News round-up: New Brabham film released; MotoGP moves towards HDR resolution

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, information of a new film focusing on Sir Jack Brabham, and MotoGP moves towards HDR…

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #5 (September 12th): Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

ICYMI: Round-Up #3 (July 1st): Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

Formula 1

  • Transmission Films have released a trailer for a new film looking at the life of Sir Jack Brabham.
    • The film highlights Jack’s story to a new generation, with snippets from John Surtees, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart.
    • In development since 2013, there are two versions of the film: a 84-minute theatrical version out now in Australia, and a 52-minute television version to be released in 2020.
  • McLaren’s Carlos Sainz has criticised Formula 1’s television direction, believing that the midfield runners get little attention on the main F1 World Feed.
    • Speaking to Motorsport.com in response to criticism of F1’s Singapore Grand Prix direction, Sainz said “Many midfield drivers have complained about it. It’s not only me. I was talking to a few of them the other day, we can clearly see a few battles they are missing.”
    • “It’s something I’ve been very critical about and something I think every midfield driver has been critical about because we feel like the fans are missing out on a lot of battles in the midfield, many of them you don’t get at the front.”
  • F1 has announced a partnership with youth brand Complex. The partnership sees F1 team up with US rapper A$AP Ferg in a five-part series called The Pit.
    • Ferg learns more about Formula 1 in the series, with segments featuring Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.
    • “We want to showcase Formula 1 in a different way, and getting A$AP Ferg’s unique perspective on the sport with some of the world’s best drivers is a brilliant way to immerse new fans into the sport,” explains Ellie Norman, F1’s Director of Marketing and Communications.
    • “Securing a partnership with Complex ensures we are talking to a new audience in a way that’s right for them and we are really excited to see how the series progresses.”
    • The first video is available to view on Facebook here.
  • The contract to produce Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage in 2020 has gone out to tender.
    • In the tender document, Channel 4 stated that they will only consider proposals “from companies with extensive experience of production in the motor sport arena.”
    • The first stage closed to prospective applicants on Friday 4th October, with a final decision expected by the end of November.
  • Over in the US, ESPN continues to reach excellent audience figures for their F1 coverage.
    • An audience of 574,000 viewers watched the Singapore Grand Prix on ESPN2, an increase of 20 percent year-on-year, and the largest for the Singapore round on record.
    • 12 of the 15 races up until Singapore have recorded year-on-year increases, the season as a whole averaging 659,000 viewers across ESPN’s portfolio of channels.

MotoGP

  • Dorna have appointed Audio-Technica as their official Microphone Services Solutions Provider. The two parties began roll out at the start of the European season in May following a successful period of testing.
    • The solution comprises of “265 Audio-Technica microphones, headsets and monitoring solutions including 53 track feed microphones, 76 interview and ENG camera microphones, as well as Audio-Technica System 10 2.4GHz wireless microphone solutions for 16 roving ENG cameras.”
    • “Working with Dorna at the actual live MotoGP races around the world is a great extension to our research laboratory, and further demonstrates Audio-Technica’s commitment to sports audio broadcasting,” said Kazuhiro Onizuka, Audio-Technica’s Head of Global Engineering.
  • BT Sport filmed a special feed of this year’s British Grand Prix in 4K HDR (high dynamic range) and HD HDR resolution, whilst Sony filmed snippets from the Italian Grand Prix in 8K HDR resolution. Both were showcased to audiences at the International Broadcasting Convention last month.

Electric racing

  • A cumulative television audience of over 411 million viewers watched the 2018-19 Formula E season, according to figures published by the championship. The figure is an increase of 24 percent year-on-year.
    • As a result, an average of 32 million viewers watched each race in 2018-19, compared with 28 million viewers for the 2017-18 season, an increase of 14 percent.
    • The reason the cumulative increase is larger is because the 2018-19 season had one more race than 2017-18 (13 compared with 12), skewing the cumulative metrics.
    • It is unclear whether the figures Formula E have cited only account for the race broadcast, or whether it includes other media, such as news snippets.
  • Formula E also touted a growth of 61 percent year-on-year in the video space, whilst 72 percent of their followers are under 35. Unsurprisingly, Formula E’s social media experiment, Voltage, was absent from their media release.
  • Extreme E is teaming up with Paramax Films and Titan Cinema to bring the off-road series to the silver screen in a Giant Screen / IMAX project. Extreme E is giving filmmakers behind the scenes access the teams, drivers, and locations throughout Extreme E’s conquest.
  • FOX Sports Asia is to air Extreme E live across Southeast Asia from series launch in February 2021.
    • “[The deal] represents a huge commitment from a leading sports media company and ensures we will be able to bring top-tier coverage of the series to millions of households across Southeast Asia,” explained Ali Russell, Extreme E’s Chief Marketing Officer.

See anything else worth mentioning on the news front? Drop a line in the comments section below.


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Why is IndyCar not drawing a bigger UK audience? A few thoughts…

In a guest article, Jack Ainslie (@JackAinslie) looks at NBC’s coverage of the IndyCar Series stateside, and why audience figures closer to home are not as high as they could be…

As the 2019 IndyCar Series season concluded at Laguna Seca last month with Josef Newgarden coming out on top, it also marked the end of the first year of Sky Sports’ collaboration with NBC to televise the series in the UK.

It was NBC’s first year as the sole US broadcaster of the sport, having shared the rights with ABC previously. Thus, it seems appropriate to review the broadcasting output of what has been a thrilling season of racing.

Viewers in the UK watch the NBC broadcast with no input from Sky. The NBC product has been fantastic, with increased viewership stateside. The Indianapolis 500, the premier event of the series, reversed a ratings slide suffered under ABC’s stewardship of the event.

An average audience of 5.45 million people watched the event across all of NBC’s platforms, an increase of 11 percent on the previous year and the highest average audience since the 100th running of the race in 2016. Overall, audiences increased by nine percent compared with 2018.

Diffey, Bell and Tracy steer the show
In my view, the increase is partly down to the excellent commentary team of Leigh Diffey and his analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy – both former IndyCar drivers. There is also an extensive line up of pit reporters who often speak to strategists during races.

The excitement the trio clearly have for the racing is infectious, mixing analysis with just plain enthusiasm. Diffey does not dominate the commentary, often allowing for his co-commentators to converse between themselves for periods of time.

They are not shy of speaking out when they see something wrong – Tracy called for Takuma Sato to be suspended after a serious crash at the Pocono race. However, the trio share an appreciation of the racing and a willingness for all drivers to do well. Tracy was one of the first to congratulate Sato when he won the next race at the Gateway oval.

The actual broadcast is also strong. Depending on when NBC’s coverage starts, we sometimes have extensive build up (also presented by Diffey and co), or occasionally being just minutes away from the race. The build-up is generally just analysis and driver interviews however there have been on occasion some excellent driver features, which NBC should continue to do into 2020.

The graphics are sleek and do their job during the race. The coverage provides a wide array of camera angles throughout the broadcast including the standard camera mounted above the cockpit, a cockpit cam facing the drivers, as well as the infamous visor cam.

2019 IndyCar Series Laguna Seca - Alex Rossi.png
Looking back from Alexander Rossi towards Josef Newgarden. Note how the on-board angle is sponsored, and also the light blue next to Herta’s name on the timing wall. The light blue indicates that Herta has activated the ‘push to pass’ system.

However, not all on-board camera angles are available to viewers watching at home. Fans at home only see between ten and twelve camera angles where third parties are sponsoring them, meaning that we sometimes do not get the best view of incidents if the main camera operators have not picked an incident up.

The visor cam really shows the thrill of the ride – particularly on the bumpy street tracks allowing us to see the speed of the cars as well as sensing the rough ride the drivers are going through. IndyCar often uploads these clips to their YouTube channel in addition to extensive race highlights, helping to cement their strong online presence.

NBC has heavily promoted races on other parts of its network, which benefited the 500 significantly. Us Brits may not enjoy the heavy amount of promotion of other NBC televised events during races but it does NBC’s commitment to increasing IndyCar’s viewership.

Little improvement for Sky compared to BT in UK
Closer to home, it is disappointing that Sky have been unable to build a larger viewership of the sport than it generally had during its BT days.

The racing product has been excellent, with absorbing, incident packed, overtaking laden races. There have been seven different winners and nine other drivers finishing in the podium positions – including drivers classified as low as 22nd in the championship. The racing itself is certainly not the reason for the lack of viewers.

Sky is in a strong position with an already present audience of committed motorsport fans regularly watching its coverage of Formula 1. So why the lack of interest in IndyCar?

Of course, IndyCar is not as ‘prestigious’ as Formula 1, therefore it seems reasonable to assume it will never reach the same figures as F1. However, there is familiarity for British audiences – drivers such as Sato, Max Chilton, Marcus Ericsson, and Alexander Rossi are names familiar to the committed F1 petrol head.

Oval racing is also not familiar to many of us in the UK and often dismissed (the Rockingham circuit which hosted Champ Cars in the early 2000s recently closed down), however the ovals have seen some of the most thrilling races in IndyCar this year.

Commercial breaks are a problem for IndyCar and its international audience. Unlike British motorsport coverage, American networks take advertising breaks during races. Whilst Sky do not cut to adverts during the US breaks it does mean that commentary falls silent in the gaps as Diffey and co. understandably do not continue commentating during the US breaks.

2019 IndyCar Series Laguna Seca - Colton Herta.png
Looking at Colton Herta as he tackles the corkscrew complex at Laguna Seca.

The on-screen graphics also disappear during US ad-breaks for UK viewers, which may confuse new viewers who are trying to follow the on-track action. Whilst NBC try to confine advertising to safety car (or ‘caution’) periods this is not always possible. It is also not thrilling for viewers to watch cars following the pace car with no commentary.

Promotion lacking outside of Indianapolis 500
During the Indianapolis 500, Tom Gaymor and Alex Brundle commentated during US advertising breaks leading to some continuity for UK viewers. It would be great for Sky to provide this at more races like BT did. As an unashamed fan of Alex Jacques, it would be great to see him call some Indy races, however this is probably impossible and merely a wish of mine!

The Indianapolis 500 understandably garnered Sky’s largest IndyCar audience of the season, with frequent mentions to the 500 from David Croft and Simon Lazenby during their Monaco Grand Prix coverage. Whilst the race was bound to gain a larger than usual audience due to its place as the top event of the season, there is a chance this promotion of the race could have directed more viewers its way.

Unfortunately, Sky did not repeat the promotion during other F1 weekends which coincided with IndyCar races, with little mention of IndyCar elsewhere during Sky’s F1 coverage. Four drivers were in contention for IndyCar’s crown as the championship entered its season finale, yet Sky did not reference this during their Singapore Grand Prix coverage.

Many races take place at reasonable times for UK viewers to watch however some of the night races take place in the early hours for British viewers. Sky could replay some of the races at more reasonable time slots during the week, as BT Sport did on occasion. Whilst this may not draw huge audiences, it would still allow a dedicated IndyCar following to build.

The IndyCar Series has fantastic racing and NBC is providing an excellent product for UK viewers to watch (even with presenters of motorsport in full suits!). However, Sky needs to push advertising of the series more.

Sky could do this through cross promotion, which seems to have worked well for NBC to build its own domestic audience as well as perhaps adding in some of their own personnel to make the broadcasts a more seamless experience for the UK viewer.

There is no doubt that the potential is there for the series to become far more popular in the UK than it is at present.

Have you been watching IndyCar this year? What have you enjoyed or not enjoyed? Do you think Sky could increase viewership through involving their own personnel or simply more advertising? Have your say in the comments below.

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Motorsport Network to sell F1 Racing magazine; Autosport magazine heading towards oblivion

Updated on October 8th.

Motorsport Network is to sell the monthly F1 Racing magazine, whilst the weekly Autosport print magazine looks perilously on the brink.

Like Formula 1, 2019 marks Autosport’s 69th anniversary in the print industry, with the magazine hitting the shelves on a weekly basis.

Now, it looks like that this year could also be their last. Rumours about the demise of the trio have been circulating for months within the industry, but picked up a gear on Sunday (6th October).

Two Autosport staffers, one of which is their special events manager Laura Coppin, confirmed in now deleted tweets that the magazine will disappear, but that the brand will remain online via Autosport.com.

The two also confirmed that the brand will remain as part of the yearly Autosport International Show and Autosport Awards.

Motorsport Network attempted to diffuse speculation around the magazine by stating that they are “exploring options” around the print edition of Autosport and that “any news will be communicated at the appropriate time.”

Little less than 24 hours later the corporation announced on 8th October that, instead of closing the print magazine, they would be hiking the weekly price of Autosport from £3.99 to £10.99 with immediate effect.

In addition, Motorsport Network has sold F1 Racing magazine to Lifestyle Media, in a transaction expected to complete by the end of October.

As initially reported by Dieter Rencken, I understand that Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin (also father of F3 driver Nikita) placed an offer to buy the print magazine arm of Autosport, but that talks between the two parties have collapsed in recent weeks.

In addition, Autosport’s Editor in Chief Andrew van de Burgt is leaving the organisation this week.

The dominance of the Network
We can trace the control of Motorsport Network in relation to Autosport back to 2016 when they acquired Autosport, along with F1 Racing and Motorsport News from Haymarket.

Around the same period, Motorsport Network also acquired Motors TV. Since then, Motorsport.com and Autosport.com have become increasingly similar in content, with the same articles appearing on both domains.

Motors TV was rebranded to Motorsport.tv, with the UK television channel closed in September 2018.

Motorsport Broadcasting has heard at various times over the past twelve months about rounds of redundancies at Motorsport Network, most recently in July with their video production unit trimmed.

There is a clear strategy from Motorsport Network to eliminate their rivals, and by eliminate, I mean “take over, and then remove” their competition.

Most of what made Autosport’s output unique in recent years has disappeared, and that expands far beyond the core of the magazine into the online sphere.

Some writers remain unique to Autosport’s platform, but Motorsport Network now publishes most content on both Autosport.com and Motorsport.com.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABCs), Autosport magazine had a weekly circulation of 15,480 in 2018, whilst the monthly F1 Racing magazine had a circulation of 27,553 in 2018.

To put both of those figures into context, Motor Sport Magazine (outside of the Motorsport Network circles), released monthly had a 2018 circulation figure of 29,666, and Autocar (still owned by Haymarket) had a weekly circulation of 32,253.

Given that no other motor sport-based magazines exist, it is difficult to know what is ‘good’ in this context, but nevertheless both Autosport and F1 Racing losing out to Motor Sport Magazine is not great for the Network.

However, are both the F1 Racing and Autosport magazine brands operating at a loss, or is this simply the next step in Motorsport Network’s long-term strategy to streamline its content?

You may think the answer to part one of that question is ‘yes’, but depending on who you believe the answer may be ‘no’…

If it was not already clear by this point, Motorsport Network’s position in the industry is dominant, and increasingly so.

The Network has James Allen and McLaren boss Zak Brown in prominent roles, and has links to the World Endurance Championship and Formula E, which raises all kinds of neutrality questions that this site has discussed in detail previously.

Times change, but the love and affection motor sport fans hold for brands does not. To say that it is extremely sad that potentially three brands could end to fuel the Motorsport Network strategic direction further is an understatement.

In my view, a view held by many across the industry, Motorsport Network will use the steep price rise to justify getting rid of the magazine in print format. Instead of letting the magazine die peacefully, Motorsport Network are letting the ending drag out, in a deliberate, calculated move.

If Autosport magazine in print format is no more in the medium-term, do not underestimate the ripple effect that the move will have across the industry, especially for those that use the magazine as a form of promotion.

Outpouring on social media
Since Motorsport Broadcasting posted the original Autosport article on Sunday, there has been an outpouring of emotion and thoughts from across the motor sport landscape.

The initial suggestion that the ex-Haymarket brands could be in imminent danger came from Jim Holder, Haymarket Automotive’s editorial director and Autosport’s former deputy editor on Sunday (7th October) afternoon.

“Written only as fan (of the sport, journalism and above all the people) but as everyone reflects on a brilliant Rally GB I also hope they pause on the rumoured demise of the bulk of the UK media covering motorsport – Autosport, F1 Racing and Motorsport (Motoring) News,” Holder said on his Twitter feed.

“Of course, I spent a decade working for two of the three, but the same two were also what fuelled my passion for the sport and made Wednesdays and Thursdays the best days of the week.”

“The world is online now we’re told, but to toss their heritage away is heart breaking. To toss it away by grinding the titles into the ground even more so (if rumours of imminent, off-the-scale price rises are true) and more so because of the talented, dedicated people being put in impossible positions by these jaw-dropping decisions.”

Names from across the industry have commented on the news that broke on Sunday evening, including former F1 Racing editor Matt Bishop, current Sky F1 analyst Karun Chandhok and four-time IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti.

Officially, Autosport magazine is on a life support machine. In reality, as the earlier tweets showed, its destination has already been decided…


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Scheduling: The 2019 Japanese Grand Prix [Updated]

This weekend, Mercedes could become 2019 Formula 1 Constructors’ Champions, whilst Lewis Hamilton is set to take a major leap towards his sixth Drivers’ Championship. It is all to play for as Formula 1 heads to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix!

As in Russia, both Martin Brundle and David Coulthard are absent from Sky’s and Channel 4’s teams respectively. Neither broadcaster has confirmed their commentary replacements, but expect Paul di Resta and Mark Webber to fill in the gaps.

Lee McKenzie and Eddie Jordan join Steve Jones out in Japan for Channel 4, Japan marking McKenzie’s last F1 race of the season.

Outside of the Formula 1 circles, it is a weekend of finales as the 2019 season begins to wrap-up for many. This weekend brings the curtain down on the British Touring Car Championship year, as well as the Euroformula and International GT Open seasons.

Update on October 11th at 20:00 – Typhoon Hagibis has thrown a spanner in the works for Formula 1, resulting in the cancellation of all of Saturday’s action at Suzuka. As a result, Channel 4 have extended their race highlights programme on Sunday by half an hour to also cover qualifying.

Sky are going above and beyond with their changes. The broadcaster will remain live on-air from 01:30 to 09:30 on Sunday in a marathon eight hour broadcast. Paddock Walkabout and #AskCrofty with Damon Hill fills the gap between the end of their qualifying show and their race show.

The typhoon has resulted in the cancellation of Sky’s The F1 Show broadcast for this week, and also claimed victim to Eddie Jordan, who won’t be part of Channel 4’s broadcast this weekend. Elsewhere, F1’s YouTube channel will be streaming the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix in full from 08:00 GMT / 09:00 UK time on Saturday morning.

Channel 4 F1
12/10 – 13:30 to 15:00 – Qualifying Highlights
13/10 – 14:20 to 16:25 14:20 to 16:55 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
11/10 – 01:45 to 03:45 – Practice 1
11/10 – 05:45 to 07:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
12/10 – 03:45 to 05:30 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 03:45 – Practice 3
=> 05:10 – Paddock Walkabout
12/10 – 06:00 to 08:30 – Qualifying
=> 06:00 – Pre-Show
=> 06:55 – Qualifying
13/10 – 01:30 to 09:30 – Race Day (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 01:30 – Qualifying Pre-Show
=> 01:55 – Qualifying
=> 03:30 – Paddock Walkabout
=> 04:10 – #AskCrofty with Damon Hill
=> 04:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 05:30 – On the Grid
=> 06:05 – Race
=> 08:00 – Paddock Live
=> 09:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
10/10 – 06:00 to 06:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
10/10 – 09:00 to 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
11/10 – 08:30 to 09:00 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
12/10 – 08:30 to 09:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
09/10 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
11/10 – 01:55 to 03:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
11/10 – 05:55 to 07:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12/10 – 03:55 to 05:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12/10 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/10 – 06:00 to 08:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
13/10 – 10:30 to 18:15 – Races

Euroformula – Monza (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
12/10 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Race 1
13/10 – 12:30 to 13:30 – Race 2

International GT Open – Monza (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
12/10 – 14:00 to 15:45 – Race 1
13/10 – 13:30 to 15:15 – Race 2

Virgin Australia Supercars – Bathurst 1000 (BT Sport 1)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
13/10 – 00:45 to 08:00 – Race

World Superbikes – Argentina
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
12/10 – 16:30 to 18:15 – Super Pole (Eurosport 2)
12/10 – 19:45 to 21:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
13/10 – 16:30 to 21:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
15/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

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


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