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.