NBC Sports commentator David Hobbs’ broadcasting career essentially is being forcibly ended, as ESPN has secured the rights to air Formula One races starting in 2018.
But that’s been a tough pill to swallow.
Ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hobbs said he’s upset that the switch to ESPN means he won’t get to sign off on his own terms, but he’s more bothered by the reason Liberty Media chose to sign a multi-year deal with the network, according to RACER.
“It’s a bit galling that my last show is not me retiring, but me being retired,” Hobbs said. “If ESPN or anybody had come along and outbid NBC in a rights war, and we were pushed out by a clearly superior team and deal, that would be one thing. You could say, ‘OK, I guess the best guy’s won.’ But the deal they’ve got is horrible.”
Although NBC has had a three-man team of Hobbs, Leigh Diffey and Steve Matchett call every race — apart from the United States, Monaco and Abu Dhabi — from its studio in Stamford, Conn., and only has sent pit lane reporter Will Buxton to provide on-site analysis, ESPN reportedly won’t even do that. Instead, it simply will air the F1 world feed.
“They’re not paying any rights fees, they aren’t having any studio shows so there aren’t any production costs,” Hobbs told RACER. “It’s meant to be a generic (broadcast) team from across the ocean. That is irritating, that we’re being ousted by what will be an inferior show. To be pushed out by a pathetic deal, including for the viewer, is sad.”
Hobbs expects Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to be emotional for him, given that he’s been commentating as long “as Leigh’s been alive, and Steve would have been eight when I did my first show.”