After several developments in the past week, we’ve got a fair idea how next year’s Formula One season will shape up from a broadcasting point-of-view.
We already knew that Sky Sports will show all 20 races (or possibly 19), while the BBC will get to broadcast half of them live and the other half on an extended highlights programme.
The races the Beeb will show live are: China, Spain, Monaco, Europe, Britain, Belgium, Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
We also now know that Sky won’t interrupt the races with adverts – so there’s no chance of frustrating blunders such as the 2005 San Marino GP, when ITV cut away from a thrilling dice between Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso in the dying laps.
That’s a welcome move by a broadcaster that makes no apology of its commercial leanings, as is the confirmation of a standalone F1 channel, Sky Sports F1 HD, which will launch in March.
Quite what they’ll fill all the non-race weekends with is anyone’s guess, although Sky certainly does a good job of padding out its football shows with more banter and analysis than all but the most hardcore fan can stomach.
As far as commentators and presenters are concerned, Martin Brundle is switching to Sky. It’s rumoured that he’ll be joined by David Croft, who does an excellent job of calling the races on BBC Radio 5 Live at present.
One thing I admire about Brundle is his matter-of-fact honesty. Explaining his switch away from the Beeb in his column in The Times, he wrote: "The fact that their newly-announced and dedicated F1 channel will have no in-race advertising was a key factor, but most importantly I need to commentate on every race live. Recorded and delayed sports television doesn't give me the adrenalin fix I crave.”
Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Lee Mackenzie will all remain with the BBC, but there’s no news on Eddie Jordan or Ted Kravitz as yet.
Like most F1 fans, I was disappointed when the Sky/BBC joint-rights deal was announced. I understood the Beeb’s need to save cash, but couldn’t fathom why it was the channel’s motorsport coverage that had to suffer.
In 2009, it was reported that the broadcaster allegedly spent £5m covering the Glastonbury music festival. If that really was the case, 19 F1 weekends for £60m represents much better value…
Now I’m warming to the Sky concept. The fact it has the nous to sign Brundle – the best thing to happen to British F1 commentary for years – and has pledged not to interrupt the races with adverts suggests it understands what is needed to put on a good show.
Now if Sky can secure the rights to some classic 1970s and 1980s F1 to broadcast in the weeks between the races…