Why SPEED missed post-race coverage

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I received a lot of emails today about SPEED’s coverage of the Grand Prix of Spain, or lack thereof, as it concerns the post-race interviews. In hindsight, no one knew there would be a fire in the Williams F1 garage causing injuries and that kind of incident would warrant possible continued coverage with SPEED’s Will Buxton on location to help SPEED viewers understand what was happening. As it is, most of America’s video news of the fire was consumed through YouTube via BBC footage of the event.

The post-race interviews are also something Formula One fans have come to love in regards to SPEED’s Formula 1 coverage and these, as well as any coverage of the fire, were preempted by a programming initiative called Survival Sunday that the Fox Network had put together in a huge multi-game and multi-channel broadcast package.

While SPEED viewers are possibly accepting of the idea of leaving the F1 race immediately for a green flag waved during a NASCAR truck race (yes, that may even be pushing it), the thought of leaving the interview with first-time winner Pastor Maldonado in a Williams F1 car that hasn’t won since 2004 was nothing short of frustrating. Having said that, there is a reason.

The Fox Network had developed a very large broadcast package called Survival Sunday in which they would be showing multiple soccer (football) matches across mutliple Fox-owned networks including SPEED. The tie-in for SPEED showing the Chelsea game was obvious as that particular team sponsors Sauber in F1. The package was immense and a lot of time, logistics, details and most likely advertising and affiliate demands surrounded the event. As such, SPEED had to wrap up at 10am regardless of where the post-race coverage was to accomodate this huge programming package that Fox had launched.

In the end, it is a non sequitur going from a F1 race to a soccer match but realize that Networks control their programming destiny and while SPEED may have liked to continue broadcasting, the network had a much larger broadcast obligation it had to launch at 10am regardless. My hunch is that if the race had been red flagged or the checkered flag hadn’t flown by 10am, that would have been the only reason SPEED would have ran longer. As it was, the checkered flew at 9:43 and the coverage had to stop at 10am…at least that is my best explanation of why the hard break at 10am happened and the programming changed to soccer.

Having spent time with the SPEED crew that produce the Formula One coverage, I can tell you that they would like nothing more than to continue broadcasting after the races with features and additional content but as SPEED is part of a large network and has numerous broadcasting obligations and contracts, that option just ins’t available to them.

Here is what you can take some solace from, the crew that actually produces the F1 races for SPEED (yes, Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and the entire crew behind the camera…and there are a lot of these behind-the-scene folks) are all massive F1 fans. They love the sport, know the sport and know the sport’s history. I am continually astounded at the level and depth of their F1 passion especially given the fact that as Americans, we’re not supposed to be big F1 fans in general. This team proves that wrong in every case.

While the breakaway to soccer fulfilled the network obligation, my hunch is that the F1 crew at SPEED would much rather have carried the post race interviews and any coverage of the fire to help F1 fans understand just what was happening in Spain. At the end of the day folks, these aren’t just broadcast professionals pushing buttons for a network, they are impassioned F1 fans just like you and I but they have the dream job of actually working in Formula 1 and bringing us F1 races every fortnight.

Before you take a few swipes at SPEED, please understand that I know these professionals and have been there and met them all and watched first hand on how they call a race…it’s nothing short of brilliant.

Now, here is what you need to do if you want more F1 coverage, write, call or email the network and tell them you want more coverage. No, I don’t work for SPEED and I’m not on payroll. ;)

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