Season Four of the FIA Formula E World Championship got underway this weekend, with rounds 1 & 2 of the action coming from the streets of Hong Kong. The all electric championship continued to thrill fans with ambitious on-track action, and controversies both on and off the track. For Season 4, championship management has stepped up a gear in their creative approach to social media engagement and radical on-screen graphics.
As interest in the championship continues to grow, sponsors and broadcasters are increasingly keen to get in on the action. The latest high profile partner to switch from Formula One to Formula E being Hugo Boss, joining the likes of Allianz and Official Champagne Partner G.H. Mumm in switching categories to refresh their involvement in motorsport and engage with a new audience.
Another partnership announced between Seasons 3 & 4 of Formula E was an enhanced partnership with the Discovery Group, which see’s Eurosport take on increased broadcast rights across a number of European territories. In the case of the UK, Formula E will now be broadcast on Channel 5, BT Sport, & Eurosport.
Through season 3, Channel 5’s Formula E output was criticised for the show anchor and race pundit being removed from the event and the director cutting away from key moments in order to fit a channel schedule. The Channel has addressed this feedback in Season 4, with increased involvement at the races. Unfortunately for the opening rounds of the championship the channel did not have rights to broadcast races live.
Live broadcast rights in the UK for the Hong Kong ePrix weekend fell to Eurosport. Curiously in their approach to Formula E coverage, Eurosport have chosen not to use the Formula E World Feed commentary provided by Jack Nicholls, Dario Franchitti, & Bob Varsha, instead, they are working with in-house commentators for Hong Kong at least Tom Gaymor and Mike Conway.
The commentary duo of Jack Nicholls & Dario Franchitti have, over 3 seasons developed a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging dynamic, they convey a passion for the championship and critically attend the races. By contrast the Eurosport team of Tom Gaymor & Mike Conway felt removed from the action on track. Providing a dispassionate overview of the action.
Commentary missed both simple and critical elements of coverage, making fundamental errors in identifying drivers. Put simply, the joy and enthusiasm of Formula E was missing.
Eurosport’s desire to differentiate itself from other broadcasters is understandable, but Formula E’s core appeal, besides technological, is its fast pace, close racing, and unexpected results. Commentators should act as advocates for the championship. Their enthusiasm should drive fans to find more content. The Eurosport UK Team did not achieve this in Hong Kong. Quite the opposite in fact, with many fans commenting they were left cold by the coverage.
The simplest and most cost effective solution would be for the channel to use World Feed Commentators from the Marrakesh ePrix onwards. Why try and reinvent the wheel?