Site announcement: out with the old, in with the new

Hi all,

As many of you know, I have been running The F1 Broadcasting Blog for nearly seven years. The site has generated attention inside and outside of motor racing paddocks, both domestically and internationally.

In that time, the site has covered major stories in the motor sport media landscape, and has revealed some exclusives too. In the capacity of site editor, I have attended events on two wheels and four wheels, as well as the launch of Channel 4’s F1 coverage and the Autosport Show, amongst other events.

At those events, it has been a pleasure to hear people who I enjoy watching and respect, say how they enjoy reading my thoughts and opinions, and that this site is their place to go for broadcasting news. I run this site myself alongside my day job, there is no large group of people or backing behind the site, and I have been amazed at the growth it has had over the seven years.

I initially named the site The F1 Broadcasting Blog, as Formula 1 was, and still is, the focus. However, in recent years, I have focused increasingly on the broadcasting efforts of other championships, including the likes of Formula E, MotoGP, and the World Rally Championship.

Because of the effort from myself to diversify into different areas, it means that the original name of the site is, perhaps, no longer the most accurate. On the eve of the 2019 season, I have taken the opportunity to rebrand the site to better reflect the content that I write.

Moving forward, the site will be known as Motorsport Broadcasting, located at https://www.motorsportbroadcasting.com/.

The website content will not change, with an emphasis on behind the scenes content, news, scheduling, viewing figures, television rights, social media; spanning across the motor sport spectrum. For the moment, the Facebook and Twitter handles will remain in the same case, but the intention in the medium to longer term is to change these.

It has not been an easy decision to re-brand the site, but I feel that now is as good a time as any, ahead of the new season, rather than performing a re-brand half way through the season. I am hopeful the site will continue to lead the way on reporting the broadcasting stories that matter to fans of this wonderful sport.

Thanks,
Dave
Owner and Editor of Motorsport Broadcasting

Sky launches blockbuster F1 trailer and ‘best-ever offer’ ahead of 2019 season

Sky Sports has unveiled a blockbuster trailer ahead of the 2019 Formula One season, whilst also announcing their ‘best-ever offer’ for fans to watch the sport.

Fans who wish to subscribe to Sky’s services can add Sky Sports F1 to their television package for £10.00 a month. The deal, which is available from March 1st onwards, comes with a two-year price guarantee, but it is unknown as of writing whether Virgin Media customers can access the deal via their platform.

Including Sky’s mandatory basic Entertainment pack, it means that fans must pay a minimum of £32.00 a month to watch Sky Sports F1 with Sky in 2019. Sky’s press release does not explicitly reference new or existing subscribers, I assume all Sky customers can take up the deal.

Last year, the cheapest tier that Sky offered for Sky Sports F1 totalled £38.00 a month (£20.00 for the Entertainment pack back, plus £18.00 for one Sky Sports channel), so by entering a new contract with Sky, fans could see their payments reduce by £6.00 a month, or £72.00 across the whole year.

The big selling point of the Sky deal is ‘F1 for a tenner’, as it was back at the end of 2011 when Sky first joined the fray. As always the viewing figures for the first few races will give a clearer indicator as to whether Sky’s deal has worked.

Keep an eye on this site in March for a detailed summary of the different pricing options for viewing F1 in 2019.

Blockbuster trailer to kick start Sky’s F1 2019 promotion
In addition, the broadcaster has launched a blockbuster trailer highlighting Formula 1’s history over the years. In my opinion it is by far Sky’s best F1 trailer to date.

  • Pioneers pushed the boundaries.
  • Technology gave us speed.
  • Rivalries gave us drama.
  • Television brought us closer.
  • We gave it a home.
  • Here’s to a new chapter.

There are six segments to the film, taking the viewer through the generations, covering the sport’s biggest successes on track, from James Hunt, to Damon Hill and onto Sebastian Vettel. It is arguably one of the best television trailers ever produced for the sport, in my view, with a level of detail rarely seen elsewhere.

The trailer is extremely respectful to the individual eras, closely matching the reality at that point of time, making the viewer feel like they are in that moment. The last half of the promo focuses on Sky’s present-day activities, with a nod to their 2012 branding also present.

Understood to have cost around £750,000 to produce, Sky filmed the promo in Warner Bros. Studios at the end of January. Most importantly for me, it is a super cool trailer, executed perfectly.

The Chain in, Just Drive out?
One of the biggest surprises though is the inclusion of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain as the soundtrack, more surprising considering the song has been synonymous with the BBC’s and Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage over the years.

It is unclear if The Chain is a permanent replacement for Alistair Griffin’s Just Drive, which has been Sky’s signature theme for Formula 1 since 2012. In my view it makes little sense to use The Chain for promotional material, only to revert to Just Drive for the main show itself. I understand it is also up in the air whether Channel 4 plan to continue using The Chain as part of their coverage this year as well.

The trailer features many of Sky’s F1 personnel on offer for the 2019 season, although key players Anthony Davidson and Ted Kravitz were both absent from the trailer. Further information on their status with the team is imminent. As previously revealed, Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button are both joining Sky for the upcoming season.

Sky UK and Ireland Chief Executive Officer Stephen van Rooyen said “Seven years ago we rewrote the rules and created a dedicated channel for F1, pushing the boundaries of sports broadcasting. Each year we challenge ourselves to go further and this year will be a whole new chapter.”

“We are extremely proud to partner with F1, honouring the history and traditions of this great sport, whilst also taking fans even closer to the track and share our excitement for the future.”

Advertisements

A step too far? Reviewing live F1 testing

Testing is, by its very nature, boring.

No matter which way you gloss over it, testing is boring. During testing, Formula 1 teams run their own programmes, with varying strategies, tyre choices, fuel loads, engine settings, which makes it difficult to analyse instantly.

Yet, fans clamour for live testing coverage, and I hold my hands up, that includes me too! February comes around, the tweets amplify, we get excited in anticipation for another season of racing, but the earliest we get to see live action over the airwaves is in the middle of March for Australia.

That was until this past week, when Formula 1 for the first time aired the entirety of the first pre-season test live on their over-the-top platform as a one-off experiment. How did the coverage look, and are we likely to see it return?

Data gathering exercise for Formula 1
From the outset, the rationale for producing a World Feed for the first test from Formula 1 and Liberty Media was to gather user data, informing future decision-making around testing heading into 2020. F1 never produced a World Feed for testing while the sport was under the custodian of Bernie Ecclestone and CVC.

This week, F1 has gathered a significant amount of data from users accessing F1 TV’s premium tier: how long each user accessed and watched testing for, what parts of the day were more popular than others, and most importantly how many watched, amongst many other artefacts.

Of course, like many data gathering exercises, this exercise is incomplete, given that F1 TV Pro is geo-blocked in some territories. The fact that testing ran from Monday to Thursday instead of say, Thursday to Sunday was another downside, with lower metrics mid-week compared to a weekend slot.

In addition, Sky Sports opted out of broadcasting the morning session in the UK and Italy, an odd decision considering that is when the fastest times are set. Had F1 in a parallel universe streamed testing live on YouTube, the metrics would be significantly different.

But, as insiders closer to the scene pointed out, the exact wording of each broadcasting contract may prevent that from happening, depending on the language used (for example ‘event’ or ‘race weekend’). And live testing is not worth wrangling with a broadcaster over for what is essentially an add-on.

F1 TV Pro and Sky was what fans got, but it in the very least provides Formula 1 with a baseline to work with, which they can model and extrapolate against to try to work out how many viewers testing could get if streamed live, partial or in full, on social media. Live testing could live or die based on the metrics from this past week.

Slimmed down production on offer
F1 and Sky Sports worked together on the daily ten-hour offering, providing a hybrid offering on and off-screen. Whilst F1 provided the graphics and track side cameras, Sky provided interviews from the paddock via Sky Sports News reporter Craig Slater, the latter at the test regardless of F1’s own offering, so made logistical sense.

Sky brought most of their team to the test, including Simon Lazenby, Karun Chandhok, Johnny Herbert, and David Croft, with Rosanna Tennant, Will Buxton, Tom Clarkson and Alex Jacques playing their part from FOM’s in-house team.

The World Feed output was slimmer than a normal race weekend. F1 were never going to take the full ‘bells and whistles’ product of a race weekend, but what they did was generally good, even if it was unclear why the director was following a specific car from time-to-time.

There were fewer track side cameras, and no live on-board footage on offer, the latter not a huge surprise in the secretive testing environment, although the F1 production team did play delayed on-boards into the broadcast each day.

The lack of timing graphics on display however made the coverage less engaging, and was by far the biggest flaw of F1’s testing experiment. Static times for individual drivers appeared on-screen after each lap, but other timing information, such as the timing tower was noticeably absent, despite this data being available elsewhere for free.

Most of the commentary was discussion based and unrelated to the on-track action, which was fine to a degree, but given the fact that F1 were covering the whole test live, the coverage would have benefited from having additional on-screen information to help paint the overall picture. When Sky covered testing live in 2013 as part of their 3D experiment, their bespoke graphics set displayed some live timing data.

Having graphics displayed on-screen to show that driver X was on lap Y of a run would have been extremely helpful to both the commentators and the viewers watching, keeping fans engaged for longer and crucially for F1 from a data gathering perspective, reduce the bounce rate.

Who was present… and who was absent?
Ignoring the timing gripe, the commentary itself was excellent with a variety of voices on offer throughout, helping to keep the coverage fresh.

There was nice, free-flowing, sometimes irrelevant, discussion on many topics aided by #AskCrofty during the first two days, including F1 in 2021, an in-depth team by team outlook on the season ahead, and the impact Brexit will have on F1 (admittedly a topic that ruffled a few feathers, but an important conversation nevertheless).

The hybrid setup between F1 and Sky resulted in some unique commentary trios, with Buxton, Chandhok and Croft in the box at the same time on Monday afternoon, a real treat for fans who never have previously had these three voices together in the same broadcast.

From the outset, hearing Chandhok talk eloquently about a range of topics in detail during his stints on-air, it is clear to me that he is going to be a huge addition to Sky’s F1 team this year, bringing a vast array of knowledge and experience to the table.

A surprise standout for me also was Lazenby. Traditionally Sky’s lead Formula 1 presenter, Lazenby made his commentary box debut on Tuesday afternoon. Fans saw Lazenby in a different light to usual in the box, and if the opportunity arose, I would not mind hearing him as a guest in the box during a practice session this season.

Jacques and Buxton from the F1 digital side put in marathon shifts in the commentary box across the four days, with many anecdotes and tales to tell. Their efforts, as well as those working behind the scenes on the whole operation, I should applaud.

The end of day wrap-up shows had a Sky feel to it, with only Sky on-air personnel involved. If you watched the entire day of coverage until that point, some of the discussion felt recycled. On the other hand, if you opted out of the on-track action, there is an argument to suggest that the wrap-up show as a standalone offering was inferior to last year’s digestible, but short, round-up that Sky offered.

A major absentee on-screen was Ted Kravitz, with no reference to him throughout Sky’s coverage. Normally at this stage, Kravitz is on-air with his trademark Notebook programme as well as Development Corner, both of which have formed part of Sky’s testing offering in recent years (one of the reasons why the wrap-up show felt inferior in comparison).

Fans noticed Kravitz’s absence across social media but, as of writing, neither Sky or Kravitz have commented on the record about his status, and whether he is still with the broadcaster.

Too far in one direction?
There is only so much you can talk about in 40 hours of on-track action during testing without the discussion becoming repetitive. I absolutely enjoyed the commentary, primarily the reason I stuck with the live coverage for Monday and Tuesday afternoon (when the UK had access to it). The product was decent, although the novelty began to wane after a while.

With additions on the graphics side, the commentary would become more meaningful and focused on the on-track action, as well as being discussion based, resulting in a better balance rather than it feeling like a radio feed. During the test this week, timing has been an afterthought.

If it is simply not possible to present additional on-screen graphics, I hope there is a world where F1 produces a basic World Feed for testing for those that want to watch it, and then go on-air with a full product towards the end of the day, consisting of the final phase of on-track running and an additional hour of genuine analysis on what each team was doing.

I use the word ‘genuine’, as the end of day wrap-up show never provided that in my view because the talent on-air had not had the opportunity to dissect the day’s events as they were on-air from the get-go. Okay, there was rotation, but there was never a fresh pair or eyes to provide new analysis within the review show.

For me, there is a limit. Two or three hours of discussion and action per day, fine. Five or six hours, and my attention will dip, unless the F1 production team make changes for 2020, although some of these may need the approval of all ten teams. I like what F1 did this year, the only way they will know if live testing is going to work is by doing it, and I applaud the team for doing that.

Is there an audience for testing all day, every day? Only F1 knows the answer to that question…

Billy Monger joins Channel 4’s F1 team as 2019 coverage details finalised

Channel 4 have officially confirmed their coverage plans for the 2019 Formula One season.

Despite a reduced presence in 2019 compared with previous seasons, the free-to-air broadcaster has retained the core of its presentation line-up. The broadcaster this year will air highlights of every round plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix weekend.

As announced by the man himself last week on Twitter, Steve Jones continues in his role as presenter. David Coulthard, Mark Webber, and Eddie Jordan join Jones in the paddock, whilst Ben Edwards remains as lead commentator, with Coulthard remaining alongside him in the booth.

In a surprise move, Lee McKenzie continues in her role as reporter, having previously noted as recently as January that she was not covering Formula 1 in 2019.

The main on-screen addition is that of 19-year old Billy Monger, who will provide analysis throughout the season alongside his racing exploits. Monger continues to impress fans and pundits alike following his life-changing accident in April 2017.

As this site exclusively revealed before Christmas, Whisper Films, the production company led by Coulthard, Jake Humphrey and Sunil Patel, have retained the contract to produce Channel 4’s coverage.

Channel 4’s Head of Entertainment and Events, Ed Havard said: “Channel 4 will once again be the destination for F1 fans to enjoy the action free to air throughout the year, including live coverage of the British GP.”

“I’m delighted that the young racing superstar Billy Monger will be joining our team alongside F1 legends David Coulthard and Mark Webber. We’ve got a truly world class presenting line up for F1 on 4.”

Monger added “I’m delighted to join the Channel 4 F1 team this season working around my own racing calendar.”

“I’ve been watching the F1 coverage on TV since I was little and whilst my goal remains to be racing in one of the cars out on track one day, I am really excited to get broadcasting from the paddock this year.”

Strong team for C4 F1 in 2019
Despite a reduced offering in 2019, Channel 4 have survived the winter with just one of their on-air talent (Karun Chandhok) opting to move to Sky. Mark Webber, who was also rumoured to be making the switch, has remained with Channel 4.

The other on-screen change concerns Susie Wolff. Channel 4’s press release does not reference Wolff, Wolff now busy in her role as Venturi Formula E team principal. As in previous years, expect Jones, Coulthard and Edwards to be on-site at every race, with the other analysts rotating throughout the year.

The addition of Monger is unexpected, but could fit in with his own driving activities this year. Over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend last November, Monger spoke of his aspiration to be in Formula Three this season.

Of course, Formula Three is part of the overall F1 weekend offering, and if Monger was successful in getting an F3 drive, then logistically the Channel 4 deal makes sense as Monger would already be on-site in the F1 paddock.

The size of Channel 4’s team fits in with the notion that their package will remain comprehensive, as reported last September.

As previously noted, the overall length of the highlights programme will drop slightly this season, with the race edit itself taking the hit. This explains why the shape and size of Channel 4’s team remains like last year.

It may also explain why Channel 4 have not directly replaced Chandhok, who reported from pit lane during each race. I suspect Whisper will use both Webber and McKenzie during commentary as necessary to fill the gap that Chandhok leaves behind, as difficult as that is to do given the role he played in their coverage from 2016 to 2018.

Crucially, Channel 4’s line-up has not been decimated meaning that their overall product will remain distinctive, and more importantly UK fans still have three different teams of personnel on offer to choose from (Sky, Channel 4 and BBC 5 Live).

WRC strikes deal to remain on Channel 5 network

Organisers of the World Rally Championship have struck a deal to remain on Channel 5 network in the UK.

The championship has regularly aired in highlights form on Channel 5’s main outlet since 2016, with 60-minute highlights airing in a week day time slot at 19:00. However, coverage of the first round of the 2019 season, the Monte Carlo rally did not air on any of Channel 5’s outlets, nor on any other free-to-air television network, leaving WRC’s free-to-air future in limbo.

Now, the series will continue on the Channel 5 network, with highlights for the Sweden round airing on their sister channel 5Spike this upcoming Monday at 19:00.

A WRC spokesperson said “We have an agreement with Channel 5 and the Sweden highlights will be broadcast on Spike next Monday.”

It is unclear whether the season as a whole will air on 5Spike, which may be considered a demotion compared with the past three years when highlights aired on Channel 5’s main channel, or whether this is a one-off move before reverting to the main Channel 5 station from Mexico.