fans; by appearing on The F1 Show, they have at least one avenue to change that perspective. The F1 Show may not be Question Time, and I wouldn’t expect it to be (after all, I’ve called it a ‘lighter magazine show’ two paragraphs above!), but guests with importance to modern day Formula 1 would be good. That way, Sky can quote the guests on the website over the weekend, which will only promote the show further. It is one thing Sky doesn’t do, promote their own shows after they have been aired, with quotes from X on relevant Y issue.
Sometimes their agenda is debatable, and focussing on the wrong areas. Again though, this is interlinked with the lighter touch and the quality of guests. The 2015 rules were a big focus at the end of June, but was treated as an afterthought on The F1 Show. One last negative concerns the scheduling, Friday nights at 20:00 does not work in my opinion, and may well hurt their ability to get top quality guests, unlike MotoGP Tonight which airs on Tuesday nights. Given that Midweek Report airs on a Wednesday, I don’t think the scheduling will change, however the Friday slot must take a chunk off its audience, and I would be surprised if many catch up with the show on the basis that the show is not ‘must see’. It should probably also be noted that the changes have not moved viewing figures, the numbers remaining below 100k, this despite the launch show in March 2012 attracting 200k to the channel.
Overall, have the changes to The F1 Show so far been for the better? I think this depends on what you are looking for. If you want just F1 discussion then you are better off watching the Midweek Report, however, if you want a bit of humour injected into it, then The F1 Show is your thing. Like I say though, Sky have to take advantage of having a studio audience for the format to work, and for that to happen, the quality of guests has to be better as we head into the latter stages of 2014.