Eugene Laverty - WSBK Phillip Island 2013

[Disclaimer: This post may contain spoilers for Round 1 of the 2013 WSBK and WSSK Championships from Phillip Island, which took place 22-24 February 2013. Any such spoilers will be posted after the jump, so you can safely scroll down this main page without fear of race spoilers if you haven’t watched it yet. Also, this post heaps loads of praise on beINSPORT. The author is in no way affiliated with beINSPORT, and has not received any sort of compensation for this post. The author is simply a motorsports fan giving an honest opinion.]

For world motorsport fans in the U.S., the name of the game for quite a few years was SPEED.

But for 2013, SPEED decided to make some changes. They’re no longer showing F1; instead, it has been picked up by NBC Sports (which thankfully kept most of the commentary team we’d been enjoying for several seasons on SPEED).

Then it announced that it was dropping WSBK and WSSK coverage just a few scant weeks before the 22-24 February season opener at Phillip Island in Australia. WSBK fans here were frantic. Yes, there will always be a contingent of fans around the world who are content to watch races (legally or otherwise) online. But dammit, we have an HD TV. It’s really nice to be able to watch stuff like this on it.

Enter beINSPORT USA.

If you’re a premiere-league soccer (or football, outside the U.S.) fan, you probably already know about beINSPORT. I’m not, so I didn’t. We ended up having to change subscription plans with our satellite provider to get it. But their HD broadcasts are simply stunning. (I’m wondering if I shouldn’t start watching football, seriously. They’re that pretty. But where would I find time?)

Watching the first race of the 2013 WSBK season on beINSPORT has been the absolute best racing broadcast I’ve ever seen here — in any series. Why? Follow the jump for a full explanation in excruciating detail. And race spoilers. (See, I’ve warned you twice. You have no excuse if you read spoilers and are upset about it. 😉 )

  • beINSPORT uses WSBK’s world feed coverage.

This means that we get meaningful commentary from knowledgeable announcers  Jonathan Green and Steve Martin. Granted, SPEED used world feed coverage as well. But beINSPORT doesn’t insist on adding a local commentator to offer ill-informed and seemingly clueless (and sometimes just plain wrong) interjections when we’re going to or coming back from breaks, which SPEED did all the time with MotoGP.

Note: I actually can’t recall them doing this with WSBK — they probably didn’t think it was important enough to mess with, or something. (MotoGP may be regarded as the top tier of motorcycle racing in the world, but in my opinion, WSBK has offered a far better racing spectacle for fans in the past few years.)

  • beINSPORT airs entire races LIVE — with no breaks.

You read that correctly. Live. With NO breaks. No more endless commercials for Royal Purple and Pep Boys and sexy chat lines because SPEED decided to air WSBK coverage overnight, four days after the actual race. And yes, I know — if you have a DVR, commercials are less annoying than they are if you watch live.

The biggest problem that I and most fans have had with the way SPEED used to broadcast these races is that, even though they weren’t airing them live, it seemed like they genuinely did not care when or where they stuck their commercial breaks into the broadcast. That often meant that just as the racing was getting good, and a heated battle was happening on track between two, three, or sometimes even FOUR riders, SPEED would suddenly and inexplicably go to a commercial break!

If they were at least airing those races LIVE, there’d be some excuse. I know that ads are how they make money. I get that. But with races that they’d pre-recorded, and allegedly being a station that is ALL ABOUT motorsports, you’d think they’d stick the commercial breaks in at better moments. You know, because you’d think that they’d be paying attention to what was actually happening during the broadcast.

Instead, the most heartbreaking thing SPEED’s broadcasts of WSBK and WSSK always had was this: you could absolutely count on them to go to a break whenever something important was happening on track.

This is, very thankfully, not a problem that beINSPORT has. All the on-track position swapping yesterday between Guinters, Laverty, Sykes, Melandri, Davies, and others? The only times we weren’t seeing it were when we had the audacity to blink. Checa and Melandri’s unfortunate racing incident in Race One? Saw all of it, and every subsequent replay as well. If SPEED had been airing this race, you can bet that’s when they would have gone to a commercial.

  • beINSPORT actually gives us pre-race, post-race, and podium coverage — in addition to the post-race press conference.

We NEVER got anything but the race (and probably about half of each race, if you sat down and tallied up all the commercial breaks) and the post-race press conference before. Ever. Apparently WSBK and WSSK just weren’t important enough on a DEDICATED MOTORSPORTS CHANNEL to give us those things.

As a motorsports fan, this stuff is fun. With good commentators, you can sometimes get some really useful and interesting information about these sports that you love watching. SPEED never thought it was important enough to let us see these things, even though they presumably had paid the licensing fees to have this footage. Why not air it if you’ve already paid for it, SPEED? Guess it doesn’t matter now.

In the post-race coverage as aired on beINSPORT, we actually got to see just how close Eugene Laverty and Michele Fabrizio were coming across the line in Race One. We got a head-on replay of them crossing the line; during the race, of course, the camera angle we were being shown was shooting from the side of the track. Have you ever tried to visualize just what a mere .007 of a second looks like? That was the gap between the two, and I’d posit that it’s impossible to really wrap your brain around a finish that close unless you actually get to see it. Thank you, beINSPORT, for having the decency to let us see it.

  • It’s early to tell, but the announcer from The Express (beINSPORT’s dedicated sports news and analysis show) announced THREE dates for the next WSBK/WSSK round at Motorland Aragón from 12-14 April 2013.

It’s uncertain whether she announced the entire weekend because that’s the entirety of the actual race weekend, or because beINSPORT plans to broadcast all three days: practice, qualifying, and race day. I’m hoping it’s the latter.

  • beINSPORT’s glorious HD broadcast is glorious.

Not sure if it’s a bandwidth issue or what, but like most motorsports fans with an HD TV who get SPEED, we were excited when SPEED HD was announced. It does look nicer than standard def, of course. But beINSPORT’s HD broadcast is so much crisper, clearer, and more vivid. Colors seriously pop.

In conclusion, watching beINSPORT’s WSBK and WSSK coverage actually made us giddy with motorsports euphoria. I honestly believe that it’s the best possible broadcast you can watch without actually being at these races yourself. Also, that extra money for the upgraded subscription package to get this station is a lot less than plane, hotel, and race tickets to even one event.

(P.S. SPEED hasn’t made any announcements yet about the 2013 MotoGP championship — or any of its other motorcycle racing. While I doubt beINSPORT would pick up the AMA championships since their focus is fairly international, I for one would LOVE to see them pick up MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 — just to have that out there in the universe. 😉 )