We’re a couple of rounds into the season, so it seems like a good time to consider how BT Sport are getting on with MotoGP.
On the ground
Most importantly, the commentary team of Julian Ryder and Keith Huewen are solid. Crucially they’re capable of talking to each other, which is more than can be said for some commentary teams. It’s not the first time they’ve worked together and they seem to get on, which comes across in the commentary; but equally they don’t spend the race chuckling amongst themselves. It’s a good balance, and probably the strongest element of the coverage.
That and Gavin Emmett, who’s doing an absolutely cracking job as roving reporter. Having worked on the world feed for a number of years, he knows everyone, and everyone knows him, which makes for great, informed interviews. He’s completely relaxed in the pit lane and on live TV, and was a very wise signing.
I rather like Neil Hodgson too. He’s not quite at home in front of the camera yet – a bit like James Haydon a few years ago – but his enthusiasm for racing is infectious, and he’s very natural talking to riders. With Gavin Emmett, they’re a great pair to have roaming the pits.
Front of house
Then there’s the presentation team, which is harder to judge at this stage. Melanie Sykes doesn’t seem entirely comfortable. Her conversations with the pundits are a touch stilted, with a tendency to move on quite abruptly. It could be a production issue, or a lack of familiarity. But at the moment I can’t help feeling that we’d be better off with Gavin Emmett fronting the whole thing.
It recalls Jennie Gow’s brief stint fronting the BBC’s coverage after Suzi Perry left. There was nothing particularly wrong with Jennie Gow, but Matt Roberts was there in the pits, infinitely more qualified, looked over for no obvious reason. A year later, Matt Roberts was moved to the fore, and the coverage was all the better for it.
I don’t want to write off Melanie Sykes though – not at all. She was very good in the preview programme, and it’s too early to reach any firm conclusions about the live coverage.
The importance of set up
Rough edges aside, the set up in Sepang was superb, with Melanie Sykes talking to various pundits in a specially constructed raised area at trackside, passing over to Gavin Emmett and Neil Hodgson in the pits – it felt truly comprehensive, like proper event television.
The coverage of Austin was much less convincing, with half the team stuck in a studio in the UK. It was inevitably more disconnected, and felt a tiny bit half-arsed in comparison to Sepang.
If BT Sport are going to do it properly, they need to ship everyone to the race track. It looks like the studio will be the norm rather than the exception though, sadly.
James Toseland is presumably going to be the regular pundit, despite being absent from Austin presumably due to his parallel music career. I’m not wholly convinced by him: he’s always seemed a little overly formal to me, and I’m not sure he’d done all his Moto2 and Moto3 homework before the first round.
It’d be good to see more of MCN’s Matthew Birt, who featured over the Sepang weekend. For Austin we had Troy Corser and Steve Parrish, who knows his way around a TV broadcast, and will be a semi-regular. No sign of Charlie Cox yet…
No class snobbery
Credit has to go to BT Sport for treating Moto2 and Moto3 properly – as promised. There’s plenty of discussion, analysis and interviews – and not only with the British riders, though obviously they get the lion’s share of the attention.
And the coverage extends into the week, with MotoGP Tonight on the Tuesday evening following a race weekend.
Craig Doyle is an established safe pair of hands (Isle of Man TT etc), and alongside him Iwan Thomas is a bit of a pleasant surprise – enthusiastic, knowledgeable and not a bad presenter.
The format is a bit hit and miss – due in part to the hit and miss nature of celebrity guests on this sort of programme. Famously bike-loving comedian Ross Noble was an obvious choice – confident and enthusiastic, he dominated the first show, and not in a bad way. Cricketer Graham Swann was a bit more representative of a typical guest, and left the presenters with more work to do.
The content too is a mixed bag – but I generally find this sort of themed magazine show a bit awkward. The straight sport content is sound, and there’s definitely a place for further analysis after a few days to digest things. The lighter sport content – from Twitter, for example – actually works quite well. The general bike content and studio tomfoolery – like the ‘Lean Machine’ – is fine if you like that sort of thing. For me, you could probably lose half of the one hour run time and have a tighter, better show.
It’s early days though, and these things need time to find their feet.
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