As we all know, we will no longer be enjoying the delights of Formula 1 on the BBC anymore. This does not mean we have to suffer the adverts however. Channel 4, who have picked up the remaining 3 years of the contract, promised Bernie Ecclestone that the coverage would not be interrupted for adverts during the race. This is very good news for the free loaders out there, but with more time to fill, what will Formula 1 on Channel 4 look like and what do we want to see?
4 The Good Of The Sport
Channel 4 will be showing 10 live races from the 2016 season and highlights from the remaining events. While the drivers get prepared for another season which starts in Australia and the teams organise themselves, Channel 4 will be plotting how to win the viewers over. In the most recent turn of events the state owned channel have managed to pull off a coup in tempting David Coulthard from the new Top Gear show and join their presenting team. This is not as impressive as it seem from first glance however. David Coulthard along with ex-F1 presenter Jake Humphries own a production company who Channel 4 bought a stake in last year called Whisper Films. Just ‘by coincidence’, Whisper Films has been awarded the contract to produce the coverage. The attracting of Coulthard looks like a plan rather than an on the spot decision.
I would be expecting to see Jake Humphries to be joining him shortly. Ed Havard, Channel 4’s head of TV events and sport, said: “Whisper Films outlined an extremely impressive and exciting vision for their F1 coverage, with outstanding on and off screen talent as an integral part of their pitch.”
Channel 4 are more known for their alternative programming, but have had success with sport before. Their coverage of the Paralympics was a triumph (not the motorbike), and their Horse Racing coverage has won awards. It still feels unusual however and F1 fans are probably right to be apprehensive. Despite said fans being notoriously hard to please and retain, Ecclestone feels Channel 4 could offer something different. The Motorsport’s Napoleon said “I am confident Channel 4 will achieve not only how the BBC carried out the broadcast in the past, but also with a new approach as the world and Formula 1 have moved on.”
What Can We Expect and What Does It Need?
Don’t expect too much from the new season, with the short amount of time they have to prepare, Channel 4 will keep this season mostly the same. It is in 2017 where we can expect to see some noticeable changes. Whisper Films executive producer Sunil Patel said “Channel 4 and the sport have talked about a new approach and we believe we are ideally placed to deliver this.” Formula 1 fans will hope it does not involve commentary from the Gogglebox families, or a drivers Come Dine with Me Special.
I think we can expect to see a well-run BBC styled show, but with some Channel 4 tweaks. Don’t be surprised to see an unusual choice in the presenting team, someone who may lighten the mood from a dry technical discussion. Hard-core F1 fans will most likely be subscribing for SKY’s comprehensive package, so Channel 4’s task is to gain new fans, keep them watching, and boost numbers. They certainly have the ability to create entertainment, but will they be able to please both sides – newcomers and veterans. I would like to see more access in the paddocks, as well as more emphasis on the people involved rather than discussions on the cars. I feel that if you come at the production from a more human and race perspective, the F1 ‘newbie’ will find it much easier to engage and stay tuned. An approach where they will take you by your hand and guide you through the sport would be great.
They can use the highlights show for a more in depth technical analysis, but It think for the 10 live races, Channel 4 would be well placed to gain new fans. They have an opportunity show off the glamour and majesty, that I know F1 can be, to people who don’t know their brake from their accelerator.