A new era, and a new F1 theme, as Channel 4 breaks The Chain

Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain will not be Channel 4’s Formula 1 signature theme for the upcoming 2019 season, Motorsport Broadcasting can reveal.

The iconic track has been synonymous with Formula 1 coverage on UK television for decades, with the BBC using it as its soundtrack until 1996.

Following ITV’s acquisition of Formula 1 rights in 1997, the commercial broadcaster opted to head in a different direction with their soundtrack, using a mix of Jamiroquai, Apollo 440, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Moby during their twelve years of covering the sport.

When the BBC returned to the F1 frame from a television perspective in 2009, The Chain duly returned with them. Channel 4 took over the free-to-air baton from the BBC at the end of 2015, and have used the Fleetwood Mac hit since.

Heading into the new season however, I understand that Channel 4 and Whisper Films have all but given up hope in securing the famous bass riff for their opening titles. The broadcaster begins a new era of Formula 1 broadcasting in the UK next weekend in Melbourne, with 20 of the 21 races airing in highlights form this season.

Sources close to the situation have confirmed that the broadcaster has secured an alternative modern track, which will debut during next Saturday’s coverage of the Australian Grand Prix qualifying session.

In a separate development, Sky have confirmed that they will also not be using The Chain in their coverage this season. Responding to questions from fans on social media, Sky said that it was “not feasible to use the [The Chain] on the titles.”

I understand that Sky’s desire to use theme, hence its inclusion in their pre-season trailer, has resulted in a bidding war between the two broadcasters and record company Universal Music Publishing Group, which in turn has concluded with neither Channel 4 or Sky securing the rights to The Chain for 2019.

It means that, as of writing, for the first time since 2008 when ITV used Moby’s Lift Me Up, neither UK TV broadcaster will be using The Chain as their signature theme. There is a slim outside possibility that the situation could change, but it currently appears highly unlikely.

 

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Fewer races with Sky for Kravitz as coverage undergoes revamp

Further details about Ted Kravitz’s role with Sky Sports F1 in 2019 have been revealed, whilst Sky are revamping their on-screen output this season.

Potential scheduling changes for the upcoming season
Sky’s scheduling for the Australian Grand Prix suggests that there will be several changes to their programming slate line-up for the upcoming season.

Their preview show on Thursday’s, Welcome to the Weekend has doubled in length to an hour, whilst Sky have added an additional 30-minute wrap-up show to their Friday schedule following second practice. In addition, a 20-minute ‘Paddock Walkabout’ show will air following practice three on Saturday morning.

The F1 Show remains on Saturday’s, immediately following their qualifying broadcast. On race day, Sky have extended Paddock Live to an hour, however it also starts half an hour earlier, meaning that Sky are heading off-air earlier on Sunday’s than in previous years.

Overall, Sky’s schedules show a net increase for live content compared to previous years, for Australia at least, which is good news, and gives the channel a more all rounded feel to it.

Kravitz’s Sky role reduced
Industry sources in recent weeks have indicated to this site that Ted Kravitz will be with Sky for fewer races this season. His future was the subject of social media speculation during February, with this site revealing that the broadcaster u-turned on their decision to drop him from their F1 coverage.

During Motor Sport Magazine’s F1 Preview evening, it was noted that Kravitz will be with Sky for 14 of the 21 races this season. Alongside this, Sky’s schedule next weekend does not include Ted’s Qualifying or Race Notebook, which has been a regular fixture of Sky’s output since 2012.

It is unclear if Sky have axed Ted’s Notebook, or moved it to an online-only offering. Given that Kravitz’s commitments with Sky are reducing, one could draw conclusions that Sky have indeed axed the Notebook from their schedules.

Any reduction on this front is disappointing, but 14 of the 21 races is still two-thirds of the season, and clearly the situation could have been much worse as discussed in recent weeks. I hope the Notebook turns up on Sky’s online platforms in some format for the 14 races, but time will tell.

Whether Kravitz is working with a second broadcaster this season, where the Notebook output could end up airing on, is also unknown, but a distinct possibility.

On-screen revamp for Sky F1
According to marketing website The Drum, Sky’s in-house agency, Sky Creative Agency has led changes on Sky’s on-screen output on several fronts, including “interactive touch screen broadcast podiums, a new F1 zone and interview platform.”

I understand that Sky have discontinued the Sky Pad, which has featured on its F1 coverage since 2012. In its place is a new on-site mobile augmented reality (AR) studio, bringing Formula 1 in line with Sky’s Premier League coverage.

For the Premier League, most of the content comes from the studio, whereas I understand specific segments will come from the AR studio for Sky’s F1 coverage as opposed to the whole output.

One change that appears to be off the cards however is The Chain. Included as part of Sky’s pre-season promotional trailer, the latest from Sky responding to questions on social media is that it is “not feasible to use the track on the titles.”

Update on March 12th – Sky have confirmed that Kravitz will present a new weekly midweek show called the F1 Midweek Debrief. Rob Smedley is the guest for week one.

However, the show is not a Sky production. Instead, Kravitz is working with Formula 1 themselves on the weekly programme, which is airing on F1’s over-the-top service for premium users.

Sky are taking the show in addition to their own in-house content.

Update on March 15th – Viewers watching Sky’s coverage of practice will have noticed that the Sky Pad is, thankfully, still alive and well! Apologies for the error in this piece stating that the tool was no more.

Quest grabs MotoGP highlights

Highlights of the MotoGP championship will air on Quest for the next two seasons, the broadcaster has confirmed, in an eleventh hour announcement.

The package previously aired on ITV4 from 2014 to 2016, before the contract went to Channel 5 in time for the 2017 season. Now, the 60-minute highlights package, produced by BT Sport, heads to the free-to-air branch of Discovery Communications. Discovery also owns Eurosport, with coverage of the British Superbikes series also airing on their portfolio of channels.

The 60-minute highlights show will also be available via Quest’s on-demand platform QuestOD, with highlights of Qatar airing this Monday (11th March) at 18:00.

It has been a roller-coaster three years for Channel 5, who appear to have fell in and out of love with motor sport very quickly. The order of events suggests that there has been a decision taken at a higher level to wind down their motor racing commitments, rather than each individual series choosing to part company with Channel 5.

The free-to-air broadcaster picked up, and promptly stopped showing MotoGP and Formula E within the space of two and a half years, with highlights of the World Rally Championship almost suffering the same fate.

Channel 5’s recent motor sport history
> January 2016: Secures WRC highlights
> September 2016: Secures Formula E
> March 2017: Secures MotoGP highlights
> November 2018: Loses Formula E
> January 2019: Loses WRC highlights (briefly)
> March 2019: Loses MotoGP highlights

Simon Downing, Quest’s Head of Channel, said “We are delighted to add MotoGP to our premium sport portfolio. It’s the highest profile two-wheel event on the calendar and we are proud to be able to offer this exclusively free-to-air to our viewers – not just on linear but across our digital platforms too.”

“We’re really looking forward to the upcoming season on what I’m sure will once again provide many exciting moments across all three Championships.”

MotoGP highlights brought in solid viewing figures on Channel 5 over the past two seasons, regularly peaking with over half a million viewers. The two seasons that Channel 5 aired averaged 406k (2.4%) and 404k (2.3%) respectively according to overnight viewing figures supplied by Overnights.tv.

It is highly unlikely that MotoGP will reach those numbers on Quest. ITV4’s final season covering MotoGP in 2016 averaged 285k (1.4%) in a Monday evening time slot at 20:00. The earlier time slot on Quest, combined with the channel’s lower standing may mean that averages struggle to get above 250,000 viewers.

It is unclear whether ITV4 was an option, which MotoGP passed upon, or whether ITV were simply not interested. Having a free-to-air presence is always excellent news, and MotoGP fans should be glad that the package remains. The eleventh hour announcement though suggests that Dorna have struggled to find a home for the free-to-air package.

With the Quest contract being a two-year deal, however, the days of MotoGP reaching a large audience are large gone, and look unlikely to return any time soon.

Survey: Your 2019 motor racing viewing habits

Hi all,

Before I begin this post, a huge thank you to everyone who responded positively to the re-branding of the website last month, the reaction was much greater than I anticipated.

I re-branded the site to Motorsport Broadcasting to better reflect the content that I was writing throughout the course of a season.

In the past few years, Motorsport Broadcasting has branched out to cover motor sport beyond Formula 1, such as MotoGP, Formula E, and the World Rally Championship, with more to come moving forward.

As part of the re-brand, and on the eve of the 2019 motor racing season, I have created a survey to gauge what championships you follow the most, and what you would like the site to focus more on moving forward.

Survey: Your 2019 motor racing viewing habits

The survey lists a range of championships, with a value of 1 to 5 required, 1 being ‘I do not plan to follow this championship at all in 2019’, to 5 being ‘I intend to follow this championship during the whole of 2019’.

UK fans have an additional question related to the changes in Formula 1 coverage for this season, whilst there is an opportunity at the end of the survey to give thoughts on things you think I could cover differently on this site.

Part of this is user research to inform the website content over the course of the next year, part of it is to see whether specific championships are as popular as I perceive them to be.

At most, the survey will take ten minutes to complete, and will remain open until the end of March.

Thanks,
Dave
Owner and Editor of Motorsport Broadcasting

Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2019

2019 heralds a changing of the guard for Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom, with 20 of the 21 races airing exclusively live on Sky Sports for the first time. The latest analysis from Motorsport Broadcasting shows that Sky is the number one player in terms of pricing in the pay-TV space, Virgin Media now a distant second.

The main change for fans is that free-to-air station Channel 4 will only broadcast the British Grand Prix live in 2019, with the rest airing in highlights form, as a result of the deal signed between Formula 1 and Sky in March 2016.

Three years in the making, the deal means that fans must subscribe to pay television moving forward if they want to keep on top on live Formula 1. For the past seven seasons, half of the live action has been available on free-to-air television, which is no longer the case in 2019.

A separate temptation for motor racing fans thinking of subscribing to Sky Sports F1 is that the channel will also be showing the IndyCar Series this season, including the prestigious Indianapolis 500. The American single-seater series is returning to Sky, having aired on BT Sport since 2013.

New subscribers thinking of entering the pay-TV market will find this article most helpful. However, as regular readers are aware, current customers of Sky or Virgin Media can try to ‘haggle’ their way to a better deal. I have not included any double or triple-play deals, such as broadband and phone, as the number of options can become unlimited.

F1 TV Pro
Last year, Formula 1 launched a new over-the-top platform, called F1 TV. The platform is available in two tiers: an entry-level tier (‘Access’), which covers archive material and classic races. The second premium-level tier (‘Pro’) covers the current year, allowing fans to watch races live with a variety of camera angles on offer.

Unfortunately for fans who have no intention of subscribing to Sky or Virgin, F1 TV Pro is geo-blocked in the UK. F1 TV Access, which UK fans do have access to, costs £2.29 a month but does not include any live 2019 action, only short-form highlights.

Sky
The big news for readers who want to subscribe to Sky is that high definition (HD) is now the standard option. Anyone who subscribes to HD automatically gets the standard definition (SD) version of the channel included. Ultra-high definition (UHD) remains a separate option.

Sky are currently running their ‘best-ever offer‘ throughout March for fans who want to subscribe to Sky Sports F1, and none of their other sports content, with the cheapest monthly cost totalling £32.00.

Option F1 only – HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
F1 only – UHD
Sky Q 2TB Box
Sports – HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
Sports – UHD
Sky Q 2TB Box
Entertainment £22.00 £22.00 £22.00 £22.00
Sky Sports F1 only £10.00 £10.00
Sky Sports £23.00 £23.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £32.00 £44.00 £45.00 £57.00
Yearly Cost £384.00 £528.00 £540.00 £684.00
One-Off Installation Cost £20.00 £75.00 £20.00 £75.00
Yearly Cost £404.00 £603.00 £560.00 £759.00

For those of you who are still on Sky’s legacy HD pack, from their original F1 offer back in 2012, now is the moment to jump onto the F1 tariff whilst the offer lasts. I would be surprised if Sky repeat this offer next year, so this is the opportunity to move onto the new package.

The prices are all based on Sky’s pricing structure as of April 1st, but they apply for new customers immediately. Assuming you enter on Sky’s standard 18-month contract, Sky’s base level Entertainment package has increased in price by £2.00 a month to £22.00 a month, increasing further to £27.00 after the 18 months.

Sky’s offer for F1 only is £6.00 a month cheaper than last year’s base SD package and £12.00 a month cheaper than last year’s HD package. If you want a bit more sporting variety, the complete Sky Sports package is £23.00 a month, or £30.00 a month outside of the 18-month contract.

Eagle eyed readers will spot that the Sky Sports price listed is cheaper than the £27.50 figure in previous years. New customers automatically go onto the lower £23.00 price, whereas the standard price is £30.00 (currently £27.50 until April 1st).

If you have stumbled across this article after March 30th, however, and want to subscribe to Sky Sports F1 on its own…

Option F1 only – HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
F1 only – UHD
Sky Q 2TB Box
Sports – HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
Sports – UHD
Sky Q 2TB Box
Entertainment £22.00 £22.00 £22.00 £22.00
Sky Sports F1 only £18.00 £18.00
Sky Sports £23.00 £23.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £40.00 £52.00 £45.00 £57.00
Yearly Cost £480.00 £624.00 £540.00 £684.00
One-Off Installation Cost £20.00 £75.00 £20.00 £75.00
Yearly Cost £500.00 £699.00 £560.00 £759.00

…then the yearly cost increases by £96.00 back to Sky’s standard pricing structure.

For new customers wanting to enter the pay-TV market, Sky is increasingly the better option compared to Virgin Media. For existing customers stuck on one of Sky’s legacy packages, you should be looking to haggle your way onto one of Sky’s current, more affordable pricing tiers.

Virgin Media
The problem for Virgin Media is that they have what Sky gives them, which means that their pricing is inferior compared to Sky. Compared with twelve months ago, Virgin’s Mix TV package has increased by £4.00, and jumped by £6.00 compared with just two years ago.

Option SD
TiVo 500GB Box
HD
TiVo 500GB Box
Mix TV £26.00 £26.00
Sky Sports £31.75 £31.75
Sky Sports HD £7.00
Monthly Cost £57.75 £64.75
Yearly Cost £693.00 £777.00
One-Off Installation Cost £25.00 £25.00
Yearly Cost £718.00 £802.00

If you are in the triple-play market, Virgin may be a viable option, as their broadband is second to none, even if the standalone broadband prices are steep.

On its own however, paying £57.75 for Sky Sports in SD when you can pay £57.00 for Sky Sports in UHD with Sky is a poor deal. Of course, they may not have a choice if they want to make a basic profit…

Now TV
If you are unwilling to pay for Sky or Virgin Media, Now TV remains an option, but with 20 of the 21 races airing exclusively live on Sky, the cheapest price has increased compared to 2018. The IndyCar Series may tempt you towards the monthly passes to maximise the number of IndyCar races you can watch.

The F1 Season Ticket returns, and is available until the end of May. The pass allows F1 and IndyCar fans to watch the season for £195.00, an increase of £45.00 compared with the price of last year’s pass.

There are now four Now TV tiers for Sky Sports, with the addition of the Mobile Month Pass. However, whilst the pass is the cheapest of the Now TV options at £5.99 a month, Sky Sports F1 is not one of the available channels in this pack.

For the second year running, both the day pass and monthly pass have increased in price. Now TV’s day pass now costs £8.99 (up £1.00), whilst the weekly pass costs £14.99 (up £2.00). The monthly pass remains £33.99.

Last year, you needed six monthly passes to watch every race, whereas this year you need to purchase seven monthly passes:

  • pass 1 from March 15th to April 15th (Australia, Bahrain, and China)
  • pass 2 from April 27th to May 27th (Azerbaijan, Spain, and Monaco)
  • pass 3 from June 1st to July 1st (Canada, Austria, and France)
  • pass 4 from July 20th to August 20th (Germany and Hungary)
  • pass 5 from August 30th to September 30th (Belgium, Italy, Singapore, and Russia)
  • pass 6 from October 10th to November 10th (Japan, Mexico, and USA)
  • pass 7 from November 11th to December 11th (Brazil and Abu Dhabi)

This excludes the British Grand Prix, which is live on Channel 4, whilst the seven passes also cover all bar two IndyCar races (the exceptions are St Petersburg on March 10th and Madison on August 24th). The seven monthly passes work out at a cost of £237.93 across the year.

In comparison, twenty weekly passes cost £299.80 across the year, with twenty individual day passes costing the fan £179.80 across the year. Last year, buying weekly or day passes was a viable option, but with Sky covering all bar one race exclusively, in my opinion neither pack is viable for F1 fans who want to watch the whole season live.

Of course, with Now TV you can switch and swap between the passes as you wish, whether you want to do that depends on your own individual circumstances, but you risk losing money over the longer term if you do not plan accordingly.

Sky Sports Mobile TV
For everything that changes, the price of Sky Sports Mobile TV remains the same, meaning that it keeps its badge as the cheapest option for fans at £10.99 a month. The app, which is available on iPhone and Android, costs fans £76.93 across seven calendar months.

Now TV’s own rises mean that Sky Sports Mobile TV is easily the cheapest alternative to those unwilling to enter a long-term Sky and Virgin contract, and are more than happy to watch via their smartphone.

In summary, there are 12 different options, across four different players and two different groups:

– £802.00 a year – Virgin Media (HD)
– £759.00 a year – Sky (All – UHD)
– £718.00 a year – Virgin Media (SD)
– £699.00 a year – Sky (F1 – UHD)
– £603.00 a year – Sky (F1 – UHD) – offer (expires March 30th)
– £560.00 a year – Sky (All – HD)
– £500.00 a year – Sky (F1 – HD)
– £404.00 a year – Sky (F1 – HD) – offer (expires March 30th)
– £299.80 – Now TV (Weekly Pass x 20)
– £237.93 – Now TV (Monthly Pass x 7)
– £195.00 – Now TV (F1 Season Ticket) – offer (expires May 31st)
– £179.80 – Now TV (Day Pass x 20)
– £76.93 – Sky Sports Mobile TV

I have written a variation of this article since 2013 because of its popularity with readers year after year. Admittedly, packages have changed and so on, but it is interesting to see what has changed in six years:

To summarise:

– £510.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + Sports Packs
– £477.00 a year – Virgin Media TV – M+ + Sky Sports Collection
– £381.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + HD Packs
– £299.70 – NOW TV – Practice, Qualifying and Race
– £210.00 – Sky Go Monthly Ticket
– £199.80 – NOW TV – Qualifying and Race
– £99.90 – NOW TV – Race

The main difference is that Virgin Media’s pricing has soared with an increase of around 60 percent. As alluded to above, Sky’s Premier League rights cost has jumped significantly in the six years since 2013, and I suspect Sky have passed the cost onto Virgin Media, who in turn have hiked the package prices.

Sky passed the cost on to their own new subscribers as well until 2017 with their premium tier price at one point exceeding £1,000, but in the past two years, simplification of their own packages has resulted in prices for new subscribers dropping comparatively speaking.

Now TV offers more flexibility now compared to what the service offered in 2013, when it was in its relative infancy. Although live F1 is now primarily behind a pay wall, there are still several mechanisms for fans to watch the sport.

Are any of the options above cheap enough though, and has Sky’s pre-season offer hooked you in? I will let you decide…

If you have spotted anything worth adding, or noted any other deals out there, drop a line in the comments below.

Pricing and information correct as of March 5th, 2019. Pricing is subject to change.