Archive for February, 2013

Oh bugger – BT Sport snags UK IndyCar rights

Well, as predicted the other week, (and to be fair it didn’t take a genius since their owners were speaking openly about it) it seems ESPN in the UK is no more.

The company and its rights have been sold for an undisclosed sum to BT Sport, the new range of sports channels which will launch this summer.

You may think that BT, whose brand is a relic of nationalised industry, isn’t the most obvious choice of name for a collection of sports channels. And you’d be right. But when relics of nationalised industry do something, they tend to do it in an awkward, lumbering and predictable way, so BT Sport it is. Don’t look at the new logo, it will only upset you.

I could think of several hundred names that would be more exciting than BT Sport. ESPN for one. But hey, don’t let years of sporting brand goodwill hold you back, just bin the name and replace it with a name redolent of phonecards and long waits for a yellow van to visit and fix your phone line.

It reminds me of the old joke about the poor kids at school. The rich kids had their custom kit bags, Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, Nike, Adidas, Reebok. The poor kids just had a miserable black and white PVC bag from Woolworths. The word emblazoned on the side in sad looking white letters?

Sport.

But I digress. My main point, IndyCar fans, is this. Half way through the season, god only knows what is going to happen to the IndyCar coverage.

ESPN for UK IndyCar – a more positive perspective

@tfirth392 has pointed out on Twitter that the ESPN deal for IndyCar in the UK could be available on their ESPN Player online streaming service. This might be a better bet, and it’s already doing a good job for the American Le Mans Series.

Personally I hope it will remain on Sky Sports because I am a Sky subscriber. But for those without Sky, it’s possible that an ESPN player solution would actually be better for more people.

We’ll find out in good time I guess….

IndyCar gives UK TV rights to ESPN UK, Disney announces ESPN UK might close – way to go guys!

IndyCar in their wisdom has given UK TV rights to ESPN just as Disney announce they’re closing it! Couldnt make it up! In my last post I highlighted reasons why a hookup with the lame duck that is ESPN UK was a bad idea but it just gets worse, since it seems the owners of ESPN agree!  [See Digital Spy article]

Not sure whether to laugh or cry really!

According to Sky Sports, Indycar is moving to ESPN – for £13 per month – May not be so bad?

UPDATE – I understand since writing this post that ESPN’s UK online streaming service – their ESPN Player might not be such a bad deal – so the tone of this post is a bit more negative than it might need to be!

Oh dear.

The bosses at IndyCar towers probably love ESPN. Compared to the weak support, lukewarm commitment and low ratings provided by NBC Sports Network, the ABC / ESPN co-productions could be considered the stars of their broadcast deals – particularly so in the case of the Indy 500.

But when is ESPN not ESPN? Answer – when it’s in the UK.

ESPN UK is a channel trying to establish relevance – and failing. It has lost major football deals to Sky and BT Vision – and let’s face it, if you’re getting your arse kicked by BT Vision you really can’t be considered a major player in the pay TV sports marketplace.

So the worse its TV rights get, the more ridiculously expensive and unjustifiable a subscription looks.

Worse still, in motorsport terms it is barely even on the radar. You’ll find more motor sports on open access TV than on ESPN. They have the rights to DTM, possibly a bit of drag racing, and NASCAR Now highlights show. Zzzzzz.

The cost for this weak, limp, lifeless collection of dross? £13 a month – yes that’s right.

There aren’t many IndyCar races in a year, somewhere around 15 weekends at best, so you won’t get much for your money.

Even as a huge IndyCar fan I can see it’s better value to sign up for Premier Sports and get wall to wall NASCAR coverage than this lame excuse for a TV package.

So well done IndyCar, if this deal suggested by Sky on their Facebook page turns out to be true you’ve paid the price for not doing your homework about what a weak channel you have signed up to.

UPDATE: It only gets worse. Apparently Disney, ESPN’s parent, is considering closing ESPN UK altogether. Brilliant Indycar, just brilliant!

When is a street circuit not a street circuit?

Street circuit? Hmmm. Let’s see.

Wikipedia has a definition for us: “A racing circuit composed by temporarily closed-off public roads of a city, town or village, used in motor races.”

That seems fair enough.

Then there’s Korea, and Valencia.

Street circuits that aren’t really street circuits really annoy me. The pinnacle of motorsports deserves to race on decent tracks. Street circuits have their place when they create an exciting downtown event, think Monaco or Long Beach.

But Korea – a street circuit in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by a technology city only in the crazed imaginings of a pre-credit crunch property developer. All the safety compromises of a street circuit with none of the reasons for the safety compromises.

And Valencia, now thankfully gone – a street circuit so false that we hear it has been vandalised. How can a street circuit be vandalised? Surely by definition they are dismantled and put into storage every year after the race.

But not Korea and Valencia, because they’re not real street circuits – just cheap tat left to rot. Monuments to the modern day state of F1.

2013 IndyCar on Sky Sports

So far nothing to report. I hope someone in either Sky Sports or IndyCar reads this post and does something to rectify that.

2013 F1 Season Preview

Now that we are mid way through the pre-season car launches, and with testing fast approaching, I’m starting to look forward to the 2013 F1 season.

It’s the end of an era – the final year for the current car and engine regulations. The 2014 cars will look and sound very different so the only certainty is that the sport will change a lot in 2014. The handling of the 2013 cars will favour and hinder different drivers in ways we can’t yet anticipate, so this year is the final one in which we can accurately predict which drivers are strongest in the pecking order.

So with all the changes on the horizon won’t 2013 just be a damp squib, a case of going through the motions until the big bang of the ‘new F1’ in 2014?

Well there is certainly a risk that we will see teams, once they realise they don’t have a competitive 2013 package, switch their attention to 2014 at the expense of their 2013 performance. I actually expect this to affect some of the biggest budget teams, particularly Ferrari and Mercedes.

Although the team structures are different – as corporations Ferrari and Mercedes both have to design an engine and a car for 2014, whilst almost everyone else will be either an engine customer (Red Bull) or a specialist engine builder (Renault).

That division of labour may favour the customer teams in 2013. And when it comes to engines with few manufacturers left in F1 almost everyone is a customer.

We will see some races limping along (Germany, Korea) even as others have finally been consigned to the scrap heap (Valencia).

We will see how Lewis Hamilton copes with internal management bickering and a poor car whilst Sergio Perez flys in the McLaren.

We will see how a disturbing number of drivers cope with being referred to, accurately, as pay drivers whilst past stars sit on the sidelines.

We will see how many new sponsors arrive, and how many leave.

We will watch for signs of consolidation in the US market, and see how Bahrain copes second time around.

We’ll wonder whether Bernie is enjoying (enduring?) his final season at the top of the F1 tree.

We’ll wait to see whether Force India makes it to the last race, and whether Marussia makes it to the first.

It’ll be fun, and it won’t be predictable. Until Vettel starts winning everything in sight again.

Bring it on!