From T4 to Formula E: why Vernon Kay feels as comfortable with the latter as the former

Formula E’s World Feed presenter Vernon Kay says he feels as comfortable with the team as he did during his early presenting days when part of the T4 broadcast team.

Kay joined the on-site team at the start of the 2017-18 season, presenting Channel 5’s offering before becoming part of the English-speaking feed alongside Nicki Shields, Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti.

The role was Kay’s first gig within motor sport, following in the footsteps of fellow T4 presenter Steve Jones, who began presenting Channel 4’s F1 offering in 2016.

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting ahead of this weekend’s season opener in Diriyah, Kay said that the sport can feel “intimidating,” but that the team have helped him get to grips with Formula E.

“It is an intimidating space when you’ve got all these motor sport nerds,” Kay jokes. “And let’s be honest, motor racing drivers know absolutely everything.”

“You ask me a Family Fortunes question and I’ll give you the top answer any day. But if you ask me what gearbox was in Ayrton Senna’s car in 1983, I am lost! They’ll tell you the answer straightaway.”

“Having people like Jack and Dario with a wealth of motorsport experience, holding your hand and taking the mickey, it really helps.”

“I think we’re a really good team. I feel comfortable, if anything I feel as comfortable in this Formula E team as I did in the T4 team. And that’s where we’re at.”

The transition from entertainment to sport

Prior to Formula E, Kay presented a variety of entertainment shows across the BBC and ITV, including a celebrity version of Family Fortunes for nine years.

In the run up to his first Formula E race in 2017, Kay sought advice from Jones on what to expect, while Kay also gives credit to Jake Humphrey, who followed a similar route into sports presenting.

The three of them made their transition into motor sport from the entertainment world, which Humphrey began in 2009 when he became BBC’s Formula 1 presenter.

“I think there’s a little bit of credit to be given to the hard work that Jake Humphrey put in,” he believes.

“He was the Newsround presenter and then he’s hosting Formula One, and you’re like hang on a minute, ‘how can the kid from Newsround host Formula One?’ But then, Jake smashed it.”

BERLIN TEMPELHOF AIRPORT, GERMANY – AUGUST 04: TV Presenter Vernon Kay interviews Sam Bird (GBR), Envision Virgin Racing during the Berlin ePrix I at Berlin Tempelhof Airport on Tuesday August 04, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)

“And in my opinion with his iPad, he redefined sports broadcasting as we know it in the UK, and he did a sterling job and he teed up for people like Steve and then myself.”

“Sport is much more difficult [to present than entertainment] because it’s more reactive. You’re the producer and the director, as well as the host, in my opinion on sport.”

“Steve told me a couple of helpful things before I got into Formula E, which have carried me along. I said Steve, ‘What’s it like?’ ‘It’s going to blow your mind!’ And it did.”

“My first race was in Hong Kong, and I’ll be honest with you, I shat myself. And from that race on, I just thought, wow, this is mad!”

Formula E has a ‘good foundation’ to build on with new Channel 4 deal

Kay believes that the championship now has a ‘good foundation’ to build on because of the new deal with Channel 4, hoping that being on the same station as Formula 1 will only help the series moving forward.

“For me personally, it’s nice to be back on Channel 4, as that’s where I kind of started my career. To have a terrestrial broadcaster that is going to give Formula E to the nation I think it’s really important, with six British drivers in the field.”

“I think to get this deal over the line, both parties have worked really hard.,” he tells me during a media event in London.

“It’s not yet [a teenager], and that’s what people forget. I think sports fans want their sport instantaneously and it’s like, just let it grow and develop. We’re growing and developing as the technology is getting better and more efficient.”

“It’s really exciting times, and especially during the Channel 4 deal, where you’ll get to see the Gen2 car, but also the crossover to the Gen3 car, so it will be a huge compare and contrast. We’ll get to see what we’ve done, and then we’ll get to see the future.”

“I think now that we’ve got a strong base with a good foundation, we can really push and promote Formula E. It’s also nice to be with the same broadcaster that airs Formula One.”

“It means that Channel 4 have a motor sport fanbase, and hopefully, there’ll be some crossover because in my opinion, if you like sport, you like any sport.”

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Channel 4 to air Formula E in multi-year agreement

Channel 4 will broadcast Formula E live in a new ‘multi-year’ deal; series organisers have confirmed.

The broadcaster takes over from the BBC as the series’ exclusive free-to-air home. The BBC aired races in recent years via their Red Button service and online platforms, with a handful of races also airing on BBC Two.

The agreement with Channel 4 builds on the decision last season to air the London E-Prix double header live on the free-to-air station.

As part of the new deal, most races in Asian and European time zones will air live across Channel 4 and All4, with the remaining races, including the season opener in Diriyah next Friday, airing on Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube channel.

Based on the current schedule for the 2021-22 season, fans can expect around 10 of the 16 races to air on Channel 4’s linear channel, a significant increase on the BBC’s previous commitment.

Eurosport remain in the picture alongside Channel 4 as part of the new agreement, continuing their existing offering. Live coverage of the new look qualifying session will air via Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube channel, while race highlights will air on Channel 4.

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
2021-22 – Channel 4, Eurosport

Formula E says that UK fans will “have the opportunity to see more live races in Season 8 than in any previous season.”

As with their F1 offering, Bristol Street Motors will sponsor Channel 4’s coverage, while the Formula E presentation team consisting of Vernon Kay, Nicki Shields, Dario Franchitti and Jack Nicholls, return for the eighth season.

Pete Andrews, Channel 4’s Head of Sport, said “Formula E is a fantastically exciting sport and this deal is wonderful news for sports fans. We’re proud to be showcasing a sport with sustainability at its heart and one that plays such an important role in seeking to combat the climate crisis.”

Aarti Dabas, Formula E’s Chief Media Officer, added “We are delighted to build on our relationship with Channel 4 as the exclusive free-to-air home of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship here in the UK.”

“The multi-year partnership with Channel 4 is great news for fans across the UK and for the continued growth of our sport. Last season saw more fans around the world tune into our live race programming than ever before.”

“With Channel 4 established as the regular free-to-air home for Formula E in the UK, we look forward to better serving our passionate fanbase while attracting new fans to the excitement of all-electric street-racing.”

Vernon Kay and Nicki Shields outside Channel 4’s HQ in London with British driver Sam Bird, who races for Jaguar.

Channel 4 agreement not a “box ticking” exercise

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting, Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Sport, Joe Blake-Turner confirmed that races will air ad-free on Channel 4, and that additional documentary content will air via All4 and Channel 4’s YouTube channel, emphasising that the broadcaster is in this “for the long haul.”

“We’re not doing this as a box ticking exercise,” he tells me. “We’re in it for the long haul, we want to help grow the sport and give it the platform which perhaps it hasn’t had consistently to date down the years.”

“I think Formula E appeals on different levels. It’s a natural bedfellow for our existing motor sports. It sits alongside Formula 1 as the leading single-seater format, and it helps build up our narrative across the year of top-class motor sport.”

“On a separate level, one of our jobs as a channel is to help drive change in the world, and the sustainability message behind Formula E is important. And I think, more than anything, it is just a good, exciting watch.”

Blake-Turner hopes Channel 4’s main sports offering will help “complement” the big attractions that Channel 4 have aired, such as Emma Raducanu’s victory in the US Open and the F1 title decider. Blake-Turner, who was part of ITV’s Formula E production team during their first season, has seen Formula E evolve over the past 7 years, taking the opportunity to bring Formula E to Channel 4 last July.

“We were very happy to take that opportunity, to put the London race on, giving the British viewers and fans a chance to see it.”

“It was an amazing occasion both from the sporting point of view, but also the staging of it. It looked spectacular and cool, inside, and outside, it was just brilliant.”

“I was personally lucky enough to work on the first season of Formula E when it was on ITV, I was at Battersea Park for that, but just to see how Formula E has evolved from those, relatively humble beginnings to where it is now, it’s exciting to see where it’ll go from here.”

Positive move for Formula E as series looks to regain ground in UK

Formula E has struggled to gain traction in recent years in the UK. The series started off life on ITV4, but has since moved from Channel 5, to the BBC, and now back to Channel 4.

In the case of Channel 5 and the BBC, neither of those outlets were willing to give the series a consistent slot on free-to-air television, something that Channel 4 appears to be willing to try, for most races at least.

In the run up to London last year, Formula E’s senior leaders made it clear to this site that the lack of channel consistency was a problem for them.

“It’s a good question because we’re definitely looking at a more consistent channel strategy in the UK and other markets,” Dabas told this site last July.

“And when I think of the channel strategy, I know that every race currently we are like, is it on BBC Red Button, is it on network, is it on Quest. It’s hard.”

Thursday 27th January
14:55 to 15:40 – Practice 1 (Formula E’s YouTube)

Friday 28th January
10:25 to 11:10 – Practice 2 (Formula E’s YouTube)
12:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)
16:30 to 18:30 – Race 1 (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)
=> also on Eurosport 2 from 16:50 to 18:00

Saturday 29th January
10:25 to 11:10 – Practice 3 (Formula E’s YouTube)
12:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying (Channel 4 Sport’s YouTube)
16:30 to 18:15 – Race 2 (Channel 4)
=> also on Eurosport 2 from 16:50 to 18:00

Full scheduling details for the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 25th January and are subject to change.

Channel 4’s audience figures for the London E-Prix double header last July were solid, in the context of the lack of promotion, and it considered a one-off experiment by both parties.

An average of 382,000 viewers tuned in for the second race of the London weekend. While the figure was lower than W Series from Silverstone a few weeks earlier, Formula E did not have F1 as its lead in, unlike the W Series broadcast.

Following the London race, The Race reported that Formula E “surpassed the expectations of the C4 management team,” which this new deal between the two parties confirms.

Formula E has struggled with momentum not just in the UK, but worldwide in recent years. From a UK perspective, arguably the slide started when their Channel 5 deal started to go astray, and series organisers will be hoping that this latest deal with Channel 4 changes that.

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Scheduling: The 2022 Rally Monte Carlo

A new era begins for the World Rally Championship this weekend, as the championship moves to hybrid-power cars for the first time, under the Rally1 banner.

Sebastien Ogier fended off competition from Elfyn Evans to win his eighth championship last year.

While Ogier will be part of the Monte Carlo season opener, Ogier is not competing in a full season, meaning it is all to play for in the hybrid era.

WRC’s over-the-top platform All Live returns for its fifth season, allowing fans to see all the rallying action live.

New for 2022, the platform also allows fans to watch its European companion, the European Rally Championship live, for £99.99 across the whole year.

As usual, the All Live offering, including studio analysis and service park coverage, will air across BT Sport’s platforms, including their Red Button service and online platforms.

Free-to-air highlights will continue to air on ITV4 in the week following each event.

The usual broadcast team returns to cover the action, with Becs Williams leading the commentary line-up for All Live viewers throughout the event, alongside the likes of Julian Porter, Molly Pettit, and Kevin Piper.

Thursday 20th January
08:30 to 09:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport Extra 1)
17:30 to 18:30 – Pre-Show and Ceremonial Start (BT Sport Extra 1)
19:00 to 21:30 – Stages 1 and 2 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 19:00 – Stage 1 (also on BT Sport 2)
=> 20:30 – Stage 2

Friday 21st January
06:00 to 18:30 – Stages 3 to 8 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 08:14 – Stage 3
=> 09:17 – Stage 4
=> 10:35 – Stage 5
=> 13:16 – Stage 6
=> 14:16 – Stage 7
=> 15:37 – Stage 8
23:15 to 23:45 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 2)

Saturday 22nd January
04:45 to 19:00 – Stages 9 to 13 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 07:15 – Stage 9
=> 09:00 – Stage 10
=> 10:15 – Stage 11
=> 13:00 – Stage 12
=> 14:15 – Stage 13
01:00 to 01:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 1)

Sunday 23rd January
05:30 to 12:45 – Stages 14 to 17 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 07:45 – Stage 14
=> 09:00 – Stage 15 (also on BT Sport 2)
=> 10:00 – Stage 16
=> 11:00 – Stage 17 (also on BT Sport 2)
02:00 to 02:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 3)

Wednesday 26th January
20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Full scheduling details for the 2022 Rally Monte Carlo. Scheduling details correct as of Wednesday 19th January and are subject to change.

If scheduling details do change, this article will be updated.

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ITV’s F1 archive to be activated in deal with Racing Past Media

ITV’s Formula 1 archive is to be activated over the next three years following a research deal reached between the broadcaster and Racing Past Media, led by presenter Steve Rider.

The archive being explored covers live coverage of F1 races from the 1960s and 1970s, including coverage of the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix, as well as ITV’s coverage of over 50 races via the European Broadcasting Union.

RPM says that the agreement “will help organise and activate a significant volume of material held by ITV from the first 30 years of the Formula One World Championship.” The agreement does not cover ITV’s later F1 coverage from 1997 to 2008.

In their press release, RPM says that “the ambition of the project to make this exciting content available to a much wider audience.”

Although the release does not list any outlets, the deal will open the door for the ITV archive to be made available to stakeholders, such as Formula 1 themselves for usage on their over-the-top platform, or Sky Sports F1 more easily than what it currently is.

Joining Rider at RPM is Robert Foster, who spent 25 years in production, rights and archive management at the BBC before becoming vice-president at the European Broadcasting Union.

Steve Rider said “It is not just the race coverage but the documentary and feature material being unearthed that is so exciting.”

“This is the first step in a project that, along with the co-operation of other archives and rights holders, will help provide a complete and accessible archive of the formative years of the Formula One World Championship.”

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