Jennie Gow to present ITV’s Formula E coverage

Jennie Gow is to present ITV’s coverage of the FIA Formula E Championship, it has been confirmed. The news also confirms that ITV will be adding their own pre and post race analysis to the World Feed coverage of the championship.

A post on Digital Spy Forums noted that ITV4 would be on air for Beijing, round one of championship on September 13th, from 08:00 to 10:30 with an hour of build up, which is a throwback to their Formula 1 coverage. Given that the World Feed coverage is only 90 minutes long, it appears that ITV will be having its own presentation team. I would expect them to take the World Feed commentary, however.

The next question then is whether Gow and the ITV Sport team is on site, I would expect it to be in London, but time will tell. I have to say that this is an interesting, surprising, but however a very pleasing development and shows ITV’s commitment to the series. I’m happy to see Gow get the role as well, much deserved in my opinion. Expert pundits are to be confirmed.

Speaking to ITV’s press office, Gow said: “I’m delighted and very proud to have been asked to lead ITV4’s coverage of Formula E – I’m a massive motorsport fan and I’m really excited about this brand new series. It’s great to be involved in a new chapter of motorsport history from the very beginning, and I can’t wait for the season to begin.”

Niall Sloane, ITV’s Director of Sport said: “It’s great news that Jennie has joined ITV4’s coverage of this innovative new series – which promises top-level racing with the iconic backdrops of some of the world’s most famous cities. The coverage of this series adds to the strength of ITV4’s motorsport portfolio.”

Gow will continue her Formula 1 commitments for BBC Radio 5 Live.

Scheduling: The 2014 Belgian Grand Prix

The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg heads into the second half of the season as the Formula 1 teams and drivers reconvene in Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix! With eleven points separating the two, it is pretty much a guarantee that the title battle will, barring a miracle, go down to the wire at the last race of the season, the controversial ‘double points’ round in Abu Dhabi. For those wishing to jump to the scheduling, click the links below…

- Thursday 21st August
Friday 22nd August
Saturday 23rd August
Sunday 24th August
Wednesday 27th August
Classic F1

On the broadcasting front, the situation is interesting in the championship run-in. Sky have only three exclusive races left this year, compared with BBC’s five live races. One of the BBC’s five live races is Russia. In the unlikely event that Formula 1 chooses to avoid the situation in Russia and removes it from the calendar, it poses an interesting question of whether BBC could ‘claim’ another live race in the championship run in, because the removal of Russia would leave BBC with eight live races and ten highlight races across the entire season, obviously that is not a 50/50 split. I’ll follow that line in the run up to Russia if it is axed, it would be interesting to see what the contract stipulates (there is the more serious point as to whether BBC and Sky choose to send their teams to Russia, but that is a separate subject and one that will probably be monitored nearer to the event).

Back to Belgium, and the BBC side is at full strength again, both Lee McKenzie and Eddie Jordan will be back with the team. Over on Sky, their new show with unseen footage from Formula One Management’s archive will première on Sunday 24th August on the channel. The first edition will focus on team-mates with Nigel Mansell and Christian Horner alongside Steve Rider. I hope this doesn’t fly under the radar, but that relies on Sky to promote it. And by that I mean get the message out to the wider F1 media. The key phrase, as I’ve said before should be “unseen footage”. If that isn’t a trigger for an interesting article or two on whatever footage they’ve got hold of, I don’t know what is. It depends how good/revealing the footage is too as to whether they can ‘sell’ it to the F1 journalists to write about, or whether it is just another Sky F1 programme which probably won’t be written about in the future (hopefully not, mind).

Elsewhere, ESPN have the penultimate round of the IndyCar Series on Sunday evening, whilst ITV4 have live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship from Knockhill. Below are all the details you need:

Thursday 21st August
14:00 to 14:45 – F1: Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
23:30 to 23:45 – F1: Gear Up for Belgium (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 22nd August
08:45 to 11:00 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
08:55 to 10:35 – F1: Practice 1 (BBC Two)
11:00 to 11:50 – GP2: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
12:45 to 14:50 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
12:55 to 14:35 – F1: Practice 2 (BBC Two)
14:50 to 15:30 – GP2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
16:00 to 16:45 – F1: Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Saturday 23rd August
08:45 to 09:20 – GP3: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
09:45 to 11:15 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
09:55 to 11:10 – F1: Practice 3 (BBC Two)
12:00 to 14:35 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
12:10 to 14:20 – F1: Qualifying (BBC One)
14:35 to 16:05 – GP2: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
16:15 to 17:15 – GP3: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Sunday 24th August
08:20 to 09:05 – GP3: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
09:30 to 10:45 – GP2: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
10:45 to 18:00 – BTCC: Knockhill (ITV4)
11:30 to 16:15 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live
12:10 to 15:30 – F1: Race (BBC One)
15:30 to 16:30 – F1: Forum (BBC Red Button)
16:15 to 17:15 – Tales from the Vault (Sky Sports F1)
21:30 to 00:00 – IndyCars: Sonoma (ESPN)

Wednesday 27th August
19:30 to 20:00 – Midweek Report (Sky Sports F1)

Classic F1 on Sky Sports F1
16/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1996 Spanish Grand Prix Highlights
17/08 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2011 German Grand Prix
18/08 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2005 Japanese Grand Prix
19/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1985 Belgian Grand Prix Highlights
20/08 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 1998 Belgian Grand Prix
21/08 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2010 Belgian Grand Prix
22/08 – 18:00 to 19:45 – 2000 Belgian Grand Prix
23/08 – 21:20 to 22:05 – 1982 Belgian Grand Prix Highlights
24/08 – 17:15 to 18:15 – 1972 Season Review
24/08 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2005 Belgian Grand Prix
25/08 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2012 Spanish Grand Prix (Sky commentary)
26/08 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2011 Chinese Grand Prix
27/08 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix
28/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1986 Brazilian Grand Prix Highlights
29/08 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2012 European Grand Prix (Sky commentary)

As always, any scheduling updates will be posted here as well.

Now TV’s prices to drop, albeit temporarily

A good news story for Formula 1 fans is that the price of Now TV is set to drop, albeit temporarily. The price drop will apply from Thursday 14th August through to Thursday 27th November. Alongside this, a new Sky Sports Weekly Pass is being introduced. The prices are as follows:

- Day Pass: £6.99
– Weekly Pass: £10.99

At the end of the time period, both prices will go up. I assume the Day Pass will go back up to £9.99, whilst the Weekly Pass will go up to around £15.00. I’ve mentioned before my thoughts on those prices, the Day Pass in particular at £9.99 is a rip off to put it nicely. The new Day Pass price at £6.99 is better in my opinion, but we will see what happens come November.

I’m not going to do a full post such as this, because Sky’s and BT’s prices are both going up within the next two months, so it would be rendered redundant quite soon! With Singapore, USA and Brazil the only Sky exclusive races left, it means that fans can watch all three races for £20.97. If you were to change that to three weekly passes, and the price increases to £32.97. The weekly pass is definitely better value for money if you don’t want to take Sky’s TV packages.

Trying to justify unpopular decisions

It is fair to say that over the past few years, Formula 1 has made some strange and unpopular choices. Whether it is your odd stewards enquiry decision, or something a bit more extreme, such as double points, the poor decision making has been an undercurrent throughout. This ‘odd’ decision making has not been limited to the FIA and FOM though. Earlier this year, the BBC and Gary Anderson parted company, a move which surprised many readers at the time, and still does considering his role has never really been replaced. The only technical expert now in the UK Formula 1 broadcasting scene is Ted Kravitz on Sky Sports F1. Whilst Kravitz is great at what he does, having only one technical person across two channels is simply not good enough.

The role of technical analyst can be traced by twenty years in the UK’s Formula 1 coverage. Starting off with Jonathan Palmer on the BBC in the early 1990’s, James Allen took over the baton when ITV started screening Formula 1 in 1997. When Allen moved to the commentary box, Kravitz became the technical expert from 2002 onwards, a role he has maintained across ITV, then BBC and now Sky Sports. With the increase of air-time that the BBC’s coverage gave from 2009 onwards, the role of technical analyst has become a vital commodity. Several years later, and Kravitz is now doing his own Notebook’s over on Sky Sports. When Kravitz defected to Sky, Anderson was brought on board over on the BBC. Sadly, it didn’t last long. Less than two years later, Anderson and the BBC parted company.

There’s two ways you can look at Anderson’s departure. One is that he simply walked, and the second is that he was fired. The truth is somewhere down the middle. As Anderson noted, he was typing up a resignation e-mail, only to get a phone call about the subject! So the BBC wanted to get rid of Anderson, and Anderson, feeling he was being misused, wanted to leave. When blog readers were asked about this subject earlier this year, a whopping 5,000 people responded – and 95 percent of you thought that BBC and Anderson parting company was a bad move all around. In a request for comment from this blog, Ben Gallop, BBC’s Head of F1, said that the team had been adjusted in order to to bring the “best package for audiences across TV, radio and online”. Half a season on from Anderson’s departure, has the BBC product benefited from Anderson’s departure?

I think, if you’re going to look at what Anderson brought to the broadcasts, the answer has to be no. As mentioned above, the BBC have not replaced him. We can run around that point as much as we can, but that is the fact. Tom Clarkson and Allan McNish may bring a lot to the team, but again, neither are technical experts. They do not have the knowledge or expertise with thirty years and beyond in the field like Anderson does. You can’t replace that expertise just like that. One train of thought is that the new deal that began in 2012 meant that Anderson was more expendable. You can’t get rid of commentators, you need someone to interview drivers, you need a presenter and analyst. That leaves Anderson left for the chopping block. It almost feels like that the role of technical analyst was kept on for 2012 and 2013 as an ‘olive branch’. The BBC may also think that they cannot provide much technical analysis during a highlights show. I thoroughly disagree with that thought, as you are basically saying that you cannot provide technical analysis for a casual audience.

By not hiring a replacement for Anderson, are BBC saying that technical analysis is a dying breed? Does the general Formula 1 audience not care about the latest technical innovations? I would hate to think that the answer to those two questions is yes, although Anderson’s comments back in February certainly hinted that the BBC believe that the latter is true. If anything, the technical aspect has been even more important in 2014. Just ask Craig Scarborough or Matt Somerfield and I’m sure they would confirm this. Earlier this year, Formula 1 was facing a barrage of criticism, because apparently the ‘new formula’ was not up to scratch. A lot of that, you guessed it, concerned the technical aspects. But where was Anderson? Well he wasn’t communicating that to four million people because BBC had decided otherwise! Anderson would have been fantastic earlier this year in justifying the new technology to viewers and explaining why it is necessary for Formula 1 to move with the times.

Anderson leaving the BBC was a sign that he felt that he was being misused. Half way through 2014, do I miss Anderson’s contributions? If I’m going to be honest, the truthful answer is that the void left has not been as big as I expected it to be. Whether this is a result of them not using enough of him in 2012 and 2013, I don’t know, but I’m not left feeling that I miss his input in the coverage. Despite this, I do think it was a big mistake for them to part company. 2012 and 2013 were the same formula in essence, whereas 2014 was a complete reboot, and he would have been one of BBC’s most important assets for 2014 (or, should have been). Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Brazil set to keep free to air Formula 1 coverage until 2020 amid speculation

One of the big broadcasting stories in the past 24 hours was the news revealed by Four Wheels that Globo will no longer be screening Formula 1 as of the start of the 2015 season. That article, has however since been denied by Globo. A Brazilian site, aptly named TV News, has today posted an article, quoting a Globo executive re-iterating that the channel will be keeping live coverage until 2020 as contractually required to do so.

Had Globo pulled out of covering Formula 1, it would have been a huge story given how long Globo has been covering the sport for. Four Wheels claimed that SporTV will take over the rights, which no longer appears to be the case. Globo has been covering Formula 1 since the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix. The TV News site says that Formula 1 viewing figures have dropped down to record lows, perhaps unsurprisingly given that Felipe Massa is the only main Brazilian driver on the grid. The numbers are half of what they were in 2008, and a quarter of what they were in Ayrton Senna’s heyday. As a result of the low numbers, one thing Globo have done is reduce their practice coverage, this came into effect from last month’s German Grand Prix.

Either way, the situation in Brazil is definitely one to keep an eye out for, if Globo’s ratings keep dropping, I suspect we will continue to hear these rumours in the months ahead…

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