American fans outraged by ESPN coverage fiasco


As Formula One's new owners seek to expand the sport in their home country they might want to give more thought to TV coverage first as American broadcaster ESPN drops the ball.

This was the big one, the first race of a new era under the ownership of Liberty Media, and along with a Hollywood anthem, a new logo, new font, new TV angles and graphics, fans (a new buzzword for FOM) were promised that now they come first.

However, just one day before the first practice session it was revealed that the launch of the much-hyped F1 TV streaming service had been postponed for "testing" with no insight given as to when they can expect the revolutionary service.

However, while fans in the UK voiced their concern over the 'dumbing down' of many of the TV graphics and the absence of vital information at race end like the full results, fans in the United States were suffering much worse.

Already confused by ESPN's broadcasting of the practice sessions on different channels, some of them not recognised by their recorders, frustrated American F1 fans were left hoping that it would all come together on race day. It didn't.

To use a Daily Mail expression, "Twitter went into meltdown" as fans vented their fury.

Reader Kathy Bradley explains why: "Scheduled to start at 12:30 am. See skyline of Melbourne for 30 seconds then several minutes of commercials, repeat, repeat, repeat again and again then see videos of crowds (no audio) commercials, repeat.

"By now I've taken to twitter to see what's being said. See a tweet from ESPN that they're live with pre show. I can't help myself. I make a comment about no audio. I'm controlled at this point. After this set of commercials talking heads come on with a show about basketball or something in a studio. I lose it. I go back on twitter... the counter under ESPN is spinning so fast it can barely keep up. People are going insane. Not only can't we hear announcers now we can't see.

"ESPN tweets about wait and see upcoming live race. I again can't resist and tweet 'if you air it'. Finally 19 minutes into the scheduled F1 show the picture comes back on. 30 or 40 seconds later the audio comes on and show finishes at 01:00. Race starts. Too many commercials."

Other than the lack of analysis it was also the failure to re-cap following ad breaks... of which there were many. Indeed the endless commercials were the source of many fans ire, one actually coinciding with Haas driver Romain Grosjean's retirement, the broadcast not continuing until after the re-start and with fans given no subsequent information on what had just happened.

"You guys must be joking!" tweeted @Vdrop93. "1st you run free practice 1 & 2 on ESPN 3 which I don't even get. Now I'm trying to watch free practice 3 on ESPN News only to find out it just got bumped for Outside the Lines! You should have left F1 coverage to NBCSN! Great start guys."

@ZackDodd13: Can someone give me an explanation to why 5 cars have retired? @ESPNF1 sure hasn't explained as they prefer showing F1 fans advertisements instead of F1.

@TheRangerCat: The @ESPNF1 side by side commercial thing is annoying because you can see what good coverage looks like but you can't hear it because someone's trying to sell you cheese fries or some shit.

@DeanMoniz: So far, I grade your F1 coverage... "F" Extremely unprepared and poor. Never seen such a bad broadcast. Shameful.

@sahyder1: Going to be annoying watching Formula One coverage on ESPN. @ESPNF1 goes to commercial when @SkySportsF1 doesn't. The stuff American audience misses during commercials isn't recapped after commercial breaks. F1 has dropped the ball big time with this TV deal.

@paulcjones: Brought to you by @MothersPolish proud sponsor of the worst @F1 broadcast in US history. And the latest baseball app commercial. And some prescription drug ads. Atrocious broadcast

@Danieljyoung: ESPN @F1 coverage, as we all know, was the worst imaginable. No consideration for US #F1 fans at all. Pre program 'lost'. Race coverage was for the UK and you just took the live feed. No post interviews. ESPN and Liberty Media need to step it up quickly. NBCSN set a high bar.

@nickrgeorge: The @espn F1 coverage was absolute garbage... who the hell is timing these commercial breaks? Literally every time something exciting was happening... a commercial. And the abrupt ending after the podium interviews... cut to a basketball show mid-sentence!?? Not a great start.

@brad_dwight: The prerace control room fiasco isn't what deserves an apology @espn. The apology should be for butchering the recycled @SkySportsF1 feed with an inordinate amount of poorly timed long commercial breaks. Time to hire a @F1 announce crew & pit reporter of your own!

@JayBrownKUSI: So... you are paying @SkySportsF1 for commercial free feeds of the races, yet you cut off the commentary to show lame car wax commercials. How hard is it too add some value to your production.

@MonacoEzze: This apology is rubbish. The REAL issue was the ill-timed commercials throughout the race at key moments. Horrible production. Let's not use a middle school TV production class to run the show in Bahrain.

In the midst of all this, ESPN's PR had indeed tweeted an apology.

"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 the fans for watching and for their incredible passion for Formula 1."

Welcoming the new season, last Wednesday, Burke Magnus, ESPN's Executive Vice President, Programming & Scheduling, said: "It's been a long time since we've had Formula 1 on ESPN and we're very happy to have it back.

"There are a lot of exciting storylines heading into the season and race fans are intrigued about what's to come," he added. "They'll be able to see it all unfold on our TV and digital platforms and we look forward to getting started."

However, as US fans wait (and wait) for F1 TV, it should be noted that ESPN has little or no incentive to invest as it got F1 for free and is taking coverage from a sister channel - ESPN is owned by Disney which has an agreement to buy Sky. Indeed, it's a great deal for ESPN as any audience that it drives is pure profit.

And let's not forget F1 commercial boss Sean Bratches words on Saturday as a new F1 docu-series on Netflix was announced.

"Formula 1 is a global sport that we are actively repositioning from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand," he said.

Might ESPN's fiasco become the new norm?

Check out our Sunday gallery from Melbourne, here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 26/03/2018
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