BBC or Sky: Which TV Channel Covers Formula 1 Better?
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Before Sky Sports F1 entered the fray in 2012, the choice for the Formula 1 fan was limited to BBC Sport, who had exclusive rights after taking over from the ITV.
However, a review of cost constraints and a license fee freeze meant that there was now a new major player in the game, offering viewers a choice of viewing avenues.
Which broadcaster covers the sport better, BBC or Sky? Let's evaluate each according to the criteria of depth of coverage, value for money, presenters and the introductions.
1. Depth of Coverage
Following a broadcast rights deal in July 2011, it was announced that Sky Sports would cover all races live whilst the BBC would show 10 live races during the course of the season, including highlights of the other races.
The BBC also covers free practice and qualifying, but the Sky package also offers its customers a bespoke F1 Show, with in-depth analysis, driver interviews and highlights of races from years gone by. Furthermore, Sky Sports F1 is the home of F1 Legends, a show hosted by Steve Ryder that features interviews with some of the most famous F1 names.
Sky Sports F1 also covers the GP2 and GP3 series live, where many future F1 stars are made.
Winner: Sky Sports
2. The Commentary Teams: BBC
Both BBC and Sky feature strong line-ups here. Suzi Perry replaced the outgoing Jake Humphrey as BBC anchor for the start of this season, but their biggest draws are unquestionably the dynamic duo of former driver David Coulthard and the ever colourful Eddie Jordan.
Former designer Gary Anderson provides expert studio analysis with Ben Edwards the lively voice of the race commentary alongside Coulthard.
3. The Commentary Teams: Sky
Leading the Sky anchor coverage is former Sky rugby man Simon Lazenby, who got into hot water during the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix coverage with a joke made in bad taste surrounding the death of Princess Grace as reported at the time by the Daily Mail.
Sky pulled off a massive coup by luring Martin Brundle away from the BBC. He remains their most highly prized asset with his now legendary pit lane walks and expert commentary alongside the animated David Croft.
Former drivers Johnny Herbert, Anthony Davidson and Damon Hill give further analytical depth to the coverage with the excellent "SkyPad" tool, and Sky also wins on the eye candy stakes with the bubbly Natalie Pinkham an excellent pit lane reporter and driver interviewer.
Winner: Sky Sports
4. Value for Money
Of course, BBC comes as part of your TV license fee, whereas the Sky coverage including the HD version is available to purchase on Sky, Virgin Media, Smallworld Cable and SkyGo packages.
5. The Intros – Sky Sports
With Sky relatively new to the sport, they’re always going to be on a hiding to nothing on this one, although Alistair Griffin's catchy “Just Drive” interspersed with fantastic clips from yesteryear does as well as is possible to give BBC a run for its money.
6. The Intros – BBC
BBC’s F1 coverage will be forever linked with Fleetwood Mac’s "The Chain."
Whenever the song is played, almost all people think of F1, and that’s some achievement for a band as famous as Fleetwood Mac.
Winner: BBC's Fleetwood Mac edges Sky's Griffin
And the Winner Is...Sky Sports F1
It’s a 2-2 draw on paper, given the aforementioned criteria. However, if all things were equal and the choice didn’t come down to a monetary decision, Sky Sports wins simply due to its depth of coverage and slick package.
For the diehard F1 fan who needs a fix of F1 on a daily basis outside grand prix weekend coverage, Sky Sports is the place to be.