This week FOM, the Formula One Management company run by Bernie Ecclestone, has announced it will be providing native High Definition Formula One coverage for the very first time. This heralds the entrance of the sport into the super clear broadcast territory.
High Definition television has been available for some time now in the United Kingdom, initially with the Sky satellite service, and then later with both Cable and free to air boxes and solutions. HD is said to reach over 25% of homes in the UK alone. Europe is playing catch up to the United States of America however, who have had a super high definition broadcast for many years.
While the UK is playing catch up to the USA, F1 is playing catch up to other sports. Soccer, Cricket and American Football are just three sports which are all regularly broadcast in the clear definition, which provides a stunning amount of clarity over a normal SD broadcast. For some reason, despite being one of the most commercially driven sports in the world, F1 was slow on the uptake to HD. That commercial edge is somewhat surprising.
It has to be assumed, that part of the reason why soccer made it onto HD so quickly was this commercialism. Consumers drove the change. With the number of advertisers on F1 cars and around the tracks, one would assume they would be “chomping at the bit” to get it into the greater clarity viewing. But alas not, and 11 years into the 21st century will be the first time we get to see it.
Perhaps it is the investment into equipment that FOM were struggling with. After all, the number of cameras needed for a decent HD broadcast at an F1 circuit would be huge. And think of all of the cameras on the cars too, one can only presume micro HD cameras will be installed for the new season. Indeed some are now calling for F1 to go the whole hog and invest into 3D coverage. While a lovely concept for the novel new viewing of television, there are an unbelievable number of pitfalls and problems surrounding the ability to broadcast such things – the technology really isn’t there yet.
Bernie Ecclestone had always said HD would only come to F1 when the broadcasters really demanded it. “I said to the broadcasters, are you going to get more viewers, will more people watch F1 because it is HD or will less people watch it because it isn’t? They really need to have a check and see who has got the right televisions.
“I don’t think the average public realise that it is not the television, they have to have something to receive it as well. It is like producing a colour signal when people only have black-and-white sets.”
The decision however seems a good one. With both television companies and fans applauding the decision. Forums, and the popular micro-blogging service Twitter have been full of praise for the move. Some viewers have written that they will now be investing in HD receiving equipment in order to watch the new service. People without the ability to view HD should also see some improvement in the standard definition coverage, with BBC saying that their British SD channel viewers will receive a downscaled edition of the HD feed.
Brian Sullivan, CEO of Sky Germany, said: “The broadcast of Formula 1 in true HD is something that millions of racing fans in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have yearned for.” Meanwhile, Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD in Britain said “It’s fantastic news that FOM has decided to green light HD broadcasts, and we’re looking forward to sharing with the fans all the races in all their detail on BBC One HD and BBC HD.”
So far, confirmed broadcasters of HD F1 are:
- BBC – Britain
- Sky – Germany, Austria & Switzerland
- Network Ten: One HD – Australia
- Speed – USA
- Globo – Brazil
The USF1 team was launched today in Charlotte, USA. In a major broadcast with Speed TV, the team’s plans were finally revealed after months of speculation.
The team will have a USA based, designed, driven and sponsored machine for the F1 season in 2010. It has conservative aims for its first two years, but after that wants to establish itself as a high midfield runner before hoping to contend for titles in the future.
Former Ligier and Onyx technical director, Ken Anderson, the team principal of USF1, told the world that the new car will be ready by Autumn 2009, and should be hitting the track by the end of the year.
“We’ll have a car on the ground in September/October to start doing static rig testing,” he said. “There are still some things up in the air right now as far as who our engine supplier is and when that contract would start.
“We’re in a state of flux and all these things will come out in the next four to six weeks. But the rule as it is right now is that you’re not supposed to run a car between the last race and January 1st, so I would say we’re not planning to actually run the car until January next year – but then you have almost three months to the first race anyway.”
Peter Windsor, sporting director, spoke of their aims.
“A truly successful 2010 would be first of all proving that a Formula One car can be designed and built in the United States, outside of Europe, breaking the mould and doing that efficiently and cleanly. By that I mean we produce two good cars that are reliable, we finish races and maybe get a decent result in year one.
“In year two I’d like to think we could be scoring some points, which means top 10/top eight finishing. Then the sky is the limit after that. I am being quite conservative because this is a new team and we need to walk before we can run.”
Windsor added that there would be a European base as well as the main USA site.
“We’re going to have a European base which is mainly for the trucks, the motorhome, the pit equipment and for operating when we’re testing. It’s a logistics operation, not large, and it could therefore be anywhere.”