F1 slumps to lowest UK audience of modern era

After a promising start to the 2018 season, Formula 1’s UK audience figures crashed through the floor during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired across Sky’s dedicated F1 channel, and their Main Event channel. Main Event were meant to join Sky F1 at 17:30, however this was pushed back to 19:05 as England’s cricket ODI with Scotland overran.

Sky Sports F1’s broadcast from 18:00 to 21:30 averaged 704k (4.2%), an identical figure to 2017, and an increase on 2016’s figure of 620k (2.9%).

What hurts Sky is that their Main Event simulcast performed poorly. An audience of 120k (0.7%) watched the simulcast, compared with 234k (1.1%) in 2016 and 259k (1.4%).

The combined average audience for the live broadcast was 787k (4.7%), down 18.3 percent on 2017’s average of 962k (5.2%), and a slightly smaller drop compared with 2016’s figure of 853k (4.0%).

It is likely that ITV’s Soccer Aid took away some of the floating casual audience that would have tuned into Sky’s F1 broadcast. The charity match averaged 3.86m (21.2%) across a three and three-quarter hour slot for the free-to-air broadcaster.

The race broadcast on Sky peaked with 1.30m (6.8%) at 20:40 as Sebastian Vettel won the Grand Prix, a dip compared to their 2016 and 2017 peaks of 1.41m (6.3%) and 1.47m (7.0%) respectively.

It should be noted that the total television audience dropped compared with previous years, but I would have expected Formula 1 to hold up better and to increase its share in this situation, as live sport tends to do.

Channel 4’s highlights programme struggled, averaging just 856k (12.2%) from 22:40 to 00:40, a decrease on both 2016 and 2017’s average audiences of 1.30m (15.3%) and 970k (11.6%) respectively.

The time slot for all three years was broadly the same, so the scale of the drop is somewhat shocking. Channel 4’s show peaked with 1.26m (14.7%) at 23:10 as the highlights edit started.

The combined average audience of 1.64 million viewers is the lowest average audience in the modern era for a Formula 1 race in the UK dating back to at least 2005.

Realistically, you probably need to go back to the days when the BBC did not air some races live in the mid-1990s, which makes Canada’s number a near 25 year low for the sport in the UK.

Compared with 2017, the combined average audience is down 15.0 percent (1.93m), and down 23.7 percent on 2016 (2.15m).

To show the scale of the problem for Canada, the combined peak audience of 2.56 million viewers is 300,000 viewers lower than the average audience from the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying aired on Sky Sports F1 from 18:00 to 20:35, averaging 345k (2.7%), a slight bump on last year’s figure of 342k (2.2%).

Channel 4’s highlights suffered in a late-night time slot, averaging 614k (7.9%) from 22:55 to 00:25. Sky’s live coverage peaked with 684k (4.8%), compared with Channel 4’s peak audience later in the evening of 780k (9.5%).

The combined average audience of 960,000 viewers is the lowest for a Saturday qualifying session since the late 2000’s, and the lowest for Canada since 2006.

The above set of numbers do not include Sky Go, Now TV or All 4, which will increase total volumes slightly. However, even including them is not changing the fact that all the numbers are frankly abysmal and a new low for the sport in this country, an especially poor number coming off what has been a positive start to 2018 for Formula 1.

Canada has had a few problems, the main one being that the free-to-air highlights have aired in a graveyard time slot when not aired live since 2012. The problem was exacerbated this past weekend, with Channel 4 prioritising live rugby coverage over highlights of F1 weekend.

However, the fact also that Sky’s television audience is not improving with 2019 fast approaching should be a clear message to Liberty Media that viewers are unwilling to tune into Sky’s pay-TV broadcasts of Formula 1 in large volumes.

It is a problem that needs to be addressed and tackled, one way or the other. Time is ticking…

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


Scheduling: The 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans

The famous endurance race returns, it is time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans!

Forming part of the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship season, the race airs live across Discovery Network’s portfolio of channels. The complete race airs live on Eurosport, with supplementary live coverage also airing on Quest TV, as has been the case for the past four years, helping Le Mans reach a wider audience. However, ITV4’s coverage does not return this year.

Eurosport are upping the ante, with what they are claiming is to be their biggest Le Mans production to date. Jennie Gow switches from Formula 1 to endurance racing, joining the Eurosport team in pit lane alongside Sam Hancock.

It is a different feel to the Eurosport line-up this year, with one of their staple figures, Martin Haven moving to WEC’s in-house team. Carlton Kirby and Mark Cole lead Eurosport’s commentary, joined by Le Mans winners Eric Hilary, Benoit Treluyer, Henri Pescarolo, and Tom Kristensen.

Outside of the traditional television spectrum, qualifying and the race airs live via WEC’s app for £8.99. Alongside Haven are WEC regulars Toby Moody and Allan McNish, joined by Karun Chandhok, Peter Dumbreck, and Julian Porter.

Wednesday 13th June (Eurosport)
15:00 to 19:10 – Practice
20:45 to 23:10
=> 20:45 – Extra
=> 21:00 – Qualifying 1

Thursday 14th June (Eurosport)
17:45 to 23:10
=> 17:45 – Extra
=> 18:00 – Qualifying 2
=> 20:15 – Extra
=> 21:00 – Qualifying 3

Saturday 16th June
08:00 to 09:00 – Warm Up (Eurosport)
12:00 to 23:59 (Eurosport)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up
=> 12:45 – Legends of Le Mans Highlights
=> 13:00 – On the Grid with Tom Kristensen
=> 13:45 – Race
13:30 to 15:00 – Race Start (Quest TV)
22:00 to 23:00 – Saturday Evening (Quest TV)

Sunday 17th June
00:00 to 14:35 (Eurosport)
=> 00:00 – Race
=> 08:00 – Highlights of the Night
=> 14:15 – Extra
10:00 to 14:30 – Race Conclusion (Quest TV)

As always, the post will be updated if anything changes.

Video: What would Coventry MotoFest look like if it aired live on TV?

First held in 2014, Coventry’s annual MotoFest event has grown with each passing year, now a firm fixture on the calendar for those that live in the city, including myself.

From 2014 to 2017, organisers held parade laps using a portion of the city’s Ring Road. With a change in law last year bringing motor sport back to the UK’s towns and cities, organisers took advantage of this, adding a sprint time trial event to the Moto Fest bill.

But, what would the city, which is also UK City of Culture for 2021, look like from a broadcasting point of view if it ever aired on television? Where would you place the cameras? I had a bit of fun across the two-day event, filming the machinery from various vantage points around the Ring Road based course.

I should note that the organisers did not ask me to write this, I have had no contact with them, just thought that this would make for an interesting piece of the site, and it falls into the broadcasting bracket very nicely.

So, how did I get on? Pleasingly, the result is a 90 second ‘directors cut’ lap of the 2018 Coventry MotoFest course! 30 minutes of footage from 18 different angles cut into a short edit. It is not intended to be perfect.

A few years ago, during University, I did gain an Adobe Premiere Pro certificate, but for this I jumped into DaVinci Resolve, which in terms of look and feel in my view is easier to use than Premiere Pro.

I filmed this on my Nexus 6P, no specialist camera, just me and my (un)steady hands. Resolve’s stabiliser function was my best friend for most of the clips! I had a good idea of where to get the best angles, but sometimes I used my instinct if an opportunity presented itself.

Some areas were restricted, such as the tunnel, whilst viewing areas down at the far end of the circuit were also limited, preventing me from poking my Nexus through the railings! Maybe I should have done my own recce

Once I had narrowed the clips down to the chosen ones, it was a matter of making sure they cut in and out at the right moment, road markings as well as my own knowledge guiding the process.

The cars in each clip were different, which resulted in different tones, so it was vital to correct that and attempt to equalise the audio in the editing process. Some of the sound is also taken from the preceding or following clip, as portions of it turned out to be unusable.

Being an event on public roads in a city centre, some cars were not taking break neck speeds around the course, so one or two clipsp may look slightly slower than those around them, but that is the luck of the draw.

Whilst I have corrected the key things in the first version, one thing caught me out and that was the sun, which eagle-eyed watchers will notice suddenly re-appear at around 28 seconds in. I want to do colour correction, across the whole film but that is a longer task for the future.

Currently, Coventry MotoFest does not look like UK’s version of Monte Carlo, but a bit of colour enhancements will change that. Maybe

Scheduling: The 2018 Canadian Grand Prix / Zurich E-Prix

Formula 1 heads across the ocean to North America for its annual June trip: the Canadian Grand Prix!

The race airs exclusively live on Sky Sports, with late night highlights the order of the day for Channel 4.

Lee McKenzie continues to wind down her Formula 1 commitments and focus on other sports, this time presenting rugby for Channel 4. McKenzie is missing several races this Summer with Wimbledon also on the agenda.

Elsewhere, Formula E heads to Switzerland for the very first time, as racing returns to the country for the first time since 1954. Note that the race takes place on Sunday evening, clashing with the first part of Sky’s build-up for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The BBC is airing a documentary looking at the electric series on its news channel on Friday evening called Driving Change. Part of a wider strand of programming from Radio 1’s Newsbeat team, the documentary looks at how Formula E is helping people make the shift to electric cars.

With Jack Nicholls on Formula E duty, Alex Jacques steps back into Nicholls’ shoes as BBC’s 5 Live F1 lead commentator.

Channel 4 F1
09/06 – 22:55 to 00:25 – Qualifying Highlights
10/06 – 22:40 to 00:40 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
08/06 – 14:30 to 16:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
08/06 – 18:45 to 20:50 – Practice 2
09/06 – 15:45 to 17:15 – Practice 3
09/06 – 18:00 to 20:35 – Qualifying
=> 18:00 – Pre-Show
=> 18:55 – Qualifying
10/06 – 17:30 to 22:10 – Race
=> 17:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 18:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 19:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 21:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
06/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview
07/06 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Driver Press Conference
07/06 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
09/06 – 20:35 to 21:10 – The F1 Show
13/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
08/06 – 14:55 to 16:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
09/06 – 18:55 to 20:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
10/06 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – Zurich (online via YouTube)
10/06 – 07:55 to 08:55 – Practice 1
10/06 – 10:25 to 11:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Zurich
08/06 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Driving Change (BBC News)
10/06 – 12:45 to 14:10 – Qualifying (5Spike)
10/06 – 16:30 to 18:15 – Race (Channel 5)
10/06 – 16:45 to 18:15 – Race (Eurosport 2)

British Touring Car Championship – Oulton Park (ITV4)
10/06 – 11:15 to 18:00 – Races

Euroformula – Spa
09/06 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 2)
10/06 – 12:15 to 13:15 – Race 2 (BT Sport 3)

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

International GT Open – Spa
09/06 – 14:00 to 15:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport 2)
10/06 – 13:15 to 14:45 – Race 2 (BT Sport 3)

World Rally Championship – Italy
Every stage live via WRCPlus.com
07/06 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Live: Stage 1 [Ittiri Arena Show] (BT Sport 1)
08/06 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 23:30 to 00:00 (BT Sport 2)
09/06 – 07:30 to 08:30 – Live: Stage (BT Sport 1)
09/06 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Live: Stage (BT Sport 1)
09/06 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 3)
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (Motorsport.tv)
10/06 – 08:30 to 09:30 – Live: Stage (BT Sport 1)
10/06 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Live: Stage 19 [Power Stage] (BT Sport 1)
10/06 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (Motorsport.tv)
12/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Superbikes – Brno
08/06 – 08:40 onwards (Eurosport 2)
=> 08:40 to 09:30 – SBK: Practice 1
=> 11:25 to 12:15 – SBK: Practice 2
09/06 – 09:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
10/06 – 10:00 to 14:00 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
13/06 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.