BBC and Eurosport retain Formula E rights as season 7 approaches

The BBC and Eurosport will continue to show Formula E for the 2020/21 season, it has been confirmed.

As in the past two seasons, the BBC will air live coverage across their free-to-air platforms, including the Red Button service, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC Sport website.

Some races may also air on BBC One or BBC Two, however this is dependent on how the Formula E schedule evolves across 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Extending our partnership with the BBC gives us the platform to bring the unpredictable action of our all-electric racing to people in the UK on mainstream channels and the popular BBC digital channels, as we also look to engage the next generation of sports fans around the world with our BBC Global News content partnership,” said Aarti Dabas, Formula E’s Chief Media Officer.

In addition to the BBC’s offering, live coverage will air on Eurosport, whilst fans can also watch every session live via Formula E’s YouTube channel.

Since launching in 2014, Formula E’s live coverage has jumped around various stations: from ITV4, to Channel 5 and now remaining on the BBC. It is unknown whether Formula E benefits financially from the current BBC deal.

Normally the broadcaster pays the series to air their content, but it is likely that the amount of money exchanged here is negligible, given that the electric series benefits more from the deal than the BBC.

The season kicks off this Thursday, with 2 night races in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

Thursday 25th February
15:10 to 16:10 – Practice 1 (YouTube)

Friday 26th February
10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 2 (YouTube)
12:45 to 14:15 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button)
16:30 to 18:30 – Race 1 (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
=> Eurosport 2 coverage runs from 16:50 to 18:00

Saturday 27th February
10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 3 (YouTube)
12:45 to 14:30 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button)
16:30 to 18:30 – Race 2 (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
=> Eurosport 2 coverage runs from 16:50 to 18:00

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Sunday 21st February and are subject to change.

Fresh from the I’m a Celebrity castle, Vernon Kay returns as Formula E presenter, Kay now heading into his fourth season with the team. Joining him in pit lane are the usual trio of Jack Nicholls, Dario Franchitti and Nicki Shields.

Who’s who?

Behind the lens, Formula E partners with many external stakeholders to execute its vision.

Production companies Aurora Media Worldwide and North One Television bring their expertise together to form Formula E TV, the entity responsible for producing World Feed coverage of every session.

Aurora have been part of the Formula E journey since the championship’s first ever race in Beijing in 2014, with North One joining them ready for the 2017/18 season.

On the facilities front, Timeline TV provides equipment and facilities for the production team to use every race weekend, ensuring that everything Formula E TV wants to achieve on-screen is technically possible.

No series is complete without a strong brand and social media presence, which is where both Little Dot Studios and CSM enter the picture.

In recent years, Little Dot has been responsible for some of Formula E’s best social media projects, including their stunt involving a Formula E car and a cheetah in 2017. The stunt has amassed 45 million views on YouTube, easily the most watched video on Formula E’s YouTube channel.

In addition, Little Dot works with Formula E’s outfits, helping them on their social media journey.

Meanwhile, CSM’s involvement surrounds Formula E’s PR and branding, on and off-site, ensuring that the championship’s branding is consistent across all platforms, from trackside hoardings all the way through to Twitter.

Eight races are currently scheduled for season seven, with further race announcements expected in early spring.

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Sky’s UK F1 audience figures jump in second year of exclusivity

Formula 1’s viewing figures in the UK bucked the worldwide trend in 2020 and increased in volume, with Sky Sports benefiting the most, analysis conducted by Motorsport Broadcasting shows.

Viewing figures quoted below are sourced from consolidated data released by BARB. The audience figures are for those viewers who watched coverage via the TV set, either live or up to seven days after broadcast.

Although this excludes viewers who opted to watch via PC/laptop, tablet, or their smartphone, it does allow for the most accurate historical comparisons.

Comparing 2020’s audience figures with that of previous years may seem unfair given that the 2020 season took place primarily in Europe, whereas the 2019 season featured events across the globe.

However, previous analysis published by this site last October shows that the early morning flyaway races and primetime American-based races off-set each other, meaning that the 2020 data is comparable to previous years.

Sky Sports F1 reaches more viewers as figures rise…

2020 saw Sky stay on the air longer than ever before as events unfolded around them.

Their race day coverage from Bahrain lasted almost as long in length as their cricket broadcasts, after Romain Grosjean’s horrific accident stretched their offering out.

The pay-TV broadcaster stayed on air for six and a half hours, from 12:30 all the way to 19:00, including Ted Kravitz’s post-race Notebook. Six and a half hours on race day is easily a record for any UK broadcaster covering F1.

Sky’s coverage of the Bahrain week (from November 23rd to 29th) reached 3.37 million viewers on Sky Sports F1, the channelโ€™s highest reach in eight years.

The last time the F1 channel reached such highs was in July 2012, when Sky’s free coverage of the German Grand Prix on the F1 channel reached 3.52 million viewers.

Pierre Gasly’s shock victory at Monza also reached over 3 million viewers on Sky F1, becoming the first race week to do so on the F1 channel since the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Of course, Sky have simulcast many races since then on Sky Sports Main Event, depleting the F1 channel’s overall reach, and therefore painting a fuzzy picture across years.

Nevertheless, it shows overall that Sky’s audiences have risen compared to previous years. Races in previous years have aired exclusively on Sky Sports F1 (without simulcasts), but failed to reach over 3 million viewers.

Across the whole of 2020, Sky’s F1 channel reached an average of 1.25 million viewers each week, an increase of 2.6% on the 2019 figure of 1.21 million, despite there being four fewer races.

Accounting for race weeks only, the channel reached 2.72 million viewers, a much bigger increase of 19.8% on last year’s figure of 2.27 million.

…as over one million viewers on average watch each race on Sky…

Consistency was the name of the game for Sky, as audience figures fluctuated less than usual throughout the year, helped by the championship remaining in Europe.

Note that there are some missing data points to the below figures. At most, this means that the figures below are likely 10,000 to 20,000 lower than reality, however this is not enough to make a material difference to the overall picture.

COVID did impact Sky’s race day structure in 2020. Sky scrapped plans for a marathon 130-minute build-up, the broadcaster opting to stick with their tried and tested 100-minute build-up.

On average, an audience of at least 1.22 million viewers watched each of the 17 races on Sky (excluding wrap around content), a jump of 19.1% on the 2019 average of 1.02 million viewers, and avoiding a slump in their second year of exclusivity.

For the first time since F1 moved to Sky, every race averaged over 1 million viewers on their television platforms.

Their highlight was the title deciding Turkish Grand Prix which averaged 1.44 million viewers across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event (the simulcast part of the reason the race does not feature amongst Sky F1’s highest reaches for 2020). Turkey was Sky’s highest race average since the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix.

Bahrain ties with Turkey at the top, and draws ahead when taking the race and post-race segments as a weighted average.

For Bahrain, there was no post-race segment officially recorded, but the race segment averaged 1.21 million viewers across a 4-hour duration, higher than any of the other combined race and post-race weighted averages.

The demand for content from fans during the fast and furious F1 calendar filtered through to their wrap around broadcasts.

Sky’s F1 pre-race segment averaged 347,000 viewers across 2020, an increase of around 39.7% year-on-year, this despite the loss of Martin Brundle’s grid walk owing to the pandemic.

…whilst Channel 4’s average also increases…

Channel 4’s audience increased, but not to the same level as their pay-TV partners.

The broadcaster aired a longer highlights edit in 2020 compared with 2019, with around 60 minutes of each race airing on the channel.

Their race day offering averaged 1.72 million viewers, representing a 4% rise year-on-year on the 2019 figure of around 1.65 million viewers. The exact 2019 figure is unknown, as both Mexico and Brazil failed to make Channel 4’s top 15.

The free-to-air broadcaster’s average increases to 1.77 million viewers when accounting for their live coverage of the British Grand Prix.

Like with Sky, Channel 4’s highlight was Turkey, which averaged 2.06 million viewers on its return to the F1 calendar as Lewis Hamilton sealed his 7th Drivers’ Championship.

Whilst above 2 million, Channel 4’s highlights high is below their 2019 highlight, when 2.10 million viewers watched a dramatic German Grand Prix.

Unlike Sky, which held up remarkably well after Hamilton sealed the crown, Channel 4’s highlights audience fell sharply, dropping to two season lows following Turkey. Sakhir averaged 1.22 million viewers (albeit in a later time slot), whilst Abu Dhabi brought in 1.38 million viewers one week later.

This is not surprising though: the free-to-air highlights audience has always fluctuated more depending on ongoing events, and two ‘dead rubber’ F1 races are not a draw to the free-to-air audience.

…resulting in a 10% increase year-on-year

An average of 2.98 million viewers watched Formula 1 across Channel 4 and Sky in 2020, the audience split 60:40 in Channel 4’s favour.

The average covers Channel 4’s highlights programming, plus live coverage of the race segment itself on Sky Sports (excluding the bulk of pre- and post-race content).

F1 themselves report a 10% increase year-on-year for the UK market, in-line with Motorsport Broadcasting’s analysis.

Worldwide, F1’s audience dropped 4.5% on average compared with 2019, so for the UK to buck the trend is impressive.

China and Russia saw bigger percentage growths at 43% and 71% respectively, whilst Max Verstappen’s continued impact in F1 helped audience figures in the Netherlands rise by 28%.

On one hand, it would be easy to argue that the UK rise was due to lockdown. But, if that was really the case, why did other countries audience figures not increase by a similar number?

Lockdown did help, but for the UK audience, there clearly was an added excitement of always having ‘something new’ around the corner, whether it was Mugello, Portimao, Imola, Turkey or the short Bahrain circuit, even if this is not necessarily reflected in other markets. The winner may have stayed largely the same, but the journey to the destination was not.

F1 tried to revert to their pre-COVID calendar for 2021, but events around them mean that this is unlikely to be possible. Arguably, it is disappointing that they tried to do exactly that, instead of formulating a new calendar for a new era.

Should F1 have used COVID as an opportunity to ‘reset’ their entire calendar structure or, is getting back to normal (even if it is, for F1, the same structure as before) of greater importance?

Should F1 start their season in Australia, only to then head back out east later in the year, or should races in a similar time zone be ‘clustered’ together to form one regional group, an idea that was mooted many years ago?

F1’s 2020 audience figures – for the UK at least – suggest that fans liked the consistent start times, with viewing figures remaining stable throughout as a result.

Neither Sky or Channel 4 responded to a request for comment at time of writing.

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Billy McGinty appointed Sky’s Director of Formula 1

Sky Sports have appointed veteran producer Billy McGinty as their Director of Formula 1, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.

A mainstay at Sky for many years, McGinty previously worked as a producer on Sky’s F1 coverage in their earlier seasons.

An internal reshuffle in 2017 saw McGinty promoted to Senior Producer, moving over to work on Sky’s Premier League football coverage.

Now, McGinty succeeds Scott Young as Sky’s Director of Formula 1, in a process that this site understands concluded late last year. Sky themselves have independently confirmed McGinty’s appointment to Motorsport Broadcasting.

By appointing McGinty, Sky have opted to stick with what they see as a safe internal hire, in a similar vein to how Martin Turner became Sky’s Head of F1 in 2011.

In comparison, Young emerged from the outside, making unpopular decisions in the process.

Croft and Brundle remain in the box for 2021

David Croft and Martin Brundle will remain Sky’s commentary pairing for 2021, as the broadcaster heads into their 10th year of F1 broadcasting.

Speaking about his Sky future on the Motor Sport Magazine podcast at the end of 2020, Brundle says that he expects to be replaced “soon”, and is surprised that such a move “hasn’t already happened.”

“My job is very simple, I’ve got to put fans on the grid pre-race, in the cockpit during the race and on the pit wall, because that’s my knowledge base. I don’t need notes to do that,” Brundle said, talking to Ed Foster.

“Somebody will come along and blow me out of the water soon in terms of their knowledge and their work rate, and what they’re prepared to do to make Formula 1 television, and when it does, I’ll go and do something else. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already to be honest.”

“I’m just looking at a new deal now [speaking at the end of 2020]. I haven’t started a Grand Prix since 1996, but I get away with that, as long as I’m still really up to date.”

Rumours that Sky, under Young’s leadership at the time, were looking to replace Brundle never came to fruition, Brundle now heading into his 25th F1 season as a full-time commentator.

The 2021 season is set to begin with the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday 28th March, with every race airing live on Sky Sports F1.

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Site Announcement: “And you’re back with us, here on Motorsport Broadcasting”

After a three-month break and a few interruptions along the way, Motorsport Broadcasting is back, with a new look.

I honestly want to say thank you to everyone who commented and messaged following my announcement last October.

During the last year, there were times where I felt like there were fewer people reading the site, or enjoying what I wrote, and that the site was becoming a burden to maintain. What you made me realise was that this is simply not the case.

If anything, I needed a break, and I am glad I took said break. I have reflected on events, both inside and outside of Motorsport Broadcasting, trying to focus on the long-term picture, long after this pandemic has disappeared.

There will be a day when motor sport journalists and experts can mingle in the paddock. There will be a day when fans, en masse, can flock to racing circuits across the UK and worldwide to watch their favourite drivers race. There will be a day when we can smell the rubber for ourselves.

And there will be a day when I walk into a circuit representing this brilliant site once again to chat to the wonderful artists that bring this amazing sport to the small screen. I honestly cannot wait until that day comes (although I suspect I will be a little misty eyed when it comes).

It is for those reasons why stopping Motorsport Broadcasting would be an error of judgement on my behalf. As the 7 Habits say, “Begin with the end in mind,” thinking about the long-term goals, not the short-term hurdles.

Some changes

I want Motorsport Broadcasting to be distinctive in nature, of high quality, and a reputable source for motor sport broadcasting content.

Motorsport Broadcasting will focus on exclusive news stories broken before mainstream media outlets, whilst also taking readers behind the scenes to show how the sport reaches fans worldwide.

If you work in motor sport broadcasting and want this site to shine a light on your part of the world, drop me a message. This site is authored by a fan, for the fans.

Underpinning the distinctiveness is an emphasis on analysis, both social media and television, understanding the latest numbers and providing a unique take on the story of the day.

And lastly, Motorsport Broadcasting is interested in hearing what you think of the current landscape, through guest articles. Occasionally, the site may deviate onto other topics, where time allows.

I have, regrettably, decided to stop publishing scheduling articles on a regular basis, for the moment at least. I know many of you rely on them, but ‘list’ content is not only low quality, but also very time consuming to compile.

Instead, I intend to publish schedules for the key events in the motor sport calendar (e.g., F1 and MotoGP season openers, British Grand Prix, Le Mans, and Indianapolis 500), supplementing that with additional information in standalone articles where time allows.

I enjoy giving you, the reader, a unique perspective on this sport. When I do write content, I want my head to be in that space.

There will be fewer articles but of higher quality during 2021. Previously I became irritated if I did not write something by a certain date, but now I have accepted, that it is okay to go a couple of weeks without writing.

2021. Time to get started….

Owner and Editor of Motorsport Broadcasting

MotoGP to remain on BT Sport until end of 2024 season

BT Sport is to remain home of MotoGP until the end of the 2024 season, after agreeing a new three-year deal with the series, the two parties announced today.

The pay-TV broadcaster has held exclusive live rights to the championship, including the feeder series Moto2 and Moto3 since the 2014 season, taking over from the BBC and Eurosport.

Their latest deal with MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna was set to expire following the 2021 season.

Now, both parties have confirmed that their relationship will stretch an additional three seasons, taking their partnership through year nine to eleven.

BT will continue to screen live and exclusive coverage of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, as well as the electric MotoE series.

Fans unwilling to pay for BT can purchase a Video Pass directly from MotoGP, at a cost of โ‚ฌ199.99 (ยฃ176.58) covering the whole season.

BT’s MotoGP viewing figures rise

The news of a new three-year deal comes off the back of a positive year for BT.

Analysis conducted by Motorsport Broadcasting on consolidated audience data released by BARB shows that an average audience of 186,000 viewers watched MotoGP action on BT Sport during 2020, an increase of 15 percent on the equivalent 2019 figure of 161,000 viewers.

The good news for BT spreads to all three categories, with Moto2 and Moto3โ€™s audiences rising by 49 percent and 80 percent respectively, mirroring similar increases to that of Formula Two and Formula Three.

An average of 111,000 viewers watched Moto2 action in 2020, compared with 74,000 viewers in 2019, while Moto3’s average rose from 53,000 viewers in 2019 to 96,000 viewers last season.

The Styrian Grand Prix was BT’s high point during 2020, as an average of 254,000 viewers watched their MotoGP race broadcast on August 23rd. The feeder races that day averaged 107,000 viewers and 128,000 viewers respectively.

Not only did MotoGP benefit from viewers staying at home during the pandemic, the rise comes in the face of many clashes with Formula 1: 9 of the 14 races clashed with F1 in some way last season.

The news of BT’s renewed commitment to MotoGP will be great for those that enjoy BT’s offering, but disappointing for those that were hoping that MotoGP would return to free-to-air television.

Whilst BT does offer excellent coverage, their figures are lower than those achieved when the championship aired on the BBC, when an average of around one million viewers watched each MotoGP race.

As The Race outlines, pay television broadcasters have considerable sway in the paddock due to the money they invest in the championship, and without that money, some teams or riders would simply be unable to race.

If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic means that pay-TV money becomes even more important for championships such as MotoGP.

What they say

In a statement, Simon Green, Managing Director at BT Sport, said “We are extremely proud to continue as the home of MotoGP in the UK and Ireland.”

“BT Sport has the best presentation team delivering the most comprehensive MotoGP coverage that UK fans have ever enjoyed, with every single practice, qualifying and race broadcast in full.”

“I would also like to congratulate Dorna on safely and successfully completing the 2020 season, one of the most exciting we have seen, and thank them for collaborating with us to bring some great new programming to our audiences during last yearโ€™s lockdown,” Green added.

Manel Arroyo, Managing Director at Dorna Sports, said “BT Sport are one of our most important partners and we are delighted to see MotoGP remain with them until at least 2024, securing top quality coverage for the sport in one of our most important markets. Fans in the UK and Ireland couldnโ€™t ask for more.”

“After a thrilling but challenging 2020 season, we are proud to see this partnership confirmed to continue and mark a decade of collaboration.”

“We would also like to thank BT Sport for their support in 2020 and look forward to at least another four seasons working together,” Arroyo concluded.

The 2021 season is currently set to begin with a double header in Qatar on March 28th and April 4th.

BT will begin the new season with a new lead commentator following Keith Huewen’s decision to step down from his role. The identity of the new lead is currently unconfirmed.