Formula E sparks back to life with new graphics suite

The third season of the electric Formula E series made a splash with a new graphics set debuting at the Hong Kong ePrix.

The series has now decided to follow Formula 1 and MotoGP’s lead, amongst others, with its more simplistic and less stylish graphics set. Whilst their previous graphics set was a good starting point, it had two major problems: an overly complex speedometer which made that particular graphic difficult to decipher for a casual viewer, and the graphics set looked ‘blocky’ when watching in standard definition.

Their new graphics set solves both problem areas, but also retains many of the characteristics from their first iteration, such as battery power levels.

Formula E’s new graphics set, launched at the 2016 Hong Kong ePrix.

I really like the new suite. Of course, there are things that could be improved going forward. As I’ve mentioned before, a ‘race off pit lane’ graphic is needed. It still feels like two separate races before and after the car swaps, which shouldn’t be the case. There’s work to be done on that front I feel, the new graphics need to convey the information better. The commentators rely on the TV graphics as well as the timing screens, so any changes to the TV graphics set to help the changeover will be beneficial going forward.

Also receiving a face lift for the season three opener was the championship’s signature titles, which now uses real footage from seasons one and two instead of pure CGI car footage. I’m a big fan of the titles, the closing shot into CGI and then the Formula E logo is cleverly done. “Let’s Stand Together” continues to be a winner for the closer (even if Channel 5 did cut this off, see below). Furthermore, the Segway starting sequence remained, with floating virtual graphics, a nice addition.

A new commentary duo is born
Out goes Jack Nicholls and in comes Martin Haven. ‘Axing’ is the wrong word, because Nicholls is committed to BBC’s 5 Live Formula 1 coverage, so could not be part of Formula E’s team in Hong Kong or Marrakech next month. Going forward, expect to see the Haven and Dario Franchitti duo to continue, at least on a part-time basis.

Based on today’s evidence, Haven and Franchitti will live up to the Nicholls and Franchitti partnership from before it. Haven’s style is a natural fit for Formula E, and I’m glad that the combination of him and Franchitti appears to be working from the get-go, it is not always guaranteed that will be the case and requires commitment from both sides.

> In conversation with MotoGP commentator Steve Day

I’m pleased that Haven has got his big break as well. For years, as long as I can remember (at least 10 to 15 years, probably more), Haven has been commentating on a variety of events for Eurosport from single-seater to endurance racing. Most of these have been from off-tube in London instead of actually on-location, so it is great to see Haven lead the World Feed commentary for an international motor sport event. If Nicholls is unable to commit going forward, I hope Formula E stick with Haven and Franchitti instead of swapping and changing (where schedules allow).

Channel 5’s coverage gets off to a shaky start
The Hong Kong ePrix was Channel 5’s first live motor racing event since 2002, when the channel aired the MotoGP series. The main positive is that the race aired without interruption and that it was live free-to-air. In a parallel universe, Channel 5 could have passed on Formula E, leaving it on either BT Sport or Eurosport in front of an even lower audience. So I think we need to applaud Channel 5 for showing Formula E in the first place when the series failed to build any meaningful audience on ITV or ITV4.

As expected with no studio coverage, it was clear that Channel 5’s budget for Formula E was very low, if not approaching zero. The pre-race segments were nicely done given that it was the first race of the new contract, with a tailored cut-away to Nicki Shields to take into account the necessity of commercial breaks. The timing of the post-race ad-breaks however was the overwhelming negative, with the first break taken immediately as Sebastien Buemi won the race, no breathing space was given. The remaining breaks were clunky, with viewers missing a significant amount of post-race content along with the “Let’s Stand Together” closure.

Clever or tacky? Formula E’s grid graphics for the segway grid walk, on display at the 2016 Hong Kong ePrix.

I don’t know whether this was deliberate or whether the producer had no motor sport experience (and therefore was simply doing as directed). But either way, it wasn’t great and is a lesson to learn for Marrakesh in my opinion. Channel 4 run their live F1 coverage without adverts for around 105 minutes whilst BT Sport regularly run MotoGP races without adverts so it can be done properly. An alternative solution would be for Channel 5 to run a longer post-race segment, staying on air longer, meaning that they can cover everything from the World Feed (i.e. from 08:30 to ~11:00 in Hong Kong).

Viewing figures better than season two
Live coverage of the Hong Kong ePrix was in-line with Channel 5’s Sunday slot average and some of Formula E’s best non-London numbers in the UK since season one. From 08:30 to 10:30, Formula E averaged 206k (3.3%). In the same slot for the past two weeks, children’s programming has averaged 228k (3.4%) and 215k (2.8%) respectively. When you consider that Formula E haemorrhaged viewers wherever it was placed on ITV or ITV4, these numbers should be considered good.

The Beijing race in 2015 averaged 88k (1.4%), peaking with 168k, so Channel 5’s coverage comfortably beats that number. It is down however on Formula E’s inaugural race in September 2014 which averaged a strong 266k (4.0%) live on ITV4. Spike’s replay yesterday averaged just 27k (0.4%) from 11:00 to 13:00, a poor number overall.

Channel 5’s audience started with 244k (4.8%) at 08:30, but quickly dropped to a low of 150k (2.6%) at 08:50 as the kids’ audience dispersed. Viewing figures picked back up to 258k (4.1%) at 09:05, reaching a peak of 294k (4.4%) at 09:25. Around 240k were watching when the race finished, with 122k (1.9%) sticking around until the end of the programme.


13 thoughts on “Formula E sparks back to life with new graphics suite

  1. The C5 coverage was quite bad. i know that they used Nicki Shields to be a ‘presenter’, but it didnt work well at all. to segway in and out of ad-breaks they need a full time proper presenter. Ben Constanduros (the new Social media presenter) or Sian Welby (making a supplementary programme for 5) should be presenting it over the course of the 2 hours (or maybe even more). If they cant get either, im sure loads of people would actually volunteer to do it for free (I know I would lol). So C5 need to up their game for Marrakesh.

  2. Not had a chance to watch yet as I was busy yesterday, so I’ve been waiting for it to be available on demand. The old graphics looked quite poor on my TV screen and occasionally were cut off and were hard to read, so hopefully this set will be better 🙂

  3. If we assume this forum is solely for disscusion of the technical an broadcasting changes you have to say it was an improvement. The guy who originated formula e has this conceite that its f1 but electric.this is the handicap. For a start I see less bits of car breaking off in a rallycross bumping round a track in the fish processing district of some major city is not a must see really.would think running on real racetracks would be good but its too late now as major cities jump in to promote green credentials they have no intention of in that way its a success.

  4. i like the new graphics but the font is not quite readable and the contrast is terrible(i.e light blue on blue). Don’t like the new % graphic(last year was fine with it going red far sooner). haven and franchiti didn’t work well for me as there was no chemistry between them (it will improve as the season goes on).

    1. I agree, after watching it earlier while the graphics were an improvement layout wise, but white on light blue smallish font on the left didn’t work too well and the numbers were a bit small for me to read. Not everyone has a 50″ TV to enlarge the graphics!

  5. I remember Martin Haven from over 20 years ago when he used to commentate on those mad Austrians trying to ride bizarre motorbikes up the steepest hill possible. I like him as a commentator but he does like to over talk, it’s the same with WTCC, Le Mans etc. I had the impression that Franchitti knew that Haven liked to hog the mic and it was mostly a battle between the two as to who could say the most.

    As for C5’s coverage, it was as I expected and with Formula e the race is all I want to watch, so the fact that they went to a break straight after the chequered flag doesn’t bother me.

    The problem with Formula e is the circuits, the calendar and the camera positions. It’s as if the FIA have come up with a new formula with the sole objective of making it as unappealing as possible.

    1. I agree, he’s probably not the best co-commentator but certainly would do the job fairly well if he was on his own as the whole point of having more than one commentator is that they work together…

  6. I know the ad breaks were not great, but I am really happy that we still have this motor sport free to air! And atleast the race was ad free too.

    As the above comment makes the down side is the calendar, when fe first started I assumed it was a motor race for the f1 winter break but we only have 1 race in the off season!

  7. I agree, the ad breaks weren’t brilliant. Although the cutaways to Nikki were a nice touch to try and give a “live on location” feel, they could have been better placed and planned but hopefully there will be room for improvement as the season goes on.

    As for the calendar, I think it will always be hard to capture viewers and attract broadcasters to show it while it remains sporadic as it’ll be hard to advertise but kudos to C5 for at least giving it a go to keep it on FTA!

  8. It was great that the race was uninterrupted but adverts need to be placed better and an extra 15 minutes of post race show for the whole FOM Feed would be an improvement. Nicki Shields will have to film a few little cut-away scenes aswell.

    I would have put adverts in on this rough basis:
    – 08.39 – 08.43
    – 08.50 – 08.54
    – 10.05 – 10.09
    – 10.20 – 10.24
    Then if the show ran until 10.45:
    – 10.33 – 10.37

  9. As most others, my main criticism of Channel 5’s coverage were the post race adverts. I know for some parts it can’t be helped as the world feed continues on and so commentators get cut off. However, to cut away before the end of the race (two cars crossing the line is not a finished race particularly when there is a big battle going on behind) and in the middle of the podium ceremony is just not acceptable. What made it worse was that there were moments where we would come back from a break and have a good minute of generic helicopter shots of Hong Kong.

    Normally I’m quite forgiving with the odd bad timed ad break, but if Channel 5 do the same again and cut off after the first car has crossed the line I will be finding somewhere else to watch the world feed, regardless of whether its live.

  10. It was on c5, but it was all just the Formula e feed, the same that they had on youtube, online and the app.
    Having those children’s ads was a strange one. Did noone tell them they were going to show motorsport.
    The graphics were ok, but the white and light blue did not work and was very hard to view on a pc,tablet or phone via youtube or the official app. Not sure about a smaller tv as i have a 55″ uhd tv and they worked ok on there.
    I think Martin and Dario did ok, but it did seem as though Martin did not want to stop talking. But he seemed to have done his homework, despite a few mistakes, more to do with camera angles/action I think, it was overall good commentary.
    As for the calendar, its very long between races and almost like you will forget when the next race is.
    It is a crazy series to watch, more for close action, but the battery and e part does nothing for me, really is just a fad. Do not see anything anywhere on sports news about formula e racing and very little do I hear people talking about it. Shame as I think it deserves a bit more merit than it gets.

  11. Ahead of the race start seeing the Nikki Shields bit seconds before the second ad break – when she thought the camera had finished recording – it looked as though she really didn’t want to be there recording the piece to camera!

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