Channel 4’s Formula 1 television deal to air highlights of every round, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix in 2019, is “a good compromise” for fans, according to the man who has been part of the UK F1 broadcasting picture for the past decade.
For the past three seasons, the free-to-air broadcaster has aired half of the F1 season live, with the other half airing in highlights form. That arrangement ended following Abu Dhabi, with Sky grabbing the exclusive rights in March 2016, and opting the sub-let the free-to-air element out to Channel 4.
Speaking to this site at the Autosport Show from the W Series stand, racer turned analyst David Coulthard said “Irrespective of my personal involvement with Channel 4 in the past, I’m just a great believer that Formula 1 in the UK market should be available free-to-air. I understand the commercial aspects, how Sky operate, they have a great platform and great coverage.”
“However, all credit to the current management at Channel 4, and at Sky, to have rescued from what seemed like not having any free-to-air Formula 1 to having a collaboration where Sky are the majority broadcaster with all the live events, and Channel 4 are able to do highlights along with the British Grand Prix being live.”
“I think that’s a good compromise and enables the UK to still enjoy its Formula 1 whether you want it live or edited,” Coulthard added.
Although this site expects Whisper Films, whom Coulthard is part of, to continue to produce Channel 4’s coverage, Coulthard could not confirm if he will be involved in front of the camera, with several elements between Channel 4 and Sky to be finalised.
“I’m still not yet in a position to be able to confirm whether I’ll be involved in the broadcast or not, but irrespective, I think Channel 4 will do a great job,” Coulthard told me.
“The actual agreement came together quite late, it obviously dilutes in terms of what we [Channel 4] are able to do and therefore reduces the amount of on-screen talent. Channel 4 are still working on how that will look and who’ll be involved.”
As revealed before Christmas, John Curtis, who previously worked with Sky, is now leading up Whisper Films’ F1 production team, with Mark Wilkin stepping aside, whilst the length of the individual race edits are set to decrease slightly compared with previous years.
Judge new F1 broadcasting graphics “on its merits”
Coulthard, who has been part of the BBC’s and more recently Channel 4’s F1 coverage since 2009, was cautious on some of Formula 1’s new on-screen graphics that are set to appear for the first time this season.
“I take the view of ‘let’s try anything and everything’ and then judge it on its merits rather than poo-pooing something before it’s actually been introduced, especially when it comes to broadcast and graphics,” Coulthard said.
His comment was in relation to reports prior to the Christmas break that FOM are introducing a new ‘overtaking probability’ graphic, using Amazon Web Services’ machine learning technology this year, in a continued effort to bring in a different audience to the sport.
“We were once young guys, and we have a different view of life compared to the current younger generation,” he added. “I’ve got a ten-year-old son and he continues to surprise my wife and we have to accept that every generation has different opportunities, needs, requirements and aspirations, and we should embrace that.”