When NBC Universal acquired the U.S. television rights to Formula 1 last year, it had a plan. The network thought that if it packaged it properly and promoted it aggressively, then the world's most popular racing series would be a hit in the United States.
Only soccer and the Olympics have bigger international followings than Formula 1 racing. NBC Sports Network starts their coverage Sunday morning at 2 a.m. with the Australian Grand Prix. All 19 races will get max coverage with NBC Sports Network airing 13 races, CNBC taking two and NBC broadcasting four, highlighted by the Grand Prix of Monaco and the U.S. Grand Prix.
The network will debut F1 36, a behind-the-scenes profile show and part of a series that includes NHL 36, Fight Night 36, IndyCar 36 and MLS 36, all of which air on NBC Sports Network. Post-race show F1 Extra will air live after every event to help round out coverage
Leigh Diffey will call both the Formula 1 and IndyCar Series this year. He will be joined by veteran race analysts David Hobbs and Steve Matchett.
|Australian Grand Prix|
|Friday » Practice, midnight and 1:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network|
|Sat. » Qualifying, 2 a.m., NBC Sports Network|
|Qualifying re-air, 1:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network|
|Sunday » Race, 1:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network|
|F1 Extra, 4 a.m., NBC Sports Network|
|Race re-air, 1 p.m., NBC Sports Network|
I spoke to Hobbs and Diffey about what might attract the casual fan to Formula 1.
Hobbs » "I think people like glamour and amazing race cars with outstanding drivers. The rivalry between Ferrari and Mercedes has been in the sport since it began. Formula 1 has got it all and it is painted on the global canvas. The first race is through the streets of Melbourne. Then you go to Shanghai and then Malaysia and then, of course, there's obviously Monte Carlo, which is an incredible event. The Singapore night race is just so outstanding visually and of course, Dubai is the same."
Diffey » "I think one of the biggest things I've noticed, certainly with Twitter traffic and email traffic, is the feedback from viewers when they say, 'I introduced a new friend to Grand Prix racing last year and they were immediately hooked,' and I think that's the key. It's spreading the word. And as soon as people start to watch Formula 1, they so easily get sucked into it and all the Formula 1 drama and excitement."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.