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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5 thoughts on “Channel 4 to air Formula E in multi-year agreement

  1. What does this new deal mean for access to the formula E youtube channel for the practice sessions for UK viewers? Under the BBC/Eurosport/Channel 4 deal last season, watching via formula E’s youtube channel wasn’t possible in the UK, except for the London double header.

  2. More hunting around.. Is on Channel 4? Is it on YouTube? Is it on More 4?

    Just qualifying and the races on one channel and be done with it.

    1. Given this is a multi year deal, I expect this arrangement to be evaluated and quite possibly changed for 2023. I don’t think it’s also unrealistic that Channel 4 elect to make changes where they can during the 2022 season, iff the demand is proven to be there.

  3. I tried to watch it yesterday (29/01/22) and even though the new venue could have made it a lot better, it did not, I gave up again and will wait for the F1 Season. The excessive amount of advertising hoardings/banners/printed tarps etc placed on the fops fencing closed it back down to tunnel racing again, which has been the major problem with FE it from the start. It looks like the organisers have gone out of their way to reproduce the “Go cart in a warehouse” look which so sadly characterises this formula.

  4. So channel 4 are showing formula e “live” if that’s the case, why aren’t they telling their viewers where it’s being shown? A waste of time

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