Sky ramp up F1 publicity ahead of new season

Sky have increased their Sky Sports F1 advertising ahead of the 2013 season. Like they did this time last year, the channel now features on many billboards around the country. On his travels this morning, The F1 Broadcasting Blog was lucky enough to spot this billboard:

Sky Sports F1's billboard advertising in the run-up to the 2013 Formula One season. Top: Fernando Alonso; Bottom Left: Martin Brundle interviews Jenson Button in Australia 2012; Bottom Right: Sebastian Vettel.
Sky Sports F1’s billboard advertising in the run-up to the 2013 Formula One season. Top: Fernando Alonso; Bottom Left: Martin Brundle interviews Jenson Button in Australia 2012; Bottom Right: Sebastian Vettel.

Sky Sports F1: New programming slate heading into the new season

With the schedules now out, a new raft of programming has appeared in the schedules leading up to the Malaysian Grand Prix. At the moment, here are the new things that are listed:

Ted’s Notebook listed as a standalone 15-minute programme for Australia. First airing is on Saturday 17th March at 17:45 for the Qualifying Notebook and at 12:30 on the Sunday for the Race Notebook.
Inside Track: The Full Interview is a 15-minute programme with an interview with someone from the race weekend. First airing is on Monday 18th March at 18:45.
– The Malaysian Grand Prix Classic F1 races are 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007. These will air from Tuesday 19th March through to Thursday 21st March. As with the Australian Grand Prix Classic races, these will be repeated throughout the week and into the weekend.
Martin’s Grid Walk and Natalie’s Track Parade. This is a bit odd, because there are two separate titles, but it is listed under one 15-minute programme. Either way, the second description indicates that Sky will be covering the Drivers’ Parade more in their pre-race build-ups.
Gear Up for Malaysia. The programme title sounds generic in that it will be on for every race, but it first premières on Thursday 21st March at 13:30. This looks like all the Thursday interviews being combined into one programme.

And in terms of existing programming:

Fast Track remains, but Weekend in Stills and Weekend in Words appear to have been dropped.
– The programme lengths for Practice, Qualifying and the Race are the same as last year
– Sky Sports will be covering every session of GP2 exclusively live again in 2013, as first revealed last December.

I won’t do this every week as the programming slate should remain the same, but this is the state of play at the moment. As always, things could change, programmes could disappear and re-appear. I’ll update the blog if that happens.

Update on March 8thWeekend in Stills has now been added to the schedule, airing on Wednesday’s at 19:00. Gear Up for Malaysia is indeed a programme that will be on air every Thursday before each weekend as Gear Up for Australia has now been added – although both times are different to the 13:30 time I published above.

Update on March 15th – For some reason it appears Sky are not showing the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix. The timings have changed, so 1999 and 2002 are on the Tuesday, 2003 and 2007 are on the Wednesday, with 2010 now on the Thursday evening.

BBC to screen practice sessions for live races on BBC Two

The BBC are to screen practice sessions on BBC Two for their live races in 2013, it has been confirmed. The BBC F1 Season Preview magazine notes:

“In addition to all the coverage on BBC1, for the first time BBC2 will be covering all the practice sessions of the BBC live races. This will mean an extra 4 hours’ coverage per race for the fans and the most comprehensive coverage we have ever offered. We will have unprecedented access and opportunities to go behind the scenes as the drivers and teams prepare their cars for the weekend.”

This was suggested by me back in December on this blog as one of the ways to improve BBC’s coverage for 2013, although I did note that this was ‘unlikely’. The reason for this happening will be as a result of the Delivering Quality First cuts (DQF) to the BBC Red Button service, with a reduction of streams from five down to one.

It looked like practice coverage was going to be reduced earlier this month, but the move to put practice on BBC Two will make it available to a lot more people. It will be interesting as well to see how well it does on BBC Two, I doubt Sky Sports will be too pleased with the move as no doubt it may knock their practice ratings down a knock. Nevertheless, it is a great move by BBC. I don’t think there will be any extra coverage as a result, but it merely means that what was on the Red Button will now be on BBC Two – even though the announcement makes it seem like a expansion, it is just BBC moving it from one platform to another, albeit one with a much bigger potential viewership. I think it will just be the World Feed from five minutes before the session to five minutes after the session, like how it has been on the Red Button since 2009.

BBC confirm remainder of 2013 line-up

The BBC have today officially confirmed in their Season Preview magazine the rest of their 2013 Formula One line-up, with the line-up as expected. In the commentary box, for the second year running, Ben Edwards remains alongside David Coulthard.

As part of the presentation team alongside Suzi Perry (who was announced as presenter in December) will be Eddie Jordan and Coulthard, both now heading into their fifth season as part of the BBC F1 team. Lee McKenzie and Gary Anderson will again be in the paddock and roaming up and down pit-lane.

This is largely pedantry and semantics on my behalf, but for me, Jordan and Coulthard were before today still question marks as neither have appeared with the BBC crew during either of the first two tests. The magazine though confirms the two which is great to see.

Whilst this does confirm the remainder of the TV line-up, the 5 Live F1 co-commentator is still unconfirmed, with an announcement expected early next month. The TV and radio groups come under separate production teams – the radio content is controlled by USP Content, hence why no announcement has yet occurred. James Allen and Jennie Gow are the only two people confirmed for BBC Radio at the moment, with Chessie Bent producing the output, succeeding Jason Swales from this year onwards.

Dissecting Georgie Thompson’s decision to leave Sky F1

The news that The F1 Broadcasting Blog broke ten days ago that Georgie Thompson had left the Sky Sports F1 team came as a surprise to many. For about a week after the blog post went up, news on the matter from other websites went quiet, until this past weekend when several websites began reporting on Thompson’s status. Some suggested that she was off to BT, whilst others believe that she will remain at Sky in a different capacity.

An interesting train of thought though comes from Phil Duncan’s blog on the Daily Mail website, where he suggests that Thompson was unhappy with the amount of air-time she was getting, and wanted a bigger role for 2013. It is a fascinating perspective on the matter, and suggests that Thompson wanted the main presenting role for 2013, thus ousting Simon Lazenby from the post. In 2012, Thompson presented The F1 Show on Friday’s along with the Sky Pad segments on Saturday and Sunday of a race weekend. You can see why travelling to the other side of the world to present about 90 minutes of television over three days would not appeal to her. Personally, I would consider Thompson before 2012 one of Sky’s main presenters, she was definitely one of the main faces on the Sky Sports News channel.

So what she considered a bigger role than Sky Sports News at the start of 2012 in fact turned out to be a smaller role. It probably also should be considered the viewership that The F1 Show was getting – less than 100,000 viewers a week – and Thompson may not have wanted to travel around the world to present to a ‘miniscle’ viewership when her previous role was based in London and getting double the figures. Let’s not forget that Sky expected 167,000 viewers per week for The F1 Show, what they got was only a tenth of that. That would have only added to the belief from Thompson that she was in a smaller role than previously and wanted a bigger role within Sky, if the Daily Mail are to be believed. I do wonder how long Thompson’s unhappiness with the Sky team has been ongoing for, at the latter end of last season Thompson was staying in London alongside Anthony Davidson during race weekends, which may suggest that something was up as far back as then.

Drop Simon Lazenby? Considering the reaction he got overall in 2012, it might have been the sensible option. I’m not sure I would have necessarily agreed with it, as I believed stability was crucial heading into 2013, but it appears at this point that Sky were left with little choice. Thompson in my opinion would have been able to steer the ship better than Lazenby, and clearly gelled in well with the Sky team as seen by her weekly presenting slots on The F1 Show. Some may say I am basing this on her appearance rather than presenting skills, personally I think Thompson is a better all-rounded presenter than Lazenby (and Natalie Pinkham for that matter). It is not as simple as just saying “we’ll drop Lazenby”, though. Especially when you consider that Lazenby and Sky Sports F1 executive producer Martin Turner worked together before 2012 regularly on Sky’s Rugby product. So Turner would almost certainly have stuck with Lazenby, leaving Thompson with the option of staying or going.

It will interesting if we do find out how much truth there is to the Daily Mail article. But if Sky have let Thompson go, then they have just left a huge open goal for BT Sport to fire straight into.