Scheduling: The 2019 Russian Grand Prix

From the lights of Singapore, Sochi plays host to the sixth running of the Russian Grand Prix.

There are several key changes to both Sky’s and Channel 4’s line-up for the weekend, with both commentary teams changing. Martin Brundle is stepping away from the Sky commentary box, so expect Paul di Resta to be alongside David Croft in the box.

Karun Chandhok is also absent from Sky’s team in Russia; however, Ted Kravitz is back with Sky, and should be with them for the remainder of the season. Although not working with Sky, Kravitz was in Singapore, but working with Singapore’s big screen team for the weekend as reporter (ran by Australian company ZSpace).

Over on Channel 4, Allan McNish replaces David Coulthard in the commentary booth. Coulthard and Brundle are missing the same three races this year. Both were absent from Azerbaijan back in April, and both are missing the upcoming Russian and Japanese rounds.

Due to the time difference between Russia and the UK, the race starts two hours earlier than other European races at 12:10 UK time. Channel 4 have more flexibility with the scheduling of their highlights programme as a result, which airs an hour earlier than usual at 18:00 UK time.

Russia plays host to the final round of the inaugural Formula Three season, with Robert Shwartzman set to clinch the crown.

Channel 4 F1
28/09 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
29/09 – 18:00 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
27/09 – 08:45 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
27/09 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
28/09 – 09:45 to 11:10 – Practice 3
28/09 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying
=> 12:00 – Pre-Show
=> 12:55 – Qualifying
29/09 – 10:30 to 15:30 – Race
=> 10:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 11:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:00 – Paddock Live
=> 15:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
26/09 – 13:00 to 13:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
26/09 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
27/09 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far
28/09 – 15:45 to 16:15 – The F1 Show
02/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief
BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
27/09 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/09 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/09 – 11:30 to 14:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – Barcelona (Eurosport 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
29/09 – 15:30 to 17:30 – Race

British Touring Car Championship – Silverstone (ITV4)
29/09 – 10:20 to 18:15 – Races

Formula Two – Russia (Sky Sports F1)
27/09 – 07:25 to 08:15 – Practice
27/09 – 14:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying
28/09 – 14:35 to 15:45 – Race 1
29/09 – 09:10 to 10:10 – Race 2

Formula Three – Russia (Sky Sports F1)
27/09 – 10:55 to 11:30 – Qualifying
28/09 – 08:05 to 09:00 – Race 1
29/09 – 07:45 to 08:40 – Race 2

World Superbikes – France
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
27/09 – 13:55 onwards (Eurosport)
=> 13:55 to 14:55 – SBK: Practice 2
=> 14:55 to 15:55 – SSP: Practice 2
28/09 – 09:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
29/09 – 09:30 to 15:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
01/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, the post will be updated if plans change.


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Channel 4 to continue to air F1 in “multi-year” deal with Sky

Channel 4 are to continue broadcasting Formula 1 after agreeing a new multi-year deal with Sky, the broadcaster has confirmed.

The free-to-air broadcaster first started airing the sport in 2016, taking over the BBC’s legacy contract. From 2016 to 2018, Channel 4 aired half the races live, and the other half in highlights form.

This year, Channel 4 have aired the free-to-air element of Sky’s exclusive deal with Formula 1, that being live coverage of the British Grand Prix and highlights of every race.

That arrangement will continue into next year, in what Motorsport Broadcasting understands to be a new three-year deal until the end of the 2022 season.

I also understand that the contract to produce Channel 4’s coverage will soon be put out to tender, meaning that it is not guaranteed Whisper will continue to cover the sport. Nevertheless, the fact that the contract is going out to tender implies that Channel 4 have retained editorial control.

As was the case last year, the F1 agreement forms part of a wider package between Channel 4 and Sky, which the two are billing as a “new, broader, strategic partnership spanning content, technology and innovation.”

Channel 4’s CEO Alex Mahon said “Channel 4 has established itself as the go-to channel for free to air television coverage of Formula 1 and we’re thrilled that motorsport fans will be able to continue to enjoy the excitement of F1 through our highlights of all the races and live coverage of the British Grand Prix.”

Analysis: Little surprise as Channel 4 retains F1 highlights
The news that Channel 4 have retained their F1 highlights package is actually not a major surprise as some may think.

Earlier in the Summer, Channel 4 and Sky partnered to bring cricket fans coverage of the Cricket World Cup final featuring England to a much wider audience, with live coverage airing across Channel 4 and More4.

Whilst the British Grand Prix did not exactly benefit on that day, it showed that the partnership between Channel 4 and Sky was strong, admittedly there was public pressure involved as well.

Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Forum last month, Sky’s Head of F1 Scott Young explained the importance of free-to-air to Sky in relation to their F1 contract.

“It was very important for Sky to transition into this new exclusive role and to have a component of this broadcast on free to air television. Our executive group is very focussed on making sure that in some way that continues beyond one year,” Young said prior to today’s announcement.

“There’s not a closed shop mentality about how we work with free-to-air.”

“It’s about how that ecosystem works where we can still create subscriber base television, where we can grow the revenue to give to the federations, and that a broader consumer can actually start to see what we produce and then want to consume more of our platforms.”

Although Channel 4 remains the biggest F1 broadcaster from an audience perspective in the UK, their audience figures have dropped year-on-year.

In depth, deep dive analysis from Motorsport Broadcasting at the halfway stage of the season showed that their F1 audience has dropped by around 15 percent, some of that heading over to Sky.

On the production front, I would be extremely surprised if Whisper did not retain control, and if the on-air team did not stay broadly the same. But hey, stranger things have happened.

Overall, this is good news for F1 in the UK, and provides some stability on the broadcasting front, with both TV and radio contracts now locked in until at least the end of the 2021 season.


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The over-the-top challenge facing motor sport

Over-the-top broadcasting. It is a phrase many visitors to this site will have seen referenced repeatedly, and it is only going to become more prominent as time progresses.

What it means is relatively simple: to deliver a service direct to the customer watching at home, rather than through a third-party satellite television channel or cable platform.

In the modern media landscape that poses many questions as to what the right or wrong approach is to take, if there is such a simple answer.

Motor sport faces a major challenge in not only understanding the landscape, but also exploiting it, satisfying stakeholders, and most importantly broadening the reach of the sport in the process.

An upward struggle
Whether it is MotoGP, World Rally Championship or Supercars over in Australia, most of motor racing’s big entities have an over-the-top platform now of some nature. All vary to different degrees, and hold a different level of importance for each series.

Late to the game and trying to catch up on the digital front, Formula 1’s over-the-top platform went live in May 2018 with F1 TV. However, the platform struggled on the technical front, with a variety of teething problems, leading to suggestions that the platform launched too early.

Speaking in front of industry experts at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, their Director of Marketing and Communications Ellie Norman was unashamed to admit that it has not been the smoothest of starts for F1 in the OTT world.

“It’s been a bumpy ride, I would suggest that we definitely launched F1 TV too soon,” Norman says.

Norman points to a ‘growth hacker’ mentality that F1 now has, the organisation unafraid to try things out to see what works, and what does not, even if it backfires.

“Working within digital is a really different space to working in broadcast, and often you are always in beta mode. But one thing I think we’ve done is, we’ve listened to the fans, and responded quickly by refunding them,” Norman told the audience.

“Twelve months on, the product is more stable, and I think it’s in a much better place now with the fan input, seeing how users engage with it, use it, and what they want for it. And that has been invaluable.”

The battle between pay-TV and OTT
But F1’s roadblocks on the over-the-top front expand far beyond the first twelve months.

Whilst most of the world can access F1 TV’s basic offering, many countries, including the UK, cannot access F1 TV’s premium tier. The only way UK fans can access the live race action is via Sky Sports, thanks to an agreement signed between Sky and ex-F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone back in 2016.

For many, this is a source of frustration, with some fans feeling locked out of live F1 for the foreseeable. For F1, and sport in general, the balance is ‘delicate’ between over-the-top and pay television.

Over-the-top pricing
A snapshot for UK fans

MotoGP (live) – £177.26
WRC (live) – £79.76
WEC (live) – £38.99
Supercars (live) – £32.98
F1 TV (archive and non-live) – £19.99

Pricing per year.
WEC covers 2019/20 season.
WEC excludes Le Mans.

Do motor sport brands throw live content onto their over-the-top platform, allowing them to target a different audience directly, but potentially miss a key revenue stream?

Or, do the brands air their content live on pay television, helping the bank balance, but not their reach?

Gernot Bauer, Eurosport’s incoming Head of Motorsport, puts it bluntly. “As a broadcaster, I won’t pay a lot of money if every federation has a competing product because it puts so much challenge on us as a broadcaster.”

For broadcasters such as Eurosport and Sky, the emergence of a new over-the-top platform could cause their audience figures, and therefore revenue streams, to fall.

Having invested £1 billion over six years, unlocking F1 TV in the UK would cause consternation between F1 and Sky.

“Our investment is significant as one of the one of the investments that underpins F1, as all our rights do in every sport,” explained Scott Young, Sky’s Head of F1.

“I think that’s one of the differences between an OTT platform right now and major sporting broadcasters, like Sky and Eurosport, that actually invest a large amount of money that goes into those sports of which they need to help fund the teams to compete.”

Young denied suggestions that Sky’s relationship with F1 had become ‘strained’ because of F1 TV, but warned of the consequences if the balance between pay and over-the-top changed too quickly.

“There’s an ecosystem in there that is quite delicate, and if you unravel it too quickly it can have some lasting effects,” he said.

The NASCAR approach
The World Endurance Championship and World Rally Championship are examples of series that are nicely suited to the modern OTT way.

Both are long in duration, meaning that they can play out live in their entirety on OTT, without interruption from other sports on linear television.

Not every championship uses their over-the-top offering for live action though (for contractual or strategic reasons), which leads to the question of just how valuable OTT is without much live content to bring the viewer in.

“As each racing series creates their own OTT product it forces us, and them, to rethink that philosophy,” Bauer says.

“What is OTT, are you an alternative broadcaster for life? Are you a video on demand for archive material, or are you an app where you combine everything from Instagram to Twitter and so on? There is not one answer.”

For NASCAR, the situation is tricky, as all their premium-tier live content is exclusive to Fox and NBC in the US through until 2024, meaning that the series has no choice but to get creative with their domestic OTT offering.

NASCAR owns the Fans Choice platform and the RaceView service, but neither offer fans domestically live coverage of NASCAR races (overseas fans have access to Trackpass which offers live coverage).

“If we’re doing OTT, then it’s got to be driver lifestyle content, or it’s got to be some of our other series that we broadcast internationally,” explains Jill Gregory, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.

“I think as we look to the new media landscape, as everybody is today, we’re trying to decide what is the right mix.”

“We need to think about what goes on to traditional broadcasting, and what do you keep out for either your own OTT product, or even partnerships with social media platforms, the Amazon’s, and the Hulu’s.”

“For us, it’s about knowing where the fans want their NASCAR content and maximizing our exposure,” Gregory concluded.

2019 WEC - 6 Hours of Silverstone - OB Truck.jpg
Inside the World Endurance Championship OB truck at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, WEC one of the many tackling the OTT hurdle head on.

Second screen “has become first screen”
Of course, the likes of Sky, Fox and NBC have their own over-the-top platforms.

In the case of Sky, Now TV is becoming a more prominent player for cord-cutters due to its lower entry price. As Young alluded to however, Sky “need to do a better job” of promoting their other services to audiences.

That job is becoming increasingly important because, as Motorsport Broadcasting pointed out last month, research from UK’s communications body Ofcom shows that traditional viewing is falling quicker than ever before, with around half of UK homes now subscribing to at least one streaming service.

“You don’t need to be at home in front of your TV anymore [to consume sport]. Many people still think that way but they are not acting this way,” Bauer told the audience.

“I am constantly on my phone, watching on my phone on my iPad, on my laptop. I consume not the whole race anymore but certain bits of highlights, and that is interesting to me as it helps smaller federations to get a direct engagement with the fans.”

Young added that Sky’s current F1 audience is viewing other streams alongside the main F1 channel. In his opinion, the second screen “has become first screen.”

“We’re seeing a lot of data now on people actually not only watching data channels but watching other streams, watching our highlights, watching social feeds come through whilst they’re actually watching the live race.”

“And that to me is an amazing opportunity that we’re focused on tapping into.”

For broadcasters and championships alike, it is a constant battle to try to not only retain existing audiences, but to bring in a new, younger audience. That battle will only intensify over the forthcoming years.

Is over-the-top going to become the long-term destination for F1 and motor sport, replacing pay television for the next generation, or can the two entities coexist side-by-side? Could free-to-air television even make a resurgence?

Only time will tell.


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Scheduling: The 2019 Singapore Grand Prix / Aragon MotoGP

Formula 1 heads out of Europe and over to Singapore for the start of the flyaway season, as the countdown continues to Abu Dhabi.

The night-race from Singapore falls on the same weekend as the Aragon MotoGP round, with a clash initially looking likely. However, a late switch from Dorna to move the main MotoGP race earlier means that both avoid a direct clash. The F1 begins at 13:10 UK time, with MotoGP’s main event from Aragon beginning at 12:00.

Both races air exclusively live on pay-TV, F1 live on Sky Sports, with MotoGP on BT Sport. Highlights of the latter air on Quest, which reverted to two airings as of recent races after a bit of back and forth from a scheduling perspective over the Summer.

Ted Kravitz is not with Sky in Singapore (sorry Lando, if you are lurking), but will be back with Sky in Russia. There is no Formula Two or Formula Three this weekend, both returning in Russia.

Elsewhere, the IndyCar season concludes, returning to Laguna Seca for the first time in 15 years. The action airs live on Sky’s F1 channel, as IndyCar concludes the first of a multi-year deal with the broadcaster.

Channel 4 F1
21/09 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
22/09 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
20/09 – 09:15 to 11:15 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
20/09 – 13:15 to 15:15 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
21/09 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
21/09 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
22/09 – 11:30 to 16:00 – Race
=> 11:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event until 13:00)
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
19/09 – 13:30 to 14:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference
19/09 – 16:30 to 17:00 – Welcome to the Weekend
20/09 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far
21/09 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The F1 Show
25/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
19/09 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
20/09 – 09:25 to 11:05 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
20/09 – 13:25 to 15:05 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
22/09 – 13:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Aragon (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
20/09 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
21/09 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
22/09 – 07:30 to 15:30
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – MotoGP
=> 13:15 – Moto2
=> 14:30 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Aragon (Quest)
23/09 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

British Superbikes – Assen
21/09 – 14:00 to 16:30 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
22/09 – 11:30 to 17:00 – Races (Eurosport 2)
26/09 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Barcelona
Also airs live on YouTube
21/09 – 14:30 to 15:30 – Race 1 (BT Sport Extra 2)
22/09 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport Extra 3)

IndyCar Series – Laguna Seca (Sky Sports F1)
21/09 – 21:30 to 23:00 – Qualifying
22/09 – 19:30 to 23:00 – Race

International GT Open – Barcelona
Also airs live on YouTube
21/09 – 15:30 to 17:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport Extra 2)
22/09 – 14:00 to 15:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport Extra 3)

Red Bull Rookies Cup – Aragon (BT Sport 2)
21/09 – 15:15 to 16:15 – Race

Speedway Grand Prix – Britain
20/09 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 1)
21/09 – 16:15 to 20:30 – Races (BT Sport 2)

As always, the schedule will be updated if timings change.


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News round-up: Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, news emerges of potential upcoming changes to Formula 1’s leadership team.

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

ICYMI: Round-Up #3 (July 1st): Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

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

  • Earlier in the season, news outlets revealed that Netflix’s cameras would be getting up close to Mercedes during the German Grand Prix weekend, as part of filming for series two of Drive to Survive. Unfortunately for Mercedes, race day turned into a bit of a disaster.
    • The Press Association reports that, after the Germany disaster, Mercedes invited Netflix back for the closing phase of the Hungarian Grand Prix one weekend later. The race saw Lewis Hamilton come from behind to take victory away from Max Verstappen in the closing laps.
  • According to RaceFans, Formula 1 and Sky are rumoured to be working on a multi-part documentary to be released in Summer 2020. The series will coincide with Formula 1’s 70th anniversary, although no details have been officially confirmed as of writing.
  • Sean Bratches is set to leave his role as F1’s Managing Director of Commercial Operations at the end of the year, the BBC’s Andrew Benson is reporting.
    • Bratches joined F1 following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the group in 2017, and has spoken in recent times about F1’s free-to-air and pay TV mix.
    • Benson also reports that Chase Carey and Ross Brawn are set to remain in their existing roles.

DTM / W Series

  • The DTM touring car series is holding a joint event with Super GT at Fuji in November, in what both are billing as a ‘Dream Race’. The joint event presents many decisions about which drivers will take part.
    • However, speaking to Autosport last month, Audi motor sport boss Dieter Gass said that having drivers’ share duties is unlikely as DTM believes there are “complication[s] in explaining the rotation to TV audiences.”
  • As of last month, there was no word on where W Series’ documentary will air. I understand that series bosses are flexible as to where the series eventually ends up, and in what format. Production company Whisper filmed documentary content throughout, from the first driver selection test through to season finale.

Formula E

  • One of Eurosport’s leading figures is to join Formula E, e-racing365 reports. Sebastian Tiffert, who was Eurosport’s former executive producer for their Olympics Games offering, is to join Formula E as the head of their media content department. Tiffert is set to “manage the broadcast, social and digital media elements” of Formula E.

MotoGP

  • Vislink Technologies have extended their contract with Dorna to be MotoGP’s official RF systems supplier. Vislink, who have held the contract since 2002, will continue to partner with MotoGP for the next three seasons.
    • “The continuation of our engagement with Dorna is testament to our leadership in live sports broadcasting, and delivering reliable, crystal-clear video to MotoGP fans around the globe,” said John Payne, President and COO of Vislink.

Elsewhere…

  • Dieter Rencken reports that negotiations are ongoing to sell Motorsport Network.
    • Billionaire Mike Zoi leads the group, which owns the likes of Motorsport.com, Autosport and F1 Racing, as well as a stake in Formula E. Other stakeholders within the group include McLaren boss Zak Brown (chairman) and James Allen (EMEA President).
    • Rencken adds that Dmitry Mazepin, whose son Nikita Mazepin races in Formula Two, is in the running to purchase the group.
  • The promotor of the World Rallycross series is reporting strong interaction figures over on Facebook. Using figures from Crowdtangle, IMG’s Vincent Haas notes that the series has the highest interaction rate of any motor sport series on the social media platform, as well as over 50 million video views.
  • Netflix subscribers will soon be getting a slice of NASCAR action, but maybe not in the way they expected. The two parties are collaborating on a new comedy series starring Kevin James.
    • The Crew sees the action play out in a NASCAR garage, with James acting as crew chief.
    • NASCAR’s Matt Summers (Managing Director, Entertainment Marketing & Content Development) and (Senior Vice President & Chief Digital Officer) will serve as Executive Producers from NASCAR’s perspective.

See anything else worth mentioning on the news front? Drop a line in the comments section below.


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