ESPN Star Sports and F1 – Will they raise their game, finally ?

The F1 fans in UK are wondering (and perhaps are also excited) about what will the switch from ITV to BBC bring to them. We here in Asia can only hope that five more years of the same perhaps will not be the same :-( . Because other than the fact that they at least show the F1 over here there is not much to like about ESPN Star Sports coverage of Formula One, at least not yet.

When it was announced early September that ESPN Star Sports renewed their Formula 1 broadcasting deal for another five years my feelings were mixed. On one hand I was happy that we will continue to have Formula 1 races live in this part of the world. On the other hand I freaked out – five more years of Steve Slater ?!? Can’t be happening …

Unfortunately Steve Slater‘s incompetent commentary is not the only problem with Star Sports (the channel that actually airs the Formula 1). But let me start with him.

Steve Slater may have a lot of Formula 1 knowledge and that I do not really doubt. But he is rather useless as a commentator. I appreciate that commenting live on TV is not as simple as it may sound to us in front of the screen. But he is supposed to be the pro bringing the F1 race to viewers in 24 countries and territories. Instead he is confusing everybody with mixed up names of drivers, he even mixes up the teams ! Often he gets so excited by totally insignificant event that he overlooks something important. Then few minutes later he discovers America and starts screaming about something that millions have seen and realized already. I wonder how do those guest commentators feel when they have to keep subtly correcting Mr. Slater’s observations. Why on Earth they still keep this guy I have no idea. It can’t be because he is good … Can’t be …

Let’s move from Mr.Slater to those annoying ads. I understand that the TV needs income. I really do. But why do they have to take commerical break even during the Q1 ? Why everytime the ads are on the volume level doubles ??? Why during the race itself the ads must be on every ten minutes and half of them are not even commercial messages but only self promo for ESPN Star Sports !

The race coverage begins an hour in advance. But all we get during that hour is very brief recap of qualifying, a quick flashback year back to the same race and the rest is collection of videos that are freely available of web days before the race … The original input from Star Sports is limited to features like for example Paula Malai Ali showing us places to eat around the track. The rest of course are ads and more ads.

The post race show starts with podium ceremony, fine. But we have to go through 20 minutes of ads interrupted talk talk talk before we get to see the post race press conference, taped … Why ? Why can’t we see it live as it happens ?

ESPN Star Sports recently revamped their website so I want to believe that some revamp of their lousy Formula 1 TV coverage may follow. There is no sign of any plans yet though, perhaps they still keep them secret.

I would like them to do at least this:

– Steve Slater out and some true experts in. Assemble a proper commentary team !

– Coverage of Friday and Saturday practice sessions. If there is no space on TV just follow the example of ITV last year and put the feed online.

– More original stuff on the pre race show. Star Sports obviously can get their people into the pitlane so let them do something useful there !

– Do something with those ads ! Do not interrupt qualifying sessions, do not interrupt the race only to tell us that week later there will be golf on at 8pm … And stop turning up that volume to painful levels !

– Give us optional HD broadcast, ads free, for a reasonable fee

– Think about showing us GP2 one day too …

How are you happy with your F1 broadcaster ? What do you like and what you don’t about them ?

28 Comments Post a Comment
  1. JourneyerNo Gravatar says:

    Hmmm. I seem to have much of the same… disappointments with ESPNStar as you do, Wolf.

    Let me tackle them one by one:
    1. Slater – Well, he was actually OK when I first saw him (or maybe that was because I was still a casual fan back then and didn’t know so much about F1). But as the years passed (and my knowledge and love of the sport increased), his abiility seems to have decreased (i.e. he’s gotten worse than James Allen. JAMES ALLEN, of all people!)

    But here’s the thing: Who else can do it in Asia other than him? No one has more experience or a better reputation. And to be fair to Slater, he has dome some things right, most notably, jumping on the Lewis bandwagon later than others (his later Lewis-mania notwithstanding).

    Also, while we’ve gone through multiple good pundits (Goodwin and Chandhok come to mind), I don’t remember anyone who’s subbed for Slater. And even if someone has, the fact I don’t remember them probably means that substitute wasn’t much good, either. So I’m sad to say we may be stuck with Slater for a while. A long while.

    2. Ad breaks – Well, ITV were doing it for a reason (and to give credit to ITV, they poked fun at themselves for it at their end-of-term montage). Same reason applies to ESPNStar.

    But you’re right, they do too much self-promotion. One reason they may be doing that is that they really have good ratings at that time and see it as a good opportunity to get the viewers to try watching their other shows. That’s the best way for them to make money to pay for their HUGE FOM fee. Well, that’s the perils of exclusive deals for you.

    3. Pre-race/post-race coverage – Not up to par, that’s for sure. I want more F1 opinion from the team, but again, given that there’s not so many SE Asians involved in F1 (read: less than a dozen, tops), they can’t really go down the opinion roundtable route. As it is, they have VERY limited options other than… Slater (again).

    Because of that, I usually stay away from their pre-race shows and watch the ITV pre-race shows online instead. Which brings me to…

    4. Online: You touched on it slightly when you mentioned their website, but I’ll go deeper. Remember when they showed Singapore Free Practice online? Why don’t they do that more often? I think that was a fantastic idea from them (for once), and it’s something they can build on.

    Given the amount of resources available online (both multimedia-wise and community-wise), it’s something ESPNStar can use not just to improve their online presence, but use community feedback to improve the TV show as well (i.e. don’t just ask for feedback at season’s end, like they did this year; do it as often as possible!).

    5. GP2: Get Chris Goodwin to cover it! He’s doing it for ITV this year anyway; why can’t ESPNStar either get him back or piggyride on their coverage? :)

    Long post ended! Your thoughts, guys?

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      good one Journeyer !

      1) I am not sure who can do it in Asia better than him, but they do not have to fish only in Asian waters. look at the people they use for football coverage …

      Goodwin was good, Chandhok fine, I must say even Alex Yoong was making lots of sense.

      2) Well you are probably right but there are other ways to advertise without being so annoying and disruptive … All it needs is some creativity and will …

      3) this can be continuation of point 1) their “round table” options may be limited in Asia but they do not have to limit themselves to people from Asia only. Just be careful about saying the name James Allen too loud, he is out of job, they may approach him :-)

      4) oops, did not realize they had Singapore GP practice online. I watched it on track :-) hm .. was that a trial they will turn into regular feature next season ?

      about the feedback – there is no chance now to leave any feedback on their site. they used to have contact form or feedback form before, it is gone … I used it once, guess for what, to complain about Steve Slater :-) can’t do it anymore …

      5) my question is why they feed us A1 and not GP2 …even the GP2 Asia was nowhere … at least not live

      • ToolmanNo Gravatar says:

        I loved it when our F1 expert Steve Slater goes on air and proclaim “Surely they (Kubica, Massa and Alonso) can’t go on a complete the race without another tyre change” and out come a retort “Why Not?” The silent following that was golden…

  2. NomadIndianNo Gravatar says:

    Hi, I am from India and so have to watch ESPN Star’s coverage only, since the past decade i think : (
    Just wanted to add that I thought their Singapore GP pre-race was good… they actually had some pit-walk coverage and had some of their presenters interviewing ppl, for the first time… If only they can do that for other GPs as well…
    Steve Slater is OK for Asia, but getting someone else apart from Goodwin, Chandok & Yoong(terrible, I think) would be good… as u said, it doesnt have to be someone from SE asia,,,
    I feel having lost their monopoly (sort of) on Cricket & having more competition for that, it would make sense for ESPN Star to get some great coverage/presentation on F1 which for sure is becoming more popular in countries like India.

  3. kaushalNo Gravatar says:

    here is the worst part of espn-star.
    during final n most important race of the year: brazil grand prix.
    espn star showed the”qualifying” round after 3 hours.they showed us the “deferred” live. so people like me watched qualifying round on internet,which is quite expensive here in india. :(

    kaushals last blog post..Indian Driver on F1 track in 5 years

  4. UglyrefNo Gravatar says:

    Mr Wolf

    I think ESPN Star Sports coverage is great. I moved from AUS 2 years ago, and from recording delayed coverage overnight now 95% of the time I can see the race live. I like the show before the race and usually tune in 30 minutes before the race starts.

    I would imagine if we understood media agreements (especially ones involving shrewd bastards like Ecclestone) we might understand that commercial enhancements are tightly controlled, and creativity on putting sponsors logos are strictly not allowed.

    On all the races I saw this year, I missed nothing of any consequence, there were a couple of occasions where I saw a replay of a pitstop.

    I know this is not the first time you’ve bitched about Steve Slater.

    Well at least he is a media professional trading under his own name, not a schonky amateur going under a psuedonym, like yourself Mr Wolf. Why is that? Are you not proud of your content?

    Or maybe you’d quite fancy the job yourself? But then again you’d have to give your name, and be exposed to opinion from all the sundry….

    I guess you are an expat who thinks everything on tv should be free and non-commercial. Well maybe you should move (back?) to England, and watch the jolly old BBC!!!

    Ugly, Steve Slater’s good buddy

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      You are right, it is not first time I wrote about Mr Slater here. And it also may not be the last :-). I think I have a right to say what I think about a service that I am charged for. You can read my site for free and if you do not like what u see you always have many other options. But I have to pay to listen to Mr Slater’s commentary and I have no other alternative.

      I am not hiding, there is a Facebook button on the sidebar and everybody who wants to know more about me is welcome to click that button. Most of the people who regularly read this blog know my name

      For the record, I am not English :-)

      F1Wolfs last blog post..ESPN Star Sports and F1 – Will they raise their game, finally ?

    • KotenokNo Gravatar says:

      Well, since this TV channel doesn’t touch our area in Europe and ever has heard before the Star Sports from ESPN, I would say that the F1 coverage from that channel isn’t really popular or didn’t ever raise enough to be world-wide known yet. And to me, the name from Steve Slater means the same as Mariya Rumyantseva or Andrey Leont’ev from REN-TV in Russia, nothing but very unknown people.

      Here in Europe, channels as RTL, ITV, Telecinco or RAI, for good or for bad, these TV channels always has been on the media. Their coverage is rather wide, doing the F1 races in live time and adding the possibility to not lose any second of the races with mini-screen during advertisement breaks. These channels usually count with the support of professional drivers as commentators or famous engineers for technical explanations, exclusive interviews with people from the paddock, reports with the drivers or someone team chiefs or somebody related to the F1 teams. These TV channels offer large coverage about F1 news during all race weekends or pre-season (not just qualify and race, post-race reviews and several breaking news), and last but not least, the possibility to access to their content by stream with Internet with computer or 3G mobile phone technologies.

      My question is, did Star Sports give that large offer of contents yet?

      I also would like to defend the position of somebody taking his own private time as amateur reporter for give some service to the interested readers, it’s pretty well know that they do it as their own hobby and their news or posts come from official sources and other published articles, but they feed the news with their own point of view and knowledge of his/her experience. That’s a big value, as they’re not rewarded, just appreciated and thanked by their readers.
      I would like to add that many times, somebody who’s doing this amateur job of maintain an F1 news website or community in the Internet is pretty well informed about the updates of the latest news and topics, much more than do these sports departments from TV channels or newspapers that cover the F1 season (they have the great luck to have access to any information sources, and usually do not inform very deep about some topic because of timing means or space in the pages).
      do value the opinion about F1 Wolf, who did manage to inform very well to all his readers and always appreciated the opinion of his regular readers or the ones which entered just by chance as you did. He’s following on the improvement of this site after two years of the creation from it, keeping the touch of quality and well explained articles in a pleasant way of using the language. And something very important, as he has told before, the site contents are FREE, so anybody is also free to enter or not to this site, and also free to agree or disagree with what is published in this web blog, but I think and believe that there’s no right to ban anybody’s freedom of speech.

      Kotenoks last blog post..RubberGoat

      • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

        thanks for the defence :-)

        to your question – Star Sports do offer something – they have replay of the race, they have timing on their site (but I haven’t checked that as I use one), they do have some regular racing magazines that among other things talk also about F1. But that’s about it, not much more …

    • LeoNo Gravatar says:

      Your favourite must be Steve Slater’s reply (on air) to a fan’s email with subject No Lollies for Ferrari, and I quote “In actual fact the front jackman acts as the lollipop man for the Ferrari team.”

  5. Anthony TellierNo Gravatar says:

    Hey, you guys are lucky . the broadcast is in YOUR language. In Berlin we get F1 on RTL … in German … with MUCHO intrusive ads. I can, later, get podcast reviews of Qual and the race on SpeedTV with Steve Matchett, David Hobbs, and Bob Varsha … in-depth and no (apparent) biases. Steve also has tech talks before the races … good cheeZe. My other option has been to “do” the races live and get the “Kangaroo” in-stands mini-data receiver.

  6. Fantoci (aka Juraj Kuzma)No Gravatar says:

    Couple of comments regarding Star TV coverage.

    1. I understand that the TV rights are expensive and advertisement during broadcast is very important. However I am paying substantial amount of money for STAR SPORT subscription and the amount of time wasted on self advertisement is simply wrong. As Milos (or F1WOLF) pointed out, why not make it available in HD format without adds on a Pay Per View basis.
    2. When it comes to commentary, I actually look forward to Mr. Slater’s regular bloopers. He adds a bit humor to every broadcast. Seriously now. In a number of races I asked my mates “Is he watching the same race as we do?”. Get the UK commentary please.

  7. […] Here on F1Wolf – Looks like my post on ESPN Star Sports F1 coverage angered someone close to their F1 commentary team, judging from this comment addressed to me. […]

  8. KotenokNo Gravatar says:

    I haven’t ever switched on TV that Star Sports channel from the ESPN, Inc. I’m not living in Asia, therefore. But I believe that someone called M. P. could do it pretty well, despite he’s probably not a professional journalist. And I would be really happy for him if he could achieve that :)

    Last years I’ve been also terribly disappointed with the TV hosts last years in Spain. Not just Telecinco did mistake the plot, also the Catalan region TV3 has a lower quality than before (they’re showing F1 races since 1994). Next year the whole season will be covered by a new channel, which isn’t really the kind of TV channel which I like to follow. La Sexta (the 6th), will be the owner from the rights since now for some seasons, which will be for 5 seasons until 2013 for all the Spanish territory, that means TV3 also lose the rights to show the F1 contents. Hopefully the quality of the comments rise switching to the new TV channel. There’s a dude which I really liked before, Josep Lluís Merlos, a great reporter :)

    Kotenoks last blog post..RubberGoat

  9. Jose ArellanoNo Gravatar says:

    are you wolf beacuase of the movie “reservoir dogs” ???

  10. UbaidNo Gravatar says:

    I personally felt that Steve Slater paired well with Chris Goodwin (the sane one).
    Without him Steve Slater is a an poorly-attempted-cheap-imitation-train-wreck of Murray Walker. (Anyone found any similarities that Slater fumbles up like how Walker did. But Walker had the personality and more importantly a lovely brain that finctions well)

    I have mentioned in two other posts now.
    Kindly join to voice your opinions here PLEASE or just give me support in numbers.
    Much appreciated.

    And thank God I found this blog. I thought I was the only one who despised their coverage so much.

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