ESPN's F1 Season Opener Broadcast Was A Catastrophe

Illustration for article titled ESPN's F1 Season Opener Broadcast Was A Catastrophe

Formula One is off to an interesting start in 2018. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel got lucky and took advantage of the virtual safety car to win the Australian Grand Prix opener, relegating perennial winner Lewis Hamilton to second place amid what Mercedes called a software problem. America’s Haas F1 seemed to be doing okay, until it wasn’t. And then for American fans there was the ESPN broadcast, which everyone agrees was an absolute disaster.

You’ll recall that F1 moved off its recent home on NBC’s networks to ESPN for 2018, but I sincerely hope that the issues that plagued the broadcast—a huge missing chunk of the pre-show, pervasive sound problems, commercials during key moments like race restarts, a poor handling of the Sky feed, and a lack of coverage of the Haas retirement—aren’t a preview of what’s to come.

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If you saw the race you know what I’m talking about, but here’s a few reactions:

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What a shame! This was indeed an interesting, good race, and American fans deserved better.

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At the very least, the Worldwide Leader seems to have realized it screwed up here, tweeting out an apology to fans:

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It reads:

We deeply apologize to Formula 1 fans for the technical issues that caused them to miss the first 20 minutes of the pre-race show for the Australian Grand Prix. We are sorry that our first F1 telecast did not go as smoothly as we would have liked but we are taking steps to prevent those same issues from occurring in the future. We thank fans for watching and for their incredible passion for F1.

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Well, at least they said they were sorry.

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.

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DISCUSSION

The reality is that the coverage on ESPN was never going to be good. Technical issues during pre-race aside, trying to broadcast F1 on ESPN by simulcasting from SkySports, who themselves do not broadcast commercials, is going to lead to misses in action due to commercials. NBC got around this by having their own broadcast team and replay center, but clearly ESPNs approach is to sit one guy in a control room to press a button for commercials. It’s a sad day for F1 in tbe US... And as the one Twitter post eluded to, it wouldn’t shock me if it was an at least somewhat of a ploy to drive subscriptions to their on demand service.