Yeah, pretty cynical move here by ten.
I wouldn’t say it’s cynical. More mis-guided. On a certain level, I don’t blame them – when Ricciardo joined HRT for Silverstone last year, it was the first time that two Australians had been in Formula 1 since 1977. And when Ricciardo was promoted to Toro Rosso for this season, he was in with a chance of regular points. His qualifying in Bahrain demonstrated that the car be quick. With Australia’s reputation as a sporting nation, and with two Australians in reasonably-competitive cars, it does make sense from a marketing point of view to move the coverage into the mainstream channel. And, of course, there is Casey Stoner in MotoGP, who is the reigning champion, so that’s another drawcard. Ten are evidently trying to open the sport(s) up to new viewers who might not follow motorsport, but are interested in the progress of Australian competitors. That, I think, can only be a good thing; I still recall Keith telling us how he first encountered Formula 1 in one of the articles on the site. I think he was idly flipping through channels and by chance saw part of the British Grand Prix. That could easily happen again and create a whole new generation of fans.
There are, however, a few problems with Ten’s approach, mostly in the way they have pitched it to audiences. For one, the only time I have ever seen it mentioned is when they are outlining their Sunday night programming, and it only gets a brief mention at the end of the advert with a quick glimpse of Webber’s car. There’s no mention of Australians racing in the sport or even what the sport is.
Secondly, Formula 1 (and MotoGP) is completely at odds with the actual prgramming of “Super Sundays”. They start out with The Biggest Loser, which is just toally unappealing to me because I don’t particularly want to watch overweight people exercise for an hour as entertainment. Then they move to a pair of sitcoms in Modern Family and New Girl (I’ll try and be neutral, but I can’t stand Zooey Deschanel; I find her whole “wholesome-but-quirky girl-next-door” schtick to be very hollow, like it was the product of a marketing exercise). Then Touch, which I admit that I don’t know too much about other than that it has Kiefer Sutherland and the guy from Lethal Weapon whose name I can never remember in it. And then Formula 1/MotoGP. It’s just a total tonal shift from reality television to sticoms to prime-time drama and then … motorsport. It’s jarring, and it doesn’t work for me.
If Ten actually took the time to market Formula 1 properly, then the move could work, even if it means stepping down to a standard definition braodcast. But they’ve just failed, either because they assumed that people would know what it was and would watch it, or that it would sell itself.