The BBC today announced exactly how it plans to cover F1 this season, its first year as the UK rights holder after 12 years of ITV coverage.
They are certainly going for it – it’s a pretty comprehensive schedule and there are some interesting and innovative touches. By using TV, radio and the online service they provide what is called in the industry ’360 degree’ coverage.
The first point to make is that all the qualifying and race shows will be on BBC1, which means that they are going for the big audience numbers. They have to justify the huge spend on Formula 1 to their critics in Government and elsewhere and the way to do that is by getting big audience numbers, which you would not get on BBC2, daft as that may sound. ITV was getting around 5-6 million viewers for the European time zone races last year as a benchmark, with a peak of 13m for the Brazilian GP.
The only the exception to the BBC 1 rule is qualifying in Brazil, which would fall at prime time Saturday night and so is shunted onto BBC2. Canada has been dropped, otherwise that would have presented the same problem.
Timings are given for races up to Monaco and it looks like the shows are roughly the same length as ITV’s so there will be around an hour of build up material before the race, but the post race element is a bit tighter – they will come off the air on the hour, which for some races leaves only 20 minutes or so, but as there are no adverts, that still leaves plenty of time. The qualifying shows start 50 minutes before the action.
Where the BBC departs from ITV is in its ability to use the red button interactive service to show all the practice sessions, which I imagine will use the commentary from Radio 5 Live, as I cannot see Martin standing in a commentary box for three hours on a Friday.
The innovation I like the look of the most is a post race switch-over show on the red button, which runs for an hour after the main show finishes. This will probably be a bit like the X-tra factor after X-Factor or the studio post-mortem after the Apprentice.
This is a great idea and it will allow them to pick up lots of material and stories in a more relaxed way after the race. This would have been great after Spa last year, for example, to examine a real talking point incident in more depth. There is no reason not to do this, as you have all the people on site and all the gear, you just lack the airtime, but with the BBC having this interactive space, they can do this and it will be really good.