Archive material takes centre stage with new feature-length films

It feels like there has been a motor racing movie renaissance during the past few years, with the likes of Senna and Rush hitting the big screen to major success at the box office, both winning multiple awards.

The renaissance is continuing with more feature-length films in the works. A film surrounding the life of François Cevert is being released on Wednesday 11th May, whilst Prost will tell the story of the four-time Formula 1 world champion and is scheduled for release in 2017. Recent years could be considered a golden age for motor racing filmography. But, a great film or documentary does not need to be released at the box office to be a hit with the intended audience. The likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime have widened the net in recent years meaning that film makers have a choice on the method that they wish to distribute their movie by.

A new feature-length film has been released, telling the story of Ayrton Senna’s year-long battle in the 1983 British Formula 3 championship with Martin Brundle. If you felt that you wanted more from Senna’s early years in the Senna film, this film helps go some distance towards that goal. Senna vs. Brundle was developed from start to finish by Mario Muth and has been released on Vimeo for £5.99. The film clocks in at just over 90 minutes long, an ideal length without over saturating the subject.

There are multiple effects used throughout the film which help bring it to life. The main one is animation in the context of still images. By scaling closer to the main object in each still image, the viewer feels a ‘connection’ between themselves and the image in question. In many cases, the car is brought to life through this effect. The most dramatic image is Brundle attempting to escape his Eddie Jordan Racing car after colliding with Senna.

Archive footage is used sporadically throughout the video. Unlike today, you have to consider that the amount of footage available from a typical 1983 Formula 3 race is going to be significantly less than the footage from an equivalent event today which is understandable. I checked the BBC’s Genome service to see if the corporation aired any Formula 3 races on television, and only the final round of the 1983 season was covered. Any shortcomings in archive footage are overcome through the use of magazine extracts from AUTOSPORT and Motorsport News. Again, this is done in a ‘stylish’ manner as opposed to taking the standard flat ‘display on screen’ approach, showing that attention to detail is present throughout the film.

Senna vs Brundle - magazine cutting.png
Magazine snippets are used by Mario Muth throughout Senna vs Brundle, in a stylish, modern manner.

One concern I had before watching the film was that Senna’s view-point would not be captured, however any concern in this area is dispelled quickly. The viewer hears Senna through recorded audio from 1983 at various stages during the film. All of the major viewpoints were captured, including team bosses (Eddie Jordan), commentator (Murray Walker), journalists (David Tremayne) and then the drivers themselves (Senna, Brundle and Davy Jones).

The main negative concerns the flow of the film. Not necessarily the ordering, but the break points. At 90 minutes in length, it didn’t feel like there was a natural ‘breathing point’. As far as I recall, there was no ‘fade to black’ and then onto the next section. Personally, three or four ‘break points’ in the film, with a time stamp following on, for example “Silverstone, 16th July 1983” would not have gone amiss to show the context that the event took place in. We know the events occurred in 1983, but the relative time frame is unclear. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor gripe at best.

I hope Senna vs Brundle is the springboard for more films of this nature being produced. It serves as a template for other great battles over the years in Formula 1 and beyond that could be retold in the same manner, giving a new fresh insight. Schumacher vs Villeneuve (1997), Schumacher vs Hakkinen (2000) and Hamilton vs Massa (2008) are just three possibilities in the future… as I have said before, the Formula One Management (FOM) archive is a goldmine waiting to be exploited, one day.

FOM are already making small movement on the archive front, this season it feels like that they are uploading more archive material to their YouTube channel with rare footage such as classic on-boards being made publicly available for fans to watch. I hope that trend continues as the season progresses. It is important that we remember where the sport came from, and films such as Senna vs Brundle help in that respect.

Scheduling: The 2016 Russian Grand Prix

The Bank Holiday weekend here in the United Kingdom means that there is not a lot of motor sport choice as May begins.

Round four of the 2016 Formula One season comes from Russia, which moves from its early October slot in the calendar. Russia is Sky Sports F1’s third exclusively live race of the season, with Channel 4 screening highlights of both qualifying and the race on the edge of primetime.

There is no further action of four wheels to be aware of this weekend looking at the schedule. Further afield on two wheels, the Speedway Grand Prix season gets underway live on BT Sport. British Eurosport meanwhile plays host to both the World and British Superbike Championships and as is tradition, the domestic super bike action takes place on Bank Holiday Monday.

Channel 4 F1
30/04 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying Highlights
01/05 – 18:00 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
29/04 – 07:45 to 09:50 – Practice 1
29/04 – 11:45 to 14:00 – Practice 2
30/04 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
30/04 – 12:00 to 14:45 – Qualifying
01/05 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
27/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
28/04 – 13:00 to 13:30 – Driver Press Conference
28/04 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
29/04 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Team Press Conference
29/04 – 14:30 to 15:00 – The F1 Show
04/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
29/04 – 07:55 to 09:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/04 – 11:55 to 13:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/04 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/04 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/05 – 12:30 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

British Superbikes – Oulton Park
01/05 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Qualifying (British Eurosport 2)
02/05 – 12:30 to 18:00 – Races (British Eurosport 2)
04/05 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Speedway Grand Prix – Slovenia (BT Sport 1)
30/04 – 17:30 to 21:15 – Races

World Superbikes – Imola
30/04 – 12:00 to 13:15 – Superpole and Race 1 (British Eurosport 2)
01/05 – 10:00 to 14:00 – Race 2 (British Eurosport 2)
03/05 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

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

Last updated on May 1st at 11:00 to reflect the BBC Radio 5 Live schedule change. Race coverage will now be on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra so that the main station can cover updates in the Manchester United vs Leicester City football match.

Happy 4th Birthday!

The F1 Broadcasting Blog continues to go from strength to strength and today marks the sites fourth birthday. The past few months have seen the site break milestones and set new records on the backdrop of two new UK F1 broadcasting deals that have elicited reaction from far and wide.

Here are some of the key performance indicators for the site:

– Total of 1.2 million hits
– 240000 hits so far in 2016
– 57000 unique visitors in March

I never set KPI targets simply because you do not know what is round the corner, the site traffic ebbs and flows depending on what is topical within the motor sport broadcasting world.

As some of you know this site is run single-handed, which has been the case since the site was founded in April 2012. The reward is the comments, the feedback and praise from those within the industry and beyond. The reward is the invitation to press days: such as Channel 4’s Formula 1 media morning last month which was a pleasure to attend from start to finish, for that, I thank them.

Writing and editing this site is just as rewarding and exciting today as it was on day one. I don’t need or have to write this, but I do so because I enjoy it. It is an area that interests me alongside my full-time day job (that is: data science). Readers may have noticed some changes over the past few months: the layout change, domain change, and advertising. But the fundamentals of this website remain the same: it will always be broadcasting based and it will always be my honest opinion and analysis.

Inevitably there is only a finite amount that can be covered in the time available meaning that some topics have been neglected so far this year. Now that the frantic period within the UK F1 broadcasting scene is over, expect the variety of posts to slowly return in forthcoming weeks as my batteries recharge and the motor racing season is getting into its element.

As always thank you for reading and supporting the blog throughout the past four years!


Scheduling: The 2016 Spanish MotoGP / Paris ePrix

The start of the European phase of the MotoGP season marks the return of Suzi Perry to the two-wheeled paddock. Perry returns to the MotoGP paddock as BT Sport’s new MotoGP presenter after a six-year absence, having been superseded by Jennie Gow as BBC’s MotoGP host in 2010.

Perry hosted BBC’s Formula 1 coverage from 2013 to 2015. The musical chairs following BBC’s F1 TV exit at the end of 2015 means that Perry is now back covering two-wheels, hosting BT’s MotoGP coverage from Jerez alongside Craig Doyle. It will be fantastic to see Perry back doing what she does best, and I’m glad to see that the movement has happened quickly on that front (although it does come at the expense of Iwan Thomas and Abi Griffiths).

Jack Nicholls is also a returnee this weekend, stepping back into his Formula E shoes ready for the inaugural Paris ePrix. The race will be shown live on ITV4 on Saturday afternoon with Jennie Gow presenting as usual. Given the fact that Paris is only a few hours in the Eurotunnel, it would have been nice for ITV to have some on-site coverage instead of studio coverage like London last season, but it looks like that is not the case, unsurprisingly I guess with low viewing figures for the series.

There is a mass of other single-seater action spread across BT Sport and Motors TV ranging from the IndyCar Series to the new Formula V8 3.5 Series. Elsewhere, there is rallying from Argentina to whet the appetite, with highlights airing on Channel 5. Below are all the scheduling details you need…

MotoGP – Spain (BT Sport 2)
22/04 – 08:00 to 15:00
=> 08:00 – Practice 1
=> 10:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 12:00 – Practice 2
23/04 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
24/04 – 07:30 to 09:15 – Warm Up
24/04 – 09:30 to 15:00
=> 09:30 – Moto3 race
=> 11:15 – Moto2 race
=> 12:45 – MotoGP race
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Spain (ITV4)
25/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Paris (online via YouTube)
23/04 – 07:10 to 08:10 – Practice 1
23/04 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Practice 2
23/04 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Qualifying

Formula E – Paris
23/04 – 14:00 to 16:30 – Race (ITV4)
24/04 – 09:25 to 10:20 – Highlights (ITV)

Blancpain Endurance Series – Monza (Motors TV)
24/04 – 13:30 to 17:30 – Race

Euroformula – Portugal
23/04 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport//ESPN)
=> note: also showing on Motors TV on a one-hour delay
24/04 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport X4)

Formula 3 Europe – Hungary
23/04 – Race 1
=> 10:05 to 11:10 (Motors TV)
=> 10:15 to 11:00 (BT Sport Europe)
23/04 – Race 2
=> 13:50 to 15:00 (Motors TV)
=> 14:00 to 15:00 (BT Sport Europe)
24/04 – Race 3
=> 10:05 to 11:10 (Motors TV)
=> 10:15 to 11:00 (BT Sport Europe)

Formula V8 3.5 – Hungary
23/04 – 12:30 to 14:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport Europe)
24/04 – 14:00 to 15:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport//ESPN)

IndyCar Series – Alabama (BT Sport//ESPN)
24/04 – 20:30 to 23:00 – Race

International GT Open – Portugal
23/04 – 15:00 to 16:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport//ESPN)
=> note: also showing on Motors TV on a one-hour delay
24/04 – Race 2
=> 13:00 to 14:30 (BT Sport X4)
=> 13:30 to 14:30 (BT Sport Europe)

TCR International Series – Portugal (Motors TV)
24/04 – 11:10 to 12:10 – Race

World Rally Championship – Argentina
22/04 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 2)
22/04 – 23:00 to 00:00 – Stage 2 (BT Sport 2)
24/04 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Stage 3 (BT Sport//ESPN)
24/04 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Power Stage (BT Sport//ESPN)
25/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Touring Car Championship – Hungary
24/04 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Race 1 (British Eurosport 1)
24/04 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Race 2 (British Eurosport 2)

As always, the schedule will be amended if anything is adjusted.

Formula 1 hits decade low audience in UK

The 2016 Chinese Grand Prix recorded the lowest audience for a Formula 1 race in the United Kingdom for a decade, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast live on Sky Sports F1 from 06:00 to 09:30, averaged 433k (11.1%). The programme hit a five-minute peak audience of 687k. The average audience is down 26.4 percent on 2015, whilst the peak audience is down 29.1 percent year-on-year. Considering nothing has changed year-on-year from a timeslot perspective, the large drop has to be a concern. The picture for Sky is similar to their Australian Grand Prix numbers from last month, whereby both average and peak are down a similarly large amount.

Channel 4’s highlights programme from 13:30 to 15:25 (tape-checked) averaged 1.68m (17.0%). The audience peaked with 2.25m (21.6%) at 14:45 as their highlights edit came to a conclusion. As is now usual, Channel 4’s programming won its timeslot and thrashed their own slot average. Last year, BBC’s highlights programme averaged 2.97m (24.5%), peaking with 3.42m. Year-on-year, Channel 4’s average is down 43.4 percent, with the peak audience down 34.3 percent. The percentage drop for the programme average is the largest recorded yet this year.

Unfortunately, the broader historical picture is bleak. The combined audience of 2.11 million viewers is the lowest for the Chinese Grand Prix since at least 2005. It is also the lowest audience for a Grand Prix since 2006. You have to go back to the 2006 Italian Grand Prix to find a lower average audience. That particular race averaged just 1.86m (23.2%) live on ITV1. The combined peak audience of 2.94 million viewers is also the lowest since Italy 2006.

Live coverage of qualifying on Saturday morning performed solidly on Sky Sports F1, averaging 308k (5.8%) from 07:00 to 10:05. The programme, slightly extended due to the two red flag periods, recorded a five-minute peak of 528k (7.9%) at 09:15. Both measures are down around 20k year-on-year, which in the grand scheme of things is immaterial.

As was been the case in Australia and Bahrain, Channel 4’s qualifying programme was down on BBC’s coverage last year. Highlights of qualifying from 12:30 to 13:55 (tape-checked) averaged 1.19m (14.1%), hitting a peak audience of 1.55m (17.6%) at 13:30. In comparison, BBC’s highlights last year averaged 1.81m (20.9%) and peaked with 2.04 million viewers.

The average audience for qualifying is 34 percent lower than 2015, whilst Channel 4’s peak audience is 24 percent lower than what the BBC recorded last year. These metrics are important to look at as the season progresses, for both qualifying and the race. My hope was that Channel 4 would close the gap on the BBC’s numbers as the season progressed. Early signs are that the gap is not closing and, if the Chinese Grand Prix percentage is to be believed, then the gap is in fact extended.

Final thoughts
The big question: is China the low-point? My gut instinct is no. I have a bad feeling that we will see our first sub two million race day audience for 2016 very soon. I’m not prepared to knee-jerk based on the China number and write a lot of analysis based on one very low rating. Instead, I think we need to wait and see what happens in the next few races before analysing. As a number on its own though, the combined audience of 2.11m is very, very poor and that cannot be avoided.

The 2015 Chinese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.