US fans to get Sky Sports F1 coverage on ESPN and ABC
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Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Feb 2018   |  6:51 am GMT  |  260 comments

F1 fans in the United States are to get the Sky Sports F1 UK package on ESPN and ABC under a deal announced yesterday.

The deal for ESPN to replace NBC as the rights holder in the US was done last year and there is also an OTT (Over The Top) offering in the US.

ESPN looked at various options for how it could work with F1 to get coverage of the races, qualifying and practice, as well as supporting content.

With Sean Bratches being a former ESPN executive and Chase Carey having worked for Rupert Murdoch and Fox for many years, the pathway to this arrangement clearly made sense.

What it means for F1 fans in the US is that, although they will not have their own dedicated team as they had under NBC, they will have access to more content. It is similar to what happens in other countries, like Australia, where the Sky coverage is carried on Foxtel behind a paywall.

NBC had its live presentation team based in the US, travelling only to occasional races in the US timezone and Monaco, while Will Buxton was dedicated on-site NBC reporter at every round together with producer Jason Swales, producing interviews, reports and live grid coverage.

There was no American voice in the NBC coverage, which was led by Australian Leigh Diffey and that will also be true of the Sky package on ESPN.

But this is part of a process to drive more engagement with sports fans in the US, which F1’s management has identified as a territory with strong growth potential, along with China.

Getting a comprehensive broadcast and OTT package together is an important step in that process, as the way fans consume TV and video content is changing quickly. ESPN has suffered in the last couple of years from ‘cord-cutting’, where US consumers give up expensive cable TV packages in favour of OTT and mobile offerings.

But Sky has a new head of F1 in Scott Young, for whom 2018 will be his first season, and it will be interesting to see how he evolves both the coverage and the team over the coming seasons.

For example, while Sky’s coverage has lots of in-depth interaction with the cast of characters in F1, it isn’t particularly rich on stats, which is considered an important part of a US sports fan’s appreciation.

Sky will be the exclusive carrier of F1 in the UK from 2019 onwards, behind a paywall, while this season it has taken a dominant position in Italy also, with RAI only carrying one live round at Monza.

Photos: LAT Images

Are you based in the USA? What do you think of this development? If you are UK based or watch the Sky coverage in Australia or other territories, let your US counterparts know what to expect, using the comments section below

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1

ESPN acts like they just started into the sports broadcasting business and don’t have a clue what they’re doing. This weekend was even worse; they completely FAILED to cover the qualifying sessions. Is anyone even awake at ESPN? It’s bad enough that they have done as poorly as possible to start off the year, but now ESPN seems to be quitting the business. I don’t understand how they have multiple channels and fill them up (in the middle of the night) with pre-recorded drivel like E.60 but cannot manage to show Formula 1. Congrats, you have totally turned off us Americans to this great sport.

2

Coverage is simply awful. I can’t believe how poor the production values are in comparison with US TV. Remember, the American audience expects very high production values in its sports presentation, and NBC did a great job delivering. Sky is very second-rate, amateurish, British fan-boy anorak-awful. I miss Matchett, Buxton and Hobbs (but not Difley). No commercials is OK, but frankly, there are always some boring periods when we all need to go to the bathroom anyway. I would take the ads back in a second if it would pay for an American broadcast team. The British announcers are incomprehensible to Americans, Brundle seems like a lost puppy (no one wants to talk to him), the others have nothing to say (Matchett and Buxton always had searing insights) and they are completely lacking in the cynical humor Hobbs always added. Awful awful awful; this will kill Formula 1 in the US.

3

I don’t know if it will kill it or not here, but I can’t argue with much of what you said here. I don’t mind Diffey on the coverage really, thought he was ok. But this new coverage, eh, pretty much sucks.

4

I am thrilled with the new coverage. I do miss Hobbs and Matchett and maybe Brundle isn’t quite Will, but see the entire show without commercials is amazing. Great job keep it this way. Please

5

Terrible coverage. Audio is horrible. Where is Will Braxton and his team? PSE change coverage for your American audience. You will lose the American audience.

6

I have been disappointed with the coverage in the US thus far. The pre-race coverage is sub-par with Martin running around Willy-nilly and it seems that he has a hard time engaging the drivers and others as easily or as well as Will Buxton did. I miss Will’s pre-race walk! As for the coverage during qualifying and the race itself, also sub-par. The commentary is not as good as we had with NBC and the overall conversations around the goings-on and issues of the moment don’t happen now. I give this coverage a 3 out of 10 versus the whole NBC package! I am very disappointed and it seems that the level of professionalism is much lower now. It even appears that the drivers and principles in the paddocks have less respect/regard for the Sky team as they had for the NBC team. It appeared as though the folks made more time to chat with Will that they do with the Sky team.

Very disappointed and I feel like we have lost something in this transition. This is going to have a negative impact on F1 in the US as it is a big step backwards!

7

Kinda surprised for all the negative comments here. I haven’t watched the entire race yet, but there seem to be MUCH fewer commercials than on the NBC coverage. And I find the British accents quite understandable. Admittedly the NBC reporters were great but I’m enjoying the sky coverage.

8

The audio is horrendous! The commentators are an absolute sleep fest. I wonder how my cousins across the pond have endured this awful presentation all these years. I feel sorry for them as I devat ehwether to even follow the series…and I have been a loyal fan for 30+ years. This is an absolute disgrace.

9
Jeff Loughridge

They speak too quickly to be understood easily, they all sound so similar you can’t tell who’s talking, they never take a breath, they have that annoying habit of highlighting what they are talking about by. Speaking. In. Halting. Style. That. Is. So. Annoying. Their dialog becomes a verbal white noise that takes too much energy to keep up with. It might help to meet these announcers to be able to picture who’s talking and maybe let people know who they are and what qualifies them to comment. Is that enough?

10

Terrible coverage. The pits!!

11

I agree with the other comments. Worst un-interesting commentators ever. Can’t understand what they are talking about, very low voice volume. Maybe they are more knowledgable, but they make listening to them make you want to turn off the volume and just watch what is happening without them. ESPN better listen to the fans before they loose the audience. I will be recording the race so I can just buzz through the important parts and don’t have to listen to the boring commentators.

12

I can’t be more disappointed in the f1 program on ESPN. In addition to all the technical issues, cutting to commercial mid sentence etc. I can’t understand half of the things the broadcasters are saying. They are extremely dry and their accents are quite heavy. Is anyone else having the same issues understanding them?

13

Oh great. I guess I’ll be hearing how great Hamilton is all year. The best ever, brilliant.

WTF.

14

I travel worldwide and about 20% of my viewing is in other countries. If coverage was not available locally, I used my FIOS account login to get NBCSN. I’ve been an F! fan all my life and read and view coverage from various sources, so I get the tech and the accents due to prolonged exposure, so SKY works for me. But, if Bahrain isn’t better I will find a way to get a world feed and just let ESPN flounder. As others have posted, SKY is broadcast uninterrupted, so I can’t believe that ESPN didn’t notice that and see they had a problem. At this point, I don’t see a way out unless they get their act together and recreate what we had here before this travesty. ESPN has laid off folks, so maybe $$ are in short supply for what they consider a ‘fringe’ audience’. Unfortunately we’re getting the smelly end of the stick. My VPN is just one click away. That probably violates someone’s licensing rights, but ESPN violated my 20+ year enjoyment of F1. Liberty Media, SHAME on you for letting this happen to your home audience. You’re never going to build on the base here with this garbage. Bernie would have already kicked ESPN’s arse.

15

As so many voiced here, we are in U.S. and were totally disappointed. Croft yelled constantly through qualifying, thought toned a bit in the race. Brundle brings a good perspective, but we miss Hobb’s laid back style, and there is absolutely no substitute for Steve Matchett’s insight and humor. We also had trouble a bit with accents, especially when they get excited. Dismal coverage from the Director, so many things not shown as they happened or picked up later. Worst race coverage in ages. We may be lucky to not be behind a pay wall, but if I had to pay for this, I wouldn’t. One strike against Liberty, who may have ties to ESPN and Sky, but certainly display little understanding or empathy for the American audience they say they prize so much. If this continues with such awful production values and over-inflated commentary (Croft could a lot by watching old Bob Varsha-called races) the new Indy cars may actually look more fun to watch.

16

Croft is a better announcer, but Matchett is a better commentator. The camera feed is exactly the same, except they don’t break for commercials on Sky, so there isn’t a segue or catch up of what was missed. I’ve seen Sky coverage many times, so I guess i’m just used to it. The Will Buxton pre and post race shows on F1’s YouTube are great, and enough to fill you in on everything.

17

Commentary was boring (compared to Hobbs sarcasm and wit, Diffey’s backstories, and Matchett’s tech), production was all over the place (missed crashes and poorly timed commercials), and programming was inexcusable (channel changes).

This sure put a bright light on how good Speed and NBC were.

18

To quote a friend; The F1 commentators for Sky are about as sharp as a 20yr old razor. If ESPN doesn’t improve during and after race coverage, I may be done watching after 20 years.

19

Abysmal coverage of Australia. Plethora of advertisements, and commentators that don’t recap radio conversation missed during those commercials. If this was meant to help F1 is the USA, it was a miserable fail.

20

Very disappointing coverage, not the way to develop more US F1 fans. First hard to find, little notice and changing channels. At important moments an advertisement kicks in, like the pit pass, we couldn’t see the decisive moment in the race an ad was running. No news or analysis, little prerace and no post race.

21

I’d love a way to subscribe to Sky from the US instead. I know it won’t be satellite, just online.

ESPN coverage was terrible due to a) they didn’t bother carrying the whole weekend – just FP3, Q, Race. Unlike NBCSN who showed everything. b) they either didn’t realise or didn’t give a flying that Sky don’t have ad breaks, so when they went to a break and both Haas cars went out, we came back and obviously Brundle et al had no clue to maybe go over what just happened since we didn’t see it.

I believe a 20+ year veteran of ESPN who’s now part of the F1 setup is behind this no bid gift of US F1 coverage to ESPN. Hopefully F1 get their act together and get this live stream sorted out soon as a good alternative. Otherwise I’ll be forced to stream it illegally via VPN or torrent. I’ve been a fan of F1 since I was little growing up in the UK watching it on BBC, and support it completely, but if my only option other than going to the actual race weekends is to go the Kodi illegal route – so be it.

22

I was very disappointed at the coverage…….that’s putting it nicely. Post-race coverage was terrible. If this move was to try to ramp up support for F1 in the U.S. market it was an epic fail. If anything it will only keep true F1 fans and alienate people on the fence. NBC’s coverage and production was far superior. I’m really disappointed. I never post or complain, I don’t use social media. But after the race I actually searched for a way to complain.

23

If you think this crap is acceptable and you are ok with it then I feel sorry for you because you obviously have never seen Decent race coverage…….please explain to me how nascar and drag racing gets better production then the premier form of Motorsport?

24

Horrible, just horrible. Bring back Steve Matchett & David Hobbs. I’ll even take Leigh Diffey back in order to get Matchett and Hobbs back.

25

That was a horrible thing to watch on espn. A local tv high school basketball game would have better announcing and quality than this third party conglomeration of feeds and announcing that doesn’t care about USA perspectives.

Casual fans won’t care to stay awake to watch a second one, extreme fans will find something with better quality and standards to watch.

F1 is dead in the USA again, after all the hard work NBC and lreviously Speed did to build it up.

Just aweful, there are no words, it failed on every single level.

I understand the issue is F1 ownership wants to have their own payperview internet offering so the public tv rights in the USA aren’t worth any network putting any effort into it, but that was just embarrassing that USA ownership could mess this up this fast with greed.

26

As a USA person who travels overseas frequently and seen the Sky coverage as part of a complete F1 coverage package. I can say that Sky coverage for a US audience is far inferior product to what USA audiences are use to seeing. Part of the problem is the the US feed has commercials that the Sky coverage doesn’t, but more profoundly is that US viewers are use to getting their F1 updates over rules changes/F1 news during the races whereas Sky assume the viewers are up to speed on those things. Another problems is accents/language differences and thus we have no clue what a m/s wind speed is because we do our windspeeds in MPH. I also always thought that Steve Machetts pit/engineering perspective was something that Sky Coverage lacked. As F1 is very much a balance between engineering and Driving and with NBC dynamics of Hobbs/Matchet, you got a sense of that dynamics that Sky never really captures. US Audience are also to getting more in race information from the drivers and teams and would have done a Haas team interview (or SMS exchange to get more background) over what had happened. USA Audiences are pretty irate right now over what happened here.

27

By far, the worst coverage in the 25 years I’ve been watching F1. I’m understanding about 50% of the dialogue. F1 is taking a huge step backwards in the U.S. with this coverage. Horrible!

28

What was the problem with understanding? Do the announcers not speak clearly enough?

29
Jeff Loughridge

They speak too quickly to be understood easily, they all sound so similar you can’t tell who’s talking, they never take a breath, they have that annoying habit of highlighting what they are talking about by. Speaking. In. Halting. Style. That. Is. So. Annoying. Their dialog becomes a verbal white noise that takes too much energy to keep up with. Is that enough?

30

Quick question – I know in the past BBC 5 live would have F1 commentary and we can get 5 live in the US – do they still have live commentary? I think you do it but I’m not sure. Univision here show F1 uninterrupted, but with Spanish commentary, so watching that channel on mute and 5 live for the sound might just work.. haha

31

I don’t think there was much wrong with what Brundle and the team did or said to be honest – the team we had before when it was on NBCSN was Steve Matchett (former Benetton/Brawn engineer), David Hobbs (F1, 24 hr Le Mans, etc. driver – lotus F1 I believe), an Australian and another pit lane fella called Will Buxton. 3 Brits and an Australian. The issue I think is the Sky team don’t explain things clearly enough for a worldwide audience who aren’t so familiar with F1, or current rules etc. The old NBCSN team would explain the rules, Matchett would explain the tire/tyre setup, and more often than not would know what was wrong when a car parked up. Add to this the fact ESPN spent around 40% of the race with ad breaks where we’d rejoin the feed mid sentence (obviously the Sky team don’t know us Americans just came back from a bunch of adverts), and we end up with all these complaints. I’m not sure much can be done other than ESPN show everything without ad breaks – and I doubt that would happen. If Sky were to employ Matchett and Buxton, they could bring some US insight into the team there. Hobbs too.

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