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.


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

  1. I cant stand Ben Evans. I’m gonna have to use the NBCSN stream from now on. Awful commentator. In terms of Formula E, I hope that they will be back in London for Season 4 if not S3. I hope for the BBC to get the rights, but a lot of persuading from Jack and Jennie would be needed. I dont like ITV doing it anymore. Even a BBC/Eurosport contract would be good. (Where Eurosport show Everything, and BBC show all races (and some qualis)).

    1. Even if it was just BBC Radio 5 Live like F1 with some website coverage then I would be satisfied to be honest; can’t be worse than ITV!.

  2. Started watching indycar on YouTube… The graphics are better.. The sound is better… The lack of ads.. Better.. Strange but true

  3. I don’t think Formula E would do well with a Pay TV/FTA split like F1. The gaps between races are massive during the season and IMO is one of the reasons the figures are so low as casual viewers are just not remembering/aware that it is on.

    If only 50% of the races are on FTA the gaps between live races will be even longer making the situation worse.

    I think Formula E has other problems as well also.. clearly Battersea was not going to work long term. The crowning on the park roads is extreme and the track so tight that any overtaking in last years race was as a result of a little nudge here or there.

    Like everyone else I am not sure the reasoning why there is no London eprix for season 3. With the lobbying, possible litigation and unsuitability of the track Battersea was not an option but I am very interested to know whether it was a case of no other suitable areas being interested or FE wanting to go to an area totally unfeasible (The Mall, Oxford Street etc).

    Another observation that FE may need to consider, the General Admission ticket I got for Battersea 2015 was £14.50. The same ticket this year is £25. Although this is a small ticket price compared to FE it is still a 75% increase from year 1 to 2.

    With regards to BT Sport & Indycar, I have enjoyed the recent experiments regarding uninterrupted races and UK voice overs from Keith, Ben et al.

    As I only have access to BTS1 it has been a pleasure to be able to enjoy the recent races legitimately on my TV. However I do fear this will be short term and Indycar will be back onto BTESPN and away from where I can see it.

  4. FE has several problems, the cars are ugly, the cars are slow and the tracks are abysmal.

    As for ticket prices, just wait, I got free tickets last year for Battersea, they were being handed out like confetti.

    1. I have to disagree.

      The cars are not bad looking at all. Sleek lines and the lack of aero flip flops are a plus although the noses could be a lot lower and the cars a little shorter overall.

      The cars are comparatively slow but up close at Battersea they seemed plenty quick and the broadcast camera angles are on the whole excellent giving the perception of very high speed.

      As for abysmal tracks, they have done very well in creating good tracks, Malaysia and Argentina especially. A few are a bit tight, Monaco and Germany but on the whole I do like them

  5. Battersea was always silly.tree branches overhanging the track is probably not a good idea. Whole thing needs a rethink .its not f1.will carry on because tech firms and manufacturers want to appear forward thinking.

  6. Watching todays Indycar and I am disappointed with the commentary – no driver/car updates during the race – and when there is a replay, our commentators had to try any work what was going on before commenting about it. As for other in-race information – tire wear, push-to-pass, radio messages, pitlane news etc – just not indepth enough. I understand uk commentators do not have instant access to the information that the american commentators enjoy but I feel something import is missing.

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