News round-up: Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

As part of a new strand on Motorsport Broadcasting, we will begin to round-up the stories behind the camera that may not have featured in one of the main articles on this site.

The regular round-up will include snippets from across the landscape, every two to four weeks. In the first round-up, a familiar name returns to the F1 fold, plus a whole lot more…

Formula 1

  • After leaving his role as Sky’s Head of Formula 1 in 2017, Martin Turner is back in the F1 fold. Turner is supporting F1 with their new digital programming, including the Weekend Debrief, which Ted Kravitz presents. Both Turner and Sky’s current Head of F1 Scott Young are involved in the production of the show, in a collaboration between F1 and Sky.
  • Formula 1 continues to tweak the format of the post-session ‘interview pen’ for broadcasters. During the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, each ‘group’ could ask each driver one question post-qualifying, with up to three minutes allocated post-race, although I understand that the situation is fluid depending on the race in question.
  • Alex Jacques and Davide Valsecchi’s voices will be on show in the upcoming F1 2019 video game. As in real life, the two lend their dulcet tones to the Formula Two action, which makes its debut in the gaming series.
  • The Azerbaijan Grand Prix saw Max Chilton partner Jolyon Palmer in the BBC 5 Live booth for practice and qualifying. Two weeks later for Barcelona, Tom Gaymor was alongside Palmer on Friday, with Marc Priestley joining him on Saturday.
    • An unusual set of teams, 5 Live’s coverage for both races was based back in the UK, with only Jennie Gow on site. With Jack Nicholls on Formula E duty, 5 Live’s commentary often this year is coming off-tube from the UK.
  • Formula 1 has adjusted the pricing for their over-the-top platform. The premium tier, F1 TV Pro, has had its price reduced from $99.99 to $79.99, or roughly equivalent depending on territory. Formula 1 has yet to give an official reason as to why, although the service experienced problems during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend. Speaking to journalists in Spain, Chase Carey said that it may take ‘another year’ to iron the bugs out of F1 TV.
  • In a change for 2019, selected journalists and outlets can now film content from inside the F1 paddock. The likes of Motorsport Network and Peter Windsor are already taking advantage of the change. However, there are restrictions in place, so that journalists are not treading on the toes of television broadcasters.
  • Sky Sports have launched a YouTube channel for their Formula 1 coverage. As a general rule, anything filmed outside of the race track has unrestricted worldwide access, such as this piece with Sebastian Vettel and Martin Brundle (currently at 97,000 views), however anything filmed inside the circuit, such as this Behind the Scenes feature with McLaren (currently at 10,000 views) is geo-blocked to UK only.
  • Both Porsche Supercup and Formula Three launched their 2019 campaigns in Barcelona, with updated graphics sets. With large fields, the graphics did not offer as much capability as the Formula 1 and Two sets. Nevertheless, Formula Three’s coverage saw the addition of team radio for the first time at that level.

Formula E

  • The Gadget Show’s Georgie Barrat will be part of Formula E’s television team for the remainder of the season, substituting for Nicki Shields who is on maternity. Barrat made her debut with the team in Monaco, although she has been inside the Formula E paddock before, filming a special edition of The Gadget Show during the 2017 Hong Kong E-Prix.
  • As with Formula 1, TMC directed the Monaco E-Prix last weekend, with Aurora Media Worldwide having a smaller on-site presence than usual.
  • Fans of Formula E can now race against their favourite drivers in real-time, as Virtually Live Ghost Racing is now available to download for free on iOS and Android.
    • The game re-creates every Formula E circuit, also doubling up as a second-screen experience, allowing fans to also ride on-board with their favourite drivers. Ben Constanduros and Chris McCarthy share the commentary duties throughout the season.

W Series

  • The news that W Series may become part of the F1 support bill next year in some capacity raises the question of which UK broadcaster would air the series if that scenario came to fruition.
    • Sky airs F1 exclusively live (for every race bar Britain), and may have some say as to whether Channel 4 can show W Series live, if it is part of the F1 under-card.
    • Porsche Supercup’s contract with Formula 1 expires at the end of 2019, which may open an opportunity for W Series.
  • Whisper Films, who produces the World Feed, noted in the run-up to the first round in Hockenheim that half of their “production crew for the 4 May will be female.”
    • Insiders pointed out to this site that many people working on the production were freelance and male, and are unlikely included in Whisper’s headcount.
    • picture of the on-site Channel 4 crew from F1’s Australian Grand Prix (also a Whisper production) highlights the gender imbalance. This is an industry problem as opposed to a Whisper-only problem, but writing statistics that are factually inaccurate will not make the problem disappear.
  • UK viewers will have access to live coverage of qualifying from Zolder onwards. Coverage from Hockenheim was geo-blocked for UK fans, but series organisers have confirmed that fans will be able to watch qualifying across Facebook and Twitter moving forward.
  • More than a week after the first event has concluded, and W Series have yet to upload highlights of the race to YouTube.
  • Prior to the inaugural race, organisers announced that Pitch International will “sell rights to broadcast W Series around the world” outside of the UK. As of writing, series organisers have yet to announce further rights details post-Hockenheim.

Elsewhere

  • Motorsport Network’s over-the-top platform has grabbed live coverage of the Japanese Super GT series. The championship, which features the likes of Jenson Button, initially opted not to pursue an English language live stream for 2019. Super GT in recent years has gained a cult following through NISMO TV’s YouTube stream, a deal which ended following the 2018 season. Instead, the series will air worldwide on Motorsport Network’s portfolio of outlets.
  • A bout of prolonged sickness has left BT Sport’s MotoGP presenter Suzi Perry on the side-lines in recent races. The existing BT team have helped cover the gap, whilst three-time British Superbike champion Niall Mackenzie joined the crew last time out.
  • The UK arm of the TCR Series will not air live in 2019. Instead, highlights of the series will air across the Fast Zone programme on Sky Sports, as well as Motorsport.tv, Front Runner and YouTube.

Spotted anything worth reporting? Drop a line in the comments section below.

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Casting an eye over F1’s podcasting exploits

Podcasting is increasingly playing a major role in the broadcasting landscape, as fans look to listen to their favourite stars on the go, whether it is on the tube, on the train, or out on the run. Last year, Formula 1 got in on the act with their own podcast.

Daniel Finley (@DF190587), a regular Motorsport Broadcasting reader, sent in his thoughts on the podcast so far…

At the end of June 2018, a teaser trailer for an upcoming podcast appeared across Formula 1’s social media platforms. The trailer promised to give you insights into what the drivers, team bosses and other stars get up to ‘Beyond the Grid’. The trailer included snippets from interviews with Lewis Hamilton and Gerhard Berger.

A few days later, Formula 1 published the first episode, as presenter Tom Clarkson interviewed Hamilton in a 54-minute piece. The tagline “F1 has given me a life – but it’s also broken me” was centre of attention.

This week saw the publication of episode 38 (an interview with James Allison), and with the first anniversary fast approaching, now feels like a good time to provide a review.

A different medium, the same rewards
Podcasting in general is a very popular media outlet. Just last week at the Digital Content NewFronts conference, it was revealed that the New York Times podcast ‘The Daily’ reaches two million listeners per day, an astonishing statistic. Public data on the number of subscriptions and listeners is difficult to come by.

The top ten sports podcasts in the UK on iTunes contains mainly football based podcasts. At the time of writing ‘Beyond the Grid‘ was ranked the 11th most popular show in the sports category which does suggest that it is doing well, with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5.

Interestingly, Beyond the Grid is not the highest ranked F1 podcast currently: that honour goes to Whisper Films for Channel 4’s F1 podcast ‘On the Marbles‘, which is currently 9th in the charts after just four episodes.

There are of course other long-running F1 podcasts available. BBC Radio 5 Live have published a podcast, ‘Chequered Flag Formula 1‘, for over a decade. Their offering includes a preview and review of a race weekend, which is useful if I have not been able to follow full weekend, but for me of limited benefit most of the time.

The 5 Live team does offer some special episodes but these are sporadic. Recent special episodes have included a debate on the newly created W Series, and a discussion with Bernie Ecclestone.

Of the 37 Beyond the Grid episodes so far, nine have featured current F1 drivers, with five featuring current team bosses. The rest feature past F1 drivers, old team bosses and other F1 celebrities, including a particularly special episode with a certain legendary commentator.

In true podcasting form, episodes are available free of charge through popular podcast applications. There are, of course, some adverts often at the beginning, middle and end of the episode that Clarkson reads out featuring sponsors Bose. While they may break up the flow of the podcast it is a small price to pay for a free product (and there is always the fast forward button).

Each episode last around an hour, giving enough time to chat to the guest in detail. Clarkson conducts each interview in a professional but relaxed manner, and is well prepared for each guest. It is clear that he knows each guest well, often referring to the first time he met the guest, helping to build-up rapport between Clarkson and the listener.

The highlights so far
I have thoroughly enjoyed every episode to date, they are informative and provide some great anecdotes that are not often heard. Some highlights for me include:

  • Episode 7 with Christian Horner included a guest appearance from Geri, Horner’s wife, and was recorded the day after Daniel Riccardo’s announcement that he would be moving to Renault.
  • Episode 20 with Claire Williams provided a fantastic insight into her early years around F1, getting to know the drivers as they stayed at the family home, as well as her current role in F1.
  • Episode 22 with Emerson Fittipaldi was an emotional listen, as Fittipaldi described his time with Ayrton Senna.
  • Episode 23 with Rob Smedley, in particular when he was discussing the 2008 title loss.
  • Episodes 27 and 28 were special episodes with Ross Brawn and Sabine Kehm respectively, to celebrate the 50th birthday of Michael Schumacher. Both episodes provided great stories from their times with Michael.

My absolute favourite to date is episode 34 with the legendary Murray Walker, to celebrate the 1,000th F1 race. If you are only going to listen to one episode then this is the one. His knowledge and passion for F1 remains, and the final two minutes of the podcast are enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up.

In my opinion the podcast is a very welcome addition to the overall broadcasting offering by Formula 1, under Liberty Media. I would certainly have no hesitation of recommending the podcast to new and long-time followers of F1.

I look (and listen) on with interest to see how the podcast will develop. Clearly there are several current drivers and team bosses who have not been interviewed yet, which are obvious future candidates for Clarkson to chat to.

I personally would love to see the podcast extended to include some people who are not normally heard/seen from F1. Perhaps a pit lane mechanic, a member of the hospitality side within a F1 team, or who knows maybe even an interview with Chase Carey.

In the meantime, go ahead and give the podcast a listen.

Fancy contributing to Motorsport Broadcasting? Head over here for further details…

Looking back at W Series’ inaugural race

The W Series kicked off in style in Hockenheim, with Jamie Chadwick winning the inaugural race. But how did the championship fare on the broadcasting side? We analyse their opening act…

Broadcasting rights
The championship, which aims to increase female participation in motor sport, is supporting the DTM touring car championship based in Germany. Announced publicly in October 2018, series organisers have spent the past few months whittling down the number of racers to eighteen.

From a broadcasting perspective, the arrangement with DTM means that W Series plays ‘second fiddle’, in the same way that Formula Two does to Formula 1, for example. Most of Formula 1’s support events are tangibly related to the main attraction, whereas W Series has no significant relation to DTM other than the fact that they are on the same bill.

It is like Porsche Supercup’s relationship with F1. Porsche drivers are highly unlikely to progress to F1, and it is unlikely, although possible that W Series drivers will progress to DTM. Like anything though, W Series needs to fit somewhere. The arrangement may not be long lasting, as Reuters are reporting that some races may end up on the F1 support bill sooner rather than later…

Nevertheless, having W Series race play out in front of an empty Hockenheim race crowd is far from ideal. I am no expert on DTM’s attendance figures, but it does not look good from W Series’ perspective, one of the perils of running races on Saturday. Over the border in the UK, the British Touring Car Championship regularly attracts a solid fanbase around the country.

2019 W Series Race 1 - cars.png
The W Series cars in action. In this shot, Beitske Visser, Fabienne Wohlwend and Sarah Moore are battling in the purple/pear cars, with Esmee Hawkey in the background in the red/white car.

Very few broadcasters worldwide have signed up to W Series so far, despite their CEO Catherine Bond-Muir claiming in an interview with Crash.net in January that there was “extraordinary” interest in the series, and that they had rejected a deal with an (unnamed) free-to-air broadcaster in the UK.

In the end, the championship did announce a deal with a free-to-air broadcaster, in the form of Channel 4 just two weeks before the series started. Whether the Channel 4 deal came together late, or the parties opted to announce it late, is unclear.

If anything, W Series has struggled to bring television deals to fruition. Hopefully now that the first race has taken place, and the series is a genuine real entity, the tide will turn in their favour.

Organisers have opened Facebook and Twitter for fans to watch the championship where no broadcast partner is in place. This proved to be the first frustration for UK fans, as the qualifying feed was geo-blocked due to their arrangement with Channel 4 (even though the broadcaster, as expected, did not air qualifying live).

Slick presentation from Whisper Films
Anyone who has watched Whisper Films’ Formula 1 coverage on Channel 4 generally knows what they are getting.

Channel 4 aired a sub-set of the World Feed content, with Whisper catering to all parties. The TV friendly feed featured break bumpers, with those watching on social media getting an in-depth qualifying round-up and additional interviews during the TV breaks. Once the friendly feed went off the air after the podium celebrations, the World Feed remained on-air for an additional 15 minutes of post-race interviews.

The ad-breaks on Channel 4 did feel slightly jarring (two breaks in twenty minutes), a minor complaint considering the race aired uninterrupted. Nevertheless, all handled the whole ad-break situation better than other entities have in the past (see: Channel 5 and Formula E), resulting in a polished show overall.

Lee McKenzie steered the ship as presenter, guiding the show along. Ted Kravitz brought over his esteemed style in the form of #TedTalksWSeries, also interviewing the stars of the show during Saturday’s race coverage.

On commentary was Claire Cottingham and David Coulthard, a line-up met with mixed reaction across social media during the race. Prior to Formula E’s launch in 2014, series organisers held a closed door ‘test race’ at Donington, helping to iron out bugs, ensuring that the broadcast, including commentary, flowed.

W Series never held a ‘test race,’ the first opportunity for Cottingham and Coulthard to work together in anger was last weekend. Commentary teams do not gel overnight, and it is even more difficult to gel when everything is brand new. The commentary was not great, but I also feel we need to give them time before criticising the pairing at the first opportunity.

If anything, there were problems elsewhere in the W Series system that impacted on Cottingham and Coulthard’s commentary…

Questionable race coverage
One of the downsides of being on the DTM support bill is that W Series has the same camera angles as DTM’s World Feed. Whisper Films had little to no say over those positions.

WIGE Media, who have produced DTM’s World Feed for many years, are no longer producing the feed this season, however the team behind the DTM feed is fundamentally the same. Whisper Films may be producing W Series, but the ex-WIGE team is directing the output, creating a half-way house scenario.

I understand that the production behind the live W Series content came together late in the day, which impacted the quality of the show. Fundamentally, the race itself felt like I could have been watching a national Formula 3 event, on a shoe-string budget, because of the quality of the race broadcast.

2019 W Series Race 1 - helicopter.png
The helicopter angle at the start. Whilst the angle missed Chadwick running wide, it did capture the white-purple car of Megan Gilkes (pictured here on the inside towards the hairpin), slamming into the side of Emma Kimilainen in the red-white car.

Some of the chosen camera angles were questionable, with seemingly heavy reliance on the helicopter. Cutting to a helicopter angle just two corners into the race, resulting in us missing Chadwick (the leader at the time) making a mistake struck me as an incredibly bizarre decision. With only five different liveries too throughout the field, driver identification is likely to be difficult throughout the season.

Other angles looked cool, but out of place on a live race broadcast. If I was watching a documentary on the race after the event, then maybe it would be fine, but not during the race itself. Because of the angles used, the cars did not look fast. I appreciate these are Formula 3-spec machinery, but some camera trickery can make all the difference here to fans at home.

Unfortunately, you cannot hide empty grandstands. But you can inject a bit of energy into the race through sporadic on-board angles to show the amount of input from the drivers, as well as some team radio. Admittedly, the former costs money…

The graphics set did the job, although the colours, whilst on brand, are not the most television friendly in the world. The logo in the bottom right hand corner could be shortened to just W, the stylisation of the logo meaning that the last few letters of ‘Series’ disappeared occasionally!

On the racing front, the action was excellent throughout the field, with clean wheel-to-wheel racing. The opening lap Safety Car spoiled things somewhat, resulting in around 20-minutes of full-speed action before the chequered flag. Hopefully the length of the race changes to 45-minutes next season, but I can see why they have started short.

And arguably, the race quality is the main thing. The production issues, while frustrating, are fixable. To just get to this point without any major hiccups is a result. The team as a collective unit all have one race under their belt, and go into the next round at Zolder with a better idea of what to expect.

Scheduling: The 2019 Spanish Grand Prix / Monaco E-Prix

The European season for Formula 1 starts with a bang, with a ton of action to whet the appetite.

Joining the F1 party is Jenson Button, who is with Sky Sports in Spain for the first of his five races this year. Elsewhere in Sky’s line-up, Ted Kravitz is back on the side-lines until Canada, although Kravitz fans can see him as part of the W Series line-up this year.

Oddly, Sky’s race day schedule reverts to their 2018 format with Paddock Live shortened back down to 40 minutes and not airing (from an EPG perspective) until half past the hour. In the commentary box, expect Martin Brundle and David Coulthard to return to Sky and Channel 4 respectively after their absence in Baku.

Formula Three returns in Spain, the championship succeeding GP3 Series in the third-tier on the F1 support package. Race coverage airs live on Sky Sports F1, although qualifying airs on a small tape-delay following their Friday F1 wrap-up show.

Outside of the F1 circle, the Monaco E-Prix for Formula E is slightly unique: there is no Shakedown, the race starts 30 minutes later than usual and, like F1, the local host takes control with little input from Aurora.

As Jack Nicholls is on Formula E duty, Jolyon Palmer will be joined by Tom Gaymor on Formula 1 practice duty for BBC Radio 5 Live in the latest commentary merry-go-round. Marc Priestley joins Palmer for qualifying.

Channel 4 F1
11/05 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying Highlights
12/05 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
10/05 – 09:45 to 11:55 – Practice 1
10/05 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event until 15:30)
11/05 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
11/05 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event from 14:30)
12/05 – 12:30 to 17:10 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid
=> 14:05 – Race
=> 16:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
09/05 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
09/05 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
10/05 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
11/05 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The F1 Show
15/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
10/05 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
11/05 – 14:00 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
12/05 – 13:50 to 16:10 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

Formula E – Monaco
Also airs live on YouTube
11/05 – 06:15 to 07:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
11/05 – 08:45 to 09:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)
11/05 – 10:30 to 12:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN and Eurosport 2*)
11/05 – 15:00 to 17:00 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC Red Button
=> live on Quest
=> live on BT Sport/ESPN
=> live on Eurosport 2

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – Silverstone (Eurosport 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
12/05 – 16:30 to 18:30 – Race Finish

Formula Two – Spain (Sky Sports F1)
10/05 – 11:55 to 12:45 – Practice
10/05 – 15:50 to 16:30 – Qualifying
11/05 – 15:30 to 16:45 – Race 1
12/05 – 10:20 to 11:20 – Race 2

Formula Three – Spain (Sky Sports F1)
10/05 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Qualifying Tape-Delay
11/05 – 09:15 to 10:00 – Race 1
12/05 – 09:15 to 10:00 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – IndyCar Grand Prix (Sky Sports F1)
10/05 – 21:30 to 23:00 – Qualifying
11/05 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Monaco (BT Sport/ESPN)
11/05 – 10:00 to 10:45 – Qualifying
11/05 – 17:30 to 18:30 – Race [TBC]

Porsche Supercup – Spain (Sky Sports F1)
12/05 – 11:40 to 12:20 – Race

World Rally Championship – Chile (All Live – BT Sport Extra [TBC])
Also airs live on WRCPlus.com (£)
To be confirmed

World Rally Championship – Chile
To be confirmed

World Superbikes – Imola
Also airs live on World Superbikes‘ Video Pass (£)
10/05 – 09:25 onwards (Eurosport 2)
=> 09:25 to 10:25 – SBK: Practice 1
=> 13:55 to 14:55 – SBK: Practice 2
=> 14:55 to 15:55 – SSP: Practice 2
11/05 – 09:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
12/05 – 09:30 to 15:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
14/05 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

World Touring Car Cup – Slovakia
10/05 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
12/05 – 09:30 to 11:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport)
12/05 – 15:15 to 16:30 – Race 3 (Eurosport)

The scheduling information will be updated if timings change.

Last updated on May 8th.