The emergence of Channel 4’s proposal for their Grand Prix coverage is intriguing, if you haven’t seen it then take a look for yourself here. Sharing a title with a BBC documentary on the history of racing (The Power and The Glory) made me groan, but from there on in it looks stunning thanks to Darren Heath’s perfect photography and some understated design. More on F1’s history sounds great too, the Senna movie proves that tales from the past can attract new interest in the future. Channel 4 have done a cracking job with cricket and cycling in the past, I would love to have seen what they could have done with Grand Prix racing. TV brings value to a sport, not just the other way round, so let’s hope that the BBC and Sky delivered a better product to the doors of FOM rather than just the extra £5 million they are rumoured to have stumped up.
There has been a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the new TV deal for F1 in the UK. Looking at the viewing figures for other sports that have shifted to Sky Sports does not make reassuring reading – even the national obsession of Premiership football does not have the viewing figures you would imagine – it is only the BBC’s Match of the Day highlights show in the evening that gathers comparable viewers to a Grand Prix here in the UK, the live matches are often seen by thousands rather than millions despite the total saturation of soccer in the media. There is an argument that putting a bitesize F1 programme early in the evening on the BBC could actually get new casual viewers on board rather than lose them, though it will also put F1 in the firing line of the X Factor and soaps.
Before dismissing Sky we should remember that they cover some sports very well, although motorsport is not currently one of them. While they may not have dedicated much production budget to them, Sky brought live coverage of the Indy 500 and Nascar to the UK, promoted Speedway and they popularised World Superbikes making Carl Fogarty into a star. Since the 1990s their motorsport coverage has stagnated badly, but don’t underestimate them.
The cost will naturally deter many fans and the BBC have done a near-perfect job since 2009 so it will require some serious commitment from Sky to encourage fans to shell out. I’m hoping that this rubs off on their Indycar coverage and encourages them to pick up other motorsports, but we’ll see.
My ideal would be for all the support races to be shown too, creating a complete race day like bikes on Eurosport or touring cars on ITV. Somebody needs to rescue the WRC too, but now I’m just getting greedy. Or I’m simply hoping that they justify the sacrifices many will need to make if they want to see all 20 races live in 2012. As many have pointed out you could go to all three days of a Grand Prix for less than it costs to get Sky Sports in HD…