Written by Sport, TV

F1 on Television

The news that the BBC is sharing Formula 1 rights with Sky leaves me personally unperturbed.
While some of the rule changes introduced in recent years do seem to have led to some actual over-taking, other forms of motorsport seem more interesting, and seem less like engineering competitions. However, my own ambivalence towards the “sport” is neither here nor there in the scheme of things. The bigger picture is more to do with how much the BBC was paying to show the sport at a time when it’s facing a severe curtailment in what it can spend.
However, this deal does feel a little as though Bernie Ecclestone is both having his cake and eating it. Indeed Bernie seems to be saying as much himself:
“…we get the best of both worlds.”
Fairweather viewers like me will still be able to see Monte Carlo and the British Grand Prix, otherwise just turning on to see if there’s a big pile up in the first corner (In fact, I’ll be able to see all the races because I do subscribe to Sky).
I think it’s clear that F1 teams, which are supported to such a large extent by sponsors, need to have their cars in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Going to a pay-TV world only does not help this. It could have been worse, and free-to-air may have been left with highlights, or indeed no coverage at all.
I’ve banged on and on in the past about how cricket has abrogated its responsibility by ensuring that no live cricket is broadcast on free-to-air television, leaving us with the fact that only IPL cricket on ITV4 is live on free-to-air television. This deal is better than that one, which is some small solace.
It seems as though the F1 teams have to agree this deal, and I’d anticipate that there will be some concern that sponsors don’t lose their visibility.
For Sky this is clearly a good deal. There were rumours that News Corp actually wanted to buy the sport lock, stock and barrel earlier in the year. That seemed a little unlikely – although in motor racing, pretty much anything goes.
On the other hand, the BBC spends an awful lot of money on F1, and for every race it broadcasts, it could probably fund a pretty impressive two hour drama. Given that some of those races take place at some quite anti-social hours, and in some quite anti-social places, I’m not sure that it is such a bad thing.
That said, fans who like to watch every race – even as the calendar has greedily expanded to twenty races (if you include the now cancelled Bahrain Grand Prix) – are going to miss out if they don’t subscribe. And there’s already been a lot of understandable vocal outpouring from non-Sky subscribers who are F1 diehards.
In the end, F1 is too expensive. So this is probably the least worst option.
Mind you, I did laugh when earlier today I saw Martin Brundle’s “come and get me” tweet:
BBC/Sky/F1 2012+. Found out last night, no idea how it will work yet I’m out of contract, will calmly work through options Not impressed