The kids are crying, there is arguing in the kitchen and the solicitors are rubbing their hands in glee, yes it is that old British tradition, divorce! The two parties involved are the BBC and Formula 1. A sporting marriage longer than most, (apart from a small break in the noughties) is coming to an end and this time it seems to be for good. The news that BBC had cancelled the remainder of its contract came fast, and so did the news that Formula 1 had already found a younger more attractive broadcaster in Channel 4.
Irreconcilable Differences or Is It All About the Money
The BBC are currently under pressure to cut spending and with a target of £150m across the board having to be cut it was inevitable some big names would get the axe. The Voice has already been dropped and sold to ITV and with the sporting arm of BBC looking for £35m in savings a big name was always going to go, but why F1?
Barbara Slater of the BBS said "A significant chunk of BBC Sport's savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1,". The sport had only just returned to its spiritual home and the Fleetwood Mac CD was just starting to get warm. The BBC had brought it back in 2009 with a brand new broadcasting team of Suzi Perry, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard. The decision to cancel has been seen as harsh by some, particularly Eddie Jordan, “It is utterly devastating. The week of Christmas is not the time to hear this, compounded by the fact that it’s not long since a lot of the team had left London and relocated in Salford at the whim of the BBC.”
Another theory could be about the sport itself. The Drivers Association (GPDA) conducted a survey of over 215,000 fans in the summer of 2015. They discovered, that despite F1 claims, that noise and fuel consumption is not the answer to waning interest. The three words which repeatedly came up was ‘boring’, technological’ and ‘expensive’. For a survey looking into what fans think of Formula 1 it is a damning indictment. Formula 1 have always been questioned when it came to its entertainment value and commercialisation, and this was two major points that came from the survey.
The survey also showed its disappointment with the current paddock of drivers with a shock coming for reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, who didn’t even rate among the favourites of those surveyed. His dominance and Mercedes’ is an example of the lack of competitiveness in the field and with F1 suggesting fewer teams and more drivers seems to be more of an issue in the years to come. If only to prove this point Hamilton is favourite to win next seasons Championship too, making it three in a row. It could turn out to be a shrewd move by BBC in dropping this deadweight and it speaks volumes, that with cuts looming, Formula 1 is the first one to go.
Channel 4 are hoping that prediction will be wrong, and went as far as to guarantee no advertisement will air during the race to win the broadcasting contract. It will be an expensive venture with £25m for the rights and £10m for production. It will show 10 races per season and highlights of those not broadcast live. It has to outsource its production, but by a large stroke of ‘luck’, Jake Humphrey’s and David Coulthard Production company Whisper Films was bought by the channel in 2014.
Formula 1 will hope that interest stays in the sport and by having exposure on public television will hope the numbers of viewers will increase. The sport will have to do more to excite the original fans that were surveyed by GPDA though and maybe this divorce from its long term partner BBC will be the kick up the backside the sport needs to make the correct changes. The aim should be to make the sport a spectacle again and not a predictable advertising board it is slowly becoming.
Written by Joshua Mason
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