W Series announces presentation team

W Series have announced their on-air presentation team for the inaugural season.

The championship will air live on Channel 4 beginning this Saturday from Hockenheim, with Whisper Films producing, in a similar relationship to Channel 4’s F1 coverage. However. Whisper is producing the complete World Feed for broadcasters, including Channel 4 to take.

Lee McKenzie presents the World Feed output. McKenzie has been reporting on Formula 1 for the BBC and more recently Channel 4 since 2009. “It’s a huge pleasure to be involved at the start of W Series,” McKenzie said.

“I’ve covered almost every series of motorsport and to be involved in one that could also change the face of the sport as we know it is really exciting.”

Sky’s F1 pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz joins McKenzie in pit lane. Sky reduced Kravitz’s commitments for 2019 after the broadcaster u-turned on a decision to axe him from their offering.

“It’s rare that a brand-new motorsport series comes along that captures the imagination and interest in the way that W Series has,” Kravitz said. “I’m really looking forward to telling the stories of all these drivers and joining the W Series team of new and familiar faces.”

Claire Cottingham and David Coulthard are the two personalities in the commentary box. Coulthard is a familiar voice to Channel 4, but Cottingham is a name that readers may not be unfamiliar with.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this incredible and ground-breaking team, being one of the first female commentators in motorsport,” Cottingham added. “It’s an absolute dream come true to be involved in such a historic series, which supports women in fulfilling their potential.”

“I can’t wait to see W Series grow and watch the drivers excel in a sport that I love so much.”

A fantastic line-up
To succeed as a championship, W Series needs to have the right people leading the way, in all different disciplines. A great championship needs a top-tier presentation team, with a calibre of voices that are recognisable to a wider audience.

W Series also needed a range of voices, with both males and females as part of their on-air team. Thanks to the range of contacts that the team of Whisper Films have, the team have managed to achieve just that.

Whisper have leaned on their Formula 1 line-up, with Coulthard and McKenzie both part of the team. Both voices have been part of Formula 1’s free-to-air offering for a decade.

It would feel odd in my view to watch a women’s racing series with a male only commentary team. Although unknown, Cottingham has significant commentating experience, most recently with Formula E on their radio coverage alongside Tom Gaymor and Marc Priestley. Arguably, this is Cottingham’s biggest role to date.

As if the trio already mentioned were not good enough, W Series have also brought in the “legend” (Catherine Bond Muir’s words, not mine) that is Kravitz. The idea of Sky’s F1 pit lane reporter appearing on a rival station is unusual – none of Sky’s other F1 personnel fall into this boat.

But of course, this is no ordinary time as readers who have followed the Kravitz situation in recent months will know about. W Series have quite rightly gained from Sky’s poor decision making.

If the quality of the racing is as good as the on-air team this season, fans watching should be in for a treat.

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Happy 7th Birthday!

Today, this site turns seven, something I never imagined when I first started blogging in 2012.

Until February, the site was known as The F1 Broadcasting Blog, reflecting the content in its earlier days. Now covering a variety of motor sports, Motorsport Broadcasting felt like a more appropriate name. My only regret, as with anything in life, was that I did not start writing even earlier!

I am thrilled with how the site has progressed since its inception. Motorsport Broadcasting has received nearly three million hits since 2012, with visitors from over 200 countries, and interactions from many inside and outside of the industry.

During the past twelve months, I have revealed many stories, including the inside line on Channel 4’s F1 2019 deal; the change of BBC 5 Live’s F1 production contract, and the full story behind the Ted Kravitz / Sky Sports saga, amongst other smaller snippets.

When I started the site, the main purpose was for me to write my thoughts on paper, I did not expect seven years later to be breaking industry stories, showing how much the site has grown and matured in that period.

For me, it is not just about being first with the news. It is also about bringing you, the reader, behind the lens into what makes the broadcasting side of the sport tick week in, week out. Motorsport Broadcasting aims to be distinctive in its voice, with each story unique.

On the human side, I have met many people inside and outside the industry through running this site, some of whom I now call friends, you know who you are.

Normally when I write one of these pieces I write about the ‘top ten’ articles from a hits perspective. Instead, I want to reflect on some of the key milestones for me on a personal level since the site launched:

April 2012 – Site launches, with the blogging equivalent of ‘Hello World!‘ The timing of the launch was no coincidence, I finished my first year of University at the same time meaning that I had many hours to spare!

September 2012 – During the first year of the site, the volume of articles per month was high, I did have a ‘throwing at the wall and seeing what sticks’ mentality (the quality of some of the pieces I produced I will happily admit were abysmal, too). In May 2012, the site’s first full month, I posted 36 articles which is frankly absurd looking back.

Ted Kravitz was the first person from the F1 paddock to start following the site publicly, but it was not until then-BBC F1 presenter Jake Humphrey shared one of my articles on Twitter did it become apparent that people were reading what I was writing.

Yes, the site had ‘F1’ in the title which may have helped it gain traction, but Humphrey sharing the article was completely unexpected.

October 2014 to June 2015 – Fast-forward and the site began to break some F1 stories, such as Gary Anderson and Georgie Thompson leaving the BBC and Sky’s F1 teams respectively. Away from the site, 2014 into 2015 was a critical time for me: the final year of University, resulting in a first-class honours in BSc Computing.

Since May 2015, I have been working full-time in a data-led role. That brought its own challenges, juggling full-time work with an ever-growing website. But it was a challenge I relished; I absolutely was unwilling to throw away at this point three years of hard work.

Compared to the early days, the site content has changed somewhat: from bite-sized ‘snippet’ stories to in-depth, probing analysis.

March 2016 – By this stage, the site had built up a significant following, and remained F1 orientated, with a bit of other stuff on the side. But March 2016 was the turning point as it was the first I attended in a press capacity: Channel 4’s Formula 1 launch.

I remember that day like it was yesterday, from the early train journey, through to the morning launch, sitting opposite Autosport’s Jonathan Noble at the launch, someone who I respect immensely, and then chatting in-detail to the Channel 4 team.

From a personal and professional perspective, this felt like a perfect day. Everyone has their own personal barriers to overcome, for whatever reason, and I can safely say that on March 8th, 2016, I overcame some of mine.

September 2016 – And six months after the Channel 4 launch, I was heading to a race track in a professional capacity. Silverstone the destination, for the first of three MotoGP visits. The first visit always holds a special place in the heart. It was that weekend that made me admire and appreciate the work that broadcast teams do week in, week out on the road.

Since that first visit, I have stepped into several different paddocks, as well as three visits to the Autosport Show, interviewing journalists, commentators, reporters, producers, and editors to get a better understanding of what it takes to bring this wonderful sport to viewers worldwide.

The first weekend was amazing, to the degree that by the end of it I felt like an emotional wreck. It sounds cliched, but the worries of the days before the 2016 event were eliminated on day one. The paddock just felt like… home.

October 2018 – Another personal obstacle overcome. A little further from home, this time, saying hello to the World Rally Championship!

Deeside is in the middle of nowhere (or at least that is what it felt like), but the five-hour round trip was worthwhile. Without wanting to compare one paddock to another, the rallying production team on that day welcomed me with open arms.

As a result, I was able to talk to a variety of voices that help make All Live the product that it is today. The output was three different analytical pieces (1, 2, 3), going behind the scenes looking at the different elements of the rallying production.

The best thing about each conversation is that every single one is different. Each person has their own unique perspective on the industry that only they can communicate to you, and it has been a pleasure to listen to it all. And best of all, there are far more to come.

February 2019 – From The F1 Broadcasting Blog to Motorsport Broadcasting, I unveiled the next iteration of what is to come moving forward. I am still doing the full-time day job alongside writing content for this site, but I thoroughly enjoy both. If anything, writing content on here has helped me during my day-job, and vice-versa.

Like anyone though, I have made mistakes, or written articles in haste during the seven-year period. No one is perfect, we live and we learn for the next time a similar situation comes around.

As I have grown figuratively speaking throughout the seven years, this site has grown as well. To those who have given advice along the journey so far: thank you.

Whatever the next twelve months bring, keep it Motorsport Broadcasting.

Thanks,
Dave
Owner and Editor of Motorsport Broadcasting

W Series to air live on Channel 4

The brand new W Series will air live on Channel 4 this season, series organisers have confirmed.

The championship intends to help women progress through the motor racing ranks, as well as boosting the number of women taking part in motor sport.

All six races will air live on Channel 4 as well as on-demand via All 4. W Series is the only series in 2019 that has complete live, free-to-air coverage on one of the UK’s terrestrial television networks.

W Series supports the German DTM touring car championship this year, concluding with Brands Hatch in August. Hockenheim plays host to the first race on Saturday 4th May, which schedules show will air live on Channel 4 from 14:45 to 16:00. Lee McKenzie is currently scheduled to present the Hockenheim show with David Coulthard alongside her.

In addition, series organisers have confirmed to this site that Whisper Films, who produces Channel 4’s F1 coverage, will produce the W Series television feed, which Channel 4 will take. No additional bespoke coverage will be provided as part of Channel 4’s offering.

W Series plans to make a further official announcement about the personalities involved in their World Feed coverage later, suggesting that they may not be using the existing DTM team.

Catherine Bond Muir, CEO of W Series, said “This is a historic moment for us. The UK, with its incredible love of motorsport, is a cornerstone market for W Series, and what better way to engage and entertain than with live coverage of our all-female single-seater racing?”

“Channel 4 is the ideal broadcast partner and we’re delighted to be working with them as we introduce the world to this exciting new concept.”

Joe Blake-Turner, Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Sport, added “We’re thrilled to be bringing live coverage of W Series to terrestrial audiences.”

“Women have been under-represented in motorsport for far too long and who knows, this exciting format could be the first step towards producing a female Formula 1 champion in the not-too-distant future.”

Analysis: The perfect fit
For W Series to succeed, not only did the championship need to attract a strong field of drivers, but also attract a strong suite of broadcast partners.

The DNA of the championship from the outset is to increase the visibility of women in motor sport and airing the series behind a pay wall would make little sense from a pure business perspective.

How much backing W Series has financially is unclear, although it clearly has some backing from external sources to be able to bring the likes of Coulthard and Bond Muir on board.

In season one, W Series has managed to get all six races live, terrestrial, free-to-air station, Five seasons in, Formula E have failed to achieve that ambition, despite nearly securing a deal with Channel 4 last Summer.

Airing the series on Channel 4 is fantastic news for the championship, and vital as it starts to get the message across about women in motor sport to the wider viewing public.

Channel 4 is a natural fit for the championship. The broadcaster is getting more involved in women’s sport. Just last week, the Channel 4 announced a partnership with Coca Cola to air a new women’s football magazine show.

The key to the deal is Coulthard. Coulthard is W Series Advisory Board Chairman, Channel 4’s F1 commentator and Whisper Films director. In addition, Channel 4 have (as of 2015) a minority stake in Whisper through Channel 4’s Growth Fund initiative.

Coulthard has successfully leveraged his existing assets to get W Series a production partner (Whisper) and a television home (Channel 4). The races all take place in daytime hours, so is easy to schedule for Channel 4. If Channel 4 are paying W Series, I suspect the amount is minimal: the beneficiary here is certainly W Series who get significant exposure on Channel 4.

I do not expect viewing figures to be significant by any stretch of the imagination, but anything between 300,000 and 500,000 viewers should be considered a major success for round one in Hockenheim.

Update on April 24th – Added details about the presentation team for Hockenheim.

Scheduling: The 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix / Paris E-Prix

This weekend is packed with motor sport, as Formula 1 heads to Azerbaijan for round four of the 2019 season. Will Ferrari claw the gap back to Mercedes, or will Baku signal Ferrari’s end game this year, only four races in?

On the broadcasting front, there are changes for all UK F1 broadcasters. Starting with Sky Sports, Natalie Pinkham to their line-up for the first time this season. Like last year, Martin Brundle is taking three races off this year, the first of which is this weekend, Brundle instead is racing at the Nurburgring. No word yet on who is stepping into the commentary box, but previous form would suggest Paul di Resta steps into the fold.

Azerbaijan marks the end of Sky’s simulcasts on Sky One, with qualifying and the race airing exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. A slight difference is that The F1 Show airs 45 minutes after qualifying instead of 30 minutes, as was the case for the first three races, a good move allowing for further post-qualifying analysis before The F1 Show airs.

Mark Webber replaces David Coulthard in the Channel 4 commentary box for the first time, Coulthard opting to take three races off this season. Eddie Jordan and Lee McKenzie join Steve Jones and Billy Monger in the paddock for Channel 4.

Over on 5 Live, Jack Nicholls’ Formula E commitments in Paris means that he is not on practice or qualifying duty. It is an unusual weekend for Formula E: not only is the series airing on tape-delay on BBC’s Red Button, it also finds itself airing behind BT Sport’s Red Button for the race itself.

Formula E plays second fiddle to football, rugby, hockey, tennis and WRC All Live on BT, whilst repeats of The £100k House and Your House Made Perfect air over on BBC Two (of course, the Formula E contract stipulated for one race to air live on BBC’s terrestrial channels, and that has already happened).

Nevertheless, fans can still watch full Formula E World Feed coverage via a variety of outlets, including YouTube after Formula E decommissioned their bespoke YouTube show.

Beyond the two leading single-seater racing championships, there is much more action with the British Touring Car Championship, World Rally Championship and World Touring Car Cup all in action across the weekend.

On a side note, following the recent Motorsport Broadcasting survey, moving forward the site will also list whether the series in question is streaming the action live via YouTube or via their own in-house platform.

Channel 4 F1
27/04 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
28/04 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
26/04 – 09:45 to 11:55 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
26/04 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
27/04 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
27/04 – 13:00 to 15:45 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
28/04 – 11:30 to 16:30 – Race
=> 11:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – On the Grid
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Paddock Live
=> 16:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
25/04 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
25/04 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
26/04 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far
27/04 – 15:45 to 16:15 – The F1 Show
30/04 – 18:00 to 18:30 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
25/04 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
26/04 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
26/04 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/04 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/04 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/04 – 13:00 to 15:25 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

Formula E – Paris
Also airs live on YouTube
26/04 – 14:45 to 15:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport/ESPN)
27/04 – 06:15 to 07:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
27/04 – 08:45 to 09:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)
27/04 – 10:30 to 12:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN and Eurosport 2)
27/04 – 14:30 to 16:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s website and Connected TV
=> live on Quest
=> live on BT Sport Extra 5
=> live on Eurosport 2
27/04 – 17:30 to 19:30 – Race: World Feed Delayed (BBC Red Button)

British Touring Car Championship – Donington (ITV4)
28/04 – 10:40 to 18:00 – Races

Euroformula – Paul Ricard (BT Sport Extra 6)
Also airs live on YouTube
27/04 – 13:15 to 14:15 – Race 1
28/04 – 12:45 to 13:45 – Race 2

Formula Two – Azerbaijan (Sky Sports F1)
26/04 – 07:55 to 08:45 – Practice
26/04 – 11:55 to 12:40 – Qualifying
27/04 – 08:50 to 10:05 – Race 1
28/04 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

International GT Open – Paul Ricard (BT Sport Extra 6)
Also airs live on YouTube
27/04 – 14:15 to 15:45 – Race 1
28/04 – 13:45 to 15:00 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Paris
27/04 – 07:30 to 08:15 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN)
27/04 – 12:45 to 13:45 – Race (BT Sport Extra 5)

World Rally Championship – Argentina (All Live)
Also airs live on WRCPlus.com (£)
25/04 – 22:15 to 00:15 – Stage 1 (BT Sport Extra 1)
26/04 – 12:00 to 22:30 – Stages 2 to 8 (BT Sport Extra 1)
27/04 – 11:30 to 21:15 – Stages 9 to 15 (BT Sport Extra 2)
28/04 – 11:30 to 17:45 – Stages 16 to 18 (BT Sport Extra 4)

World Rally Championship – Argentina
25/04 – 23:00 to 00:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 1)
27/04 – 04:00 to 04:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
28/04 – 04:00 to 04:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
28/04 – 16:00 to 17:30 – Stage 18 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
29/04 – 02:30 to 03:00 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
29/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

World Touring Car Cup – Hungary (Eurosport 2)
28/04 – 09:00 to 10:15 – Qualifying
28/04 – 11:30 to 12:30 – Race 1
28/04 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Race 2
28/04 – 16:30 to 17:15 – Race 3

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.

Update on April 24th – Added details about Brundle’s absense from Sky’s coverage this weekend.

F1 1,000 fails to lift UK television audience

Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Formula 1’s 1,000th race failed to lift the UK’s television audience for the sport significantly according to overnight viewing figures.

For the third race in succession, live coverage aired across Sky’s Formula 1 channel, Sky Sports Main Event, and Sky’s general entertainment outlet Sky One, to boost their total reach during the early phase of the season.

As always, all audience figures exclude those who watched on demand, via the likes of Sky Go, Now TV and All 4.

Race – Sky live
To present a fair and transparent picture historically, this site continues to use a 210-minute time slot for Sky’s F1 coverage on race day. For China, this covers the period from 06:00 to 09:30.

> Ratings: an explainer

During this time slot, Sky’s coverage averaged 543k (14.5%), their highest audience for China since 2015, and a year-on-year increase of 9.7 percent, or 48,000 viewers. An audience of 301k (8.3%) watched via the F1 channel, with an additional 82k (2.3%) watching via Main Event and 159k (3.9%) watching via Sky One.

Worryingly, the proportion of viewers watching via Sky Sports F1 has dropped since Australia. 66 percent of Sky’s audience for the Melbourne live race day programme came from Sky Sports F1, compared with 60% in Bahrain and 56% in China.

Sky’s broadcast peaked with 1.02m (18.9%) at 08:40 as Hamilton won the Grand Prix. At the time of the peak, 498k (9.2%) were watching via Sky Sports F1, with 164k (3.0%) and 360k (6.7%) watching via Main Event and Sky One respectively.

Aided by the Sky One simulcast, Sky’s collective peak audience increased by 20.6 percent year-on-year, resulting in their highest peak audience for China since 2014.

Race – Sky highlights and Channel 4
Following the race, four repeat airings aired across Sky’s three outlets.

As in Australia four weeks ago, the repeats make a (smaller) statistical difference to the result, with a combined peak audience of 357,000 viewers watching. Sky One contributed the most: their single repeat airing peaked with 162k (2.6%) at 11:30.

Channel 4’s highlights show fared badly on Sunday afternoon, with opposition from both The Masters golf on BBC Two, as well as Premier League football on Sky Sports.

Highlights of the race averaged just 1.28m (10.9%) from 15:00 to 17:00, peaking with 1.68m (14.3%), one of their lowest ever audiences for an F1 highlights programme. Both measures dropped by 32 percent year-on-year, with their peak audience down 800,000 viewers on last year’s figure of 2.48m (20.6%).

Last year’s programme did unusually well, helped by the dramatic finale involving Daniel Ricciardo. In 2016 and 2017, the Shanghai highlights show averaged around 1.6 million viewers, which would result in a slightly less severe drop of around 20 percent for 2019.

Based on Sky’s live airing only the combined average audience of 1.82 million viewers and combined peak audience of 2.70 million viewers are the lowest for China on record, by some margin.

Adding in Sky’s repeat airings brings the average to around 1.98 million viewers, with the peak audience lifting to 3.01 million viewers, resulting in a higher peak figure than both 2016 and 2017.

The fact that we need to perform an additional calculation to bring F1’s 2019 viewing figures in line with previous years, which in turn was down from the phase before that, shows that the situation is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying averaged 288k (9.8%) from 06:00 to 08:30 across Sky’s three channels, their highest qualifying audience for China since 2016. 171k (6.1%) watched via the F1 channel, with 45k (1.6%) watching on Main Event and 72k (2.1%) watching on Sky One.

Later in the day, 770k (10.6%) watched Channel 4’s highlights from 13:00 to 14:30, a decrease on last year’s figure of 840k (11.0%) and their lowest ever for China.

The combined audience of 1.06 million viewers is slightly higher than last year’s figure of 1.02 million viewers, but down on the 2017 figure of 1.12 million viewers.

Three races in, and it is increasingly clear that Sky’s decision to air the first three races of 2019 on Sky One is skewing the audience figures presented, with a large audience choosing to watch via the entertainment outlet.

Inevitably, and also by design, the Sky One simulcast has resulted in a deflated audience for Channel 4. With Sky One’s simulcast disappearing from Baku, expect Channel 4’s viewing figures to increase by a significant margin moving forward.

Based on the early evidence, it appears that F1’s UK viewing figures in totality will drop across the course of the season. By how much, and on what scale at this stage is difficult to quantify.

As I said after Australia, and again after Bahrain, Azerbaijan is the decisive test for F1 this season, and should give us our first sign of what ‘the new normal’ is moving forward.

The 2018 Chinese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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