News round-up: F1 and Tata split; NBC grabs MotoGP rights in US

The motor sport broadcasting news is coming thick and fast as we race into 2020, with news on both two and four wheels.

In this edition, news of a surprising split on the F1 front, whilst news also emerges of changes for MotoGP fans this season.

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.

As suggested in the last round-up of 2019, I have created a category for the news round-ups, so all historical round-ups are easily accessible in one place (over here). As always, I appreciate any feedback on both the site and the round-ups as a whole, good, or bad.

Formula 1

  • F1 and Netflix have confirmed that season two of Drive to Survive lands on the platform on Friday 28th February, a week earlier than the equivalent season one release date.
    • As exclusively revealed over the festive period, Mercedes’ German Grand Prix calamity will feature in the series, contrary to earlier speculation.
  • F1 and Tata Communications have split ahead of the 2020 season, ending an eight-year relationship. The Indian-based company were F1’s official Connectivity Partner.
    • In a statement to Reuters, Tata’s Vice President of Marketing Amit Sinha Roy said Tata wanted “to explore other platforms that will allow us to showcase the full power of our digital services to our key customers.”
    • Roy confirmed that Tata will continue their relationships with F1’s other partners, such as Sky Sports and Star Sports.
    • It will be interesting how much the change impacts F1 this season, given that Tata provided F1 with on-site backups (including the World Feed), as well as fibre connectivity to get F1 on-air, amongst other artefacts.
  • F1 has reported on their viewing figures for the 2019 season.
    • A cumulative TV audience of 1.922 billion viewers watched the season, an increase on the 2018 figure of 1.758 billion viewers, which F1 says is the highest cumulative audience since 2012. Therefore, 91.5 million people viewed each race last year, compared with 83.7 million in 2018, an increase of 7.8 million per race.
    • However, the amount on unique viewers dropped year-on-year from 490.2 million in 2018 to 471 million in 2019.
    • F1 touts other increases across the board, with social media continuing to grow strongly.
  • F1’s Director of Media Rights, Ian Holmes, has defended the use of pay television within the sport.
    • “It goes without saying that an FTA broadcaster is going to generate a larger audience than a pay TV channel. That said, it is a bit of an oversimplification. Firstly, there are always commercial elements to be considered but equally as important, is to look at who the viewers are, what the demographics are, and therefore who you’re addressing,” Holmes said.
    • “Furthermore, pay TV often provides far more in depth coverage and I think it would be fair to say that in the likes of Sky and Canal+ they have and continue to strive to improve the overall standard of F1 coverage, bringing to the fan far more than ever existed in the past – and they do a fantastic job. Then there are those people who are consuming F1 content on the different digital and social channels of our broadcast partners and our own F1 owned and operated platforms and channels,” he added.
  • The change to the US Grand Prix start time for 2020 does not impact UK fans, as the race moves a week later this year (I have amended the article which referenced this last week). The British Grand Prix moves an hour later, beginning at 15:10 BST time on Sunday 19th July.
    • The earliest start for UK fans is the Australian Grand Prix, which begins at 05:10 GMT on 15th March, with the latest being the US, Mexican and Canadian rounds, which all begin at 19:10 UK time.
    • The new Vietnam round begins at 08:10 UK time on Sunday 5th April, whilst the Dutch Grand Prix starts at 14:10 UK time.
    • The 2020 season avoids a clash with the Wimbledon finals, although the Canadian round clashes with the opening weekend of Euro 2020 as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
    • In addition, five Formula E races fall on the same weekend as F1, meaning Jack Nicholls may miss the corresponding F1 races over on 5 Live.
    • Half of the MotoGP races clash with F1, with one potential direct clash (between Azerbaijan and Catalunya on June 7th).
  • W Series will make two appearances on the F1 support bill this year, appearing at the US and Mexican rounds. No word on how the scheduling will work during either weekend, or which UK broadcaster will cover W Series.
    • Elsewhere, every W Series race from 2019 is now available to watch via YouTube.
  • A new documentary from the makers of 1: Life on the Limit premieres at the Manchester Film Festival on March 8th.
    • The film, which focuses on ex-FIA president Max Mosley, has been in development since at least 2018, with Alexandra Orton serving as writer.
    • Michael Shevloff, who directed Life on the Limit, is directing the documentary, with Flat Out Films again involved.

Motorsport Network

  • Kelsey Media has acquired the weekly Motorsport News magazine from Motorsport Network.
    • Phil Weeden, who is Kelsey Media’s Chief Operating Officer, said “This is a fabulous product, representing the very heart of grass roots motorsport. With our strong connections to the world of motoring and a passion for all forms of motorsport, we’re looking forward to injecting fresh energy and enthusiasm into Motorsport News.”
    • Motorsport Network’s president James Allen added “Our focus is very clear; digital first with a slimmed down portfolio of print titles, to reflect our customer’s needs.”
  • Contrary to earlier announcements, the network has retained F1 Racing magazine, however from March the magazine will be moving away from the F1 branding. Instead, the magazine will be known as Grand Prix Magazine.
  • James Dickens joins Motorsport Network as their Vice President of Editorial. Dickens joins from football outlet Goal (under the DAZN Group), where he was Global Editor in Chief for nearly two years.
  • The haemorrhaging of staff has continued on the journalism side, with Tom Errington (Autosport’s DTM correspondent) and James Roberts (F1 Racing’s Associate Editor) both departing.
    • The two announcements take the tally to eight for those that have announced their exit since October, leaving the magazine’s output depleted ahead of the new season.

Elsewhere…

  • Formula E have released further details about their new ‘Driver’s Eye’ camera angle, which they say is “a world’s first in any category of FIA-sanctioned single-seater racing.”
    • Weighing in at 2.5 grams and measuring 8.5 millimetres in diameter, Formula E showcased the angle fully for the first time during the Santiago E-Prix.
    • “Driver’s Eye provides a new perspective from inside the helmet in live race conditions, showing the skill it takes to thread the car between the walls while processing data and communicating with the team at speed,” says Sebastian Tiffert, Formula E’s Content, Editorial and Digital Director.
    • “Driver’s Eye adds a unique dimension to the viewing experience and the innovative camera technology immerses fans in wheel-to-wheel racing. We are delighted to bring our fans closer to the drivers’ sensory experience and their engagement with Driver’s Eye content across social media demonstrates the value of innovations core to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship,” Tiffert added.
  • Eurosport have retained the rights to the World Superbikes series, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.
    • Although no announcement has yet been forthcoming from the championship, Eurosport officials have confirmed to this site that they will again be the home of Superbikes in 2020.
  • MotoGP is moving to NBC for US fans, according to respected reporter Adam Stern. Races will air across NBC and NBCSN, with a mixture of live and tape-delay on offer.
  • The bike series is also starting 2020 in style with a new graphics package, commercial rights holder Dorna have confirmed, with further details expected towards the end of February.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that is worth a mention, drop a line in the comments section below.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Rally Monte Carlo

All day. All weekend. All live. The World Rally Championship returns in style this weekend with its traditional season opener at the south of France, and for the third year running, all the action airs live.

Every stage will air live via both BT Sport’s Red Button service and WRC’s over-the-top platform for fans to watch. There are several movers and shakers in the presentation line-up to begin the 2020 season.

With Kiri Bloore expecting a baby soon, Abi Stephens steps into the presenting shoes for Monte Carlo, joined by Julian Porter in the WRC paddock.

Becs Williams returns to the commentary booth, joined by a variety of personalities throughout the weekend, whilst Jon Desborough continues to provide commentary for the stages airing live on mainstream television.

Hayley Edmonds replaces Molly Petit, who is on maternity leave, Edmonds providing interviews for the TV live stages.

Meanwhile, both Emyr Penlan and Ben Constanduros will provide interviews for the All Live stages during the rally. One absentee this season is Colin Clark, who announced earlier this week that he is moving to American outlet DirtFish for 2020 after 15 years with WRC.

For those without All Live and BT Sport, highlights of the championship switch from 5Spike to ITV4, with highlights expected to air in a Tuesday evening time slot for most of the season.

With nearly 23 hours of live coverage from Monte Carlo across four days, there is plenty to whet the appetite for rally fans this weekend.

World Rally Championship – Monte Carlo (All Live)
Also airs live on WRC+ (£)
23/01 – 18:00 to 22:30 – Esports, Stages 1 and 2 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 19:30 – Stage 1
=> 21:26 – Stage 2
24/01 – 06:45 to 16:45 – Stages 3 to 8 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 07:36 – Stage 3
=> 08:56 – Stage 4
=> 10:21 – Stage 5
=> 12:54 – Stage 6
=> 14:14 – Stage 7
=> 15:39 – Stage 8
25/01 – 07:30 to 16:00 – Stages 9 to 12 (BT Sport Extra 2)
=> 08:30 – Stage 9
=> 09:56 – Stage 10
=> 13:00 – Stage 11
=> 14:26 – Stage 12
26/01 – 06:45 to 12:45 – Stages 13 to 16 (BT Sport Extra 2)
=> 07:17 – Stage 13
=> 08:00 – Stage 14
=> 09:55 – Stage 15
=> 11:00 – Stage 16

World Rally Championship – Monte Carlo
23/01 – 19:30 to 20:30 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 3)
24/01 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
25/01 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Stage 11 (BT Sport 1)
25/01 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
26/01 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Stage 14 (BT Sport 2)
26/01 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Stage 16 [Power Stage] (BT Sport 2)
26/01 – 19:00 to 19:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
28/01 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)


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The Race outlines content plans ahead of upcoming launch

The Race have unveiled their plans for the 2020 season, including the championships that they plan to cover in-depth during their inaugural year.

The outlet’s Global Head of Motorsport Andrew van de Burgt took to their opening podcast, available to listen to now, to discuss their plans.

“We’re a new digital motor sport platform that’s hopefully super serving the super fan with world class motor racing content,” Van de Burgt said.

“We’re going to have a web platform [launching first week of February], that will be where you get your traditional in-depth news and technical analysis, but we’ll also be prolific in video through our YouTube channel.”

“We’ll be making a host of different podcasts, much like this one, branching out across the other forms of motor sport.”

“We’ll be prolific across social as well. That’s not just tweeting links to our stories, that’s creating content primarily to exist on those social channels.”

Van de Burgt added that currently a print version of The Race is “not on the horizons.”

Initially, The Race’s content will consist of five key strands:

  • Formula 1
    • Led by Edd Straw, Mark Hughes, and Scott Mitchell
  • Formula E
    • Led by Sam Smith and Peter McCool
  • MotoGP
  • IndyCar
  • eSports

Three of the five are unsurprising, with IndyCar and eSports the potential two surprises. Van de Burgt sees IndyCar as a “real growth opportunity” overall, also outlining how the outlet intends to cover eSports.

“We won’t be doing the same type of coverage [for eSports] because it doesn’t lend itself to that, but we will be applying the same level of rigour and professionalism to our coverage there,” he said.

“We’ll be announcing a few more details about how that will actually work, but the idea is to try and bring together a defuse world.”

“There’s been a lot of tribalism, for whether you are a console or a PC gamer, or even within the games, whether its Assetto Corsa, iRacing or rFactor. We will be aiming to cut through all of that to surface the best content.”

Van de Burgt is keen to emphasise that the outlet will also cover other events, where there is a clear remit and reader interest to do so, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“We’ll be very attentive to the fans needs and desires, and if there is a groundswell of interest in something else, then we will expand our coverage to cover that in the future,” he added.

“To begin with, I had to make a call on where to put the resources, and those were the five places where I decided to do it.”

As Motorsport Broadcasting revealed earlier this month, eSports expert Darren Cox formally established the outlet last September, whilst both Van de Burgt and Glenn Freeman oversee the project from an editorial standpoint.

Freeman, Straw and Mitchell join The Race having previously been part of Autosport’s F1 coverage last season.

“I think I’ve been incredibly lucky that the Formula 1 team I’ve got: yourself, Mark Hughes and Scott Mitchell,” Van de Burgt said.

“You’re spanning a whole host of skills there from a profound understanding of how the performance of the cars work, an amazing contact space across the sport, and a news sense that we really need to sniff out the best of those stories.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could have asked for a stronger line-up than that.”

Having spoken to journalists within the industry, the feeling is that the emergence of The Race is good news overall, as it gives fans a different outlet and perspective to get their analysis from.

The Race intends to launch their website in early February, ahead of both F1 and MotoGP testing, which commence later that month, where Van de Burgt says The Race will “be showing our true colours in terms of the depth of the coverage.”


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Channel 4's F1 race edit to switch to 'Extended Highlights' format for 2020

Viewers watching Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage in 2020 will receive more of the action than last year, Motorsport Broadcasting can exclusively reveal.

As part of a new arrangement with Sky Sports, Channel 4 aired Formula 1 in highlights form in 2019, with the British Grand Prix also airing live. Both parties agreed to extend the partnership last Autumn, taking the agreement through to the end of 2022.

The highlights deal allowed Channel 4 to cover 50 percent of the race during their edit, a decrease on the amount stipulated in the 2012 to 2018 broadcasting contract between Formula 1, Sky, and their free-to-air partner at that time.

However, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that Channel 4 and Sky have loosened at least two elements of the free-to-air contract for 2020.

This season, fans watching via Channel 4 will now see 70 percent of the racing action, increasing the race edit from 45 minutes to around 60 minutes (depending on race). The change brings Channel 4’s 2020 agreement closer to the 2012 to 2018 contract – at least in terms of the race edit.

The extension means that Channel 4’s race day show, produced by Whisper, will be 150 minutes in length for 2020 instead of 120 minutes, a similar amount compared with 2016 to 2018 for Channel 4 (including commercials).

In addition, Motorsport Broadcasting understands that both qualifying and the race day show can now begin two and a half hours after the chequered flag has fallen instead of three hours. Highlights for most European races will therefore air from 18:30 to 21:00, instead of 19:00 to 21:00 as they did last year.

The two races likely to prove troublesome this year are the United States and Mexican Grand Prix, which both begin at 19:10 UK time. Expect highlights to change to 22:30 to 01:00 this season, unless Sky gives Channel 4 any additional leeway on this front.

As of writing, there is no confirmation on the status of the additional restrictions that Sky imposed on Channel 4 prior to the 2019 season, such as the restriction of Channel 4 personnel on the grid or within the interview pen.

Overall, this is good news for fans watching Formula 1 via free-to-air television, and another sign that the relationship between Sky and Channel 4 is strong.

Both broadcasters expected to retain current line-ups
Although neither broadcaster has yet to confirm their on-air team, Motorsport Broadcasting expects both to field a similar line-up, with no upheaval like last year.

Ben Edwards is expected to return as Channel 4’s lead commentator, joined by personalities such as David Coulthard and Billy Monger throughout the course of the season.

Barring a change of direction, Sky are retaining Ted Kravitz for 2020, although the number of races Kravitz will be with Sky for is unclear. The likes of David Croft, Martin Brundle and Simon Lazenby are staying part of Sky’s line-up.

Meanwhile, newly announced W Series lead commentator Alex Jacques returns as commentator for Formula Two, Formula Three and Formula 1’s Pit Lane Channel this year.

Testing begins on Wednesday 19th February, with the season itself getting underway in Melbourne on Sunday 15th March, both of which are airing live on Sky Sports.

A correction was made to this article on January 19th. Although the United States Grand Prix begins an hour later local time, timezone differences / daylight savings mean that there is no difference to the UK race time and Channel 4’s highlights should therefore start half an hour earlier. My apologies for this error.


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World Rally Championship highlights to return to ITV4 in "multi-year" deal

Highlights of the World Rally Championship will return to ITV4 in a “multi-year” deal, securing the free-to-air future of the series, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.

The series aired in highlights form on ITV4 from 2013 to 2015, before moving to Channel 5 in 2016, with an audience of around 300,000 viewers enjoying the rallying action on the network.

Although good for rallying, the average audience on Channel 5 for WRC was below the slot average, with question marks hanging over the free-to-air rights prior to the 2019 season.

Free-to-air viewers missed action from the 2019 Monte Carlo Rally as a result, however a deal was struck to keep WRC on the Channel 5 network from round two onwards, this time on sister network 5Spike.

Now, organisers have confirmed to this site that the series will return to ITV4 this season, with highlights airing predominantly on Tuesday evenings at 20:00.

As with Channel 5’s previous deal, ITV4 will also air live coverage of the Power Stage from the Wales Rally GB and daily highlights of that event.

All Live to remain on BT Sport platform
WRC’s existing arrangements with pay-TV broadcaster BT Sport remain the same, with live coverage and event highlights airing across BT’s linear channels.

In addition, as in 2019, BT will again show every stage live via their Red Button service, the broadcaster taking WRC’s All Live service.

WRC’s over-the-top All Live platform returns for a third season with the Monte Carlo Rally from Thursday 23rd January, priced at £7.69 per month, or £76.97 across the year based on current conversion figures.

Coverage of the Wales Rally GB remains on S4C, whilst Red Bull TV will continue to air highlights and live coverage of one Saturday stage from each event.


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