Dramatic Formula E decider peaks with 1.2 million

The final two races of the Formula E season performed solidly on both ITV and ITV4 across this past weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of round ten was broadcast live on ITV4 on Saturday. Qualifying, which aired from 11:30 to 13:15, averaged 146k (1.5%), peaking with 184k (3.1%) at 12:35. Up until that point, it was the most watched qualifying programme for the sessions that ITV4 had covered live. In fact, the peak number for London’s Saturday qualifying session was higher than the peak number recorded for the Moscow race three weeks earlier, showing that it was a strong number in isolation.

ITV4’s live race coverage aired from 15:00 to 17:30. The programme averaged 274k (3.7%), peaking with 460k (5.7%). The peak, up until that point again, was the strongest since Beijing which peaked with 477k (6.8%). Against a backdrop of mediocre ratings over the past few months, this was a much needed strong figure. I also think this underlines how well the previous European races could have done had they not clashed with Formula 1.

The highlights programme on ITV, which aired from 22:55 to 23:55, averaged 387k (3.6%). You could argue that it is higher than the ITV4 race programme, therefore it is a better figure, however in reality, that figure is very poor for ITV, a picture which is unfortunately the same for Sunday’s highlights programme.

Due to the British Touring Car Championship on ITV4, and presumably also ITV wanting to give Formula E a bit of extra coverage, programming was switched to ITV for Sunday’s qualifying and race, which formed the final round of the season. Live coverage of the race, airing on ITV from 15:00 to 17:45, averaged 700k (6.7%). The race peaked with 1.18m (10.7%) at 16:50 as Nelson Piquet Jnr won the championship.

Live coverage of the race began with 406k (4.6%) at 15:00, growing to 811k (8.3%) as the race started at 16:00. It crossed the million barrier at 16:25, remaining above a million until the race concluded. The programme itself did not win the slot, but this was due to the long pre and post-race analysis rather than the race itself under-performing. Live coverage of qualifying on ITV from 11:30 to 13:15 averaged 395k (4.9%), peaking with 503k (5.9%). Not great. Repeats of The Jeremy Kyle Show on the channel generated a higher audience in the equivalent timeslot on Saturday. However, purely because of the ‘ITV factor’, qualifying and the race will stand as record high numbers for the series.

Sunday’s highlights programme, which aired from 22:20 to 23:20, averaged 454k (3.3%). Again, it is not a great audience for the channel. Over on ITV4, live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship averaged 263k (2.8%) from 11:00 to 18:15, peaking with 460k.

For Formula E, the numbers are brilliant, in that they are significantly higher than previous rounds, and further cement the case for the championship to be shown on ITV’s main channel. Of course, that works on the assumption that Formula E want to keep working with ITV. Given that the top headline currently on Formula E’s website surrounds yesterday’s viewing figures in the UK, one has to assume that Formula E do not plan to take he championship off free-to-air television. The two questions surround the nature of the deal from a scheduling perspective, but also whether ITV are willing to pay any cash for it. Do ITV see more value in the series after season one, and are they therefore willing to hand over money as a result. I don’t think Formula E has everything their own way, yet.

From a slot average perspective, the numbers on ITV’s main channel did not exceed the slot average. Does that make the live numbers disappointing? No. Yeah, they’re solid for ITV, no more, no less. I doubt it made ITV’s executives go “wow” when they saw the overnights this morning. However, I would argue that if Formula E can peak with 1.2 million viewers for a championship decider at the end of its inaugural season, then what can do it do in a year’s time, with perhaps more airtime and advertising on ITV’s main channel? Interest is only going to grow over time. That 1.2 million peak could be 2 million twelve months from now.

This requires commitment from both sides. I think logical progression from both sides would be to retain the current deal, but air the opening race of the 2015-16 season on ITV, along with two or three other races (the calendar hasn’t yet been released, so it is impossible to say which ones), with ITV committing to an on-site presence for those races. I think having every race live on ITV’s main channel could do more harm than good. I’ll elaborate on the above in a future post, but let’s keep things moving naturally rather than committing to anything too big, too soon.

But, first and foremost, we need an announcement about season two’s rights. So ITV and Formula E. What are you waiting for?



Scheduling: The 2015 British Grand Prix

The 2015 Formula One season creeps towards the halfway stage, with the British Grand Prix! There are two races in the next seven weeks, thanks to the demise of the German Grand Prix. The good news for those without Sky Sports is that the next three races will be broadcast live on the BBC, as confirmed to this blog earlier in the year, which is a rare occurrence as races don’t tend to be axed after the season has started.

Expect both BBC and Sky to be out in full force next weekend line-up wise. From the BBC’s perspective, they are broadcasting a 90 minute preview show on BBC Radio 5 Live in the run-up to Silverstone. However, due to Wimbledon, Friday’s practice sessions will air behind the Red Button, whilst qualifying will air on BBC Two. Thankfully, the race itself will air live on BBC One.

Over on Sky Sports, they are producing an extra F1 Show, airing live on Thursday night which is now the norm for Silverstone. Qualifying and the race are again being simulcast on Sky Sports 1 for the second race in a row. It will be interesting to see whether this trend continues after the Summer break when the football season gets going. Elsewhere, Sky are airing 2 x 30 minute shows focussing on the Formula Kart Stars competition, whilst the 1995 British Grand Prix is going to be aired in full. They showed the complete 1995 race a few weeks ago, but at the time I thought it was a scheduling mistake, when in the end they did actually show the full race!

Below are all the scheduling details for the Grand Prix that you need…

BBC TV – Sessions
03/07 – 09:55 to 11:30 – Practice 1 (BBC Red Button)
03/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Red Button)
04/07 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Two)
04/07 – 12:10 to 14:30 – Qualifying (BBC Two)
05/07 – 12:15 to 15:30 – Race (BBC One)
05/07 – 15:30 to 16:30 – Forum (BBC Red Button)

BBC Radio – Sessions
03/07 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
04/07 – 09:55 to 11:00 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
04/07 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
05/07 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Supplementary Programming
02/07 – 20:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
05/07 – 11:15 to 12:20 – F1 Rewind (BBC Two)
05/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Slicks-o-Six (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Sky Sports F1
03/07 – 09:45 to 12:00 – Practice 1
03/07 – 13:45 to 16:00 – Practice 2
04/07 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
04/07 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
05/07 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
02/07 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Driver Press Conference
02/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports 1)
02/07 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Tales from the Vault: Champions
02/07 – 21:00 to 21:15 – Paddock Uncut: Britain
03/07 – 17:00 to 17:45 – Team Press Conference
03/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports 1)
08/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report
09/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Formula Kart Stars

NEW Classic Races
01/07 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 1995 British Grand Prix

GP2 Series – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
03/07 – 12:00 to 12:50 – Practice
03/07 – 15:50 to 16:30 – Qualifying
04/07 – 14:35 to 16:05 – Race 1
05/07 – 09:15 to 10:30 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
04/07 – 08:45 to 09:25 – Qualifying
04/07 – 16:15 to 17:15 – Race 1
05/07 – 08:20 to 09:05 – Race 2

As always, if anything changes, I will update the schedule.

Formula E: Your 2014-15 Verdict

After nine months, ten cities and eleven rounds, Nelson Piquet Jnr has been crowned the inaugural Formula E Drivers Champion! It has been a roller-coaster season that started in Beijing last September, swept through cities such as Buenos Aires, Miami and Monaco, before finishing off in Battersea Park for the London ePrix. ITV have just finished their final programme of the inaugural season – potentially their final live Formula E broadcast, given that we do not currently know the destination of season two’s rights.

The first season has come to an end, and as always The F1 Broadcasting Blog wants your opinion on the inaugural season. What did you think? What went well, what did you enjoy about Formula E? Did you enjoy the commentary line-up, along with ITV’s own coverage with Jennie Gow as presenter? And what disappointed you about Formula E’s opening song? What should be changed about Aurora Media’s host broadcast coverage?

As always, your thoughts are welcome, with the best opinions forming part of a new blog post in around a month from now.

Poll: What is your favourite ITV F1 intro?

Ahead of the return of live motor sport to ITV’s main channel this weekend in the form of the Formula E championship decider, The F1 Broadcasting Blog has decided to take a trip down memory lane, looking back at ITV’s past Formula 1 intros. Whilst ITV’s Formula E coverage this weekend will have the generic World Feed intro, ITV came up with four distinctive titles for their Formula 1 coverage from 1997 to 2008, with each iteration lasting three years.

ITV’s coverage began in 1997 with an instrumental from British jazz band Jamiroquai, who were asked to produce the intro and outro track. The band, who were approached by ITV F1 producer Neil Duncanson, were paid £100,000 to compose the theme.

The basis of the title sequence is a car unveiling, followed by a pit-stop, before the car is unleashed towards the camera, a sequence which was executed superbly and comes across well, even looking back at it nearly twenty years later. The nature of the soundtrack is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, although Jamiroquai’s version doesn’t quite build up to a climax with the same amount of energy as The Chain. Was it as good as The Chain? Of course not, but it was probably as good as what it was going to be.

Most sporting theme tunes on commercial television tend to have a life span of between three and five years, before they become old, and this was the case with ITV’s Formula 1 coverage. At the turn of the millennium, Apollo 440 provided the theme for ITV’s coverage through Blackbeat, with the car unveiling of Jamiroquai being replaced by a more upbeat, fast-paced intro that showed off Formula 1 to the maximum.

The intro showcased moments from the late 1990s alongside the latest British contenders on the grid, a narrative that would remain in ITV’s coverage until the end. This theme was the F1 theme when I first properly began getting into the sport, meaning that it is undoubtedly my favourite of the ITV era. It portrays everything that there is about Formula 1, and helps get you in the frame of mind to watch a motor race. They key words there are ‘motor race’, it has to fit that agenda. Blackbeat fulfilled that role perfectly. Of course, there’s another reason I remember the Blackbeat era fondly, and that is the Texaco break bumpers! Break bumpers like that are so much more memorable, unlike the break bumpers of 2015 (yes FairFX, I’m looking at you).

Michael Schumacher’s dominance, alongside the fall of F1 Digital+, meant that ITV’s coverage was overhauled in 2003 in an attempt to win back lapsed viewers. A remix of You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, originally performed by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, was on the table from 2003 through to the end of 2005. The original plan, according to The Music & Media Partnership, was to have a remix of The Who’s Baba O’Riley, but plans were dropped following the arrest of Peter Townshend.

The style of the intro is similar to Blackbeat before it, except it looks and feels more technical than before. However, I don’t think the You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet instrumental is as hard hitting as Blackbeat, which is it’s downfall. 2003’s intro lacked any car sounds, although this was fixed for later iterations in 2004 and 2005. Don’t get me wrong, it is okay, but it never really hit the sweet spot in my opinion. Trying to incorporate technical aspects into the theme titles was not going to work, whilst the map at the end of the titles was unnecessary. The idea was good, but the execution here I don’t think was great.

You’ll probably find it easy to like or dislike either one of the three themes above, but what happened next was unexpected. Opinions on ITV’s last F1 theme, Lift Me Up from American songwriter Moby, veer from brilliant to downright awful. The intro marked a distinct change in coverage for the start of the 2006 season. Steve Rider replaced Jim Rosenthal as lead presenter, the graphics set was completely overhauled and a young Brit was entering the fray. By the time ITV’s Formula 1 coverage ended in 2008, he would be world champion.

The change of approach to their introduction was solidified in their coverage overall, with more emphasis on British drivers than ever before, this fuelled on further as Lewis Hamilton made his debut at the beginning of the 2007 season. In isolation, there is nothing wrong with Lift Me Up, but this is a case of ‘wrong song, wrong sport’. I’d love to know what the aim of this piece actually was, because some aspects of the intro clearly have nothing to do with Formula 1 and clearly were only there to try and glamour up the sport. An early version of the Lift Me Up intro exists over at Reelthing Animation, for anyone wishing to take a look. I probably look back on Lift Me Up more fondly than what I should given that it concluded ITV’s F1 coverage, but it certainly won’t top any “best sporting intro” charts any time soon.

Or… will it?

If ITV and Formula E remain partners for a second season, it will be interesting to see if ITV choose to create their own titles for the coverage, or whether they take the World Feed titles, as they have throughout Formula E’s inaugural season.

Austrian Grand Prix up year-on-year

The Austrian Grand Prix saw a ratings increase compared with last year’s race, overnight viewing figures show.

The race, won by Nico Rosberg and broadcast live on Sky Sports F1, averaged 528k (6.3%) across three and a half hours from 12:00 to 15:30. A further 224k (2.7%) watched the action on Sky Sports 1 during the same timeslot, bringing the combined Sky Sports number to 752k (9.0%). The combined number is up on last year’s Sky Sports F1 only figure of 721k (9.6%). In isolation, the Sky Sports F1 number for 2015’s race is low, with Sky Sports 1 dragging the numbers up.

Despite an almost identical Sky Sports audience compared with Canada – the viewer split between 1 and F1 differs a fair bit – 84% vs 16% in Canada compared to 70% vs 30% for Austria. So, why the difference? There are two reasons I feel, the time of day and also exclusivity. Sky shared live coverage with the BBC, whereas Sky had exclusive live coverage of coverage. The numbers imply that casual viewers are more likely to watch F1 on Sky Sports 1 than Sky Sports F1, which is unsurprising given the name of one of those two channels, but an interesting observation nevertheless.

BBC One’s highlights programme, which aired from 17:05 to 18:35, averaged 3.11m (23.1%). The number is comfortably up on 2014’s figure of 2.45m (12.2%), but the comparison is invalid given that last year’s highlights programme aired on BBC Two from 19:00, so it is difficult to compare the two. However, it does show the pull of BBC One in comparison to BBC Two as a whole.

The combined BBC and Sky average of 3.86m is up on 2014, due to the highlights scheduling factor. There’s not anything else to note given that Austria was off the calendar prior to that for a decade.

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