Alongside the pieces I posted a few weeks ago, there are a fair few smaller things that I want to mention, which I will do over the course of the next two round-up’s. First up, analysis looking at Sky’s “35 million” digital reach and ESPN’s movement in the Formula 1 online world.
Verstappen continues to shine in his homeland
The rise of Max Verstappen continued in the Netherlands following his win at the Spanish Grand Prix. Verstappen appeared on late-night chat show Pauw on Friday night on NPO1. To put the appearance into context for UK readers, it is the equivalent to Lewis Hamilton appearing on The Graham Norton Show on BBC One.
Verstappen’s appearance on Pauw averaged a strong 1.18m (27.1%) from 23:02 to 23:57 according to ratings bureau Kijkonderzoek. Pauw has typically averaged around 750,000 viewers over the past few weeks, so Verstappen’s appearance boosted numbers by over 50 percent. I’m surprised no one has started a rumour about the Dutch Grand Prix yet…
ESPN increases Formula 1 coverage
One website that has increased its Formula 1 presence this year is ESPN. The website now features video round-ups fronted by Jennie Gow and Maurice Hamilton alongside written content from a variety of writers. Given that ESPN have no Formula 1 rights, it is a strong website and worth a visit if you have not done so already.
On the subject of website reporting, the BBC F1 website has adapted. Despite not being able to publish content with Formula One Management (FOM) video material, the team has still uploaded content featuring Jack Nicholls, Allan McNish and Tom Clarkson. Eagle eyed viewers will have noticed that the recent videos from Russia and Spain were filmed with the relevant back drops in sight, but outside of the FOM perimeter zone. The BBC cannot film inside a circuit during a Formula 1 race weekend, but there is nothing stopping them from filming 50 meters outside of the circuit, as they are doing so at the moment.
Producing a good supplementary magazine show
Now that we are five races into the 2016 Formula One season, it is a good chance to talk about Sky’s revamped programming line-up. Axed is the studio editions of The F1 Show, with all other episodes reduced to 30 minutes in length. As a result, the F1 Report airs every week instead of bi-weekly. The changes to The F1 Show during race weekends have been a welcome change, making it easier to catch up on practice coverage with a shorter, snappier show.
The F1 Report has not changed from a content perspective meaning that the viewer is short-changed year-on-year. The show is clearly produced on a shoe-string budget and that is one of the issues I have with the show. It is odd that Sky have for years produced brilliant supplementary shows to their football coverage such as Sunday Supplement and Goals on Sunday yet have failed to produce one good, stable supplementary magazine show for their Formula 1 coverage that hasn’t required multiple changes. We’re in season five and the supplementary magazine show is now in iteration three or four.
Yes, their football coverage covers multiple layers across multiple leagues on a much larger scale than F1. But F1 has: on and off track across multiple series (GP2 and GP3) which Sky should be driving people towards. The opinions and voices on The F1 Report so far in 2016 have not been strong enough to persuade me to watch every week. Besides, if I want to get general opinions, I can read AUTOSPORT or Motorsport.com. You do get the occasional good guests who are worth listening to, such as Will Buxton, but these are far and few between. Sky’s failure though came far, far earlier in the chain by repeatedly failing to exploit the studio episodes of The F1 Show.
FOM share 3D graphics with Sky
Viewers who watched the horrifying accident between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez at the Australian Grand Prix via any of Sky’s outlets would have probably also watched 3D graphics of the incident. The footage, provided by FOM and based on GPS data, was used by Sky in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom to analyse the accident. The traces showed that Gutierrez crucially braked earlier than Alonso, contributing to the accident. Channel 4 did not air the 3D footage during their highlights show, either because of time constraints or because they did not have access to the footage.
To date, I believe this is the first and last time we have seen 3D footage from FOM based on GPS. I was expecting FOM to produce something in Spain as a result of the Mercedes crash on lap one, but alas, nothing was aired. With or without 3D footage, it should be noted that the Sky Pad analysis we saw from Anthony Davidson was fantastic on both occasions. Davidson is comfortably one of Sky F1’s best assets, and is someone who Sky should try to keep for as long as possible going forward.
Counting viewers and readers
Every time I see a statistic, my first thought is to wonder how it is calculated, especially when it comes to audience figures. Sky Sports recently celebrated their 25th anniversary and mentioned this statistic: “35 million+ unique users of SkySports.com and Sky Sports apps.” How accurate is that figure? Being a data junkie, a few questions come to mind.
Is that a worldwide figure or UK only figure? If it is the former, then the UK figure will be lower by a fair amount. Although the statement says ‘unique’, is that strictly true in that one person may use Sky Sports services in various different ways (iPad, Android, desktop, laptop, work phone to name just a few). So can a figure across multiple devices truly be classified as unique? Just because 20 million people use iPad and 15 million use Android, that does not mean 35 million people use iPad or Android, as there will be overlap in people who use iPad and Android.
I’m intrigued to know what unique means in this instance, I suspect the reality is that there is a significant amount of double counting involved to arrive at that figure. Beware if you see that figure used in public in future to defend the Sky UK’s exclusive Formula 1 deal from 2019…
No further discussion about Sky’s 2019 deal
Surprisingly since the announcement about the aforementioned deal, we have had little comment from those in the business (I exclude journalists here). No one, to my knowledge, has publicly commented on it from the teams’ perspective. We have had a brief comment from FIA president Jean Todt who, speaking at a presser during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend said that he is “not happy that F1 is disappearing from free-to-air TV in key markets.” Apart from that, no public comment.
On the back drop of Sky’s 2019 deal, but not linked, the digital team at Sky pulled an article offline about the GPDA statement concerning the governance of Formula 1. I requested comment from Sky, unfortunately an official line from them was not forthcoming, despite the best efforts of this writer to press on the issue.