Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

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We won't get fooled again? // The changing face of US F1 television coverage

Published by Kai

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
Credit: Alastair Staley/LAT

At last night’s meeting of F1 Anonymous.

“My name is Kai and I’m an American Formula One fan.”

Group in unison: “Hi Kai.”

“I’ve tried to leave it behind. I’ve tried to stop watching F1, but when I can follow drivers on Twitter, even talk to them, and see pictures from their vacations, plus hear from teams during a race?! I mean...”

The group nods knowingly, glancing at each other.

“Technology has made it so I can find dodgy links to the good coverage from the UK! How am I supposed to resist that?! It’s not like I’m just stuck with SPEED anymore, where I can’t even see Free Practice 1 or 2.”

Some eyes grew wide at the temptation. One man wiped his brow.

“I blame my dad. Sorry, I know that’s a cliche. He was doing the best he could to cope with life, but he introduced me to it all - the cars, the teams, downforce, tracks in beautiful, exotic locales, the speed, the cornering. It was too much to resist. I have to confess to you all; F1 had me at nyoooooow.”

Take a bow for the new revolution

As an F1 fan in the United States, it’s been an uphill battle for many years. In fact, I watched Wide World of Sports and Sunday races for years as a kid, but then I got interested in other things and stopped watching and following F1 for a long time. It was not hard to do.

I enjoyed the SPEED coverage when I first came back to F1 about 5 years ago. But then I found Sidepodcast and I heard the UK coverage for the first time. I did not know what I had been missing. I just couldn’t go back. SPEED had the three commentators sitting in a little room in Charlotte, North Carolina watching the world feed and timing and scoring. The pit reporter is the only one actually at the race. And that pit reporter/hype man is Will Buxton, who was hired when Peter Windsor left. I know some people enjoy Buxton’s work, but he drives me nuts. SPEED coverage wasn’t bad for what it was, it just wasn’t enough for me. Apparently SPEED is beginning the process of changing over from all-motorsports programming to covering all different kinds of sports. They want to compete with ESPN. So SPEED coverage is done.

NBC Sports logo

The NBC Sports Group has signed the exclusive rights to Formula One coverage with Formula One Management for four years, complementing their IndyCar race coverage. We will now have almost all open wheel racing on one network except for a few IndyCar races on ABC, including the Indy 500. Four F1 races will be on the NBC regular network; Canada, Abu Dhabi, the U.S. and Brazil. The other sixteen races will be shown on their cable station, the NBC Sports Network. For the first time since I came back to F1 all three practice sessions, qualifying and the race will be televised. But will they be live? I don’t know. All of the races will be streamed live, with mobile and tablet apps, on NBCSports.com, and they’re promising 100 hours of programming. But will the races be live on TV or are they only going to stream them and show the races on a time delay to try for better ratings because only addicts who are not in F1 Anonymous will watch them?

Here’s my reaction from what I was able to find out right now about the NBC coverage:

The good

  • Steve Matchett analyst. I love his commentary. I learn so much.
  • Leigh Diffey play by play. He is also doing IndyCar this year, plus Grand Am/Continental Tire Series. Busy boy.
  • No more F1 hidden away on SPEED channel 607
  • TV coverage of Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2. More F1 can only be a good thing, even if Will Buxton is part of that deal. Maybe he’s what US coverage needs to get more viewers.
  • No more interruptions of F1 for NASCAR Truck practice.
  • Dedicated fans will find a way to watch, via dodgy links, etc. If this gets some casual fans to see more races, good. With Circuit of the Americas now on the schedule, we actually have a track now.

The bad

  • Will Buxton pit reporter
  • David Hobbs getting things wrong and saying ‘clag’ all the time. I’m not a fan.

The unknown

  • Will the coverage be live? If not, it doesn’t matter what network it’s on, I won’t be watching it. (I say this now but I’ll be stuck with it if I don’t get up at 3am for some races)
  • Will it be televised live and then re-aired?
  • How many presenters will be on the ground at each race? Will it just be the pit reporter again? With Leigh Diffey working in different racing disciplines, that leads me to believe it’ll be the same thing as SPEED with a remote studio for the presenters.
  • Remember the Olympics and NBC’s coverage? It was terrible. The creation of this Twitter account should be an indication: @NBCDelayed.

I hope NBC Sports has serious F1 fans on staff who understand and care about what real fans want. I know that’s a somewhat naive fantasy, but a girl can dream. Now that we have a track in the U.S. and hopefully two races in the near future, we have an opportunity to expand the fan base and to once and for all eliminate the need for F1 Anonymous because the junkies may finally get the fix we need. But, we’ve been burned before, so I’ll wait and see.

I know the U.S. isn’t the only place in the world that it can be tough to watch F1. We all have our different challenges. I have it on good authority that Steven Roy is a member of F1 Anonymous and he’ll be sharing his story soon.




  • Do we know if they are going to be cutting to commercial breaks during the races like SPEED did? I find that infuriating. Maybe now that we are seeing some bigger American sponsors on the cars, GE and CNBC come to mind, maybe that will cut the need for commercials over here.

    I should add as a caveat that "now seeing American sponsors on the cars" is limited to my few years as a fan of the sport. I know Marlboro was big in the past...

  • FAN-tastic observations Kai

    Jp

  • I was about to say I really enjoyed this post right up till I read the sneaky last paragraph. It is a great way to structure a post though. Very original

    The thing that has always baffled me is how TV ever became popular in America. With all the breaks in programming I am amazed people ever gave it a chance.

    I hope you get the kind of coverage you want but if one person is doing F1 and Indycar I would bet he is not going to leave the country and will probably only leave the studio for the Indy 500.

  • Great post. I really hope this shared deal works for both F1 and IndyCar in the States. Interested to see how it'll work when they both race, since IndyCar comms are usually done on-site - will both be from a studio? F1 called from the IndyCar track?

    Leigh Diffey tweeted a few weeks ago, he's NBC exclusively and he's effectively swapped jobs with Bob Varsha - Bob is doing the Grand-Am this year on SPEED.

  • - The bad: Will Buxton pit reporter

    never heard him commentate, so don't what the issue is, but Jas from 5live will be working with him this year and he knows his stuff.

    Very happy to report that this season I will be working alongside my friend and now colleague @willbuxton for NBC. It's going to be a blast!

    https://twitter.c…98728243987640320

  • *barges in* Hi Kai! :-)

    I've gotten the impression that NBC Sports will be showing the races (and everything else) live. I would hope that everyone learned something from the flak SpeedTV got when they were showing qualifying even at just a 10-minute delay! Fans won't stand for that anymore - not with everything going on online these days.

    There were a lot of issues with NBC's Olympics coverage, but I did enjoy their iPad app during that time; it allowed many people (not everyone, though) to watch any event they wanted while it was happening. It would be great if they could do something similar with onboard cameras for F1. The presenters keep talking about all the "exciting" stuff fans can expect with the new coverage, so I hope they're not just blowing smoke up our *****!

    Anyway, I'm trying to stay optimistic. (But you KNOW I'm with you on the Buxton issue.)

  • never heard him commentate, so don't what the issue is, but Jas from 5live will be working with him this year and he knows his stuff.

    He commentated on the GP2 on sky last year... he is OK.. but has an odd style a bit like "the guy in the pub" type commentary...

  • He commentated on the GP2 on sky last year... he is OK.. but has an odd style a bit like "the guy in the pub" type commentary...

    He could use some more practice though. He referred to the first corner at Monaco as La Source at one point in the commentary! He lacks Murray's charm to be able to get away with it too...

    I wonder if he'd be any better with a foil to co-commentate with, but he did make GP2 almost unwatchable for me sadly :( I'm with Kai on this one.

  • Do we know if they are going to be cutting to commercial breaks during the races like SPEED did? I find that infuriating. Maybe now that we are seeing some bigger American sponsors on the cars, GE and CNBC come to mind, maybe that will cut the need for commercials over here.

    I assume we'll still have the ad structure we've always had; 25 million commercials every 12-15 minutes. They have to pay for all of this somehow. :(

  • FAN-tastic observations Kai

    Thank you, Jp. I appreciate it.

  • The thing that has always baffled me is how TV ever became popular in America. With all the breaks in programming I am amazed people ever gave it a chance.

    To think that in the 50's when this all started people enjoyed the ads! I think it's safe to say that's worn off. 60 years is enough. #mercy

  • Leigh Diffey tweeted a few weeks ago, he's NBC exclusively and he's effectively swapped jobs with Bob Varsha - Bob is doing the Grand-Am this year on SPEED.

    ah, thank you for that. Sorry I missed that tweet.

  • Interested to see how it'll work when they both race, since IndyCar comms are usually done on-site - will both be from a studio? F1 called from the IndyCar track?

    I'm eager to find out how they're going to work it out, too.

  • never heard him commentate, so don't what the issue is, but Jas from 5live will be working with him this year and he knows his stuff.

    He does know his stuff, I think.

  • *barges in* Hi Kai! :-)

    Robyn! :) Thanks for stopping by.

    There were a lot of issues with NBC's Olympics coverage, but I did enjoy their iPad app during that time; it allowed many people (not everyone, though) to watch any event they wanted while it was happening. It would be great if they could do something similar with onboard cameras for F1.

    I wish I had an iPad. I'm finding the need for one more and more at work and at home.

    I agree that they'd be stupid not to stream everything, at least.

    I watched the Olympics through the BBC stream. That was great. Onboard cameras streamed? Yes, please.

  • He commentated on the GP2 on sky last year... he is OK.. but has an odd style a bit like "the guy in the pub" type commentary...

    I've only heard him report from the pits. He's no Ted. #spoiledbyTed

  • I wonder if he'd be any better with a foil to co-commentate with, but he did make GP2 almost unwatchable for me sadly :( I'm with Kai on this one.

    I agree. A foil to commentate with may be good. It seems he'll be alone in the pit lane again.

  • Thank you for the warm reception, everyone. And the formatting touches, Mr C.

  • Great article! Love the F1 Anonymous intro. :D

    One thing that does strike me is that US sports commentary (in general, not just F1) is a very different animal to UK sport commentary. Which may explain why Will B's style works so well in the US - his "man in the pub" style reminds me a lot of the typical US sports banter.

    As for coverage, let's hope NBC get it right this time. It's a bit ironic, though, that the US coverage LEFT a Murdoch-owned network (FOX/SPEED) when coverage elsewhere has moved in the other direction.

  • As for coverage, let's hope NBC get it right this time. It's a bit ironic, though, that the US coverage LEFT a Murdoch-owned network (FOX/SPEED) when coverage elsewhere has moved in the other direction.

    Good point. More of the world needs to move away from Murdoch owned enterprises. Competition is good.

    One thing that does strike me is that US sports commentary (in general, not just F1) is a very different animal to UK sport commentary. Which may explain why Will B's style works so well in the US - his "man in the pub" style reminds me a lot of the typical US sports banter.

    I appreciate your perspective, Journeyer. I'm in it so it's sometimes hard to see all sides of it. I don't like a lot of the over-hyped, ego-driven 'aren't I cool and don't I know so much?' commentary in the US, so that helps me understand why he rubs me the wrong way, even if he does get some good info sometimes.

  • I appreciate your perspective, Journeyer. I'm in it so it's sometimes hard to see all sides of it. I don't like a lot of the over-hyped, ego-driven 'aren't I cool and don't I know so much?' commentary in the US, so that helps me understand why he rubs me the wrong way, even if he does get some good info sometimes.

    He's no Ted, that's for sure. :)

  • "F1 had me at nyoooooow". AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    Ahem. :-)

    Leigh Diffey? Why can't we have him here in Oz? He's one of ours!

  • What can I say. I know I'm not to everyone's tastes, but hopefully I'll win those of you over that don't like me. I can't and won't be anything other than myself. I love my sport, I get excited about it. I've been in this game for over a decade now and I still have the same passion I did when I first walked through those gates as a 22 year old.

    NBC is going to be a huge new adventure for us all, and I can confirm that we'll be at the Barcelona test in two weeks and that the full crew will be at about a quarter of the races in year one.

    The GP2 thing... well that's just me. I get hugely excited about that championship and I think it's important to have some fun. Hopefully you'll have some fun too. I'm continuing as commentator on the world feed for that and for GP3 in 2013.

    Back to F1... trying to get to the bottom of every story as the only man on the ground was a huge challenge over the past three years. With Jason alongside me as producer in 2013, we will be able to get across even more stories. Don't forget, while the BBC or SKY have been bringing 50-75 people to every race, for the past 3 seasons on SPEED it was only me on event. This year NBC will increase the presence at the races, and that should in turn lead to an improvement in what you see on screen.

  • - The bad: Will Buxton pit reporter

    whoa. what's that about? i for one was quite relieved to see nbc had the wisdom to sign buxton. do you read his blog? he doesn't post a lot, but when he does it's very good stuff. i personally much prefer him to windsor or brundell.

  • whoa. what's that about? i for one was quite relieved to see nbc had the wisdom to sign buxton. do you read his blog? he doesn't post a lot, but when he does it's very good stuff. i personally much prefer him to windsor or brundell.

    I have read his blog from time to time, and it's had some good info. It's just a personal preference thing, that's all.

  • whoa. what's that about? i for one was quite relieved to see nbc had the wisdom to sign buxton. do you read his blog? he doesn't post a lot, but when he does it's very good stuff. i personally much prefer him to windsor or brundell.

    In writing he's very good. But I'm with kai when it comes to him in general, he's just annoying plus I always found his gp2 commentary terrible.

  • What can I say. I know I'm not to everyone's tastes, but hopefully I'll win those of you over that don't like me. I can't and won't be anything other than myself. I love my sport, I get excited about it. I've been in this game for over a decade now and I still have the same passion I did when I first walked through those gates as a 22 year old.

    That's the thing with these posts...people read them. haha

    Personal preferences are what they are. The most important thing is that we have accurate and timely information from the track. I'm happy to know someone directly involved in the broadcast has read this. SPC is a great place to be.

    NBC is going to be a huge new adventure for us all, and I can confirm that we'll be at the Barcelona test in two weeks and that the full crew will be at about a quarter of the races in year one.

    Excellent news. Thanks for letting us know. That's a big improvement already.

    Back to F1... trying to get to the bottom of every story as the only man on the ground was a huge challenge over the past three years. With Jason alongside me as producer in 2013, we will be able to get across even more stories. Don't forget, while the BBC or SKY have been bringing 50-75 people to every race, for the past 3 seasons on SPEED it was only me on event. This year NBC will increase the presence at the races, and that should in turn lead to an improvement in what you see on screen.

    It was very frustrating to me that SPEED only sent one person to the track. Of course there's no way US coverage could compete with Sky or BBC when that's the case. It was sad to see the low priority of F1 at SPEED.

  • What can I say. I know I'm not to everyone's tastes, but hopefully I'll win those of you over that don't like me. I can't and won't be anything other than myself. I love my sport, I get excited about it. I've been in this game for over a decade now and I still have the same passion I did when I first walked through those gates as a 22 year old.

    I don't think you're as bad as a lot of alternatives down the years but as you quite rightly say, it's all down to personal taste. One of the things I really like about motorsport is, unlike some sports, people respect each others opinions and it doesn't just devolve into some unruly insulting war that gets nasty. I'm not Schumacher fan but I respect he has people who love him for everything he's done yet I know it's very rare I'll get abuse for disliking Schumacher. We're quite lucky as motorsport fans we have a respectful community even to the things we may not like.

    Best of luck to you though with trying to push Formula 1 even further in the future. There's so much potential for the American market of fans and Austin, I think at least, was just a glimpse for what it could be like. Based on Kai's excellent post, I think NBC try and do what the BBC and Sky have done over here so here's hoping!

  • *NBC can easily try and do

  • The NBC Sports Group has signed the exclusive rights to Formula One coverage with Formula One Management for four years, complementing their IndyCar race coverage. We will now have almost all open wheel racing on one network except for a few IndyCar races on ABC, including the Indy 500. Four F1 races will be on the NBC regular network; Canada, Abu Dhabi, the U.S. and Brazil. The other sixteen races will be shown on their cable station, the NBC Sports Network. For the first time since I came back to F1 all three practice sessions, qualifying and the race will be televised. But will they be live? I don’t know. All of the races will be streamed live, with mobile and tablet apps, on NBCSports.com, and they’re promising 100 hours of programming. But will the races be live on TV or are they only going to stream them and show the races on a time delay to try for better ratings because only addicts who are not in F1 Anonymous will watch them?

    IIRC during the Olympics, you could only get to watch the live streaming and full event replays on the NBC Olympics website if you had a subscription to a participating providers TV and Internet package. Otherwise, you're SOL. My fear is they may repeat the same thing with their online F1 coverage.

    Another thing to consider is how many homes NBC Sports reaches. As of February, SPEED is the 3rd most distributed sports cable channel in the US reaching 86.6 million homes. Only ESPN and ESPN2 reach more homes. This has me wondering how many homes the NBC Sports cable network actually reaches.

    NOTE: Reading the full article at the link below requires a subscription to the website

    www.sportsbusines…Distribution.aspx

  • IIRC during the Olympics, you could only get to watch the live streaming and full event replays on the NBC Olympics website if you had a subscription to a participating providers TV and Internet package. Otherwise, you're SOL. My fear is they may repeat the same thing with their online F1 coverage.

    I watched the BBC stream during the Olympics, but now that you mention the subscription I do remember that being the reason why. Oh man, I really hope that is not part of their plan.

    Another thing to consider is how many homes NBC Sports reaches. As of February, SPEED is the 3rd most distributed sports cable channel in the US reaching 86.6 million homes. Only ESPN and ESPN2 reach more homes. This has me wondering how many homes the NBC Sports cable network actually reaches.

    Good point.

  • I hope NBC will continue Speed's live coverage of the races instead of tape-delay

  • I hope NBC will continue Speed's live coverage of the races instead of tape-delay

    Me too!

  • The GP2 thing... well that's just me. I get hugely excited about that championship and I think it's important to have some fun. Hopefully you'll have some fun too. I'm continuing as commentator on the world feed for that and for GP3 in 2013.

    Yay!

    I know I'll be the lone voice of WIll support here, but I'm glad he'll be doing the world feed for GP2 and GP3 commentary. In southern Africa (yes, I've moved back temprarily), we get the standard world feed (the Beeb's commentary for quali and the race, 5Live's commentary for practice sessions, unless we switch to the Portuguese sports channel, in which case we get Globo's commentary) with three idiots in a studio in Johannesburg discussing the news for half an hour before the race. Will's enthusiastic commentary makes SuperSport's coverage bearable (although I will never get used to the boobies-and-blondes theme song sequence...that will remain offensive to me forever, since I watch racing for the cars not the bimbos who hold flags and signposts. I will play The Chain loudly and ignore the TV while they parade the pretty bits of airhead for the male-dominated Saffa viewership).

  • I know I'll be the lone voice of WIll support here, but I'm glad he'll be doing the world feed for GP2 and GP3 commentary.

    to be honest i didn't know people felt that way about his commentating. i don't follow any junior series racing, can't receive US coverage and the end of year DVD's aren't available on iTunes.

    not sure i've heard him cover anything... but i am intrigued now :)

  • The problem is that no one has NBC sports. It's a premium channel. They had the Stanley Cup last year and no one got to watch it. At least SPEED is in basic packages now.

  • I know I'll be the lone voice of WIll support here, but I'm glad he'll be doing the world feed for GP2 and GP3 commentary.

    to be honest i didn't know people felt that way about his commentating. i don't follow any junior series racing, can't receive US coverage and the end of year DVD's aren't available on iTunes.

    SPEED has aired GP2 the last few seasons but it's usually right before the F1 races are aired live with the full Feature race from Saturday followed by highlights of the Sprint Race on Sunday. I'm hoping NBC Sports picks up the rights to showing the GP2 races and maybe the GP3 series as well.

  • Another site indicated the Monaco race will not be shown! Can this be true???

  • Full NBC schedule for F1 & IndyCar is now out

    Monaco, Montreal, Austin and Sao Paulo are all live on primary big NBC. Most of the rest on NBCSN with couple on CNBC.

    The interesting thing is 'F1 36', spending 36 hours with a driver. They do this with 'IndyCar 36' which is apparently quite good though I've not found it by 'other means' yet. There's also 'F1 Extra' which seems to be a post-race show like the BBC forum maybe?

    www.racer.com/nbc…s/article/283796/

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