Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict

The 2018 Formula One season has ended, and with it, brings down the curtain on the motor racing year.

On-track, it has been a year of generally good racing wherever you look. Whilst neither the F1 or MotoGP seasons went down the wire, the racing in both has been worth watching on many occasions this year.

Off the track, there have been many developments on the broadcasting front. Traditionally, the end of season verdict has stuck to the UK F1 view point, but we live in a motor sport world far greater than both the UK and F1, and with that in mind it makes sense to expand the scope of the verdict to encompass all elements of broadcasting.

Whether it has been the launch of F1 TV, or World Rally Championship’s All Live service, there has been plenty of movement in the online arena. Liberty Media have made their mark on Formula 1’s graphics set, whilst closer to home, 2018 was the last year of Channel 4’s current F1 contract, the broadcaster remaining in a reduced capacity, for 2019 at least.

Now, we want your opinion. Has something irritated you with this year’s motor sport coverage? Have I missed a revolution that this site should be covering? And what would you like to be different about the motor sport broadcasting scene in 2019? Are you planning to watch a new series next season?

As always, the best thoughts and views will form a new article closer to the festive period.

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13 thoughts on “Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict

  1. F1 coverage in the US went from great in the past few years to abysmal. It’s almost impossible to enjoy the Sky broadcasts. First the background sound overpowers the announcers. Second the announcers are terrible. For the first few laps they seem to enjoy the race and then they turn into a bunch of English idiots talking about aardvarks or some other inane subject. One guy spends the whole race moving from corner to corner repeating “The cars are so fast.” It would be so much better if they had Diffey, Hobbs, Buxton and Machett, who all seem to actually enjoy F1.

  2. I’ve followed Channel 4 and have no idea what I will do next year with 20 races of highlights to watch. Their biggest asset is Ben Edwards who is a brilliant commentator to listen to, clear with his descriptions and aware of when to get excited in big moments. I thought Channel 4 were successful when they wheeled out Ben to do some one-on-one driver interviews and I would have liked to see more of those interviews. I love the energy from the team and will miss it.

    I saw a bit of Sky coverage but wasn’t impressed. I think the commentary is a bit stale. The team lack the enthusiasm of Channel 4, although their credentials are obviously very strong. I think F1 is going to turn into a niche sport with the lack of free TV presence and the nature of the presentation team.

    The highlight of the year for me is the ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast with Tom Clarkson. I think Tom is one of the more underrated journalists in the paddock. His interview questions really get the most out of his guests, and the podcasts are captivating listening. The one hour long form gets much more out of the guests than TV features and I’ve learned a lot which I haven’t learned from all the hours of features which BBC/Channel 4/Sky have produced over the past 10 years.

  3. This is the first year that I haven’t watch F1 on Sky since they started covering it. I would watch all of their programming and enjoy it, the only exception was the F1 Show which plummeted when someone thought it would be a good idea to have a studio audience ‘Top Gear’ style.
    C4 is disappointing to the point where I didn’t watch their pre and post race stuff. I watched 10 minutes before the green light to the chequered flag. I wouldn’t pay Steve Jones in washers and the Coulthard-Webber double act doesn’t work for me. DC and Webber are wasted and need an experienced anchor, I don’t rate Wolff at all and Jordan is just too erratic.
    I’ve listened to a few races this year on the radio and via the F1 TV app. Whilst I’m not a fan of Jack Nichols, he does the job and Jolyon Palmer is very good. What it has shown to me is how little the BBC think of F1, with the almost constant interruptions in commentary to give football updates etc. This also affects the F1 TV app commentary because it’s the same feed.

    I’ve subscribed to the F1 app ever since full live timing was no longer available free, but when Liberty Media thought it was a good idea to remove tyre data, change the layout so that you could only see 7 cars etc, that just showed me how little Liberty thought, or understood, about F1 fans. Even though they rushed out a stand alone timing app a few weeks later, I’d seen enough to unsubscribe. I’ve found Liberty Media to be very disappointing, constantly dumbing down, making changes for the sake of change comes across as if they lack ideas and don’t know what to do. How they continue to allow Ferrari to not talk to the media is beyond me, the tail is wagging the dog where Liberty is concerned.

    I can understand why WRC has developed its own live service, it’s revenue that they never going to get from broadcasters. I’m not sure how long it’ll last for though, will they get enough subscribers to make it profitable?
    I don’t mind paying for an app that enhances my viewing, such as live timing, but I will never pay for a streaming service that doesn’t work directly on my TV. Watching on tablets and phones is for emergency situations only.

    I was going to watch F1 via Now TV next year but Liberty have dragged it down so much I’m giving F1 up altogether. I’ve watched since the mid 70s, Sky has been the superior broadcaster in my opinion, Bernie and Max Mosely were way ahead in terms of managing the sport.

  4. Channel 4 should be very very proud of their coverage during these last three seasons. They’ve given a level of respect and honour to the sport after it was quickly and hastily consigned to the dustbin by the BBC who despite their initial enthusiasm towards the sport very quickly did everything to rid themselves of it and in a manner where many viewers felt cheated. C4’s approach, while keeping some of the best elements of the Beeb’s coverage (David Coulthard in particular) only perfected the show format further. Although sceptical about his appointment as anchor of C4’s coverage, I quickly came to really admire Steve Jones. Extremely down to earth, his good natured, chirpy presence on screen was a good foil for the wonderful insight we got from DC and Mark Webber who both carry a natural wit and easy charm that makes their analysis and opinions all the more impressive. And Karun Chandhok has to be one of the most prescient minds to have walked the pitlane – his insights and awareness of strategy was above anything before or after him. To me he was the real discovery of Channel 4’s coverage.

    Sky Sports aren’t terrible but nor are they great. Ted Kravitz remains the eminent pro he has always been since the days of ITV and Damon Hill and his sensible almost statesman like presence means that the pair of them are the real redeeming factors of the onscreen team. I can’t help but feel that since the days of the BBC when they started wheeling out Brundle from the commentary booth that he became more forced in his opinions. His analysis seem neither as probing or as relevant as the days of ITV and I think the somewhat unnecessary ‘banter’ between him and David Croft takes away from his role as co commentator.

    I also wonder whether Martin thinks back to the days when he was describing the show to millions upon millions of newcomers and old timers back in the days when it was all free to air. For me when I fell in love with the sport as a 10 year old back in 2001, his commentary was utterly valuable. The easy access of just pressing 3 on the remote and sitting down for three hours on a Sunday afternoon while Martin explained the complexities of track and car in a way that was oh so easy to understand for the new viewer was a real education. That the education was free made it all the more thrilling! And when 13 million of us tuned into see Lewis Hamilton win the championship on the last corner of the last race in 2008, you felt proud to be a loyal fan of the sport entertaining and wowing millions of others who were maybe only seeing their first and only Grand Prix. That mass communal feel of sharing a moment right there and then with those in Brazil gave it that extra layer of significance to a special sport.

    But from this day on, with the sport now locked down behind a very expensive pay wall, such a thing will never ever happen again. Those moments shared amongst the many, now reserved for the few.

  5. F1 will loose a lot of tv viewers next year. I would guess 50%.
    I did not bother watching the US GP nor the Mexican, as the Channel 4 highlights were so delayed that race results and reports were out long before, even GP+ was published before Channel 4 was allowed to start their program.
    So next year will it make me pay for sky? No it wont, I cannot possibly justify the cost. In any case the Channel 4 team is far superior to the Sky mob.
    The loss of FTA will continue to reduce appeal to sponsors and increase the teams dependence upon Liberty’s payments.

  6. I have been watching F1 for over 50 years and have seen the world, the sport and coverage change enormously. But never has the sport had such wonderful, professional, entertaining coverage as it has had (on live weekends, especially) with Channel 4 / Whisper Films. The quality of the production is outstanding and the real passion of the entire team has been tremendous.
    I do watch SkyF1 occasionally and the quality of the presentation team in particular is nowhere near as professional, in my view. The team are far more ‘take it or leave it’ and appear to be going through the motions rather than truly giving their all to wow their audience.
    What to do next year is a real issue – but I will keep my eye on this site to see what my options are.
    What a mess Liberty have made of this issue! But well done Whisper Films on a truly amazing job.

  7. Across the 2018 season, having watched both C4 and Sky live, I can deduce that Channel 4 has the superior programme, and they’ve only improved since 2016, whilst Sky have gotten stale.

    Both broadcasters have their ups and downs, but C4 has a lot positives, Steve Jones was an energetic and charismatic performer (though his pronunciations can be awful), and DC this year really showed his quality especially in commentary, Mark Webber was good but still just needs more experience. Eddie Jordan was, well himself, whilst Karun Chandok was brilliant as always and Ben Edwards continued to be a delight (way better than Crofty), keeping you invested in the race, despite, in occasion the action not being there, and the departing Lee Mackenzie was great again. For me the main negatives on C4 were the lack of technical coverage, unfortunate fact that Susie Wolff didn’t really add anything to the coverage this year, and the timing of as breaks, especially the ones just before the start of the world feed. Overall, as Channel 4 waves goodbye to it’s live coverage, it can be proud of it’s best year yet, with only a few minor issues holding it back.

    Sky on the other hand, for me haven’t had a great year, it’s lost it’s freshness and innovation from it’s first years, and they can’t even broadcast the Formula 2 and GP3 races live half the time. There have been a few positives this year, Ted Kravitz continues to be a gem, charismatic and entertaining as hell, whilst still being insightful, Martin Brundle continues to be the class of the commentary field, though I do feel that his passion is just starting to wane a little bit. Paul Di Resta has come a long way this year, proving he can fill Martin’s shoes, and he’ll only get better with experience, and Anthony Davidson has been great in practice throughout the year. The use of Nico Rosberg was excellent, he’s really come alive this year, through his YouTube work and on Sky he was a joy to watch. Almost forgot, Rachel Brooks had another solid year, not quite as good as Lee Mackenzie but, still good.

    Now for the negatives, where do I start, with the exception of the Damon Hill piece in Japan, Sky’s VTs have been, well very sub-par this year, it definitely feels like there’s been a budget cuts this year, despite Sky’s prices going up. I’ve never been the biggest Simon Lazenby fan, but this year really showed just how dull and passionless he can be. Crofty has some good moments this year, but overall he was just nowhere near the level of Ben Edwards, and there are some very annoying traits in his commentary style that become noticeable after a while, oh and his accuracy this year hasn’t been brilliant. On to Damon Hill, whilst he offers good insights and is very knowledgeable, he comes off very cold and rigid a lot of the time. Johnny Herbert meanwhile was, for the most part, good in F2/GP3, but for some reason he struck a nerve with me this season, he just wasn’t enjoyable to watch. Following on to something he was heavily involved in, the F1 Show was just unbearable to watch this year, I know it’s supposed to be a bit of an alternate look at F1, but it wasn’t at all interesting, and incredibly formulaic and the Saturday show needs to be scrapped immediately, in favour of extending qualifying coverage instead. Another thing is that 1&1/2 hours is too long for a pre race show, and the drivers parade does not need covering, it adds very little, and lowers the quality of the programme. And for a subscription based channel, there should not be any need for and advert breaks during practice sessions, especially with Sky having exclusively live coverage next year, this need sorting ergently. To summarise Sky’s year I’d say this, they’ve had season like McLaren and Williams, a few minor highlights, but now living off their past glories, they need change in all areas of they are too attract the sort of audience F1 needs, it’s evident in the fall in Sky’s viewing figures compared to 2012-13.

    Though I will say that the signing of Jenson Button for next year is great.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my take on F1 this year on UK TV and see you all in 2019, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful new year.

  8. If anything was the uncertainty surrounding the coverage of both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on UK TV. With Premier/FreeSports signing a 5 year deal to air both series LIVE as well as the top tier the Cup Series. Part way through the season coverage of the Xfinity and Truck series was reduced significantly due to low ratings (which is fair enough I guess) They said they would at least air highlights and selected races LIVE but after a while it seemed like we was just getting the selected races LIVE and highlights just of those races. Again its understood but I would prefer if they at least had another go at using all 3 of there channels to broadcast races in the 2 lower divisons as well as there already great coverage of the top tier.

    Another thing is the mistreatment by Channel 5 of Formula E this past season. The majority of reasons were broadcast on 5Spike as opposed to the main Channel 5 station for not so much reason. It showed that they don’t care much about the series. How are we supposed to care about the series if the channel it’s on doesn’t care so much.

  9. Agree with a lot of what has already been said, especially gwilym.t and Peter.

    There have been precious few changes to the on screen line ups so my viewing habits have stayed more or less constant. Channel 4 for every race they have live, and Sky as a backup for the rest.

    I’ve said it before, but given the amount of both airtime and money that Sky have, they must do better. Paul di Resta can barely string a coherent sentence together, and Crofty (as ever) just shouts loudly at things in a way that grates rather than entertains. Simon Lazenby as ever just doesn’t look like he wants to be there half the time. The exception to the rule is Ted who always delivers genuine insight, and given his own space I dare say would do better. I’ve got a lot of time for Brundle and Damon too, but they’re dragged down by those around them. The features they put out were absolutely dire. There’s literally no point watching their tired Top Gear esque build up, as you’d get more insight by spending an hour reading the likes of Joe Saward or Autosport before the session gets going. Jenson Button is likely to be a great signing for 2019, but without significant changes elsewhere, I’m not sure it’s going to be enough.

    Channel 4 meanwhile have once again over-delivered given their smaller team and budget. Steve Jones is superb — waxing lyrical about the sport in a way that makes it welcoming, rather knowing and hostile to outsiders. As ever Ben is a gem of a commentator, although I feel DC isn’t quite as good as his initial “Brundle moment” when he was unleashed as a co-commentator. For example he can fall into the trap of using a few too many Ron-isms (“under-rotation”) when simplicity will do (“lockup.”) That said minor gripes aside the whole C4 team is excellent. Lee always gets more out of the drivers than most, Webber remains a breath of fresh air, and Karun is great at making complex strategic stuff interesting.

    If this all sounds a bit hostile towards Sky, it’s not about the individuals who I’m sure are good people trying to do a good job. But Sky costs a lot of money, and they literally have an entire channel to play with. That’s why they should be held to the highest possible standard, and it’s tremendously sad that for the most part they fall short.

    Outside of the TV coverage, I have enjoyed added the podcasts from Chequered Flag, Missed Apex (the specials with Joe Saward and Matt Carter are essential listening) and Beyond the Grid. I haven’t yet had chance to get access to F1TV, as in the UK we can only access the archive plus highlights (to my knowledge, so that’s a payment I can do without.) At this point I’ll stick to TV for highlights where they crop up. I also don’t dual screen with live timings, as I find this a substandard and distracting experience for the most part.

    Obviously the next 5 years are going to be huge for F1. Liberty, as a media firm, have a plan to turn each fan into a paying subscriber. There is a chance they are ahead of their game on this. Although that kind of model needs strong marketing capabilities to pull off, given the pressing need to generate income from every fan. We don’t know how much cloud Liberty will be willing to put behind that promotion just yet. Historically a lack of FTA has decimated otherwise strong heritage sports in the UK such as cricket, which is a natural concern. The truth is, it will be at least half a decade before we even begin to feel the true effects of that lack of FTA, so it will be interesting to see who subscribes to Sky and to F1TV when that moment arrives in the UK in 2025.

  10. There has been a definite shift in my motorsport viewing this year, possibly in preparation for 2019 and reduced F1.

    I don’t, and won’t, subscribe to Sky for F1 coverage. The loss of live F1 on FTA is a shame but was inevitable once Sky got involved. Viewing figures will no doubt drop overall but Sky will gain a few. The highlights staying on C4 is good but if they are to be delayed until later in the day then it will hurt viewer numbers further. As I said when the BBC/Sky split deal was announced people will drift away from the sport. Without the regular live coverage, it is easier to miss an event, and once you see the result in the news watching the highlights become less important.

    This year I have increased my variety of motorsport and platforms to watch them on. British GT, SuperGT, and Blancpain all on YouTube. I’ve also been watching DTM, WRX, and some Supercars on the Freesports TV channel. The inconsistent C5/Spike Formula E coverage has made me miss some its events. I’ll try and catch the new season via the BBC.

    BTCC (live on ITV4), WRC (C5) and MotoGP (C5) continue to form another part of my regular viewing.

    The off-centre Halo overlay graphics in F1 are still irritating the heck out me. Please fix it Liberty.

  11. I think both channels were solid. No real complaints. Have to commend C4 support team in particular though. I really like Mark Webber’s nuggets of information; like when he talked about Seb Vettel coming with Hanna to Austin and spending a lot of time in Red Bull hospitality. Little insights which revealed a lot into his headspace at that time.

    Susie Wolff and Karun Chandhok were good too. And Steve Jones has looked comfortable in what must have been an unfamiliar role.

  12. Having seen every race live this year by means of Now TV’s week passes for the non-C4 races, I’m not sure what I’ll do for next year. Nonetheless, I strongly prefer Sky’s product to Channel 4’s. Ben Edwards, even when live, is “commentating for highlights”, he always pauses at certain times and waits for visual cues: the green light coming on in qualifying is a particularly notable example of this. It reminds me of Mark Nicholas’s cricket commentary, he’s got worse over time and now needs to be put out to dry. Coulthard’s grown in confidence but I strongly dislike him. His pro-Hamilton bias was the worst of anyone on either side, there was one moment when he said “look how smoothly he turns the wheel” and fawned all over him. I also remember Chandhok saying something similar, although that may have been last year, when Hamilton made a mistake in practice and Chandhok started churning out 101 excuses. I would like to see Mark Webber in the commentary box again as he was at UK 2016. As for the pre- and post- race show, Steve Jones’s pro-Hamilton bias matches that of Coulthard (I’m still able to recall his Italy 2016 comment of “if Lewis loses the title this year, god forbid…”) and I really feel like throwing something at him, Eddie Jordan has lost all sense of sensibility and needs to be hung out to dry too. Susie Wolff is growing on me, and I like Mark Webber. The content itself is also looking very tired, given that they had known this was their final year. It doesn’t match up to a lot of the features that Sky do or the BBC (between 2009 and 2012; the BBC’s product went downhill rapidly from 2013-15) did.

    As for Sky, Crofty’s groan-inducing puns have got to the stage where I’m starting to enjoy them, in the same vain as Murrayisms. Martin Brundle is as timeless as ever, and whilst Paul Di Resta enjoys a better rapport with Crofty than Brundle does, it seems, PDR is nowhere near Brundle’s level (nor is Johnny Herbert, who did the second half of the Russian GP). Ultimately I would choose Crofty over Edwards if I had a free choice. As for their pre- and post- race shows, I really like the formula of the final 40 minutes before lights out, and I think it’s massively notable that they don’t rely on features as much as Ch4 do, despite having an extra 30 minutes of build-up on race day. Ted Kravitz is as good as ever, too.

    I still hope (and pray) that next year’s highlights are a Sky production and simply plonked on C4 (as they were for the 2013-14 Ashes series, albeit plonked on Pick). I can’t see C4 simply having any motivation next year.

  13. I forgot to talk about Liberty and FOM:

    I hate, hate, hate the 2018 graphics set. It looks clunky, overly big, and feels like something a 14-year-old would design. The new logo falls into this description too. The 2015-17 graphics were far better, although I didn’t like them initially, they grew on me massively. Nothing for me has come close to the 2004-09 set, though. And don’t get me started on the beeps when the lights come on or the noises the graphics make.

    The theme tune is annoying the crap out of me as I happen to think it’s quite a poor composition from Brian Tyler and suffers from being over-played. The “action zones” in the introduction videos are extremely repetitive if you’ve seen the practice sessions, so by the race they’re not grabbing your attention any more.

    I felt the direction often was a bit poor this season, too. As was shown in the German GP talkback video, the director is clearly sacrificing showing everything in order to show slo-mo replays of Vettel walking into his motorhome. Not showing Alonso vs Stroll in Japan for over 30 laps was an appalling decision, and on the first lap I happen to think the camera angles are too low down. A higher angle would be better for the viewers.

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