No studio presentation team for Channel 5’s Formula E coverage

In a stark contrast to ITV’s bells and whistles effort in the first two seasons of the Formula E championship, Channel 5 are taking things in a different direction.

It appears the broadcaster will not be adding any of its own ‘wrap around’ studio discussion, instead choosing to just take the World Feed for the complete duration, a move that is understood to be down to budgetary constraints, multiple sources have told this site.

This is noticeable in the schedule for the Hong Kong ePrix: which runs at 120 minutes in length from 07:30 to 09:30 on Channel 5. The only voices Channel 5 viewers will hear on Sunday 9th October will be Nicki Shields in pit lane along with Martin Haven and Dario Franchitti in the commentary box.

ITV’s studio coverage regularly featured the likes of Marc Priestley, Jaime Alguersuari and Alex Brundle amongst others, all of which viewers are unlikely to hear much from in season three on Channel 5, unless plans change further down the line.

Furthermore, qualifying from Hong Kong is not scheduled for live broadcast on Spike TV, although this really should not be a surprise given the early time slot (even if it contradicts the press release). However, all sessions should be aired live on Channel 5’s social media outlets.

Given the large gaps for the first few races, it is always possible that a change of direction occurs with relation to the studio element if viewing figures are higher than anticipated. I can’t say I blame Channel 5 for not pursuing studio coverage given ITV’s viewing figures, but it suggests that the broadcaster does not have much faith in Formula E – even at this early stage in the contract.


Predicting the 2017 calendar pick order

For the penultimate time, the calendar prediction post returns as we look at how the 2017 Formula One season may shape up for Sky Sports F1 and Channel 4. As regular readers will be aware, this yearly post is nearing its final destination as from 2019, Formula 1 will air exclusively live on Sky Sports.

2017 will mark Sky’s sixth year of covering Formula 1. The 2017 calendar features no German Grand Prix. So, no incumbent champion and no German round. It is tradition for The F1 Broadcasting Blog each year to predict the pick order with some success!

The calendar is confirmed as follows:


The main change is that China and Bahrain swap places, the rest of the calendar remains remarkedly stable, but as we’re about to find out some have changed dates slightly. The remainder of the calendar stays the same, I suspect 2018 may see a bigger shake up assuming Liberty Media’s takeover of the Formula One Group is successful.

The pick process goes as follows:

– Channel 4 pick three races (pick 1, 2 and 3)
– Sky pick three races (pick 4, 5 and 6)
– Channel 4 pick one race (pick 7)
– Sky pick one race (pick 8)

This continues until every race has been picked. There are 20 races on the calendar, so Channel 4 will screen ten races live with Sky screening ten races exclusively live. If a race is dropped from the calendar, the picks do not change retrospectively. Germany was dropped from the 2015 calendar after BBC’s and Sky’s plans were publicly confirmed, but the picks stayed the same, meaning BBC were able to broadcast three races in a row live.

In terms of obstacles for Channel 4 next year, there are none. No Paralympics to worry about, and horse racing is moving to ITV. However, there are other motor sport related events that may influence the pick order, such as MotoGP and Formula E. Whilst small in terms of viewing figures compared with Formula 1, both events are big enough to reduce Formula 1’s numbers slightly. When I did this post for 2016, I managed to get 19 out of the 21 picks right, only Hungary and Japan were incorrect! It would be pretty good if I managed to go the full distance this year, but I’m not expecting miracles.

Channel 4 pick Britain, Abu Dhabi and Canada (picks 1 to 3). Britain and Abu Dhabi are expected, if not mandatory picks. Britain, being the home race, and Abu Dhabi remaining the final race on the calendar. In the provisional schedule, Britain was scheduled for July 9th. Unfortunately, that changed to July 16th meaning another clash with the Wimbledon final. Alongside that, if the other motor racing schedules don’t change, it clashes with the German MotoGP and falls on the same weekend as the New York ePrix. Terrible scheduling, really. After that, it is a choice between Canada, USA, Mexico and Brazil. Because Sky cannot broadcast three races in a row exclusively live, Channel 4 are guaranteed one of USA, Mexico or Brazil live anyway. So, common sense says to go for Canada, which is not up against any sporting competition and therefore should rate well live on free-to-air television.

Moving on, I think we will see Sky pick USA, Monaco and Australia (picks 4 to 6). This may look odd at first sight, with no Brazil or Mexico. But, as referenced above, Sky are guaranteed either Brazil or Mexico as Channel 4 of the ‘three races or more’ rule. There’s no need to waste a pick on either of those two races at this stage in the game. Monaco and Australia are standard picks, Monaco being a blue ribbon race whilst Australia is the season opener and perhaps holds slightly more value being a week later this year compared with last. We could see Sky pick Bahrain instead of Monaco because of the favourable timeslot, but history in 2015 and 2016 suggests this is unlikely. One impact of Sky airing Monaco live means that Channel 4’s highlights would be up against the FA Cup final.

As of yet, no one has anything automatically, but Channel 4 picking Mexico (pick 7) means that Sky automatically get Brazil (pick 20). No surprises here. Mexico rated really well for Channel 4, so I fully expect them to pick Mexico again. With the latter stages of the calendar sorted, I’ve brought some tactical voting into the equation. Earlier, I mentioned that Sky has USA. Sky picking Singapore (pick 8) comes into play later as it increases the chances of Channel 4 airing both Japan and Malaysia live. Clearly airing Japan live would be unfavourable for the commercial broadcaster as the advertising around the race would sell at a lower price. The best time slot left is Bahrain, meaning that Channel 4 pick Bahrain (pick 9).

We are left in this position:

March 27th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky (pick 6)
April 9th – China (Shanghai)
April 16th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Channel 4 (pick 9)
April 30th – Russia (Sochi)
May 14th – Spain (Barcelona)
May 28th – Monaco (Monaco) – Sky (pick 5)
June 11th – Canada (Montreal) – Channel 4 (pick 3)
June 25th – Europe (Baku)
July 9th – Austria (Red Bull Ring)
July 16th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 (pick 1)
July 30th – Hungary (Budapest)
August 27th – Belgium (Spa)
September 3rd – Italy (Monza)
September 17th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky (pick 8)
October 1st – Malaysia (Sepang)
October 8th – Japan (Suzuka)
October 22nd – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky (pick 4)
October 29th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Channel 4 (pick 7)
November 12th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky (pick 20 – automatic)
November 26th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 (pick 2)

It is the next move though which starts a major domino effect. With no Premier League end of season clash, I can see Sky picking Spain (pick 10). This means Channel 4 automatically get Russia (pick 19) and Sky automtically get China (pick 18). On balance, that probably works out better for Channel 4 as Russia will bring in higher numbers than China, but it does mean that Sky will air the first two races exclusively live. Between Canada and Britain, we have Europe and Austria. The way the picks have worked out so far means that Sky in theory could air both races exclusively. But, I think it would be somewhat foolish for Channel 4 to allow that to happen. In fact, I’d argue that the races immediately before the Summer break should be snapped up earlier than Italy and Belgium simply because they rate higher. Italy and Belgium are great in terms of length, but the numbers do not stack up.

Furthermore, Channel 4 probably do not want to air Baku. 2016 was its first running, which is fair enough, but it wasn’t the most exciting of races, so has less appeal. With that in mind, Channel 4 pick Austria (pick 11). This means that Sky automatically get Europe (pick 16) and Hungary (pick 14). Hungary tends to rate well as either highlights or live, so I don’t think this is a major loss for Channel 4.

The schedule therefore looks like this:

March 27th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky (pick 6)
April 9th – China (Shanghai) – Sky (pick 18 – automatic)
April 16th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Channel 4 (pick 9)
April 30th – Russia (Sochi) – Channel 4 (pick 19 – automatic)
May 14th – Spain (Barcelona) – Sky (pick 10)
May 28th – Monaco (Monaco) – Sky (pick 5)
June 11th – Canada (Montreal) – Channel 4 (pick 3)
June 25th – Europe (Baku) – Sky (pick 16 – automatic)
July 9th – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Channel 4 (pick 11)
July 16th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 (pick 1)
July 30th – Hungary (Budapest) – Sky (pick 14 – automatic)
August 27th – Belgium (Spa)
September 3rd – Italy (Monza)
September 17th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky (pick 8)
October 1st – Malaysia (Sepang)
October 8th – Japan (Suzuka)
October 22nd – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky (pick 4)
October 29th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Channel 4 (pick 7)
November 12th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky (pick 20 – automatic)
November 26th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 (pick 2)

With four races left of the bunch, I think we will see Sky picking Italy (pick 12) as Belgian Grand Prix clashes with the British MotoGP, which may dent that audience slightly. This means that Channel 4 automatically get Belgium (pick 17) and Malaysia (pick 15). With only one race left, Channel 4 are left with Japan (pick 13).

Which leaves us with this final calendar:

March 27th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky (pick 6)
April 9th – China (Shanghai) – Sky (pick 18 – automatic)
April 16th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Channel 4 (pick 9)
April 30th – Russia (Sochi) – Channel 4 (pick 19 – automatic)
May 14th – Spain (Barcelona) – Sky (pick 10)
May 28th – Monaco (Monaco) – Sky (pick 5)
June 11th – Canada (Montreal) – Channel 4 (pick 3)
June 25th – Europe (Baku) – Sky (pick 16 – automatic)
July 9th – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Channel 4 (pick 11)
July 16th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 (pick 1)
July 30th – Hungary (Budapest) – Sky (pick 14 – automatic)
August 27th – Belgium (Spa) – Channel 4 (pick 17 – automatic)
September 3rd – Italy (Monza) – Sky (pick 12)
September 17th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky (pick 8)
October 1st – Malaysia (Sepang) – Channel 4 (pick 15 – automatic)
October 8th – Japan (Suzuka) – Channel 4 (pick 13)
October 22nd – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky (pick 4)
October 29th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Channel 4 (pick 7)
November 12th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky (pick 20 – automatic)
November 26th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 (pick 2)

If there are any calendar changes, I will update this post as and when, otherwise we should find out the confirmed Channel 4 and Sky F1 picks close to Christmas or in early 2017.

Updated on December 3rd, 2016. My original post had to be heavily re-edited otherwise Sky would have ended up with four exclusive live races in a row. The actual races picked by each side are identical, apart from Belgium which switches from Sky to Channel 4.

Martin Haven becomes stand-in Formula E lead commentator for season three

Martin Haven is to lead commentate on the first Formula E race of the 2016-16 season, he has confirmed.

Writing on his Twitter, Haven made reference to his commentary duties alongside Dario Franchitti for the Hong Kong ePrix. Haven substitutes for Jack Nicholls, who has been Formula E’s lead commentator through the first two seasons of the championship.

Readers who watch Eurosport’s motor sport output will recognise Haven’s name: he is a familiar voice on their World Endurance Championship coverage and has previously commented on the likes of the GP2 Series for the channel.

With Nicholls now dedicating his time to BBC’s Formula 1 coverage for Radio 5 Live, it means his Formula E commentary duties have decreased as a result. If Nicholls is still involved in Formula E going forward, I would expect him and Haven to share lead commentator duties through the season.

I hope Haven is not a one-off deal, because there needs to be some kind of consistency across the season rather than appointing commentators on an ad-hoc basis. Saying that, I also hope Nicholls is involved, simply because his commentary with Franchitti was brilliant to listen to, race in, race out.

However, there is this…

I think Dario [Franchitti] needs to be listened to more and somebody who has some idea about what cars do when they go round circuits and the dynamics that apply to them, would be useful to be alongside him. From what I’ve heard, that may well be happening next year. – John Hindhaugh on Midweek Motorsport, September 21st (1:13:45 in).

So, there you are.

Update on September 28th – Haven will also be lead commentator for the Marrakesh ePrix on November 12th, as that race clashes with the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend. Beyond that is unknown at this stage.

Scheduling: The 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

The Malaysian Grand Prix switches back to the latter stages of the season, this year playing host to round 16 of the 2016 Formula One season. It is the third time that the Sepang circuit has been at this end of the calendar, having previously played host to the penultimate round in 1999 and the season finale in 2000.

Channel 4 will be showing live coverage of this round, with Lee McKenzie returning to the fold after her second stint in Rio for the Paralympics and Mark Webber too with the team. Elsewhere in Channel 4’s portfolio, the channel will be airing a full replay of both qualifying and the race, this being their first live morning race. There will also be a special programme after qualifying, with David Coulthard interviewing Christian Horner.

Over on Sky, GP2 and GP3 return to action. It is the first time that GP2 has been in action at Sepang since 2013. For GP3, it is the first race ever at Sepang next weekend. Both take place in the early hours, but are repeated on Sky Sports F1 straight after the F1 action.

Elsewhere, there is a huge amount of motor sport, as the British Touring Car Championship comes to a close, whilst other championships such as the British Superbikes hurdles towards its conclusion.

Channel 4 F1
30/09 – 02:55 to 04:40 – Practice 1
30/09 – 06:55 to 08:40 – Practice 2
01/10 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Practice 3
01/10 – 09:00 to 11:30 – Qualifying
01/10 – 16:30 to 18:30 – Qualifying Replay
02/10 – 07:00 to 10:45 – Race
02/10 – 16:50 to 19:30 – Race Replay

Supplementary Programming
01/10 – 11:30 to 12:00 – David Coulthard meets Christian Horner

Sky Sports F1
30/09 – 02:45 to 04:50 – Practice 1
30/09 – 06:45 to 08:55 – Practice 2
01/10 – 06:45 to 08:15 – Practice 3
01/10 – 09:00 to 11:45 – Qualifying
02/10 – 06:30 to 11:15 – Race
=> 06:30 – Track Parade (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 07:00 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 07:30 – Race (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 10:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
28/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
29/09 – 08:00 to 08:30 – Driver Press Conference
29/09 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
30/09 – 09:30 to 10:00 – Team Press Conference
30/09 – 10:00 to 10:30 – The F1 Show
05/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
29/09 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/09 – 02:55 to 04:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/09 – 06:55 to 08:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/10 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/10 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
02/10 – 07:30 to 10:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain Sprint Series – Barcelona (BT Sport 2)
02/10 – 08:00 to 09:30 – Qualifying
02/10 – 12:45 to 14:30 – Race

British Superbikes – Assen
01/10 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
02/10 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
02/10 – 13:00 to 17:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
13/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
02/10 – 10:15 to 18:30 – Races

Euroformula – Monza
01/10 – Race 1
=> 14:05 to 15:00 (Motors TV)
=> 14:15 to 15:15 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – Race 2
=> 12:00 to 13:00 (BT Sport//ESPN)

FIM CEV Repsol – Jerez
02/10 – Races
=> 09:45 to 11:45 (BT Sport 2)
=> 11:45 to 14:45 (BT Sport X4)

Formula 3 Europe – Imola
01/10 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – 14:45 to 16:00 – Race 3 (BT Sport X4)

Formula V8 3.5 – Monza
01/10 – 13:00 to 14:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – 14:30 to 16:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport//ESPN)

GP2 Series – Malaysia (Sky Sports F1)
29/09 – 09:05 to 09:40 – Practice
30/09 – 08:55 to 09:30 – Qualifying
01/10 – 04:45 to 06:15 – Race 1
02/10 – 04:15 to 05:30 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Malaysia (Sky Sports F1)
30/09 – 10:30 to 11:05 – Qualifying
* note: this appears to be airing on a 40-minute tape-delay
01/10 – 03:25 to 04:25 – Race 1
02/10 – 03:00 to 04:00 – Race 2

International GT Open – Monza
01/10 – Race 1
=> 15:00 to 16:50 (Motors TV)
=> 15:15 to 17:00 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – Race 2
=> 13:00 to 14:30 (BT Sport//ESPN)

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland (BT Sport 1)
01/10 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

TCR International Series – Malaysia (Motors TV)
01/10 – 10:45 to 12:05 – Race

World Rally Championship – France
30/09 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
01/10 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:45 to 22:15 (BT Sport 3)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
02/10 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Power Stage (BT Sport 2)
02/10 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 22:15 to 22:45 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
03/10 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Superbikes – France (British Eurosport 2)
01/10 – 09:15 to 13:00 – Qualifying and Race 1
02/10 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Support Race
02/10 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

As always, if anything changes, I’ll update the schedule.


F1 2016 hits three-month low

The drop in numbers that Formula 1 has experienced this season in the UK continued at the Singapore Grand Prix, deteriorating further as the championship hit a three-month low, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Sky Sports F1 from 12:00 to 15:30, averaged 683k (7.9%), a number almost identical to last year’s average of 681k (6.7%). The race peaked with 976k (10.7%) at 14:50 as Daniel Ricciardo tried to hunt down Nico Rosberg for the race victory. The peak itself is down on last year’s peak audience of 1.08m and is the lowest for Sky’s Singapore coverage since 2012, that particular race was shared with BBC.

Channel 4’s highlights aired slightly later than usual due to their Paralympics coverage, airing from 18:30 to 21:00. Their programme averaged just 1.70m (8.4%), one of their lowest numbers of 2016, only in front of China and Canada. The peak audience of 2.26m (12.4%) came at 19:00 as their race edit started, again only ahead of China and Canada.

We normally talk about Channel 4’s F1 programming smashing slot averages. No such thing happened over the weekend, as both qualifying and the race were below Channel 4’s slot average whilst their key demographics struggled as well. I thought the Paralympics would have boosted Channel 4’s F1 coverage but instead the inverse appears to have happened.

The combined audience of 2.38 million viewers is the lowest since the Canadian Grand Prix back in June and continues the slippery slope which started following the Summer break. The combined peak audience of 3.24 million is also the lowest since Canada. Even taking into account the primetime competition, the highlight numbers are shockingly low by a good half a million viewers. Both metrics are the lowest recorded for Singapore since the race was added to the calendar in 2008.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying averaged 368k (4.7%) from 13:00 to 15:45 on Sky Sports F1, a good number and up on last year’s average of 293k (3.5%). Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.24m (8.6%), peaking with 1.64m (10.7%) at 18:35. Unsurprisingly, the combined audience of 1.61 million viewers is the lowest for Singapore on record but, in the context of the season so far for qualifying, it is a solid number.

Formula 1 now heads to the fly-away races which tends to fluctuate a lot depending on circumstances. Malaysia tends to rate well; however, calendar placement could dent it this year. Japan always has one of the lowest numbers of the season, and then we’re into USA, Mexico and Brazil before heading to Abu Dhabi. After seeing Singapore’s highlight number in the middle of primetime for Channel 4, I’m concerned that their live Mexico number could deliver a lower than expected number. I hope not, but the recent further downturn in viewing figures doesn’t bode well as we head into the final third of 2016.

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