It has been confirmed today that Formula E will be broadcast on Channel 5 for the next two seasons, a move that safeguards the future of the series on free-to-air television in the UK.
Their press release confirmed the following:
– Channel 5 will broadcast every race live
– Spike TV will broadcast every qualifying session live
– Channel 5’s online social media accounts will broadcast every practice session live
From the outside, this is good news for the series moving forward. As revealed last month, ITV and Formula E parted company at the end of season two. Channel 5’s race coverage should rate better than ITV4’s coverage simply because Channel 5 reaches more viewers than ITV4. However, Channel 5 (unlike ITV) does not have a known track record of covering live motor sport.
I believe the last time Channel 5 covered live motor sport was MotoGP back in the early 2000s. I expected ITV4 and Formula E to be a good fit, but evidently that was not the case: Formula E rated below the ITV4 slot average in just about every slot the electric formula was placed into.
Channel 5’s sporting portfolio is not as big as ITV4’s which may pose another problem. I’m not as convinced that, because Formula E is on Channel 5, it will automatically find more viewers by default. A lot of promotion is needed across various outlets and channels to get the message out, before and during the season.
Given that Channel 5 does not screen first-run programming on Saturday afternoons, a re-run for Hong Kong is necessary, and I hope happens, this being a major mistake made by ITV. I wouldn’t broadcast an hour-long build-up, the interest simply isn’t there for it. ITV did it because they thought interest would be higher for the series than it turned out to be.
Broadcasting every qualifying session on Spike TV is a wise move, and should help tap into a different demographic. Likewise, broadcasting practice session across Channel 5’s social media accounts will help to a degree, although I don’t expect the sessions to draw hits beyond the hardcore aficionados. Are fans of sport likely to be following Channel 5’s social media accounts? I don’t know.
I don’t think there will be miracles straight away is the key message, time will tell. Personally I hope the deal is a success, because the more motor sport on free-to-air television, the better. No personal have been announced yet for Channel 5, nor the structure of their live race programming. Formula E suffered second season syndrome in my opinion, something that needs to be reversed for season three and beyond.