News round-up: F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, it is good news for Formula 1 in the US, whilst Formula E hits the big screen at the Cannes Film Festival.

ICYMI: Round-Up #1 (May 13th): Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

Formula 1

  • Good news for F1 on the US audience front, with ESPN reporting double-digit growth year-on-year. The first five races (excluding Monaco) have averaged 564,000 viewers on ESPN compared with 442,000 viewers last year. ESPN also tout the strong growth in the coveted Adult 18-34 demographic, increasing 107 percent year-on-year.

Formula E

  • A new feature-length documentary covering the 2017-18 season premiered at Cannes Film Festival last week. Fisher Stevens, Malcolm Venville and Leonardo di Caprio produced ‘And We Go Green‘, which goes behind the scenes during Jean-Eric Vergne’s championship winning season. LBI Entertainment are handing distribution rights for the documentary.
  • With Dario Franchitti over at Indianapolis, Tom Blomqvist and Nick Heidfeld joined Jack Nicholls and Bob Varsha on commentary duty during the Berlin E-Prix weekend. Blomqvist was alongside Nicholls for practice and qualifying, with Heidfeld joining Nicholls for the race.

MotoGP

  • Quest have changed the time slot of their MotoGP highlights programming. The first three races aired in an 18:00 and 23:00 time slot on Monday evenings, effectively splitting the audience.
    • Viewing figures have not been good. Their 18:00 showing for Austin made BARB’s consolidated top 15 with 196,000 viewers, all other airings have failed to make Quest’s top 15, averaging around 150,000 viewers or below.
    • From Jerez onwards, Quest reduced the two airings to one, airing at 22:00 only on Monday evenings. Current schedules for Mugello suggest that the one airing strategy will continue moving forward.
  • Suzi Perry is back in the BT Sport hotseat for Mugello, after a recent bout of illness.

W Series

  • Speaking to this site following Zolder, Whisper Films stated that their production team during the Hockenheim and Zolder weekends consisted of 34 people. The split was exactly 50/50, with 17 women and 17 men. The production house says that this covers both permanent staff and freelancers.
    • The figures cover the live World Feed production, as well as highlights
    • The figures also include those working on a documentary that Whisper are producing covering W Series’ inaugural season
  • Speaking to RaceFans, series organisers noted that over 400,000 viewers watched the first race in the UK on Channel 4 from Hockenheim. CEO Catherine Bond-Muir told the site “Even [on] Channel 4 we absolutely knocked out of the park the internal audience estimates.”
  • NBC in America has picked up highlights of the series. The broadcaster will air a one-hour highlights show of each race on their NBCSN channel (including commercials).

IndyCar Series

  • The first Indianapolis 500 to air on NBC drew the 500’s highest audience since 2016. According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, the race drew 5.4 million viewers across TV and digital. The race recorded a 86 overnight rating (excluding digital), also the highest since 2016.
  • Ahead of his Indianapolis 500 commentary debut, NBC lead commentator Leigh Diffey spoke to Phillip Bupp at Awful Announcing about his journey to date (link).

Elsewhere…

  • Eurosport have picked up the rights to MotoAmerica highlights in the UK. The one-hour highlights programme began airing last Saturday.
  • Motorsport Network have announced that their new feature length film Heroes will premiere in the run-up to the British Grand Prix. The trailer, which features swathes of archive F1 footage, was unveiled last week. Manish Pandey, one of the men behind the Senna movie, is director and writer for Heroes.
  • It is worth mentioning changes within the Sky Sports hierarchy in the UK. Sky have promoted Barney Francis into the role of Chief Executive of Future Sport, with Rob Webster succeeding Francis as Managing Director of Sky Sports UK.
  • Down under in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald report that Foxtel, which is owned by News Corporation and Telstra, is struggling against the rise of streaming platforms. The paper reports that “non marquee” sport, including motor racing, are under threat.
  • ESPN in the US featured Billy Monger’s remarkable story in their weekly E:60 magazine programme. The show featured his story last Sunday (ESPN’s Vimeo account have uploaded a preview clip).
  • The BBC have written a fantastic piece looking at Katherine Legge’s battles in motor sport, which is worth a read.

Spot any stories making the rounds worth mentioning? Drop a line in the comments section.

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Spanish Grand Prix sheds viewers year-on-year

The Spanish Grand Prix performed poorly across Sky Sports and Channel 4, official consolidated figures from BARB show.

The race faced tough opposition against the conclusion of the Premier League football season, and with the F1 season not yet living up to expectation on track, viewing figures throughout the weekend suffered.

Consolidated audience figures include viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of broadcast, and exclude commercial breaks. Figures in this article should not be compared to previous overnight ratings posted on this site.

Race
Live coverage of the race itself on Sky Sports F1 averaged 799,000 viewers from 14:05 to 16:20, a decrease on last year’s figure for the equivalent programme of 852,000 viewers.

The remainder of Sky’s programme recorded year-on-year double digit drops. Pit Lane Live from 12:30 to 13:30 averaged 160,000 viewers, compared with 205,000 viewers from twelve months ago.

An hour later, On the Grid averaged 382,000 viewers, a decrease on last year’s figure of 432,000 viewers. Paddock Live rounded off a poor day for Sky on the F1 front, averaging just 97,000 viewers from 16:30 to 17:15.

Sky’s audience drops pale in comparison to Channel 4’s figures later in the evening. The free-to-air highlights package averaged 1.72 million viewers from 19:00 to 21:00, a decrease of 31.4 percent on the 2018 figure of 2.51 million viewers.

On both occasions, Channel 4’s highlights aired in a two-hour time slot, although this year’s offering aired an hour later, and contained less action. Nevertheless, this in totality does not explain the significant year-on-year drop.

Of course, part of the explanation is down to the change of F1 rights that kicked in this year, with less action on free-to-air television. The broadcasting changes are only part of the story: we should not forget that the on-track action has been one-sided.

Based on consolidated figures, the average audience across Channel 4 and Sky decreased year-on-year close to one million viewers. The drop for the peak audience will likely be lower year-on-year, around the half a million viewer ballpark.

Qualifying
Sky’s live coverage of qualifying dropped marginally year-on-year, averaging 425,000 viewers from 13:50 to 15:30, compared with 438,000 viewers for the equivalent time slot last year.

Their build-up averaged 114,000 viewers from 13:00 to 13:50, also a decrease on last year’s figure of 149,000 viewers.

Channel 4’s highlights programme completed the clean sweep of year-on-year drops, averaging 1.25 million viewers compared with 1.52 million viewers twelve months ago.

In the same way that Ferrari domination hurt F1 in the UK in the early 2000’s when the sport aired on ITV, Mercedes domination this year is driving viewers away from Formula 1.

The bad news for all concerned is that alienated F1 fans are not viewing other forms of motor sport. They are leaving the sport altogether.

Over on Eurosport, live coverage of World Superbikes from Imola reached its highest point on Saturday 11th May, when 77,000 viewers watched coverage of race one.

Afterwards, live coverage of Formula E’s Monaco E-Prix averaged 49,000 viewers from 14:30 to 17:00 on the same channel, this figure not accounting for fans watching via other outlets.

Scheduling: The 2019 Indianapolis 500 / Monaco Grand Prix

Motor racing’s ‘biggest weekend’ is here. Welcome to the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix!

For the first time ever, both blue riband events air back-to-back live on Sky Sports F1, providing an afternoon of motor sport entertainment. Sky are taking NBC’s coverage of the 500, with Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, and Danica Patrick on hand. Sky will air the race uninterrupted, with Tom Gaymor and Alex Brundle filling the gaps for UK fans.

Their Monaco schedule is as usual, with practice taking place on Thursday. Both qualifying and the race also air on Sky Sports Main Event. The length of their post-race Paddock Live show is flexible, depending on the amount of analysis required from Monte Carlo.

Channel 4’s team covering Monaco is their largest of the season so far. Steve Jones presents alongside Eddie Jordan, Mark Webber, and Lee McKenzie, with David Coulthard and Ben Edwards on commentary.

Alex Jacques in back on 5 Live duty for practice and qualifying, as Jack Nicholls in on Formula E duty in Berlin. The Formula E schedule is somewhat unusual this weekend to avoid the German FA Cup Final on Saturday evening. Formula E practice moves Friday, with Saturday’s activities taking place earlier than usual.

British Superbikes heads to Donington Park, with most of the action airing on Quest due to the start of the Roland Garros Tennis tournament on Eurosport.

Channel 4 F1
25/05 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
26/05 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
23/05 – 09:30 to 11:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
23/05 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
25/05 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
25/05 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event until 15:00)
26/05 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 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)
=> 16:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
22/05 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
22/05 – 17:00 to 17:40 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
22/05 – 17:45 to 18:15 – Jenson’s F1 Memories
23/05 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
25/05 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The F1 Show
29/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
23/05 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/05 – 20:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
26/05 – 13:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500
26/05 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Build-Up (Sky Sports F1 – Red Button)
26/05 – 17:00 to 21:00 – Race (Sky Sports F1)

Formula E – Berlin
Also airs live on YouTube
24/05 – 10:45 to 11:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 2)
24/05 – 14:15 to 15:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 2)
24/05 – 16:45 to 17:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 2)
25/05 – 07:30 to 09:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN and Eurosport 2)
25/05 – 11:30 to 13:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport/ESPN
=> live on Eurosport 2
25/05 – 00:00 to 01:00 – Highlights (Quest)

British Superbikes – Donington Park
25/05 – 11:30 to 13:00 – Qualifying Part 1 (Quest)
25/05 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying Part 2 (Quest and Eurosport 2)
26/05 – 13:00 to 18:30 – Races (Quest)
29/05 – 22:00 to 23:30 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Hockenheim
Also airs live on YouTube
25/05 – 14:15 to 15:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport Extra 2)
26/05 – 11:45 to 12:45 – Race 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)

Formula Two – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
23/05 – 08:10 to 09:00 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
23/05 – 12:15 to 13:00 – Qualifying
24/05 – 10:20 to 11:35 – Race 1
25/05 – 16:00 to 17:05 – Race 2

International GT Open – Hockenheim (BT Sport/ESPN)
Also airs live on YouTube
25/05 – 15:15 to 16:45 – Race 1
26/05 – 12:45 to 14:00 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Berlin (BT Sport/ESPN)
24/05 – 15:30 to 16:15 – Qualifying
25/05 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
26/05 – 09:30 to 10:05 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Winton (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
25/05 – 06:30 to 08:15 – Race 1
26/05 – 04:15 to 06:45 – Race 2

As always, this post will be updated as additional details are confirmed.

Updated on May 22nd at 20:40 – In light of Niki Lauda’s death, Welcome to the Weekend was extended by ten minutes, whilst the build-up to Friday’s first practice session on Sky has also been extended by 15 minutes.

Updated on May 24th at 21:20 – Sky’s Sunday schedule has also changed. In a change to original plans, the broadcaster will now stay live from Monaco until 17:00, with the first hour of NBC’s Indianapolis 500 coverage airing on Sky’s Red Button. Current forecasts for the 500 do not look good, however with showers expected.

Sky’s Baku audience figures jump, but fails to counter Channel 4 decrease

Sky’s Formula 1 viewing figures for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix increased year-on-year, but failed to counter a significant decline for Channel 4’s own coverage, UK consolidated audience figures show.

Site announcement – UK TV overnight audience figures
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond Motorsport Broadcasting’s control, this site will no longer be providing UK overnight audience figures. Motorsport Broadcasting will only be providing UK consolidated audience figures with immediate effect.

A limited about of consolidated audience data is available via the BARB website and released each week for outlets, such as this one, to report on. The financial cost of continuing to report overnight audience figures is too large for this site to consider, even when accounting for the possibility of donations.

The change is far from ideal and limits what I can write about. For example, the BARB website does not provide peak audience figures for each programme, only average figures. Nevertheless, this site will continue to report viewing figures regularly where possible – in one format or another.

Consolidated figures account for viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of transmission, and exclude commercial breaks. Therefore, we cannot compare them to previous overnight audience figures written on this site.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Race
Last year, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix aired live across Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1, whereas this year, coverage aired exclusively live on Sky.

Consolidated figures from BARB show that Sky Sports F1’s live coverage of the race itself averaged 904,000 viewers from 13:04 to 15:21 on Sunday 28th April. This excludes Sky’s pre-race build-up and post-race analysis.

Last year’s race coverage on Sky from 13:04 to 15:36 averaged 666,000 viewers, an increase of roughly 238,000 viewers or 35 percent.

Sky’s On the Grid segment averaged 350,000 viewers from 12:29 to 13:04, also an increase on last year’s figure of 243,000 viewers.

The Paddock Live segment, which started at 15:21, dropped year-on-year, from 178,000 viewers in 2018 to 146,000 viewers this year. Ted’s Notebook followed Paddock Live this year, drawing 104,000 viewers from 16:00.

Meanwhile, Channel 4’s two-hour highlights programme which aired from 19:00, averaged 1.75 million viewers. Last year, Channel 4 split their live programme into three segments, meaning that we cannot make direct year-on-year comparisons.

Back then, their Baku build-up averaged 930,000 viewers (from 12:00), with the race bringing in 2.97 million viewers (from 12:42) and the reaction averaging 1.27 million viewers (from 15:32).

If you compare the race segment only with this year’s full highlights programme, then year-on-year, Channel 4’s average audience has dropped by 1.22 million viewers or 41 percent.

If you were to compare Channel 4’s full programme length (until roughly 16:25), which based on consolidated figures averaged around 2.31 million viewers, then their year-on-year average has dropped by 560,000 viewers or 24 percent.

With no Sky One in play for Azerbaijan, it is becoming clear that Sky’s figures have increased year-on-year. However, their increase has not offset the decrease of Channel 4’s own viewing figures because of them losing live coverage.

Best of the rest
Elsewhere, ITV4’s live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship from Donington Park averaged 204,000 viewers across seven hours on Sunday 28th April. The same meeting in 2018 failed to make ITV4’s top ten for the week, averaging fewer than 237,000 viewers.

Over on Eurosport 2, the Paris E-Prix averaged 27,000 viewers on Saturday 27th April. Bear in mind that Formula E also airs on the BBC’s Red Button and BT Sport, so the number in isolation is incomplete for the championship.

Scheduling: The 2019 French MotoGP / Indianapolis 500 qualifying

The month of May ramps up for the IndyCar field as crunch time approaches. Following last Saturday’s dramatic IndyCar Grand Prix, the drivers prepare for the famous Indianapolis 500 with qualifying.

The great news for UK fans is that Sky Sports F1 will air qualifying live across Saturday and Sunday. This includes the portion of qualifying that is airing on the NBC Sports Gold app for US viewers. Given the length of the broadcast, expect ad-breaks in some form.

How does Indianapolis 500 qualifying work?
– Saturday: Top 9 go through to Sunday; Positions 10 to 30 set. One run each.
– Sunday: Position 31 to 33 set (‘Last Row Shootout’). Positions 1 to 9 set (‘Fast Nine Shootout’). One run each.

Closer to home, the W Series heads to Zolder for round two. The race itself airs live on Channel 4, whilst live coverage of qualifying will be available for UK fans via Facebook and Twitter. Lee McKenzie again presents, with Ted Kravitz, Claire Cottingham and David Coulthard completing the line-up.

Le Mans plays host to MotoGP, however BT Sport’s presenter Suzi Perry is again ruled out on medical grounds.

MotoGP – France (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
17/05 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
18/05 – 07:55 to 15:15
=> 07:55 – Practice 3
=> 10:55 – Qualifying
19/05 – 07:30 to 14:30
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – France (Quest)
20/05 – 22:00 to 23:00 – Highlights

W Series – Zolder (Channel 4)
Qualifying airs live across Facebook and Twitter
18/05 – 14:45 to 16:00 – Race

British Touring Car Championship – Thruxton (ITV4)
19/05 – 11:15 to 18:00 – Races

Euroformula – Pau (BT Sport Extra 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
18/05 – 15:00 to 15:45 – Race 1
19/05 – 14:00 to 15:15 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
18/05 – 16:00 to 23:00 – Day 1
19/05 – 17:00 to 20:00 – Day 2

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland (BT Sport/ESPN)
18/05 – 17:30 to 21:00 – Races

World Touring Car Cup – Netherlands (Eurosport 2)
18/05 – 13:15 to 14:30 – Race 1
19/05 – 07:00 to 08:15 – Qualifying
19/05 – 13:10 to 14:00 – Race 2
19/05 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Race 3

As always, the schedule will be updated if timings change.