Channel 4’s Formula 1 highlights in 2019 will have a slightly different feel to them compared with the past three years, information obtained by this site reveals.
Shorter highlights on the table for Channel 4
The free-to-air UK broadcaster covering Formula 1 has specific restrictions that they must abide by regarding their highlights programming. From 2012 to 2015, this applied for the BBC, and has applied since 2016 for Channel 4.
One of the restrictions imposed on them concerned the scheduling of the highlights. The 2012 to 2018 contract stipulated that the gap between the race ending and the highlights edit starting must be equal to, or greater than, two hours.
For 2019’s new deal, following a request from Sky, that gap is extending to three hours, meaning that Channel 4’s highlights edit for European rounds cannot start until around 18:55 UK time.
As Channel 4 currently airs highlights for most European rounds from 18:45 to 21:00, this is unlikely to present them with any major problems. However, if Channel 4 wanted to use this time slot or similar in 2019, they do not have significant wriggle room in the event of a red flag situation (although force majeure may apply in that scenario).
A bigger problem comes with the Canadian, USA and Mexican rounds. Based on the 2018 start times, Channel 4’s highlights edit for those races will not start until nearly midnight, a less than ideal scenario.
In this situation, one possibility in my view would be to repeat the highlights programme on Monday in a friendlier time slot, but I do not know if Channel 4’s agreement with Sky allows for this. Depending on how timings shake out, Bahrain and Brazil will also not start until after 22:00.
In addition, Channel 4’s highlights edit will be slightly shorter than previous years, with around seven fewer minutes of action per race.
Whilst frustrating, given the other restriction imposed on them by Sky, the change could allow Channel 4 to air highlights for European rounds from 19:00 to 21:00, 15 fewer minutes than the typical length in 2018 to accommodate the shorter edit.
Whisper set to retain C4 production contract, but changes expected at Sky
This site has learnt that Whisper Films are expected to retain production rights for Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage in 2019, although firm confirmation on both them and the talent involved is unlikely until the Winter.
A full tender process is also unlikely, with the terms of the agreement expected to be a formality between Whisper and Channel 4.
Elsewhere, multiple industry sources have indicated in recent weeks that on-air changes are expected to Sky’s Formula 1 team in 2019. What is unclear is the scale of the change, whether we are looking at a wholesale revamp of the line-up (as one source described the outlook), or a few adjustments around the edges.
As anticipated from the outset, Scott Young, Sky’s new Head of F1, is looking to bring fresh talent into the line-up.
Sky appointed Young to the role ahead of the 2018 season, succeeding Martin Turner, meaning that 2018 has been – to a degree – a transition year as Young analyses what in his view is working, and what needs to change.
We should remember that Sky’s team, apart from Paul di Resta and Nico Rosberg, has remained relatively static since their coverage started in 2012.
One name linked to Sky is Young’s fellow Australian compatriot and former Red Bull driver Mark Webber, who currently works with Channel 4 and has done since 2016. The expectation is that Whisper will not need as many on and off-air talent covering Formula 1 in 2019, and it is plausible that Webber will be on the market come the off-season.
There are other rumours on the grapevine, however at this stage they are just that, rumours. The consensus is that most people expect some form of change at Sky, but no one knows the scale.
Nevertheless, if even some of the rumours floating around have any semblance of truth, the next six months will be very interesting indeed…