Split F1 Coverage – A Year On

Shortly after the announcement that UK F1 coverage was to be shared between BBC and S*y, I wrote a blog post explaining what I would only be watching the sport on the BBC (see article here). A year has passed and on the whole, I have stuck to my convictions (and boycotted S*y – with the exceptions of YouTube clips). While I appreciate why some presenters choose to work for S*y, I still have reservations about the company itself.

Nonetheless, I wanted to examine how both broadcasters have fared in the first year of “split coverage” but since I have not been watching S*y, I have asked 4 viewers to answer a few questions and give me their verdict on the first year of split F1 coverage in the UK.

For each of the following categories, score each from 1 (poor) – 3 (average) – 5 (excellent):

The Presenters & Analysists (Average Scores)

  1. Simon Lazenby = 2.5
  2. Georgie Thompson = 2.25
  3. Martin Brundle = 4.5
  4. Ted Kravitz = 4.5
  5. Jake Humphrey = 4.5
  6. David Coulthard = 4.75
  7. Gary Anderson = 4.75
  8. Lee McKenzie = 3.75

Pre-show features / Post Race Interviews, based on Content, Duration, Variety

  1. S*y = 3.5
  2. BBC = 4.5
Best Feature / Article / Interview from BBC:
AM: In general, their Intro pieces, the Forum & a more light-hearted nature of the presenting team. Gary Anderson’s technical pieces are very informative & I enjoy Ben Edwards’ enthusiastic commentary very slightly over David Croft.
TN: Not so much a feature but BBC got the scoop of the year with the Hamilton to Mercedes story. Best Interview was Lee McKenzie’s with Lewis on leaving Mclaren as part of Brazil build-up.
K: I think the BBC red button stuff after the race is really good and better than post-race stuff they broadcast.
SB: The BBC F1 forum; this is viewing brilliance and is unbeatable.
Best Feature / Article / Interview from S*y:
AM: Use of their S*y pad to analyse key race moments in detail, Ted Kravitz’s Qualifying & Race notebooks to bring more detail into parts of the race weekend we may have missed & having a weekly magazine show in their F1 Show on Fridays to catch up with the latest news.
TN: A piece featuring old reel-to-reel tape recordings of James Hunt and Aryton Senna. I found this a fascinating evocative feature
K: Damon Hill is a bit wooden when he’s talking/ interviewing on sky. Impressed by S*y’s build up. Love Martin Brundle just not sure the team with him is as good. Still watch BBC over sky coverage.
SB: Best feature on S*y is Tooned!

Which areas of both broadcasters’ coverage do you think could be improved?

AM: S*y Coverage could be improved with a little less seriousness in their presenting team. Johnny Herbert provides some light relief to their team but it just seems like its too much a case of “stick to the script”. After starting the season with a lot of adverts in the pre-race coverage, S*y then stated they would have an hour of uninterrupted build up, but this seemed to be abandoned towards the end of the season. There are also a lot of random fillers in the S*y coverage on either side of the ads, such as a 60-second recap of the race that has just finished when returning from advert in the post-race coverage. Over the course of a race coverage show these fillers do add up where the time could be used more effectively.
BBC coverage I class as excellent in every way, yes Eddie Jordan has his critics, but I believe he does have an ability to get an impromptu interview with anyone which is something S*y are lacking. Having some more of the on-board options that S*y is able to carry would be better, but that could be more down to what they are able to provide on their Red Button.

TN: Obviously the BBC’s coverage could be improved by having all races live – but we know that’s not going to happen. On S*y, I’m still not warming to Simon Lazenby. He just seems to lack charisma and comes across as slightly awkward. Damon is a lovely guy and great world champion but it has to be said that his punditry can be dull. I wish S*y would make more use of Anthony Davidson. He has both insight and wit – he’s wasted stuck next to Georgi Thompson on the S*yPad. His analysis on the S*yPad is so insightful but he could do so much more!

SB: BBC will have a hard time replacing Jake and making it look as natural. More schedule time dedicated on race days would allow a few more features. If anything, I’d like to see Gary Anderson get involved with more features. S*y miss the charisma that the BBC has, it at times looks really forced and tries to dumb down a little too much, something that S*y Sports in general have always been guilty of. The race centre is a very pointless feature i think, just showing replays and close-ups could be done without the gimmick of a giant touch screen.

How do you feel about Suzi Perry replacing Jake Humphrey on BBC team?

AM: Suzi Perry knows her Motorsport, albeit having a 2-wheeled background in MotoGP. Having watched her presenting MotoGP coverage, she has proved very knowledgable in that field & I believe she will be a welcome addition to the BBC team & a worthy replacement of Jake.

TN: I don’t know Suzi well so I’m reserving judgement. However its hard to see how the DC, EJ, JH chemistry can be replicated. The same would apply to Lee – Jake is such a hard act to follow.

SB: As good as Lee is at what she does, presenting is a different ball game and i don’t feel she has the screen presence or natural ability to do this. Being familiar with the gadget show makes me think that Suzi will be a very strong replacement, she is natural, and good humoured and will be a match for DC and EJ.

Any other comments?

AM: A final comment about Sky, with a fully dedicated F1 channel & the vast library of F1 archive footage available, there is a distinct lack of programming for the majority of the day. Even during the season, most of the time viewers are left with repeats of the same features on an hourly basis & now during the off season that has been replaced by constant highlights & race repeats of the 2012 season. Surely with the archive footage they could show season highlights from decades past or full race footage from races during some of those periods? This would be so much better for new fans of the sport & give them a better understanding of the history of F1 (in much the same way how BBC show highlights of past seasons in the week building up to a Grand Prix on their red button)

SB: Both Broadcasters have done a good job all in all, but the BBC are still miles ahead, they package a product in a very simple way without having to overcomplicate things bringing in the experts and interviews at the right time, they do have experience on their side so it will be interesting as to what year 2 will bring.

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