Moody not part of BT’s MotoGP team

In what is quickly turning into a year of bizarre decisions, Toby Moody has confirmed today on Twitter that he will not be part of BT Sport’s MotoGP team this season.

Moody, writing in a series of tweets, said “I wanted you to hear direct from me that I will not part of the UK commentary line-up for MotoGP in 2014. I’ve worked on MotoGP for 18 years, something I’m very proud of. I’ll still be around so will see more great racing. I will return to a TV screen near you very soon; you guys will know first when I do. Thank you for all your support. Plenty of voice left!”

What this does mean is that a BT Sport official line up announcement is presumably pretty imminent, although as with all of these things, a date has not been announced beforehand. I assume BT had the final say, rather than Moody ruling himself out. If that is the case, then it is immensely disappointing to see that someone else has been chosen over Moody. However, there could be mitigating circumstances. In the past few seasons, Moody has not commentated on every single race for Eurosport. BT Sport may well have been looking for someone to commit to every weekend, of which Moody was unwilling to do. I don’t know, I’m just speculating there, because I can’t think of any other logical reason for someone else to be chosen over Moody.

I think this announcement means that we are getting either Charlie Cox and Steve Parish as commentators, or Julian Ryder alongside Keith Huewen. I could probably flip a coin here and guess, but I have no idea which pair it could be. The view points here suggest that Ryder and Moody were high up on people’s list, including mine. Ryder and Huewen have been commentators together back in the early 1990s, on Sky.

Gary Anderson to leave BBC’s Formula 1 team

Gary Anderson is to leave BBC’s Formula 1 coverage, The F1 Broadcasting Blog can confirm. Anderson was a part of the team for the 2012 and 2013 seasons as pit lane reporter and technical analyst alongside Lee McKenzie. In 2013, he was joined by Tom Clarkson in the pit lane, however it must be emphasised that whilst Clarkson is a great pit lane reporter, he is not a technical analyst. It appears that Anderson’s role will not be replaced and means that for the first time in nearly two decades, there will not be a technical view point in Formula 1’s terrestrial television coverage.

The role of technical reporter has been a part of Formula 1’s coverage since 1997 when ITV replaced BBC as rights holders. Before then, you would have had Tony Jardine or Jonathan Palmer doing the odd technical feature, but nothing on a full time basis. ITV’s coverage expansions changed that. James Allen was designated the role of pit lane reporter, which also covered the technical side of events. When Allen moved to the lead commentator role in 2002, Ted Kravitz moved over from the production area into the role, which he held throughout ITV’s coverage until 2008, and then until 2011 on the BBC. Of course it goes without saying that this was all playing out to a terrestrial television audience, so whilst there was technical information, it was not massively in-depth or mundane as it needed to cater to a casual audience. Which is fair enough, but the fact is, it was there.

Changes came into swing with the BBC and Sky rights deal beginning in 2012, but the role of technical role remained, and in fact turned into a better role. As good as Ted Kravitz was, having an actual former technical director on BBC’s team I felt boosted it immensely. In my 2013 Verdict piece last month focussing on the BBC team, I went as far as saying:

It is a strange one actually, as you would probably logically feel that Anderson and Kravitz should be the other way around. Anderson doing more technical stuff on Sky Sports F1, with Kravitz on BBC F1. Both do fantastic things in their respective roles though and I would not want that to change.

However, whilst that is true, I have not come across a comment on this blog with anyone who has an issue with that. I felt it was brilliant that Anderson could do his technical analysis to a bigger audience. 2014 is a year of massive, far reaching and drastic changes where the technical aspects of Formula 1 are concerned. Today’s news leaves a gaping hole in BBC’s coverage. They need a technical analyst, and they need one fast. For me, it is a fundamental part of the F1 coverage. As good as David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan are, they are not designers. Only a select few can hold that role. They can’t leave Anderson’s role vacant, and they also can’t expect Clarkson to fill Anderson’s role. You need the technical mindset to fill the role. Kravitz over on Sky, despite not being a technical director in the past, has justified his position in the past ten years with some fantastic work. Maybe BBC are thinking, or already have done, of giving Ross Brawn a phone call. I hope so, but the outlook appears bleak.

To anyone suggesting Sky should pick up Anderson: him and Kravitz on the same team would not work, in my opinion. Why have two people in very similar roles? By hiring Anderson, you’d be basically telling Kravitz to leave. The latest move by BBC feels, sadly, like an attempt by someone, whether within the F1 team itself, or higher up in the chain, to dumb down their coverage. This blog understands that Anderson was pushed from the role, rather than Anderson leaving of his own accord. I hear one or two people saying that “this is the beginning of the end for BBC F1”. This is the same people that predicted the end at the end of 2011, and then 2012, and then 2013. In my opinion, short term and long term, BBC F1 is not going anywhere. As always, there could be changes where radio is concerned, as Ben Constanduros hinted to earlier although it has to be said that TV and radio exist out of different budgets, the TV coverage is in-house, the radio coverage is USP Content.

Regarding Anderson, to quote a phrase, and more apt considering his role: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Update on February 5th – As noted above, and confirmed this evening, the BBC did indeed let Gary Anderson go and that it was not his decision. At a Cass Business School event, Anderson commented on the departure. I quote from tweeter @CausticCorner who was present at the event: “Ooh, Gary Anderson says it was #BBCF1 who decided viewers “don’t appreciate technical #F1 analysis…” and let him go.” So, there you have it.

BT Sport, Motors TV join ITV4 as WRC rights holders

BT Sport have joined ITV4 as rights holders for the World Rally Championship, AUTOSPORT are confirming this evening, whilst it also appears Motors TV are joining the fray. BT Sport, according to the website, are screening exclusive live coverage of the series.

The website notes that the deal will be officially confirmed tomorrow at the AUTOSPORT Show, and says that BT Sport will “begin its WRC coverage with a mid-week season preview next week before nightly coverage of the Monte Carlo Rally and then live coverage of both runs over the Sospel-Breil sur Roya stage next Saturday afternoon and evening.”. What the article does not make clear is whether ITV4 are staying on as rights holders. A look at the ITV4 schedule however still shows WRC in the schedule for Tuesday 21st January at 20:00 with highlights of the Monte Carlo rally, supporting information supplied to this blog last month.

The Motors TV schedule shows half an hour of highlights for each day of action. BT Sport will have live coverage at various points on each day, with highlights too. As the BT Sport live coverage is in addition to the ITV4 highlights, then this is brilliant news for all fans of rallying.

Scheduling: The 2014 Jerez test on Sky Sports F1

The scheduling details of Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the first Formula 1 test of the 2014 season from Jerez have today been confirmed. There will be an hour’s action from each day, up on the half an hour from last year. As with last year, this consists of a round-up show followed by Ted Kravitz’s Notebook. The usual Sky Sports News updates will continue throughout each day.

Friday 24th January
20:00 to 20:15 – McLaren MP4-29 Launch
– repeated at various times

Tuesday 28th January
21:00 to 21:35 – Day 1 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– Ted’s Notebook at 21:15
21:35 to 21:45 – Rush Movie Competition
– repeated at various times
23:00 to 23:35 – Day 1 Highlights (R)

Wednesday 29th January
21:00 to 21:35 – Day 2 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– Ted’s Notebook at 21:15
23:00 to 23:35 – Day 2 Highlights (R)

Thursday 30th January
21:00 to 21:35 – Day 3 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– Ted’s Notebook at 21:15
23:00 to 23:35 – Day 3 Highlights (R)

Friday 31st January
20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Show Special: The MM Hall of Fame Awards
– see here for more details
21:00 to 21:35 – Day 4 Highlights
– round-up at 21:00
– Ted’s Notebook at 21:15
23:30 to 23:35 – Day 4 Highlights (R)

Saturday 1st February
11:00 to 11:35 – Day 1 Highlights (R)
11:35 to 12:10 – Day 2 Highlights (R)
12:10 to 12:45 – Day 3 Highlights (R)
12:45 to 13:20 – Day 4 Highlights (R)

As of writing, there is currently no live action scheduled. I think I should quote from my piece last month about Sky’s coverage where that is concerned:

I normally would say that I hope live testing returns for 2014, with testing more critical than ever next season. Three letters, one word: FOM. If Sky want to screen testing live, once again they have to go through them. As always, FOM give Sky access, Sky can’t just walk in and around a live F1 circuit with cameras and start filming. So, we’ll see what happens.

It is possible that it could be added last minute, or nearer the time once it is clearer who is doing what. I’m not sure it will, but again we will have to wait and see. As always, I’ll update the blog when anything changes.

Update on 8th January at 22:30 – I’ve added the Saturday repeat airings in, whilst it should also be noted that repeats of the Jerez test are scheduled multiple times in the following week. There’s also several Car Unveiling place-holder shows in the schedules, but all are TBA so there is not much point in adding it yet above.

Update on 11th January at 18:40 – The schedule has changed, and we’re back to the 2013 scheduling, it appears.

Update on 21st January at 17:10 – McLaren car launch now added, and a 10-minute filler entitled “Rush Movie Competition”. Regarding the latter, yes, really. The description for that is “Find out more about an opportunity to win a host of Formula 1 prizes including four VIP seats at the 2014 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July.”

A tale of two halves as TV ratings increase slightly

The 2013 Formula 1 season brought in a higher viewership than 2012 in the United Kingdom, according to unofficial overnight viewing figures. However, a deeper look inside the figures shows that the season was a tale of two halves.

The season, when taking into account Sky’s longer running time for each race programme, averaged 4.11m across the nineteen races on BBC One and Sky Sports F1. This is an increase of 130k (or 3.3%) on the 3.98m average recorded for 2012, but is again down on the figures recorded between 2009 and 2011 when Formula 1 was exclusively live on the BBC. Despite an overall increase, viewing figures dropped a million viewers from the first half to the second half of the season. The first half of the season averaged 4.58m (2012: 4.06m), whilst the second half of the season averaged 3.59m (2012: 3.89m), a 27.6% drop compared with a 4.4% drop in 2012.

BBC’s Formula 1 coverage was the reason for the increase, averaging 3.42m viewers throughout 2013 for their race-day coverage, compared with 3.22m in 2012, an increase of 6.2%. The main source of the increase was the high German Grand Prix highlights rating, which averaged 5.15m and benefited from following the Wimbledon final. Removing this would still keep 2013 above 2012 for the BBC. Nevertheless, the first half of the season averaged 3.81m (2012: 3.21m), with the second half averaging 3.00m (2012: 3.23m), a 27.0% drop compared with a 0.6% increase last year, slightly below the overall average drop. It shows how well the first half of the season did, helped not only by the German Grand Prix, but also the controversial Malaysian Grand Prix.

Unlike BBC, Sky Sports F1’s coverage dropped throughout. When putting it on a level playing field with the BBC, the main part of their race-day programming averaged 685k, down on the 767k recorded in 2012, a decrease of 12.0%. There is no particular race that struggled, but rather an overall declining picture for the channel compared with 2012. 770k (2012: 855k) watched the first half of the season with Sky, this number dropping to 590k (2012: 659k) for the latter half of the season. In both 2012 and 2013, Sky’s coverage has dropped across the season: a decrease of 30.5% compared with a 29.7% drop in 2012.

The F1 Broadcasting Blog says: The season from a ratings perspective can only be described as a tale of two halves in about every possible way. From a television point of view, producers would expect and hope for the season to start slowly and then build to a crescendo towards the end, 2008 is a perfect example of that with the Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa battle bubbling up at several points in the season before the season finale. 2013 was almost the opposite in that round two had the biggest story of the entire year, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel’s on track battle. It was downhill from there. Casual fans love stories like that. Sadly though for companies around the world, it was never followed up on where the on track action was concerned. There was no juicy follow up, and I don’t think Webber and Vettel ever got close on track again.

Instead, the second half of the season seen Vettel dominate, and viewing figures plunge. I imagine, although I cannot verify, that a similar picture was repeated around the world. I’d be surprised if the UK was an anomaly given the context of the season. Which leads me onto double points.

AUTOSPORT has learned that teams were pressured into supporting the move because they were told by Bernie Ecclestone that television companies and race promoters had asked for a way to ensure the world title battle was kept alive for longer. – AUTOSPORT – December 20th

Obviously broadcasters can see the ratings as soon as they are released and may well have done the same comparisons as I have shown above. Has one of them forced Formula One Management (FOM) to press the panic button? I think they did. And rather stupidly too, given that 2013 was definitely not a typical season in terms of layout. As good as the Webber and Vettel story was, the other stories, the public simply don’t care about, for example the ‘tyre test’ and the outcome of that. They care about personalities. More of Webber and Vettel, less of the tyres which I suspect no one out of the Formula 1 bubble really cares about.

A good season for the BBC, they will be pleased to be up versus 2012. Yes, they did drop in the latter half of the season, but given the context, it is difficult to have expected anything different. What I would say is that the BBC ratings do show is that Formula 1 needs to keep the terrestrial television presence, which I hope continues beyond 2018, although that is a long, long way away yet. Whilst Sky’s decline in the latter half of the season is unsurprising, the first half of the season also declined, which was not a good sign from the get-go. From a ratings perspective, they desperately need stability and avoid the free-fall continuing into 2014. How do they do that?

Unlike BBC, which is purely dependent on the on-track action, Sky need to consider how Formula 1 is packaged within their portfolio of channels. Limiting who can, and cannot view Formula 1, and punishing people through loopholes is not the way to go. At the end of the day (and this will apply to BT Sport with MotoGP too), Sky need to make their coverage more accessible to people and not price them out of the market. I’m not sure that will happen, and if it doesn’t happen, then I only see viewing figures continuing to drop for Sky. The aim of the game needs to be to get Formula 1 ratings in the UK back up to the levels seen between 2009 and 2011. And who knows, for the moment, 2014 may be make or break where that is concerned.