As Sky Sports’ new Formula 1 channel goes live, we wonder – why were people so upset?
The furore last year over the announcement that pay-channel Sky Sports, rather than free-to-air BBC, would have rights to broadcast every F1 Grand Prix in 2012 was as loud as an engine at full revs. Frankly, we weren’t so bothered.
We’re big fans of motorsport here. Indeed, we’re professionally involved, and of course we’re interested in media too.
But, as others complained over this loss to the nation, we just shrugged. Here’s why:
1. Formula One is over-rated
We know F1 is just about the only motorsport which mainstream UK media cares about, it’s the richest and the most technically advanced.
But does that mean better racing for fans? F1 isn’t the fastest racing in the world, and it certainly isn’t the most exciting.
The UK Legends Car series – a championship we are closely involved with – claims to offer “more overtaking in one race than a season of F1”.
Apparently somebody did the sums, and although we haven’t counted, we wouldn’t be surprised if there were other series which could make a similar claim.
There was a telling moment in a BBC broadcast last season, when excited presenter Jake Humphrey told us of “a major incident” during practice. What was it? Somebody had clipped the kerb, broken their suspension and run off through a gravel trap into a tyre wall.
We could go on about the forms of motorsport which provide more excitement than F1, but it would take too long.
2. Sky Sports is actually quite good
We were unhappy all those years ago, when coverage of England cricket left free-to-air TV for Sky Sports, but Sky has done a great job with the sport.
It shows England games home and overseas, Test matches involving other countries, and a generous helping of domestic games – far more than the free channels could ever manage.
On the other hand…
We admit, it’s a shame that viewers who can’t afford, or who choose to avoid a Sky subscription, will only be able to see half the races (those doubling up on BBC).
But specialist channels are the norm these days. You can’t turn the clock back, and if you had to “save” a sport from switching to satellite, surely there are stronger cases for cricket, soccer or rugby, which have all migrated to some extent.
Non-subscription viewers still get half the F1 races on BBC, and we’d recommend they take a look at ITV4 – overtaking, action and “major incidents” aplenty in their domestic motorsport coverage, including the British Touring Car Championship.
As for F1 on Sky. Yes, we admit it – we’ll be watching.
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