As a follow-up to this, I watched the Singapore GP weekend through my new satellite set-up as a sort of test run. Here’s how it went.
German FTA television coverage of Formula One is spread over two channels, SPORT1 and RTL. SPORT1 shows FP1 and 2 live, as well as delayed coverage of qualifying and highlights of the race, while RTL shows delayed highlights of FP3, and qualifying and the race live. I’ll weigh up the positives and negatives of both channels.
+ One immediate advantage for those of us with widescreen TVs is the use of FOM graphics in the 16:9 format, as opposed to the 4:3 format the BBC currently uses.
+ Qualifying and hour long race highlights are shown later the same day. I didn’t watch them so can’t comment on the quality.
- Hugely overlong advert breaks with no use of picture-in-picture. There were three per practice session at Singapore, each clocking in at over six and a half minutes long! That’s almost twenty minutes worth of adverts in an hour and a half practice session! That’s close to 22% of your Friday F1 watching time being taken up by adverts for Kinder and T-Mobile! I’ll stop now.
+ Again, the use of 16:9 graphics is great, particularly during qualifying - the ‘tower’ graphic is right off to the left instead of encroaching on the action mid-screen.
+ The use of picture-in-picture for driver interviews in the middle of a session.
+ Ad breaks during qualifying are shown between sessions and are relatively short (about three minutes). The longer ad breaks are saved for the build-up.
+ Pre-race coverage started twenty five minutes earlier than the BBC’s, presumably to allow for the ad breaks.
+ There were three ad breaks during the race, again relatively short at around three minutes thirty seconds each.
+ As the race featured the safety car and thus overran a bit, RTL’s coverage overran too, staying on air for ten minutes longer than scheduled.
+ The use of Deep Purple’s “Black Night” during their qualifying build-up. Bangin’.
- FP3 not being shown live.
Way, way, way too much focus on Sebastian Vettel. Remember how ITV focussed heavily on Lewis Hamilton? This goes beyond that. Not speaking German, I can only go by what I saw, but I’d say 95% of the pre-qualifying coverage was based on Sebastian potentially taking the WDC that weekend.
- Little use of picture-in-picture during ad breaks.
- Kai Ebel is Ted Kravitz in Eddie Jordan’s clothes. Shield your eyes!
Unfortunately the picture-in-picture function doesn’t work with the HDMI input on my TV, so I couldn’t do a direct picture quality comparison with the BBC SD feed, but when flicking between the two RTL’s did seem a little bit inferior. Haven’t put this as a negative, as it could just be my signal/TV and the difference was quite negligible.
Another point left out is that, although I had some sync problems with 5Live Sports Extra streaming and SPORT1 - the audio being a few seconds ahead of the video - I had no such difficulties with 5Live streaming and RTL. This might change from race to race and might not be an issue others have, but I felt it was worth mentioning.
Overall I’m happy with how it went, apart from the adverts. They’re just something I’m going to have to get used to…