It’s not just the grid that's changing for F1 in 2012, broadcasting is taking a drastic turn when the season returns in March. BBC and Sky have agreed to share the rights of F1 coverage and after much speculation both parties have now released their plans for what is set to be an exciting year on and off the track. I am not going to dwell on how as a viewer myself, with shared broadcasting I believe we are set to loose what has been up until now, the greatest free to air coverage of Formula One that Britain has ever seen. Yet instead what I wish to highlight is what, as the audience, we might be able to gain from the situation.
Undeniably F1 is becoming an ever increasing sport within the UK and its popularity has risen rapidly since the BBC took the reins back in 2009. BBC F1 anchorman himself, Jake Humphrey often reports on twitter how viewing figures for both qualifying and race day have been at record breaking numbers and continue to climb race upon race. With this in mind, it’s no doubt that Sky want in, after all, as well as being for entertainment F1 is of course a multi-billion pound business with ever increasing profitability for a subscription based company such as Sky.
So what can we expect from Sky? Well earlier this month, the global giant announced that it would be launching the first ever dedicated F1 channel in March. Set to be fittingly named “Sky Sports F1” this will be the first time that the sport has had a channel solely dedicated to it. After the launch the channel will not just be broadcasting on a race weekend, it will in-fact broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sky have yet to release any information about exactly what type of content we can expect to “fill the gaps”, but rest assured the company want to do things properly.
The BBC have inadvertently put Sky under great pressure. Think about it, if as a viewer you already get the best quality broadcasting for free, why would you choose to pay extra to get the same quality if not worse? Sky know this, and are aware that the content they produce has to been seen and viewed by us the audience, as being of greater quality to that of the BBC in recent years (a feat that I must say is an extremely challenging task). Sky are notorious for producing all singing and all dancing broadcasts, and this might explain why we are hearing about certain well known faces on our screens making the move from the BBC for next season.
To produce the best programme, the best broadcasting team is required, and I have no doubt that Sky are throwing their metaphoric buckets of cash at certain people to try and twist their arms over to the new dedicated channel. The BBC’s line up remains strong with anchor man Jake Humphrey, ex racer David Couthard and eccentric shirt wearing Eddie Jordan all staying with the BBC. Lee Mckenzie will be staying in the pits but will be without friend Ted Kravitz. Ted will join Martin Brundle who will be heading up the coverage for Sky and is set to continue in his role as commentator along side Radio 5 Live’s David Croft. Anthony Davidson has also made the move from 5 Live and will be commentating on the practise sessions as they happen. Natalie Pinkham will partner Ted Kravitz down on the ground for the new Sky channel and all this will be anchored and co-ordinated by Sky Sport rugby presenter Simon Lazenby .
On paper, Sky’s line up looks undoubtedly strong. All bar Simon Lazenby have had many years experience in motor sport, however what will be interesting to see is if the team will be able to gel together as well as the BBC have done up until now. The BBC F1 coverage is renowned for its “slickness” and the onscreen “banter” between Jake, Eddie, DC, Martin and many of the drivers. Looking at Sky’s line up, I find it hard to imagine the same type of broadcasting being replicated, but I welcome the global giant to prove myself and many others wrong.
It is important to remember that competition is not necessarily a bad thing, up until now UK viewers could only watch coverage of F1 though the BBC, but competition now means that the two firms will have to think of new and innovative ways of attracting viewers to watch their coverage. We are likely to see new and improved broadcasting from both channels. One thing I personally feel that will be integrated a lot more into coverage, is social media. Quite how it will be done I am unsure, but sites such as Twitter and Facebook allow the presenters to connect with their audience, something broadcasters are keen to enhance.
Its safe to say that 2012 will prove an exciting and interesting season both for racing and broadcasting. There are still many questions to be answered but all will be revealed when the two broadcasters go head to head for the first race in Melbourne on the 18th of March. But the question is: Who will cross the chequered flag first?
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