Canadian Grand Prix dips below two million viewers

The Canadian Grand Prix averaged under two million viewers in the United Kingdom this past Sunday, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the race, simulcast across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports 2, averaged 962k (5.2%) from 18:00 to 21:30, representing Sky’s highest audience of the season. The audience was split 704k (3.8%) versus 259k (1.4%) across the two channels. The combined audience is up on last year’s average audience of 853k (4.0%). Sky simulcast last year’s programme across the dedicated F1 channel and Sky Sports 1, so the year-on-year comparison is like for like.

Sky’s coverage peaked with 1.47m (7.0%) at 20:30, representing a slight increase on the peak audience in 2016 of 1.41m (6.3%). It is Sky’s highest average audience for the Montreal round of the championship since they started covering the sport in 2012, so they should be relatively happy with audience numbers (although the peak is down 300k on 2012).

Channel 4 aired their highlights from 22:30 to 00:35, to an average audience of just 970k (11.6%), down 25.3 percent on 2016’s average of 1.30m (15.3%), which aired in a slightly later slot. Yesterday’s scheduling was poor, with a 15-minute filler repeat of Gogglebox preceding the highlights and averaging just 549k (3.3%). It is Channel 4’s second lowest highlights audience yet, only ahead of last years’ United States Grand Prix.

Channel 4’s peak audience was lower than Sky’s, hitting a high of 1.33m, down around 387k year-on-year. The numbers recorded by the free-to-air broadcaster are poor, one of the many reasons why races such as Canada, USA and Mexico should air live on free-to-air television to reach the highest possible audience – not just in the UK but all over Europe. F1 going out in the graveyard slot does not do the sport any good in the long-term.

The combined audience of 1.93 million viewers is down on last year’s audience of 2.15 million viewers; with the combined peak audience of 2.80 million viewers representing a similar drop year-on-year, down from 3.13 million viewers. Both represent record lows for Canada.

Qualifying
The pattern for qualifying was identical to that described above: Sky Sports increasing, Channel 4 decreasing, although on this occasion Channel 4 aired their highlights programme later than in 2016.

Live coverage of qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 342k (2.2%) from 17:00 to 19:40, an increase on last year’s average audience of 285k (1.8%). The competition year-on-year was broadly similar with tough international football action in both years. Last year saw the opening weekend of Euro 2016, whilst qualifying this year clashed with England vs Scotland.

A later time slot affected highlights on Channel 4. Airing from 22:30 to 23:55, their highlights averaged 879k (7.6%), a drop on last year’s audience of 1.22m (8.0%) which aired half an hour earlier.

The combined average audience of 1.22 million viewers is down 19 percent on last year’s audience of 1.51 million viewers.

The 2016 Canadian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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Scheduling: The 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans

The most famous endurance race in the world is back! The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place next weekend, and with it continues its live free-to-air expansion in the United Kingdom. The race marks round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

As revealed back in April, for the first time since 2009, ITV4 will be screening live coverage of the race. The channel will broadcast the last four and a half hours of the race live, with Richard Henwood on presenting duties.

The good news for those watching via Eurosport is that the race in its entirety will be broadcast on Eurosport’s main channel, ensuring no channel switches. Although this has not been formally confirmed, expect the usual faces of Martin Haven, Liz Halliday and Mark Cole to form part of their coverage. Part of Eurosport’s coverage will again be simulcast on Quest for the third year running.

One change to Eurosport’s programming is that the ’24 Minutes’ branding has been dropped, presumably because it was too restrictive given its name. Instead, a series of live programmes will be broadcast under the ‘Extra’ branding, wrapped around practice and qualifying. This works out to be a net gain in air-time as Eurosport used to go off-air between the on-track sessions on Thursday and Friday.

Lastly, it should be noted that neither BT Sport or Motorsport.tv are airing the 24 Hours of Le Mans live as Eurosport have retained their exclusivity deal on the race.

Wednesday 14th June (Eurosport)
14:45 to 19:10
=> 14:45 – Extra
=> 15:00 – Practice
20:45 to 23:10
=> 20:45 – Extra
=> 21:00 – Qualifying 1

Thursday 15th June (Eurosport)
17:45 to 19:55
=> 17:45 – Extra
=> 18:00 – Qualifying 2
20:10 to 23:10
=> 20:10 – Extra
=> 21:00 – Qualifying 3

Saturday 17th June
08:00 to 08:45 – Warm Up (Eurosport)
13:00 to 23:59 (Eurosport)
=> 13:00 – Extra
=> 13:45 – Race
=> five-minute updates at 15:00, 17:00, 19:00 and 21:00
13:30 to 15:00 – Race Start (Quest TV)
20:00 to 21:00 – Saturday Evening (Quest TV)

Sunday 18th June
00:00 to 14:15 – Race (Eurosport)
=> five-minute updates at 07:00, 09:00, 11:00 and 13:00
09:30 to 14:45 – Race Conclusion (ITV4)
10:00 to 11:00 – Sunday Morning (Quest TV)
13:00 to 14:30 – Race Conclusion (Quest TV)

Monday 19th June
19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Quest TV)

Saturday 24th June
08:00 to 09:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

If anything changes, or more personnel confirmed, I will update the schedule.

Update on June 13th – Thanks to all of you in the comments with links confirming the respective television line-ups, safe to say that there is a wide variety of talent on offer.

Starting with ITV4, they will be taking the World Feed commentary, which Toby Moody is leading. Alongside Moody for the race will be Allan McNish, Julian Porter, Peter Dumbreck, Duncan Vincent and Louise Beckett.

Quest will be using the same commentary as Eurosport’s coverage, with their own presentation team led by Louise Goodman, Diana Binks and Andy Jaye.

As reported on Sportscar365, Eurosport’s commentary team will consist of Mark Cole, Martin Haven, Carlton Kirby and David Addison. Additional analysis will be provided by Sam Hancock, Damien Faulkner and Liz Halliday, whilst Chris Parsons will help take viewers through the night. It is Addison’s first time with the Eurosport team, readers may recognise his voice from ITV4’s British Touring Car Championship coverage.

FOM releases driver briefing footage for the first time

For the first time in the modern era, Formula One Management have released footage from the FIA driver briefing to fans worldwide.

The commercial rights holder uploaded a three-minute video from the Monaco Grand Prix briefing to social media during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. The footage shows Romain Grosjean asking the FIA’s Charlie Whiting about Lewis Hamilton’s attempted overtake on Sebastian Vettel during the Spanish Grand Prix; whilst Max Verstappen commented on the height of the kerb following the swimming pool complex.

The move has been on the cards since last October when it was first reported that the footage would be released publicly in some format, so arguably this was a decision made before Liberty came on board. You can make your own interpretation as to whether this is the first time that the driver briefing has included anything of any interest.

Having now seen the footage, the question is whether this is something we want to regularly see after each race weekend, and the pros or cons involved. One of the areas Liberty Media is trying to push is a focus on the driver personalities. The driver briefings are one place which highlights the individual characters that might not otherwise be on show elsewhere during the weekend. Showing snippets from the briefing helps fans gather an insight into the decision-making process.


On the other hand, there may be a concern that drivers will stop being themselves in the briefings if FOM choose to release footage on a regular basis. The briefings are a private forum for drivers to talk to race officials. Broadcasting the footage via any medium may result in drivers registering their grievances elsewhere, when the cameras are off.

Also, after seeing the footage a few times from different events, it will inevitably lose its raw touch. In my view, we should see the footage either on an ad-hoc basis, or potentially at the end of the season as a standalone video. The Monaco video that FOM released was an excellent behind the scenes look at the briefing, but not something I would watch every weekend.

The raft race is back!
The Canadian Grand Prix weekend also saw the return of the raft race. The raft race, organised by FOM and Red Bull, which used to be a staple of the Montreal weekend during the 1980s and 1990s, made a return on Saturday evening and was streamed live on Formula 1’s social media channels. This is not only about giving something back to the fans, but is also about making F1 fun again.

It does feel like the offering from Liberty Media this weekend has increased further with several features uploaded to social media, such as Lewis Hamilton matching Ayrton Senna’s 65 pole positions. The video presenting Hamilton with a replica of Senna’s helmet immediately following qualifying has reached 3.3 million people on Facebook and countless more across Twitter and YouTube.

For fans attending the race, Liberty are experimenting with free Wi-Fi for fans in the grandstand, allowing them it looks like to live stream the on-track action.

Scheduling: The 2017 Canadian Grand Prix

The 2017 Formula One season heads to North America, for the Canadian Grand Prix!

It is a busy week coming up: a UK general election, an international football weekend, whilst the British and Irish Lions rugby tour continues. All this means that Formula 1 is down the list in terms of headlines domestically, which will more than likely result in lower ratings for the Grand Prix year-on-year.

Channel 4’s highlights programme on Sunday starts at 22:30. The time is not unusual for an American-based round, but what is unusual is the 15-minute programme before it, billed as ‘Hamilton vs Vettel’ looking at their rivalry. It suggests that Channel 4 are contractually obliged to air highlights on or after 22:30, otherwise the show would have started at 22:15. Sky is simulcasting their race coverage on Sky Sports 2.

Karun Chandhok will not be a part of Channel 4’s team in Canada due to his Le Mans commitments. As of writing, it is unknown who, if anyone, is replacing him. Last year, Holly Samos replaced Lee McKenzie when McKenzie was covering events for the BBC so it is possible that Samos may step in again.

Over on Sky, Rachel Brookes is back in for Natalie Pinkham, who returned in Spain. Brookes will be covering the flyaway races for Sky with Pinkham covering the European based races, the exception being Silverstone where both will be on-site.

As if to compound matters for Formula 1, there is also a Formula E double header and MotoGP this weekend. I know you cannot always avoid clashes but this is a particularly heavy weekend on the sporting front. On the Formula E front, Martin Haven is back in the box alongside Bob Varsha and Dario Franchitti.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
10/06 – 22:30 to 00:00 – Qualifying Highlights
11/06 – 22:30 to 00:35 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
09/06 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
09/06 – 18:45 to 20:55 – Practice 2
10/06 – 14:45 to 16:10 – Practice 3
10/06 – 17:00 to 19:40 – Qualifying
11/06 – 17:30 to 22:10 – Race
=> 17:30 – Track Parade
=> 18:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 18:30 – Race (also Sky Sports 2)
=> 21:30 – Paddock Live (also Sky Sports 2)

Supplementary Programming
07/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
08/06 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Driver Press Conference
08/06 – 19:45 to 20:00 – Paddock Uncut
09/06 – 21:00 to 21:40 – Team Press Conference
09/06 – 21:40 to 22:10 – The F1 Show
14/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
08/06 – 21:00 to 21:55 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
10/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Qualifying Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)
11/06 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – Barcelona (BT Sport 2)
09/06 – 08:00 to 15:00
=> 08:00 – Practice 1
=> 10:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 12:00 – Practice 2
10/06 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
11/06 – 07:30 to 09:15 – Warm Up
11/06 – 09:30 to 15:00
=> 09:30 – Moto3 race
=> 11:15 – Moto2 race
=> 12:45 – MotoGP race
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Barcelona (Channel 5)
12/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

British Touring Car Championship – Croft (ITV4)
11/06 – 11:15 to 18:00 – Races

Euroformula – Paul Ricard (BT Sport 3)
10/06 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1
11/06 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

Formula E – Berlin (online via Channel 5’s social media channels and YouTube)
10/06 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Race 1, Practice 1
10/06 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Race 1, Practice 2
11/06 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Race 2, Practice 1
11/06 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Race 2, Practice 2

Formula E – Berlin
10/06 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Race 1, Qualifying (Spike)
10/06 – 14:30 to 14:15 – Race 1 (Channel 5)
11/06 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Race 2, Qualifying (Spike)
11/06 – 14:30 to 14:15 – Race 2 (Channel 5)

IndyCar Series  Texas 600 (BT Sport 1)
10/06 (Sunday morning) – 01:00 to 04:00 – Race

International GT Open – Paul Ricard (BT Sport 3)
10/06 – 15:00 to 16:45 – Race 1
11/06 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2

Speedway Grand Prix – Czech Republic (BT Sport 2)
10/06 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

World Rally Championship – Italy
09/06 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
10/06 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
10/06 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
11/06 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Stage 2 (BT Sport 1)
11/06 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Power Stage (BT Sport 1)
11/06 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 3)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
13/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Rallycross Championship – Norway (Motorsport.tv)
11/06 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race

If anything changes, the above schedule will be updated.

Update on June 10th – The Hamilton vs Vettel filler on Channel 4 has now been replaced with a 15-minute Gogglebox filler.

Reflecting on BT Sport’s Indianapolis 500 coverage

With extra attention around the Indianapolis 500 this year, BT Sport spiced up their offering with studio coverage. We look at their coverage, positives, and misjudgements that the production team made.

Background
Prior to BT Sport coming on the scene, Sky Sports aired every round of the IndyCar Series live. Typically, Sky’s presentation was studio based with Keith Huewen or David Bobin presenting, alongside the likes of Johnny Mowlem.

Sky’s acquisition of Formula 1 in 2011 meant that IndyCar fell out of favour. Sky dropped IndyCar at the end of 2012, with ESPN UK picking up the rights from 2013 onwards. ESPN UK in August 2013 turned into BT Sport, where the series has remained since.

BT Sport’s coverage of IndyCar for most peak time races has simply been a copy of the US feed, with UK commentary covered by Keith Collantine and Ben Evans more recently during the US ad-breaks. But the studio element that Sky maintained for many years disappeared upon the transition to ESPN.

2017 Indianapolis 500 - BT Sport.png
BT Sport’s pundits analyse the potential ‘triple crown’ contenders.

The studio format returned in 2015 for the 99th Indianapolis 500, Abi Griffiths presenting from their studio under their ‘Motorsport Tonight’ branding. The format did not work for various reasons, one of which was that the team tried ‘too much’, with an unnecessary social media presenter and an inexperienced presenting team.

The buzz around Fernando Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 drive in the McLaren Honda Andretti meant that it was inevitable that BT would be more interested than a typical IndyCar race. Out went the usual production team, including Collantine and Evans, and in came Whisper Films, who currently produce Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage.

Whisper brought Suzi Perry in as presenter, a role she very nearly had last year before BT made late changes to their plans. Mike Conway and The Guardian writer Richard Williams joined Perry in the studio. So, how well did BT Sport cover the race this year?

Build-Up
Disappointed if you are a regular IndyCar watcher, or not bothered if Fernando Alonso was the main draw for you. Certainly, if you were hoping that the Indianapolis 500 would be the ‘jump on’ point to start watching the IndyCar Series, there was little attention paid by Whisper to the overall series offering.

For me, there was too much focus on Alonso, to the degree that it detracted from the build-up. The first segment turned into a long, drawn out discussion about whether other Monaco Grand Prix winners, such as Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton would attempt the triple crown. Conway and Williams did the best in the circumstances, but the segment felt unnecessary and a waste of air-time. A feature looking at the five-strong British contingent would have been more useful, especially considering Max Chilton nearly won the race a few hours later!

Huewen would have been a better fit as pundit instead of Conway given his previous IndyCar presenting, other possible pundits were in Monaco and Indianapolis. Three quarters of the build-up covered Alonso’s participation, with Gavin Emmett conducting a good interview with him. Also good was the comparison between the IndyCar and F1 car, nicely voiced over by Conway; and an overview of the season so far aired during the red flag period (admittedly this should have formed part of the build-up).

Whilst BT were discussing things in their studio, UK viewers were missing a lot of the pageantry that the Indianapolis 500 provides, a major oversight that Whisper should have planned into the UK broadcast, even if it meant airing the pageantry elements on a slight tape-delay around their own VTs. The organisers released minute by minute timings for the key events, so Whisper had no reason to omit the key anthems from their broadcast (Conway referenced the magic of hearing the national anthem later in the show).

Race
BT took the World Feed commentary for the race with Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jnr on duty for ESPN and ABC. The 500 appears to be Bestwick’s last covering the famous race, having announced his release from ESPN at the end of April. The problem for international broadcasters is trying to dip in and out of the World Feed, which is not always easy.

I thought BT coped okay without Collantine and Evans during the build-up, but as soon as the first caution period occurred, BT struggled to fill time with their studio team. BT badly needed their regular IndyCar pundits, who would have had the expertise and knowledge to refer to previous IndyCar races, giving their insight on the events that are unfolding, sadly Whisper thought otherwise.

2017 Indianapolis 500 - Josef Newgarden visor.png
On-board with Josef Newgarden’s Penske in the visor cam position.

Although the American commentary has far too much product placement for my liking, I appreciated that they let the action do the talking during the race. It helps that the sound is so distinct and raw as the cars flash past the static camera angles, meaning that the quietness was not ‘dead air’. Motor sport commentators do not need to constantly talk, and I wish others in the business learned from that.

The direction was good from the host director, with a mixture of on-board and external angles helping to capture the speed on offer. The visor cam has been one of IndyCar’s specialities recently, with it again used widely during the 500.

Overall, the coverage was okay, but the decision to leave BT’s IndyCar regulars out of their Indianapolis 500 coverage was a serious error from judgment from BT and Whisper Films. The mantra “hard work pays off” clearly does not apply in the BT hierarchy… otherwise they would have utilised the skills of those around them. An opportunity missed to bring more viewers to the overarching IndyCar product, in my view (we shall see what the Detroit viewing figures show).