The changes to the UK’s F1 TV coverage in 2012 were announced back in August. This week both the BBC and Sky firmed up their plans by announcing which races they have chosen as well as the level of coverage they will make available.
I wrote my initial reaction shortly afterwards – a good deal if you already have Sky, a poor deal for the rest of us. Following these announcements that’s pretty much my position now, the only difference being that now you can watch without the expensive Sports option.
There are due to be 20 races in 2012. This may change at December’s FIA World Motorsport Council meeting which could rule on Bahrain, Texas and Korea, but for the moment there are 20 races.
The current sole provider will drop from live coverage of all rounds to live coverage of 10 rounds. Those weekends will feature their usual service as in 2011:
- live practice on the interactive ‘red button’ channel and website;
- live qualifying on BBC1/online;
- live race on BBC1/online;
- post-race “Forum” on interactive/online;
The other 10 rounds will not be live but will have “extended highlights”. This, I think, is basically a tape-delay with a few edits for time constraints.
- “extended highlights” on BBC1: races in the Far East get a 2-hour show at 2pm and European races get a 90-minute show at 5.30pm;
- no ‘Forum’, no practice or qualifying*;
- the speculation of the race being live on interactive/red button was wrong, that will not be happening;
* I speculate there will be qualifying highlightsat the beginning of these shows, much like Ted Kravitz does before the races now but maybe longer.
I’d feared these highlights could be as little as 30 minutes, so 90 minutes isn’t the end of the world. If they wanted to they could almost fit the whole race in or only chop out short bits to make room for a bit of pre- and post-race. The key here are the words, “if they wanted to”.
I cross fingers they only cut a handful of laps, no more than we lost in the ITV days or if you watch any American racing today – that’s my hope. If they had not been landed with Valencia and Abu Dhabi as live races, this kind of treatment would’ve been ideal for those tedious events.
HOWEVER I mistrust any TV producer/editor and can already picture chunks cut out so they can have another long interview with Christian Horner or Martin Whitmarsh! Those are infuriating enough without having to watch at the expense of cars on track. I can also picture having to rush to YouTube after the coverage to catch a crucial moment an editor had to chop due to time constraints.
The other problem is that if you don’t want to be spoiled you have to avoid Twitter, Facebook, G+, live commenting sites, news websites, news channels, perhaps TV and radio entirely – and all the while you must not speak to anybody you know just in case they tell you.
With a European race finishing at 3pm you can just about manage 2.5 hours I’m sure. With an Eastern race finishing at about 8 or 9am, waiting until 2pm is going to become very tedious and is actually unfeasible I think.
We already face this problem if we sleep through the races in Japan or China or Australia and watch them later so we all know how much of a pain in the arse it is, having to do that for 10 races is not appealing, I don’t like that the choice of whether or not to get up early has been taken from me.
It isn’t ideal for us petrolheads without Sky, not by a long shot, but perhaps okay for those people who just want to plonk on the sofa and see who wins the race. Will that be enough and will the favourable timeslots be good enough to keep the ratings good, or will the lack of live seriously drop the numbers?
(NB: BBC Radio 5 Live / 5 Live Sports Extra will continue with all 20 rounds as per 2011 – radio falls under a separate contract.)
For those of you with a Sky subscription or who can afford to get one, you’re actually getting a pretty sweet deal out of this. Sky will have all 20 races completely live and uninterrupted.
- a dedicated “Sky Sports F1 HD” channel for all sessions;
- live practice;
- live qualifying;
- live race;
- if you subscribe to Sports 1 and 2 or Sky HD this channel is free;
- SSF1 available online and compatible with Sky Go, the mobile service;
- they say there will be magazine/analysis shows;
There is also talk of different on-board angles and a data channel, which sounds like the F1 Digital+ of several years ago. In effect if you are a petrolhead this is the channel you are looking for – they are able to do things the BBC can’t do either because they can’t justify it for license fee, or because they have to cross to other progamming. It really does sound great.
The problem? The cost! Here are the options:
- If you are a Sky Sports subscriber this is not a problem – you pay it already, great for you and I’m very jealous!
- If you have Sky with HD but not Sports, great you get this channel at no charge, no need to add Sports.
- If you have Sky in SD it’ll cost you an extra £10.25 per month (£123 per year) for the HD pack. Potentially add a new TV if you don’t have one capable of taking HD signal.
- If you do not have Sky at all, this is going to sting you. The absolute cheapest way to get this channel is to pay the basic subscription (“Entertainment pack”) of £20pm and add the £10.25pm HD pack. £30.25 per month is £363 per year – and perhaps you’ll need a new TV.
- Optional extras for other motorsport: if you add Sky Sports to the above because you want to watch IndyCar on Sky Sports 4, that’ll cost you another £20pm to take you to £50.25pm (they have a lot of sport which pushes up the price). Add another £5pm to take “Entertainment extra pack” which includes Eurosport to see Le Mans, WEC, WTCC, IRC. Add another £10pm for ESPN to see DTM, FIA GT and WRC. And then you’ve got Premier Sports at £7.99 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. You could spend over £70pm if you wanted.
(Technical note – this is not Pay Per View. Sky Box Office with the rented movies and boxing and wrestling, that’s PPV. This here is a pay-monthly subscription.)
Now I don’t know about you but I don’t have the £30pm to spend right now on the basic Sky subscription. Thus I will not be watching every F1 race live in 2012. F1 feels like one of the UK’s national sports alongside football and cricket and rugby. With the recent successes of Hamilton and Button it isn’t as marginal as it used to be so this is very disappointing. Of course those other sports took the money as well, for the most part, and now F1 has done the same.
I tell you if I had the money to subscribe to everything I guarantee I would do it. I could fill up the Sky+ PVR in no time and spend every free hour watching it. As it is I manage to find other ways to watch things. I would prefer to do it properly on a huge shiny TV in HD, I really would.
The only way I could afford this is if I were to give up actually attending races. In 2011 I went to Goodwood (twice), Donington Historic, and Silverstone for the 6 Hours and the FRenault 3.5. I had too much fun at those events to give them up, so I won’t do it. Or I would have to give up golf which would drive me insane, I’m no good at golf but I enjoy the quiet walk, the challenge of the game, and the time away from real life.
Then there’s the problem of being allowed to put up a satellite dish if you live in rented accomodation. I might be able to.. will you?
The other problem many have is an ethical one. Sky is a Murdoch property and with the News of the World scandal, among many other things over the last decade or two, people have perfectly legitimate reasons to not take Sky. It isn’t a position I take, as I make a distinction between the news organisations and the TV platform.
Incidentally, there is not yet any word on whether Virgin Media will include SSF1 within their cable line-up. However I think it safe to say it won’t be on Freeview or Freesat.
Some odd choices. BBC could choose 10 they wanted live and Sky could choose 10 they wanted exclusively, starting with 3 from the BBC and 3 from Sky before alternating picks. Apparently they couldn’t choose 3 consecutive races. Even with those considerations if I were the BBC I’d have tried to get Canada and the US for the evening ratings bonanza!
My position remains mostly unchanged. This is a bad deal for most F1 fans who won’t be able to see all the races. It could seriously harm ratings and popularity in this country. On the other side, great if you can get this stuff because purely in technical terms it could move F1 coverage to another level.
Oh, and I still don’t really understand the sense of entitlement many people think they have. It is just a sport. It doesn’t have a divine right to be on the BBC all the time. It sucks that it won’t be, but sadly that’s commercial life I’m afraid.