ITV F1 Logo 1999–2005
|Presented by||Jim Rosenthal (1997–2005)
Steve Rider (2006–2008)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Production company(s)||North One Television|
|Picture format||4:3 (1997–2006)
|Original run||8 March 1997– 2 November 2008|
|Related shows||Grand Prix|
ITV gained the rights for Formula One coverage for 1997 in late 1995 from the BBC and focused on more in-depth coverage, conducting more interviews and gaining access to better camera angles. The coverage was initially presented by Jim Rosenthal with veteran commentator Murray Walker and former racing driver Martin Brundle being the initial commentators before Walker's retirement after the 2001 United States Grand Prix and was succeeded by pit-lane reporter James Allen. Rosenthal left in 2005 and was succeeded by Steve Rider who presented the coverage until ITV ceased to broadcast Formula One after 2008. Formula One coverage returned to the BBC in 2009 for ITV to focus on more extensive coverage of UEFA Champions League football matches.
The programme was successful in collecting three consecutive BAFTA awards for sporting coverage but also garnered criticism for showing advertisements during their coverage along with their handling of competitions held by the broadcaster.
When the BBC lost their rights to broadcast Formula One in late 1995, ITV gained the coverage for 1997. The deal worth £60 million was negotiated by FOM president Bernie Ecclestone. ITV chose to bid for the rights due to constantly being beaten at weekends while the Grand Prix coverage was on.
ITV's first broadcast was at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix featuring Jim Rosenthal along with Simon Taylor and Tony Jardine as expert analysts along with Murray Walker and Martin Brundle as the commentators. The pitlane reporters James Allen and Louise Goodman stayed on for the whole of ITV's coverage over 11 years. ITV had set about focusing their efforts into more in-depth pre and post-race analysis, better camera angles and conducting more interviews. Rosenthal, Taylor and Jardine all presented from a studio with a view of the paddock and the studio was transported to all the races. One feature for 1997 was known as 'Inside F1' where a driver would demonstrate a certain piece of equipment on a Formula One car and would summarise what operations the equipment performed along with its effects. There was also a track guide using a computer simulation provided by Psygnosis also for 1997. The post-race qualifying and race coverage was mainly a discussion between the presenter and the experts going over the key facts of what occurred. In the same year, Simon Taylor was left unable to broadcast live after feeling seasick during the Monaco Grand Prix when the team were presenting on a yacht that kept moving around.
ITV also introduced Martin Brundle's hugely popular gridwalk at the 1997 British Grand Prix, where roughly 10–15 minutes before the start of the race Brundle would walk around the grid interviewing drivers, team personnel, celebrities and whoever else he could find. Brundle had elected not to commentate from some races such as the Canadian Grand Prix in 1997 where he raced at Le Mans and missed the race in 1998. He also elected not to attend the Hungarian Grand Prix on several occasions. When Brundle was absent, different people would stand in the commentary booth, including Derek Warwick, Jody Scheckter, Anthony Davidson and 1996 World Champion Damon Hill.
ITV were not able to show the qualifying for the 1999 French Grand Prix due to a dispute with Formula One Management. FOM President Bernie Ecclestone asked ITV if they wanted live coverage with the broadcaster refusing stating they would show coverage at a later time. Ecclestone agologised in the Sunday Express and the race coverage was unaffected.
The 2001 United States Grand Prix was Murray Walker's last in the ITV commentary booth, having missed four other races that season. James Allen moved up from his former role as pitlane reporter to replace Walker in the commentary box with Brundle still commentating as usual and Ted Kravitz inheriting Allen's old role.
In October 2002, the BBC had prepared pay £175 million to gain the rights off ITV when their contract was to expire at the end of 2004. In April 2004, ITV signed a six-year extension to their contract worth £150 million. In that same year, the coverage dropped its trackside studio and the presenters and analysts provided the coverage directly from within the paddock. With the advent of new Anti-Tobacco advertising laws in the United Kingdom that were placed in force on 31 July 2005, it was feared that Formula One coverage would be blacked out because with the showing of tobacco company logos on television, the broadcaster would face extra charges even in a country where tobacco sponsorship was permitted. In September 2005, it was reported that ITV had secured Steve Rider's services and would replace Rosenthal from 2006 onwards to present coverage of Formula One. Rider made his debut broadcast covering ITV F1 coverage at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.
ITV extended their contract with North One Television for a further five years in an agreement that started at the first round of the 2006 season and would produce over 100 hours of content which also included qualifying and the highlight shows. ITV were the host broadcasters for the British Grand Prix.
In March 2008, ITV announced the coverage would be transferred to the BBC from the 2009 season so that the Broadcaster could focus more on coverage on the UEFA Champions League. The contract to show the sport at the time of announcement was worth £25 million. ITV later announced that they had enacted a clause within their contract enabling them to leave F1 coverage after the 2008 season.
Ironically, ITV F1's highest ever broadcast rating came in its final race, the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, which attracted 8.8 million viewers, peaking at 12.5 million viewers. On 17 November 2008, BBC announced that Martin Brundle would continue his commentary role alongside Jonathan Legard during the 2009 season, while Ted Kravitz would continue his pit-lane reporter role alongside Lee McKenzie.
ITV's F1 coverage used four different themes throughout its lifespan, each lasting three years. The first theme was a special, untitled, track performed by Jamiroquai which lasted from 1997-1999. This theme was commissioned in February 1997 and cost £100,000 to compose. Neil Duncanson who worked for Chryaslis Sport and who was ITV-F1's producer was a friend of Jay Kay who is a fan of Formula One.
In 2000, Jamiroquai's theme was replaced by "Blackbeat" by Apollo 440 which lasted until 2002, replaced the following year by a remixed version of "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive. The final theme was "Lift Me Up" by Moby which ran from 2006 until 2008.
The ITV-F1 website was launched in March 1998 as a joint venture between ITV, F1 Racing and Business Net at a cost of £700,000 for the year. Initial content was provided by F1 Racing with news updates from Murray Walker and Martin Brundle. The site was revamped in July 1999 with the addition of a superstore selling Formula One merchandise along with a multimedia content area and a loyalty club. The website was closed in January 2012 citing the joint televised deal between the BBC and Sky as the reason.
Between 1997 and 2001, ITV's coverage was sponsored by Texaco who outbid RAC in December 1996. For the first year, the sponsorship promotion was created by Steve Pickard and directed by David Harris who were both from IMP. The sponsorship credits were based upon the speed and excitement of a Formula One team refuelling one of their racing cars with a circular theme involving the Texaco logo. Texaco placed £12 million in the first three years of their contract with ITV. The credits were directed by Darryl Goodrich and Nicolas Unsworth who was the producer.
In September 2001, Toyota signed a four-year deal worth £25 million seeing off competition from Foster's Lager which previously sponsored the ITV-F1 website. The car manufacturer pulled out at the end of 2003 to focus on brand advertising. The Daily Telegraph signed a one-year £4.5 million deal to take over the sponsorship in 2004. In 2005, LG took over the sponsorship with a £3.5 million contract for a year. Their sponsorship included the promotion of the LG Mobile brand among the aim for younger viewers to watch the programming.
For a period in 2006, Swiftcover.com sponsored the coverage from that year's San Marino Grand Prix. The screening of their sponsorship included Formula One drivers who were frustrated whilst speaking over the team radio to chickens in the pit lane. For 2007, Honda took over as the main sponsor which also included Honda's logo being placed onto the ITV-F1 website with the aim to attract younger viewers. The idents for Honda's sponsorship were produced by Honda's creative agency Wieden and Kennedy which built upon the car manufacturers indisputable passion for motor racing.
For 2008, Sony signed a deal that was negotiated by OMD UK as the final sponsor of the broadcasters coverage. The amount of sponsorship money was unpublished but was thought to be around £5 million. The idents were developed by fallon with digital and mobile assets developed by Dare.
All races were broadcast live with occasional reruns in races where the start time was considered early for fans who had elected not to watch at an earlier time. The highlights programme lasted for one hour and would normally have started at around 11:35pm to 00:15am depending on the schedule.
Showing of advertisements
A major criticism of ITV's coverage was they were permitted to show advertisements during the coverage which promoted a huge number of complaints from fans. This was the case at the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix when the broadcaster cut to a commercial break during the closing moments of the race which garnered 126 complaints from viewers. Ofcom ruled that ITV breached section 6.7 of the Rules on the Amount and Scheduling of Advertising. The broadcasters also had not shown the post-race press conference segment featuring Jenson Button comment's about the race. ITV repeated the last three laps after the race and as a result of these complaints, the server on their website crashed. An on-air apology was made by Jim Rosenthal before the start of the next race in Spain two weeks later.
Many fans of the sport criticised the coverage of the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix when the programme had ended just after the race concluded. ITV made arrangements for the next race that if coverage overran, the show would continued to be shown on ITV4.
In 2009, Ofcom ruled that ITV's handling of the competition for their last race broadcast had broken competition rules when 139,000 viewers rang a premium phone line charging £1 for a chance of winning the prize. The competition organiser Eckoh was not overseen by the broadcaster. In July 2009, ITV awarded the winner of the competition the prize that was not awarded because the winner's name was not published at the required time.
ITV's F1 coverage helped to pave the way on how motor sport would be broadcast in the modern era. Many of the features such as Martin Brundle's gridwalk and the pre- and post-race analysis were all transferred when the coverage returned to the BBC.
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