Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict Revealed

Following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this site offered readers the chance to give their verdict on the 2018 motor racing broadcasting picture, to have their say on proceedings. Thanks to everyone who commented on the original post and gave their thoughts.

The 2018 Formula One season was the last of the original 2012 to 2018 UK television contract, originally signed between the BBC and Sky Sports in July 2011. Channel 4 took over the BBC element from 2016 onwards, and whilst they will remain part of the F1 broadcasting picture in 2019, their role has diminished, with just one race live and all the rest airing in highlights form.

For the third consecutive season readers, including George O’Donnell, praised Channel 4’s output. A long-term viewer of Formula 1, Noggins summarised their view point:

I have been watching F1 for over 50 years and have seen the world, the sport and coverage change enormously. But never has the sport had such wonderful, professional, entertaining coverage as it has had (on live weekends, especially) with Channel 4 / Whisper Films. The quality of the production is outstanding and the real passion of the entire team has been tremendous.

In particular, there was praise for presenter Steve Jones and lead commentator Ben Edwards. “Down to earth”, “chirpy presence on-screen” and “waxing lyrical about the sport” were some of the phrases used by the likes of Peter and Lesmo in relation to Jones.

Peter offered further insight on Karun Chandhok, showing exactly why Sky have picked his services up for 2019. Not everyone was happy with Channel 4’s output though. gwilym.t outlined Channel 4’s positives, but noted “the lack of technical coverage” during their broadcasts. Rhys Benjamin went a step further, and hopes their coverage is radically different next year:

The content itself is also looking very tired, given that they had known this was their final year. It doesn’t match up to a lot of the features that Sky do or the BBC (between 2009 and 2012; the BBC’s product went downhill rapidly from 2013-15) did. I still hope (and pray) that next year’s highlights are a Sky production and simply plonked on C4 (as they were for the 2013-14 Ashes series, albeit plonked on Pick). I can’t see C4 simply having any motivation next year.

A recurring theme of the past, Ted Kravitz and Martin Brundle continue to whet the appetite for Sky’s Formula 1 audience. Peter says that Kravitz “remains the eminent pro”, whilst gwilym.t praised several members of their 2018 team:

Ted Kravitz continues to be a gem, charismatic and entertaining as hell, whilst still being insightful, Martin Brundle continues to be the class of the commentary field, though I do feel that his passion is just starting to wane a little bit. Paul Di Resta has come a long way this year, proving he can fill Martin’s shoes, and he’ll only get better with experience, and Anthony Davidson has been great in practice throughout the year.

Rhys Benjamin offers a different take on David Croft’s commentary puns, stating that they are turning into ‘Murrayisms’! Whilst there have been some positives for Sky in 2018, the quality of their overall product came under fire. Noggins says that Sky appear to be “going through the motions”, but others had a more damming assessment:

The features they put out were absolutely dire. There’s literally no point watching their tired Top Gear esque build up, as you’d get more insight by spending an hour reading the likes of Joe Saward or Autosport before the session gets going. – Lesmo

To summarise Sky’s year I’d say this, they’ve had season like McLaren and Williams, a few minor highlights, but now living off their past glories, they need change in all areas of they are too attract the sort of audience F1 needs, it’s evident in the fall in Sky’s viewing figures compared to 2012-13. Though I will say that the signing of Jenson Button for next year is great. – gwilym.t

Outside of the Channel 4 and Sky sphere, several readers commented on Formula One Management’s offering this season, with Tom Clarkson’s Beyond the Grid podcast quite rightly receiving recognition from George O’Donnell and Lesmo.

The highlight of the year for me is the ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast with Tom Clarkson. I think Tom is one of the more underrated journalists in the paddock. His interview questions really get the most out of his guests, and the podcasts are captivating listening. The one hour long form gets much more out of the guests than TV features and I’ve learned a lot which I haven’t learned from all the hours of features which BBC/Channel 4/Sky have produced over the past 10 years.

Readers were critical of other aspects in FOM’s control, with Rhys Benjamin criticising the “clunky” 2018 graphics set, whilst Andy believes Liberty Media are “dumbing down” the end product.

As always, the above is a snapshot of the conversation happening on the site, some of the posts cover a lot of ground that this article does not, and is very much worth a read as we head towards the start of another season.

2 thoughts on “Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict Revealed

  1. My suspicion is when F1 moves 99% to Sky (with the highlights package on C4) it will make no difference to Sky but will be terrible for the sport.

    Sky makes its money from subscriptions and adverts, it doesn’t need lots of viewers – well, comparatively, it doesn’t *have* lots of viewers. It has worked out its numbers and presumably knows that its sub 1m (ish) viewers can still return a healthy profit. I suspect that Bernie didn’t care much either – he isn’t an idiot so why else let a free to air broadcaster go and give away the rights to a much larger audience.

    Liberty, on the other hand I suggest, are going to be very depressed.

    I also think the complaint about C4 losing viewers is missing the point about broadcasting in the UK. The free to air (FTA) channels will always get the UK’s biggest audience, the clue is in the name, and of the FTA channels BBC1 and ITV are going to be the biggest numbers followed by, well, the rest. C4 and BBC2 are similar, with a (resurgent?) C5 bringing up the rear.

    F1 going to C4 was always going to shed viewers – BBC1 vies with ITV not C4. As for the end of their last season looking cheaper, my suspicion is that C4/Whisper had front loaded its budgets to make the first year look as good as possible and was slowly cutting back to break even, I didn’t see the budgets at the BBC, but for them to make the decision to jettison the coverage like they did suggests that there was a nose bleed somewhere along the line.

    Personally; I think Whisper – despite perhaps running out of steam towards the end – did a grand job, and Steve Jones did a terrific job in walking the line of making F1 interesting for people that weren’t enthusiastic enough about the sport to go to Sky and people that for whatever reason (political/financial) don’t want to swell Sky’s coffers. It is worth mentioning that I also don’t think it’s fair to compare the two sets of coverage. C4 has a different audience to Sky and it has a live, general purpose schedule that it has to find great lumps of time in, Sky has its own bandwidth, its own schedule and the like, it can drift its coverage as it wants (obviously, within reason). And. did I mention it, they have different viewers.

    I suggest Liberty are rueing the day they didn’t get a sniper to take Bernie out before signing the 100% Sky deal. If, as I slightly suspect, they have a vague plan to sell the sport later in the 2020s the fact that Sky has all but ruined the UK FTA package and as a result made it very difficult to get that audience back in the near future and, I suggest, will ultimately dent the UK’s participation numbers and make it very difficult to Liberty to boast about the UK. And *that*, in an extreme world, could well impact how much F1 respect the UK and its races. Could Liberty consider not having a UK GP?

    Liberty might go for some kind of international paid for internet deal to excite people, but frankly I can’t see working as it would undermine everyone who has paid millions and millions for F1 coverage.

    All in all I see the next couple of years being parlous for F1 engagement – I don’t think the enthusiasts will notice so much – that’s what Sky is for, but the rest of the UK is going to drift away. I wonder what pressure Liberty are going bring to bear on Sky (good luck with that) to somehow deliver a larger audience – there is talk of a Sky FTA channel. But can Sky really make it pay? Free isn’t really in Sky’s business model.

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