Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2019 Verdict

The chequered flag has fallen on another year of Formula 1, and with it the end of the 2019 motor racing season.

Despite both MotoGP and F1 having a relatively predictable outcome, the journey to the destination has been enticing throughout. From the thrilling German Grand Prix on four wheels, to Alex Rins beating Marc Marquez at Silverstone by milometers on two wheels, there was something for everyone this year.

Off track, 2019 has been a year of change for fans of F1 in the UK. Live coverage of the sport aired exclusively on Sky Sports for the first time ever, following in the footsteps of MotoGP which moved to BT in 2014. Only the British Grand Prix aired live on free-to-air television.

In the social media space, F1 continues to make excellent strides in an ever-changing world, whilst others have had to rethink their strategy to work out how best to engage with their audience.

Now, Motorsport Broadcasting wants your opinion on the past twelve months. Which personality has shone in 2019 and deserves a bigger presence in 2020? What was the low-light from a broadcasting perspective for you this season? And, if there was one thing you could change next season, what would it be?

As always, the best thoughts will form an article on this site over the festive period.


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Live coverage of F1 testing to return in 2020

Live coverage of Formula 1 pre-season testing will return in 2020, broadcaster Sky Sports has confirmed after a successful outing earlier this year.

Although Formula 1 themselves have yet to officially confirm the news, both Simon Lazenby and Ted Kravitz announced details to viewers watching Sky’s coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The two confirmed that in-depth testing coverage will air live on Sky Sports F1, with Kravitz also referring to the post-session wrap-up show.

Earlier this year, testing aired live across F1 TV’s premium tier service and Sky Sports, to positive reviews, which has influenced the decision making process for 2020.

If 2019 is anything to go by, live coverage of the first Barcelona test from Wednesday 19th February to Friday 21st February is a certainty.

The question mark hangs over the second test a week later, which F1 opted not to cover live this year, and it remains unclear if F1 will extend their offering in 2020, or stick with the tried and tested 2019 approach.

Coverage performed solidly on Sky Sports back in February, peaking with 96,000 viewers according to overnight viewing figures in a slot that would have otherwise got zero on a normal weekday.


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‘To buy or not to buy’: BT Sport through Sky

As many of you who have followed this site in recent months will be aware, I am officially a homeowner. Which comes with it, some responsibilities. Namely, trying to get the best motor sport content at the cheapest price! Better said than done, of course…

For years I have talked about ‘doing the sums’ across the pay television landscape, now I am doing the sums for real. Where there is only one legal option, the route is clear, but where there are multiple legal routes, the waters become muddy very quickly.

My main priority is to watch Formula 1 live and, as this site analysed earlier in the year, Sky is increasingly cheaper in this respect than rivals Virgin Media. I went with an 18-month offer bundling Sports, Entertainment, Broadband and Netflix together with a Sky Q 1 TB box.

Sky’s broadband option I admit is not the greatest, but a month in and so far, so good. The frustration in the broadband space is that the pricing of Sky, Virgin and BT is more expensive than what it should be, but that is a discussion for another day.

This all leads me to one question: how do I consume the motor racing content that BT Sport currently airs? BT Sport’s motor sport portfolio comprises of the following:

  • MotoGP
  • Supercars
  • World Endurance Championship (excluding Le Mans)
  • World Rally Championship

Sitting below the top four are several other lower-tier championships, such as the Euroformula Series and the International GT Open.

BT Sport have MotoGP secure until the end of 2021, whilst the current World Endurance Championship season (which BT are airing) finishes in June next year.

Although there is no news yet on either Supercars or the World Rally Championship for 2020, expect both to remain on BT Sport.

Pleasingly, all four have an over-the-top offering that is not geo-blocked for UK fans, meaning consumers have a genuine choice. Do you go with BT Sport via Sky and ignore the over-the-top option, or do you cut the cord and go straight to the promoter? It is time to find out…

Note: This is based on my own personal circumstances, taking BT Sport through Sky. If you are taking BT Sport via BT TV or Virgin Media, the calculations will differ, but you could use my calculations as a baseline. And, as always, prices are subject to change.

BT Sport via Sky
If I wanted to watch BT Sport via Sky, normally I would be looking at a cost of either £379.88 (standard definition), or £438.38 (high definition) across the year. Those figures are based on the current standard pricing for BT Sport, which is £29.99 a month, as well as £20.00 upfront. If you want BT Sport in HD, expect to pay an additional £6.50 for month 4 onwards.

These prices are likely to rise over forthcoming months, after the broadcaster agreed a £1.2 billion deal to retain exclusive rights to Europe’s biggest club football competitions.

For the here and now, BT currently has a Black Friday offer, that allows you to watch all of BT Sport’s content in standard definition for as little as £20.00 a month. This comes to £260.00 (standard definition), or £318.50 (high definition) across the year, a saving of over £100 on BT’s normal pricing.

By subscribing to BT Sport via Sky, you also get access to BT Sport’s app, allowing you to watch your favourite content on the move away from the television screen.

From the outset, BT’s Black Friday offer feels like an instant grab. But, how does the combined cost of over-the-top compare with BT’s pricing?

Over-the-top – the ‘musts’
Again, this all depends on your own personal circumstances, and what you like or dislike. MotoGP is easily top of the tree for me, with the World Rally Championship following in behind.

Both the World Endurance Championship and the Supercars are nice to have, but neither are top of the list unfortunately (sorry).

> October 2016: Looking at MotoGP’s Video Pass
> April 2018: A quick fire guide to your motor racing streaming services for 2018
> September 2018: Behind the scenes with BT Sport’s MotoGP production team (1, 2)
> October 2018: How All Live is changing the face of rallying (1, 2, 3)

MotoGP’s over-the-top offering has stayed at €199.99 for the past few years now, but with a record 20 races on the 2020 calendar, there is a good chance that number could rise. UK readers are looking at a cost of around £171.73 across the season.

What BT offers MotoGP fans, and what MotoGP themselves offer fans are two different things. MotoGP’s over-the-top service offers fans access to their rich archive dating back to 2002, as well as a variety of camera angles, and insights from the likes of Steve Day and Matt Birt.

However, BT’s coverage offers additional colour to the MotoGP World Feed that Dorna themselves do not provide. BT’s coverage contains in-depth analysis from Neil Hodgson and Gavin Emmett, with Suzi Perry steering the ship.

2019 was the second year for World Rally Championship’s All Live service, clocking in at €89.99 across the season, or £77.27 for UK fans.

In a change for 2019, series organisers agreed a new deal with BT Sport, allowing BT to take the All Live offering and air it behind the Red Button. It is unknown if that will continue into 2020, again I would be surprised if it did not.

Assuming BT Sport continue to offer the All Live offering, the main differences between the two in my view play out in BT’s favour. WRC’s All Live platform only allows you to playback the All Live offering from the latest weekend, which I find somewhat odd if you want to catch-up with the action from earlier in the season.

To the contrary, All Live allows you to jump on-board with your favourite driver outside of the main feed, a feature currently unavailable to BT Sport viewers.

Combined, MotoGP and WRC’s over-the-top apps is set to cost UK fans £249.00 in 2020, compared with the £260.00 (standard definition) that BT Sport is offering for their portfolio of channels as part of the Black Friday bonanza.

At this point, you really must weigh up the difference of £11.00, whether you care about the picture quality (in which case, go for the apps), or care about the additional sports in BT’s portfolio.

Aside from motor sport, I do watch a bit of football and am a wrestling fan (which becomes more important from a BT perspective, with WWE moving over from January 2020).

Over-the-top – the ‘maybes’
Elsewhere, WEC’s over-the-top app puts you back £29.19 for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, whilst Supercars over in Australia will cost you £31.70, a total of £60.89.

Critically though, both apps give you a lot more than what BT offers, with additional feeds and qualifying, whereas BT only offers you the race itself, which is worth bearing in mind if you are mad into your Supercars or endurance racing.

A slight pain for me is that I would need to Chromecast to watch on the television set, if I was to go down the over-the-top route.

Combined, the cost of all four apps come to £309.89, a not so insignificant amount. If you are reading this during the Black Friday period, BT overall is a better proposition at £260.00 (standard definition), or £318.50 (high definition) across the year.

However, once BT’s Black Friday offer ends, their prices will increase again to £379.88 (standard definition), or £438.38 (high definition), putting them far behind the over-the-top competition.

What did I do?
I gambled and went with BT Sport’s Black Friday offer, which I feel is good value for money compared to the combined price of the MotoGP and the World Rally Championship apps.

Yes, the picture quality is standard definition, but I have the option to upgrade later if I want to. For me, picture quality is not the be all and end all, there is no guarantee for one that the over-the-top quality will be good all year round.

Clearly time will tell as to whether I made the right move. I think the chances of WRC and Supercars moving elsewhere are slim, but you never know.

Everyone is different, and there is no one size fits all answer at all here. If you are subscribing to more than one over-the-top platform in the motor sport space, I would advise looking at the Black Friday deals that are out there in the pay-TV world, because chances are you will be able to save some money, or add a ton of content with little additional cost and discard of your existing over-the-top subscriptions.

If you are reading this post after the Black Friday deals, unless you can haggle the pay-TV provider in question, you probably are better off staying off with over-the-top, for the moment at least.

It is only with BT’s current motor sports portfolio where this choice exists. Neither IndyCar or F1, which air live on Sky, have an over-the-top offering that is available to UK fans. If F1 made their premium-tier subscription available to UK fans tomorrow, the game would change again.

Have you seen any deals in the pay-TV landscape that you are planning to take advantage of? Have your say in the comments below.

Pricing and information correct as of November 24th, 2019, and based on the 2019 season where applicable. Pricing is subject to change.


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Scheduling: The 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the 2019 season. The championship ends in December for the first time since 1963, when the South African round that year took place on December 28th.

The race as usual airs exclusively live on Sky Sports, although one person who will not be out in Abu Dhabi with Sky is Damon Hill, as mentioned by the man himself during their Brazilian Grand Prix broadcast.

Post Abu Dhabi, Sky are showing live coverage of the final of this year’s F1 Esports Series, which takes place on Wednesday 4th December.

Over on Channel 4, Mark Webber joins Steve Jones and David Coulthard for their final weekend of the year. Channel 4’s relationship with Formula 1 continues into 2020 and beyond, having signed a new contract with Sky Sports to cover the sport until the end of 2022.

As of writing, it is unknown whether Whisper will be producing Channel 4’s coverage in 2020, an answer on that front is due imminently.

Channel 4 F1
30/11 – 17:00 to 18:30 – Qualifying Highlights
01/12 – 18:05 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
29/11 – 08:45 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/11 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/11 – 09:45 to 11:30
=> 09:45 – Practice 3
=> 11:10 – Paddock Walkabout
30/11 – 12:00 to 14:40 – Qualifying
=> 12:00 – Pre-Show
=> 12:55 – Qualifying
01/12 – 11:30 to 16:30 – Race
=> 11:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – On the Grid
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Paddock Live
=> 16:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
28/11 – 13:00 to 13:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
28/11 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
29/11 – 12:00 to 12:30 – The Brundles Race the Nordschleife
29/11 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/11 – 15:45 to 16:15 – The F1 Show
04/12 – 19:00 to 21:30 – F1 Esports Pro Series Grand Final

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
28/11 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
29/11 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/11 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/11 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/11 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/12 – 13:00 to 14:55 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

Formula Two – Abu Dhabi (Sky Sports F1)
29/11 – 07:25 to 08:15 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/11 – 14:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/11 – 14:40 to 15:45 – Race 1
01/12 – 09:20 to 10:20 – Race 2

This article will be updated if schedules change.

Updated on November 28th – Sky are also airing a 30-minute programme throughout the Abu Dhabi weekend as Martin and Alex Brundle tackle the Nordschleife.


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Scheduling: The 2019 Diriyah E-Prix

As the traditional motor racing season winds down, the electric sounds of Formula E return to our screens live from Diriyah in Saudi Arabia. Now in its sixth season, Diriyah plays host to round one of 14, which concludes in London next July.

The double-header takes place across Friday and Saturday, with live coverage continuing across BBC’s digital platforms and Eurosport. As of writing, BT Sport are not covering Formula E this season, so fans wanting to watch shakedown and practice will need to head to Formula E’s social media platforms.

In addition, based on information from Formula E’s ‘Ways to Watch‘ page, UK fans will not have access to the YouTube stream for qualifying and the race, meaning that the BBC and Eurosport are the only legal ways for fans to watch the live action.

Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti return to commentary, with Vernon Kay and Nicki Shields on presenting duties. However, Bob Varsha is not returning to his role in the commentary box, Formula E opting to return to a two-man booth. As of writing, there are no immediate plans for Formula E’s radio commentary feed to return as season six begins.

Fans watching Formula E should expect to see a few new camera angles this season, with e-racing365 reporting that helmet cameras are set to make their way into the coverage.

Formula E – Diriyah (race 1)
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
22/11 – Qualifying
=> 07:45 to 09:15 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 07:55 to 09:10 (Eurosport 2)
22/11 – Race
=> 11:00 to 13:30 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 11:45 to 13:00 (Eurosport 2)
22/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

Formula E – Diriyah (race 2)
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
23/11 – Qualifying
=> 07:45 to 09:15 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 07:55 to 09:05 (Eurosport 2)
23/11 – Race
=> 11:00 to 13:30 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 12:00 to 13:00 (Eurosport 2)
23/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

Virgin Australia Supercars – Newcastle
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
23/11 – 04:15 to 07:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 1)
24/11 – 04:15 to 07:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport 3)

As always, if plans change the schedule will be updated.

Update on November 21st – So, in a late addition, the big news is that it appears the BBC are also showing Formula E qualifying live this season across their digital platforms. Meanwhile, Eurosport’s online Player service will cover both Formula E practice and the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series live.


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