News round-up: The latest from Austria; Sky extends F1 deal in Italy

In the first return to racing round-up, Netflix’s plans with documentary series Drive to Survive become clearer, as does Channel 4’s coverage plans for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Where possible, Motorsport Broadcasting endeavours to link directly to the original source instead of linking to a third-party site that may have misinterpreted the original headline.

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

All of the round-ups to date can be found here, and as always, all feedback on the site, positive and negative, is more than welcome.

Formula 1 – Austrian Grand Prix

  • Journalists are banned from the paddock for the duration of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, and are instead confined to the media centre.
    • This is not an exhaustive list, but journalists such as Jonathan Noble (Motorsport Network), Adam Cooper (Motorsport Network), Joe Saward, Ben Hunt (The Sun) and Chris Medland (RACER) are amongst those reporting from the on-site media centre.
    • A live stream of today’s press conference was available to journalists inside and outside the track via the FIA portal to access.
    • There is an excellent piece from Noble over on com about his first impressions upon arriving into the circuit – I will not regurgitate it here, other than to say it is well worth reading.
  • Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage is to air from Silverstone’s new attraction, The Silverstone Experience.
    • After this site revealed that the team will remain in the UK, lead commentator Ben Edwards has confirmed the location the team plan to broadcast from in a blog on the BMMC website.
    • Motorsport Broadcasting understands that most of the Whisper production crew will be working remotely, with a small crew based at Timeline Television’s production house in Ealing.
  • In addition, not all of Sky’s on-air personnel are out in Austria this weekend: Anthony Davidson and Karun Chandhok are back at Sky Studios in London, analysing the action on the Sky Pad.
  • Producers of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series are continuing to film footage ready for season three of the documentary series.
    • As in previous years, the Box to Box Films production team conducted some initial filming during testing, whilst more recently drivers, such as George Russell, have been filming themselves on their simulators during
    • Now, RaceFans.net confirms that Netflix will be on-site in Austria this weekend, filming with the McLaren and Red Bull outfits, albeit in a reduced capacity to previous years.
  • Fans watching Formula 1 on television will see some new on-screen graphics this season.
    • Powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) as part of their wider partnership, the Car Performance Scores graphic will analyse the performance of each car through low, medium and high-speed corners, as well as the straight, giving it a score out of ten for each data point, and a rank compared with the rest of the field.
    • Other graphics currently in development include the Ultimate Driver Speed Comparison, High-Speed/Low-Speed Corner Performance, Driver Skills Rating, Car/Team Development & Overall Season Performance, and Qualifying and Race Pace Predictions.
  • Also making their first appearance from the Austrian Grand Prix is the #F1FanCam, with trackside screens of fans beamed to fans worldwide throughout the course of the weekend.
  • Sky in the UK are running some special offers to mark the start of the new season. Similar to their original pre-season offer, fans can add Sky Sports F1 to their basic Sky package for £10.00 a month for 18 monthsbetween now and the end of September.
    • Whilst there is not an F1 Season Ticket offer for Now TV (presumably because no one knows how long the season will last), Now TV are offering access to all sports channels for £25.00 a month for the first three months.

Elsewhere…

  • Hot off the heels of their new rights deal in Germany, Sky have extended their agreement in Italy to broadcast Formula 1, the new deal running until the end of 2022.
    • As part of the announcement, Sky revealed that Carlo Vanzini and Marc Gené will be in a studio setting to begin 2020, with Mara Sangiorgio on site. In addition, the team plan to make extensive use of the Dallara simulator this year, with Matteo Bobbi giving the explanations.
  • Eurosport will remain home of the British Superbikes championship until the end of 2027. As part of the agreement, which begins next season, highlights of every round will air on Quest, with the free-to-air channel also airing several rounds live.
  • Adobe have written a blog on how they have collaborated with MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna during the pandemic, transforming MotoGP’s workflow in just 13 days, helping them to deliver video content to fans worldwide remotely and quicker than ever before.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that I have yet to mention on this site, drop a line in the comments section below.


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BT to present MotoGP coverage from UK as championship outlines post-COVID-19 plan

BT Sport will present their MotoGP coverage from the UK when the championship returns to action in Jerez, Spain on Sunday 19th July, multiple sources have confirmed to Motorsport Broadcasting.

The broadcaster has implemented a decentralised remote production model during the COVID-19 pandemic, with special MotoGP programming looking at their best races airing live, on and off-air personnel dotted around Europe.

Having perfected that model, I understand that BT intend to continue using it, at least for the immediate future.

Readers who have watched BT Sport’s Premier League coverage so far will know that programming has aired live from their Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park base in London (see video below), instead of on-site at the relevant grounds as was the situation previously.

Financial implications are one reason behind BT Sport’s decision. Many broadcasters are looking to cut costs, as advertising revenue slumps.

Although both BT and Sky in the UK are pay TV broadcasters, BT is still a relatively immature player in the market, meaning that they are likely to be a bigger risk moving forward.

In addition, Motorsport Broadcasting understands that MotoGP’s main broadcasters, such as Canal+, Sky Italia and Servus will be joining Dorna out in Spain.

Plans circulated to all stakeholders by Dorna in a 30-page document earlier this month, a copy of which this site has seen, shows that MotoGP will continue to allow television crews to carry out key activities.

The championship is allowing broadcasters to interview riders on the grid, as well as in parc ferme after the race, and in pit lane, all at a social distance.

From a presentation perspective, MotoGP will continue to have its podium in the usual locations, but the podium itself will be wider in length to accommodate social distancing, with no dignitaries on hand to present the trophies.

No access for written media
In contrast to the above, Motorsport Broadcasting can reveal that MotoGP has prohibited written media from accessing the circuit.

Although the plans circulated by Dorna are at a championship-level, it does allow us to compare and contrast the FIM’s approach with their four-wheel counterpart, the FIA from a broadcasting perspective.

Dorna says that they will allow around 40 people from media organisations on-site for each round, with an additional 250 people from their own organisation, the latter number covering everyone involved with the Dorna production (including the logistical side of the event).

However, Dorna have opted to exclude all written journalists from attending the event, with only a small number of television broadcasters allowed access.

The document circulated says that “no other media will be permitted on-site (no journalists, no radio reporters, no websites).”

As thus, Dorna is developing systems to allow media to interview personalities remotely from home during the race weekend, including one-on-one interview slots and press conferences.

This contrasts with F1’s approach to the new season: F1 are allowing a small number of journalists covering a wide audience to attend their races.

I understand that attempts to get Dorna to move on this subject have failed, with written media unlikely to return to the MotoGP paddock until at least the Austrian Grand Prix on the weekend of Friday 14th August to Sunday 16th August.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Austrian Grand Prix

It will be odd, it will be strange, and it will be weird. But when the lights go out, nothing will sound better than twenty Formula 1 cars blasting their way around a Grand Prix circuit.

After a three-month hiatus, and seven months since the 2019 season ended, F1 is back with the start of the 2020 season, beginning with a double header in Austria.

Sky Sports are the only UK broadcaster presenting their coverage on-site. Simon Lazenby continues to steer the ship, alongside the likes of Ted Kravitz, David Croft and Martin Brundle out in Austria.

Due to COVID-19, Sky’s original plans from a scheduling perspective for 2020 have gone out the window. Both Paddock Walkabout and The F1 Show are missing from Sky’s Saturday schedule, whilst their qualifying and race build-ups have halved.

Current schedules show that Sky intends to have a 30-minute build-up to qualifying, with a 70-minute build-up to the race itself, reminiscent of ITV’s F1 offering in the early 2000s, albeit in very different circumstances.

Sky originally intended to extend their race build-up to 130-minutes for 2020, which appears to no longer be happening, for the early phase of the season at least. The qualifying programme is shorter, as Sky are airing a live Diversity in Motor Sport special in what would normally be the first 30-minutes of their qualifying show.

Given that the social distancing guidelines limit what you can do, it is not exactly surprising that Sky have had to review their programming and go back to basics – including no grid walk for the foreseeable future.

This site can reveal that both Channel 4 and the BBC are remaining in the UK for the opening rounds. Jack Nicholls and Jolyon Palmer form the BBC’s 5 Live commentary team for 2020, with Jennie Gow and Andrew Benson joining them.

Meanwhile, Steve Jones heads into a fifth season as Channel 4’s Formula 1 presenter, joined in their UK studio setting by David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Ben Edwards.

As revealed prior to Australia, Channel 4 are airing more of the race this year than in 2019, with around 60-minutes of the race airing in their edit, compared to 45-minutes last year.

Elsewhere, Sky are airing the Formula Two documentary series Chasing the Dream in the run-up to Austria. For those who do not have F1 TV, this is well worth a watch, the series following the leading contenders during the 2019 season.

Channel 4 F1
04/07 – 18:45 to 20:15 – Qualifying Highlights
05/07 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
03/07 – 09:30 to 11:50 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
03/07 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2
04/07 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
04/07 – 13:30 to 15:30 – Qualifying
05/07 – 13:00 to 17:30 – Race
=> 13:00 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 14:05 – Race
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 17:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
29/06 – 19:00 to 19:30 – F2: Chasing the Dream (1/5)
30/06 – 19:00 to 19:30 – F2: Chasing the Dream (2/5)
01/07 – 19:00 to 19:30 – F2: Chasing the Dream (3/5)
02/07 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference
02/07 – 19:00 to 19:30 – F2: Chasing the Dream (4/5)
03/07 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
03/07 – 19:00 to 19:30 – F2: Chasing the Dream (5/5)
04/07 – 13:00 to 13:30 – Diversity in Motor Sport

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
03/07 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
03/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
03/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
04/07 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
04/07 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
05/07 – 13:55 to 16:15 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

Formula Two – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
03/07 – 11:50 to 12:40 – Practice
03/07 – 15:55 to 16:30 – Qualifying
04/07 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1
05/07 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2

Formula Three – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
03/07 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Practice
03/07 – 13:00 to 13:45 – Qualifying
04/07 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
05/07 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis Grand Prix (Sky Sports F1)
03/07 – 21:30 to 23:00 – Qualifying
04/07 – 17:00 to 19:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
05/07 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race

Keep an eye on this article over the forthcoming week, as broadcasters evolve their plans of the new F1 season.

Updated on June 30th to add details about Sky’s Diversity in Motor Sport special.

Update on July 2nd at 18:05 – As reported by Jonathan Noble over at Motorsport.com, the Drivers’ Press Conference format is radically different – and heavily extended.

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions in place resulting in no media scrums, drivers are being interviewed team-by-team in a secure room. Anyone who has followed the tweets this afternoon from journalists will know it has been a drawn out process, hence Sky opting beforehand to air a 90-minute version later tonight.


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Lockdown life: How broadcasters handled the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that all of us have had to adapt our working practices, some more so than others, everyone adjusting to the new normal.

For me, I am a public sector worker, with this site also one of my priorities. During a typical year, the site content would write itself to a degree: reacting to the action, giving my thoughts, and going behind the scenes, the list goes on.

During a pandemic, that becomes more difficult, and the enthusiasm wanes along the way. Balancing both the day job (where COVID-19 is a key focus), taking time out to do other things (gaming), as well as looking myself and my house (I live on my own) has meant that Motorsport Broadcasting did fall down the list of priorities.

Now, three months after the lockdown restrictions, motor racing is back on the agenda, and we are less than two weeks away from the start of the Formula 1 season. “Lights out, and away we go,” is not far away…

On the broadcasting front
Given my work priorities, I did not consume masses of motor sport content during the main lockdown, sticking to what I am familiar with, primarily in the UK space.

From a pay TV perspective, BT Sport and Sky Sports took different, but equally valid positions over the past three months.

BT focused on quality rather than quantity with their main MotoGP offering.

‘The Greatest Race’ aired on Sunday’s in a four-hour time slot, whittling down 16 of MotoGP’s best races to a final four, with BT’s viewers voting the 2009 Catalunya MotoGP battle between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo as MotoGP’s best race.

Intertwined in the race edits each week were live interviews from an impressive calibre of MotoGP legends, such as Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi. BT’s own presentation team, led by Gavin Emmett, Suzi Perry, and Neil Hodgson, were on hand to ask the questions.

The new content presented a new spin on old classics, generating both social activity during the show, and news stories in the week following.

BT’s remote production model during the pandemic was a major success, not just for MotoGP but across their entire portfolio of shows, including their Early Kick Off football show, and we should applaud the whole team both in front and behind the camera their efforts.

In contrast, Sky opted to air a plethora of material during the pandemic for fans to digest, some hitting the mark perfectly.

At first post-Australia, the broadcaster aired little content, but quickly built it up into April, a wise decision in hindsight to avoid burn out straight away.

The F1 channel has since aired the Sky F1 Quiz, many Vodcasts, classic races in watch along form, as well as other content on the side, such as The Notebook feat. Ted Kravitz with a selfie stick.

Given the amount they aired, I doubt Sky expected everyone to watch every Vodcast and F1 Show, but from what I watched, they do exactly what they say on the tin, with a wide variety of guests from across the F1 landscape.

Irritatingly, the Vodcasts never turned up on Spotify, which was an opportunity missed in my view for those who go on post-work walks and would like a podcast to listen to (others are available, naturally).

A fixture on Wednesday evenings on Sky Sports F1 has been their Classic F1 watch along programming. Unlike their cricket and football counterparts, the F1 team went down the pre-recorded route, opting also to trim the race into a smaller edit.

The decision to air on Wednesday’s in my view was short-sighted: clashing with F1’s in-house classic races on their YouTube channel. Despite these forthcomings, like BT Sport with MotoGP, Sky’s decision to air these helped present a new spin on classic races, with guests relevant to that race.

For example, Sky re-aired the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, but with Felipe Massa and Rob Smedley as guests, getting their view on the events of that weekend.

I hope the channel repeats these over the forthcoming months: for reasons described earlier in this article, I did not watch all the classic races that Sky aired in watch along form.

Over the past few months, Sky have also released features that were due to air during the early pre-race build-ups, releasing interviews between Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton, a Hamilton feature on Monaco and segments filmed for the Australian Grand Prix (also At Home with Sky F1).

In the circumstances, we should be thankful for the content all parties have produced recently, irrespective of quality, to keep us going through this period.

…but what does it mean for the future?
Inevitably, broadcasters have had no choice but to speed up thought processes because of the pandemic.

As this site has covered for years, the industry has begun transitioning to remote broadcasting (or at least thinking about), without any loss of service or quality to the end viewer.

COVID-19 has resulted in the reprioritisation of long-term business objectives into immediate deliverables for the likes of F1.

In January, F1 touted sustainability as part of their Strategic Plan, wanting to “‘minimise the amount of equipment and people sent to each race.” A strategic vision has become a short-term reality.

If you are a broadcaster, who needs to save money (and quickly), why would you not go with the cheaper option if quality is unimpacted?

On an operational level, it may mean motor sport companies begin working on a much smaller footprint than before, with smaller offices, remote working, fewer flights, video conferencing, and so on.

Of course, it is bad news for those in the industry who like the travel associated with the job.

Unless there is a major shift in ideology, it is highly unlikely that broadcasters will revert to the 2019 ways of working, when the past few months has taught the industry that remote production can work.

From a broadcasting perspective, the ‘new normal’ is here, and it is here to stay…


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Sky to air Formula 1 exclusively in Germany in four-year deal

Sky are to air Formula 1 exclusively in Germany for the next four years after agreeing a new deal to cover the sport.

As part of a wider initiative from the broadcaster to “shakeup TV in Germany and take Sky into a new era,” Sky will air every race exclusively live from 2021 to 2024, creating a new channel dedicated to Formula 1 in the process.

In addition, four races will be simulcast free-to-air, with 30-minute highlight shows of every race airing on free-to-air channel Sky Sport News.

F1 says in their press release that this new agreement will introduce “millions of people across Germany to the excitement and thrill of Formula 1.”

Like in the UK, Sky will air every session live, including Formula Two, Formula Three and the Porsche Supercup, equating to around 800 hours of action per season.

It is a big day for the Sky’s Germany arm: the pay TV broadcaster has also announced an extension to their Bundesliga rights deal, taking that partnership to the end of 2025.

Sky replaces free-to-air broadcaster RTL as the main F1 broadcaster in Germany. As reported yesterday, RTL’s press release indicated that another party had bid double the amount RTL were prepared to bid for.

In addition, RaceFans are reporting that Sky’s new contract is in the region of $60 million per year, meaning that the total value of Sky’s contract is around $240 million.

This suggests that RTL are currently paying around $30 million to broadcast F1 per season, which is slightly less than the amount the BBC and ITV were paying from a UK perspective in the mid to late 2000s.

As part of the new deal, access to the premium-tier of F1’s over-the-top platform, F1 TV Pro, will be restricted to Sky Sport subscribers in Germany.

F1 TV Pro will no longer be available to new subscribers who do not subscribe to Sky Sport, however, existing subscribers are unaffected by this change.

What the stakeholders say
F1’s Director of Media Rights, Ian Holmes, said “Formula 1 and Sky have enjoyed a long-standing relationship, working well together to enhance the broadcast offering by providing comprehensive coverage of the sport for our passionate fan base.”

“I am delighted that our work together will continue to build and strengthen the impressive quality of Sky’s programming, as well as their digital reach.”

Devesh Raj, CEO of Sky Germany, added “This will be the best motorsports experience ever.”

“We know motorsport fans love the way we produce F1 and our commentators have fans all of their own, but now with the first channel dedicated to F1 content on German TV ever we’ll give fans more F1 content than has ever been seen on German TV before.”

“With our unique digital content offering and four races free for everyone every year, we will help introduce millions more people to the joy of F1 and help grow the sports across the motorsport country Germany.”

“This exciting new deal shows that Sky is the number one for sports fans in Germany.”

  UK Germany Italy (source)
Contract Length 2019 to 2024 2019 and 2020 2021 to 2024 2018 to 2020
Pay TV All races All races All races All races
Free to Air – Live 1 race All races 4 races 4 races
Free to Air – Highlights Extended highlights n/a 30-minutes Delayed
F1 TV Pro? No Yes Yes [Sky Sports subscribers only] No

The path to exclusivity
Unlike their UK counterparts, the path to exclusivity has not been straightforward for Sky Deutschland.

The pay TV broadcaster walked away from the sport in early 2018, after RTL secured a three-year deal to cover Formula 1, taking their rights agreement through until the end of 2020.

Surprisingly, Sky returned to the fold just four weeks before the 2019 season, getting their foot back in the door.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and now Sky will be airing the sport in Germany, exclusively, for the next four seasons, with RTL eliminated from the picture.

As suggested yesterday on this site, fans should come to expect more pay TV deals initially in the post-COVID-19 era. However, this move does mean that the era of large television audiences in Germany for F1 will come to an end following the 2020 season.

Interestingly, the latest development brings the UK and Germany contracts in-line with one another from a length perspective.

The detail differs underneath the surface as the table above shows: fans in Germany may be able to watch more races live on free-to-air television, but the style of the free-to-air highlights programming between the two markets differs radically.

The next upcoming battleground to keep our eyes on is Italy, where Sky will be looking to extend their current agreement with F1.

Additional context provided by Edmund Wareham.


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