Scheduling: The 2018 New York City E-Prix

It might not be England in the World Cup final on Sunday, but there is action to interest the Brits over the weekend, as over in America, Sam Bird could become Britain’s first Formula E champion!

Season four of the electric series ends with a double-header in New York as DS Virgin’s Bird battles Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Verge for the crown. In some ways it is the end of an era for the championship, this weekend the last featuring mandatory in-race car swaps.

On the broadcasting front, the action airs live on 5Spike and Eurosport. There are question marks around Channel 5’s Formula E future, with its two-year contract ending after this weekend, and no free-to-air home announced yet for season five onwards.

Formula E – New York (online via YouTube)
14/07 – 12:25 to 13:25 – Race 1, Practice 1
14/07 – 14:55 to 15:40 – Race 1, Practice 2
15/07 – 13:25 to 14:25 – Race 2, Practice

Formula E – New York (race 1)
14/07 – Qualifying
=> 16:15 to 17:40 (5Spike)
=> 18:30 to 19:00 [tape delay] (Eurosport)
14/07 – Race
=> 20:00 to 21:55 (5Spike)
=> 20:15 to 21:45 (Eurosport 2)
15/07 – 10:35 to 11:20 – Highlights (Channel 5)

Formula E – New York (race 2)
15/07 – Qualifying
=> 15:45 to 17:10 (5Spike)
=> 16:00 to 17:00 (Eurosport)
15/07 – Race
=> 19:30 to 21:20 (5Spike)
=> 20:00 to 21:15 (Eurosport 2)
16/07 – 12:15 to 13:10 – Highlights (Channel 5)

The schedule will be updated if broadcasters make any adjustments.

British Grand Prix helps F1 hit 2018 high

Despite England’s World Cup performance dominating headlines on Saturday, the British Grand Prix still attracted a healthy audience the following day, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the race aired across Channel 4 and three of Sky’s television outlets, with the race starting at 14:10 UK time.

Channel 4’s coverage averaged 2.39m (24.4%) from 13:00 to 16:30, a marginal increase on their 2016 and 2017 average audiences of 2.36m (17.9%) and 2.20m (20.4%) respectively. Of note is that the percentage shares for Formula 1 increased significantly compared with the past few years, reflecting the low television audience around yesterday.

Meanwhile, Sky’s programming across their dedicated F1 channel, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky 1 averaged 671k (6.9%). An audience of 384k (3.9%) watched via Sky Sports F1, with 180k (1.8%) watching via Main Event and a further 107k (1.1%) on Sky 1, a split of 57:27:16.

The total audience for Sky is up on last year’s combined figure of 652k (6.0%), but down on 2016’s figure of 736k (5.8%); in both years the race did not air on Sky 1 but did air on Sky Sports Main Event. Sky F1’s audience increased year-on-year, however Main Event’s audience dropped, reflecting the fact that Sky’s 2018 programme aired across Main Event and Sky 1.

The race itself started with 4.29m (42.7%) across Channel 4 and Sky, an excellent starting point for the Grand Prix considering Austria seven days earlier started with 3.25m (35.5%) in the same time slot. Admittedly, Austria had World Cup football to compete with, whereas the British Grand Prix had a free reign, on race day at least.

Fans remained hooked on the race throughout, audiences never dipping below 4.1 million viewers. Viewing figures climbed in the latter stages, reaching a peak of 4.55m (43.0%) at 15:30 as Sebastian Vettel claimed victory.

At the time of the peak, 3.50m (33.2%) were watching Channel 4’s broadcast, with 1.04m (9.9%) watching one of Sky’s outlets, a split of 77:23. Across Sky, the F1 channel peaked with 610k (5.8%) at 15:30, with Main Event peaking with 315k (3.1%) at the start of the race. Sky 1’s coverage peaked with 153k (1.5%) at 15:10.

The combined average audience of 3.06 million viewers is the highest of 2018 so far, and an increase of 7.1 percent on last year’s average of 2.86 million viewers. The 2018 average however is marginally down on the average audience recorded in 2016 of 3.10 million viewers.

The peak audience of 4.55 million viewers follows the same pattern as the average: an increase on 2017’s peak of 4.45 million viewers and a 2018 high, but down 9.0 percent on the 2016 peak audience of 4.99 million viewers. The shares at the time of the peak are considerably higher for 2018 (43.0%) than in the past two years (31.5% and 34.6%), again reflecting the low total audience.

Despite being the highest F1 peak of 2018, it is not Channel 4’s highest peak of 2018 as you might expect, suggesting a few more viewers sampled Sky’s coverage because of the simulcast on Sky 1.

Qualifying and Analysis
As widely anticipated, qualifying badly suffered at the hands of England versus Sweden, which clashed with the closing seconds of the session.

Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 averaged 1.06m (8.3%) from 12:55 to 15:50, a significant decrease of 319,000 viewers compared with 2017’s average audience of 1.38m (15.2%). Airing across four channels did not help Sky: their average audience for Silverstone qualifying dropped from 413k (4.5%) in 2017 to 277k (2.5%) this year.

Sky Sports F1’s programme averaged 198k (1.8%), with Sky 1, Main Event and Mix averaging 44k (0.42%), 30k (0.30%) and 5k (0.04%) respectively.

The combined average audience of 1.33 million viewers is unsurprisingly down 25 percent on last year’s average of 1.79 million viewers and the lowest for Britain since 2006. The qualifying session itself peaked with 1.92m (15.0%) at 14:40, compared with last year’s peak audience of 2.64m (27.3%).

In hindsight, and as stated beforehand, FOM should have moved qualifying earlier to prevent a clash, a clash which clearly dented viewing figures in the UK significantly. Thankfully, the Saturday clash did not harm Sunday’s numbers, with some excellent shares.

The raw audience is in-line with last year, a major achievement considering the heatwave that the UK is currently experiencing. If anything, this was an audience figure badly needed after the past three races: Canada and France did not air live on free-to-air television, whilst World Cup action overshadowed both the French and Austrian race days.

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

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Channel 4 set to continue airing Formula 1 beyond 2018

Channel 4 are set to continue their coverage of Formula 1 beyond the 2018 season, according to a new report from the BBC.

The free-to-air broadcaster currently airs half of the championship live, with the remaining portion of the season aired in highlights form, a deal that will end following this season

From 2019, Sky Sports will air Formula 1 exclusively live, however live coverage of the British Grand Prix and highlights of all qualifying and race sessions must be available on a “free-to-air” basis, in a deal believed to be worth just shy of £1 billion across the six seasons.

As noted at the time of the announcement, it was unclear what free-to-air means in this context, whether Sky intended to air content on Pick TV (available to all Freeview viewers) or sub-let that element to another broadcaster, such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5. It now appears that the free-to-air element of the contract is heading Channel 4’s way, continuing their coverage of Formula 1 that started in 2016, albeit on a reduced level.

The BBC’s Andrew Benson reports that Channel 4 “is on the verge of concluding a deal to take on this aspect of the contract.” Channel 4 have yet to comment, but a source has told the BBC that the agreement “is very close”, with “still a couple of areas to be resolved between C4 and Sky.”

Speaking to this site in January, Channel 4’s analyst Karun Chandhok said “If Channel 4 can do a highlights package, with a bit of pre and post-race analysis, then I think they would be open to at least a conversation. They’ve been very happy with the eyeballs they’ve had for F1. They really enjoy having F1 on their channel, from what the executives have been saying.”

This site understands that Channel 4’s production team were informed of the deal on Saturday morning at Silverstone. I understand the deal between Channel 4 and Sky could include other sports as part of a wider ranging package between the two networks. One of the sticking points surrounds the production of the show, with Whisper Films keen to retain production instead of that element heading to Sky.

There are many, many questions this news presents, namely the timing and duration of highlights coverage, and whether Channel 4’s current line-up will remain largely intact; or whether it will be a slimmed down package in duration.

Scheduling: The 2018 British Grand Prix

Silverstone plays host to the third and final part of Formula 1’s triple-header marathon, and it is a news worthy event for all of the UK’s Formula 1 broadcasters.

Button joins Sky for one weekend…
The major news story is that 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button will join Sky Sports F1’s regular line-up for the Grand Prix weekend, strengthening their presentation team. It is Button’s first foray into Formula 1 broadcasting since he retired at the end of 2016.

Speaking to the Sky Sports website, Button said, “The British Grand Prix is an iconic part of the sporting landscape in this country, and as my home race, was always one that was really special for me. I’m really looking forward to being part of the Sky Sports F1 team, and to having the opportunity to ask questions of the drivers, rather than answering them!”

Scott Young, Sky’s Head of Formula 1, added, “Sky Sports F1 is respected for its knowledge and few people know Silverstone as well as [Jenson] does. That expertise and currency will provide engaging insights for our viewers on what it’s like to take on one of the most challenging circuits of the season.”

…but is also filming with Channel 4
Button is also assisting Channel 4 with filming of Speed with Guy Martin. The new commission follows Martin’s previous Formula 1 themed programming, the first of which aired in March 2016 (bike versus racing car), with the second following on in September 2017 (pit stop challenge).

This show sees Williams Heritage rebuild their FW08C car for Martin to race at Silverstone. Martin challenges Button, who will be in the banned six-wheel Williams FW08B car, which the team were going to race in the 1983 Formula One season. The challenge takes place this Thursday prior to the main weekend.

Although only officially announced last month, the documentary has been in development since the start of the year, with Channel 4’s analyst Karun Chandhok closely involved alongside Martin.

Sky One gets in on the action
As with the Spanish Grand Prix in May, both qualifying and the race air live on Sky One. This appears to be a new direction from Sky, perhaps ahead of further simulcasts in 2019 when viewing Formula 1 fundamentally changes for those without Sky Sports in this country.

Elsewhere in Sky’s line-up, The F1 Show for Silverstone remains in its live Thursday evening time slot in front of the main grandstand, however it does mean that there is no F1 Show on Saturday.

Sky are not airing the Masters Historic races, meaning that their schedule on Sunday morning looks emptier than usual. Sunday contains a hole from the end of Formula Two at 10:35 to the start of Porsche Supercup an hour later.

Slicks-0-Six returns, as does EJ…
The BBC’s radio coverage has been knocked for six recently due to the World Cup, but this weekend the race transmits live on BBC Radio 5 Live, with a special Slicks-0-Six chat show airing from 18:00. Slicks-0-Six returns having last aired after the British Grand Prix in 2015.

On the personnel front, Eddie Jordan returns to Channel 4’s coverage, in what is likely to be his, and a lot of people’s, last British Grand Prix as a broadcaster.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
06/07 – 10:00 to 11:35 – Practice 1
06/07 – 13:55 to 16:00 – Practice 2
07/07 – 10:55 to 12:25 – Practice 3
07/07 – 12:55 to 15:50 – Qualifying
08/07 – 13:00 to 17:35 – Race
=> 13:00 – Build-Up
=> 13:40 – Race
=> 16:30 – Reaction

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
06/07 – 09:30 to 11:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
06/07 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2
07/07 – 10:45 to 12:15 – Practice 3 (also Sky 1)
07/07 – 13:00 to 15:40 – Qualifying (also Sky 1 [until 15:30], Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
08/07 – 12:30 to 17:10 – Race (also Sky 1 [until 17:00])
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
04/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview
05/07 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Driver Press Conference
05/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – The F1 Show
05/07 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
11/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Review

BBC F1
08/07 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
08/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Slicks-0-Six (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Superbikes – Knockhill
07/07 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
08/07 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Races (Eurosport 2)
11/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Hungaroring (BT Sport 1)
07/07 – 13:30 to 14:30 – Race 1
08/07 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

Formula Two – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
06/07 – 11:50 to 12:50 – Practice
06/07 – 16:05 to 16:50 – Qualifying
07/07 – 15:40 to 17:00 – Race 1
08/07 – 09:15 to 10:15 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

GP3 Series – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
06/07 – 17:00 to 17:45 – Qualifying
07/07 – 09:20 to 10:15 – Race 1
08/07 – 08:00 to 08:55 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

IndyCar Series – Iowa 300
08/07 – 19:00 to 22:00 – Races

International GT Open – Estoril (BT Sport 1)
07/07 – 14:30 to 16:15 – Race 1
08/07 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
08/07 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Speedway Grand Prix – Sweden (BT Sport 1)
07/07 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

Virgin Australia Supercars – Townsville (Motorsport.tv)
07/07 – 06:50 to 08:45 – Race 1
08/07 – 06:50 to 08:45 – Race 2

World Superbikes – Misano
06/07 – 08:40 onwards (Eurosport 2)
=> 08:40 to 09:30 – SBK: Practice 1
=> 11:25 to 12:20 – SBK: Practice 2
=> 13:55 to 14:55 – SSP: Practice 2
=> 14:55 to 15:55 – SBK: Practice 3
07/07 – 09:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
08/07 – 10:00 to 15:00 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
10/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

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

Updated on July 4th to reflect GP3 moving back to Saturday morning.

Austrian Grand Prix falls foul of poor scheduling

Poor scheduling from Formula One Management hurt viewing figures for the Austrian Grand Prix in the UK this past weekend, overnight viewing figures suggest.

Race
The race aired live across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, starting at 14:10 UK time. The latter phase of the Grand Prix clashed with the World Cup round of 16 clash between Spain and Russia, which had an adverse impact on audience figures. Last weekend was the first time Austria aired live on free-to-air television since 2003.

Live coverage of the race averaged 1.52m (15.8%) on Channel 4 from 13:00 to 16:30, their worst average audience for a live European round. Their previous lowest was for last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, which averaged 1.65m (19.6%) in the August Bank Holiday slot.

Sky’s race day show aired across their F1 channel and Main Event from 13:00 to 16:25 to an audience of 423k (4.4%), Sky’s lowest European audience since the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 327k (3.4%) watched via the F1 channel, with 97k (1.0%) watching on Main Event.

The race started with 3.25m (35.5%) at 14:15 watching across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, around half a million viewers lower than other European races this season, such as Azerbaijan and Monaco. Nevertheless, the audience remained above three million, with 3.03m (29.9%) watching at 14:55.

However, the audience share dropped rapidly throughout the race, with new viewers heading straight for the football on BBC One. By 15:05, around half a million viewers had switched from the F1 to the football: 2.57m (23.4%) were now watching the Grand Prix, significantly lower than you would expect for a live free-to-air round at this phase of the season.

An audience of 2.50m (21.2%) watched Max Verstappen win the race at 15:30, with 1.87m (15.9%) watching via Channel 4, and 625k (5.3%) watching via one of Sky’s two channels covering the race. The audience dropped more than usual during the post-race analysis: Channel 4’s post-race show averaged fewer than half a million viewers from 16:15 onwards.

The combined average audience of 1.94 million viewers is the third race in a row where Formula 1 has recorded an average below two million viewers. The average is down 16.9 percent on last year’s figure of 2.34 million viewers when Channel 4 aired highlights, although there are clearly other factors in play this year.

Due to the unique circumstances, the peak audience came at the start of the race, with the aforementioned 3.25 million viewers at 14:15, slightly higher than last year’s peak of 3.20 million. At the time of the peak, 2.52m (27.5%) were watching on Channel 4, with 733k (8.0%) watching on Sky. Sky’s own peak actually came at 14:55, 743k (7.3%) watched the race with them during the five minutes before Spain versus Russia started.

Qualifying and Analysis
The audience quickly bolted following the qualifying session, in the same way they did the following day. Channel 4’s programme averaged 948k (12.6%) from 12:55 to 15:40, with Sky’s show averaging 246k (3.3%) from 13:00 to 15:40.

Qualifying itself peaked with 1.95m (22.1%) at 14:55, with 1.46m (16.6%) watching via Channel 4, and 489k (5.5%) watching via Sky’s F1 channel. As soon as qualifying finished, the audience slumped to under one million viewers. By 15:15, 589k (6.2%) were watching analysis on either Channel 4 or Sky.

The combined audience of 1.19 million viewers and peak audience of 1.95 million viewers are roughly around where you would expect given the strong competition and the warm weather conditions. However, both figures are down on last year’s qualifying audience for Austria.

In my piece last week, I mentioned that F1 would suffer trying to face the World Cup, and that is now turning into reality. Why F1 is being stubborn, I do not know. Next Sunday’s British Grand Prix does not face the World Cup; however, the qualifying session could clash with the build-up to England’s quarter-final clash, assuming they beat Colombia tomorrow.

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

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