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ESPN fails US fans again


It began peacefully enough... but that was to soon change.

At 07:03 (BST) we received the following from a regular reader in the US.

"Neither I nor my friends can find quali scheduled anywhere on ESPN. Or indeed anywhere else," wrote Paul.

"Please would you ask your US based friends if they have any insight."

In our efforts to assist Paul, we emailed a couple of regular readers in the US.

One, Kathy, replied: "I've already been in touch by email with ESPN they are useless.

"Basically they said it is what it is. I'll forward you my results.

"My brother said quali is listed on ESPN 2 at 09:00 this morning but it isn't on my guide.

"I'm furious. I'm recording every ESPN channel at 09:00 anyway. Only thing actually on schedule is FP3 at 06:00.

"And now the race is showing up on Sunday."

Shortly after, the following post appeared on our site in reaction to the FP3 times.

"Well, here it is 0800 on Saturday morning in the USA and I have no ESPN coverage of the first practice sessions unless I watch on my phone. Qualifying is coming up in less than an hour and there is NO television coverage of that either. Thanks ESPN, you are killing this sport in the US.

"Maybe if F1 had tried to have an auction for the coverage in the US we would be able to view races on a channel that would devote time and resources to the broadcast (like NBCSN did). Instead, we have to watch on small screens and hunt through numerous channels offering ping pong championships and other sports that very few people care about.

"I am now looking forward to seeing what F1 offers in the way of viewing at the Spanish Grand Prix.

"If that doesn't work, there will be one less F1 fan (me) and I'm sure many others are feeling the same way.

"ESPN is making a mockery of this sport here!!!!!!!"

By which time, Twitter, as the Daily Mail likes to claim on a daily basis, was in meltdown.

Kathy takes up the story...

"As I mentioned Friday, going off the schedule ESPN published before the season started I set my alarm clock. I was checking my recording schedule and realized there was no qualifying on it. I began looking for it on the ESPN channels and it wasn't listed anywhere. I knew when it should be on and which channel but SEC Stories was scheduled. I had emailed ESPN as I couldn't get on their live feed for FP1 which I subsequently missed - yet I knew my brother was watching it.

"To explain, I usually watch FP1 and FP2 on my iPad because out of all the ESPN channels I get I don't get ESPN3. After watching everything since Melbourne on my iPad I couldn't get on the site for Baku FP1. I emailed ESPN about the problem (this is Friday am) When I heard back from them (I'd already resolved it myself) I emailed them back asking about qualifying as it wasn't on the schedule for Saturday. They then sent me an email showing practice and quali for F2 & F1. That's when I knew that twitter was going to blow up Saturday since Directv listed qualifying as a documentary. Most people like I do record everything F1. That meant no one at least with Directv would get quali unless they were home like me checking every ESPN channel at 09:00 on Saturday morning.

"From the start of FP3 (the only practice televised over here) at 06:00 Twitter started going crazy on @ESPNf1. It began with people not being able to find practice and most realizing there was no listing for qualifying in two hours.

"ESPN, on seeing this was getting out of hand, responded to @ClairRAVER with what I took to be a snarky email with a copy showing quali 'as advertised'.

"That's when things went ballistic, since people were tweeting what the TV listings were actually showing in that time slot.

"I actually had Comcast customer service contact me and ask me to dm them with my account number and phone so they could help me (@comcastcares). I had to tell them I was with Directv not them. At this point cable companies were involved and trying to help their customers out!! It was insane.

"It lasted all through qualifying as fans were trying to tell everyone what ESPN channel it was broadcasting live on (ESPN2), even though it said something else. I've attached a picture of the session on my TV alongside what info the ESPN guide actually said. (Right)

"People are so angry. They feel ESPN is in cahoots with F1, Chase Carey et al and that this whole fiasco was a set up so we'd be forced to buy the online streaming service.

"One lady from California told me she'd already received an email from F1 encouraging her to be one of the first sign up for it.

"As the day wore on and some tweeted that ESPN had been given the coverage for free, things got even worse. The bitching and cursing continued until well after midnight! Like I said F1 fans over here got WOKE!

In the midst of all this, poor old Paul had been in touch again.

"While ESPN made no announcement that they would 'air Azerbaijan qualifying it is in fact showing as I write (8:30 Central) under the title "SEC Stories". Of course if they show it with a different title the DVR will not record it. I missed all Q1 and a bit of Q2. This is a very clever way of concealing the event from potential viewers."

In a follow-up, he wrote:

"Later, and with a slightly cooler head, I realize that this glitch is possibly a result of DirecTV making an error in their listings, or did ESPN give them the wrong information? Who knows.

"What I do know as a customer is if I have a problem there is no one who I can contact at ESPN, DirecTV, or any Formula 1 organization, in order to complain (provide customer feedback).

"I have no idea what the rest of the United States have experienced but most of my immediate circle of friends did not see quali."

In the wake of the fiasco that was Melbourne, where US fans were subjected to endless ad breaks and no updates on what they'd missed once coverage resumed, the broadcaster issued a grovelling apology, assuring fans that its coverage would be ad-free for the remainder of the season.

"We intend to present the F1 races in this way for the balance of the 2018 season," said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming & scheduling. "F1 fans are passionate and we listened to a lot of feedback from them, the fans are very informed and the feedback we received was both polite and constructive. It helped us."

Clearly not, for judging by the reaction of fans on social media over the weekend, ESPN wasn't listening.

"We don't have a completely finished product but we're very happy with the way the changes after Australia were received," added Magnus, who took to Twitter himself at the height of the storm on Saturday. "We'll continue to keep working to make it better for the fans."

Whether ESPN, with which F1's commercial boss Sean Bratches spent 27 years of his career rising to the role of Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, receives F1 for free is in many ways immaterial, however, the fact that fans are now openly questioning whether the company's poor performance is a deliberate attempt to force fans to subscribe to F1's own new streaming service quite another.

For far too long F1 fans in America have been given a bad deal, sadly, despite their intense loyalty to the sport, things don't appear to be improving.

Note: Some of the tweets referred to are shown in the accompanying gif which can be accessed by clicking on the image at the top right of the article.


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1. Posted by zoom, 04/05/2018 13:51

"I, too, was in total freakout mode when I checked my DVR & didn't see qualifying on the upcoming schedule. I even emailed ESPN & received a canned non-responsive answer. We were able to see qualifying because I recorded every ESPN channel at 9 AM. While I'm complaining I wish SKY would realize that they're being broadcast in the USA & pick their commentators appropriately. We can only understand about 40% of what Paul DiResta(sp?) says his accent is so thick. Takes more than being an ex-driver to do commentary. The combo of SKY & ESPN are doing a fine job of destroying the USA fan base. BTW I'm already paying a $100+ a month for Directtv & am unwilling to pay more for a streaming service--if this comes to pass it will be so long to F1 for us."

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2. Posted by Liam III, 03/05/2018 0:21

"So, earlier in the week I began scrolling through the schedule on DirecTV to see what would be offered. I saw P3, Quali, and the race. Well, basically P3 is on Sat. morning so instead of the usual three days of F1 we now have Sat. and Sun. only. Whatever. Not to mention this commentary doesn't really catch us up on the breaking news of the week either.
As I sat down ready to enjoy qualifying (which was ON the schedule to record) I found NOTHING on my DVR. I was furious. What a total mess. If the race were a boring follow the leader affair I was completely resolved to remove all F1 from my DVR and find something else I could actually enjoy and have confidence that it would be there for me when I am ready to watch. I'm about at the breaking point with this excrement. No, I won't be paying one cent to anyones live streaming service either, ever. Just writing this makes my blood boil. Thank you Liberty and ESPN for destroying something I loved and looked forward to each summer."

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3. Posted by cellobrian, 02/05/2018 23:28

"I use the watchESPN app, and beam the coverage to my tv with a chromecast. SO far, it has served me well."

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4. Posted by BrightonCorgi, 02/05/2018 18:34

"It's a total crap shoot whether you'll get all the F1 weekend or not with ESPN. I would recommend looking for "upcoming recordings" Thursday to make sure everything will be recorded. I was really disappointed when I heard that ESPN was taking over F1 and continue to be so far."

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5. Posted by Fambank, 02/05/2018 17:04

"I'm not saying BE was perfect, because he is far from it, but the way Liberty and ESPN are acting, he must have a right old laugh"

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6. Posted by Paul C, 02/05/2018 6:29

"ESPN gives no respect to F1 and its fans. They have done a better job covering the NFL Scouting Combine or Formula Drift races. Thank goodness for F1 websites and especially Pitpass. Switching to Univision for watching the races sounds better every race."

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7. Posted by Joop deBruin, 02/05/2018 4:05

"ESPN is raw sewage. No sports, all politics.

We banned them from our home three years ago. The prosthetic penile implants at Liberty are clueless. ESPN subscriber count is in free fall.

F1 to be killed off in the USA Liberty?

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8. Posted by raven49, 01/05/2018 18:00

"I noted after Australia that the next race(s) had no commercials. Hadn't seen the announcement but it was quite nice here (Maryland-Verizon FIOS). I had to watch an encore version of Baku (late flight) and it was also quite well done albeit with commercials. But ESPN showed the entire race. They had their commercial breaks and returned to where they left off. That seemed pretty good to me. In addition, I liked the announcers much more than the tired Hobbs, Machett and Giffey. Although, I think Giffey could have done better with a better supporting cast. Those three just sat and talked to each other for two hours. No real details of what was happening. In this area, ESPN did step up. Australia was as terrible as everyone says. "

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9. Posted by TedS, 01/05/2018 16:42

"Still not going to pay for TV to get F1 if this is the crap you get. I'd rather deal with Univision and have my commentary in spanish (which I don't speak) than put up with this crap."

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10. Posted by Martha C, 01/05/2018 16:39

"I had no problem with the ESPN schedule. I used what posted for the weekend schedule and all scheduled events started and ended as posted. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ESPN, and their coverage is superior. I suspect the issue is with TV times posted by users cable companies or satellite providers. Can't blame their incompetence on ESPN."

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11. Posted by Bertieg, 01/05/2018 16:36

"i am still unhappy and missing Hobbs & the entire previous crew. Even though I swore not to watch F1 untill enjoysble Hobbs and crew were back i did look for qualifying to no avail. Thank Gawd for Pitpass, as i can continue staying in touch with the sport. A thumbs up to the Pitpass crew👍🏼"

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12. Posted by Oldbuzzard, 01/05/2018 15:34

"I, too, was mystified and pysstified about the qualifying non-broadcast. Is Liberty Media committing suicide in the US? Is ESPN really this inept at TV broadcasting? Or is it all a scheme to get subscribers to the streaming BS coming soon? Whatever it is, it is killing F1 interest in this country (USA). COTA should be very worried."

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