Friday, May 11, 2007

TV coverage - the good, the bad and the downright ugly

TV coverage can make or break a motorsport championship. I watched the second round of the Australian Rally Championship last night, which is produced by the same folks who do the WRC coverage, with the same style of graphics, same music, same editing style and an overall similar feel. The goal is clear: regardless of what happens in the rally, MAKE IT COMPELLING...

They have succeeded. Despite an absence of flame-spitting WRC cars, replaced instead by tamer Super 2000 and Group N machinery, and even with a runaway leader, I was very entertained. Quick edits, smart, diverse camerawork and an excitable commentator all helped, and the show was put together in a manner that allowed me to keep track of what was going on.

In contrast, MotorsTV's coverage of the Le Mans Series race at Valencia was a disaster. Many on the sportscar racing forums are decrying the lack of spectator-friendliness of this series, and a piss-poor TV package is not helping. Unlike the ALMS, which provides excellent trackside commentary, internet radio, position indicator lights on the cars and numerous live-timing scoreboards at the track and online, it seems as though the LMS exists just for the competitors, and the TV coverage is one more example of this.

The MotorsTV highlights show had a wonderful opportunity to pack 6 hours of action into a tight 90-minute presentation. Instead, they took three segments of the race, stuck them together and called it a day. Tough luck to the viewer if something happened in the time between those segments. For an endurance event, it is vital that the viewer or spectator know what's going on, because it is often hard to see unless you follow closely over a long period of time. This is impossible if one moment you're watching action from lap 70, then a second later, it's lap 170.

As much as I like Mark Cole, an extremely knowledgeable commentator, he needs to be teamed with an entertaining co-commentator. He needs to function more as the expert, and sit next to someone like Martin Haven or John Hindhaugh, who can provide some excitement. Even his normal partner of Carlton Kirby is a little better. But when it's just Mark and David Leslie, or even worse, the pillocks they dug up for this weekend's event, it makes a potentially interesting event rather dull.

The top racing championships have it right - MotoGP for example does a great job, with good graphics, excellent camerawork and a solid commentary team. But the Aussie Rally folks prove that you don't need to be a major worldwide championship to have a great broadcast package. In fact, for smaller championships it might actually be even MORE important to have exciting, compelling TV shows.

1 comment:

patrick said...

Carlton Kirby is truly awful - but yes, Mark Cole and David Leslie is not exactly a commentary combination which is going to work. I like both of them, but they really need someone who is a 'presenter' and not merely an armchair expert.

Martin Haven is great that way - knowledgeable, self deprecating and capable of getting the story across to the viewer. Even if he does have a bit of the Murray Walker about him in terms of bloopers.

I think the problem with the LMS is that it really is mainly run for the benefit of the competitors. I don't think attracting spectators is what they're really about, they're essentially a gentleman amateur series, except at the very front of the field.