BBC “will have 10 live races” even if German GP disappears

With the German Grand Prix looking increasingly likely to disappear from the 2015 Formula One season, a few people have wondered whether this will affect the current BBC and Sky picks for this season.

As it stands, the BBC are set to broadcast ten live races out of the twenty on the calendar, with the mid-season schedule looking like this:

– June 21st – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Sky
– July 5th – Britain (Silverstone) – BBC and Sky
– July 19th – Germany (TBA) – Sky
– July 26th – Hungary (Budapest) – BBC and Sky
– August 23rd – Belgium (Spa) – BBC and Sky
– September 6th – Italy (Monza) – Sky

If the German Grand Prix disappeared, then the BBC would be left with three consecutive live races, and with more than 50 percent of the races live (10 out of 19). Neither of those two statements has been true since the current contract came into effect at the beginning of 2012.

However, a BBC spokesperson has confirmed to The F1 Broadcasting Blog that the 2015 picks will not change if the German Grand Prix is removed from the calendar. The spokesperson said “If Germany (and it is an ‘if’ at this stage) comes out of the calendar, it won’t affect what we show as the picks are done at the start of the season. So if Germany goes we will have 10 lives from a total of 19 races.”

Poll: Which F1 graphics set do you prefer?

Last weekend, at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, Formula One Management (FOM) unveiled a new graphics set, which on the whole has been well received by blog readers. Inevitably, comparisons will be made between this set of graphics and previous iterations. But which set is your favourite? Here is a look at each graphics set, along with a poll at the bottom of this post.

I’ve made a conscious decision to leave out any of the graphics set from before 1994, as my knowledge of what happened before then in this area is limited. I also don’t know whether there was a consistent graphics set used for complete years, or whether it was the decision of each of the local hosts. What I do know though, is that from 1994, things became a lot more consistent.

1994 to 2003
Anyone who began watching Formula 1 in the late 1990’s will remember this graphics set fondly. Probably dubbed as the classic graphics set, the World Feed graphics were standardised for the beginning of 1994 and remained in place for a decade.

The classic graphics set on display during the 2000 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying session.
The classic graphics set on display during the 2000 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying session.

For its time, the graphics did their job perfectly, but towards the end, the graphics set had outlived their welcome as viewers wanted more data and detail, especially those that had returned to the World Feed from the defunct F1 Digital+ platform. Plus, it is fair to say that those graphics would be unsuitable in a widescreen era, and unusable in a three-part qualifying session if not tweaked significantly.

1996 to 2002 – F1 Digital+
Whilst the majority of the world were accustomed to the classic graphics set seen above, a small portion of the audience who subscribed to the F1 Digital+ service across Europe (and in the UK through Sky during 2002) received a different graphics set, which was arguably ahead of its time.

The F1 Digital+ graphics set in action during practice for the 2002 United States Grand Prix.
The F1 Digital+ graphics set in action during practice for the 2002 United States Grand Prix.

Those who watched via the standard World Feed did see the F1 Digital+ graphics set once, during the 2002 United States Grand Prix, but apart from that, it was hidden away on the pay-per-view service. Once the service collapsed, the graphics were never seen again, although the collapse of the service was what probably led to the World Feed graphics getting an overhaul for the beginning of the 2004 season.

2004 to 2009
The 2004 to 2009 graphics set was notable given the number of new features that came with it, such as the timing tower, which I don’t believe was included in the F1 Digital+ set. This was also the first graphics set that made heavy use of the three lettered abbreviations that are now commonplace in motor sport. What I don’t know is whether these were FOM innovations within motor racing, or a trend that began elsewhere – anyone who watches football will know that abbreviations have been around for decades.

The no flash, more modern graphics set on display during qualifying for the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.
The no flash, more modern graphics set on display during qualifying for the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.

Items such as the rev-counter, which commonly appeared on F1 Digital+, soon became integrated into this graphics set. As with every graphics set, the set was adjusted as time progressed, but the basic template remained the same throughout. As FOM made the transition to widescreen for the 2007 season, the graphics set remained within the 4:3 safe area until they were replaced at the end of 2009. It may not have been the flashiest graphics set ever, however it did its job fine.

2010 to 2014
All of the previous graphics set up until 2010 had featured straight lines, either horizontally or vertically. The graphics set introduced at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix went for a more slanted approach, this was presumably done so it matched the slanted aspect of the F1 logo. Yes, the graphics did look ‘sexier’ than previous versions, but did it provide anything that the previous versions did not? Well, not really.

A picture of FOM's graphics set, as seen during Q2 at the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix.
A picture of FOM’s graphics set, as seen during Q2 at the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix.

When I compared Dorna’s MotoGP graphics with FOM’s graphics in October 2013, I concluded that “if you are looking for something easy on the eye, then FOM wins, but if you want a data driven set, then Dorna with their MotoGP graphics is a clear winner.” Like the previous version, this set of graphics went through multiple iterations from 2010 until 2014, but the overall vision remained the same, with not much changing under the surface during the course of those five years.

And so, we come to 2015. The year in which FOM have appeared to rip up anything that existed beforehand and start fresh. The inspiration behind the minimalist approach stems from the way design is heading currently, with big brands going down that route. FOM are only following the trend, and I think they have made the right decision. I’m a really big fan of what we saw over the weekend.

The new graphics set on display during practice two at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.
The new graphics set on display during practice two at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.

Of course, there are always room for improvements with any graphics set, but these are minor tweaks rather than a fundamental flaw in the design. In the poll currently running, 68 percent of you say that you like the new graphics, which is a huge step in the right direction. But, where does the 2015 graphics set stack up for you historically? Do you like the minimalist approach, or do you wish we could travel back in time to the 1990’s and get the ‘black and yellow’ colour scheme back? It is time to have your say in the poll below and as always your views and opinions are welcome.

F1 2015 starts off with 3.5 million

A depleted grid for the Australian Grand Prix meant that off-track talk continued to dominate the agenda, but the 2015 Formula One season began with 3.5 million viewers this past Sunday, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

From the outset, it is important to note that direct comparisons for Sky are difficult, as the race was held an hour earlier this year. Another issue is that, for Australia at least, Sky have decided to split their live programming on race day into four segments instead of three as in 2014. This blog has always tried to make the fairest comparisons. Going forward, I will continue to use the three and a half hour block from an hour before the race to an hour after the race, irrespective of what Sky do or don’t regarding scheduling. For this piece, I will provide both comparisons in the interest of clarity. As always, figures exclude Sky Go and BBC iPlayer.

Sky Sports F1’s numbers were down year-on-year, unsurprisingly given the change in start time. In 2014, from 05:00 to 08:30, the channel averaged 594k (26.9%), which compares with 517k (29.5%) from 04:00 to 07:30 for this year. The 05:30 to 08:30 slot in 2014 averaged 659k (27.2%) versus 586k (32.9%) from 04:30 to 07:30 for yesterday’s race. So either measurement puts Sky down around 70k year-on-year. I would say that the drop is due to the start time change rather than anything more, although the figures do include anyone who watched the live Sky broadcast later in the day. Having said that, the 2015 average was identical to 2013, which is an impressive feat all considering. Sky’s 2015 coverage peaked with 789k (40.3%) at 06:10, compared to a peak of 945k (21.2%) from 2014. 2013’s coverage peaked with 893k (21.1%). Looking at the breakdown, more people watched Sky’s post-race coverage in comparison with previous years. On one hand that is surprising as the race was uneventful, but there was a British winner so it evens out really.

Over on BBC One, highlights of the race averaged 3.03m (27.7%) from 13:15 to 14:40, which is up on 2.88m (25.4%) from 2014 but marginally down on 3.05m (21.9%) from 2013. There’s an argument about whether you can compare those figures as BBC’s highlights programme was 35 minutes shorter than in previous years. The share is strong, the raw figure, not so much. Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in the UK, which may explain that one. BBC’s coverage peaked with 3.38m (29.7%) at 14:15, up on 2014’s peak figure of 3.15m (26.6%), but down on 2013’s peak of 3.69m (24.5%). It is a mixed bag, but nothing disastrous either way.

The combined total is bang in line with 2013 and 2014, and up on 2012. 2013 averaged 3.57m, whilst 2014 averaged 3.47m. The 2015 Australian Grand Prix slides straight in the middle of those two figures with 3.54m. You can’t read too much into figures, I’d say it is just ‘good’ rather than anything more or less.

Qualifying and Formula E
Live coverage of qualifying averaged 261k (12.7%) on Sky Sports F1, with a further 54k (2.6%) watching on Sky1, and an additional 24k (1.2%) choosing to watch on Sky Sports 1. The three combined means that an average of 339k (16.4%) watched across Sky’s platforms, although both the Sky1 and Sky Sports 1 airings were not promoted. BBC One’s coverage averaged 2.29m (24.5%). The total number of 2.63m is a solid start to the season where qualifying is concerned.

Formula E’s underperformed on ITV4 for round five of its championship from Miami. Live coverage of the race from 19:00 to 21:30 on Saturday averaged 150k (0.7%), peaking with 269k (1.3%) at 20:45. Highlights the following day averaged 71k (0.9%). Both numbers were below the respective slot averages for ITV4. I don’t think Miami was helped by being on the same weekend as the Formula 1 season opener and also by being up against two big Saturday night shows on both BBC One and ITV. Is it concerning yet that the highest audience for the series in the UK is still the inaugural race? I really like Formula E, in fact Miami was better than Melbourne, but for whatever reason, the series is not yet taking off in the UK.

The 2014 Australian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

F1 launches on YouTube and Instagram

YouTube and Instagram have completed what has been a big week for Formula One Management as the 2015 season got under way this morning in Australia.

> March 12th – New website
> March 13th – New TV graphics
> March 14th – New YouTube channel
> March 14th – New Instagram feed

The YouTube channel launched with mostly previews of features from the official F1 App. As far as I can see, there is no exclusive content on their YouTube channel yet, but it is very early days. What did surprise me was seeing this video pop up on there:

Archive video? On an official F1 YouTube channel? What is this! The video content was not limited to YouTube. Votes were conducted on Twitter with videos embedded. The reason that 2002 Australian Grand Prix video appeared on YouTube was because of a Twitter vote asking users for their favourite Australian Grand Prix out of a choice of three:

There is nothing revolutionary on their YouTube channel, although one could argue that seeing an official F1 channel on YouTube is a revolution in itself. Their Instagram feed on the other hand did have exclusive content, with the F1 team posting images throughout race-day:

Whilst the off-track action seemed to dominate the agenda more than the race itself, it is safe to say that this is one good Formula 1 story that has unfolded in the past week.

New F1 graphics set coming for 2015

Alongside the relaunch of the new Formula 1 website, that wasn’t the only thing that changed on the broadcasting side of things, with a brand new grahics set making its debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.

Thankfully, the slanted nature of the aspect, which has been a part of the coverage since 2010, appears to be disappearing, with a much more slicker set of graphics appearing in its place.

New track graphic from the World Feed, on display at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.
New track graphic from the World Feed, on display at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.

In my opinion, the graphics are significantly better than their predecessor. For a while, I have said that Dorna’s graphics set for MotoGP are better than the graphics that Formula One Management produce for F1, however the change in graphics may change my perceptions where that is concerned.

The new graphics look cleaner, slicker and more importantly, they take a minimalist approach. They do not dominate the screen and are easy on the eye, I think the transparency helps in that respect. There is always room for improvement. If you wanted to integrate social media further into the product, one possibility would be to move the session timer to the middle of screen, with the appropriate hashtag in the top left corner of the screen. Interestingly, back in 2004, when the World Feed moved away from the back and yellow graphics, the timer was initially in the top left corner before being moved to the middle, so Formula One Management (FOM) may again take that route.

The new graphics set on display during practice two at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.
The new graphics set on display during practice two at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.

Overall, as we head into qualifying and the race, FOM have made significant strides forward on both the World Feed and online. Let’s hope this continues as the weekend progresses.

Updated on Friday 13th March.