Sky Sports F1’s pre-Australia schedule takes shape

Whilst I won’t be publishing the full Australian Grand Prix weekend schedule for BBC and Sky until early March, provisional scheduling details are out for Sky Sports F1, showing all details from now until March 14th.

Below are the key details…

The F1 Show is back on Friday 7th March at 20:00. The launch show, surprisingly in my view is only listed as a normal one hour episode, I was hoping it would be more like what they did in 2012 given that there is no testing live this year unlike in 2013. Natalie Pinkham and Ted Kravitz are back as presenters.

– Viewers are being given the chance to vote for their Race of the Century. The clue is in the title, presumably any race from 20th century can be chosen, although I imagine Sky will choose ten races and then the viewers narrow it down to three. The winning classic race will be shown on Friday 7th March at 21:00, second place on the Saturday and third place on the Sunday (same time). A novel take would be to have David Croft and Martin Brundle and A.N. Other, depending on race, re-voice it over ‘as live’, but not sure what the chances of that are.

Classic F1 races are back! As an aside to the race of the century thing that Sky are doing, we are also getting the usual five races per weekend it appears. For Australia, we have 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990.

– The Thursday and Friday press conferences are back, both live. Gear Up for Australia, which shows the Thursday interviews returns as well, albeit still in a 15 minute slot.

– There’s a two part, fifteen minutes each, series called Pinkham’s F1, where Natalie Pinkham introduces Formula 1 to novice fans. This is on several times.

– A programme called Horse Power which premières on Friday 14th March at 10:30 Saturday 8th March at 21:00 on Sky2 (no idea why its first airing is not on Sky F1). The description says: “Exclusive access behind the scenes at Ferrari as they prepare for the biggest raft of rule changes in a generation ahead of the 2014 Formula 1 season.” – which to me sounds very promising and definitely worth a watch. The programme is a Whisper Films production, the company set up by Jake Humphrey and David Coulthard, who also produced the fantastic Red Bull documentary at the back end of 2012.

Nothing unexpected in the practice scheduling details for Australia, all as expected regarding programme lengths. Also, as an aside but worth noting, I’ve decided to update the coverage page with the Sky team added, although it has not been made official in a press release (for whatever reason), I think we can say with some certainty that no one is leaving. In previous years, we knew the team through Sky Media putting up a package online for prospective sponsors, which hasn’t happened this year, in turn I suspect that means Rolex and Shell and back as Sky Sports F1’s sponsors for 2014. I’ll update this blog post with more details as and when they are revealed, especially concerning race of the century.

Update on February 25th – Sky have confirmed the ‘Race of the Century’ programming. They’ve narrowed it down to ten: 2000 Germany, 2000 Belgian, 2003 British, 2005 Japanese, 2008 Brazilian, 2010 Abu Dhabi, 2011 Chinese, 2011 Canadian, 2012 European and 2012 Brazilian GP. As noted above, I would have liked to have seen a novel take on proceedings (i.e. new commentary, for example) given that the majority of those chosen were shown last year, but still a nice idea anyway. I don’t know whether they got Lewis Hamilton to tweet this or not, but a very good way for Sky to promote things.

Update on March 5th – Two new programmes have been added to the schedules, which I’ve added to the above list. Any updates beyond Friday I will put on the Australia schedule piece instead of here.

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Statement from BBC’s Head of F1 following Gary Anderson’s departure

Following a request for comment from this blog last night to the BBC concerning Gary Anderson’s departure from the team and subsequent comments made by Anderson, the blog has today received the following statement from BBC’s Head of Formula 1, Ben Gallop.

Ben Gallop, BBC’s Head of F1 said: “We’ve adjusted our line-up for 2014 to bring what we feel is the best package for audiences across TV, radio and online. We’ve enjoyed working with Gary and thank him for his valued contribution to the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage across all platforms over the last two years and we wish him all the best for the future.”

Anderson: BBC believe that “viewers not interested” in technical analysis

Gary Anderson has revealed the reasons behind him and the BBC parting ways in the close season. Whilst he noted the reasons at a Cass Business School event last week, he has expanded on the reasoning today.

In the first of his ‘Ask Gary Anderson’ pieces on the AUTOSPORT website (subscription required), Anderson said that his intention was to make the technical aspect a bigger part of the BBC’s coverage. Speaking to AUTOSPORT, Anderson commented “Ever since I started work with them, I’ve been pushing them to do more on the technical side, and during the second half of 2013 it appeared to me that they were wanting to do less. For example, I set up an open-house visit to Renault to cover the engine package for 2014 in detail and twice on the day before we were due to go it was cancelled by the BBC. The reasoning was that as far as they were concerned, the viewers were not that interested.”

Anderson, who will have an expanded AUTOSPORT role in 2014, was not happy with the impression that BBC were leaving him. “I believed that with the enormous technical changes for 2014, we should be doing more, not less.” Anderson commented. Whilst it appears that Anderson wanted to leave the BBC, BBC made the decision moments before he informed them. “I was in the midst of writing a resignation email when I got the call from them to meet up for a chat, which is when [..] they got rid of me!”, Anderson said. Nearly 95 percent of you, or over 2,500 blog readers believe Anderson leaving will be bad for BBC in the long run.

An interesting turn of events that Anderson and BBC appeared to have been thinking along the same wavelengths: BBC wanted to get rid of Anderson and in the end Anderson wanted to leave. The question I have to ask is whether there was always the intention from the start of 2013 to phase out Anderson from their coverage. I don’t disagree with Anderson, but I’m not sure I agree either regarding the latter half of 2013 sentence. With Sebastian Vettel dominating, the whole of the broadcasting scene in terms of features dried up, on both sides of the fence. The evidence that Anderson gives though about the Renault visit is immensely disappointing and disheartening to read.

I have reached out to the BBC for comment.

BT Sport expected to unveil MotoGP team this week

This week is expected to be one of the biggest of the motor sport broadcasting year, from an announcements stand-point as BT Sport are set to unveil their MotoGP line-up. Bennetts last week reported that an announcement was expected at the ExCel Arena, home to the MCN London Motorcycle Show, on 14th February. Whilst that is highly likely to be the date, Shannon Kent, the brother of Moto3 rider Danny Kent tweeted, noting that there is a BT Sport event concerning MotoGP on Thursday (13th February). Either way, it appears this week is the week.

So, who is expected to be part of the team? The rumour mill, as one would expect, has been out in force, however, we can gauge a good idea of who will be part of the team already. Toby Moody’s confirmation a few weeks ago that he would not be part of the team left us with a commentary pairing of Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder, the two expected to rekindle their relationship from the mid 1990s. Despite not mentioning BT Sport recently, his tweets quite clearly show that he is back within the MotoGP paddock circles.

As for the punditry, Bennetts are also reporting that James Toseland and Neil Hodgson, both former World Superbike champions, will be on-board. They note that Toseland “isn’t doing a full season, choosing to do occasional rounds instead, but we believe he will be alongside Hodgson at the first round in Qatar”. This bit is interesting, because a regular insider over on Digital Spy claims that BT will only be on site for seven or eight races. Which, linking back to the above, makes me wonder if Toseland is only going to play a part in proceedings when BT Sport are on-site. I won’t speculate on rumours too much here, as all of this could be wide of the mark.

Which brings me onto my final part. Bike Sport News are reporting that Melanie Sykes is set to front their coverage, with Craig Doyle (current presenter of BT’s Rugby coverage and presenter of ITV’s Isle of Man coverage) fronting a magazine show two days a week. The Sykes rumour sounds incredibly far-fetched, considering Sykes has never presented live sport before and would be a new foray for her. However, it is not as strange as you may expect, when you see this:

ROAR Sport ‏@RoarSport1 Feb 6
Looking forward to announcing some amazing @MsMelanieSykes news next week #2014 #SPORT
3:39 PM – 6 Feb 2014

Again, I don’t want to read too much into this, she could be a lifestyle reporter like Beverley Turner was back in ITV’s Formula 1 coverage back in the mid 2000’s (alas, that role was quickly dropped). Or it could be a red herring, someone has done 2 + 2 and come out with 5. By the end of the week we will find out. And as always, there will be some happy with the line-up, and some unhappy with the moment. For the next few days at least, let the speculation continue…

Doing the sums: the cost of viewing F1 and MotoGP in 2014

The start of a New Year for a Formula 1 brings with it excitement, intrigue and controversy, where one unpopular rule is concerned. But a new year also leaves Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom counting their pennies. More to the point: how many pounds and pence they need to view every Formula 1 race live. The answer to that question appears to be an ever moving barrier. So while the information in this piece is correct as of writing, I cannot guarantee its accuracy in even a week from now. So, how much does Sky Sports F1 cost to view? The answer, is that you are likely going to have to part with at least £50.00 – maybe more. But how much exactly? That answer depends on what you want to watch.

Starting with Sky, the first option is to switch from your current provider to Sky, purchasing the Sports Pack on top of the required Entertainment Pack. The Sports Pack costs £22.00 a month (an increase of £1.00 compared with this time last year), meaning that when you include the compulsory Entertainment Pack, this option will put you back £43.50 a month. Given that 12 months is the minimum subscription (see the small print here), this is £522.00 for the year. Whilst an extremely hefty amount, surprisingly this is only £12.00 higher than the same packages twelve months ago.

One of the cheaper options last year, however has sadly been wiped out. It was possible to just have the HD Pack to watch Sky Sports F1, resulting in a cost of £381.00 a year. This is no longer available. To watch Sky Sports F1 in HD, you now have to have the Entertainment Extra+ Pack, at a cost of £22.00 for six months and then £32.00 per month. Whilst the offer may sound good, the website actually does not explicitly state that this is an offer, so the amount could go up to £32.00 from day one permanently from tomorrow for all I know. Anyway, aside from the Entertainment Extra+ Pack, you need the Sky Sports Pack and the HD Pack. The cost? Across the year, a whopping £651.00 a year. If the Entertainment Extra+ Pack price increased to £32.00 a month, the cost would be £711.00 across the year. And people wonder why Formula 1’s viewing figures are going down? Another one for the paddock journalists out there – lets not put all the blame on Sebastian Vettel, and look at the wider, bigger picture that stretches beyond four tyres on a track.

Moving away from TV, and we move towards viewing Formula 1 via Sky Go’s Monthly Ticket system. Unfortunately, Sky do not offer the Sports Pack on its own, instead like with TV you have to add the Entertainment Pack at a cost of £35.00 a month. The benefit of Sky Go’s Monthly Ticket is that it is simply that – a monthly ticket which you renew, if you wish, every month. With that in mind, the 2014 calendar is as follows:

– March 16th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky
– March 30th – Malaysia (Sepang) – BBC and Sky
– April 6th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Sky
– April 20th – China (Shanghai) – Sky
– May 11th – Spain (Barcelona) – BBC and Sky
– May 25th – Monaco (Monaco) – Sky
– June 8th – Canada (Montreal) – BBC and Sky
– June 22nd – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Sky
– July 6th – Britain (Silverstone) – BBC and Sky
– July 20th – Germany (Hockenheim) – Sky
– July 27th – Hungary (Budapest) – Sky
– August 24th – Belgium (Spa) – BBC and Sky
– September 7th – Italy (Monza) – BBC and Sky
– September 21st – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky
– October 5th – Japan (Suzuka) – BBC and Sky
– October 12th – Russia (Sochi) – BBC and Sky
– October 26th – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky
– November 2nd – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky
– November 16th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – BBC and Sky

If you want to watch every race live:

– ticket 1 can be used from March 7th to April 7th (Australia and Bahrain)
– ticket 2 can be used from April 15th to May 15th (China)
– ticket 3 can be used from May 22nd to June 22nd (Monaco and Austria)
– ticket 4 can be used from July 1st to August 1st (Germany and Hungary)
– ticket 5 can be used from September 1st to October 1st (Singapore)
– ticket 6 can be used from October 16th to November 16th (USA and Brazil)

Six tickets at £35.00 is £210.00 at most – the same amount as last year, but when you consider the alarming increase of the Sky HD option, this actually works out to be one of the better options. The Now TV online service comes next in the Sky offering. To view the six Sky Sports channels for a 24 hour period, it costs £9.99, identical to last year although I am surprised that they have no reduced the price. I said at the time that it is too steep, and I haven’t changed my thoughts a year on. What this means is that you can watch the ten Sky exclusive races for £99.90. If you want to add Qualifying to that, however, this will increase to £199.80. The final option from Sky comes from their Sky Sports TV service for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android. It was £4.99 a month. Bad news. It has since doubled, and is now £9.99 a month. Nevertheless, £9.99 multiplied by six tickets means that you arrive at £59.94. If you’re an F1 addict and don’t care about other sports, why pay silly money when you can get away with parting company with only £59.94 for the year?

Over on Virgin Media, their Sky Sports Collection pack is available for £27.25 (up £1.50 a month). Add the TV M+ package with V HD Box on top of that and you are looking at £46.75 a month, or £495.00 a year. There is another option with Virgin Media, and that is the Starter Collection, however there are not any singular options there. Instead it is mostly triple play, so therefore is difficult to compare the prices with any of the other options. Note that Sky Sports F1 is not available to Virgin Media customers in HD.

As of writing, Sky Sports F1 is also not available on BT Vision or Freeview, meaning that the above are the only viable options.

To summarise, if you are a Formula 1 fan:

£651.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment Extra+, Sports + HD Packs (up £270.00)
£522.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + Sports Packs (up £12.00)
£495.00 a year – Virgin Media TV – V HD Box + M+ + Sky Sports Collection (up £24.00)
£299.70 – NOW TV – Practice, Qualifying and Race
£210.00 – Sky Go Monthly Ticket
£199.80 – NOW TV – Qualifying and Race
£99.90 – NOW TV – Race
£59.94 – Sky Sports TV App (up £29.97)

But what if you like two wheels too? You’ve already parted company with several hundred pounds to watch Formula 1 for the year – what now? For those who are fans of both F1 and MotoGP, 2014 will be the most expensive year yet, and the situation does not appear to be changing any time soon. Add the BT Sport options from here (non F1 fans will be interested in reading that link) on top of the Sky and Virgin Media options above. On Sky:

– BT Sport is free if you have BT Broadband
– BT Sport is £12.00 a month if you do not have BT Broadband
– BT Sport HD is an extra £3.00 a month

This means that, for both Formula 1 and MotoGP, there are eight possible combinations.

£831.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment Extra+, Sports + HD Packs + BT Sport in HD
=> this will get you Formula 1 in HD and MotoGP in HD [if you have no BT Broadband]

£795.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment Extra+, Sports + HD Packs + BT Sport
=> this will get you Formula 1 in HD and MotoGP in SD [if you have no BT Broadband]

£702.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + Sports Packs + BT Sport in HD
=> this will get you Formula 1 in SD and MotoGP in HD [if you have no BT Broadband]

£687.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment Extra+, Sports + HD Packs + BT Sport in HD
=> this will get you Formula 1 in HD and MotoGP in HD [if you have BT Broadband]

£666.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + Sports Packs + BT Sport
=> this will get you Formula 1 in SD and MotoGP in HD [if you have no BT Broadband]

£651.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment Extra+, Sports + HD Packs + BT Sport
=> this will get you Formula 1 in SD and MotoGP in SD [if you have BT Broadband]

£558.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + Sports Packs + BT Sport in HD
=> this will get you Formula 1 in SD and MotoGP in HD [if you have BT Broadband]

£522.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + Sports Packs + BT Sport in HD
=> this will get you Formula 1 in SD and MotoGP in SD [if you have BT Broadband]

Meanwhile, over on Virgin Media…

– BT Sport is free with the TV XL package
– BT Sport is otherwise £15.00 a month

Which means that it is:

£675.00 a year – Virgin Media TV – V HD Box + M+ + Sky Sports Collection + BT Sport
=> this will get you Formula 1 in SD and MotoGP in HD

£633.00 a year – Virgin Media TV – V HD Box + XL + Sky Sports Collection + BT Sport
=> this will get you Formula 1 in SD and MotoGP in HD

A depressing picture and a sad state of affairs, and it also helps show why fans are the real losers here. Other than your traditional television packages, you can do a mix and match for significantly less, for example buying the Sky Sports TV App, along with BT Broadband, thus giving yourself access to the BT Sport app in the process. A final option for MotoGP fans would be to go for their video pass, which works out at about £83.00 based on the current conversion rate. I have never used it, but given the amount of content that is on there, this may be an affordable option for those not wishing to have BT Sport. An F1 equivalent, as of writing, is unavailable.

All prices correct as of Friday 7th February 2014. Information contained in this blog post is subject to change.