A year in the making: the development of WEC’s new graphics package

The eighth season of the World Endurance Championship kicked off at Silverstone earlier this month, with Toyota continuing to dominate the LMP1 class.

Whilst the on-track story stayed the same, off-track, a new on-air graphics package greeted fans worldwide.

During the Silverstone weekend, Motorsport Broadcasting went into the WEC TV compound to find out the rationale behind the change…

The time to refresh
WEC’s graphics package has needed a refresh for a while, their old solution arguably some way behind their motor racing rivals. The new graphics package needed to solve some fundamental problems at the heart of the previous package.

One of the challenges that endurance racing faces is telling the story of four different classes without alienating viewers. Unlike Formula 1, where there is only one winner, a WEC race will have multiple winners, and the graphics package on offer needs to reflect this.

Speaking to me at Silverstone, Oliver Denis, WEC’s Director of TV, believes that the earlier graphics set failed in this area. The previous set primarily told the overall race story rather than focusing on the individual classes.

“It is the time for us to change,” Denis tells me. “The last set was not good for endurance racing. Before, the graphics were for the overall, and to be honest it’s not interesting to see that the GT-Am is ten laps behind the LMP1!”

“I think the graphics are good for three or four years, after that you need to change. The technology on offer changes extremely fast, and you need to follow the movement.”

“But we haven’t changed because Formula 1 or Formula E have changed, we used the last one for four years and it’s time to change again.”

WEC collaborated with Israeli company Promotheus on their new graphics package, in a project that began in September 2018. The company has experience in the motoring space, having implemented the current World Rally Championship on-screen interface.

2019 WEC - running clocks.png
WEC’s graphics showing three individual clocks running during qualifying.

Promotheus worked closely with series organisers and timing company Al Kamel on the project. Over the past year, the package has gone through several iterations, Denis and the team taking feedback from stakeholders, including WEC’s current commentary team of Martin Haven and Allan McNish throughout.

“The first try was not good, but now we are very happy because it’s the first time we’ve used it [here at Silverstone], and there’s not been a lot of problems,” Denis says.

The changes for 2019-20
Throughout the package, the four categories are clearly identifiable, more so than before. As an example, each category has a different replay wipe, giving them their own identity. In addition, the package now presents to viewers the interval within each category.

“We have a package now that is very good and informational for the viewers, which explains the four categories.”

WEC have also taken the opportunity to refresh their social media offering and track branding at the same time, keeping them aligned with the World Feed.

“Of course, this weekend [at Silverstone] we start with version 1,” Denis reveals. “We have a lot of graphics that are not ready but will be used for Japan. By race four, we should have all graphics ready. But we prefer to start simple and improve all the time.”

As they did in the build-up to season eight, WEC will again be soliciting feedback from all parties involved in the series, including WEC’s television broadcasters.

“Maybe after Silverstone they will send me feedback to say it was very good, or that we don’t understand something, so we might have further adjustments to make depending on what they say,” explains Nathalie Fargier, WEC’s TV rights liaison.

One area that WEC is continuing to work on is their on-board camera angles, which Denis admits is not there yet. “We are working with the manufacturers to find better shots,” he tells me.

“In Formula 1, it is easy to see the track and the driver at the same time, because that’s open cockpit. Here, sometimes we can see the track, but it is more interesting to see the track and the driver working, battling with his car.”

“We have some new angles in the Toyota this season, which is interesting for the viewer, but we need to go further. Here, it is not the same in the Rebellion as it is in the Toyota. In an LMP1 car it’s very complicated to get a good position for the camera and we are working on it.”

The challenges of directing endurance racing
Having previously worked in Formula 1, Denis discussed the challenges that endurance racing brings from his perspective, with multiple races taking place at the same time, making direction tricky.

“In WEC, the strategy is the most important, and we don’t the cars in the same shot for a lot of the time,” Denis says. “It’s very interesting sometimes to follow one car when they’re coming through the traffic in different categories.”

“Sometimes we can have four, five, six, or ten stories at the same time taking place at the same time. We may have a battle in LMP1 for third position, an interesting pit stop for the leader of the GT-Pro, as well as a crash or spin on the track, all at the same time!”

2019 WEC - sidebar battle.png
WEC’s graphics featuring the timing tower, focusing on a battle in LMP2.

As in all motor sports, the key to the feed is storytelling, meaning that Denis must make tough decisions throughout on what to include within the WEC World Feed.

“If it is not important for the big story, we can hold it back for replays later during a quieter moment. Alternatively, we can show it on the app if it is a story very important for one team, but not for the race, that way we can show it all in some way.”

Denis’ team have the facility available to them to take a split-screen and picture-in-picture (PIP) approach to their broadcasts, however Denis believes that these techniques are not always the answer from a storytelling perspective.

“If we do that too much, it becomes complicated and confusing for the viewers to follow because, if I switch too quickly all the time between each story, it’s not possible to follow one story in full.”

“Sometimes it’s easy if we have a car in pit lane for a rebuild, I can use the split to show the rebuild [on one side] and follow a battle on the track [on the other side]. But if we have two stories at the same time unfolding on-track, sometimes it is complicated to follow that.”

“I prefer to show the main story and afterwards to play out replays when we have time,” he tells me.

“If I have an incident, sometimes it is not very important to show that immediately, whereas in Formula 1 it’s immediate because you only have 20 cars.”

“But here, I can wait if it is not too important. Ideally, I like to close the main story if possible, and after that show the second story in replay ‘as live’.”

After Toyota’s expected domination in LMP1 at Silverstone, this weekend, WEC heads to Fuji Speedway in Japan for round two of the 2019-20 season.

Fans should expect to see further additions to the new graphics package that aims to catapult WEC forward for the next few seasons.

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Site announcement: a new home (literally…)

Hi all,

Firstly, before getting on to the main body, I would like to say a huge thanks to everyone for continuing to read Motorsport Broadcasting over the Summer months. It has been a busy Summer, with exclusive content around the W Series, MotoGP and most recently attending the Black Book Motorsport Forum.

If there is one thing I have learnt more so in recent months, it is that there are people reading this site in many paddocks across the world: two wheels or four, large or small, more so than I previously thought outside of the Twittersphere, which is awesome to see.

Of course, the trips over the Summer months do not come cheap. The pieces I write are distinctive, which you cannot find in either the internet or print media space.

However, the expense of travelling to events far outweighs the donations received, plus advertising – a statement which I suspect applies to many independent motor racing sites out there.

Without wanting to lumber the point, if you have enjoyed the content I write, a small donation will go long way and would be very much appreciated. I should say, I love writing what I write, and the moment I do not love it is the moment I will stop.

It is important for me to ensure that Motorsport Broadcasting can fund itself, when taking into account additional expenses (such as attending industry events).

This is more important moving forward because, as of tomorrow and on a personal note, I will be a home owner for the first time. Which is both amazing and scary in equal measure!

The main point to mention is that there may be some disruption in terms of content during the house move, let me call it a period of adjustment as I settle in to new surroundings.

I do not know how long the adjustment will take, so bear with me if the content is a bit thin in the months ahead until things settle down. In the long-term, having my own home may well present some opportunities (someone did joke to me about YouTube, or at least I hope they were joking!).

There are some pieces already lined up over the next few weeks, including two guest articles, as well as the usual scheduling posts and audience data, so there may not be an immediate change. And, if you fancy writing a guest article, head over here

As always, thanks for continuing to support this site, I really do appreciate it. Onwards and upwards!

Owner and Editor of Motorsport Broadcasting

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Sky Sports happy with “extraordinary” F1 relationship

Sky Sports are happy with their “extraordinary relationship” with Formula 1, in the face of suggestions that the relationship had ‘strained’ because of the recent launch of F1 TV.

The pay-TV broadcaster, who have been covering the sport since 2012, signed a deal at the start of 2016 to cover F1 on an exclusively live basis from 2019 through to 2024.

Since 2016, Liberty Media have bought Formula 1 from previous owners CVC and have made major hurdles in the digital space, including launching their own over-the-top service.

Liberty aims to make F1 TV available in as many territories as possible, however, Sky’s F1 deal (which pre-dates Liberty’s involvement in F1) currently prevents the premium tier from launching in the UK, a source of frustration for some UK fans.

For Liberty, this is an obstacle as it restricts the growth of F1 TV, given the historical popularity of the sport in the UK.

Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Forum in London last month, Sky’s Head of Formula 1 Scott Young denied suggestions that the relationship between F1 and Sky had become ‘strained’ in recent times.

“The relationship hasn’t improved because they have not strained,” Young said. “We have an extraordinary relationship with every aspect within Formula 1, including the 10 teams and the 20 drivers. And without that relationship we can’t create a narrative.”

> Insight: The over-the-top challenge facing motor sport

Young addressed how fans, past and future, are consuming sport, noting that this forms part of the conversation Sky are having with stakeholders across the sporting landscape.

“We have an ongoing relationship and dialogue with Formula One about that [the consumption of F1],” he added.

“We have the same challenge in every sport. Technology is making it easier for fans to pick up a device, jump onto many different platforms and experience sport in a particular way.”

“The challenge we’ve now got, and the art of doing it right, is how do you direct an audience that is your foundation base, and then direct an incoming audience that wants to consume it differently and wants to enjoy an entertaining product.”

Have Sky bought “salt or pepper” for 2021 onwards?
The contracts that broadcasters sign in the motor sport space is unique, in that the sporting and technical regulations are subject to change or any time, which could have an adverse effect on the racing.

With stadium-based sports, the regulations are unlikely to change drastically year-on-year. However, F1 is set to undergo a radical change in 2021 which comes for Sky in year three of a six-year contract.

Although he is comfortable with Sky’s overall dialogue with F1, Young believes that Formula 1 could involve a broader set of stakeholders when making decisions about the sport’s future.

“I think Formula 1 could probably use the benefit of a number of people and organisations they have in the paddock and as partners to help them develop the business. Whether it’s necessarily us having a deeper role as a business in Formula 1, I think we’re quite comfortable where we are.”

“I do think Formula 1 probably need to draw on some of the experience that people have around when making some future decisions,” Young told the Black Book audience.

“We’re halfway through our rights period and we’re not too sure what we bought for 2021 onwards.”

“We know that the sport is going to either change, or drastically change, depending on which press release you should read, but we don’t know whether we’ve actually bought salt or pepper come halfway through our deal which is quite interesting when you think of an acquisition you’ve made.”

Young also talked briefly about the day-to-day contact between Sky and F1.

“There’s a daily dialogue that goes back and forth between Sky Sports Formula 1 and the team at Biggin Hill, at a granular level of making television, and the team at St James’s Market on an executive level,” he said.

“As I said before we’ve got a great relationship with F1. Whenever they call us seeking content that they like, we always share it. They’re always very good in providing us content or footage that we need to produce our story.”

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Scheduling: The 2019 Russian Grand Prix

From the lights of Singapore, Sochi plays host to the sixth running of the Russian Grand Prix.

There are several key changes to both Sky’s and Channel 4’s line-up for the weekend, with both commentary teams changing. Martin Brundle is stepping away from the Sky commentary box, so expect Paul di Resta to be alongside David Croft in the box.

Karun Chandhok is also absent from Sky’s team in Russia; however, Ted Kravitz is back with Sky, and should be with them for the remainder of the season. Although not working with Sky, Kravitz was in Singapore, but working with Singapore’s big screen team for the weekend as reporter (ran by Australian company ZSpace).

Over on Channel 4, Allan McNish replaces David Coulthard in the commentary booth. Coulthard and Brundle are missing the same three races this year. Both were absent from Azerbaijan back in April, and both are missing the upcoming Russian and Japanese rounds.

Due to the time difference between Russia and the UK, the race starts two hours earlier than other European races at 12:10 UK time. Channel 4 have more flexibility with the scheduling of their highlights programme as a result, which airs an hour earlier than usual at 18:00 UK time.

Russia plays host to the final round of the inaugural Formula Three season, with Robert Shwartzman set to clinch the crown.

Channel 4 F1
28/09 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
29/09 – 18:00 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
27/09 – 08:45 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
27/09 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
28/09 – 09:45 to 11:10 – Practice 3
28/09 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying
=> 12:00 – Pre-Show
=> 12:55 – Qualifying
29/09 – 10:30 to 15:30 – Race
=> 10:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 11:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:00 – Paddock Live
=> 15:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
26/09 – 13:00 to 13:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
26/09 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
27/09 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far
28/09 – 15:45 to 16:15 – The F1 Show
02/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
27/09 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/09 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/09 – 11:30 to 14:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – Barcelona (Eurosport 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
29/09 – 15:30 to 17:30 – Race

British Touring Car Championship – Silverstone (ITV4)
29/09 – 10:20 to 18:15 – Races

Formula Two – Russia (Sky Sports F1)
27/09 – 07:25 to 08:15 – Practice
27/09 – 14:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying
28/09 – 14:35 to 15:45 – Race 1
29/09 – 09:10 to 10:10 – Race 2

Formula Three – Russia (Sky Sports F1)
27/09 – 10:55 to 11:30 – Qualifying
28/09 – 08:05 to 09:00 – Race 1
29/09 – 07:45 to 08:40 – Race 2

World Superbikes – France
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
27/09 – 13:55 onwards (Eurosport)
=> 13:55 to 14:55 – SBK: Practice 2
=> 14:55 to 15:55 – SSP: Practice 2
28/09 – 09:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
29/09 – 09:30 to 15:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
01/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, the post will be updated if plans change.

Update on September 28th – a post-transmission mention to #AskCrofty, which aired today at 11:10 on Sky Sports F1, with David Croft asking the questions to Jenson Button.

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Channel 4 to continue to air F1 in “multi-year” deal with Sky

Channel 4 are to continue broadcasting Formula 1 after agreeing a new multi-year deal with Sky, the broadcaster has confirmed.

The free-to-air broadcaster first started airing the sport in 2016, taking over the BBC’s legacy contract. From 2016 to 2018, Channel 4 aired half the races live, and the other half in highlights form.

This year, Channel 4 have aired the free-to-air element of Sky’s exclusive deal with Formula 1, that being live coverage of the British Grand Prix and highlights of every race.

That arrangement will continue into next year, in what Motorsport Broadcasting understands to be a new three-year deal until the end of the 2022 season.

I also understand that the contract to produce Channel 4’s coverage will soon be put out to tender, meaning that it is not guaranteed Whisper will continue to cover the sport. Nevertheless, the fact that the contract is going out to tender implies that Channel 4 have retained editorial control.

As was the case last year, the F1 agreement forms part of a wider package between Channel 4 and Sky, which the two are billing as a “new, broader, strategic partnership spanning content, technology and innovation.”

Channel 4’s CEO Alex Mahon said “Channel 4 has established itself as the go-to channel for free to air television coverage of Formula 1 and we’re thrilled that motorsport fans will be able to continue to enjoy the excitement of F1 through our highlights of all the races and live coverage of the British Grand Prix.”

Analysis: Little surprise as Channel 4 retains F1 highlights
The news that Channel 4 have retained their F1 highlights package is actually not a major surprise as some may think.

Earlier in the Summer, Channel 4 and Sky partnered to bring cricket fans coverage of the Cricket World Cup final featuring England to a much wider audience, with live coverage airing across Channel 4 and More4.

Whilst the British Grand Prix did not exactly benefit on that day, it showed that the partnership between Channel 4 and Sky was strong, admittedly there was public pressure involved as well.

Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Forum last month, Sky’s Head of F1 Scott Young explained the importance of free-to-air to Sky in relation to their F1 contract.

“It was very important for Sky to transition into this new exclusive role and to have a component of this broadcast on free to air television. Our executive group is very focussed on making sure that in some way that continues beyond one year,” Young said prior to today’s announcement.

“There’s not a closed shop mentality about how we work with free-to-air.”

“It’s about how that ecosystem works where we can still create subscriber base television, where we can grow the revenue to give to the federations, and that a broader consumer can actually start to see what we produce and then want to consume more of our platforms.”

Although Channel 4 remains the biggest F1 broadcaster from an audience perspective in the UK, their audience figures have dropped year-on-year.

In depth, deep dive analysis from Motorsport Broadcasting at the halfway stage of the season showed that their F1 audience has dropped by around 15 percent, some of that heading over to Sky.

On the production front, I would be extremely surprised if Whisper did not retain control, and if the on-air team did not stay broadly the same. But hey, stranger things have happened.

Overall, this is good news for F1 in the UK, and provides some stability on the broadcasting front, with both TV and radio contracts now locked in until at least the end of the 2021 season.

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