Analysis: Let’s talk about TMC

Typically, sporting events take place in confined spaces, such as football, tennis, and cricket. Motor racing in unique in its nature, it is unlike any other sport. Vehicles, on both two and four wheels, race around a large perimeter under timed conditions in the name of sport.

The latter is a greater logistical challenge than the former, on all fronts, including broadcasting the event.

In stadium-based sports, it is near impossible for the television director to miss the key action. The trajectory of the football determines what the director does next, a rule that applies for every single football match irrespective of whether it is the biggest game in the world, or the local Sunday league game down the road.

When you break it down like that, directing the UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid is no different to directing the League 2 play-off final between Exeter and Coventry (notwithstanding the commercial requirements for both events). Both contain largely the same parameters.

A freelancer could direct a football match one week and a three-hour tennis game the next, without having specialist knowledge of either event.

In contrast, motor racing requires cameras at every corner to track the cars or bikes around the circuit. A director needs specialist knowledge of the track, the series, and the battles likely to emerge, which is an attribute you are unlikely to learn overnight.

“With motor sport, once you’ve gone around one corner, the cameras have got to be ready to pick up on the next corner, and so on,” explains Richard Coventry, who is British Superbikes’ television director.

“If someone makes a mistake, or goes to the wrong bike, then we’ve got to correct it and pick up further down the line. Motor sport is more difficult I would say to cover than field sport, although on a football match you can have upwards of twenty cameras, but you wouldn’t use them all in the same way.”

“In football, you could stay on the same shot for three or four minutes, it’s impossible to do that at a motor racing circuit unless you place a camera high-up at Knockhill!”

From local hosts to centralisation
Formula 1 races were produced by the local television broadcaster of the time up until the mid-2000’s.

The BBC directed the British Grand Prix until 1996, with ITV taking over from 1997. The direction varied dramatically from race to race. ITV were ahead of its time, others focused on the home town stars further down the field, and some simply struggled to cope with the ever-changing F1 world.

2018 Monaco GP - new tunnel camera.png
Looking towards Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas from the new camera position towards the end of Monaco’s tunnel.

Standards improved as Formula One Management wrestled control away from local broadcasters, giving fans a consistent view of the product throughout the year. The Japanese Grand Prix was the penultimate race to fall out of local control, Fuji Television last produced the race in 2011. One race though has remained with the local broadcaster: the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix.

Tele Monte Carlo continues to produce the Monaco round of the championship, meaning that the level of expertise on-hand is lower than at the other twenty races in the calendar. This has always been an issue but has become exasperated in recent years as FOM have centralised production.

Is it no coincidence that some consider Monaco to be one of the worst races in the calendar for action? Without turning this into a piece about the racing: yes, Monaco does not feature as much overtaking as other races on the calendar, due to the nature of the street circuit, which has been the case for years.

But, when fans have called as race ‘boring’, you need to ask what draws them to that conclusion. Formula 1 attracts in excess 50 million viewers worldwide per race, all of them watching the same World Feed. Fans can only judge the race based upon the angles the producer chooses to air.

We assume that the production team have chosen the best angles, based on the expertise of those around them. Most of the time, FOM does the job well, because they have the experts there. TMC however do not cover the sport throughout the year in the same way FOM does, and therefore do not have as many experts on-hand.

For all the criticism I do give FOM, their direction generally feels well-defined, whereas TMC’s product throughout the years during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend is rough around the edges.

On their Fan Voice site (login required), FOM have outlined how the split between them and TMC works. TMC are responsible for “directing the world feed, choosing where the cameras and microphones are, selecting which subject to follow, doing all the replays.”

In turn, FOM are responsible for “onboard cameras and all [of the] trackside infrastructure are our bag, as is all the official timing, the graphics.” The site also talks about the barriers this presents, such as the inevitable language barrier.

The Monaco problem
The problems for TMC encompass the entire weekend. Starting with practice and qualifying, TMC missed crucial laps, with Daniel Ricciardo’s initial lap record omitted from the World Feed, commentators having to refer to the timing screens to try to build the excitement level.

Following qualifying, it was clear where the two main storylines sat heading into the race. The first: would Ricciardo hold on to claim the victory that slipped away from him in 2016; and secondly, how far would Ricciardo’s team-mate Max Verstappen climb through the field?

From the very first lap, the trajectory of the direction went south. The timing graphics displayed a yellow flag symbol, indicating danger, following a collision between a Force India car and Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley.

2018 Monaco GP - hairpin exit.png
Daniel Ricciardo tackles Monaco’s Loews hairpin. This shot is fine, but the camera angles before and after are the same long distance shots as yester-year, with a focus on the surrounding advertising.

The symbol remained on-screen for the duration of the first lap, but TMC did not switch away from the leading contingent (although team radio from Hartley was played into coverage). At any other event, FOM would have jumped on-board with Hartley to show the viewers the extent of the damage, but not here. TMC’s World Feed output also did not capture the damage initially, FOM choosing to show this footage on its pit lane channel following its absence from the main feed.

It felt like the director was reluctant to switch attention away from the front-runners and towards Verstappen, failing to capture his moves on Ericsson and Hartley live. The on-screen timing graphics falling over at several points during the Grand Prix did not help, although it is unclear whether the blame here lies with FOM or TMC. But either way, it added to the poor presentation of the race, as a fan, I found it frankly frustrating to watch.

The timing pages should guide the production team towards the next on-track action, but TMC were seemingly not using this as a basis, something that became increasingly apparent in the latter stages as they failed to show how the likes of Esteban Ocon closed on the front-runners with relative ease. TMC failed to portray the sense of jeopardy that Monaco is meant to present.

On a brighter note, TMC were on-board Charles Leclerc’s Sauber as his brakes failed, smashing into Hartley’s Toro Rosso; whilst the introduction of a camera angle towards the end of the tunnel provided fantastic shots throughout the race weekend.

However, the ‘now available for live’ camera on the inside of Loews hairpin, was poor. The actual camera angle is good, but in the context of the camera angles before and after, switching from a camera angle with a car predominately in shot, to another predominately on advertising was jarring.

A good motor racing director can turn an average race into something watchable and engaging. A bad director on the other hand can persuade viewers to turn off an average race, and there is no doubt in my mind that TMC leans into the latter category.

Compared with motor racing, there are less variables with directing a football or tennis game, which makes the job of directing a motor race more critical than other sporting events.

If Liberty Media wants Monaco to receive a better rapport from fans watching the show, one step it desperately needs to take is to wrestle control off TMC, and to bring control of the Monaco World Feed in-house.


Season high audience for Sky as F1 continues UK ratings resurgence

Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in the Monaco Grand Prix peaked with just over four million viewers, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired across four different channels on Sunday afternoon: Channel 4, and three of Sky’s channels.

Channel 4’s live programme, encompassing the build-up and the race itself from 13:00 to 16:30, averaged 2.15m (24.9%). The audience increased by 188,000 viewers compared with 2017’s average audience of 1.96m (23.8%) across a slightly shorter time slot. All of Channel 4’s race day broadcasts so far this year have recorded year-on-year increases.

Combined, Sky’s coverage averaged 721,000 viewers across Sky Sports F1, Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event. Last year’s programme aired across the F1 channel and Sky Sports Mix to an audience of 591k (7.2%), so yesterday’s audience increased year-on-year by 130,000 viewers.

Breaking Sky’s audience down, the F1 channel averaged 477k (5.6%) from 13:00 to 16:30 compared with 425k (5.2%) last year. Sky One averaged 167k (1.9%) across the same time slot, whilst 111k (1.2%) watched Main Event from 14:05 to 16:30, a shorter time slot than the other two Sky channels.

Sky’s average of 721,000 is their highest of the season so far, showing that simulcasting does make a difference to their total audience. Spain was an exclusive race for Sky last time out, which aired only on the F1 channel, whilst Monaco, simulcast across two different Sky channels, also aired on Channel 4.

The race started with 3.55m (41.0%) at 14:10, compared with 3.09m (37.0%) at 13:00 last year, so already at race start an extra half a million viewers were watching. The gap year-on-year remained around half a million viewers throughout, the trend relatively static.

A peak audience of 4.06m (42.5%) watched Ricciardo win the race at 15:50, a strong increase compared to last year’s peak audience of 3.53m (40.2%). At the time of the peak, 3.04m (31.8%) were watching Channel 4’s broadcast, with 1.02m (10.7%) watching across Sky’s three channels. The split was 75:25, compared with 76:24 at the time of the peak last year, suggesting that Sky One had little to no bearing on Channel 4’s audience, for the race at least.

The combined average audience of 2.87 million viewers is the highest average audience for Monaco since 2015, an increase of 12.5 percent on last year’s average of 2.55 million viewers. The race in 2016, which Channel 4 aired in highlights form, averaged 2.78 million viewers.

The combined peak audience of 4.06 million viewers is also the highest for Monaco since 2015, an increase of 14.9 percent on last year’s figure of 3.53 million viewers, and up 7.7 percent on 2016.

Qualifying and Analysis
Channel 4’s audience was equal compared with last year’s qualifying session. Live coverage from 12:55 to 15:45 averaged 1.14m (16.7%), compared with 1.14m (15.5%) across a shorter time slot last year. Their programme peaked with 1.73m (23.1%) as Ricciardo claimed pole, compared with 1.75m (21.7%) last year.

The additional viewers year-on-year came through Sky One’s simulcast. Live coverage on Sky Sports F1 averaged 267k (3.8%), versus 277k (3.8%) last year, whilst Sky One’s simulcast averaged 75k (1.1%). The combined Sky peak of 610k (8.5%) at 14:35 across two channels compares with 491k (5.9%) for just the F1 channel last year.

The combined average audience of 1.48 million viewers is a marginal increase on last year’s figure of 1.42 million viewers, with the combined peak audience of 2.33 million viewers an increase of 104,000 viewers year-on-year.

However, whilst the Monaco Grand Prix continues Formula 1’s excellent period from a viewing figures perspective, with no signs of slowing down, the Grand Prix was not the most watched sporting event over the weekend.

The big news story is that the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday evening between Liverpool and Real Madrid peaked with a massive 4.71m (25.8%) on BT Sport 2 alone, believed to be the biggest ever audience for a sporting event in the UK on pay television. The audience does not include the 1.8 million viewers that watched via BT’s digital platforms or YouTube, or the millions further that watched in pubs.

The 4.7 million viewers include those that watched the match for free on Virgin Media channel 100 and may take up a fair proportion of that figure. I mention the figure because it shows the lengths that BT went to, to ensure that the match reached the widest possible audience. The alternative would have been a ‘token gesture’, but BT again for the Champions League final went the distance to stream the final on YouTube.

Reality is that, events such as the Champions League are very rare: a match such as Saturday’s would have peaked with close to 15 million viewers on BBC or ITV. Divide that by three and you get to BT’s figure from Saturday. Divide the highest F1 peak from the BBC days by three, and you see why Sky struggles to break the two million peak mark for F1 (they have never done so).

Although Sky’s season high audience is a very good number for them, it is still relatively small money in the grand scheme of things, and they have failed to erode the current Channel 4 free-to-air audience for Formula 1.

Indianapolis 500 drops, but still respectable
The 2018 Indianapolis 500 peaked with 91,000 viewers on BT Sport 1 yesterday evening. Live coverage from 15:30 to 21:00 averaged 32k (0.26%). From 16:30 to 21:00, last year’s equivalent slot, the race averaged 38k (0.30%), unsurprisingly a substantial drop on last year’s audience of 129k (0.91%) when there was major attention on Fernando Alonso.

Of more interest is that this year’s audience tripled compared to 2016’s average of 12k (0.09%). The peak audience of 91k (0.64%) came at 19:05, also a major increase on the 2016 peak figure of 31k (0.16%). If anything, it shows that some of last year’s audience did return for this year’s race, even if it never hit the heights that it did last year.

The 2017 Monaco Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Scheduling: The 2018 Monaco Grand Prix / Indianapolis 500

One of the biggest motor racing weekends of the year is here: it is time for the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500!

The Monaco round of the Formula 1 season airs live across Sky and Channel 4; however, this weekend Sky’s coverage is airing on four different channels. As usual, the action is airing on their dedicated F1 channel. Sky are simulcasting some on-track sessions across Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Mix, which is not unusual.

The major departure for Sky is that both the qualifying and race are airing live on their main entertainment channel, Sky One, which is a fascinating move ahead of 2019. It is the first session to air live on Sky One since the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying session in 2015, and the first time a Formula 1 race has aired on the channel.

Whether Sky One fulfils F1’s criteria of ‘free to air’ is unclear (given that the channel is not on Freeview, I suspect not), but this is one to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Over on 5 Live, the radio broadcaster is airing the Chequered Flag podcast on their main station Sunday evening, from 18:00. It is the earliest they have aired the podcast, I imagine this will air on a small tape-delay following the race. Channel 4 meanwhile has highlights of the Historic Monaco Grand Prix weekend airing across the weekend.

BT Sport plays host to the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Although the scheduling is identical to last year, there is no studio coverage, reverting to the set-up from 2016. Last year featured significantly more interest because of Fernando Alonso’s participation in the race.

Channel 4 F1
24/05 – 09:55 to 11:45 – Practice 1
24/05 – 13:55 to 16:00 – Practice 2
26/05 – 10:55 to 12:25 – Practice 3
26/05 – 12:55 to 15:45 – Qualifying
27/05 – 13:00 to 17:30 – Race
=> 13:00 – Build-Up
=> 13:45 – Race
=> 16:30 – Reaction

Supplementary Programming
26/05 – 09:55 to 10:55 – Historic Grand Prix of Monaco (part 1)
27/05 – 08:00 to 08:55 – Historic Grand Prix of Monaco (part 2)

Sky Sports F1
24/05 – 09:45 to 11:55 – Practice 1
24/05 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2
26/05 – 10:45 to 12:15 – Practice 3 (also Sky One)
26/05 – 13:00 to 15:40 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Mix)
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
27/05 – 12:30 to 17:30 – Race (also Sky One)
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
23/05 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Driver Press Conference
23/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview (also Sky Sports Mix)
23/05 – 21:00 to 21:15 – Paddock Uncut
26/05 – 15:40 to 16:15 – The F1 Show (also Sky One and Sky Sports Mix)
30/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio 5 Live
24/05 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview
26/05 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Qualifying
27/05 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race
27/05 – 18:00 to 18:30 – Chequered Flag

Formula Renault Eurocup – Monaco
26/05 – 08:45 to 09:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport 1)
27/05 – 10:15 to 11:15 – Race 2 (BT Sport 2)

Formula Two – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
24/05 – 08:10 to 09:05 – Practice
24/05 – 12:15 to 13:05 – Qualifying
25/05 – 10:25 to 11:55 – Race 1
26/05 – 16:15 to 17:25 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Mix)

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 (BT Sport 1)
27/05 – 15:30 to 21:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
27/05 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Race

Speedway Grand Prix – Prague (BT Sport 3)
26/05 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

World Superbikes – Donington Park
25/05 – 09:40 onwards (Eurosport 2)
=> 09:40 to 10:30 – SBK: Practice 1
=> 16:45 to 19:00 – SBK and SSP: Practice
26/05 – 10:15 to 15:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
27/05 – 11:00 to 14:00 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
29/05 – 22:00 to 23:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, this post will be updated if the schedule changes.

Updated on May 24th to reflect slight changes for Sky’s simulcasts.

Scheduling: The 2018 Berlin E-Prix / French MotoGP

Formula E and MotoGP are back in action this weekend, in the heartland of Europe.

The electric single seater series heads to Germany for the Berlin E-Prix. The scheduling of the E-Prix at first sight is odd, with the E-Prix scheduled to satisfy domestic viewers rather than international ones. Domestically, the race takes place between the women’s and men’s football domestic cup final; however internationally this results in a clash with the English FA Cup final! Expect a lower than usual UK number as a result.

On the punditry front, it is a newsworthy weekend, with Channel 4’s Formula 1 analyst David Coulthard joining Jack Nicholls and Bob Varsha in the Formula E commentary box. As readers will know, Coulthard is also part of the Whisper Films production company, and Whisper have not yet collaborated with Formula E. Coulthard replaces Dario Franchitti, who is on Indianapolis 500 duty.

MotoGP returns with the French round of the championship, the action as usual live on BT Sport. Elsewhere on BT Sport, it is qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, live coverage airing on both Saturday and Sunday evenings.

In a further scheduling oddity from the outside, the main World Touring Car Cup action from Zandvoort takes place on Monday, but this is because Monday is Whit Monday in Netherlands and many other parts of the world.

MotoGP – France (BT Sport 2)
18/05 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
19/05 – 07:45 to 15:15
=> 07:45 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
20/05 – 07:30 to 15:00
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – France (Channel 5)
22/05 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Berlin (online via YouTube)
19/05 – 07:55 to 08:55 – Practice 1
19/05 – 10:25 to 11:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Berlin
19/05 – 12:30 to 14:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 12:30 – Preview
=> 13:00 – Qualifying
19/05 – 12:45 to 14:10 – Qualifying (5Spike)
19/05 – 16:45 to 18:15 – Race (Eurosport 2)
19/05 – 16:45 to 18:30 – Race (Channel 5)

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – Silverstone
19/05 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race Start (
19/05 – 14:30 to 18:30 – Race (BT Sport X2)
19/05 – 17:05 to 19:30 – Race Finish (

British Touring Car Championship – Thruxton (ITV4)
20/05 – 11:15 to 18:00 – Races

Formula Renault Eurocup – Silverstone
19/05 – 13:15 to 14:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
20/05 – 13:15 to 14:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport X2)

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500
19/05 – 21:00 to 23:00 – Qualifying – Day 1 (BT Sport 2)
20/05 – 21:00 to 23:00 – Qualifying – Day 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)

World Rally Championship – Portugal
Every stage live via
17/05 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Live: Stage 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
18/05 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Live: Stage 8 and 9 (BT Sport 2)
18/05 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 23:30 to 00:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 23:30 to 00:00 (
19/05 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Live: Stage 13 (BT Sport 3)
19/05 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 23:30 to 00:00 (
=> 00:00 to 00:30 (BT Sport 1)
20/05 – 09:00 to 10:00 – Live: Stage 17 (BT Sport 3)
20/05 – 12:00 to 13:30 – Live: Stage 19 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
20/05 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 23:30 to 00:00 (
=> 00:30 to 01:00 (BT Sport 3)
23/05 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Touring Car Cup – Netherlands
21/05 – 07:30 to 08:50 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
21/05 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport)
21/05 – 15:30 to 16:30 – Race 3 (Eurosport)

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.

WEC looking at UK free-to-air options for remainder of super season

Organisers of the World Endurance Championship are in discussion with several UK broadcasters concerning free-to-air coverage of the series, this site can confirm.

The championship had increased their free-to-air presence in recent years. In 2016, highlights of the series aired on Saturday mornings on Channel 4, whilst last year highlights aired on ITV4. In addition, last season saw some of the 24 Hours of Le Mans air live on ITV4, the highest billing for the race in several years.

However, there is currently no agreement in place with a major free-to-air broadcaster for the 2018/19 super season, which began on May 5th in Spa.

Speaking to this site, a WEC spokesperson said “The 2018/19 WEC Super Season had a fantastic start in Spa and had wide coverage in the UK through a combination of live broadcast on Eurosport/Eurosport Player and as well as highlights on BT Sport. You may also be aware that the whole race was available live on the FIAWEC App.”

The spokesperson added that, whilst their agreement with ITV4 ended following the 2017 season, discussions concerning the 2018/19 super season are ongoing.

“At the moment we are in discussion with them [ITV4] and other potential FTA partners to provide live coverage of Le Mans and all other WEC Super Season races to ensure it continues to reach as wide an audience as possible in the UK.”

“We are confident that we will conclude a new agreement very soon and will issue a press release as soon as a deal is agreed.”