Scheduling: The 2016 Austrian Grand Prix

The 2016 Formula One season continues as the championship heads firmly to the European heartland for the Austrian Grand Prix.

It is the third year back on the calendar for the Red Bull Ring, all three years have been broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports. Martin Brundle and Anthony Davidson are back with Sky this weekend after their 24 Hours of Le Mans absence. Over on Channel 4, Lee McKenzie is not with the team due to her BBC commitments with Wimbledon, however she will be appearing as a guest on Sunday Brunch at 09:30 on Sunday morning. Holly Samos, who is a name former listeners to BBC’s 5 Live F1 coverage may recognise, will be covering for McKenzie this weekend.

Things look a bit different for BBC’s radio team as well. With the Austrian Grand Prix clashing with the Formula E season finale, neither Jack Nicholls or Jennie Gow will be part of BBC’s team. Tom Clarkson, Allan McNish and 5 Live sports reporter Claire Cottingham will be covering duties. All the schedule details as usual are listed below and, for the London ePrix schedule, head over here

Channel 4 F1
02/07 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying Highlights
03/07 – 18:00 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
01/07 – 08:45 to 11:00 – Practice 1
01/07 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2
02/07 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
02/07 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
03/07 – 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
29/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
30/06 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Driver Press Conference
30/06 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
01/07 – 15:30 to 16:00 – Team Press Conference
01/07 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The F1 Show

BBC Radio F1
01/07 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/07 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
03/07 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain Sprint Series – Nurburgring (BT Sport 2)
03/07 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race

FIM CEV Repsol – Albacete (BT Sport Europe)
03/07 – 09:45 to 14:00 – Races

GP2 Series – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
01/07 – 11:00 to 11:50 – Practice
01/07 – 14:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying
02/07 – 14:35 to 16:05 – Race 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
03/07 – 09:25 to 10:40 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
02/07 – 08:45 to 09:20 – Qualifying
02/07 – 16:10 to 17:10 – Race 1
03/07 – 08:15 to 09:15 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Austria (Eurosport)
03/07 – 10:30 to 11:20 – Race

TCR International Series – Russia (Motors TV)
03/07 – 10:25 to 11:45 – Race

World Rally Championship – Poland
30/06 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Stage 1 Live (BT Sport Europe)
01/07 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
02/07 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
03/07 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Stage 2 Live
(BT Sport 1)
03/07 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Stage 3 Live (BT Sport 2)
03/07 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
04/07 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

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

Last updated on June 30th, to add information about Claire Cottingham and Holly Samos.



Scheduling: The 2016 London ePrix

After what feels like an eternity, the second season of the electric Formula E championship comes to a conclusion with the London ePrix! Unless something changes in the next few weeks, the race weekend in London is set to be the last at Battersea Park, with the round either disappearing off the calendar or moving elsewhere in the city. Time will tell.

There are some schedule changes for ITV compared with last year’s double-header. Firstly, as has been the case all season, qualifying will not be aired on either of ITV’s channels. The reason for this I imagine is purely ratings driven, in that it was not performing well enough at the back-end of season one to justify showing qualifying more in season more. On the brighter side, both races will be aired live on ITV’s main channel instead of just the season finale as was the case last year.

In terms of competition, Formula E is a week later this year, meaning it avoids competition from the Goodwood Festival of Speed. There is tougher competition though from the Austrian Grand Prix, but the good news on that front is that both Formula E races start later than the Formula 1, so there is no direct overlap (the F1 race finishes at 14:30 UK time, whereas Formula E starts at 16:00 UK time).

ITV are expected to be trackside for the season finale with Jennie Gow presenting alongside Andy Jaye. Marc Priestley and Jaime Alguersuari will be providing the analysis, with Formula E’s usual World Feed team of Nicki Shields, Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti overseeing the action.

Formula E – London – Races 1 and 2 (online via YouTube)
02/07 and 03/07 – 08:10 to 09:10 – Practice 1
02/07 and 03/07 – 10:25 to 11:10 – Practice 2
02/07 and 03/07 – 11:45 to 13:10 – Qualifying

Formula E – London – Race 1 (ITV)
02/07 – 15:00 to 17:30 – Race
03/07 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Highlights

Formula E – London – Race 2 (ITV)
03/07 – 15:00 to 17:45 – Race

Last updated on June 25th.

Update on July 2nd at 14:30 – Jennie Gow is not presenting today’s coverage, Jaye will step up in her place. Alex Brundle is also doing some punditry this weekend for ITV.

Le Mans performs solidly against F1 and Euro 2016

The 24 Hours of Le Mans performed solidly against tough competition last weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

The race, screened live on Eurosport from 13:45 on Saturday to 14:15 on Sunday, averaged 60k (0.8%), down on last year’s audience of 70k (1.1%) but up on 2012 and 2014. Taking into account Quest TV’s coverage, the average increases to 73k (0.9%), down on the combined audience of 98k (1.5%) from 2015.

Eurosport’s coverage of Le Mans hit a high of 147k (1.6%) on Sunday afternoon as the race came to a conclusion, compared with a peak audience of 172k (2.0%) last year. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a major difference. Where Eurosport really lost viewers year-on-year was in the early stages of the race.

From 13:45 to 20:00 on Saturday, Eurosport averaged 78k (0.7%), down 25 percent on a figure of 104k (1.0%) across the same slot last year. The safety car in hour one will have contributed to this, alongside the European Grand Prix qualifying session and three Euro 2016 games. Numbers rebounded on Sunday for Eurosport, averaging 87k (1.3%) from 08:00 to 14:15 compared with 85k (1.2%) last year. I think overall Eurosport should be happy with their numbers.

Unfortunately for the overall Discovery family, Quest TV’s numbers are underwhelming with two live segments falling flat against Formula 1. The first programme, also hurt by the safety car start, averaged only 56k (0.6%) on Saturday afternoon compared with 140k (1.7%) last year. The two updates on Saturday evening and Sunday morning were Quest TV’s bright spots, averaging 143k (0.8%) and 73k (1.1%) respectively. Numbers slumped again on Sunday afternoon, with their final programme from 13:00 to 14:30 on Sunday averaging just 33k (0.4%). Quest’s coverage peaked with 191k (1.1%) during their Saturday evening update.

I don’t have an exact figure, but it appears that the combined peak audience was in the region of 275k, recorded on Saturday evening whilst Quest TV’s update aired from 20:00 to 21:00. The combined peak last year was 428k (5.0%), so the peak this year is shy of that mark.

Overall, the viewing figures are not too bad. The combination of Euro 2016 and the European Grand Prix was always going to put a dent in Le Mans numbers. If you look at 2012 and 2014, the phenomenon is repeated: even numbered years rate worse than odd numbered years simply because the former clashes with the bi-annual international football event. So, 2016 was in-line with expectations, if anything perhaps slightly above what was anticipated. I hope Quest TV’s coverage continues in 2017. The pattern that they experienced is unusual, but there are rational factors to explain why their number dropped so much for their last programme on Sunday afternoon.

The 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans ratings report can be found here.

Inaugural F1 race in Baku peaks with 3.8 million

The inaugural European Grand Prix from Baku peaked with 3.8 million viewers yesterday, overnight viewing figures show.

Channel 4’s live coverage of the race, broadcast from 13:00 to 16:25, averaged 2.03m (19.3%), peaking with 2.91m (24.4%) at 15:25. The programme won its three and a half hour slot, also comfortably beating its own slot average. Live coverage over on Sky Sports F1 averaged 465k (4.4%) from 13:00 to 16:30, with Sky Sports 1 adding 167k (1.6%) over a slightly shorter slot from 13:00 to 16:05. Sky’s combined peak came at 14:20, when 997k (9.3%) were watching the race with them.

The overall combined average of 2.64 million is the lowest for the European Grand Prix since 2006. It is, however, the third highest audience of the season only behind Bahrain and Monaco. The combined peak audience of 3.85m (32.2%) was recorded at 15:25 as Nico Rosberg won the first ever race at Baku. At the time of the peak, the audience was split 75%, 19% and 6% across the three channels that were covering the race.

Live coverage of the qualifying session, broadcast on Channel 4 from 13:00 to 15:20, averaged 1.08m (11.5%), peaking with 1.55m (14.6%) at 14:55. Channel 4’s programme lost out to ITV’s Euro 2016 coverage of Belgium vs Republic of Ireland, which averaged 2.31m (24.6%) whilst the F1 was on-air.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Channel 4’s F1 coverage also lost out marginally to BBC One’s coverage of Tennis from Queen’s, that programme averaged 1.11m (11.8%) across the same slot as the F1. As usual, the F1 smashed Channel 4’s own slot average. It was also ahead of the Royal Ascot coverage which followed on the main channel from 15:20 to 18:00. The horse racing coverage averaged 674k (6.2%).

Sky Sports F1’s live coverage of qualifying from 13:00 to 15:45 averaged 306k (3.2%), peaking with 613k (5.8%) at 14:50. The combined audience of 1.39 million viewers is the lowest for the European Grand Prix since 2008, with the combined peak of 2.15 million viewers following the same trend.

News round-up: BT continue IndyCar experiments; Perry confirms commitments for rest of ’16

In the last round-up covering the smaller pieces of news from the past few months, BT Sport is the main player experimenting with their portfolio as we head into the Summer.

BT Sport take IndyCar commentary in-house
I have watched a fair bit of IndyCar this season thanks to its exciting, close racing. Whilst the racing has been good the ABC commentary, led by Allen Bestwick, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear, has not. Watching the Duel in Detroit last weekend, at times the trio ‘zapped’ the excitement out of races, almost as if they were dialling in from elsewhere. The broadcasting rights in America are shared between ABC and NBC and, because of the agreement in place, the remainder of the season is covered by NBC.

NBC’s commentary is superior to ABC’s offering, primarily thanks to Leigh Diffey commentary. Over in the UK, BT Sport take the American commentary feed, that is… until now. For IndyCar’s return to Road America on June 26th, commentary will be provided in-house by BT Sport, with Keith Collantine and Ben Evans leading the way. At the moment, this is just for Road America as a trial run, with the potential for the idea to turn full-time. I can see the logic behind it. At times the US commentary feels like an ‘info commercial’ in and out of the advert breaks, whereas the UK commentary will be without any interruptions.

To the outside world, the tweaks BT are making to their IndyCar coverage are very small but go a long, long way to the dedicated viewer, although the direction has been haphazard with yo-yoing in the past few years. Viewing figures for the Indianapolis 500 were slightly lower than previous years with an average of 12k (0.09%) from 15:30 to 21:00, peaking with 31k (0.16%) on BT Sport 1.

On the subject of BT Sport, for those wondering, Suzi Perry confirmed her exact commitments for the remainder of this season on her Instagram page. Perry said that she will (or has already) work on seven MotoGP races, two speedway events and Rally GB. Perry’s original commitment for the Indianapolis 500 fell through after a change of direction.

Sky’s F1 partnership with Brunswick Films continues
Sky Sports are continuing their partnership with Brunswick Films with a series of four films airing during the race day programming focussing on James Hunt. The first piece aired during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. The remaining pieces will air during the Silverstone, Monza and Texas weekends. Rohan Tully, Brunswick Films director, said “They used to film anti-clockwise moving slowly around the track so they would get every corner. They would also have to walk with the cameras most of the time because some of the tracks didn’t even have running tracks around back in the day. So to get the footage at the time, comprehensively, was a struggle in itself.”

It is brilliant to see footage like this. However, as is always the case, it would have been good to have this as well in a standalone programme. The amount of new documentary programming that has aired on Sky Sports F1 this year stands at zero, which is incredibly disappointing for a network that will be broadcasting Formula 1 into the next decade. It would be good to have some new programming turn up, but I do not see it happening.

Is Formula E endangered in the UK?
The absence of a London ePrix in the provisional Formula E calendar for the 2016-17 season will have raised alarm bells about the future of the series in the United Kingdom. With viewing figures dropping compared to the inaugural season, the question is whether ITV will renew for season three. The incentive of screening season three decreases if London remains absent. The highest peak audience for a live race in season two remains Buenos Aires, which peaked with 248k (1.2%) back in January.

In their current state, the numbers are simply not good enough for either ITV(1) or ITV4, whichever slot you place Formula E in, the programme loses viewers hand over fist compared to the slot average. Failure to find a free-to-air home means that Formula E is essentially dead in the UK. I’m certain BT Sport or Eurosport will pick it up, but any potential for growth will have evaporated. Their best hope for keeping ITV will be letting them have it for free.