The Shape Of Things To Come?
I’m going to quote in large part here, from an article by Toby Moody – which appeared on the Autosport website as the second part of his Estoril review.
“I tuned into some brand-new coverage of an established motorsport in January only to be treated with the ‘now this is a such-and-such-a-car and it goes very quickly’.
This was followed by an annoying lesson from the presenter on where the country was situated in Europe, a country to which I have driven in less than a day from my own UK base.
Then the lessons started on what the cars are like, where the engine goes and how fast they go.
I didn’t finish watching the broadcast after muttering things at the screen, leaving me now of a mind that there are now two types of coverage of motorsport; hardcore petrol heads such as the person reading this article, and the ‘floating viewer’ who thinks Valentino Rossi rides that ‘Supers-bikes thing’ and that the RAC Rally still goes to Chatsworth.
Sport on TV is an emotive subject, particularly with its commentary, and I am one of the few who can comment on what it is like to hear what people think about how a sport should be purveyed.
What is interesting is that with the raft of channels available on the Sky Digital platform in the UK (how many channels are there now?) sports rights holders have got outlets on which they can send the ‘hardcore petrol head’ programmes to.
It is essential that big TV channels such as TVE (Spain), Media Set (Italy) and the BBC (UK) give MotoGP coverage, but in this day and age with technology making things easier to do anything in life, the set-top digital box makes sports fans almost spoilt for choice, and that’s before we’ve come over to the internet, podcasts, and forums.”
That’s not the entire piece, but I reckon it captures a crucial point about the divergence of audience types and the questions that this raises (particularly with respect to some current rumours regarding MotoGP coverage).
Take Formula One – which I followed religiously from 1976 until this year, when having pissed me off one time too many I finally decided it was no longer worthy of my time, energy and boundless fandom for something that captures my imagination… F1 is to return to the Beeb, with ITV handing it back suspiciously easily given that they spent last year raving about how impossibly huuuuuuuuuge Lewis Hamilton had made the sport become and how popular it now was… you have to wonder whether it’s as commercially successful as such shrieking would have you believe. (And therefore what the Beeb as an ostensibly non-commercial operation are going to be able to do with it as a result, as they paid a shedload of money for it…)
One hope might be that the BBC are going to reappraise the style and standard of coverage, which particularly last season was infantilised by ITV more than ever (presumably to cater for an audience of utter simpletons – or merely to patronise an audience that weren’t that thick or as obsessed with Lewis Hamilton as James Allen and Steve Rider) – and take it in the direction of what Toby refers to above as ‘petrolhead’ coverage….
It’s worth bearing in mind that F1 has already had such a type of coverage, due to the technical developments in digital production and broadcast in the late nineties, in the form of the paid-for satellite channel F1 Digital+ which, apart from Ayrton Senna, Colin Chapman and Kimi Raikkonen, is surely one of the best things to ever happen to the sport. It was a seriously interactive multi-screen experience that was accessible *all* weekend (including practice sessions and warm-ups) and was immeasurably superior to the standard terrestrial TV coverage as a result. Its demise (or self-destruction in the UK, thanks to Bernie, on financial grounds) was undoubtedly one of the worst things to happen the sport – apart from the banning of turbos, the Indy debacle, Jacques Villeneuve’s purple hair and, yes, James Allen…
What does this have to do with MotoGP? With 250? With Bati fans such as myself?
Well if you click your mouse here you can take a look into a debate regarding the BBC coverage and whether there are implications for whether Eurosport will be continuing.
Regardless of the fact that I 100% want Eurosport there in the mix – with Toby, Julian and Randy at the mikes – there is a hypothetical question already… If Eurosport aren’t there (and irrespective of whether our favourite commentators end up at the Beeb) what kind of coverage are the BBC going to make it? Both in terms of quality, and quantity…?
Although the Beeb is a vast multi-channel broadcaster, you have to acknowledge that apart from things like Wimbledon, its not big on *dedicated* coverage. In all fairness, ITV did a lot more to extend coverage in F1…
Given that BBC does not run a Sports channel (let alone a motorsports channel) the MotoGP coverage will have a lot to compete with… certainly a lot more than it does in the Eurosport environment. Where does that leave things like the scheduling and coverage of qualifying and practice is what I’m wondering. And not only that. Where does it leave coverage of the 250cc and 125cc categories? They would stand a distinct chance of being ditched in tight and complex schedules under the BBC.
I believe that in a BBC-only MotoGP coverage world these are going to be seriously at risk; not to mention the lack of the best motorsport commentary team anywhere. Some serious questions and worries need addressing, and whilst it might mean we no longer have advert breaks in the races I genuinely believe that’d be a pretty poor trade-off.
This is all without any basic certainties of what is actually going to happen of course – there’s a dearth of information about what *will* happen with Eurosport’s MotoGP coverage, but I’m pretty alarmed already I must admit. If you know any more about where these things are headed or can point me at other references, or indeed at a campaign to ensure we have Eurosport, Toby and Julian continuing to bring us the best petrolhead coverage of *all* classes, then do please drop me a line.