New opening themes for Sky’s and Channel 4’s F1 coverage

Both Sky Sports and Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage in 2019 opened with a new theme in Australia, stepping away from their previous efforts as a new era of broadcasting began down under.

Outlands in, Just Drive out at Sky
For Sky, Alistair Griffin’s Just Drive has been a fixture of their opening titles since their very first show in 2012. After seven years, Just Drive steps aside for Outlands by Daft Punk, the song most famous for featuring in Tron: Legacy back in 2010.

The new titles, an effort spanning multiple creative agencies and over 40 people, are six months in the making. As with Sky’s new Formula 1 pre-season trailer, their in-house Creative Agency steered this project from initial concept to delivery.

By Sky’s side were The Mill, Trim and Envy, responsible for visual, edit and sound respectively. The 2019 opening sequence shows the weekend build-up to a crescendo, utilising a ‘left to right’ movement throughout, giving it a ‘big time’ feel.

The intro is a significant improvement on previous efforts where the opening sequence inter weaved Sky’s own personnel with the racing action.

Writing on his Behance profile, Chris Sharpe, Design Director at Sky Creative takes us through the titles. “The new title celebrates the raw and visceral aspects of the live sport. Showcasing the theatre of a weekends coverage, from team preparation to chequered flag, while also encapsulating the story and drama of the previous season’s championship,” explains Sharpe.

“The simple but consistent left to right mechanic weaves its way through the edit, finishing with a spectacular CG move. The sequence signs-off with an unachievable grid moment, leaving the viewer with an unforgettable start of race experience.”

The Mill’s Director for the piece, Ivo Sousa adds “My focus from the offset was demonstrating the importance of the team behind each driver. Each role is essential and preparation is meticulous, every part of the process counts. The engineering details are insanely intricate and yet, in contradiction, the sport is a brutal force.”

The team filmed footage during last year’s US Grand Prix weekend, whilst Silverstone played host to the opening Mercedes shoot. As with all films, some footage did not make the final cut, with the shot described by Rachel Brookes last October featuring Sky’s personnel turning their heads on cue absent.

Genesis in, The Chain out at Channel 4
With Channel 4 unable to secure Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain for 2019, the free-to-air broadcaster too had to look elsewhere for inspiration.

In comes in French duo Justice, with Genesis, which has an opening salvo famous for appearing across many different forms of artwork. The imagery is in a similar style to that of Channel 4’s previous introductions, although a step below the BBC’s efforts from 2009 to 2015.

For both Channel 4 and Sky, the music feels like an afterthought, which is not a surprise considering both broadcasters were hoping to use The Chain as revealed on this site last week. Both tracks are fine, but neither live up to The Chain, admittedly finding a track that does live up to The Chain is a difficult task.

In situations like these, I suspect both broadcasters cut two or three different versions of their respective title sequences ready for use, one with The Chain. If you overlay The Chain over the top of Sky’s visuals, you get a good match. The race for The Chain has resulted in better visuals than sounds in my opinion, on both sides.

Elsewhere, Formula 1’s own opening titles received a makeover. Brian Tyler’s F1 theme remained for a second consecutive season, with his evocative track. This year’s introduction from F1 is an example of where the imagery does not fit the sound, whereas last year, the timing was on point.

However, this year’s effort focusses on each outfit in a logical order, starting with the lower six teams, before moving on the top four teams, whereas there was no logical order to last year’s introduction. With that in mind, if the intention of the 2019 piece is to help newer fans get into the sport, then it is a job well done.

Stefano Domenicali joins Channel 4’s F1 team

Former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali will be part of Channel 4’s Formula 1 team for the upcoming 2019 season, the broadcaster has announced.

Domenicali, who was Ferrari’s team principal between 2008 and 2014, will join the team “as a pundit and analyst for a number of races” this season. Adding Domenicali to the line-up adds a new perspective to the line-up outside of the cockpit, helping to keep Channel 4’s offering fresh this year.

Given Domenicali’s historical links with Ferrari, I am hopeful that this opens both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel more to a UK audience this year, allowing UK fans to see more of their characters away from the track.

Channel 4’s line-up now consists of eight people in total. Steve Jones continues as lead presenter, with Ben Edwards as lead commentator. David Coulthard joins him in the commentary box, whilst Billy Monger, Mark Webber, Eddie Jordan and now Domenicali will provide analysis throughout the year.

Lee McKenzie continues at some races as interviewer, however, she will not be in the interview pen…

Restrictions placed upon C4
The BBC’s Andrew Benson is reporting that various restrictions have been placed upon Channel 4’s highlights programming by Sky, which this site can confirm.

I understand that Channel 4 cannot interview anyone on the grid before the race, nor can the broadcaster access the pit lane during the race itself. In addition, Benson notes that Channel 4’s interviews from the interview ‘pen’ must come from Sky.

As revealed last September, Channel 4’s highlights will be shorter this season, and begin a minimum of three hours after the race. The highlights package for the race will be two hours long including adverts, with qualifying clocking in at 90 minutes.

The race edit itself will be slightly shorter than previously years. In September, I wrote “around seven fewer minutes of action per race.” This will vary across the season, with races such as Australia this weekend hit the hardest.

In other words, Sky has a significant amount of control over what Channel 4 can and cannot air as part of its programming. It will be intriguing to see how Whisper Films works around the tight restrictions that Sky have enforced on them as the season progresses.

Elsewhere, fans will hear a different theme from the get-go on Saturday, with Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain no longer Channel 4’s signature theme. Channel 4 have yet to announce a new theme.

Hong Kong E-Prix peaks with 355,000 viewers on BBC Two

A packed weekend of motor sport to kick start the traditional season saw Formula E lead the way on its BBC Two debut, overnight viewing figures show.

Formula E makes BBC Two debut
As part of their commitment to air one race on linear television, BBC aired the Hong Kong E-Prix live on BBC Two this past weekend. The race brought in a solid audience, according to audience numbers supplied by Overnights.tv.

An average of 229k (4.6%) tuned into the broadcast from 07:30 to 09:30. Sunday’s audience is an improvement on the last two seasons for Hong Kong, when the race aired on tape-delay on Channel 5.

In a positive sign, the BBC’s race coverage saw consistent growth throughout the broadcast, increasing its audience in most of the five-minute segments between 07:35 and 09:05. The race peaked with 355k (6.5%) at 09:00 as the race concluded.

It is Formula E’s highest UK audience for an Asian-based race since their first ever E-Prix in 2014. Back then, live coverage of the Beijing E-Prix on ITV4 averaged 266k (4.7%) and peaked with 477k (6.8%).

BT Sport and Eurosport make negligible difference to the overall picture, averaging 5k (0.10%) and 8k (0.16%) respectively, if anything showing the importance of free-to-air for Formula E.

For me, Formula E’s audience is solid, whether it is enough to convince the BBC to move the series off the Red Button for the latter half of the season, I do not know. If the peak was nearer to 500,000 viewers, I think the decision may be easier, that is if there is even a discussion here.

Last weekend’s race was Formula E’s first on a mainstream television channel since June last year, so expectations from a viewing figures perspective are lower as a result. With a bit of promotion, a European race could peak at around 800,000 viewers on BBC One, potentially. Time will tell if the BBC genuinely considers that a viable option this season.

MotoGP’s return peaks with 249,000 viewers on BT
A new season of MotoGP kicked off on BT Sport 2 with the Qatar GP. The leading bike series was unaffected by tough football opposition on Sky.

The race brought in an audience similar to previous years. The 90-minute MotoGP slot averaged 190k (1.3%) from 16:30 to 18:00, a slight decrease on last year’s figure of 211k (1.5%), but an increase on the 2014 and 2017 averages.

A peak of 249k (1.6%) watched as Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso went wheel-to-wheel over the finish line for the second year running. The peak audience is in-line with the past two years, which peaked with 247k (1.3%) and 255k (1.9%) respectively.

Free-to-air highlights of the championship moved from Channel 5 to Quest, with the audience dropping significantly year-on-year. Quest aired two highlights shows at 18:00 and 23:00 respectively. Their premiere airing averaged 140k (0.9%), with the repeat bringing in 50k (0.8%).

The combined Quest audience of 190k is down 58 percent on Channel 5’s highlights audience for Qatar last season of 456k (2.5%). It is lower than all bar three MotoGP races on either ITV4 or Channel 5 since the highlights arrangement started in 2014.

Cumulatively, the drop for the highlights airing meant that MotoGP peaked with 513,000 viewers in the UK over the weekend, when accounting for BT’s live airing and Quest’s two repeats, a disappointing number for the championship.

As with all the figures in this piece, on demand platforms such as BT Sport’s online services and MotoGP’s VideoPass over-the-top offering are not included, which may make a small difference to the total MotoGP numbers.

IndyCar struggles on Sky return as St Pete opener plagued by technical issues
It was not a good Sunday for IndyCar, on all fronts. The series returned for a new season in St Petersburg, and with it came a change of channel for UK viewers, as the championship moved from BT Sport to Sky Sports F1.

Viewing figures struggled, with the race averaging 19k (0.11%) from 16:30 to 20:30, a decrease on last year’s BT audience of 25k (0.16%) over a shorter 200-minute time slot. Sky’s coverage peaked with 56k (0.32%) at 18:40 on Sunday, compared with 56k (0.38%) one year ago on BT.

The season opener faced MotoGP on BT and Premier League football on Sky, which may have impacted figures. Last month, F1 testing brought in a higher audience than IndyCar managed, although testing aired across the F1 channel and Main Event.

Considering the buzz when the IndyCar deal was first announced, Sky’s audience is disappointing. IndyCar, from a UK perspective, failed to move the needle outside of the Twitter bubble. However, IndyCar could benefit from cross-promotion during Sky’s main F1 coverage this year, so the picture could change as the season progresses.

The problems with Sky’s IndyCar broadcast may not have helped audience figures, although I doubt it caused a significant dent given the low base to start with.

IndyCar produces two feeds: a domestic feed for NBC, and an international feed. The feeds contain different graphics set, whilst the former is also not a continuous feed of the racing action. For St Pete, Sky aired the domestic feed ‘as-is’, breaking away to their own commercials when NBC in America went to adverts or went ‘side-by-side’.

What this meant was a downgrade on coverage offered by BT Sport in previous years. It was expected that Sky would take some commercials (@IndyCarUK understands four ad-breaks), but also utilise the feed to stay on the action for most of the race outside of yellow flag periods.

Whether Sky were unaware that the domestic feed was going to break away from the action or not is unclear. Either way, the communication between Sky Sports, NBC Sports and IndyCar needs to be clearer ready for Austin in two weeks’ time.

In a separate issue, IndyCar’s broadcast lost pictures completely for around 15 minutes on Sunday, affecting both the domestic NBC feed and the international feed. IndyStar Sports writer Jim Ayello reports that there was “a power supply failure to one of IMS Productions’ up-links due to two amplifiers overheating,” which caused the feed to go down.

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Scheduling: The 2019 Australian Grand Prix

A new year, a new era.

Formula 1 roars back into life, with the championship starting down under in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix!

For UK fans, the action airs exclusively live on Sky, with highlights on Channel 4. If you are not yet accustomed to hearing that sentence yet, you will soon, as that sentence applies for 20 of the 21 races this season, and (partially) applies until the end of 2024.

Change at Sky…
A lot has happened since both broadcasters went off the air at the end of 2018. Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button have joined Sky for the upcoming season, adding depth to their line-up.

The rest of Sky’s line-up remains the same as last year, 2019 marking their eighth season covering the sport. Simon Lazenby will continue to front their coverage, with David Croft and Martin Brundle on commentary.

Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Anthony Davidson, Johnny Herbert, and Damon Hill will provide analysis throughout the season, with Natalie Pinkham and Rachel Brookes also contributing to Sky’s coverage.

However, Sky have reduced Ted Kravitz’s contribution for 2019, after u-turning on an earlier decision to axe him from their coverage. Kravitz is with Sky for 14 races this season, whilst his Notebook output is no more based on current schedules. Kravitz is presenting a midweek show called Midweek Debrief, but this is an F1 production as opposed to an in-house Sky production.

On the programming front, Sky have extended their Thursday preview show, added a 30-minute wrap-up show on Friday, and kept The F1 Show on Saturday’s after qualifying. On race day, Sky have also extended Paddock Live to an hour, but it also starts half an hour earlier, meaning that Sky will head off-air earlier on Sunday’s than previously.

Sky are simulcasting their programming throughout the weekend across Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event. On Sunday, they are replaying the race five times in full across the F1 channel, Sky One and Main Event before Channel 4’s highlights programme has even started!

…and at Channel 4…
With Chandhok moving over to Sky, Channel 4 have added Billy Monger and Stefano Domenicali to their line-up. Both of them join Steve Jones, David Coulthard and Mark Webber in Melbourne, with Ben Edwards continuing to commentate alongside Coulthard. The broadcaster has retained Lee McKenzie, despite McKenzie previously intending to move onto pastures new this season.

As expected, Channel 4’s highlights programme is shorter than last year, with decreases of 20 minutes (18%) and 45 minutes (27%) for qualifying and the race respectively. The decreases are bigger than expected, as Australia received a generous edit from Channel 4 historically compared to races later in the season.

Decreases aside, fans will notice change from the very first second of Channel 4’s programme. Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain is no more. In its place I understand is a new, modern theme to kick-start Channel 4’s 2019 coverage.

…and at the Beeb
For those of you without Sky, the BBC’s 5 Live coverage of Formula 1 remains. The broadcaster has not officially confirmed their radio line-up, although expect no changes on the personnel side. IMG are producing their coverage this season after winning the contract from USP Content last October.

Elsewhere in the motor sport spectrum, the World Endurance Championship returns to action in Sebring, whilst Supercars plays its part on the F1 support bill, which UK viewers will have access to for the first time.

Channel 4 F1
16/03 – 12:00 to 13:30 – Qualifying Highlights
17/03 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
15/03 – 00:30 to 02:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 02:45 to 04:30 – Practice 3
=> 02:45 – Practice 3
=> 04:10 – Paddock Walkabout
16/03 – 05:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 05:00 – Pre-Show
=> 05:55 – Qualifying
17/03 – 03:30 to 08:00 – Race (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 03:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 04:30 – On the Grid
=> 05:05 – Race
=> 07:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
13/03 – 06:00 to 07:00 – Melbourne F1 Launch Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
14/03 – 05:00 to 06:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference
14/03 – 07:00 to 08:00 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 07:00 to 07:30 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
20/03 – 18:00 to 18:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
14/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15/03 – 00:55 to 02:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/03 – 04:55 to 06:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 02:55 to 04:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 05:55 to 07:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/03 – 04:30 to 07:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Asia Talent Cup – Thailand (BT Sport 3)
16/03 – 07:15 to 08:15 – Race 1
17/03 – 04:30 to 05:30 – Race 2

Virgin Australia Supercars – Melbourne (BT Sport 2)
15/03 – 06:30 to 08:15 – Race 1
16/03 – 01:15 to 02:30 – Race 2
16/03 – 07:00 to 08:45 – Race 3
17/03 – 02:15 to 03:45 – Race 4

World Endurance Championship – 1000 Miles of Sebring
15/03 – 19:30 to 04:30 – Race (BT Sport 3)
15/03 – 19:45 to 04:30 – Race (Eurosport)

World Superbikes – Thailand
16/03 – 05:30 to 10:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
17/03 – 05:30 to 10:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
21/03 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, I will update the schedule if anything changes.

Update on March 12th – Added Ted Kravitz’s new show with F1 TV (also airing on Sky), plus updated the Supercars schedule.

Update on March 15th – Added Stefano Domenicali to Channel 4’s line-up. Also, Supercars has disappeared from BT Sport’s schedules. Historically, there were restrictions around what broadcasters could air from Supercars in Melbourne as it falls under the F1 support package, restrictions which still apply. The only place for UK fans to see the action is via SuperView,.

A new era, and a new F1 theme, as Channel 4 breaks The Chain

Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain will not be Channel 4’s Formula 1 signature theme for the upcoming 2019 season, Motorsport Broadcasting can reveal.

The iconic track has been synonymous with Formula 1 coverage on UK television for decades, with the BBC using it as its soundtrack until 1996.

Following ITV’s acquisition of Formula 1 rights in 1997, the commercial broadcaster opted to head in a different direction with their soundtrack, using a mix of Jamiroquai, Apollo 440, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Moby during their twelve years of covering the sport.

When the BBC returned to the F1 frame from a television perspective in 2009, The Chain duly returned with them. Channel 4 took over the free-to-air baton from the BBC at the end of 2015, and have used the Fleetwood Mac hit since.

Heading into the new season however, I understand that Channel 4 and Whisper Films have all but given up hope in securing the famous bass riff for their opening titles. The broadcaster begins a new era of Formula 1 broadcasting in the UK next weekend in Melbourne, with 20 of the 21 races airing in highlights form this season.

Sources close to the situation have confirmed that the broadcaster has secured an alternative modern track, which will debut during next Saturday’s coverage of the Australian Grand Prix qualifying session.

In a separate development, Sky have confirmed that they will also not be using The Chain in their coverage this season. Responding to questions from fans on social media, Sky said that it was “not feasible to use the [The Chain] on the titles.”

I understand that Sky’s desire to use theme, hence its inclusion in their pre-season trailer, has resulted in a bidding war between the two broadcasters and record company Universal Music Publishing Group, which in turn has concluded with neither Channel 4 or Sky securing the rights to The Chain for 2019.

It means that, as of writing, for the first time since 2008 when ITV used Moby’s Lift Me Up, neither UK TV broadcaster will be using The Chain as their signature theme. There is a slim outside possibility that the situation could change, but it currently appears highly unlikely.