So we’ve all heard the news that F1 TV coverage in the United Kingdom is now going to be split from the 2012 season between the BBC and Sky.
Sky are showing every session of the season live, whereas the Beeb will only show 10 races live (including Monaco, Britain and Abu Dhabi at the moment) with ‘extended highlights’ of the non-live races, still shown on race day.
Now, on paper, that doesn’t look too bad in all honesty. The extra financial burden is merely a bridge to be crossed, something I’m really going to have to do, as there’s no way I’m missing live races, especially with the explosion of social media and also the whole F1 world’s contributions to that. So that becomes an extra £20 a month on top of my £25 current subscription. Fine. £20 isn’t that much of a burden, and I’m sure Sky Sports will do justice to F1, and probably will seek out the best of the BBC production team, who it has to be said provide great programming for us fans. We’ll get it in crystal clear HD, and we might even get extra feeds through the red button services, such as onboards, timing screens etc. It might also mean I get to watch an F1 race at a pub for a change as well!
What really irks me about the whole thing is that the BBC has really shown itself to be almost ignorant of it’s licence-fee paying audience. Ok, they have committed to showing F1 in some form until 2018, but if it’s only 10 races, then you might as well watch every one on Sky, because you’re paying for it and they’re the ones who’ll be there at every race. Picking and choosing races to show doesn’t give those who enjoyed the BBC shows 1. any say on what races they’d like to see, and 2. Takes away the whole ‘Championship’ aspect of F1, as it’s a 20-race series and not just a collection of one-off Grand Prix. Again, ok, the BBC does have to make cuts after coming under pressure from the Government to do so. We’re all having to do that in some form, so that’s not a problem to me. It does become a problem though when us licence-payers seem to be disregarded. BBC4’s budget is similar to the present F1 budget, and although it produces quality programming, it gets nowhere near enough viewers to warrant, in my opinion, a whole channel.
F1 does get those viewers, all of whom are paying the BBC via the licence fee to watch it. It’s basic supply-and-demand, and in a non-commercially driven institution like the BBC, one that has a duty to it’s viewers, surely they could see the merits of keeping the rights to a series that attracts 6-7 millions viewers every other weekend? They do, but they don’t realise that the only reason there’s 6-7 million every fortnight is because they are both the only station showing it, and also they are showing each race after another. This is the same for any series… people will keeping watching because they feel there’s an arc to what’s going on, even in factual programs like Top Gear where there isn’t a strict story arc, but interesting stories within shows, and presenters that the viewers warm to.
Viewers get that feeling with F1, because the same ‘cast’ is there every week, unlike a football match where it’ll be a different set of teams playing, with changes within those teams from weeks gone by. You can pick and choose football matches because of this, it’s not the same with Formula 1. There’s always the same (thereabouts) 24 drivers, same teams etc. and that’s the attraction.
I am glad though that someone has picked up the full season rights, even if it a pay-tv channel. Hopefully they’ll use my £20 a month wisely and to my benefit, and hopefully the BBC can learn from these developments and make better informed decisions about such matters, that are clearly sensitive to the public, in the future.