ESPN is apologizing for technical issues that plagued the beginning of its debut as the U.S. provider of Formula 1 broadcast coverage.
U.S. fans who tuned in to watch the “On the Grid” prerace show on ESPN2 found the Sky Sports feed – which ESPN is using for its coverage – was missing audio. The network switched to alternate programming and took several minutes to update its Bottom Line explaining its technical difficulties.
“We deeply apologize to Formula 1 fans for the technical issues that caused them to miss the first 20 minutes of the pre-race show for the Australian Grand Prix,” ESPN said in a statement released Sunday. “We are sorry that our first F1 telecast did not go as smoothly as we would have liked but we are taking steps to prevent those same issues from occurring in the future. We thank the fans for watching and for their incredible passion for Formula 1.”
It appeared to be ESPN’s second snafu of the weekend, as the network publicized a 10 p.m. ET broadcast time for the third practice session on Friday, almost an hour earlier than it actually aired.
In addition to the missing audio, viewers were upset with abrupt in-race commercial cutaways that missed at least one restart and a pivotal moment in the race when both Haas cars were forced to retire.
F1 itself had growing pains with this graphic, broadcast on the world feed:
— Giedo van der Garde (@GvanderGarde) March 25, 2018
— Chris Medland (@ChrisMedlandF1) March 25, 2018
Under ESPN’s multi-year linear and digital partnership, all 21 F1 races will air live on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. More than 125 hours of Formula 1 programming, including all practice sessions, qualifying and races, will be shown live and in replay across ESPN platforms in 2018.