Digital Dinosaurs in a High Tech world: F1, the BBC and Sky Sports in a love triangle

Posted: July 29, 2011 by thevillainf1 in Insights

The news took the F1 world by surprise this Friday morning as we were all gearing up for the Hungarian Grand Prix practice sessions. Despite earlier reassurances, BBC and Sky Sports have come to a deal to share F1 coverage, meaning only a few GPs will remain free to air on the BBC, the rest moving to the quite expensive Sky Sports channel.

Do I care about this? Not really. Half the time I watch the races on an ‘illegal’ live stream anyway already since I’m not always close to a TV, and if I miss the race I usually pick up a torrent which is widely available on the interwebz within a day of the race anyway. I’m not going to advertise these streaming sites here because FOM has their bloodhounds continually searching for these lovely on line gathering places to stamp them out. It’s actually quite fun to watch them on some of these sites, as they have a built in chat that lets you interact more easily than on twitter while watching the race on the BBC for instance. So that’s why I’m not that bothered and you shouldn’t be either.

They key part here for me is that the Sky Sports coverage remains ad-free, because those ad interruptions really do kill the races, as I’ve noticed when watching the German GP on the German TV coverage. Constant interruptions irritated me to no end and almost had me switch off the race, even though it was one of the most exiting ones thus far this season. Luckily, a Sky executive has confirmed it would not feature ad would be kinda insulting forking up a good 500 pounds for Sky coverage and still getting ads slung in your face.

But why did we get to this stage? Why doesn’t the BBC just stick to its current contract and keep Broadcasting all races free to air like they have been doing since buying the rights in ’09? BBC needs to cut costs, badly. Apparantly the only way BBC management could think of doing that when it comes to F1 coverage is to sell off a significant part of its F1 rights, something I find baffling. So here are some easier cost saving measures which would also cut the BBCs F1 broadcasting costs by half:

1. Dump Eddie Jordan: Aside for providing some comic relief from time to time, the man is an insult to TV broadcasting. His comments are more often than not irrelevant and off the mark. The shirt jokes were funny the first 10 times but after the 5 millionth one I say EJ has lived out his usefulness for the BBC.

costs cut: That saves BBC 1 plane ticket, hotel room, catering and salary… and it would limit the amount of facepalms for the viewership

2. Unify the BBC5Live and TV coverage. It makes no business sense at all to have two seperate commentary teams on location at each and every Grand Prix. The argument for being that radio coverage is different than TV coverage is bullocks, people want to hear analysis on what’s happening, whether they’re watching a feed or not. Either of the two teams can provide that. As much as I liked him as a driver, I don’t particularly like the DC-Brundle commentary combo. In my opnion the best thing to do would be to put Crofty as the main commentator, and Brundle back in his former commentary role. Crofty kicks Brundle’s ass when it comes to commentary, but Brundle knows what he’s doing for sure. If you must get a sidekick like Chandhok and Davidson on there too. Jake Humphrey is largely irrelevant too. Brundle could easily take over that role. Crofty will have no issues doing the first few minutes of pre race talk on his own while Brundle legs it to the com box from the grid.

costs cut: 2 less commentators to pay for, 1 less ‘host’ (sorry Jake), 1 less production team (though I’m not sure whether 5 Live’s and TV production is handled by the same people or not, I don’t think it is)

3. Cut back on the shiny video production for post and pre race shows. It’s unnecessary, I tune in to the BBC for the expert views and opinions, not some flashy vid edit I can just as well get on youtube.

costs cut: the probably ridiculous amount of money going into these kinds of ‘green screen’ and on location shoots.

4. Make BBC Iplayer free to watch from anywhere in the world but put in those ads you already get on streaming sites anyway, generating some extra revenues without hassling the viewer for it. The ads really don’t bother me much on the existing streaming sites as at least it doesn’t interrupt the feed.

cost cut: nothing, however revenue increased. People can watch in HD from all over the world, BBC would capture back all those ‘illegal’ stream viewers, get some money from the ads, quite a lot if you imagine how big the F1 crowd will be on the stream. Lots of viewers = lots of ad revenues with minimal annoyance to the viewer. As suggested by Marvin in the comments below, a worldwide online package including great features like live timing, driver tracker and manual camera choice is what F1 should really be doing to finally embrace the digital age. I, and probably many others, would be much more willing to pay money for that, rather than fattening Mr. Murdoch’s pockets even more with a subscription to Sky.

Does it suck the BBC is selling out to Sky Sports? Yea it kind of does. Is it the end of the world as we know it? Hell no. Just go watch a live stream or download the races. F1 is woefully behind on the internet age, baffling when it’s such a high tech sport. They prefer to let FOM bloodhounds loose on sites offering these streams and downloads, instead of opening their eyes and profiting from the interwebz themselves.

If they won’t listen to the people, then they’ll just have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new digital age.

  1. Andreas Olsson says:

    I believe that they can’t stream outside great brittain because the f1 rights has been sold to one “company” in each country and you can’t broadcast it to other countries than your own because of the rights to broadcast f1 in each country. But you have a lot of valid points here, and I wish that all companies bought the BBC broadcast because it is by far the best in my opinion. That would save all countries a lot of money and the BBC would get money from other companies for selling their show.

  2. Anonymous says:

    if the f1 rights are only sold to one company in each country, how will bbc AND sky show the races that will be shared?

    And is this against the concorde agreement about f1 staying on free-to-air in every country where possible?

  3. Juzh says:

    It is indeed against the concorde as said by Martin Whitmarsh:

    On the topic of costs saving I must say I dissagree with you on every point exepct the eddie jordan.

  4. testing2 says:

    They have probably got around the concorde agreement issue with the fact the the BBC will show highlights of the races they don’t have live, thus F1 is available on free to air. It still sucks big time as far as I’m concerned.

    Sky has their grubby hands on almost every major sport now, as far as the ads go, they will probably do what ITV does and cram in as many ads as physically possible before and after the races, inevitably destroying the pre and post race discussion/analysis. Did I mention it sucks?

  5. Gareth says:

    Testing2 is me by the way.

  6. thevillainf1 says:

    Andreas, good point, and I’ve read that too. However there must be loopholes to this because for example here in Belgium, we get the BBC coverage, as well as the local channel VT4 coverage, both going live, all in the same basic digital TV package.

  7. Should have lived in belgium if you get the BBC coverage.. Every weekend I watch the race on Viasat Motor (the swedish broadcaster) and then wait until the bbc-broadcast gets up on the sites that are not supposed to be named and watch it again, pretty much just to listen to what brundle has to say before, during and after the races. And also because they actually interact with the drivers and gets a lot of inside knowledge from the teams, specially Red Bull and McLaren.

  8. Marvin says:

    Do I really care about BBC dropping races? – No. But I definitely enjoy watching the BBC coverage way more than the free German one (because of ads, shitty commentators, etc.).
    The thing I don’t understand is, why Formula 1 doesn’t stream all the races online!!!
    For example, as a NFL fan, I can buy a NFL Season pass which is relatively reasonably priced, let’s me watch every game from everywhere with an internet connection in HD without ads.

    I’d definitely get a F1 package, which could have integrated timing screens, manual camera choice and many more cool features. I think F1 is missing out on many cool features they could add online. Like the McLaren pitwall live telemetry data. Only for all the teams – in one place.

    F1 seems to ignore the possibilities there are online. Of course, the Timing Screen and the Race Vids are great, but there is so much more possible. I vote for official F1 streams!

    • thevillainf1 says:

      That’s a superb idea Marvin, exactlyt that kind of thing I was talking about when saying F1 needs to embrace the digital age.
      A setup like you suggest with an online package, available worldwide, including live timing, driver tracker, manual camera choice would be an incredible package I’d be likely to fork out money for as well.

  9. Gareth says:

    Speaking as another NFL fan, I doubt you’ll be watching it anytime soon Martin! You have a good point though.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I have to disagree on most points aswell :

    I do like the pre race and post race small coverages, items and special reports, it adds a lot to the F1 broadcast and is the main reason why I watch on BBC.
    I think Jake Humphfry does a nice job, why would you wanne ditch him?
    Most people like to watch the F1 race comfortably in the couch on their big screen display, rather than on a small computerscreen isolated somewhere in their office room…….
    So wath will be the options for us belgians? Watching on VT4 with the adds and dull commentary? Watching on TF1 which is the only option to see it in full HD right now?

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