Scheduling: The 2016 German Grand Prix

Formula 1’s last stop before the Summer break takes the championship to the Hockenheimring for the German Grand Prix!

Aside from the F1, it is a busy weekend of motor sport with IndyCar action, BTCC, WEC amongst a host of other events taking place. One notable point to mention is that Motors TV are not broadcasting coverage of the World Rally Championship round from Finland, although it is unclear whether they have done that out of choice or whether they have surrendered those rights.

Below are all the details you need…

Channel 4 F1
30/07 – 17:45 to 19:30 – Qualifying Highlights
31/07 – 18:00 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
29/07 – 08:45 to 11:00 – Practice 1
29/07 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2
30/07 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
30/07 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
31/07 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 12:30 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
28/07 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Driver Press Conference
28/07 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
29/07 – 15:30 to 16:00 – Team Press Conference
29/07 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The F1 Show
03/08 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
28/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
29/07 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/07 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/07 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/07 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
31/07 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain Endurance Series – 24 Hours of Spa
30/07 15:00 to 31/07 14:45 – Race (Motors TV)
30/07 – 15:30 to 18:55 – Race Start (Eurosport)
31/07 – 14:00 to 16:45 – Race Finish (Eurosport 2)

Blancpain GT Sports Club – Spa (Motors TV)
29/07 – 14:30 to 15:25 – Race 1
30/07 – 09:30 to 10:35 – Race 2

British Touring Car Championship – Snetterton (ITV4)
31/07 – 10:30 to 18:15 – Races

Formula 3 Europe – Spa
29/07 – Race 1
=> 11:00 to 12:15 (BT Sport 2)
=> 11:10 to 12:15 (Motors TV)
29/07 – Race 3
=> 15:00 to 16:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 15:25 to 16:20 (Motors TV)
30/07 – Race 3
=> 12:00 to 13:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 12:00 to 13:05 (Motors TV)

FIM World Endurance Championship – 8 Hours of Suzuka (Eurosport 2)
31/07 – 03:15 to 11:45 – Race

GP2 Series – Germany (Sky Sports F1)
29/07 – 11:00 to 11:50 – Practice
29/07 – 14:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying
30/07 – 14:35 to 16:05 – Race 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
31/07 – 09:20 to 10:35 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Germany (Sky Sports F1)
30/07 – 08:45 to 09:20 – Qualifying
30/07 – 16:10 to 17:10 – Race 1
31/07 – 08:10 to 09:10 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Mid Ohio 200 (BT Sport//ESPN)
31/07 – 19:30 to 22:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Germany (Eurosport)
31/07 – 10:30 to 11:15 – Race

World Rally Championship – Finland
28/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Stage 1 Live (BT Sport 2)
29/07 – 18:30 to 19:30 – Stage 2 Live (BT Sport//ESPN)
29/07 – 21:45 to 22:45 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
30/07 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
31/07 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Power Stage Live (BT Sport 1)
31/07 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
04/07 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

Updated last on July 24th.



Hungarian Grand Prix peaks with 4.2 million viewers

The Hungarian Grand Prix peaked with nearly 4.2 million viewers on Sunday afternoon in the United Kingdom, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:40, averaged 2.06m (21.0%). Their coverage peaked with 3.01m (26.8%) in the five-minute segment from 14:40 as Lewis Hamilton was victorious.

Channel 4’s audience is down 46.6 percent on BBC One’s audience from 2015 of 3.87m (32.5%), it should be noted that the BBC’s programme was broadcast over a shorter three-hour time slot. Nevertheless, Channel 4’s peak figure is down 39.5 percent on BBC’s peak audience of 4.98m (36.8%) from last year.

Sky’s live coverage, broadcast across Sky Sports 1 and F1, averaged 733k (7.3%) from 12:00 to 15:30. Their coverage peaked with around 1.1m (11%) towards the end of the race. Sky’s combined audience is down marginally on 2015’s audience of 745k (6.3%), although the peak audience is up by 100k.

What is noticeable is how the split across the Sky channels has changed year-on-year. In 2015, the split was 84:16 in Sky Sports F1’s favour. The dedicated channel is still ahead, but the split is closer at 70:30.

The combined audience of 2.80 million viewers is the lowest UK audience for the Hungarian round since 2006. Furthermore, the combined audience is down 39.4 percent on 2015’s audience of 4.61 million viewers. The combined peak of 4.16 million viewers is down 30.4 percent year-on-year.

The extended qualifying session meant Channel 4’s schedule was revised slightly, with Channel 4 Racing pushed back half an hour. Their Formula 1 programme, which aired from 11:55 to 15:00, averaged 1.17m (16.0%), peaking with 1.66m (20.4%) at 14:30.

The horse racing coverage from 15:00 onwards averaged just 451k (5.8%). Clearly the right decision was made to stay with the Formula 1 on Channel 4, briefly demoting the horse racing to More4.

Sky Sports F1’s qualifying programme averaged a further 284k (3.9%) from 12:00 to 15:25, peaking with 492k. Sky Sports 1’s simulcast added 83k (1.1%), that programme peaking with 170k.

Both the combined average of 1.54 million viewers and the combined peak of 2.32 million viewers are the lowest for Hungary since 2008.

A disappointing set of numbers
After a few encouraging race where viewing figures were showing signs of recovery, has the Hungarian Grand Prix set us back into ‘reset mode’? The race traditionally rates well, despite its Summer slot it has the benefits of no sporting competition and the race lasting longer than the usual 90 minutes. So the numbers from Sunday have to be considered disappointing.

Excluding Canada (which had a change of slot), the percentage drops year-on-year had been getting smaller. Slowly but surely there were signs of progress. The percentage drops year-on-year of 30%+ were the largest we have seen this season since China, although last year did rate abnormally high for Hungary. It is not all bad news; the peak audience was above 4 million viewers for the third successive race.

Hungary marked the half way stage of the 2016 season, in the next few weeks there will be full analysis of the ratings picture so far in 2016 and where Formula 1 looks to be heading as 2016 heads towards its conclusion.

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

Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage gets off to a bright start

Earlier this year, I attended Channel 4’s pre-season media morning, where their team for the 2016 Formula One season was announced. There were promising sound bites on the day, but how much of it has come to reality? And is this the “dream team” that Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer Jay Hunt suggested it would be?

On-air team, led by Jones, excels
The biggest question mark heading into the season was Steve Jones, who is Channel 4’s new Formula 1 presenter. An unknown in presenting live sport prior to this year, Jones has grown in stature race-by-race. I’m enjoying his presenting style, with the energy and warmth that comes with it.

It is clear that Jones is not attempting to be like Suzi Perry or Jake Humphrey before him. Jones is being himself. As a viewer, I appreciate that, it comes across as natural which helps the broadcast immensely. Half way through the season, Jones gets a thumbs up from me. If you’re not keen on Jones, the good news is that David Coulthard leads some of the discussion segments, meaning that there is no dominant figure leading the agenda.

The decision by Whisper Films to have “rotating pundits” is paying off thus far. Mark Webber, Alain Prost, Susie Wolff and Eddie Jordan have been used sporadically throughout Channel 4’s live races meaning that opinions are not repeated by the same faces, nor is the team bloated on-screen. Channel 4 struck gold in Spain, as Prost give his opinion on the Mercedes collision between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg whilst reminiscing about his own experiences with McLaren.

The chemistry is clear to see: Coulthard and Webber work extremely well together as do Wolff and Jordan when paired together on-screen. A natural team results in a successful team. We should applaud Whisper Films for putting together the team that they have, others before them have either tried and failed, or chose not to bother approaching the likes of Prost, Webber and Karun Chandhok.

Channel 4’s line-up contains a former World Champion (Prost), a former team boss (Jordan), two former Red Bull drivers, one of which challenged for the title (Webber and Coulthard) amongst others. It is the perfect recipe, bringing together a diverse group of people from a variety of backgrounds within motor sport.

The missing link before the start of 2016 was the role of “technical expert”, which disappointed readers including myself. Chandhok was hired to take up the role of pit lane reporter alongside Lee McKenzie. Nevertheless, Chandhok’s wealth of knowledge both past and present, amongst his paddock connections means that we are not missing as much information as I anticipated we would. Chandhok is a fantastic asset for Channel 4, and I’m glad that he is on board for their coverage. With McKenzie away for Wimbledon and the Olympics, it has been good to hear Holly Samos again, Samos used to be a member of BBC’s radio team until her departure at the end of 2010.

Overall, I do think Channel 4’s team is stronger than Sky Sports. Yes, Sky have the likes of Anthony Davidson, Martin Brundle and Ted Kravitz, but I feel that Channel 4 have given a wider range of opinions so far instead of the same two or three voices.

Reinventing the wheel
Sometimes, the little tweaks beyond the naked eye go a long way. Whilst Channel 4 have not ripped apart the BBC’s previous format, they have made some subtle, positive changes to their coverage.

Graphically, Channel 4’s output is top-notch. Modern, forward thinking is the term that I would use. Their Formula 1 branding, which was designed by Mammoth Graphics, feel like something I expect to see in 2016 as opposed to a relic from the past. If you compare the typical constructor and grid graphics of years gone by with Channel 4’s current graphics set, you will notice a stark difference: Channel 4’s graphics feel ‘simplistic’, yet attention to detail has been paid.

Added to this is the integration of social media in the graphics. As I mentioned in my review of their Australian Grand Prix coverage back in March, I love the fact that #C4F1 is integrated in the graphics package alongside relevant tweets, Instagram posts or Facebook statuses. The package has clearly been designed with social media elements in mind (hence ‘forward thinking’). In my opinion, the social media layer does not detract from the programme, but instead adds an additional level that previously was not there.

One introduction in Channel 4’s British Grand Prix coverage was the return of the three-person commentary team. Led as usual Ben Edwards, in the box alongside him was both Coulthard and Webber. This is not new: ITV briefly had a three-person commentary team in 2005 with Jenson Button in the box when Honda were banned, whilst the BBC have had three-person teams in both the mid-1990s and as recently as this season on BBC Radio 5 Live.

But for Formula 1 television coverage in the UK, it is a different step. Again ‘hearing different voices’ is good. Hearing Webber in the commentary box was great as he was able to give his first hand opinion on events having raced some of the drivers that were racing on track. In my opinion, it gives Channel 4 a further advantage over Sky Sports F1. The commentary line-up of Edwards and Coulthard was already good, but Webber raises the bar further. I am hopeful we see this set-up again in the latter half of 2016, three-person commentary teams do work if each person is given adequate input.

Whisper Films have excelled in the editing department with some fantastic VTs, notably Murray Walker’s interviews with Jenson Button and Freddie Hunt so far this season. This should not be a surprise considering most of the Whisper team used to work on BBC’s Formula 1 programme, but nevertheless it is good to see that the quality of the VT editing and shooting has remained high.

Room for improvement in some areas
As always with both Channel 4 and Sky, there is some room for improvement, in both cases only some of these are within the production teams control. The main improvement for me is on the cross-promotion front. Besides a pre-season programme special with Guy Martin, the cross-promotion has been lacklustre. There has been a Sunday Brunch special, but aside from that there has not been crossover with Channel 4’s biggest brands such as Gogglebox or Come Dine with Me.

The Sunday Brunch special was not promoted until the last-minute, and I feel it was a lost opportunity not broadcasting the magazine show live from Silverstone. I suspect the lack of crossover is simply down to the filming schedule: it should be remembered that Channel 4’s team was put together incredibly quickly just six to eight weeks before the 2016 season began, meaning there was little time to organise and produce cross over specials. I think these will probably come for 2017 if there is appetite for it.

Channel 4's British Grand Prix team in the paddock: Steve Jones, Susie Wolff, Eddie Jordan, Mark Webber and David Coulthard (L to R).
Channel 4’s British Grand Prix team in the paddock: Steve Jones, Susie Wolff, Eddie Jordan, Mark Webber and David Coulthard (L to R).

Out of the personnel announced before the start of 2016, three faces have yet to appear during Channel 4’s main coverage: Nicolas Hamilton, Bruno Senna and Alessandro Zanardi. I imagine Hamilton and Zanardi will appear in Paralympics related features in September, I would be surprised if either are on-screen after that. As for Senna, I thought we would have seen him on-screen now, so his absence is surprising. No on-air references have been made to Senna appearing, my gut instinct is that we will see him in Mexico given that Mexico takes place two weeks before the Brazilian Grand Prix.

As Channel 4’s live programming has developed it has become clear, unintentionally or not, that their Saturday build-up shows are geared towards the dedicated viewer whereas the Sunday show is geared towards hooking more casual viewers up. This was evident in their British Grand Prix build-up where a significant portion of Sunday’s pre show centred around Lewis Hamilton. It did feel slightly overload towards him, as what could have been one interview segment was split into several segments interspersed through the build-up. As a one-off, this was okay but just something to note going forward. There have been a few celebrity segments, but these have been used to lead into a commercial break as opposed to a central feature.

The commercial television aspect of Channel 4 meant that their post-race coverage has suffered. But, if you look back over time, both BBC and Sky struggled at first to perfect their post-race element so this is something Channel 4 will only improve on in the live programming as time progresses. The lack of an extended post-race programme in the shape of a forum style show is disappointing, but I don’t feel like it is being missed, either. The social media boom may mean that fans use Facebook and Twitter more for post-race analysis as opposed to sticking around for the television post show. Viewing figures would probably not justify staying live on Channel 4 until 16:00 or 16:15 regularly. I think Channel 4 should do what the BBC did in their early post-2012 days and upload a 20 to 30-minute online forum / wrap up show online, similar to NBC’s Paddock Pass show.

Elsewhere, All 4 is a gripe where slow uploads are concerned after each race but I appreciate that this is something that is out of the control of the F1 production team. Overall, Channel 4 gets a deserved thumbs up. In my opinion, their coverage has been better than what I expected. Their strong start makes it all the more disappointing that, as it stands, we will only have Channel 4’s live coverage for the next two and a half seasons.

Scheduling: The 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix

The Hungarian Grand Prix marks the half way stage of the 2016 Formula One season as the championship edges closer to its Summer break. Typically, Hungary is the race to lead F1 into the Summer, but this year the Hungaroring forms a back-to-back with the German Grand Prix one week later.

Channel 4 will again be live throughout the weekend, Hungary marking their fifth live round this year. In a late schedule change, their race day broadcast will now finish at 15:45, not 15:30 as originally billed. Elsewhere, BBC’s radio coverage is largely depleted due to Test Match cricket coverage on 5 Live Sports Extra. And outside of the Formula 1 world, BT Sport 2 will be airing live coverage of the World Endurance Championship for the first time ever. It is assumed that BT will be airing it in the eventuality that Motors TV failed to return to the air. Who will be commentating on BT’s coverage is not yet clear.

BT Sport are also airing a feast of motor sport from Silverstone. The BT team will be on-site led by former MotoGP presenter Abi Griffiths, with the usual faces of Ben Evans and Keith Collantine also featuring. Saturday’s coverage airs from 12:30 to 17:00 on BT Sport//ESPN and then 12:30 to 17:00 on BT Sport Europe on Sunday.

Below are all the details you need in what is a fairly packed schedule…

Channel 4 F1
22/07 – 08:55 to 10:40 – Practice 1
22/07 – 12:55 to 14:40 – Practice 2
23/07 – 09:55 to 11:25 – Practice 3
23/07 – 11:55 to 14:30 – Qualifying
24/07 – 12:00 to 15:45 – Race
24/07 – 23:45 to 00:45 – Highlights

Sky Sports F1
22/07 – 08:45 to 11:00 – Practice 1
22/07 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2
23/07 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
23/07 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
24/07 – 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
20/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
21/07 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Driver Press Conference
21/07 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
22/07 – 15:30 to 16:00 – Team Press Conference
22/07 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The F1 Show
27/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
21/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
24/07 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Superbikes – Thruxton
23/07 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
24/07 – 12:30 to 18:00 – Races (Eurosport 2)
27/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Silverstone
23/07 – Race 1
=> 14:00 to 15:00 (BT Sport//ESPN)
=> 14:05 to 15:00 (Motors TV)
24/07 – Race 2
=> 14:15 to 15:15 (BT Sport Europe)

Formula V8 3.5 – Silverstone
23/07 – 12:30 to 14:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport//ESPN)
24/07 – 12:30 to 14:15 – Race 2 (BT Sport Europe)

GP2 Series – Hungary (Sky Sports F1)
22/07 – 11:00 to 11:50 – Practice
22/07 – 14:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
23/07 – 14:35 to 16:05 – Race 1
24/07 – 09:20 to 10:35 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Hungary (Sky Sports F1)
23/07 – 08:45 to 09:20 – Qualifying
23/07 – 16:15 to 17:15 – Race 1
24/07 – 08:10 to 09:10 – Race 2

International GT Open – Silverstone
23/07 – Race 1
=> 15:00 to 16:50 (Motors TV)
=> 15:00 to 17:00 (BT Sport//ESPN)
24/07 – Race 2
=> 15:15 to 17:00 (BT Sport Europe)

Porsche Supercup – Hungary (Eurosport 2)
24/07 – 10:30 to 11:15 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Ipswich
23/07 – 07:00 to 08:15 – Race 16 (BT Sport 1)
24/07 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Race 17 (BT Sport 2)

World Endurance Championship – Nurburgring
24/07 – 11:30 to 18:10 – Race (Motors TV)
24/07 – 11:30 to 18:30 – Race (BT Sport 2)
24/07 – 18:00 to 19:15 – Race (Eurosport 2)

Updated on July 21st to reflect Channel 4’s extended race day programme. Updated again on July 24th, swap of channels for BT Sport’s Sunday shows.

Davidson and Brundle highlight strengths and weaknesses in Sky’s Formula 1 team

The 2016 Formula One season is Sky Sports F1’s fifth year on the air. The channel, launched in 2012, features the likes of Martin Brundle, David Croft, Ted Kravitz and Anthony Davidson at the head of its line-up. Along the way, there have been relatively few changes and additions: the only major story was in early 2013 when Georgie Thompson left her presenting duties for pastures new.

Sky fill in the hole left by Davidson and Brundle
The Canadian and European rounds of the 2016 season signalled, temporarily at least, a changing of the guard for Sky. Both Davidson and Brundle were absent due to their 24 Hours of Le Mans commitments, whilst Brundle also had a medical procedure following the Monaco Grand Prix. It was the first time Brundle had not commentated on a Grand Prix since 2008, on that occasion Damon Hill deputised for him in the commentary box for ITV.

The absence of Davidson and Brundle resulted in a significantly weaker line-up for Sky. Simon Lazenby and Rachel Brookes headed up the various presenting duties, with David Croft in the commentary box. Paul di Resta substituted for Brundle as co-commentator and lead analyst, with Johnny Herbert, Damon Hill and Ted Kravitz on-board as usual.

More interestingly, we got to see what Sky Sports F1 would look like without Martin Brundle. A great team is one that still looks and feels the part, even when one of its main casting members have disappeared. Unfortunately for Sky, you had the impression that without Brundle, the team looked distinctively “second class”, as if it was a two tiered system previously, whereby the likes of Herbert and Hill were one or two levels below Brundle. And the same applies for a Sky without Davidson.

The commentary duo of Croft and di Resta was not that bad. But, it wasn’t great either. Di Resta in isolation was good filling in for Brundle, but he is not someone I would want to listen to on a regular basis. That is not a criticism of him, instead it is a reflection of how much we have come to appreciate Brundle’s commentary over the years. Furthermore, Brundle’s absence meant that most discussion segments contained Lazenby, Herbert and Hill. The problem here is a trio that is growing increasingly stale as time progresses.

Poll – Who do you think is Sky Sports F1’s biggest asset?

Back in 2012, I said that Herbert was a fantastic addition to Sky’s team. The problem is Herbert has since turned into a shadow of his former self on-screen. There are more comedic segments or bizarre opinions as opposed to actual analysis from him – stating on multiple occasions that Lewis Hamilton’s head is not “in the game” or that Fernando Alonso should retire. Both of these appear like attempts to generate headlines for Sky as opposed to a genuine thought. Opinions like these have started to, as of late, leak towards other members of Sky’s team, with Kravitz and Croft talking about Mercedes “conspiracies”. If that direction is coming from the production team, then it needs to be reined in, in my opinion.

Elsewhere, Davidson has been brilliant analysing the events so far this season, irrespective of the role he is placed in. The events of Spain and Austria placed greater emphasis on Davidson’s analysis, which was fantastic to listen to as he dissected the collisions between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Sky Sports F1’s coverage without Brundle and Davidson would be a significantly weaker television programme, and the programming that Sky produced in Canada and Baku only serves to demonstrate that point (the highlight of their Canada coverage came thanks to a seagull, which to be fair to Sky did go viral).

Should Sky head towards a “rotating team”?
A twenty-one race season is a major undertaking for everyone within Formula 1: teams, drivers, media, mechanics, you name it. From a fan perspective, seeing the same faces on-screen fronting each of the 21 races means that the opinions you get are repetitive. That is not Sky’s fault, in fact they’re probably happy that there are more races in 2016, as it means that they will reach more viewers. But, at the same time, have Sky failed to adapt to the changing dynamic?

When you look at the proposed 2017 calendar of 18 races, maybe not. Sky air every session live, as they themselves are keen to emphasise. With that, there should also be an emphasis on exploring, experiment, trying something different and changing personnel. Fresh faces are needed, in the same way that Channel 4 have brought in voices that the UK audience had previously never heard as pundits, such as Karun Chandhok and Alain Prost. Both men were not ‘obvious’ choices for Channel 4, but have been well received.

Anthony Davidson in mid-flow during Sky Sports F1's coverage of the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix, dissecting the crash between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Anthony Davidson in mid-flow during Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix, dissecting the crash between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Sky should be looking at a similar strategy going forward if the long-term intention is for the F1 calendar to remain around twenty races. Marc Priestley has joined their team which is all well and good, but why are they using him in an off-air capacity during race weekends and not a regular on-air capacity? I’m hopeful the changes Channel 4 have made compared to the BBC will mean that Sky will try to push the boundaries where their own team is concerned. However, I’m not sure how likely a “rotating team” is for Sky though, a wider variety of faces during the season team means a bigger pay bill overall…

The F1 channel feels the effect of Sky’s “efficiency savings”
When the Formula 1 channel started in 2012, there were a lot of positive vibes about what could be done to make the channel look and feel like an ‘F1 channel’. 2012 was a learning year, but it was 2013 and early 2014 when the schedule started to mould into one with classic races, F1 Legends, journalist specials, studio editions of The F1 Show. On top of this, Sky produced special material: ‘Senna Week’ remains the best ever week for the channel from a content perspective.

The hope was that Sky Sports would continue to improve and refine the output. But, focus turned elsewhere. With big money being splashed on Premier League rights, efficiency savings had to be made across the board. So far in 2016, Sky Sports have not produced one documentary about Formula 1. Not one has made the air (yet). The classic races that are airing are not new, and are simply now being repeated on a loop as and when each evening. The last new episode of F1 Legends (or Architects of F1) to make the air was November 2015. No new episodes of Tales from the Vault have been produced. The F1 Show in its 2015 form was essentially axed in favour of the weekly, recorded F1 Report shows. The F1 Report tends to be good but the quality of the guests varies massively with a shoe string budget.

Sky have aired several features this season that could have also been edited into stand-alone documentaries. The channel produced two short films focussing on the Spanish and Monaco rounds of the 1996 Formula One season, the latter in particular was excellent in my opinion as a variety of characters were interviewed. But, the problem was that both features were too short at less than 5 minutes in length when both could easily have been thirty minute documentaries to flesh out the two stories, adding to the content on the channel. Sky are not maximising what they have in the F1 channel, in my view.

So, as a consumer, let me ask the question. Why should I (or you) pay the same amount of cash that you do to Sky if the content being produced at the end of the production line has been reduced? Because that is what has happened. It is clear to me that the Sky Sports F1 channel currently exists as a contractual obligation, and nothing more. Sky (and BT Sport) are spending a ridiculous amount of money on rights acquisition, meaning that they have less money to produce supplementary material.

How will Sky’s attitude towards this change as we head towards 2019, I don’t know.