British Grand Prix bowled out by tough competition

Coverage of the British Grand Prix was squeezed on Sunday afternoon, as the Formula 1 race faced tough competition from Wimbledon and the Cricket World Cup final, overnight viewing figures show.

All overnight viewing figures exclude people watching in pubs and bars, as well as those watching via on demand platforms, such as Now TV and All 4.

Although Motorsport Broadcasting no longer has access to audience data, a number of figures have been published in the public domain, the sources for which are at the foot of this article.

Television
Live coverage of the Grand Prix averaged 1.8m (13%) on Channel 4 from 13:10 to 16:45. The figure includes their pre-race build-up and post-race reaction.

Channel 4’s coverage reached a five-minute peak of 2.8 million viewers as Lewis Hamilton won the race. The peak audience increases to 3.7 million viewers when including Sky Sports F1’s offering, resulting in a split of around 76:24 in Channel 4’s favour.

F1’s audience figures are the lowest for Silverstone since 2006, when the race started at 12:00 UK time to avoid competition from the football World Cup. Year-on-year, F1 lost around 700,000 viewers due to the increased competition.

Despite the year-on-year decrease, Channel 4’s peak audience is their highest of the year so far for F1, which is to be expected as it is the only race that the free-to-air broadcaster is airing live this season.

In contrast, an average audience of 6.0m (43%) watched Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final from 13:50 to 19:35 on BBC One.

The final peaked with a massive 10.2m (49.2%) just after 19:00 as Djokovic won the match. Whilst the Grand Prix did not beat Wimbledon head-to-head, the race itself did beat the cricket, although this was before the cricket hit its stride later in the afternoon.

A peak audience of over eight million viewers watched England’s cricket victory over New Zealand at 19:25. It was the first time a major cricket game had aired live on free-to-air television in the UK since the famous Ashes 2005 series between England and Australia.

At the time of the peak, 4.8m (23.2%) were watching Channel 4, with an additional 3.5 million viewers watching via Sky One, Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event.

Audience figures suggest that many viewers switched over with the cricket when Channel 4 moved from the cricket to the F1 at 13:10, as More 4’s airing of the cricket averaged a sizeable 936k (7.2%).

In comparison, Channel 4’s morning coverage of the cricket averaged 1.2m (16.9%) from 09:00 to 13:10, a lower audience but higher share than the F1. When Channel 4 returned to the cricket at 16:45, the remainder of their coverage averaged 2.5m (13.7%) until 20:15.

Channel 4’s CEO Alex Mahon said “I’m thrilled that a total peak audience of 8.3m watched England win the Cricket World Cup Final on Channel 4 and Sky and 3.7m viewers saw Lewis Hamilton win a record-breaking sixth British Grand Prix.”

“It’s wonderful that the whole nation can come together to share these momentous British sporting events thanks to a fantastic partnership between Channel 4 and Sky.”

Online
It was a big day for the BBC Sport website. Their live page for the Cricket World Cup final attracted 39.7 million hits, BBC’s highest of the year so far across News and Sport.

In comparison, the Wimbledon live page recorded 13.4 million hits, with the British Grand Prix live page seeing 2.5 million views.

Of course, the length of the three events plays its part (cricket lasted the best part of nine hours, whereas the Grand Prix is 90 minutes), but it shows that the Grand Prix was squeezed out badly by both the cricket and Wimbledon.

I know you cannot avoid every sporting event, but scheduling the Grand Prix against Wimbledon (again) and the Cricket World Cup final was never going to end well.

It meant that a fantastic Grand Prix was pushed off the back page, quite rightly, when on another Sunday, it may well have received many more plaudits, and higher audience figures to boot.

Of course, expecting F1 to equal major finals is a ridiculous notion, but a clear path yesterday would have allowed F1 to reach 30 to 40 percent more viewers than what they did.

Evidently, major live sport on free-to-air television is like buses. When they do turn up, they all arrive in one go. Not everyone can win, and yesterday it was F1 that lost out on the jackpot.

With only one race live on free-to-air television for each of the next five years, F1 as a collective cannot afford to waste days like yesterday.

Sources: Broadcast, Channel 4 Press, Dan Roan (BBC), Laura Lambert (Daily Mail)


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Scheduling: The 2019 British Grand Prix / New York City E-Prix

Formula 1 heads home to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix!

For the first time this season, the race airs live on free-to-air television, with Channel 4 airing live coverage of the Grand Prix. Both Channel 4 and Sky have an ensemble cast on offer for the weekend.

No restrictions in place for Channel 4
Steve Jones continues to front Channel 4’s presentation team, with Eddie Jordan, Mark Webber and David Coulthard alongside him. Lee McKenzie will be roving the pit lane, as well as providing paddock interviews, whilst Coulthard will also be alongside Ben Edwards in the commentary box.

It is worth noting that the restrictions in place for Channel 4’s highlights programming are lifted for the British Grand Prix weekend, meaning that the structure of Channel 4’s coverage will remain similar to last season.

Simon Lazenby fronts Sky’s offering, with analysts including Martin Brundle, Jenson Button and Damon Hill providing analysis. Brundle is alongside David Croft on commentary, whilst Ted Kravitz is also back with his Notebook output.

As-is now tradition for Silverstone, Sky’s F1 Show airs on Thursday afternoon, but this year the show airs live from Club corner due to the renovations currently taking place on the main start-finish straight.

The change means that there is no Welcome to the Weekend on Thursday, as The F1 Show effectively moves from Saturday into its time slot. Welcome to the Weekend moves to Wednesday under the title of Welcome to Silverstone.

As noted recently, Sky Sports have gone the extra mile in the run-up to Silverstone. During the Silverstone weekend, a special documentary will air focusing on Sir Frank Williams’ fifty years in Formula 1. The documentary premieres following the Formula Two feature race on Saturday.

In addition, Sky are also continuing with their live coverage throughout the Friday lunch break, meaning that they are live from Silverstone from 09:30 to 17:00 on Friday, a set-up this site has advocated for a long time.

Meanwhile, Channel 4 is airing a special interview segment, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff interviewing England’s football manager Gareth Southgate. The film first airs on Friday after the second practice session.

Over on 5 Live, Jack Nicholls’ commitments with Formula E mean that Formula Two commentator Alex Jacques is his super-sub for the whole of the Silverstone weekend.

Cricket World Cup set to throw a spanner in the works
There is plenty going on from both broadcasters to make Silverstone feel like a special weekend. However, the Grand Prix faces stiff competition from both the Wimbledon finals, and the Cricket World Cup final.

The Cricket World Cup final is interesting, because Sky Sports have announced that they will make the final free-to-air if England make it. And who holds the free-to-air highlights rights for the Cricket World Cup? Channel 4….

Various media outlets are reporting that Channel 4 and Sky are in talks, in the event that England make the final. Either the Grand Prix will need to be moved to More 4 or, the Cricket World Cup final will need to air on More 4 during the Grand Prix.

If England made the final and I was a betting man, I would place good money on both the F1 build-up and post-race analysis moving to More 4. Nothing is confirmed, and will not be confirmed until Thursday 11th July, when England’s semi-final takes place.

Elsewhere…
The 2018-19 Formula E season comes to its conclusion with a double-header in New York, as Jean-Eric Vergne looks set to clinch his second championship. Both races air live across BBC’s Red Button, Eurosport 2 and BT Sport 2.

Prior to the big weekend, Sky Sports F1 are airing live coverage from the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The channel usually covers two-hours of live action, but has expanded the live amount this year to three hours. The action airs this Sunday (7th July) from 14:00.

With Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E, IndyCar, the W Series, and much, much more motor sport coming up throughout July, there is plenty on offer to whet the appetite.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
12/07 – 09:55 to 11:50 – Practice 1
12/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2
13/07 – 10:55 to 12:25 – Practice 3
13/07 – 12:55 to 15:50 – Qualifying
14/07 – 12:55 13:10 to 16:45 17:30 – Race

Supplementary Programming
12/07 – 15:35 to 16:00 – Wolff meets Southgate

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
12/07 – 09:30 to 17:30
=> 09:30 – F1: Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event from 09:45)
=> 11:55 – F2: Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:45 – Paddock (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:45 – F1: Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 15:55 – F2: Qualifying
=> 16:30 – The Story so Far
=> 17:00 – F3: Qualifying Tape-Delay
13/07 – 10:30 to 12:30 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 10:30 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
13/07 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
14/07 – 12:30 to 17:30 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Paddock Live
=> 17:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
07/07 – 14:00 to 17:00 – Goodwood Festival of Speed
10/07 – 18:30 to 19:00 – Welcome to Silverstone
11/07 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
11/07 – 16:30 to 17:30 – The F1 Show
12/07 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
13/07 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Sir Frank: 50 Years in F1
17/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
11/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
12/07 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/07 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/07 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14/07 – 14:00 to 16:30 – Race Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – New York City (race 1)
Also airs live on YouTube
12/07 – 20:45 to 21:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 12:15 to 13:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 14:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 16:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 2 and Eurosport 2)
13/07 – 20:30 to 22:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport 2
=> live on Eurosport 2 from 21:00 to 22:00

Formula E – New York City (race 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
14/07 – 13:45 to 15:00 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
14/07 – 16:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 2 and Eurosport 2)
14/07 – 20:30 to 22:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport 2
=> live on Eurosport 2 from 21:00 to 22:00

Euroformula – Red Bull Ring (BT Sport/ESPN)
Also airs live on YouTube
13/07 – 14:30 to 15:45 – Race 1
14/07 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

Formula Two – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
12/07 – 11:55 to 12:45 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
12/07 – 15:50 to 16:30 – Qualifying
13/07 – 15:35 to 16:50 – Race 1
14/07 – 09:50 to 10:50 – Race 2

Formula Three – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
12/07 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Qualifying Tape-Delay
13/07 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
14/07 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Toronto (Sky Sports F1)
13/07 – 19:00 to 20:30 – Qualifying
14/07 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race

International GT Open – Red Bull Ring (BT Sport/ESPN)
Also airs live on YouTube
13/07 – 15:45 to 17:15 – Race 1
14/07 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – New York City (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 13:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying 1
13/07 – 18:45 to 20:00 – Race 1
14/07 – 12:55 to 13:40 – Qualifying 2
14/07 – 18:45 to 20:00 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
14/07 – 11:10 to 11:50 – Race

World Superbikes – Laguna Seca
Also airs live on World Superbikes‘ Video Pass (£)
13/07 – 18:45 to 19:45 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
13/07 – 22:00 to 23:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
14/07 – 18:45 to 19:45 – Qualifying Race (Eurosport 2)
14/07 – 22:00 to 23:15 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
17/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, coverage plans are subject to change back, so check back here for further adjustments.

Update on July 11th – England are in the Cricket World Cup final, having beaten Australia. Free-to-air coverge will now air live on Channel 4, but will switch to More 4 during the Grand Prix.

In my view, Channel 4 have made the right call here. England were last in the CWC final in 1992, whereas the British Grand Prix is a yearly event, so the decision to move some of the build-up and the reaction of the F1 to More 4 is a no brainer. Of course, the F1 is going to be squeezed massively on Sunday, but that is FOM’s fault on the scheduling front and not Channel 4’s or Sky’s.

Elsewhere, Claire Cottingham has confirmed that she will be part of Channel 4’s coverage this weekend, and likewise Alex Brundle has announced that he will be alongside Alex Jacques on Formula Two commentary for the feature race.

Update on July 12th – Interestingly, perhaps contractually, F1’s build-up and post-race show is not airing on More 4. Instead, Channel 4 have trimmed their F1 programming by an hour, with 15 minutes cut from the build-up and 45 minutes cut from the post-race analysis, leaving a total length of 3 hours and 35 minutes.

W Series “looking at all possibilities” for season two calendar

Organisers of the W Series are looking at all possibilities surrounding the calendar for the 2020 season.

The inaugural season has seen the all-women’s series support the DTM touring car series, an arrangement that will continue in 2020. Beyond that, W Series are hoping to expand the calendar in some way for next season. Reuters reported in May that the series could link up with Formula 1 in the future.

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting at a Whisper event last week, W Series CEO Catherine Bond-Muir said”We’ll definitely be with DTM for another six races next year.”

“We’ve not yet agreed any other races around the world, but we’re looking at America, Asia, maybe more races in Europe, we’re looking at all possibilities,” Bond Muir added.

At the half way stage of the first season, Bond-Muir is happy with how the series has gone down with fans so far. “We’ve got fantastic audience interest and engagement,” she said.

“I think we’ve knocked it out of the park, with the reach we’ve got through our television deals, we’re in over 340 million households across the world. We’ve got people watching the programming, and we know from social media people absolutely love the racing.”

“Three years ago, when we had a blank sheet of paper, I don’t everthink we could have imagined that we could have appeared in so many households in our first year.”

> Looking back at W Series’ inaugural race

“Those deals were done before we raced a car. Hopefully we can grow on that next year, when people realise what we’re producing is actually really good motor racing.”

In the UK, W Series airs live on Channel 4, whilst Whisper produce the global television feed for the series.

Commenting on the series, Whisper CEO Sunil Patel added “I’m pretty selfish when it comes to W Series. I’ve got a nine-year-old girl who’s grown up with me watching Formula 1, so have a vested interest. She knows the grid back to front, she questions me about speed limits in the pit lane, asking me what tyres Lewis is on.”

“But when I told her there’s going to be a women’s racing series, she was ecstatic, she’s been researching which drivers to follow and so on. That is a snapshot of the transformative effect that W Series is having.”

“We’re covering it, we can help build the characters,” Patel told me. “W Series is already having an impact becauseit’s helping create role models for littlegirls out there, which they didn’t have before. ”

The next round of the W Series takes place this Saturday (6th July) at the Norisring.

News round up: Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, Sky Sports ramp up preparations for their British Grand Prix coverage, whilst Formula E have won an award focussing on their television offering.

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

ICYMI: Round-Up #1 (May 13th): Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

Formula 1

  • Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that the team will feature in the Netflix’s second season of Drive to Survive, having played no part in season one. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Wolff said that Netflix will film with the team at one race this year, which will “probably be Hockenheim.”
  • Ahead of the British Grand Prix next month, Sky Sports F1 have been busy filming different features.
    • Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert have been revisiting the 1995 British Grand Prix in Sky’s own cinema. Herbert won the race after Hill collided with Michael Schumacher in the closing stages.
    • A documentary celebrating Frank Williams’ fifty years in Formula 1 will premiere following the Silverstone qualifying session. The documentary features current Sky analyst and Williams Heritage driver Karun Chandhok driving the Brabham BT26, which was entered in 1969 by Williams as a privateer. Piers Courage raced the car to second place in the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix, their first ever podium.
  • F1’s in-house digital team have filmed two excellent pieces of content in recent weeks.
    • The team gave fans a peek behind the scenes with McLaren during the Monaco qualifying session.
  • F1’s in-house digital team is now also producing the content for Formula Two and Formula Three across social media, which explains the recent surge in video content across both of those championships.
  • To help with Formula Two’s growth, Formula 1 has launched an official podcast for their feeder series. Following in the footsteps of Beyond the Grid which launched a year ago, the Road to F1 podcast sees Alex Jacques and Rosanna Tennant interview the stars of Formula Two on their way to F1.
  • W Series commentator Claire Cottingham substituted for Jennie Gow during 5 Live’s coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix. Gow will be back in pit lane for 5 Live at Silverstone.
  • Recent audience figures in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. Live coverage airs on pay-TV outlet Ziggo Sport, and according to audience agency SKO
    • The Monaco Grand Prix averaged 547k (34.3%) for the pre-race build-up, 1.24m (46.1%) for the race itself and 637k (22.8%) for the post-race analysis.
    • In comparison, coverage of the French Grand Prix averaged 396k (26.5%), 824k (40.9%) and 357k (19.8%) respectively.
    • Max Verstappen’s dramatic victory in Austria averaged 479k (29.1%), 1.20m (49.5%) and 878k (36.9%).
    • France rated lower across all metrics. Austria rated lower than Monaco for both the pre-race build-up and race, noticeably closing the gap for the latter. Amazingly, Verstappen’s victory meant that the post-race segment for Austria rated higher than the French Grand Prix itself!
  • ESPN in the US continue to tout their own F1 audience figures. Live coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix attracted 1.1 million viewers on ABC, an increase of 17 percent on last year’s figure.

Formula E

  • Formula E TV won the ‘Best in Sports Media’ prize in 2019 Sports Business Awards. Formula E fought off competition from the likes of BBC Sport and the PGA European Tour to win the category.
    • The SBA said that Formula E’s television content “creates jeopardy, develops character and narrative throughout, uses technology and innovation to create a point of differentiation, and educates consumers about electric mobility while giving global manufacturers a platform to test and develop road-relevant technologies.”
  • The BBC’s technology programme Click went to Berlin at the end of May to find out more about the innovations driving the electric series (link).
  • On the social media side, Formula E’s team have been busy linking the championship in with popular culture. Heading into the Bern E-Prix, Formula E put their own spin on Crash Team Racing across their social channels.

Elsewhere…

  • IndyStar posted in the run up to the Indianapolis 500 an excellent behind the scenes look at NBC’s IndyCar coverage. The article is well worth a read, even if a little late noting on my behalf.
  • According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, an audience of 1.10 million viewers watched the IndyCar Grand Prix at Road America on NBC in the US, their highest IndyCar audience on record outside of the Indianapolis 500.
  • The remainder of the 2019 VLN Series will air live on Lets Go Racing’s YouTube channel. The channel, which also airs the Japanese Super Formula championship, was founded following the demise of Nismo TV at the end of last season.
  • Fans of the British Superbike championship in the US and Canada can now watch the championship live via MotorTrend On Demand platform.
  • A trailer for the new Ford versus Ferrari film was released last month ahead of its theatrical release in November. The film, which starts Matt Damon and Christian Bale, focuses on Ford’s attempts to beat Ferrari in the run up to the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. For UK readers, the film will premiere under the title of Le Mans ’66.
  • The Le Mans Esports Series generated some big numbers across digital media during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend. Ben Rossiter-Turner, the Managing Director of Virtually Entertained, gave readers a behind the scenes look at the series on his LinkedIn page.
  • In today’s unusual mention, Channel 4 Weather is now sponsored by W Series.

Spot any stories making the rounds worth mentioning? Drop a line in the comments section.

Whisper diversifies with creation of The Whisper Group

The production company behind Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage have announced that they are diversifying into new areas.

Whisper Films, whose current sports portfolio includes the W Series, Sail GP and F1, will simply be known as Whisper moving forward.

As part of the diversification effort a new brand, The Whisper Group, will oversee the complete portfolio. The group aims to move beyond sport into other areas, such as entertainment and factual.

Alongside Whisper sits Whisper Wales (based in Cardiff) and Whisper West (based in Maidenhead). The wider group have also partnered with graphics agency Chapter 3 Graphics and entertainment arm East Media.

Sunil Patel, Jake Humphrey, and David Coulthard created Whisper Films nine years ago, the trio and the rest of the Whisper family marking the expansion with an event in BT Tower, where their new branding was unveiled.

Speaking to me at the event, Patel explained the reasoning for the change. “For too long, I believe sports production companies have been penned in as ‘one trick ponies’. I believe there is so much talent in the sports genre, which we can port over to other genres,” Patel said.

“We believe that we should be a destination for the best talent in the industry. One day they could be doing sport, next day they could be doing factual entertainment, specialist factual, design. It’s about creating a home for people to move around in.”

Whisper have several original projects in the works, whilst a variety of non-factual documentaries, such as Fergie versus Wenger and Klopp versus Poch, have played out on Channel 4 and Channel 5 recently.

Channel 4 F1 platform has “helped us belong”
Patel reflected on Whisper’s coverage of Formula 1 for Channel 4, which they have been producing since the start of 2016.

“Channel 4 Formula 1 has helped us belong,” Patel said. “There’s no better showcase than Formula 1 every other weekend. Everyone looks at that, and that’s a showcase of our work, we own the moment.”

“Our creativity is at the forefront, it’s constantly being looked at and analysed, by people like yourself pulling it apart, for the right reasons.”

“You can do the best pitch in the world when you’re trying to win new business but, there’s nothing better than what you’re doing, because that’s the showcase.”

Patel, who told me that Whisper remain committed to the sporting arena moving forward, is comfortable with the risk taken.

“It is a calculated risk. What we’re not doing is moving myself into entertainment, or Mark Cole [ex BBC Sport, now Head of Television at Whisper] into entertainment,” he said. “We’re bringing in people who know that field.”

“Our Chief Operating Officer Julie Porter used to run Strictly Come Dancing, and has a huge entertainment background. She had the choice of going to The Voice when it first launched, sticking with Strictly or coming to Whisper when we were nothing, before even one of our first big gigs, producing DTM on ITV4 in 2011, had aired.”

“Julie made that jump over to us. We’ve got lots of people who know that field, and we can turbo charge that with our energy, our passion, our desire to be the best we can be.”

The core underlying message from Whisper last night was that the last nine years formed chapter one of the Whisper journey.

Chapter two, which begins now, will see The Whisper Group embark on a much bigger journey beyond the sporting landscape.