A neat deal for DC

Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard began a career as a television commentator with the BBC after his F1 racing career came to a close at the end of 2008. He was joined in the BBC team by anchor Jake Humphrey, who moved into sports coverage after starting out in children’s TV. The two men hit it off and at the end of 2010 the pair decided to go into business together, in league with a BBC Sport producer called Sunil Patel. The company was called Whisper Films, the goal being to leverage the connections of the directors to create a TV production company dealing with sport, particularly with short films to be used for corporate viral advertising campaigns. The company has since made films for the likes of UBS, Hugo Boss, the NFL, Casio, ExxonMobil, Red Bull, Genworth, Silverstone, Caterham F1, Renault, Heineken, DTM, Blackberry, Martini, The Jenson Button Trust, Williams, Hilton, Lotus F1, Codemasters, McLaren, Pirelli and TW Steel. The company moved to Ealing Studios at the end of 2014 and in recent years has made a series of short documentaries for the BBC, notably “Racing with the Hamiltons: Nic in the Driving Seat”. Last summer, Channel 4 bought into the company (believed to be 25 percent), using money from a growth fund it has to support the independent production sector.

The news that the BBC is not continuing its Formula 1 coverage was not a surprise and it is clear that Channel 4 was very keen to get hold of the F1 coverage. After that deal was done, it was no great surprise that Whisper Films has won the production contract for the F1 coverage and, therefore, hardly a surprise that Coulthard will be staying on as a commentator. It is possible that Humphrey will also be part of the package, but he has a contract with BT Vision to present its football coverage and may not be able to do all the F1 races, even if his agreement with BT is non-exclusive.

It is no surprise either than Whisper has secured the services of a number of BBC employees, notably producer Mark Wilkin, who has been overseeing BBC F1 activities since back in 1980s.

72 thoughts on “A neat deal for DC

  1. Any news on whether EJ or Suzi Perry will reappear? Would also love to see Gary Anderson back with a proper technical segment. Still very disappointed that the BBC ended the contract. Their sports cupboard is extremely bare now sadly.

    1. Gary would be great – he was a sad loss to BBC viewers who wanted to understand some of the performance issues – Suzi or Lee McKenzie would balance it up a bit as well

      1. He was indeed. His simple sketches on the pad was great. So good to have a technical expert on hand to explain it.

    2. Hopefully DC and Jake know from their BBC experience that less is often more – the few occasions I see F1 on Sky I’m only left bewildered at the vast amount of on screen people (talent?) they wheel out – a feeling I think maybe shared by Martin Brundle who also looks bemused as he waits his turn while five or six other people all say the same thing.

      Although I’m not a fan of EJ’s hyperbole, I think the dynamic of Suzi Perry and EJ worked well as they both desperately wanted to bring some animation and enthusiasm to what often turned out to be dull practice and qualifying sessions as well as dull races.

      Really liked BeeBs sessions with Gary Anderson when he was on, although he only had a BBC clipboard and a borrowed biro to demonstrate things, he was more insightful than SKy’s walkin plasma screen efforts.

      Of course you do have to wonder if the Whisper Films people will be whispering in the ear of a certain J.Saward of Paris for some on-screen observations?

      1. I bet Mark Wilkin has some good James Hunt stories. Did you ever get to spend much time with him Joe prior to 93?

        1. It’s a long story, but I was him! Until the mid 1990s the BBC did not send James and Murray to the flyaway races. As a result I got the job of being what was called “the ghost commentator” and I would sit in the BBC commentary booth and I would talk the race down the phone to Mark, who would then give the important stuff to Murray and James. They would commentate using the TV pictures they had, they rest would come from me. You always knew what that was happening because James would say “And I can’t quite see from where I am sitting…” I used to speak to him before the races as well, giving him all the gossip in the paddock, so that he could splice it into the show.

            1. +1. I knew that Murray and James didn’t fly away to many of the races, but didn’t know it was you, Joe. It’s good to know that I sort of knew your work as an 11 year old and have (relatively) recently rediscovered it some 30+ years on. Thank you for sparking my interest.

            1. Great article, but wasn’t James laid up in bed with a couple of nurses, and they weren’t treating him for food poisoning…

          1. My favourite Hunt comment was “When Ferrari say they had an electrical problem they mean ‘a con-rod came through the block and knocked the distributor cap off'”.

            Did you have any input to that one?

          2. Brilliant – love that you’ve shared that story.

            And as for the insight into Whisper, thanks, it’s great to know the background.

  2. I sincerelyhope they leave Eddie Jordan and Suzy Perry at the BBC. Last year I found myself enjoying the highlights more than the live races, simply because the gibberish by the presenting team was greatly reduced.

  3. A wink and a whisper
    BBC was once a terrific and rightly loved and respected organisation. It employed the best and made them even better. Now it seems like a club where those at the top look after themselves in perpetuity. An example is one guy whose job is to commission arts programmes from the best talent who instead regularly commissions himself as programme maker!!
    For another example you need look no further than the way they let down so many viewers by gifting F1 coverage to Sky.
    And now we have what you might call another ‘Wink and Whisper’ operation where “club” members win again. Jolly good show old chap.

    On another point I just wonder how long the race coverage can remain ad-free as promised. C4 currently runs an ethos of something like a 4 minute ad break every 12 minutes. I fear and expect race free ads sooner or later.
    And for those who loved the DC, EJ, McNish, and the fat lady [not Suzi Perry] crowd, looks like your luck is in with more of the same.

    1. > An example is one guy whose job is to commission arts programmes from the best talent who instead regularly commissions himself as programme maker!!

      Imagine that…

    2. Is that the same BBC guy whose BBC pension pot was reported by the Daily Telegraph as £2.8 million and who recently did at least resign from his programme commissioning role after a charity scandal while keeping his £180K producers salary?

  4. As a so-called “free to air” viewer, this is great news for me. When DC first appeared I thought he was just a nepotistic adjunct to his manager Brundles show, and was irritated by his Red Bull favouritism for a couple of years. I’ve since completely changed my mind. He’s developed into an excellent and fair pundit and a very capable co-commentator. When his BBC contract expired a couple of years (?) ago I suspected he’d be off to Sky to join Uncle Martin, but was pleased he decided to stay as a big fish in the smaller BBC pond. His work ethic seems to be admirable. I get the feeling he’d do the whole show on his own if he could. I’m much encouraged by Channel 4’s decision, and really looking forward to the coming season, now.

  5. It seems Channel 4 are keen to do a good job and it would appear that the races will be advert free.

    While it would be good to see Suzi Perry also retained, I would prefer to see another ex-F1 driver, like maybe 3 times Le Mans winner Alan Mcnish in the Eddie Jordan role. This would give a far better insight into the events as seen by two experienced racers rather then the knockabout, but frankly slightly tedious style of Eddie.

    1. Agree re EJ – although he does the occasional good exclusive thing like collaring Bernie (Which, being cynical, could of course be prearranged accidentally on purpose)

      1. I suspect that your cynicism may be justified. From memory, the only times we ever saw Ecclestone wandering aimlessly on his own were when he was about to get collared by EJ or, occasionally, DC.

  6. If Whisper Films do as good a job with their F1 coverage as they do with the ‘Road to Super Bowl 50’ show for the NFL it should be a good result. Good mix of highlights and analysis.

    The NFL has a different attitude to access than F1 though 😦

  7. Good for David Coulthard. I would be happy if they keep Suzi Perry.
    That would be enough frankly. Too many people on the BBC.
    Although Gary Anderson would be a bonus.

  8. Good news all round, Dc and make sounds like a good partnership , I think channel four will do a good job, makes me excited for the new season .

  9. Having just cancelled my Sky F1 subscription, I’m delighted that DC is to continue his role as a free-to-air broadcaster. I hope C4 can maintain their record in innovation in sports broadcasting and give Murdoch’s crew a thoroughly deserved shoeing. I came to loathe Brundle, Kravitz, Lazenby et al and their slavish toadying to Ecclestone.

    1. Must have been watching a different Sky F1 to me then. The fact they got Ecclestone to speak to anyone is quite an event and a far better coverage than the BBC. If C4 manage to get Jake Humphrey it will be worth watching but not Perry.

  10. Great news.. I may watch a few of the C4 races over Sky. Hope they can bring some innovation and lead the way with some new ideas, hopefully they have the freedom and mandate to do that..

  11. As a Sky Sports subscriber, I find their presentation to be incredibly padded out and overly long.

    Of course it’s because they’ve got a dedicated F1 channel to fill and need to be seen to be providing more coverage than their rivals in order to attract and keep new customers, but, for me, too much of their race weekend coverage doesn’t add value – endless analysis/replays at the SkyPad, the drivers’ parade at which no-one says anything of any interest, post-race analysis that lasts longer than the race itself.

    Having long been a fan of Ted, I find I mute or switch him off these days as he often strays into thinking he’s far funnier than he actually is.

    A fan of the Beeb’s presentation, I usually watched the races they carried live rather than Sky. Such a shame the mix of live and highlights and flicking between the two broadcasters takes away the sense of continuity that comes from watching the same team across the whole year.

    I hope Channel 4 do a great job, but they’ll obviously be hamstrung by the same mix of live coverage and highlights. Fingers crossed they can can provide a fresh angle with their coverage and move it on, much like the BBC did when they took it over from ITV in 2009. For a Formula 1 fan in the UK, I’d say their first couple of years were some of the best coverage we’ve had.

    I really rate David Coulthard as a pundit and am pleased he’s making the switch. Eddie obviously still has great contacts and can dig out an exclusive, but generally struggles to put together a cohesive sentence. It will be interesting to see whether he and the rest of the Beeb’s presenting team move across or whether there’s a desire to be seen to be making a clean break from what’s gone before.

    1. I agree with what you say about Sky and the BBC. I actually couldn’t stand the sound of Ben Edwards voice so for races which the Beeb had live I used to watch the build up show there, then switch to Sky for the actual race and then change back to BBC once it was over. BBC had better pre and post race shows but Sky did the race coverage best.

      I never cared much for the analysis on either station as much of it was the same stuff I already heard about from sites like this earlier in the week but the short films on the BBC were miles ahead of Sky’s. Sky seemed to have one good film but would then pad it out and spread it into segments over 4 races whereas the BBC had great ones every time they had a live race.

      Hopefully C4 will have similar quality films as they are using a lot of the BBC staff but some fresh presenters would be good. Suzy Perry wasn’t that great, although to be fair Jake Humphrey left some incredibly large shoes to fill, but I think a new presenter would help C4 to distinguish their offering as something new instead of the same old thing from before.

  12. Nobodies mentioned Ben Edwards in all this..? With Radio 5 keeping coverage hopefully that will keep James Allen off screen buy Ben and DC make a good team especially as the “best” combo of DC and MB is highly unlikley…

    The other potential worry though is isnt C4 government (part?) funded so potentially after a year or so we non-sky/bt subscribers have to go through this all again when C4 have to start making savings…groan…..

  13. I’d be very happy to see Jake stay with BT (in other words, out of F1). I think he was a lack-lustre link man, whereas Suzi Perry has proved very effective in the role. She certainly seems to have a greater grasp of and enthusiasm for motor-racing from her background around the bikes than Jake did, even after two years in the job!
    EJ I could handle for a little longer, though perhaps Ross Brawn could be an interesting alternative when EJ is unavailable.
    I’d prefer Gary Anderson to Alan McNish. I sometimes got a feeling of underlying anger with Alan … no idea why.
    Not a fan of Ben Edwards, though. Perhaps bringing back James Allen would be better?
    Anyway, having Whisper Films doing coverage for C4 seems a silver lining to the cloud.

    1. Complete opposite for me, Humphrey I felt was highly adept and smooth at handling the live broadcasts and keeping the ship steady. His lack of obvious immediate knowledge was heavily criticized when he was first announced (even though he clearly knew the sport). His professionalism was excellent, and in the pressure moments he was an eloquent ‘filler’ and ‘link man’ whereas Perry always seems to be barely hanging on and nervous during live broadcasts to me.

      To be fair, I rate Simon Lazenby in this mould, he’s a good operator, but as has been mentioned by others – the panel he was to work with (brundle, davidson and chandhok aside) spout some absolute drivel.
      I kinda felt Sky missed a trick not having georgie thompson as the outright presenter from the outset in 2012 in terms of making a bold, new call with a female presenter.

      McNish is decent but too similar to Coulthard and no new angle.

      Been watching old videos of early ITV coverage and actually Tony Jardine is very good to listen to, nothing necessarily exciting, but much easier on the ears than the incoherent ineloquence of the likes of Johnny Herbert or Mark Blundell. Sports broadcasting is getting obsessed with the idea of having ex-pro’s as pundits… yes occasionally you find some gems but i’d much rather have able broadcasters and experts who can perform a proper duty to an audience.

      Another notable point is how effective Anderson’s (and to a similar extent Kravitz’s notebook musings) scribbles and drawings on a clipboard were – they were infinitely more appealing than the over the top sky pad. Though i feel C4 may not be interested and Anderson himself may also be done with the travelling etc.

      1. I found Jake H quite aloof, condescending and almost disrespectful to some of those interviewed and sometimes the pundits as well.
        That definitely didn’t go down too well with some of the top brass on the inside!

        Susie doesn’t seem all that comfortable in the role to be honest.
        Steve Rider was great, that’s who you call a professional but accepted we probably need a fresher face these days.

        Your mention of Jardine is interesting in itself as I got the general impression that he and Mega Blundell were considered to be hugely underwhelming back then…

        I do kind of get the point re McNish ‘anger’ though, he does seem to feel the need to compete with DC…. They have known eacch other since they were kida, but I’m sure there’s underlying needle that it all worked out for DC in F1 and not for Allan!

        I think a line up of Ben Edwards, DC, McNish or Davidson, Tom Clarkson, plus AN other ex Management and AN other anchor would be good.

  14. I can just about live with EJ but Suzy Perry brought nothing to F1, in my opinion. Lee McKenzie would’ve been a better choice – I hope she is still in the team.

    I thought Jake, DC and EJ worked well together – it’s a pity we can’t return to that setup.

  15. Great news that will be continuing on C4, as regards the others I’ll put up with those they fling at us, as I am not getting Sky. However do think Suzi was much improved in 2015 and the presentation really worked. Chances are anyone new to the role needs a period to bed in, get to know the teams, drivers, managers etc so if they C4 have someone new there’s bound to be criticism!

  16. There may be some conflict of interest if DC carries on doing commentary since if whisper films are making or are planning to make films about companies involved with F1 they may not wish to say anything critical or controversial about them. Further, I wonder if this kind of reasoning is behind DC’s somewhat non-controversial stance over the last few seasons. James Hunt used to say what he really thought. Nothing is what it seems, it seems 🙂

  17. Depending on which headline you read – or, perhaps, misread – It could be thought that DC might take on more than just a co- presenter, or co-commentator role. It would fit in with what I see as his enthusiasm for doing as much as he can for him to front the whole thing. I’m a big admirer, but I’m not sure how I would view that.

  18. With Wilkin, Patel, Coulthard and maybe Humphrey C4 should provide very good F1 coverage. I’m sorry to see F1 go from the BBC (again). Its not their fault, its a direct result of the government freezing the TV licence fee and making them take over the expense of providing free licences to pensioners.

    1. The BBC would love us all to believe losing F1 was a direct result of government pressure on the licence fee, but the reality is more likely the opposite. They have no downside to cutting F1. It’s comparably expensive and culling it is masked behind a ripple of negative opinion blaming the government. Quite helpful before the real conversations about the BBC charter and funding begin. On the other side of the coin though, Channel 4 would be fools not to throw everything they can at making F1 a success, even as a loss leader, to prove that you can produce quality programming without getting huge public subsidy in the form of the licence fee. There’s a three way game of chess going on between government, BBC and commercial broadcasters and F1 is just one of the pawns.

  19. Please humor a question: I live in the U.S., is Channel 4 a free, over-the -air station? do they offer web streaming of the races ala BBC iPlayer?

      1. According to Wikipedia, Ch. 4 is a free over-the-air service. It’s also offered by the local cable in a few other countries and is available via free satellite. It’s commercially self-funded but is owned and operated by the Ch. 4 Corporation which is itself publicly owned. The Ch. 4 web site appears to offer some live streaming but I have no idea if that would include F1.

        Has Ch.4 announced whether the F1 races will be shown uninterrupted by commercials? In the U.S. the NBC Sports broadcasts have an unbearable number of commercial interruptions – I find it un-watchable. The NBC commentary is nowhere near the level offered by Sky or BBC. I think those are two major factors holding back increased interest in F1 in the U.S.

    1. Yes, it is. It has adverts (commercials) but apparently they won’t be shown during the race. They have the all 4 catch up service, which you could probably access with a UK VPN from the US.

      1. Thanks. I was able to watch the On Demand videos via a VPN/UK server but the live streaming seemed to be geo-blocked. I tried a few tricks but no luck..

  20. It’s some days now since the announcement, and because I’m interested in who will be bringing me my F1 fix this coming season I’ve been reading a goodly number of opinions on various websites and forums. I think it’s quite remarkable that, in a sport where everyone involved has both fans and viciously vociferous haters, the response to DC’s appointment has been almost unanimously positive. Something of a compliment to him.

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