Channel 4 may not have been the dark horse many believe in the race to secure the UK’s F1 broadcasting abandoned by the BBC. In August this year, they invested part of their ‘growth fund’ in a company called ‘Whisper Films’, which is a dynamic sports production company.
Whisper films was established in 2010 by Sunil Patel, David Coulthard and Jake Humphrey and whilst the connection with F1 is obvious for the latter two, Sunil Patel has a most interesting background. He was previously a producer for BBC sport and was a key individual in their BAFTA winning Formula One production following the beeb’s acquisition of the broadcasting rights from ITV.
Patel has also worked with SKY and IMG and produced the RTS award winning coverage of the Euro 2008 football tournament.
At the time of the C4 investment into Whisper Films, David Abraham, Chief Executive at Channel 4 said: “Sports production is an important part of the industry and I’m excited that we’re making our first Growth Fund investment in this area. Whisper is a highly creative and well connected company that makes incredibly high end sports programming through its branded content division. We’re looking forward to working with Sunil, David and Jake to help them continue to grow their business as they develop their ambitions to move into TV production.”
Channel 4 also commented on their delight at capturing the experience of the Whisper three. “The trio are a close creative team and bring the wealth of their experience from their different fields within the industry to all their productions”.
Many F1 fans in the UK, mourned the loss of Humphrey when he quit the BBC Formula One presentation team, and the production since has never reached the award winning heights of the Humphrey and Patel era.
Jake Humphrey left the BBC to front BT Sport’s football coverage and around the same time he and his wife had their first child. F1 fans of Humphrey may be disappointed if they think he’ll return to full time Formula One presenting for Channel 4, though the innovation style he and Patel brought to the BBC’s F1 broadcasting may well surface once more.
One thing looks to be certain; the dulcet tones of David Coulthard’s F1 analysis are set to pervade the airwaves in the UK, for at least three more years.
Further, when the BBC approached Ecclestone in August to renegotiate their F1 broadcasting contract, who is to say they weren’t already in cahoots with Channel 4. And even if the BBC still contribute £10 million a year to C4’s Formula One production/broadcasting fee to FOM, they have achieved their objective of slashing around £25 million a year from their sports production costs.
This then puts into context the repeated Ecclestone bluster, that he could force the BBC into fulfilling their remaining three years contract with Formula One. Auntie’s ace in the hand was the threat to invest almost zero in F1 production should Ecclestone insist on the contract being fulfilled.