The BBC is looking for a new presenter of its Formula 1 coverage in the UK after the main presenter Jake Humphrey announced that he is to leave the Corporation after 10 years.
Humphrey will become one of the best paid presenters in sport as the face of BT Vision’s ambitious new Premier League football offering, due to start next season. It moves him away from Formula 1, which he has presented since March 2009.
It’s an interesting move for the likeable Humphrey, who was well placed to become the main presenter for BBC Sport in the near future. He fronted the cycling at the London Olympics and has also presented part of the Euro 2012 football tournament.
It will take him away from the mainstream in one sense, but as TV fragments and moves towards convergence with the internet, he will be very well placed for the future. Broadcasters like Al Jazeera are expected to come into the domestic football rights war in three years time as they build up to their World Cup in 2022.
Humphrey will have the opportunity to host BT’s 38 live Premier League games each season for three years. The deal is a huge gamble for BT, which has paid £738 million for the rights. That they have entrusted the delivery of that to Humphrey is a sign of his standing in the industry. In that sense he is a loss to F1.
It leaves the BBC thinking about how they replace him, as they had built the whole presentation around a Top Gear-style ‘three amigos’ dynamic with Humphrey’s playing along in increasingly ridiculous sketches with the antics of Eddie Jordan and the mild dissaproval of David Coulthard.
Lee McKenzie has deputised for Humphrey during his enforced absences on other sports duties in the last couple of years and the BBC may go with her for its 10 live races and 10 highlights races each season.
But the dynamic with the other two other male presenters will clearly change, so it requires a root and branch rethink.
At the end of last season the BBC lost Martin Brundle and Ted Kratitz to the new Sky Sports F1 HD team. Coulthard’s popularity as a pundit and commentator has soared since then.
“I am incredibly excited to be joining the team at BT not just because I get to fulfil a lifelong dream of presenting the Barclays Premier League but because of the fresh perspective that BT will bring to both sport and broadcasting in this country,” said Humphrey.
“To be a part of this young, vibrant team who are as passionate about sport as I am, is a privilege. I’ve grown up at the BBC, and whilst I hope to work with them in the future, I’d also like to place on record my thanks to them.
“I am incredibly grateful to all colleagues, and of course the viewers, for their incredible support from CBBC all the way to Formula 1. My focus from the start of 2013 is on making BT’s coverage of football the best this country has ever seen.”