Scheduling: The 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix

It’s the last Formula One race before the Summer break as the field head to Budapest for the tight and twisty Hungarian Grand Prix. As always, the race will be live on Sky Sports F1, with extended highlights across the BBC. For the full schedule, click the links below…

Thursday 24th July
Friday 25th July
Saturday 26th July
Sunday 27th July
Wednesday 30th July
Classic F1

Due to the Commonwealth Games, highlights of qualifying are on BBC Two. Highlights of the race are on BBC One, albeit in an 80 minute slot, so clearly someone at the BBC is banking on a dull Hungarian Grand Prix! Lee McKenzie is again not with the BBC team due to the games, and will be back with them in Belgium.

There are two other changes to note. The first note is that Hungary will be Jack Nicholls’ second race in the Radio 5 Live commentary box, taking James Allen’s position. Nicholls, as of September, will also be heard during Formula E’s television coverage as lead commentator alongside Dario Franchitti. Over on Sky Sports F1, Bruno Senna will be making his third appearance this season with the team. All of the details you need are listed below…

Thursday 24th July
14:00 to 14:45 – F1: Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 25th July
08:30 to 08:45 – F1: Gear Up for Hungary (Sky Sports F1)
08:45 to 11:00 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
08:55 to 10:35 – F1: Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
11:00 to 11:50 – GP2: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
12:45 to 14:50 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
12:55 to 14:35 – F1: Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14:50 to 15:30 – GP2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
16:00 to 16:45 – F1: Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Saturday 26th July
08:45 to 09:20 – GP3: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
09:45 to 11:15 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
09:55 to 11:05 – F1: Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12:00 to 14:35 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
12:55 to 14:05 – F1: Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14:35 to 16:05 – GP2: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
16:15 to 17:15 – GP3: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
17:40 to 18:55 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (BBC Two)

Sunday 27th July
08:20 to 09:20 – GP3: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
09:30 to 10:45 – GP2: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
11:30 to 16:15 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live
13:00 to 15:00 – F1: Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
17:10 to 18:30 – F1: Race Highlights (BBC One)

Wednesday 30th July
20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report (Sky Sports F1)

Classic F1 on Sky Sports F1
Sky’s schedules do not go beyond August 15th, so anything beyond the 15th, I will include in the Belgium schedule piece. As you can see, there’s no themes during the Summer break. I’m more likely to watch (or keep track of) classic F1 if there was a running theme, as I’ve said before. Throwing on random race after random race seems like a complete waste to me.

21/07 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1982 Monaco Grand Prix Highlights
22/07 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1987 Detroit Grand Prix Highlights
23/07 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix
24/07 – 21:00 to 23:45 – 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix
25/07 – 18:00 to 20:15 – 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix (Sky commentary)
26/07 – 17:15 to 18:15 – 1971 Season Review
26/07 – 21:20 to 23:35 – 1998 Hungarian Grand Prix
27/07 – 17:15 to 18:00 – 1990 Hungarian Grand Prix Highlights
28/07 – 21:00 to 21:30 – 1990 United States Grand Prix Highlights
29/07 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix
30/07 – 21:00 to 22:30 – 1989 Japanese Grand Prix Highlights
31/07 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1989 Monaco Grand Prix Highlights
01/08 – 21:00 to 23:45 – 2008 Singapore Grand Prix
02/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1991 Spanish Grand Prix Highlights
03/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1990 Australian Grand Prix Highlights
04/08 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix (Sky commentary)
05/08 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix
06/08 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2008 Chinese Grand Prix
07/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1987 British Grand Prix Highlights
08/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1986 Brazilian Grand Prix Highlights
09/08 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2012 European Grand Prix (Sky commentary)
10/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1988 Monaco Grand Prix Highlights
11/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1994 Spanish Grand Prix Highlights
12/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1996 Japanese Grand Prix Highlights
13/08 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1996 Australian Grand Prix Highlights
14/08 – 21:00 to 22:00 – 1986 British Grand Prix Highlights
15/08 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2013 Chinese Grand Prix (Sky commentary)

If anything significant changes, I will amend the above as necessary.

MotoGP’s UK viewing figures halve year on year

Halfway through the 2014 MotoGP season, and the move to pay TV for live coverage is having a profound effect on the UK ratings, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

> Half a million viewers across BT and ITV
> BT Sport “expect numbers to grow with time”
> ITV decline to comment

For the best part of fifteen years, BBC had screened every race live, with further more extensive coverage on British Eurosport. With an average of one million viewers every race, BBC’s coverage was motorcycling’s gateway to a new generation of fans, should a British rider rise to the top. In May 2013, it was announced that BT Sport would be taking over exclusive coverage of the championship from 2014 onwards, unsurprisingly provoking a backlash from fans. The exclusivity aspect failed to make it to the first race, just two weeks before the start of the 2014 season, it was announced that ITV4 would be screening highlights of the championship, a move aimed at appeasing a larger portion of the MotoGP fan base. And the viewing figures, in my opinion, back that up.

All the viewing figures below exclude BBC iPlayer for 2013, and similarly BT Sport’s app and ITV Player for this season. So far in 2014, BT Sport’s live race day coverage for the MotoGP portion of proceedings – from 12:30 to approximately 14:00 – have averaged 155k, peaking at just over 200k the majority of the time. ITV4’s highlights programming on Monday evenings have averaged 366k, this number including their +1 timeshift channel. The combined audience of 521k is significantly down on figures in previous years, when MotoGP was live on terrestrial television.

In comparison, BBC Two’s MotoGP coverage for the first half of the 2013 season, excluding Austin and Assen, which were not covered live by the channel, averaged exactly 1.00m, regularly peaking around 1.3m. In addition to that, an additional audience in the region of 150k watched on British Eurosport an hour later, bringing the combined audience is 1.15m. Traditionally, UK’s audiences have remained around that level for many years, with slight fluctuations about 100k either way depending on that season’s circumstances and other sporting competition in that calendar year. As mentioned above, audiences this year have more than halved in comparison to last year.

Looking into the figures, I maintain that ITV were brought on board to save face. BT Sport exclusivity would have been a catastrophic disaster for all concerned. Yes, they may be providing more in-depth coverage than BBC (albeit, with the use of a studio at every race weekend), but that in my opinion is meaningless if audiences are 10 percent of what BBC were getting. BT Sport’s coverage is not going to bring in new fans. If it does, it’ll be tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands as BBC’s coverage could have done if the likes of Bradley Smith get to the front of the field in the years to come.

I would be surprised if Dorna are happy with BT’s viewing figures, however it was them that made the decision to go with BT Sport’s money rather than BBC’s viewers. Whether ITV4’s highlights programming was a nice compromise, the jury is out. In any case, I’m not at all surprised about the drop. There is a valid point about the dominance of Marc Marquez having a detrimental effect on viewing figures. From BT’s perspective, viewing figures have stayed consistent (in fact, their Qatar programme only peaked with 230k), whilst ITV4’s highlights have dropped to around the 350k mark. Because of the football in the past month, there is no direct yes or no answer where the Marquez theory is concerned.

A BT Sport spokesperson said: “BT Sport is a brand new channel and less than a year old and MotoGP launched on the channel in March of this year. BT Sport show some of the most extensive coverage of MotoGP seen in the UK across Friday, Saturday and Sunday on a race weekend. We are pleased with the number of people watching MotoGP as well as MotoGP Tonight so far and feedback on our coverage has also been extremely positive. We expect numbers to grow with time.” ITV declined to comment.

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Scheduling: The 2014 German Grand Prix

The Formula 1 season hits the halfway point as the teams and drivers’ convene on the Hockenheimring for the German Grand Prix! The action will be live on Sky Sports F1, with extended highlights on BBC later in the evening. If you want to jump straight to the schedule, click the links below…

Thursday 17th July
Friday 18th July
Saturday 19th July
Sunday 20th July
Wednesday 23rd July
Classic F1

This year, due to The Open, the race highlights, like in 2012, will be aired on BBC Two from 19:00. Given that the highlights show is not following on from an Andy Murray final at Wimbledon, I fully expect a substantial ratings drop compared with 2013, a more realistic barometer is 2012 and before. In a little bit of good scheduling though, a repeat of the film Grand Prix precedes the BBC Two highlights show.

The main BBC personnel news is that Lee McKenzie will not be with the team for either Germany or Hungary due to the Commonwealth Games. It will be the first race that she has missed since 2008, before BBC had the Formula 1 television contract. Jennie Gow is stepping into McKenzie’s shoes for the weekend, Gow continuing her 5 Live commitments at the same time.

Elsewhere, there is a double bill of the IndyCar Series with two races in Toronto, both airing live on ESPN.

Thursday 17th July
14:00 to 14:45 – F1: Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 to 22:00 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23:30 to 23:45 – F1: Gear Up for Germany (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 18th July
08:45 to 11:00 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
11:00 to 11:50 – GP2: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
12:45 to 14:50 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
14:50 to 15:30 – GP2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
16:00 to 16:45 – F1: Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Saturday 19th July
08:45 to 09:25 – GP3: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
09:45 to 11:15 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
12:00 to 14:35 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
13:00 to 14:05 – F1: Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
14:35 to 16:05 – GP2: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
16:15 to 17:15 – GP3: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
17:25 to 18:40 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (BBC One)
19:45 to 20:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)
20:30 to 23:00 – IndyCars: Toronto (ESPN)

Sunday 20th July
08:20 to 09:20 – GP3: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
09:30 to 10:45 – GP2: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
11:30 to 16:15 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live
12:45 to 15:00 – F1: Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15:30 to 17:00 – IndyCars: Toronto (ESPN)
16:15 to 17:15 – GP Heroes: Niki Lauda (Sky Sports F1)
16:15 to 19:00 – FILM: Grand Prix (BBC Two)
19:00 to 20:30 – F1: Race Highlights (BBC Two)
20:30 to 23:00 – IndyCars: Toronto (ESPN)

Wednesday 23rd July
20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report (Sky Sports F1)

Classic F1 on Sky Sports F1
12/07 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 1998 Belgian Grand Prix
13/07 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix
14/07 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix
15/07 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
16/07 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2000 German Grand Prix
17/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – 1982 German Grand Prix Highlights
18/07 – 18:00 to 20:00 – 2010 German Grand Prix
19/07 – 17:15 to 18:30 – 1993 German Grand Prix Highlights
20/07 – 17:15 to 18:15 – 1970 Season Review
20/07 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1996 German Grand Prix Highlights

If anything changes, as always, I will update the schedule.

Update on July 14th – Piece updated to mention Jennie Gow doing double duty.

Update on July 20th – Yesterday’s IndyCar race one has been rescheduled to today due to heavy rain, so I have amended the above.

British Grand Prix drops to eight year low

The British Grand Prix, won by Lewis Hamilton, peaked with 4.9 million viewers yesterday, unofficial overnight data shows. Tough opposition and a one hour red flag period meant that the race dropped to its lowest number since 2006.

Race
You may argue that year-on-year analysis is invalid due to the red flag period. To some degree, comparisons are invalid and I accept that the race yesterday was not your typical 90 minute event, however that does not mean that they should be completely dismissed especially when you also look at the relevant qualifying comparisons. The live coverage on BBC Two averaged 2.82m (22.6%) from 12:00 to 16:30, with the equivalent timeslot on Sky Sports F1 bringing 501k (4.1%). A combined average of 3.33m is the lowest for the race since 2006, a more depressing statistic perhaps when you consider that a Brit is in the title race – and won yesterday.

Over 4 million viewers were tuned in as the lights went to green, 4.50m (40.1%) were watching at 13:05. Even at this point, the numbers were lower than the equivalent point in 2013: 5.29m (49.6%) watched the beginning of 2013’s race, showing that lower interest, the race being on BBC Two and other sporting attractions played their part, meaning that the red flag that followed was not the only factor in the low numbers. The problem with the red flag is that it meant that the race would now be overlapping completely with the Wimbledon final. The audience dropped to as low as 3.59m (30.2%) during the red flag period, picking back up to a high of 4.77m (35.9%) at 14:10. Despite having a British driver in contention, audience levels dropped again to 4.06m (28.2%) at 14:55, rebounding to a peak of 4.88m (32.7%) at 15:25 as Lewis Hamilton won – the audience split being 4.19m (28.1%) on BBC and 688k (4.6%) on Sky.

The peak audience of 4.88m (32.7%) compares with a peak of 6.70m (52.8%) in 2011 and a peak of 5.98m (51.0%) in 2013. The latter stage of the 2012 race, which clashed with Andy Murray’s Wimbledon, peaked with 5.2m. It is the first time since 2007 that the British Grand Prix programme average has been below four million viewers. Depressingly, the 2011 programme average of 4.89m (43.1%) is actually higher than yesterday’s peak.

Qualifying
Like the race yesterday, coverage of qualifying struggled similarly against Wimbledon and the Tour de France on Saturday. Whilst the Formula 1 did win its slot from 11:55 to 14:30, no doubt the opposition knocked a few hundred thousand off its potential. BBC Two’s coverage averaged 1.62m (17.5%), peaking with 2.29m (22.0%) at the conclusion of the qualifying hour. Sky Sports F1 from 12:00 to 14:30 added 293k (3.2%). With a combined average of 1.91m, it is easily the lowest British Grand Prix qualifying number since 2007. Had qualifying done well, I would have probably put a disclaimer next to the race figures, but in my opinion it is telling that both qualifying and the race did poor.

I’m afraid from a scheduling point of view, the decision to have the British Grand Prix on the same weekend as the Wimbledon finals and the Tour de France departing from Yorkshire was a disaster by FOM and the FIA. The Tour de France starting from Yorkshire has been known since late 2012 and the Wimbledon finals are always on the first weekend of July (although this is changing from 2015). I know that there are many, many factors that come into consideration when finalising the calendar, however having the British Grand Prix on the same weekend as two other big sporting events, thus reducing its prominence in the British sporting calendar, is brain fade. I did similar in 2012, but having:

– June 8th – Canada (as present, avoids World Cup clash)
– June 15th – Le Mans (as present)
– June 22nd – Britain (critically as it is a BBC live race means no World Cup clash)
– June 29th – Austria (Wimbledon middle Sunday and World Cup down to two games a day, giving more flexibility)
– July 13th – Germany (avoids clash with The Open, giving more flexibility)
– August 15th – Hungary (avoids Commonwealth Games)
– August 29th – Belgium (avoids late Summer Bank Holiday)
– September 7th – Italy

I’ll stop there, however the timing of the self imposed Summer break means that BBC highlights races are reduced to BBC Two coverage, reducing the ratings potential. I’m not sure how much consideration is given to avoiding other sporting fixtures, however in the case of Silverstone yesterday, they clearly did not pay as much attention as they should have. At a time when Formula 1 desperately needs good viewing figures, high profile clashes, along with yesterday’s one hour delay only serves to aggravate matters. Germany and Hungary are up next, and both are highlights and will be on BBC Two thanks to live coverage of the Open and Commonwealth Games. Formula 1’s Summer of low ratings looks set to continue…

The 2013 British Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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A presenter’s perspective on patriotism in F1 broadcasting

The British Grand Prix this weekend marks round nine of the 2014 Formula One season. Realistically, two men walk into the race with any hope of winning this year’s Drivers’ Championship: Germany’s Nico Rosberg and Britain’s Lewis Hamilton. In one corner, you have RTL. In the other corner you have the BBC, whilst on both sides there are the respective Sky broadcasters. In two weeks time, we head to Nico Rosberg’s home land for the German Grand Prix. Traditionally, having a home driver performing well does boost viewing figures. The UK’s viewing figures jumped significantly from 2006 to 2008, and Germany’s ratings hit a crescendo in the early 2000’s thanks to Michael Schumacher’s domination.

Steve Rider was presenter of ITV’s Formula 1 coverage during that time period before coverage switched to BBC. Rider seen Fernando Alonso win his second championship, followed by Lewis Hamilton’s rise in 2007 and championship winning year in 2008. In his biography, Rider talked about the logic behind ITV taking a more patriotic approach when Hamilton came into the fold. “The growing attention on the sport was, of course, very welcome for a British broadcaster, but over the months to come ITV, and probably myself in particular, were accused of becoming obsessed with Hamilton, so that television coverage simply revolved around his prospects and performance. There was never an obsession and hopefully I never lost sight of editorial balance, but I would certainly plead guilty to arguing for Hamilton to be the dominant story, and enjoying the fact that he was driving the audience so strongly,” Rider explained.

As a commercial broadcaster, it should not be surprising to see Sky Sports in the UK getting behind Hamilton, just like ITV did. Sky would say that they are just reflecting the views of their viewing audience – although perhaps interestingly, a poll on The F1 Show last Friday suggested a split of 50/50 on who will win the championship. ITV were just as patriotic in 2007 and 2008, and were widely derided for it at the time across various outlets, as Rider alluded to above. In some instances, it was amusing and accepted, Ted Kravitz unravelling the British flag in front of the Brazilian crowd in 2008 will always remain a highlight for me, and a lighter moment. As a whole, I do not want Sky’s coverage turning into a mini version of The Lewis Hamilton Show. Despite my reservations, I can see the editorial stance for that happening, a British driver winning brings in higher audiences and potentially more advertising revenue, hence the change of focus that may occur. BBC tends to be more neutral where the programming is concerned, and I don’t think their coverage is an issue.

Whilst Rider’s point is valid, switching back to 2014, @SkyF1Insider‘s tweets from Canada came across as a little obsessed, to use the same word as Rider. @SkyF1Insider is an official, verified feed from Sky Sports. Early on in the race, showing their patriotism, or bias, the feed tweeted: “Come on Lewis. Turn it up – lets get this race ON!” Now, the question is, do we mind or care about that? Is @SkyF1Insider the views of someone on the Sky team being aired on an official channel to add to their coverage. It may be harmless, but it’s not exactly a neutral message halfway through the race, although it does add a human element to the feed, which is a popular subject at the moment in another part of the forest. The latter message was looking for a conspiracy theory, in my opinion, especially coming off what happened in Monaco: “I’m confused. A radio message went through to Rosberg telling him both cars were unfixable…. Lewis retired, Rosberg still leads…”

Aside from the Twitter messages, the other major grate where Sky is concerned surrounds Johnny Herbert, and feeling the need to refer to Hamilton as ‘our Lewis’ in Sky’s coverage. Rider, in his book, goes on to explain that, had ITV’s pre and post race coverage been broadcasting to the entire globe, the stance would have been different. “Certainly if our audience was global you should expect to hear more from Nick Heidfeld and Jarno Trulli, but the British story was Hamilton; ITV had the access, and after all those years standing on the sidelines politely applauding the relentless genius of Michael Schumacher, they were determined to deliver the story as comprehensively as possible,” notes Rider. I think it is worth concluding by saying that in reality the patriotism that the UK coverage provides is nowhere near as nationalistic compared to other countries, for example Germany.

Whilst I don’t live in Germany, nor consume any of their coverage, reading comments on various sites leads me to believe that Sky Sports F1 is actually quite mild in comparison to RTL’s over the top reporting for Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Rosberg. In a piece last month that I wrote, one such comment, left by Lukas, suggested that RTL’s coverage is significantly worse than Sky’s, with heavy bias towards Vettel and Rosberg. Different audiences perhaps willing to tolerate different amounts, and different emotions perhaps, the German audience may well appreciate the patriotism whereas the UK audience wants a wider variety from their coverage. I don’t know, but it is an interesting and emotive subject nevertheless.