Channel 4 will air live coverage of Formula E’s return to London later in July, series organisers have confirmed.
It will be the first time that the free-to-air broadcaster has aired Formula E live. As thus, Formula E has now aired on all four of the main free-to-air outlets in the UK, following in the footsteps of the BBC, ITV and Channel 5.
Formula E says that Channel 4 will air ‘bespoke programmes’ presented by Vernon Kay. Produced by North One, the trio of Nicki Shields, Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti join Kay from the ExCeL London.
The move comes as neither the BBC or Eurosport will be airing the London races live on any of their television channels due to the Olympics from Tokyo.
However, neither Quest or BBC Two are options for Formula E over the London weekend, as Quest are airing live British Superbikes coverage from Brands Hatch, whilst BBC Two are covering cricket’s new experiment called The Hundred.
Without their deal with Channel 4, Formula E would be left without a live linear TV home for their biggest race from a UK perspective. Channel 4’s deal only covers the race, and not practice or qualifying, and is for the London round only.
Sam Bird, who races for Jaguar and currently leads the championship, said “It is great news for Formula E to be shown live on Channel 4 for such a key race on the world championship calendar.”
Channel 4’s Formula E schedule
Saturday 24th July
14:00 to 16:30 – Race 1
=> 14:00 – Build-Up
=> 14:30 – Race
=> 16:00 – Reaction
Sunday 25th July
13:30 to 15:30 – Race 2
=> 13:30 – Build-Up
=> 13:40 – Race
=> 15:00– Reaction
“This is the first time in five years we’ve raced in London – the first time in 17 years for Jaguar – and terrestrial TV plays a key role to put our sport into the homes across the UK at a milestone moment.”
Formula E’s chief media officer Aarti Dabas added “We are pleased to add Channel 4 to our ever-growing line-up of media partners. UK is a key market for Formula E’s ecosystem of teams, manufacturers, partners and drivers.”
“More importantly we wanted to provide our growing UK fanbase and potential new fans with easy access to watch and engage with the live coverage of their home races.”
“Channel 4 is one of UK’s most progressive free-to-air channels and this partnership for the London races provides both Formula E and Channel 4 to engage with progressive motorsports fans and new audiences.”
A look into the future?
The move by Formula E to partner with Channel 4 is likely to increase suggestions that Channel 4 is front runner to air the series for the 2021-22 season, as the existing BBC and Eurosport rights agreements expire at the end of this season.
While the BBC has given Formula E a free-to-air home over the past few years, it is clear that the partnership has not matured in the way that Formula E had hoped.
Over the past few years, the BBC has aired several Formula E races live on BBC Two, the last being the Rome E-Prix back in April. But this has happened inconsistently, with the corporation not committing to more races on linear television.
Formula E in the UK – at a glance
2014-15 – ITV
2015-16 – ITV
2016-17 – Channel 5
2017-18 – Channel 5, Eurosport
2018-19 – BBC, BT Sport, Eurosport, Quest
2019-20 – BBC, Eurosport, Quest
2020-21 – BBC, Eurosport, Quest
2020-21 [London only] – BBC, Channel 4, Eurosport
Elsewhere in the sporting spectrum, the British Olympic athletics trials did not air on the BBC last month after the broadcaster refused to pay for the rights or air it on their linear channels, leading to UK Athletics streaming the action on their own platforms to a much smaller audience.
The fact of the matter is, unless you are a tier 1 sport (which Formula E acknowledges that they are not), then it is highly unlikely that the BBC are willing to air the sport in question on BBC One or BBC Two, unless there is strong justification to do so.
Dabas’s comments to Motorsport Broadcasting last week, combined with the one-off Channel 4 deal, would suggest that, unless the situation changes, Formula E does not have a long-term future on the BBC.
For now, fans can watch live coverage of the London E-Prix weekend on Channel 4, as well as the BBC’s, Eurosport’s and Formula E’s digital platforms.
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