Looking ahead to 2019

For most Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom, 2019 will have a completely different feel to it, as the new television broadcasting contract kicks into gear.

Sky Sports have exclusive rights to all the action from 2019 to 2024, in a deal signed in March 2016 with Formula One Management, then under the control of Bernie Ecclestone. How will Formula 1’s UK viewing figures look under the first year of the new deal?

I am not expecting a tumble in the total audience figure, as Sky have sub-let the free-to-air element of their deal to Channel 4, for 2019 at least. The move means that fans still have a major free-to-air platform to view highlights of every race, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix. But, Channel 4’s Formula 1 deal is only one year long.

Will Sky Sports let Channel 4’s coverage continue beyond 2019, or will they pull the plug? There are a ton of questions surrounding Channel 4’s 2019 coverage, the personnel involved, the commentary that they will take, and so on, plus whether there will be further jumps from Channel 4 to Sky. All will be revealed…

In its second season, expect Formula 1’s over-the-top service to grow significantly, something that we will be monitoring throughout the year as the service begins to mature. There were previous rumblings that UK fans could have access to F1 TV Pro, but this is unconfirmed. If confirmed, it provides another avenue for fans to view the action on.

Beyond Formula 1, MotoGP fans have stability, as the championship remains on BT Sport for the next three seasons. Formula E’s UK offering will be a focal point, the electric series choosing to go all guns blazing onto just about every platform possible. With the help of Auntie Beeb and YouTube, is 2019 the year that Formula E finally breaks into the mainstream in the UK and starts making significant movement?

For some, 2018 marked the end of an era, as 2019 marks the start of a new era. 2019 promises to be another fascinating year in the broadcasting landscape as each championship fights to remain in the limelight.

Who knows what the next twelve months may hold…


The top 10 articles of 2018

2018 has been a four-wheel dominated year on The F1 Broadcasting Blog, at least in terms of hits, with eight of the top 10 articles coming from the four-wheel universe. One theme was at the forefront for many readers: “Will Channel 4 air Formula 1 in 2019?” In September, we found out the answer…

10. F1 broadcasters raised “serious concerns” about superimposed Rolex clock to FOM – August 14th
The 2016 Singapore Grand Prix unexpectedly made headlines in August as UK communications body Ofcom criticised Formula 1 for giving Rolex too much prominence in their coverage. As part of their report, Ofcom revealed that several broadcasters raised “serious concerns” about the superimposed Rolex clock at the event to Formula One Management.

9. David Croft to remain part of Sky’s F1 team in 2019 – September 25th
F1 journalist Joe Saward made Sky twitch in September, by revealing publicly on the Missed Apex podcast that David Croft’s position as lead commentator at Sky was under threat, and that Sky could replace Croft for the 2019 season. Sky quickly rebuffed Saward’s claim in a statement issued to this site, denying the rumour.

8. Channel 4 to air Formula 1 highlights in 2019 – September 12th
A running theme of 2018 concluded in September, when Channel 4 finally confirmed that they would air Formula 1 highlights in 2019. The free-to-air broadcaster will air the free-to-air element of Sky’s F1 contract next year, consisting of 20 races in highlights form, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix.

7. F1 slumps to lowest UK audience of modern era – June 11th
By far the most read viewing figures piece of 2018 surrounded the Canadian Grand Prix, which slumped to a historic low for F1 in the UK (France went one better two weeks later). Fans shared the Canada article extensively across social media. In this instance, negative news travelled faster than the positive audience figures which preceded the Canada rating…

6. Further details emerge about Channel 4’s 2019 Formula 1 coverage – September 21st
In the week after the announcement that Channel 4 will air Formula 1 highlights next season, this site exclusively revealed new snippets of information about the Channel 4 contract. The article also referenced potential changes over at Sky for 2019, which have come to fruition recently with both Jenson Button and Karun Chandhok joining their line-up.

5. TV channel Motorsport.tv to close – September 14th
From appointments to dismissals, or in the case of one organisation, the axing of an entire television network. This site revealed in September that the Motorsport.tv traditional television channel (formerly Motors TV) was to close after almost two decades, with owners Motorsport Network prioritising their digital offering moving forward.

4. Channel 4 set to continue airing Formula 1 beyond 2018 – July 7th
The Channel 4 speculation stepped up a gear during the British Grand Prix weekend, as the BBC’s Andrew Benson noted that a deal between themselves and Sky Sports F1 for 2019 was close. In addition, I revealed that the deal would be part of a “wider ranging package”, which turned out to be an accurate statement.

3. Channel 4 “open” to showing F1 highlights in 2019 – Chandhok – January 17th
To show the interest from fans throughout the year, a quote from then-Channel 4 pundit Karun Chandhok at the Autosport Show at the start of 2018 is the third most read article of the year. Impressively, the article has raked up 49 comments, one of the highest ever figures for comments on this site.

2. Channel 5 retains MotoGP highlights for 2018 – March 2nd
The lone MotoGP entry of 2018 was the news that Channel 5 would continue to air MotoGP highlights in 2018. The high-ranking of the MotoGP article suggests that Channel 5 element did not give their element much publicity, leaving fans without BT Sport to Google to find out which station was airing highlights.

1. Brundle to step away from Sky F1 microphone for three races this season – April 24th
Prior to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sky Sports F1 analyst Martin Brundle announced that he was stepping out of the commentary booth for three races. With Azerbaijan taking place in April, it meant that fans accessed the article in April, and then later in the year during the Russian and Japanese weekends.

Behind the Scenes
Although the above articles were the most popular during 2018, the most enjoyable aspect of writing for me is getting behind the scenes, into the detail, and chatting to those at the heart of what makes this fantastic sport tick.

From looking back at the British Touring Cars story from a broadcasting perspective, to going behind the scenes with BT Sport’s MotoGP operation (1, 2), and more recently the World Rally Championship (1, 2), 2018 has been brilliant. A further WRC piece is coming up in the build-up to the 2019 Monte Carlo rally to conclude the mini-series.

If anything, the most read articles write themselves based on the information that is breaking in front of you, whereas all the behind the scenes pieces require planning, a bit of imagination along the way, and then getting the words down on paper, a long, but rewarding process!

Have a little look around, as there have been several behind the scenes and analytical pieces throughout the year. Admittedly, there has not been much post-season analysis as a result, plus, in my view, the on-screen story has not changed much in the UK F1 TV landscape. I would be repeating words for the sake of it.

If there is anything you want me to cover in 2019, drop a line in the comments section. With more changes on the horizon, who knows what 2019 will bring. But this was how 2018 looked for readers of this site.

Merry Christmas from The F1 Broadcasting Blog

2018 has been another fantastic year of motor sport. Neither the MotoGP or F1 championships may have gone down to the wire, but we watched some great battles throughout in both categories, whilst the likes of IndyCar and the World Rally Championship also delivered.

For me, 2018 has been a pretty brilliant year, and I am genuinely thankful to all of those in the industry that have chatted to me throughout the year, at the race track and beyond. Autosport Show, the Silverstone Classic, MotoGP, British Touring Cars, and the Wales Rally GB – I have enjoyed every second being at those events.

I hope by attending those events I have been able to bring readers a different, original focus on the motor racing world, that is not available anywhere else. I have tried to emphasise quality over quantity: fewer pieces, but of a higher quality is the mantra for me, and I hope that has come through in the writing this year.

To every single one of you who has read the site this year: thank you for making 2018 a record-breaking year in terms of website audience figures.

This holiday season, whether you are reminiscing on the moments that have passed, or looking ahead to the future, I hope you and your loved ones have a relaxing festive period ahead of 2019. Stay safe, wherever you are heading.

Owner of The F1 Broadcasting Blog

The magic 2018 numbers

It has been a record-breaking year for The F1 Broadcasting Blog, with motor racing fans flocking to this site for all the latest media stories. But just where have the visitors come from this year, and why?

Inevitably the focus is on the United Kingdom, this year more than most with question marks surrounding the UK F1 television rights picture. The proportion of people visiting from the UK increased significantly compared with 2017 as a result. Australia and Netherlands dipped for the second year in succession, but Germany bucked the trend, moving ahead of the Netherlands.

The same ten countries occupy the top 10. Portugal, Finland, and Belgium sit just outside the top 10, but some way behind Italy.

Top 10 Countries – Percentage of all hits
01 – 76.4 percent (2017: 72.2) – United Kingdom
02 – 6.0 percent (2017: 6.4) – United States
03 – 2.1 percent (2017: 2.4) – Ireland
04 – 2.0 percent (2017: 2.2) – Australia
05 – 1.5 percent (2017: 1.3) – Canada
06 – 1.3 percent (2017: 1.1) – Germany
07 – 1.1 percent (2017: 1.6) – Netherlands
08 – 0.9 percent (2017: 0.9) – France
09 – 0.8 percent (2016: 1.3) – Spain
10 – 0.7 percent (2016: 1.1) – Italy

Social media is increasingly irrelevant. Well, not quite. Nevertheless, despite breaking several stories throughout the year, Google was comfortably king, with many people reaching the site because of its high placing on the search engine where major stories were concerned.

Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook all lost percentage points compared with 2017, although the increase in total hits year-on-year may mean that the volume has not dropped as much as the percentage suggests. RaceFans enters the top five at the expense of Autosport Forum, which drops to seventh behind Crash.net.

Top 5 Referring Websites
01 – 77.9 percent (2017: 73.8) – Search engines
02 – 15.3 percent (2017: 18.6) – Twitter
03 – 2.1 percent (2017: 3.4) – Reddit
04 – 1.5 percent (2017: 2.7) – Facebook
05 – 0.9 percent (2017: n/a) – RaceFans

The whereabouts of Sky Sports F1 analyst Martin Brundle drove a lot of traffic to the site in 2018, and is a little bit of clue as to what the most read article on the site was this year! Brundle’s absence from three races resulted in spikes at various points this season, showing how much F1 fans appreciate his presence throughout each race weekend.

Beyond the top two, there is a mixture of MotoGP and Channel 4 F1 queries, as fans wondered what the future would hold for the free-to-air broadcaster.

Top 10 Search Queries
01 – martin brundle
02 – where is martin brundle
03 – f1 broadcasting
04 – formula 1 f1 broadcasting blog
05 – motogp highlights 2018
06 – channel 4 f1 2019
07 – motogp on tv 2018
08 – julian ryder
09 – f1 broadcasting blog
10 – motogp tv coverage 2018

Assuming Brundle is absent from three races again in 2019, there is a very good chance that we could see a similar looking table next year. Lower championships fail to break into the top 10, showing what generates the majority of traffic throughout the year.

Statistics compiled and correct as of December 19th, 2018.

Whisper Films retains C4 F1 production contract, but changes ahead

Whisper Films have retained the production contract for Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage in 2019, this site can reveal.

The production company, created by Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Sunil Patel, produced Channel 4’s coverage from 2016 to 2018 following the BBC’s television exit from the sport at the end of 2015.

Now, with Channel 4 airing the British Grand Prix live in 2019 and the remaining races in highlights form, I understand that Whisper will continue to produce Formula 1 for Channel 4. Despite no official announcement from Channel 4, Whisper are currently advertising a variety of Formula 1 production roles for the 2019 season.

Although the move provides Channel 4 with continuity, I understand that Whisper have made a significant internal change to their production line-up. Industry sources have confirmed to this site that F1 programme editor Mark Wilkin has left the Whisper Films production team with immediate effect.

Wilkin produced the BBC’s original Grand Prix programme prior to 1997, and more recently was the BBC’s and Channel 4’s F1 editor between 2009 and 2018. I understand Whisper pushed Wilkin rather than a third-party poaching him.

Whisper have replaced Wilkin with John Curtis, who joins Whisper from Sky Sports News. Curtis has worked with Sky Sports News in various guises for the past 15 years. Of note, Curtis produced Sky Sports News’ F1 output during 2012 and 2013, Sky’s first two seasons covering Formula 1 before budget cuts hit.

The change will inevitably result in a different editorial slant to Channel 4’s highlights package compared with previous years, although how different that is will only become clear come Australia.

As reported in September, the raw structure of Channel 4’s highlights programme is expected to be similar to the past three seasons, with a slightly smaller run-time for the race edit itself, although I am told that discussions are ongoing between Channel 4 and Sky Sports around several aspects of Channel 4’s programming.

Last Thursday, Sky confirmed that Karun Chandhok would be part of their line-up, with a trimmed down Channel 4 line-up looking increasingly likely as expected.

This site has reached out to Whisper Films for comment.