A few thoughts on Jake Humphrey leaving the BBC

As noted earlier this morning, it has been confirmed today that Jake Humphrey is leaving the BBC at the end of 2012, to join BT Vision from 2013 as presenter for their Premier League football coverage.

Since I wrote that article, Media Guardian have revealed a few details about Humphrey’s contract. They say that Humphrey’s contract is four years long (so from January 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2016), at approximately £250,000-plus per year (the Daily Mail say £800,000 per year). Interestingly the article also says that the deal is ‘not exclusive’ and that he can work for the BBC outside of his contract period. I am not quite sure what that means, as far as I read it, he cannot work for the BBC between January 2013 and December 2016, I won’t claim to be an expert in how these things work, so I may be reading that wrong.

Some will argue that Humphrey has left the BBC, as a result of them sacrificing half of their Formula 1 rights to Sky Sports in July 2011. I do not believe that is necessarily true. If it was true, then why did Humphrey not move to pastures new at the end of 2011? Personally, I suspect the reason he is leaving is due to his wife having a baby, due in March 2013. It is a perfectly reasonable reason, after all if you want to start a family, would you rather have work based in England an hour or two away, or be travelling around the world twenty times a year? A no brainer for me. The interesting point for me is when did BBC find out that Humphrey was leaving? I can see why Humphrey wanted to continue with BBC for 2012, because of the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012 and the Olympics, whereas in the next few years on BBC, there is not much ahead for Humphrey apart from Formula 1. This tweet from Humphrey twelve days ago now makes a lot of sense: “If I was Lewis, I think I’d give it a go elsewhere. New faces, new challenges. As my old boss once said ‘never sit in the comfy chair’…” – new faces, and new challenges is what lie ahead in his future.

In my opinion, Humphrey has been the best Formula 1 presenter we have had in this country, and he will be missed on the BBC F1 show next year. The thing about Humphrey is that he makes presenting look effortless in the Formula 1 paddock, it is a joy to watch. Humphrey’s four year stay as BBC F1 presenter between 2009 and 2012 compares with Jim Rosenthal’s nine year stay as ITV F1 presenter between 1997 and 2005, and Steve Rider’s three years as ITV presenter from 2006 to 2008. Hopefully the three amigos, Humphrey, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan can go out with a bang at the end of the season.

The question now is, who will replace Humphrey? The most obvious, and likely, choice is Lee McKenzie. This year, she has hosted the Canadian, German and Hungarian highlights shows as well as presenting live coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix in 2010. McKenzie is a safe pair of hands, has motor sport presenting experience, and is already a BBC employee, so is therefore the most likely candidate. Outside of McKenzie, could David Coulthard step up to be presenter? Unlikely, but we seen Martin Brundle present the Japanese Grand Prix in 2008 on ITV, so it is not impossible. I don’t see that myself. Moving outside of the BBC Formula 1 team, but staying within the BBC, one sports presenters I was thinking of is Gabby Logan. Logan does not do a lot of work at present at BBC Sport and if they do draw up a shortlist, I think Logan would be on there with nearly fifteen years of sports presenting. As far as I know (someone correct me if I am wrong), she has not presented a motor sports programme before, which may count against her. The other BBC Sport presenter I was thinking of is Matt Roberts, the current MotoGP presenter. Surprisingly, his name has not been mentioned once, but Roberts I think is a definite contender, having already ousted Suzi Perry as MotoGP presenter at the end of 2010. I’m unsure of whether Roberts is contracted through BBC directly or whether he is contracted through Century TV, the company which produces BBC’s MotoGP coverage, so that may complicate things slightly.

Outside of the BBC? Steve Rider potentially, but I don’t see him wanting to present on location at every race again, his current deal with ITV for the British Touring Car Championship and Sky for the F1 Legends programming seems to suit him at the moment. There are no other obvious people to me, I don’t forsee anyone moving over from the Sky Sports F1 team to present Formula 1 on the BBC. The shortlist is a short one, but I think McKenzie and Roberts are the front runners here.

The above however all relies on one assumption: that BBC are not planning on pulling out of Formula 1 at the end of the year. I don’t think they are, personally I anticipate the deal that was signed last July will remain in place. But no doubt the announcement today may well fuel speculation that the BBC may be about to pull out of showing Formula 1 live altogether. I sincerely hope that does not happen, but we were surprised with the news last July. I just hope, we are not about to be surprised again with news for the worse…

As always, your comments, thoughts and speculation about the future of Formula 1 on BBC, as well as who will be the new host of BBC F1 are welcome.

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23 thoughts on “A few thoughts on Jake Humphrey leaving the BBC

  1. The only thing I’d say is he’ll surely be seen by less people. Plus surely he can’t just be doing 38 PL games, as it’s not exactly a bundle of work is it? You’d imagine he’ll be doing something else as well, at least until they potentially get more football rights in the next set of rights in a few years time. Not sure what else he could do though. It also presumably means though that he’ll miss out on for example the 2016 Olympics, the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 European Championships, and anything like MOTD if Lineker left.

    • Oh yes, definitely, although the viewer comparison between Sky Sports F1 and BT Football would make for interesting reading! The press release said he would be presenting other football programmes. James Emmet, of Sports Pro Media, said on Twitter that BT Vision are set to win the rights for foreign football leagues, so Humphrey may present a few high profile games there. One thing I found amusing was that Humphrey says he wants to return to BBC in the future, so he could potentially present Match of the Day on his return… in 4 or more years time.

  2. Genuinely saddened by the loss of Jake to BT. Him, DC & Eddie are a superbly matched trio and I’ll miss their antics, I also don’t think the other two will hang around the BBC now either. I reckon he’s left before the BBC walk away from F1 altogether and then spend our licence fee on sports that none of the other broadcasters are overly bothered about showing. Do hope I’m wrong but the money the BBC spent on the Olympics and their shiny new HQ in Media city has to be paid somehow and the millions they’d save not lining greedy F1 bosses pockets would go a long way to help.

    As for Lee McKenzie, I’m sorry but I found watching her as the main presented uncomfortable, I just don’t think she has the onscreen presence required and I do genuinely like her but think she needs to be a side presenter.

  3. I would guess the “not exclusive” aspect of the contract will mean Jake is able to work for channels outside of BT, but be restricted in what he does – for a start, he won’t be doing football for anyone but BT. It might enable him to present sport that doesn’t clash in scope or timing with BT (eg the Open golf, or the Tour de France on ITV) and will presumably give a free run on non-sporting matters. So he’ll be able to carry on doing Free Speech, and possibly move into other areas (light entertainment maybe) for any channel of his choosing. Clare Balding’s new deal with Channel 4 Racing is along similar lines.

    • Thanks for that Richard. So in theory, while he is leaving the BBC, we may well still see him presenting some shows on there. I know he was doing some light entertainment pilots as he tweeted about one or two, so this wouldn’t surprise me.

  4. Whatever happened to the Jake of a year ago who belittled Brundle et al moving to Sky, because less people will be watching? Not only has he turned smugger and smugger this year, he’s also a hypocrite!

    Don’t get me wrong, he was a breath of fresh air when the BBC got the F1 – just he’s changed as time has gone on. Maybe a fresh start will do him good.

    • I wonder if he would have gone to BT had there not have been a baby on the way? I don’t know the answer to that, but I completely understand him not wanting to travel around the world 20 times next year with a newborn baby back at home.

  5. How about Jennie Gow? She presented the BBC’s Moto GP coverage not too long ago and is now with 5Live’s F1 team. I’ve never seen her present but it may be an option the BBC are looking into.

    If the BBC pulls out of live F1, won’t that invalidate the BBC-Sky agreement and invoke penalty fees being payable to FOM? Thus Sky would be forced out of F1 and the rights would be up for bids again?

    Sky can’t be the sole live broadcaster… as Christian Horner and Martin Whitmarsh made clear last year when the deal was announced, they were only happy with the deal because the BBC would still have 10 live races and the other 10 being FULL replays. Of course we know that they were apparently misled about the full replays but that’s beside the point of this comment.

    Whatever happens, if the current Sky-BBC deal continues until 2018, F1 in the UK will soon have a fan base among the hundreds of thousands, as opposed to the millions we see currently. By then, F1’s private equity owners will have sold the F1 business and made their multi-billion pound profit.

    • I never really thought about Gow, to be honest. It’s always possible, but that would require another reshuffle if Jaime Alguersuari gets a drive for next year, which is the speculation this morning. I’m not sure 5 Live will want to be looking for another person in the pitlane and commentary (although they could just have Gary Anderson in for the practice sessions in pitlane).

      Interesting point about what happens if BBC pull out of live F1. Like any contract, I would think that there get out clauses that either broadcaster can invoke if they wish to at a certain stage. I don’t think it would invalidate the agreement though, because legally they would be separate contracts. Contract A for 10 live races and 10 highlights on terrestrial TV [BBC] and Contract B for full live coverage [Sky]. I can’t remember when about it was within the respective contracts, but when Setanta went bust, ITV didn’t automatically lose the FA Cup and Sky didn’t lose the Premier League. Obviously the respective rights holders re-evaluated Setanta’s rights and re-distributed them (I think ITV took up extra FA Cup games the following season because Setanta went bust).

      Going back to the BBC and Sky situation, if BBC pulled out then Bernie would go to ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5 saying can you pick up BBC’s contract? And then things would continue from there. If Sky however decided to pull out, I’m not sure what would happen. Bernie would probably offer full coverage back to BBC and if they said no, he’d have to look elsewhere.

      I may be wrong, I’m not privvy to the BBC and Sky contract, although as with every contract there will be get out clauses in there. Just my thoughts on it, as always.

  6. Please Let The Lovely Lee Mckenzie Replace Jake Humphrey Because She Knows What She Does And I Like Her And So Does Everyone Else And She Is A Lovely Presenter Than Gabby Logan Because I Can’t Stand Gabby Logan.

    Ruman Khan

  7. Interesting thing about Lee is that she already has the ear of most drivers – and a few of them (particularly Vettel) have taken quite a shine to her. Jenson always seems to enjoy talking at length to her, although he’s usually frank and open with most interviewers.

    When Lee headline presented her first show you could tell she was a bit nervous – outside of comfort zone, dealing with the added complexities of coordinating a live broadcast (open talkback etc). I feel she could really flourish as key talent for the 2013 season given a chance, it’d be brilliant to see Logan and/or Jennie Gow as key co-presenters on the lineup alongside DC and Eddie for the punditry and in-depth commentary and historical insight.

    It was always good how 5Live’s commentary team did FP sessions – heck, it’s what led Croft and Davidson to jump to SSF1. The Beeb needs more of that crossover once more (I’m aware 5Live comms are contracted out so there’d need to be something done there). It makes financial, ecological and logistical sense to use the people you have instead of bringing redundant teams as Sky do for their parallel SSF1 & SSN coverage.

    I’m also expecting a stripped down Sky team next year – they had to “go in hard” to make a big impression in their debut season – but now they’re established I worry that they’ll rest on the laurels to an extent, or the budget will be reduced. It’s clear to see just how hard they had to work (and how much they had to spend) from a standing start to equal the BBC’s quality of coverage.

  8. What about Andrew Castle as anchor, lots of sport & live action experience. He is also easy on the eye. He should never have been let go from GMTV

  9. I agree that lee Mckenzie is the obvious choice here, and is most likely person that will replace jake. Matt Roberts is an interesting one, hadn’t really considered him to be honest. I love his Moto Gp presenting because he has a really good sense of humour and a great relationship with the riders such as Cal Crutchlow, much like Jake has in F1. The bbc need someone like matt or lee, someone with a sense of humour, because the light hearted approach to the pre-show that the bbc has, is what makes them vastly superior to Sky (In my opinion). They have found a perfect middle ground where they are incredibly entertaining whilst also being extremely factual – aided by the addition of Gary Anderson in the 2012 crew, I do not want this to change.

    • I think no matter what, it will be incredibly difficult for them to top the dynamic and charisma that Humphrey, Coulthard and Jordan have together. For me, they have been the best presenting team in Formula 1 and I cannot see that being repeated.

      If it was A.N. Other, Coulthard and Jordan, could it be repeated? Well possibly, it is never out of the question but any new presenter will need time to blend in with the remainder of the team. Of course, there is no guarantee that Coulthard and/or Jordan will stay with BBC, either… people will probably have their theories why John Watson has been at 5 Live for the last three races of the year, ie. is he being geared up for a permanent BBC F1 role in 2013.

      As always, we shall see…

  10. personally jake always irritated me, but granted as a 3 piece the chemistry was diffidently there. i just do hope the bbc dont try and ship over personnel from other areas of the bbc e.g jonathon legard and the latest one ben edwards. get someone who acutally knows and appricated the sport, and for god sake bring back james allen. he was incredible commentator when paired with brundle, imagine how good he could be with david.

    • Um, Edwards wasn’t a BBC employee before this year; he was pretty much a freelancer whose main job was calling BTCC on ITV. He knows plenty about F1, having called it for F1 Digital+ and Eurosport, not to mention Bernie’s failed F1 in Cinema attempt. I think Ben more than appreciates F1. And Legard had already done F1 on 5 Live before he called it on TV; he just couldn’t make the transition from radio to television.

  11. Good point on Ben Edwards. Think about it, he was mostly locked away in the commentary box, gets on well the DC and EJ so its not a leap of faith to plonk him in front of the camera

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