BBC F1 vs Sky Sports F1: Your 2014 Verdict Revealed

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concluded just under two weeks ago. After the race, I asked for your opinion on the BBC and Sky Sports Formula 1 programming this season. The response from readers have been fantastic, with 35 comments in total, a lot of them in depth, making for interesting reading.

The main conversation that dominated throughout was the improvement of Sky Sports F1’s coverage compared to 2013. Whilst there are one or two people who are not yet happy with the coverage, on the whole, things do seem to be changing.

The Sky team work together much better now than they did in there first season. It’s a well oiled machine now and for sure they have delivered on what they promised at the outset, by giving it the full Sky Sports treatment. Yes it may be expensive but it’s worth it in my opinion. – Mick

Once again Sky, well better coverage and longer builds than the BBC has, their graphics are mind blowing and their features are fantastic. – RubbishMonkey2014

Jamie praises Sky’s coverage, however says that the punditry does come across as “a bunch of middle aged men in suits having a chat.” I really like the point made by Elliot Smith, which would mirror ITV4’s British Touring Car Championship coverage if implemented:

Seeing as Sky have a dedicated channel I think, at least for the European races, they should have something like qualifying day live and race day live, where they are live from the start of FP3 through to the end of the GP3 race and then do the same on Sunday with GP3, GP2, get Porsche Supercup rights and show them, then have the F1 race. Also they really should have proper presenters for the GP2 and GP3 rather than just using the world feed.

With Sky’s coverage improving according to the majority of users that commented, the BBC’s coverage appears to be heading into reverse:

Despite having to pay for Sky F1 which still grates – I have given up on the BBC coverage completely. – C Williamson

The BBC is so bad now, losing some of their popular staff (most of them moved to Sky), plus the analysis is well behind compared to Sky’s analysis. – RubbishMonkey2014

Rob disagrees, but does believe that their coverage has dropped since Jake Humphrey left as presenter:

I have seen both Sky and the BBC coverage and will always choose the BBC. Okay, their coverage has dropped considerably from the Jake Humphrey days but it is still a lot better than Sky.

Another key subject was the commentary, however, there were clearly more negative comments about the BBC’s commentary compared with Sky:

Edwards gets worse and worse. It seems they don’t actually want to acknowledge that any of Sky’s presenters exist – Edwards’s tone when he found out Brundle was doing the podium interviews in Abu Dhabi; Coulthard saw Brundle coming on the grid walk in Abu Dhabi and went the long way around Hamilton’s car to avoid him; Edwards will go “oh, there’s [celebrity] in the [team] garage” for every single celebrity except Johnny Herbert or Damon Hil. – Rhys Benjamin

Also I have noticed that both the BBC and Sky commentary teams have started every single race with ‘Lights out and away we go…’ Is this now the only way to call the start of a motor race? I like a catchphrase as much as the next man but for me this isn’t even a particularly good one? – Lonestarstraits

An aspect of BBC’s coverage that has improved compared with last year is Suzi Perry’s presenting. James Rowe summarises the picture:

Regarding presenters, I think Suzi Perry has improved this year, I still don’t believe she is the best fit for the role but year-on-year, her rough edges have been smoothed out a touch.

Sky’s bias towards Lewis Hamilton was noted by readers such as f1picko, others said that this is not a Sky only issue:

If anything, I felt both were pro-Hamilton this season, which is annoying for someone like myself who wanted Rosberg to win. In Canada, Edwards shouted down the mic “ROSBERG GOES OFF AND HAMILTON LE—-oh, sorry, no he doesn’t.” – Rhys Benjamin

There were a few NBC related comments, all negative it has to be said. I’m going to be reviewing two of NBC’s F1 programming on this blog in the next month or so. I’ll end this with a comment that I completely agree with. “The dream team”, shall we call it.

Still hard to avoid the general conclusion that both channels have some excellent people / ideas and some dross and that if you put the two together it would be much better. – Richard

As always, the original post has a lot of detailed comments worth reading, the above is just a taster of what readers are talking about.

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24 thoughts on “BBC F1 vs Sky Sports F1: Your 2014 Verdict Revealed

  1. Nice balanced review. As a country, we should be glad that we have a choice on which way we can watch and either one of them is better than what I’ve witnessed in other countries to date.

  2. Is the coverage of either really that good?

    As a broadcast professional I have to tell you that people only think it’s good because they have no yardstick and only a layman’s appreciation of what’s possible.

    If you don’t cook and never go into the kitchen and someone serves you cheese on toast you’d think it was pretty good. Now if you knew that for more or less the same time and effort the same people could make you a pizza, wouldn’t you rather have that?

    Sky have the means to produce a good 3 course meal yet serve up soup.

  3. If you honestly believe it to be soup, you should see what’s on offer in the USA, Canada, MENA, or the Far East (and yes I have experienced there offerings), you may well change your opinion, as if you’ve experienced those regions / countries and used those as a yardstick ie. Soup, then both Sky and BBC are offering what you would expect to eat from a top chef.

    Of course you’re entitled to your opinion as a professional broadcaster (or a layman) and I’d be interested as a layman, to know what more you believe could be done realistically to get the coverage from soup to what you perceive to be a three course dinner. Of course there are improvements that can be made by both broadcasters, that will always be the case but the way I see it right now, the coverage is infinitely better than it was just 10 years ago and as a long term F1 fan, that’s good for the sport and fans.

    I know a lot of effort is put in by both broadcasters employees, to give us the best they can, within a finite budget and I thank them all, for bringing the sport home to me every race weekend.

    Are you a professional broadcaster within F1 or something different?

  4. Ahhh Mick, there in lays the issue.

    I’ve been working in live television for over 20 years. I have worked on many sports but never Formula 1.

    I am however, a massive motorsport fan, particularly F1.

    I’m quite happy to point out why Sky’s output is mediocre at best but often terrible.

    What I’m not prepared to do, in case a Sky employee finds this site, is use my vast production and sport experience to tell them how to fix it without getting paid for it.

    I don’t know what you do for a job Mick but I doubt you would work for free.

    I should also say that my vision isn’t necessarily what Sky want.

    At the moment the coverage is an affront to serious fans and is aimed at the casual, Sun reader, F1 viewer, who is maybe more of football fan.

    If, as I suspect, Sky have zero respect for the true fan but simply want to attract the floating viewer then their coverage is more apt then it appears.

    If they’re trying to service true F1 fans then their coverage is dull, wasteful, lowbrow, unfulfilling, unimaginative, dispassionate and clearly the work of a rugby production team, using the Premiership Football playbook to be on a constant jollie.

    Do you by any chance work for Sky or the BBC?

  5. Thanks polblagger for your response and of course I don’t expect you to give an input for free. I also don’t work for free. That’s a shame though, as now I don’t know what I’m missing.

    I don’t work in television at all, I’m a UK CAA licenced avionic engineer, although I did have 3 interviews with the BBC in the mid 80’s, to become a technical assistant and ‘failed’. Since then, I’ve been fixing / servicing helicopters and aeroplanes for a living, which, looking back was probably more interesting than fixing television cameras etc.

  6. Having had Sky’s level of staffing and resources at my disposal I can tell you they are maybe producing 50% of what’s possible.

    I can also tell you that the content suffers because you can’t make good ‘telly by numbers’. It appears they have nobody with production experience who has any real ingrained passion for motorsport.

    They make football coverage for F1 fans without understanding they’re completely different animals. The content that football fans find entertaining, F1 fans find cringe-worthy and cheesy.

    There is a myriad of other failings within Sky’s production but that would take me into the advice for free category.

    The sad thing is that sometimes the BBC try to replicate Sky’s output which is 10x worse as it’s a copy of a defective product.

    Occasionally the BBC surprise me with a quality piece reminiscent of the old days. Having dealt with BBC sport in Manchester they operate with a weird mix of young, inexperienced staff and a few experienced professionals.

    I can only assume the when the old people are left alone they make some great telly but when the kids are left to their own devices they think that copying Sky is the way forward.

    • So with all those resources available, are you able to tell us what sports you have been involved with and when, so that we can see how good they were, assuming we saw them at the time that is?

      • Mick, sorry I only just saw this post.

        Most jobs I do I’m tied to hardcore NDA’s so it makes it very hard to discuss specifics in a public forum.

        If I try to speak in generic terms I’ll be back to working for Sky for free.

        Although to prove I’m not full of it, pick one aspect of Sky’s current output and I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it and how to correct it.

      • No worries Polblagger, probably as you were just looking at the bottom of the page for the latest replies.

        As the race is pretty much tied to the FOM output, then if you can answer it, the post podium part of the show, analysis etc, or if that’s too big a subject, then Teds Notebook.

        Thanks in anticipation.

  7. Sky’s coverage is excellent with the best presentation although I have admittedly only seen short sections of the BBC. The Commentary is far superior with Brundle the stand out while an excellent supporting punditry cast including, Hill, Herbert and Davidson. The standout of the whole production though is Ted Kravitz, who is knowledgable and charming and brings the viewer amuch more ‘being at the race experience’ with his Notebook reports. On the Hamilton bias, two points: firstly Sky and BBC are both British broadcasting companies of course they will have some bias towards British drivers ( as they have done towards Button especially during the McLaren 2015 Line up debacle ) that is what I expect and want if you are an avid Rosberg fan I suggest watching RTL. Secondly, I don’t think the bias is massive the support Hamilton and would prefer him to win but have been very complementary to Rosberg and highlighted his positives through the season.

    • Andrew, out of personal interest could you explain why you think Sky’s coverage is ‘excellent’ and do you mean excellent compared with the Beeb or excellent full stop? Or is it as you’ve stated, you just like the cast?

  8. Polblagger, I think that they get the balance right between entertainment and insight/analysis. There features and interviews are well done and the cast are excellent and know there jobs well. If you look at it as overall package (Especially Quali, Quali Notebook , Race Show, Paddock show plus the extras (F1 Show, Midweek Report, Legends/Architects of F1, Classic F1) they are doing a better job than the BBC did 09-11 when they had the full rights. From what I know of the current BBC coverage Hill/Herbert/Davidson/Bruno Senna do a better job than Eddie J and while Coulthard and Perry do good jobs, Edwards doesn’t have the gravitas or authority that David Croft does. Obviously your paying alot for it but from my point of view even when both have Live coverage I still watch Sky as I feel I’m getting a Higher Quality product (especially the Commentary + Kravitz which are the biggest pluses). I’m interested to hear what coverage you think is better either of F1 or other sport?

  9. I’m afraid Andrew nothing springs to mind that’s noteworthy. That doesn’t excuse the low standard of Sky’s output but is just a damning indictment of UK television.

    There is so much scope for improvement it’s shocking.

    As I said before, if I didn’t feel like I’d be working for free I could write a multi-page document on all the things that need changing, scrapping or creating.

    • I have to agree on that point, I was watching mostly Sky for the last season and a half until I thought that they were covering F1 like Ford Super Sunday (aka football). This got me thinking “Why on earth pay a tenner to watch coverage that’s at times quite appalling”. Herbert and Hill are bad enough, but were good drivers in their day. Lazenby and Pinkham? Eye candy and promoters in every sense of the imagination.

      The BBC which I have watched for the last half of season and they’re improvements have been largely incremental. Japan was awful when they cut off the podium interviews, a real low point for the Beeb’s coverage. I know we’ve never had it so good for F1, but when you have coverage that’s largely amateurish at best, you really cannot pick one that’s better than the other because they’re both very similar coverage wise.

      BBC and Sky have to acknowledge that F1 fans aren’t football fans, but we’re thinkers and consumers to the sport we love. However, the sport is still in bad shape with teams and talented drivers being shunted out. This isn’t new in F1 and I think this will have major implications on the coverage in the long-term.

  10. Interesting reading, and you make a good point. As a response to Lonestarstraits’ point, Ben Edwards has been doing it for a very long time indeed, a lot in the BTCC for sure. I’m as guilty for doing it for quite some time, it seeming to be the only thing that rolled off my tounge! I’m an aspiring commentator/broadcaster, I like Crofty’s commentary but it’s a smidgen too shouty for my liking (Ironic I know), although Edwards is far from his best. The Crofty/Brundle pairing is, in general, much better than Edwards/DC, but that’s just me!

    • Dan if you want to become a good motorsport commentator let me give you some advice.

      Don’t do what Croft does and think that because you’re a pundit you’re a driver or an engineer. Croft couldn’t point out a torsion bar if you hit him in the head with it, he doesn’t have the first clue what car balance feels like.

      Yet every GP he makes some 100% assertive statement with the tone of an all knowing being that’s complete and utter BS.

      • Yeah, I know what you mean! I don’t have a clue about how most of this works (I’ve said this a few times!) and whenever explaining something technical, I usually explain it’s my understanding. I made that mistake once of misdiagnosing broken suspension for a puncture (it was Warren Scott) and decided to not say anything techhie since 😛

  11. I have watched Sky for the first time this year courtesy of some cheap Now TV day passes.

    The pundit team on Sky are not as good as on BBC. Clearly Eddie Jordan is Eddie Jordan, but he gets away with it because he’s Eddie Jordan. Perhaps those who didn’t grow up watching Formula 1 in the late nineties won’t get this. DC is great. Lee is excellent. Whisper it quietly but Suzi is getting the swing of things. By contrast, Jonny Herbert and Damon Hill, great drivers as they may have been, are tedious, tedious pundits. Simon should be put back on kickball or wherever Sky found him.

    It feels that by splitting the rights we’ve ended up with two services, both of which are inferior to the coverage provided by the BBC 2009-2011. Shame.

  12. For Mick.

    I’ll look at the end of the Brazilian GP between the podium and Ted’s notebook as it’s an established event and wasn’t the last race of the season.

    Why immediately after the podium are we shown the TV schedule for the next race? From a viewers perspective it looks like the end of the broadcast, from a production point of view why would you potentially lose views by giving this impression? It also looks defeatist, negative and disrespectful. It’s like saying ‘we’ll show you next weeks schedule now because we know the post race sucks and you’re going to turn over’, where is the ‘still to come’ excitement?

    Then we have a cross promotion of other Sky sports productions.

    This is pay TV, we pay (a lot) for F1. Putting in Sky’s cross promotion is like us paying for premium seats to see the new Star Wars film and just after the big shoot out towards the end and the film, the cinema whacking in the trailer for Night At the Museum 28 before the film’s finished.

    Why are the first 2 post race interviews with Merc staff, we all knew that bar a mechanical failure the Mercs would come 1 & 2, surely the more interesting story was Massa getting on the podium at his home GP and why Bottas only managed 10th in comparison.

    The next half an hour is a group blokes stood around chatting about mainly how great Button is. Repeating horrible phrases like ‘at the end of the day’ and ‘punching above his weight’.

    So far we’ve had 40 minutes of the Lewis/Jenson/Mercedes show from 3 blokes in a car park.

    Bruno at the Skypad is knowledgeable yet nervous, he stumbles over his presentation because he’s either too nervous or under time pressure.

    So, we’ve just had the nail biting penultimate race of a close, undecided season. So what high energy, enthusiastic track do Sky use under their recap VT? Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky, a song so depressing it makes Radiohead sound like One Direction. Who the hell chooses these tracks, it’s dull, depressing, self indulgent and more lethargic than a stoned sloth.

    As you can see the answer to nearly all these points is JUST STOP IT!

    There are lots of item ideas that could replace the above to be both entertaining and create better balanced journalism but I’m not doing Sky’s work for free.

    The root cause of most failings on Sky F1 are down to 2 fundamental issues.

    The production team have no real background or passion for the sport.

    The production is made using a ‘painting-by-numbers’ approach that’s worked for herd sports like football and rugby and no matter how much fans try to tell them, they continually fail to appreciate that F1 fans are different.

  13. Hi polblagger, thanks for taking the time to share your opinion on Sky’s post podium coverage at Brazil. I say I have to agree with you on all points raised.

    We’ve become conditioned to the way programmes are produced, in that they follow a fairly set structure, every time and that is the same for F1 on BBC and Sky. In fact, the same can be said for most shows.

    As you say, the issues could be resolved quite simply, as they are basic ‘mistakes’. I know you don’t want to ‘help for free’ but hopefully this thread will be noticed by someone in the right position but I doubt it.

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