Posts Tagged ‘BBC TV’

More on BBC’s new head of F1

Following the news that Niall Sloane, executive producer of F1, has quit the BBC, I saw on the Guardian media website that the BBC has appointed Ben Gallop as head of F1.

I’ve asked around and apparently he comes from the online side of the media business rather than TV and has no F1 background. Mark Wilkin, who is the editor of the F1 programme will report to him. Mark does have a strong F1 background and is also a very experienced producer/director. He held the same role when the BBC last had F1 in 1996.

There seems to be some confusion among people who’ve left comments on the site about how these two roles work, so let me explain.

An executive producer is generally a senior figure who oversees a programme, he has the major say in who is appointed in the presentational roles, argues with the network bosses for more budget and airtime for his show etc. He can often be executive producer on a number of different programmes, as Niall was with his Match of the Day position.

He is often someone who has extensive programme making experience, so knows what it’s like to be at the coal face, but has risen to a senior position where he does not actually put the programme together. He has the authority to tell the editor he wants to see less Lewis Hamilton or more on Ferrari, but often exec producers just leave the editor to get on with it.

As the BBC’s new offering is based as much on the online and interactive stuff as it is on the TV element, appointing someone with extensive online experience makes some sense and it shows which way the BBC thinks the media is going that a non-TV person can take on this role.

Remember that the coverage of the race itself is done by Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM TV operation, a scaled down version of the team who made the digital pay per view service of the early 2000s, which was briefly broadcast on SKY. BBC will just be doing the bit before and after the race and sticking a commentary on the race itself.

Niall will stay on for the first two races of the 2009 formula one season before departing in mid-April. There is currently a vacant role for head of sport at ITV and as they have a lot of football contracts it’s a fair bet that Niall will go for that job.

It’s not ideal to lose the man who put the team together, but it will not disrupt their preparations too much, in my view.

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A look at the BBC’s F1 TV plans

The BBC today announced exactly how it plans to cover F1 this season, its first year as the UK rights holder after 12 years of ITV coverage.

They are certainly going for it – it’s a pretty comprehensive schedule and there are some interesting and innovative touches. By using TV, radio and the online service they provide what is called in the industry ‘360 degree’ coverage.

The first point to make is that all the qualifying and race shows will be on BBC1, which means that they are going for the big audience numbers. They have to justify the huge spend on Formula 1 to their critics in Government and elsewhere and the way to do that is by getting big audience numbers, which you would not get on BBC2, daft as that may sound. ITV was getting around 5-6 million viewers for the European time zone races last year as a benchmark, with a peak of 13m for the Brazilian GP.

The only the exception to the BBC 1 rule is qualifying in Brazil, which would fall at prime time Saturday night and so is shunted onto BBC2. Canada has been dropped, otherwise that would have presented the same problem.

Timings are given for races up to Monaco and it looks like the shows are roughly the same length as ITV’s so there will be around an hour of build up material before the race, but the post race element is a bit tighter – they will come off the air on the hour, which for some races leaves only 20 minutes or so, but as there are no adverts, that still leaves plenty of time. The qualifying shows start 50 minutes before the action.

Where the BBC departs from ITV is in its ability to use the red button interactive service to show all the practice sessions, which I imagine will use the commentary from Radio 5 Live, as I cannot see Martin standing in a commentary box for three hours on a Friday.

The innovation I like the look of the most is a post race switch-over show on the red button, which runs for an hour after the main show finishes. This will probably be a bit like the X-tra factor after X-Factor or the studio post-mortem after the Apprentice.

This is a great idea and it will allow them to pick up lots of material and stories in a more relaxed way after the race. This would have been great after Spa last year, for example, to examine a real talking point incident in more depth. There is no reason not to do this, as you have all the people on site and all the gear, you just lack the airtime, but with the BBC having this interactive space, they can do this and it will be really good.

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