Hobbs on F1’s move from Speed to NBC

As there is no such thing as a brief conversation with David Hobbs, I found myself with way more than I could use from our chat Thursday afternoon regarding Formula One, the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, and the move of coverage from Fox and Speed to the NBC family next year.

On NBC: (The network secured the rights last month and announced Hobbs would join Leigh Diffey and Steve Matchett on broadcasts)

I think the change to NBC will be another hopefully brick in the wall of trying to cement Formula One in this country. From what they’ve said to me they’ve really gone all out. They’re going to make a bigger show of it than Fox did the last few years. I think we’ve been kind of definitely suffering from being second-tier to NASCAR; all their real interest is in NASCAR, and I don’t think they were just outbid, I think they were outbid on purpose. I don’t think they particularly wanted it. They overspent big time on baseball and NASCAR and they need all the programming they can get to try and recoup some money with advertising. Speed channel will go away at the end of next year. It will be Fox Sports One. And there will be no Speed channel.

I spoke to the NBC bigwigs in New York about 10 days ago and they seem very pumped. They’ve talked about doing more shows and a lot more promotion. It always disappointed me with Fox. They never promoted our Formula One races on Fox whereas we all throughout Formula One shows promoted other sports on Fox, especially NASCAR. So I think that will be good. Obviously they’ll be here next year and make sure this is a big event. They’re going to go to Canada live, so that will be a big event. We may do Monte Carlo, and they might do one other like Monza or some other race. And I think they’re going to make every effort to really grow the sport.

They’re really excited about doing Formula One. I spoke to their top man, Jon Miller, last week. He just popped in the office while I was there. And he did the negotiations with Bernie when they were over there in London for the Olympics. They seem to be very excited in what they say and I think we’re going to have a lot of positives for Formula One in the States. They seem to be very keen on having me and Steve back. Bob Varsha can’t come with us; he’s got a contract at Fox. Leigh Diffey, who does a lot of work, obviously, is going to be the play-by-play. It should be a pretty strong team. With one if not two races in this country, NBC are going to milk that for all they’re worth. They’ll make sure those races are going to be something. And they may well help with Bernie negotiating a different date. It’s not a good idea to go up against the last NASCAR race of the year.

On not working with Varsha:

I’ve worked with Bob now for . . . he and I did Formula One together on ESPN first and I moved to Speed and he followed me. So yes. I’ve worked with Leigh quite a lot. I like working with Leigh. But yeah, I’ll miss Bob. I don’t know how many races we’ve done but it’d have to be hundreds, I’m sure. I’ll miss him, but of course you know things change, the world goes on . . . all the old clichés.

When I heard the news I thought for sure NBC would have their own coterie of commentators. You know, young, spiky-haired kids. But no, they got hold of me straightaway. I was to say the least extremely pleased.

On pit reporter Will Buxton, who was not part of Thursday's announcement:

I did a big selling job for Will when I was at NBC, and they didn’t not like him, they just weren’t sure. But our old (executive) producer, Frank Wilson, should be able to lobby pretty hard and the executive producer for NBC is going to be here tonight and tomorrow. And of course I’m going to miss him because I’m going back to Charlotte. But Will will be here and I think he’s going to see Will tomorrow. I hope Will comes. He’s really good. I like Will. JSOnline

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