James Allen to front BBC 5 Live F1 coverage – expect record ratings

Former ITV F1 lead commentator James Allen has announced that he will be lead commentator and correspondent for the BBC 5 Live radio, online and red button coverage of the 2012 F1 season.

This news comes as something of a surprise as he confirmed late last year that he was not looking to return to a full time TV role. Of course strictly speaking he hasn’t done so, but the workload for this role is arguably even greater, since it comprises coverage of all practice and qualifying sessions as well as the race itself.

Whilst James Allen has many critics, I’m certainly not one of them. I was pretty happy with his coverage overall during the ITV years, and since then he has ably demonstrated his incredible depth of knowledge and insight into the sport.

So who will be listening?

Well, the advent of Sky Sports F1 HD (try saying that in a hurry) and their full coverage of all races on their new TV channel could actually (somewhat counter intuitively) mean that more people than ever tune into the 5 Live coverage. Here’s why:

  • First – during the races not broadcast on BBC1, many people will listen live to the 5live coverage alongside a free to air stream of RTL’s German F1 TV coverage.
  • Second – Sky’s coverage of practice looks like it will be on Satellite TV and Sky Go only, so many people in their cars and workplaces may continue to listen to coverage of practice on the radio or online. (Sky Go is Sky’s online service, but it’s high bandwidth and rights-limited to 2 devices – so not as practical or accessible as a simple radio feed).
  • Third – with the BBC losing Martin Brundle to Sky, James Allen might be a higher profile F1 commentator to the UK audience than their new TV commentator Ben Edwards, so it’s likely that more people than ever will press the Red Button and listen to the James Allen commentary for the 10 races that BBC do broadcast live.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be an exciting season for UK coverage – although I’m a bit worried I’m now going to have to watch every session 3 times!

 

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