Brazilian Grand Prix hits three year high

An average audience of 4.57 million watched the Brazilian Grand Prix, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast live on BBC One from 15:25 to 18:00, averaged 4.02m (24.9%), up significantly on 2013’s number of 3.45m (19.9%). It should be noted that 2013’s broadcast was 185 minutes long, whereas yesterday’s was 155 minutes long and yesterday would have benefited also from a strong lead-out with the BBC News at Six focussing on events in Paris. Sky Sports F1’s coverage from 15:00 to 18:30 added a further 548k (3.3%), an increase on 2013’s number of 473k (2.7%) across the same timeslot.

The combined average of 4.57 million is the highest for Interlagos since 2012, when Sebastian Vettel clinched his third championship in the final race of the year. Last year, an audience of 4.27 million watched as BBC showed highlights of the race, whilst 3.93 million watched in 2013.

Whilst yesterday’s Grand Prix was not the greatest in the world, it would have benefited from little sporting competition on pay-TV channels with no domestic top-flight football being played. Considering the championship has already been resolved, it is a good number.

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

Scheduling: The 2015 Race of Champions / Macau Grand Prix

Next weekend is a fairly big weekend of motor sport, with two annual events taking place. The Race of Champions will take place at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and is being broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. It looks like they have taken the live rights from Motors TV, I suspect that is a ‘one year only’ thing given that the event is in London.

Given the number of Formula 1 stars competing, such as Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa, the channel are presumably hoping that the event will do better than usual non-race weekend coverage, which should be do-able. Sky are providing their own studio coverage, hence a 30-minute edition of The F1 Show live from the Olympic Park. They are taking the World Feed commentary, which is being provided by Martin Haven and Jennie Gow, the first time I believe that either voice has been heard on the channel.

Elsewhere on Sky Sports F1, there is live GP2 and GP3 action from Bahrain, the two series supporting the World Endurance Championship this weekend, itself airing on Motors TV. What this means is that Sky Sports F1 has six and a half hours of live action on Friday, none of which actually contains F1! This is a good thing though, it is about time Sky airs non-F1 content on non-F1 weekends, a case of all things falling at once here.

The other big annual event is the Macau Grand Prix, which will air exclusively live on BT Sport. The channel will be airing just over eight hours of coverage next Saturday and Sunday including the 33rd running of the Formula 3 race.

Race of Champions – London (Sky Sports F1)
20/11 – 19:00 to 23:00
=> 19:00 – The F1 Show
=> 19:30 – Nations Cup
21/11 – 15:00 to 18:00

GP2 Series – Bahrain (Sky Sports F1)
19/11 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Practice
19/11 – 11:15 to 11:55 – Qualifying
20/11 – 12:25 to 13:55 – Race 1
21/11 – 07:40 to 08:55 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Bahrain (Sky Sports F1)
19/11 – 09:40 to 10:15 – Qualifying
20/11 – 10:15 to 11:15 – Race 1
21/11 – 05:55 to 06:55 – Race 2

Macau Grand Prix (BT Sport 1)
21/11 – 04:15 to 08:15
=> 04:15 – FIA GT World Cup Qualifying and F3 Grand Prix
=> 07:00 – Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix
22/11 – 04:45 to 09:00
=> 04:45 – FIA GT World Cup
=> 07:00 – F3 Grand Prix

V8 Supercars – Philip Island
21/11 – 03:45 to 04:45 – Race 31 (BT Sport 2)
21/11 – 05:45 to 06:45 – Race 32 (BT Sport 2)
22/11 – 02:45 to 04:45 – Race 33 (BT Sport 1)

World Endurance Championship – Bahrain
21/11 – 11:30 to 18:35 – Race (Motors TV)
21/11 – 17:00 to 18:15 – Race (British Eurosport)
25/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

If anything changes, I will update the above.

Update on November 19th at 09:15 – Per GP2’s official Twitter page, it looks like no World Feed is being provided for practice or qualifying (same applies for GP3), meaning that the scheduled programmes on Sky Sports F1 will no longer air.

Sky’s F1 channel “will be back” in 2016

The Sky Sports F1 channel will be back in 2016 in the UK, it has been confirmed. The news has been confirmed via a verified Sky representative on an Irish news forum.

In response to Sky Sports Darts taking over the F1 channel during the Christmas period, Sky’s spokeswoman on the forum said that “Motor fans will still be able to enjoy F1 content across other Sky Sports channels during this timeframe [14th December to 4th January]. As the F1 season will have already came to a close it means that F1 fans will not miss out on any live races. It also means that there will be no disruption to any live sport on any of the other Sport channels.”

The spokeswoman added that “In the New Year Sky Sports F1 will be back on channel 407, and will be the only place to see all 20 practice and qualifying sessions as well as every live race. Sky Sports F1 will continue to be a dedicated motor sport channel during the whole F1 season including preseason testing, and every race weekend live.”

Whilst a forum representative may not always be the strongest source, The F1 Broadcasting Blog has been able to independently verify the information to confirm that the F1 channel will be back in 2016. The future of Sky’s F1 channel has been under the microscope in recent months. Various race simulcasts on Sky Sports 1 have increased speculation, alongside rising contract prices for the likes of the Premier League and the news that Sky are streamlining their F1 production operation.

Of course, the continuation of Sky’s F1 channel is good news, it is after all a dedicated Formula 1 channel. However, I hope Sky make better use of the channel next season. At times it has felt like a ‘contractual obligation’ this season more than anything else, with the same Classic F1 races on a loop and little new programming outside of the race weekend beyond Midweek Report and The F1 Show. F1 Legends has been cut significantly, with Tales from the Vault and Architects of F1 the only new historical programming. Sky should look to programmes such as the Road to Mercedes for inspiration. 2015 has not all been negative – the channel has produced some stunning features such as the Mercedes behind the scenes feature alongside the ever present Notebook from Ted Kravitz (I will expand on the above in my post-season review).

It will be interesting to see if the structure of the channel changes for 2016, if at all. In the short term, the main news is that the F1 channel in the UK is definitely returning.

MotoGP finale peaks with 433k on BT Sport

A peak audience of 433k watched Jorge Lorenzo clinch the 2015 MotoGP championship live on BT Sport, overnight viewing figures show.

MotoGP and Moto3 hit BT Sport highs
Live coverage of the final MotoGP round of the season from Valencia averaged 345k (3.3%) from 12:30 to 14:00 on BT Sport 2, peaking with 433k (3.9%) in the 5-minute period from 13:40. Unsurprisingly, the peak figure is nearly triple last year’s peak of 151k (1.5%) when the title had already been decided.

The Moto3 race, which saw Danny Kent claim Britain’s first Grand Prix motorcycle title since 1977, peaked with 217k (2.4%) at 10:40. The entire programme, excluding Chequered Flag from 09:30 to 14:15, averaged a strong 205k (2.1%). ITV4’s highlights programme actually fared worse than BT Sport’s live MotoGP race. An average audience of 331k (1.5%) watched ITV4’s highlights on Monday evening at 20:00, peaking with 381k (1.7%) in the 5-minutes from 20:35. ITV4’s MotoGP shows have performed worse year-on-year, for the Monday airings at least, with the pendulum swinging towards BT Sport – noticeably there is now around a 50/50 audience split between the two broadcasters, something that was not the case last year.

It should be noted that ITV4 have added a lot of MotoGP repeats into their schedule this year, but my motto is not to add in multiple highlights, otherwise where do you stop? In 2013, when Marc Marquez beat Lorenzo to the championship, an average audience of 1.21m (11.9%) watched on BBC Two, with a peak of 1.49m (14.0%) recorded. Including British Eurosport, that number jumps to around 1.7m. The combined peak in 2015 of 814k is not the highest under this current contract, that honour remains with Qatar 2014 which recorded a combined peak of 833k. So viewing figures for the finale were down around half what they were in 2013, on your traditional devices at least.

I believe Sunday’s figures were BT Sport’s highest ever outside of football, so they will be happy with the numbers. As always, all figures exclude the BT Sport app and similarly BBC iPlayer from 2013.

Formula E struggles, but up year-on-year
Elsewhere, live coverage of Formula E from Putrajaya averaged just 23k (1.6%) from 05:00 to 07:30 on Saturday on ITV4. That number includes anyone who recorded the live programme and watched it before 02:00 on Sunday morning. The audience peaked (5-minute measure) with 58k (4.9%) ten minutes into the race. Last year, Putrajaya averaged 66k (5.1%), peaking with 137k (7.2%).

Highlights on Sunday morning fared significantly better, benefiting from the slot on ITV’s flagship channel. An audience of 201k (2.8%) watched, which compares with the 95k (0.5%) that watched ITV4’s highlights programme on Saturday evening last year. Formula E’s figures can be spun two different ways. Here are the facts. ITV4’s live coverage, in an identical slot to 2014, dropped 65 percent year-on-year, a very similar percentage drop to Beijing two weeks ago. Including the highlights show, the combined audience is up 40 percent year-on-year, from 160k to 224k.

It is a confusing picture. On one hand you can say, that the combined number is up or you can say that the live airing is down. What you also need to remember is the respective channel slot averages. By default, a programme airing on ITV should get a lot more viewers than on ITV4. However, Formula E’s number of 201k (2.8%) is down on ITV’s slot average. I think Punta del Este will tell a clearer story. My own opinion is that the numbers so far for Formula E’s second season are not good. Punta will either confirm that, or reverse the decline shown for the live numbers on ITV4.

There’s an interesting pattern here. Formula E, MotoGP and BTCC have recorded drops on ITV4 this year/recently, which could imply a wider issue to do with the broadcaster itself rather than an issue with a particular series…

A lesson in how to direct a motor race

Today’s MotoGP championship decider has itched out all emotions, ranging from jubilation to disgust, depending on which side of the fence you are on. But that is not the subject of this blog, there are many writers out there that will no doubt discuss the ramifications of past three weeks across the winter months.

This post is about one topic: the direction from Dorna. On many occasions, I have typed up words about the lack of coherent direction from multiple racing series, whether it is a battle for the lead that has been missed, or angles that served no purpose. It is important also to recognise when the pictures are spot on. Today, was that day.

You had Jorge Lorenzo at the front. You had Valentino Rossi at the back, looking to carve his way through the field. A near impossible job for the director was made to look easy. As a motor racing fan, at too many points this year have myself and others been shouting at races, for directors to focus on the right bit of the action. Dorna seamlessly went from shot to shot in Valencia, like a musical that hit every note pinch perfect. They displayed a master-class, from the first corner right through to chequered flag.

The helicopter cut as the bikes made their way off the grid would have been ridiculed under normal circumstances. But today was no normal circumstances. What the helicopter shot showed was the progress that Rossi had made in a short period of time and was used effectively throughout the first couple of laps. Dorna captured the majority of Rossi’s moves live, whilst also keeping one eye on the action at the front of the field. The graphics helped put the action into context: the live championship standings, plus the gap between Rossi and Lorenzo, later Rossi and Pedrosa. I thought Dorna were close to faultless today, handling the first portion of the race extremely well.

It was a pleasure and a relief to be shouting at the TV, not at the poor direction for once, but at the characters on the track telling the story.

Other series, take note.