Bernie Ecclestone - F1 ringmaster and supremoBernie Ecclestone, Formula One’s “ringmaster” as he is often described, has stated that the sport which is meant to be at the cutting edge of technological development is finally going to catch up with football and the rest of the sporting world by offering their broadcasts in high-definition later in the year.

It’s not strictly fair to portray Bernie as being behind the game, as he actually was one of the first to instigate the multi-camera angle broadcast idea a few years ago when there was a subscription channel dedicated to the F1 races - in fact he was a bit too ahead of the game there and the technology seemed to confuse viewers and the subscribers dwindled as a result.

Now that Sky and the BBC have paved the way by introducing a wider audience to interactive TV via Sky’s interactive services and BBCi, then the time would appear right for Bernie and F1 to return to this more flexible way of broadcasting.

So far, however, ITV haven’t made any visible plans to move towards providing an HD service - both Sky and BBC now broadcast programmes on their “normal” channels as well as dedicated HD channels for viewers with the necessary equipment. This page on their website explains that there have been trials for broadcasting in HD, but neglects to state their current position, but surely if all their competitors are moving into this area then they can’t afford not to follow suit.

This poses the question that when the HD television feed becomes available will ITV be able to support it and thereby allow viewers to watch the races in high-definition?

As things stand it doesn’t look like they will, which will cause more annoyance amongst viewers - some of whom already voice their dissatisfaction with ITV’s broadcasts on various blogs and forums as it is.

One possible outcome which is discussed on F1Fanatic.co.uk, is the idea that Setanta could take over the HD side of things from ITV - paying them for the priviledge but then charging viewers a subscription fee to claim this back, and more no doubt.

It’s an interesting theory, but I’m not sure it will come into practice. Bernie will no doubt be pulling the strings behind the scenes as always, and probably announced the move to HD in advance in order to allow the existing broadcast rights holders time to sort themselves out. If ITV let him down on that front then Bernie will be sure to remember that when the time comes to agree a new deal after 2010, and as the BBC found out to their cost, he doesn’t let sentimentality come in the way of a good business deal.

I hope ITV do have in place a dedicated HD channel by the time F1’s HD feed comes around, if only to avoid having to pay extra to see the races - though I will if I have to, in order to get the best viewing experience.

Hopefully along with the option of choosing your camera angles etc, it will also come with a choice of commentators as well…