How Motorsport Broadcasting has covered F1’s transformation under Chase Carey

Last week, Liberty Media announced that Stefano Domenicali would be succeeding Chase Carey as Chairman of Formula 1.

The news, first revealed by RaceFans, is not a huge surprise given rumours about Carey’s replacement were swirling for a while (even if Domenicali himself was not publicly linked). Nevertheless, the announcement means that Carey will depart his role at the end of 2020, ending a near four-year tenure.

Carey’s tenure began in January 2017, when Liberty Media completed their acquisition of Formula 1 from CVC Capital Partners. In that time, Liberty Media have overhauled the sport in many different areas.

Here, we look back at some of the key broadcasting moves from across the past four years, as covered by Motorsport Broadcasting…

Before Liberty – Although Liberty have made huge strides in recent times, we cannot thank them for everything.

For example, Formula 1 launched their social media platforms in 2014 and 2015, whilst preparation for F1’s over-the-top platform began in the ‘Bernie age’ as well, with rumblings around an app featuring on-boards from every car swirling in October 2016.

So, whilst Liberty under Carey did oversee the eventual execution of the likes of F1 TV, some work in the background did pre-date them.

March 2017 – One of Liberty’s first actions was to encourage teams and drivers to exploit social media. To begin with, Liberty gave teams and drivers flexibility to upload short form videos to their social channels. Boy, we really have come a long way in three and a half years, have we not?

June 2017 – Whilst Carey could (and did) change many aspects of Formula 1, one aspect they could not change was Sky Sports’ UK deal to broadcast F1 exclusively live from 2019 to 2024. In Liberty’s first public comment on the matter, then-Managing Director for Commercial Operations, Sean Bratches said that Liberty intended to ‘honour and respect’ the Sky deal.

On all fronts, the genie is out of the bottle. There will be bad moves; there will be experiments that fall flat on their face, by both the teams and Liberty Media. Now is the perfect time for mistakes to happen when fans are generally accepting that change is happening, and are prepared to accept that there will be early bumps in the road. You would rather make mistakes now when these forms of communication are niche for Formula 1, working to establish common ground, themes and decision-making as the season progresses. I would much rather see risk taking over the next few races instead of an organisation that is clearly relaxing or unable to adjust, as was clearly the case with FOM in previous years. – Me writing in March 2017

July 2017­ – Arguably Liberty’s first statement of intent, hosting a live event in the centre of London on a Wednesday evening, prior to the British Grand Prix.

Well received by fans, the likes of Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Martin Brundle hosted the event. Liberty has tailored follow up events to the respective follow audiences, and to date there has not been a repeat of the London iteration… yet.

November 2017 – Who knew a logo could prove to be so controversial? If ever there was an instance where Liberty was spot on, and the fans were wrong, it was here.

Fans online panned the new Formula 1 logo, including myself. I admit, I was wrong. The reaction was a little over-the-top. And speaking of OTT, that was where F1 was heading next, as Liberty concluded year one in charge of F1. For them, it was about laying the foundations for the future: kick start future initiatives (Esports), whilst also strengthening every area of the business, which they seen as flailing under Bernie.

February 2018 – The official announcement from F1 that they were heading into the OTT space. Joining F1’s in-house team? None other than ex-NBC F1 colleagues Will Buxton and Jason Swales. The platform, which launched behind schedule in May, gave select territories access to the live action across a multitude of feeds.

A cheaper tier gave fans worldwide (including the UK) access to a wealth of archive material, F1 also taking the opportunity in recent years to stream classic races on YouTube. Not everything was straightforward: US broadcaster NBC cited the launch of F1 TV as a key factor for them dropping out of the sport at the end of 2016.

March 2018 – A new graphics set, a new weekend schedule, and a new theme greeted fans watching F1’s coverage of the Australian Grand Prix. Brian Tyler’s F1 theme is brilliantly awesome, inspiring many different renditions.

Some of the early mooted changes, such as a mid-race highlights package, never really came to fruition (other than Heineken’s floating stars, which I want to forget about). F1 canned other ideas, such as mini-sectors during qualifying, the previous year.

August 2018 – Liberty continued making moves across their social media output, bringing fans closer to the sport. From a broadcasting perspective however, not much gets better than seeing how F1 operates inside the gallery in the heat of the moment.

The team released a fantastic video (below) showing how they handled Sebastian Vettel crashing out from the German Grand Prix, which this site dissected in detail. For anyone who inspires to get into motor sport broadcasting, the video remains a must watch.

Year two really built on Liberty Media’s research from year one, the sport expanding into new areas of growth, such as podcasting. The sport also began to pay more attention to Formula Two and Formula Three, both of which have become far more integrated with F1 in recent times.

Under Liberty’s watch, F1 has given some new voices a go behind the microphone on commentary, with the likes of WTF1’s Matt Gallagher benefiting as a result.

February 2019 – Live testing! Yes, F1 aired the entirety of the first test live in 2019 on their over-the-top platform in selected territories, with Sky Sports taking each afternoon live as well. Fans enjoyed F1’s offering, and coverage returned earlier this year, with both of the three day tests airing live.

Also launching prior to the 2019 season was Netflix’s Drive to Survive, which has helped bring the sport to a new, younger audience.

October 2019 – F1 began to live stream races on platforms such as Twitch, with the Mexican Grand Prix airing live on the platform in selected territories. In a fortnight from now, the Eifel Grand Prix will air live on YouTube for fans in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

January 2020 – First revealed by this site the previous July, a new documentary series focusing on Formula Two premiered on F1 TV. The tragic death of Anthoine Hubert shone a different light on the documentary, as fans witnessed events through the eyes of his rivals, and friends, at the time.

COVID-19 pandemic – The COVID pandemic has meant that many of F1’s plans for their 70th anniversary year have not gone as anticipated. A documentary series produced by Sky in collaboration with F1 celebrating the seventy years premiered earlier this month. Other developments concern F1 in the UK and Germany: with F1 TV Pro mooted to launch in the UK next season, whilst F1 in Germany will move behind a pay wall.

Overall, there have been more up’s than down’s when you look at the broadcasting and social media picture in totality for F1 at the end of Carey’s regime compared to where they were at the end of 2016.

As Dieter Rencken on RaceFans recently highlighted, however, the incoming Domenicali has many waves to battle through over the forthcoming months and years.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and many broadcasters may seek to reduce their investment in F1 at rights renewals stage, although F1’s recent deal with Sky in Germany should give Liberty confidence that the news may not be all bad.

Then, there is F1 TV, and continuing to monetise that, whilst ensuring that the technical issues that have plagued the platform since launch do not continue.

Of course, the above achievements do not cover all avenues, merely a reflection of how Motorsport Broadcasting has covered recent events.

What do you think is F1’s biggest improvement, or misstep, on the broadcasting and social media front in recent years? Have your say in the comments below.


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Sainz’s pursuit of victory sees F1’s viewing figures double in Spain

Carlos Sainz’s pursuit of victory in last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix saw viewing figures double in Spain, audience data from overseas shows.

The race was red flagged after a major accident for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Following the restart, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly battled McLaren’s Sainz for victory, Sainz a couple of laps too short from potential victory.

Sainz’s pursuit of victory resulted in audience figures surging in his home land.

An audience of 244,000 viewers (2.1% audience share) watched the Grand Prix on pay TV station Movistar+ according to Formula TV, double the 121,000 viewers (1.2% audience share) that watched last month’s Spanish Grand Prix on the same channel.

Last weekend’s race was up by around a third on last year’s Monza figure, which averaged 173,000 viewers (1.4% audience share) in Spain.

Over in France, a peak audience of 1.24 million viewers watched Gasly’s victory on Canal+, a slight increase on last weekend’s peak audience of 1.16 million viewers.

The average audience declined from 932,000 viewers for the Belgian Grand Prix, to 841,000 viewers last weekend, a reflection of the red flag period which may have depleted the Canal+ average slightly.

The conclusion here is obvious, but worth stating: France’s viewing figures are higher than Spain, meaning that there is less room for growth, whereas F1 in Spain is underperforming massively now.

The presence of Sainz fighting it out up front – and the returning Fernando Alonso – is critical to move the needle in Spain.

Unfortunately, one of F1’s biggest territories in Europe shed over one million viewers, thanks to Ferrari’s continued woes. According to Motorsport.com, coverage of the race in Germany averaged 4.54 million viewers, a decrease on last year’s figure of 5.71 million viewers.

The 2020 figure is in-line on F1’s audiences for the year to date in Germany, whereas last year’s race over-indexed considerably.

Viewing figures for the race also dipped year-on-year in America on Labor Day weekend. 602,000 viewers watched the race on ESPN2, compared with 635,000 viewers last year.

Impressively, live coverage of the third practice session averaged 244,000 viewers at 06:00 on Saturday morning on ESPN, with 518,000 viewers tuning into qualifying, showing that increased interest in F1 in the US is filtering through to the other weekend sessions.

Formula Two viewing figures surge in UK
In the UK, viewing figures for the Formula Two championship continue to impress according to consolidated data from BARB and ThinkBox.

Whilst data for the Italian Grand Prix is unavailable, data from the Belgian Grand Prix weekend shows that 222,000 viewers watched the Formula Two feature race on Saturday 29th August, believed to be Formula Two’s highest ever figure in the UK.

185,000 viewers watched the race via Sky Sports F1, with an additional 37,000 viewers watching on Sky Sports Main Event.

To put that into historical comparison, back in 2012 during Sky’s first season covering F1, only 29,000 viewers watched the GP2 feature race during the Belgium weekend.

Viewing figures have increased rapidly in the past year and a half, Sky’s F1 exclusivity helping the cause.

Elsewhere, the Indy 500, which took place the week before, averaged 130,000 viewers, although the two figures are not directly comparable given that the IndyCar figure includes a 90-minute build-up which would have depleted the average.


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News round-up: Study published into “excessive alcohol advertisements” during F1 races; Alonso docuseries to premiere in September

In the round-up, a leading university has published findings looking at alcoholic content during F1 broadcasts, whilst two big documentaries are hitting the airwaves this September…

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 the round-ups to date are located here, and as always, all feedback on the site, positive and negative, is more than welcome.

Formula 1

  • The University of Nottingham has published a paper looking at advertising of alcoholic products during Formula 1 coverage on Channel 4.
    • Unsurprisingly their research, which focuses on the 2018 season, finds that young people “are being exposed to excessive alcohol advertisements during televised sporting events,” which they believe could lead to increased consumption for children.
    • The research shows that F1 is heavily reliant on brands such as Heineken and Johnnie Walker, with 56 percent of Channel 4’s F1 broadcasts containing some form of alcoholic content during one-minute intervals of race footage.
    • “Our study clearly shows that alcohol content was highly prevalent throughout the 2018 F1 Championship broadcasts,” study author Dr Alex Barker said. “This is worrying given the young viewers this branded content would have reached.”
    • “Previous research has already shown that advertising of this kind can lead to alcohol consumption in young people, and this is one of many sporting events that uses advertising in this way. We would urge Ofcom to consider the implications of this, and whether restrictions need to be put on this kind of advertising.”
  • For those not watching, Formula Two’s World Feed has featured a raft of commentators this season.
    • Alex Brundle (Austria, Britain, and Spain), Matt Gallagher (Styria), Alice Powell (Hungary) and Peter Windsor (70th Anniversary) have all stepped into the hot seat alongside lead commentator Alex Jacques.
  • Viewing figures for the feeder series have surged in the UK since the start of the 2020 season according to consolidated audience data from BARB for the TV set.
    • At its peak, an average audience of 177,000 viewers watched the Formula Two feature race during the British Grand Prix weekend on Sky Sports F1, a significant increase on the equivalent race last year which failed to make Sky F1’s top 15.
    • More recently, 141,000 viewers watched the feature race during the 70th Anniversary weekend. The sprint race on Sunday morning failed to make Sky F1’s top 15 however, this a likely result of the audience being split across Sky’s F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event.
  • Formula 1 is to live stream coverage of the Eifel Grand Prix on YouTube across several territories this October.
    • All three practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself will air live on the platform in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The deal is in addition to their existing rights deals in place within those territories.
    • F1 says the partnership is an opportunity “to give back to those fans” who would have attended the Nürburgring round, but cannot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Tomos Grace, YouTube’s Head of Sport in the EMEA territories, said “70% of Formula 1’s YouTube audience is under the age of 35. Sports broadcasters and organisers increasingly recognise YouTube’s ability to reach these new audiences and generate incremental revenue.”
  • The long-awaited documentary series focusing on seventy years of Formula 1 will premiere from September 12th, as first reported by RaceFans in Summer 2019.
    • Race to Perfection will air exclusively for UK fans on Sky and Now TV, with the series also being made available to TV channels and streaming services worldwide via NBCUniversal Global Distribution, although further concrete details are unavailable – including whether it will be available to subscribers of F1 TV.
    • The series interviewed over 40 of F1’s biggest names, with new archive footage contained within the seven episodes. Full synopsis details are available on the Sky F1 website.
  • A recent survey on F1 Fan Voice has hinted at some documentaries that F1 are looking to produce in the forthcoming months and years.
    • The choices on offer include an origin style series based off Netflix’s Drive to Survive; a ‘Last Dance‘ style series focusing on the 2021 season; and a Bernie Ecclestone biopic.
  • F1 has extended their rights deal with AMC Network in Czech Republic and Slovakia to broadcast the sport until the end of 2023.
    • The action will remain on Sport1 and Sport2, with every session covered live. In addition, fans will be able to access F1 TV Pro for the first time, the platform launching in those territories prior to the 2021 season.

Elsewhere…

  • A five-part documentary following two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso premieres on Amazon Prime across 240 territories on September 25th.
    • The series, produced by Madrid company The Mediapro Studio, sees the team follow Alonso as he embarks on the Indianapolis 500, Le Mans 24 Hours and the Dakar Rally.
    • “Fernando has been one more challenge in my career, a commitment with myself and with the public to show the work, the sacrifice and the high requirement that implies competition at the first worldwide level, as none of this never transcends beyond the circuits,” Alonso said. “Only two companies with the experience of The Mediapro Studio and Amazon Prime Video could make it possible with a powerful storytelling and global reach.”
  • Formula E has launched a talent call aimed at 18 to 24-year olds to join their presentation team for season seven.
    • The series will whittle candidates down to four finalised, who will “be assigned experienced mentors and receive professional media training,” with the winner joining the team from the season opener in Santiago in January.
    • The competition, open to residents of the UK, Germany, and France, closes on 12th September.
  • Meanwhile, the electric series will air live on free-to-air television in Germany for season seven on SAT. 1, taking advantage of F1’s recent decision to move to pay television in the territory.
  • Stateside, MotoGP debuted on NBC to 527,000 viewers on Sunday 19th July, beating both IndyCar races that weekend.
    • The two IndyCar races that weekend aired live in primetime, but on NBC’s sister station NBCSN, to an audience of 356,000 viewers and 334,000 viewers.
    • Things have improved for IndyCar recently, with live coverage of Indianapolis 500 qualifying on NBC averaging 824,000 viewers and 933,000 viewers this past weekend, beating the Spanish Grand Prix on ESPN earlier that morning.
  • BT Sport are continuing to cover MotoGP from Triumph’s HQ in Hinckley. Keep an eye on Motorsport Broadcasting over the coming weeks for behind the scenes content from Triumph…

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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Dramatic British Grand Prix conclusion watched by over four million viewers in UK

A peak audience of over 4 million viewers watched Lewis Hamilton win the British Grand Prix, which concluded in dramatic style yesterday afternoon, overnight viewing figures show.

All overnight viewing figures exclude people watching in pubs and bars, as well as those watching via on demand platforms, such as Now TV and All 4.

Although Motorsport Broadcasting no longer has access to audience data, the headline figures are in the public domain, allowing us to glean how the landscape looks. The sources for the figures are at the foot of this article.

UK viewing figures
Comparisons year-on-year are difficult to the differing factors surrounding each race, which we need to account for.

Last year’s race clashed with the Cricket World Cup final featuring England and New Zealand, as well as the Wimbledon final, both taking a bite out of the F1 audience.

Naturally, that meant more people watching around the television set, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic means that this year’s race fell during the Summer holidays, a period where fewer people are watching TV.

Channel 4’s coverage of the race itself, including a short portion of the build-up and immediate post-race reaction, averaged around 2.3 million viewers (25% audience share) from 13:45 to 16:15.

The free-to-air broadcaster says that the audience share for younger viewers was 20%, the biggest share in that time slot. Their coverage peaked with three million viewers, an increase on last year’s figure of around 200,000 viewers.

Live coverage across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event averaged a further 1.1 million viewers from 14:05 to 16:00, significantly higher than last year’s audience for the pay TV platform. Last year’s coverage on Sky Sports F1 peaked with around 900,000 viewers.

When accounting for Sky One, it is likely that Sky’s coverage in total peaked with around 1.3 to 1.4 million viewers, a sizeable year-on-year increase.

All of this means that, in total, a peak audience of over four million viewers watched the closing stages of the Grand Prix, a jump compared to last year’s figure of 3.7 million viewers, and bringing the peak back closer to the 2016 to 2018 audience figures.

Based on the (albeit limited) evidence we have, the strong suggestion is that Sky’s audience figures have increased compared to 2019, which is good news for the sport for the whole, although perhaps not good news for those hoping that F1 returns to free-to-air television in the UK.

Viewing figures across Europe dip as Summer hits
Despite Mercedes’ continued domination, there is little sign that audiences have tuned out in significant numbers when comparing the figures for key territories to the season opening Austrian Grand Prix, however there are some noteworthy dips.

Not in a title winning car? Not a problem in the Netherlands, where audiences continue to tune in for Max Verstappen. According to SKO, a massive audience of 1.43 million viewers (58.6%) watched the Grand Prix from 15:05 to 16:58.

The race, which was in-line with the season opener, saw 1.07 million viewers (44.2%) watch via the dedicated F1 channel, with a further 351,000 viewers (14.4%) watching via Ziggo Sport’s generalised offering.

Viewing figures did dip more in Germany and Austria, however. Motosport.com reports that 4.81 million viewers (30.8%) watched the race across RTL and Sky, compared with 5.09 million viewers (31.6%) for the season opener.

An audience of 4.28 million viewers (27.4%) watched RTL’s free-to-air offering, with a further 530,000 viewers (3.4%) watching Sky’s race coverage. Bearing in mind that Sky are the exclusive supplier for F1 fans in Germany as of 2021, it shows just how many fans F1 could lose in Germany if not many of them make the transition to pay TV.

Over in Austria, an audience of 550,000 viewers (39%) watched ORF’s offering, a decrease on their Austrian Grand Prix audience of 609,000 viewers (46%). Canal+’s offering for fans in France also dropped by a similar amount.

One country that did increase their audience compared to the season opener was Spain. An audience of 183,000 viewers (1.7%) watched Movistar’s coverage according to Formula TV, compared to a figure of 104,000 viewers (0.9%) from one month ago.

Sources for UK portion of article: Channel 4 Press, Liam Hamilton. US audience figures will be added once available.


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How Fox have adapted their NASCAR offering during the COVID-19 pandemic

In a guest article, Jack Ainslie (@JackAinslie) looks at the first half of the NASCAR season, and how US broadcaster Fox have handed difficult issues during their coverage…

As readers of this site will be all too painfully aware, the COVID-19 pandemic robbed motor sport of action throughout most of the Spring and early Summer. However, this understandable absence was significantly shorter for one racing series – NASCAR.

The stock car association’s three major series – the top-tier NASCAR Cup Series and its two main feeders – were back to a socially distanced track in May. Unlike series such as Formula 1 and IndyCar, the NASCAR season had already begun back in February, with it running races nearly every week through to December. Yes, it is a lot of races!

Having followed the opening NASCAR races of 2020 to fill the F1 off-season, I decided to stick with the series when it returned in May.

Fans in the UK can access NASCAR through Premier Sports, with an affordable price of £9.99 per month giving you access to their online Premier Player. The channel also covers La Liga, NHL, and Scottish football amongst others.

In terms of NASCAR, the broadcaster covers all Cup Series races live with more limited coverage of the feeder Xfinity and Truck Series.

Premier Sports have little to no input over the coverage with them lifting the US broadcast ‘as-is,’ in a similar vein to how Sky Sports air NBC’s stateside coverage of IndyCar. Fox Sports airs the first half of the NASCAR season for US fans, with NBC taking over for the second half of the year.

The Fox half of the season has just concluded, perfect timing then to reflect on their offering.

Difficult issues covered in detail on-air in a year of change
NASCAR has been in the headlines for more than one controversial reason this year, with its association with Republican politics obvious in February when President Donald Trump visited the flagship Daytona 500 event.

However, in recent weeks the sport hit back at Trump after he criticised the sport’s only black driver Bubba Wallace for perpetrating a ‘hoax,’ an entirely false accusation and it was heartening to see him backed by many within the sport.

The series has engaged in significant discussions around the Black Lives Matter protests and has banned the Confederate flag, which was often visible on television, from its races.

The moves to detoxify NASCAR’s image are much needed and will help bring new fans to a series which provides exciting, unpredictable racing.

Indeed, viewing figures have increased over the past few weeks, reversing years of decline, despite Trump’s claims that figures are at a ‘record low.’ The high broadcast quality and the willingness of the commentators to engage in difficult conversations may have played a role in the audience increase.

Veteran lead commentator Mike Joy delivered some heartfelt words during a recent event. When Wallace’s team found a noose in the garage, later discovered to have been there since the previous race last year, Joy called it a ‘despicable act’ which flew ‘in the face of NASCAR’s efforts to build a culture which is diverse, equal and welcoming.’

Popular ex-driver and co-commentator Jeff Gordon also ensured he was part of the conversation throughout. Both him and Joy defended Wallace against the ridiculous criticisms he faced after the conclusion of the investigation.

Joy and Gordon have also succeeded in terms of their racing commentary during a year of change at the network.

Unusually, for American motorsport, they now commentate as a duo following the retirement of Darrell Waltrip last year. For the last few seasons Waltrip and Gordon had shared co-commentary duties with Joy delivering the play-by-play.

This is a more typical arrangement for American motorsport (Townsend Bell, Paul Tracy, and Leigh Diffey in IndyCar is an example of a current trio), so it was initially surprising to see Fox not replace Waltrip, though it has nevertheless worked.

Waltrip, renowned for his “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, let’s go racin’ boys” start command, had huge respect as an analyst and advocate for driver safety, with the broadcast now having lost some of its more humorous side.

However, Gordon had already been providing far sharper analysis than Waltrip with his much more recent experience as a driver, having last competed in NASCAR full-time in 2015. Joy’s commentary style and Gordon’s sharp analysis make them perfect as a pair.

The pair also lends a more familiar, homely style, especially as Fox does not bounce around analysts as much as NBC’s IndyCar coverage, which has become particularly obvious and irritating this year after their strong performance last season, although things have improved in recent rounds. They also sensitively handled a serious accident involving Ryan Newman earlier in the season.

Former crew chief Larry McReynolds intervenes to provide analysis on strategy from Fox HQ in Charlotte, North Carolina, keeping some of the zaniness that Fox lost with Waltrip’s retirement. I can only imagine the madness when McReynolds, Joy and Waltrip used to be the commentary trio, until Gordon took McReynolds microphone following his racing retirement.

Fox’s pre-race coverage appears to be slimmer owing to the pandemic, with Joy and Gordon sometimes fronting the coverage rather than a studio host, although ex-driver Jamie McMurray also joins as an additional analyst at times.

Some races also include a build-up show called NASCAR Hub, presented by Shannon Spake with McReynolds and McMurray offering analysis, although this element is currently unavailable to UK fans.

Coverage benefits from excellent access level…
Fox’s on-air personnel access to drivers and strategists during races which an F1 journalist could only dream of, putting their coverage ahead of the field.

Reporters can interview crew chiefs during the race, whilst commentators can chat to drivers live during stage breaks (one of NASCAR’s many complications) and formation laps, both speaking to a wider positive relationship between the media and drivers.

Whilst I do not watch the Xfinity Series, Cup Series drivers often serve as analysts and commentators for the second tier of NASCAR.

Fox has also had driver-only broadcasts for the feeder series on occasion, with current Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick serving as lead commentator.

In addition to the incredible access to drivers and teams, Fox utilises an excellent array of camera angles. Drone cameras, helmet cameras and traditional onboards are just some of the options available to the television director.

The production team places the most impressive angles on the oval catch fencing, in my view truly showing the speed of the race cars as they skirt perilously close to the walls. I have also enjoyed the cockpit cameras which show the drivers wrestling with their cars, occasionally including their heart rate, revealing the true physical strength required to drive the machinery.

Unfortunately, the Premier Sports feed omits some of the standalone graphics which pair up with individual camera angles (e.g. telemetry), leading to a disjointed experience from one angle to the next.

…but the less said about adverts, the better
Despite the excellent qualities of Fox’s on-air personnel, as well as the fantastic racing, there are weaknesses to the product.

As is par for the course with American sport, it is frequently punctuated by ad breaks. Whilst Premier Sport do not cut to the ads, it does leave us Brits with no commentary for their duration. The inconsistent graphics also afflicts the breaks as the live leaderboard sometimes stays and sometimes goes.

Those who dedicate themselves to following every twist and turn may find themselves having to take multiple Monday’s off work.

Although most races air at around 20:00 UK time, races are frequently delayed by rain and thunderstorms. Oval racing cannot take place in the rain and thunderstorms are obviously a major safety concern.

The mid-afternoon start times in the US are peak storm time in many states and can result in hours long delays, or races moved to the Monday. Even the flagship Daytona 500 failed to miss the storm, moving to Monday after multiple rain delays which presumably hit Fox and NASCAR’s audience, not to mention revenues.

One area in which NASCAR does perform well is social media with their Twitter account having 3.4 million followers, significantly more than IndyCar, although NASCAR’s following has not increased to the level seen elsewhere recently.

Their channels have a nice mixture of content, with lots of video clips uploaded during the race. YouTube also offers plethora of highlights and other content, located on both the sport’s own channel as well as separate channels which the two main US broadcasters run.

Those who want to go even more in depth into the sport can find content such as Dale Earnhardt Jr’s (NBC co-commentator and ex-driver) podcast as well as highlights from the Xfinity and Truck series.

NASCAR is a difficult one to get into, as it does not follow the traditional motor racing championship system: NASCAR has stage points, playoff points and points for leading laps, making it all a tad confusing for the newbie.

It is also a sharp culture shock for British viewers where drivers are much more up front in blaming others, with the media playing up long running feuds between certain contenders. However, it has exciting racing and that is the main thing, right? Just enjoying the races on their own has worked for me. Do not be an oval snob!

Fox has done an admirable job in tough times in being able to put together a quality broadcast. Whilst I might not follow NASCAR as closely as I did during the F1 sabbatical I will certainly stick with the series as NBC take the reins for the back half of the 2020 season.

Have you watched NASCAR this year? What have you enjoyed or not enjoyed? Have your say in the comments below.

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