Who’s hot, who’s not? Reviewing 2020’s social media metrics

Each race weekend, teams, drivers and riders battle for points and prizes, with the aim of reaching the top of the mountain in their respective series.

Underpinning each entity is a social media team. For the likes of Formula 1 or MotoGP, the social media team may be a genuine business unit. For smaller championships, it may be a single person running the show.

The objective in all cases remains the same: to drive engagement on their social media channels, turning casual fans into passionate fans which, hopefully for the entity in question, turns into a profit further down the line when the fan begins to purchase their products.

Motorsport Broadcasting is an independent website without big backers, and therefore relies on trackable information already in the public domain, such as the number of followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Whilst this may not show who has engaged with individual posts, what it does help to show is who is attracting a newer, fresher fanbase to their platform, therefore becoming more marketable to their team or stakeholders around them or, alternatively, who is struggling to hit the mark.

A note of caution on Facebook: the platform is removing the ability to ‘like’ pages, instead only allowing users to ‘follow’ pages. Facebook notes that the update will “simplify the way people connect with their favourite Pages.”

“Unlike Likes, Followers of a Page represent the people who can receive updates from Pages, which helps give public figures a stronger indication of their fan base,” Facebook adds. This does mean some figures in this piece have increased slightly more than previously.

Championships

Motorsport Broadcasting compares social media data from 15 different championships, from Formula 1 to the new W Series. 2020 was disruptive for those hoping to grow their following, with most series inactive from March to July.

Some ventured down the Esports route to keep fans engaged during last year’s lockdown before the action restarted. Two championships suffered the most because of COVID: the electric Formula E series and the W Series.

Formula E hosted their final 6 races across 9 days in August, whilst W Series cancelled their second season owing to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, the W Series increased its following from 110,000 fans to 154,000 fans, the series no doubt hoping to capitalise on their presence during F1 weekends in 2021. Meanwhile, Formula E’s portfolio grew from 2.44 million fans to 2.63 million fans across 2020, an increase of just 7.7%.

After a period in 2018 where Formula E’s following was rising sharply, the electric series has seen its growth stall in comparison to other series. Whilst COVID has halted any momentum the series had; the reality is that Formula E’s social media platforms have been struggling since early 2019.

In April 2019, 2.19 million fans hooked onto their platforms, meaning that Formula E has only gained half a million fans on social media across the past 22 months.

Whilst Formula E’s slowdown is somewhat explainable, IndyCar’s stagnation cannot. The American series grew its following by just 20,000 fans during 2020, despite holding an Esports series which garnered worldwide attention, followed by a successful 14 race calendar.

Formula 2 continued its social media rise during 2020, doubling its reach from 536,000 followers to an excellent 1.12 million followers.

With Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott both moving on, however, it is difficult to envisage Formula 2 continuing such strong growth during 2021.

Something that, in my view, will likely play against Formula 2 this season is the new championship structure, as the feeder series alternates its slot on the F1 calendar with Formula 3.

If Formula 2 continues to grow strongly during 2021, then it is possible F2 could overtake IndyCar in the social media pecking order later this year.

Out in front, F1 and MotoGP continued to surge unaffected by COVID during 2020, both quickly heading towards 30 million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram combined.

F1 teams

1st on track, and 1st in the socials. 2020 was a success on and off track for Mercedes, as they continued to increase their lead over Red Bull in the social media stakes.

Mercedes’ advantage on social media is reflective of their openness across their social media platforms.

Despite Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas being their main players on-track, it is technical director James Allison who plays a key role in Mercedes’ digital output. Allison explains in clear detail the design decisions that his team make during each Grand Prix season, helping put Mercedes a step ahead of the rest both on and off-track.

Whilst Red Bull’s portfolio is still growing strong, arguably the Milton Keynes outfit has slipped back in recent times – a slip that we can trace back to Daniel Ricciardo’s departure at the end of 2018.

Statistics compiled by Motorsport Broadcasting show that Red Bull consistently recorded the strongest growth of any F1 team between 2015 and 2018, but has now not only slipped behind Mercedes, but also Ferrari and McLaren.

And, despite Ricciardo not being in a race winning car at Renault / Alpine, his growth on social media during 2020 was still bigger than his former team-mate Max Verstappen (see the chart below), showing how popular he is amongst the motor sport fan base.

Has Red Bull’s revolving second seat turned potential new fans off the team? Of course, we should note that Red Bull still has a combined 18 million followers across the three major social media platforms, an excellent number and only behind the black cars.

Red Bull’s figures will be one to watch this season as Sergio Perez brings his Mexican contingent with him from Racing Point, now rebranded as Aston Martin.

Fuelled by Perez’s shock win in Bahrain, Aston Martin ended up best of the rest on social media in 2020, meaning that they are highly likely to overtake both AlphaTauri and Williams in total followers as 2021 gets underway.

Both Ferrari and McLaren maintained strong growth despite their on-track misfortune in recent years (although the latter is now firmly on the road to recovery), showing how important it is to have a strong brand name behind you during tough times.

F1 drivers

If social media was a championship, then Hamilton, Ricciardo and McLaren’s Lando Norris were 2020’s winners.

The gulf between Hamilton and the rest of the F1 continues to get larger and larger, as Hamilton’s activism off the circuit cuts through to a wider audience that transcends the sporting world.

Hamilton’s combined social media following of 33 million fans is over 4 times the next best in F1, with Ricciardo in 2nd on a combined 7.56 million followers. On Instagram alone, Hamilton has 21.6 million followers, the highest for any motor sport driver by some margin.

Behind Hamilton and Ricciardo, 2020 was the year of the Twitchers, with Norris, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and George Russell all reaping the rewards, building a strong following during the first lockdown in spring.

Norris attracted further attention during the lockdown by participating in IndyCar’s iRacing Challenge, even if it did not necessarily help the latter in the social media standings.

Russell’s growth was one of the strongest during 2020. Helped by his Mercedes drive in Sakhir, his following surged from 551,000 fans at the end of 2019 to 2.55 million fans across the three main social platforms, a rise of 362% in 14 months!

To put that into context, current Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas grew his following by just 841,000 fans, considerably lower than his Twitch counterparts, including Alex Albon. If this was a qualifying session, both Bottas and Albon would be out in Q2.

The figures show how important the UK territory is to Formula 1, with 3 of the top 6 ‘growers’ during 2020 consisting of the British contingent.

In addition to the Grand Prix field, Motorsport Broadcasting also tracked Mick Schumacher’s following through his second season in Formula 2.

Schumacher’s growth across the year is remarkable for a driver who was, at that point, in the feeder series, reflecting the name and the weight that he carries on his shoulders with him into F1.

The 2021 season, for both MotoGP and F1, begins on Sunday 28th March, with live coverage of F1 testing beginning of Friday 12th March.

Coverage of testing for UK viewers airs live on Sky Sports F1, with coverage also available via F1 TV Pro for those territories with access to the series.

All the figures above compare the number of followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram between November 29th, 2019 and January 30th, 2021, therefore encompassing the whole of the 2020 motor racing season.

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BBC and Eurosport retain Formula E rights as season 7 approaches

The BBC and Eurosport will continue to show Formula E for the 2020/21 season, it has been confirmed.

As in the past two seasons, the BBC will air live coverage across their free-to-air platforms, including the Red Button service, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC Sport website.

Some races may also air on BBC One or BBC Two, however this is dependent on how the Formula E schedule evolves across 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Extending our partnership with the BBC gives us the platform to bring the unpredictable action of our all-electric racing to people in the UK on mainstream channels and the popular BBC digital channels, as we also look to engage the next generation of sports fans around the world with our BBC Global News content partnership,” said Aarti Dabas, Formula E’s Chief Media Officer.

In addition to the BBC’s offering, live coverage will air on Eurosport, whilst fans can also watch every session live via Formula E’s YouTube channel.

Since launching in 2014, Formula E’s live coverage has jumped around various stations: from ITV4, to Channel 5 and now remaining on the BBC. It is unknown whether Formula E benefits financially from the current BBC deal.

Normally the broadcaster pays the series to air their content, but it is likely that the amount of money exchanged here is negligible, given that the electric series benefits more from the deal than the BBC.

The season kicks off this Thursday, with 2 night races in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

Thursday 25th February
15:10 to 16:10 – Practice 1 (YouTube)

Friday 26th February
10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 2 (YouTube)
12:45 to 14:15 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button)
16:30 to 18:30 – Race 1 (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
=> Eurosport 2 coverage runs from 16:50 to 18:00

Saturday 27th February
10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 3 (YouTube)
12:45 to 14:30 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button)
16:30 to 18:30 – Race 2 (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
=> Eurosport 2 coverage runs from 16:50 to 18:00

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Sunday 21st February and are subject to change.

Fresh from the I’m a Celebrity castle, Vernon Kay returns as Formula E presenter, Kay now heading into his fourth season with the team. Joining him in pit lane are the usual trio of Jack Nicholls, Dario Franchitti and Nicki Shields.

Who’s who?

Behind the lens, Formula E partners with many external stakeholders to execute its vision.

Production companies Aurora Media Worldwide and North One Television bring their expertise together to form Formula E TV, the entity responsible for producing World Feed coverage of every session.

Aurora have been part of the Formula E journey since the championship’s first ever race in Beijing in 2014, with North One joining them ready for the 2017/18 season.

On the facilities front, Timeline TV provides equipment and facilities for the production team to use every race weekend, ensuring that everything Formula E TV wants to achieve on-screen is technically possible.

No series is complete without a strong brand and social media presence, which is where both Little Dot Studios and CSM enter the picture.

In recent years, Little Dot has been responsible for some of Formula E’s best social media projects, including their stunt involving a Formula E car and a cheetah in 2017. The stunt has amassed 45 million views on YouTube, easily the most watched video on Formula E’s YouTube channel.

In addition, Little Dot works with Formula E’s outfits, helping them on their social media journey.

Meanwhile, CSM’s involvement surrounds Formula E’s PR and branding, on and off-site, ensuring that the championship’s branding is consistent across all platforms, from trackside hoardings all the way through to Twitter.

Eight races are currently scheduled for season seven, with further race announcements expected in early spring.

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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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Scheduling: The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix / Formula E season finale

Formula 1 celebrates seventy years, with a second race at Silverstone owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a revamp of their schedule.

The second Silverstone race will not air live on Channel 4, as their contract with Sky only allows them to air the race given the formal ‘British Grand Prix’ title live. As thus, the broadcaster reverts to their usual highlights format, however, their team will remain in the paddock, for the 70th Anniversary round at least.

In the eight years since Motorsport Broadcasting launched, this is probably the most congested scheduling piece I have written, with Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E and World Superbikes all taking place on the same weekend.

Beneath that the British Touring Car Championship, British Superbikes, as well as all the Formula 1 and MotoGP support races, are all fighting for column inches.

The clashes mean that Jack Nicholls will not be part of the BBC’s 5 Live F1 coverage for the weekend.

Nicholls is out in Berlin for the Formula E finale, which concludes on Thursday 13th August, again another quirk due to the pandemic. The middle two races from Berlin also air live on free-to-air channel Quest. Nicholls’ 5 Live F1 replacement has yet to be confirmed.

It is worth mentioning that many people behind the scenes, whether it is camera operators, directors, floor managers, and so on, would normally work multiple of these events in a given year, the clashes meaning that some lose out on work that they would have otherwise have had.

For example, some of BT Sport’s MotoGP production team also works British Superbikes and World Superbikes for Eurosport – a clash makes it impossible to work both. Similarly, some of those working on the Formula E production may work other events during the year.

However, the net positive is that it means others within the industry may receive opportunities that they may not have received in a normal racing year, which is worth bearing in mind if some of the direction elsewhere is sub-standard over the next two weeks…

For Sky, Ted Kravitz is not with the team now until the Italian Grand Prix next month, meaning that there is no Notebook for the next three races.

Back on the scheduling front, IndyCar organisers have cancelled their Mid-Ohio double header due to the pandemic, which is one less scheduling headache for Sky Sports. Elsewhere, the Euroformula Series is absent from BT Sport’s schedule, so fans wanting to prioritise that series will need to watch on YouTube.

A huge apology below if anything is incorrect: due to the amount of sport taking place now (and cancellations), schedules are subject to change at short notice.

Channel 4 F1
08/08 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying Highlights
09/08 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
07/08 – 10:30 to 12:50 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
07/08 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2
08/08 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3 (also Sky One)
08/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky One)
09/08 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag

Supplementary Programming
07/08 – 17:30 to 18:00 – The Story so Far
12/08 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
05/08 – 19:30 to 20:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
08/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/08 – 12:00 to 15:00 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up during 5 Live Sport
=> 14:00 – Qualifying
09/08 – 12:00 to 16:00 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up during 5 Live Sport
=> 14:00 – Race

MotoGP – Czech Republic (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
07/08 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
07/08 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
08/08 – 08:45 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
09/08 – 07:30 to 14:30
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Czech Republic (Quest)
10/08 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Berlin
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
All sessions are available live on BBC’s website
05/08 – Event 1 – Race 1
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
06/08 – Event 1 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
08/08 – Event 2 – Race 1
=> 17:30 to 19:30 (Quest)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
09/08 – Event 2 – Race 2
=> 17:30 to 19:30 (Quest)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
12/08 – Event 3 – Race 1
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
13/08 – Event 3 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)

British Superbikes – Donington Park
08/08 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
08/08 – 15:00 to 17:30 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 13:30 to 14:30 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Race 3 (Eurosport 2)
12/08 – 20:00 to 21:30 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
09/08 – 10:20 to 18:15 – Races

Formula Two – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
07/08 – 12:50 to 13:45 – Practice
07/08 – 16:55 to 17:30 – Qualifying
08/08 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1
09/08 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2

Formula Three – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
07/08 – 09:30 to 10:20 – Practice
07/08 – 14:00 to 14:45 – Qualifying
08/08 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
09/08 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
09/08 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Darwin (BT Sport 3)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
08/08 – 06:45 to 08:00 – Race 1
09/08 – 04:30 to 05:45 – Race 2
09/08 – 06:45 to 08:00 – Race 3

World Superbikes – Algarve
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
08/08 – 10:45 to 13:00 – Qualifying 1 (Eurosport 2)
08/08 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 10:45 to 13:30 – Qualifying 2 and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
TBC – Highlights (ITV4)

If the schedules do change, this post will be updated.

Updated on August 7th as the Supercars round from Darwin has been moved by a week.


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Formula E’s Sebastian Tiffert on Driver’s Eye, TV coverage, localised content and more…

The next two weeks are arguably the most frantic in Formula E’s six-year history. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, championship organisers have opted to wrap up the 2019-20 season with six races taking place over eight days at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport.

Finishing a championship on a warm Thursday during the holiday season in August is never ideal from an audience perspective, although Formula E have attempted to make the best out of a bad situation: all six races start on the edge of primetime in Europe to try to attract a bigger audience.

As the championship grows, so does its reputation and standing in motor sport. The Berlin finale ends season six for the electric series, a remarkable feat considering it very nearly went under half way through season one.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Motorsport Broadcasting caught up with Formula E’s Head of Content Sebastian Tiffert on how the championship has moved forward in recent times.

Celebrating the drivers
Tiffert’s first interactions with Formula E occurred through his previous role, where he was Eurosport’s Global Director of Motorsports.

Although not part of the paddock family on a race-by-race basis, his role allowed him to indirectly influence Formula E’s direction of travel from a marketing perspective.

“Prior to the start of season four, I attended a broadcaster workshop, which was really interesting,” Tiffert says.

“In there, we all collectively agreed on the fact that, because this was the flag I was waving at the time at Eurosport internally, that we need to get away from celebrating the championship or the cars, but we need to celebrate and build the profiles of the drivers, because they are the real heroes everybody can refer to.”

Sebastian Tiffert - Formula E Head of Content.png
Sebastian Tiffert – Head of Content at Formula E.

Tiffert cites the fact that Formula 1 fans do not remember Ayrton Senna as a driver of an individual team, but rather as an F1 driver, because of his supreme driving ability.

“I want fans to remember our drivers as Formula E drivers. What we are really focussing on, and what I was talking about when I was at Eurosport already, is how can we lift the profile of the drivers as that’s how we can build a fanbase and following.”

“One of the goals we have is to be able to elevate the profiles of the drivers, not in an artificial way, but rather in a way to explain to the fans how difficult it is what they do, because what they do is incredible.”

“They multi process everything at the same time, telling the engineers the regen, energy management, battery temperature, all whilst fighting for position and dealing with Fanboost,” Tiffert tells me.

“If you’ve watched the races so far this season, this is where we try to place the emphasis. The drivers have incredible skill, and this is something we want to put in front of everybody to make people realise that they are incredible.”

The road before Tiffert arrived on the Formula E scene was bumpy: they ditched their YouTube show Voltage half way through the 2018-19 season after just six races, one reason perhaps why their content teams have since been centralised into one division.

Released during lockdown, feature-length documentary And We Go Green helped shine a light on some of Formula E’s leading stars, although only 35,000 views so far on YouTube suggests that the film did not cut through in the way that Formula E were hoping for.

> Free-to-air “the right way forward” for Formula E in the short to medium-term

The overall intent is correct and we should applaud them because it is a well-made documentary, and broadcasters worldwide did air the film, however the timing of the release was perhaps not ideal due to the pandemic, plus the film focused on events that happened two years prior.

The release of And We Go Green is only one part of Formula E’s wider strategy to focus on the stars of the show.

Formula E have “humanised” their website, stripping back some of the more corporate assets and focusing more on original content, tailoring the content based on the readers location.

“We’re putting out much more original content on the website as well in different languages,” Tiffert says. “I believe in us needing local language content which relates to the local fan.”

“A French fan of Jean Eric Vergne won’t be very interested in the fact that someone else won the race, but he would rather know why JEV didn’t win the race.”

“The Champions League final between Liverpool and Bayern Munich. Liverpool fans are very much interested in their half of their story, and the same goes for Bayern fans.”

“It’s more complicated for us because we have so many nationalities racing, but doing it like this allows us to engage with the fans in a better way,” he believes.

Tiffert happy with TV coverage, Driver’s Eye a success to date
Formula E’s television coverage continues to be a joint venture between Aurora Media Worldwide and North One TV, which Tiffert says gives the best of both worlds.

“We’re very happy working with them and the partnership is very unique, allowing us to bring innovations like Driver’s Eye, Attack Mode and Fanboost, and then presenting it in a way to make it clear to people what has happened on the circuit.”

Positioned on the inside of the helmet, the Driver’s Eye camera angle weighs just 2.5 grams and is eight millimetres in diameter, which the FIA says is the first time a championship has used that angle in any of their sanctioned categories.

Tiffert joined Formula E from Eurosport in September 2019, at which point Driver’s Eye was far down the development road, but thanks to his role at Eurosport, Tiffert knew about Driver’s Eye early in 2019.

“It’s been a two-year journey for Formula E, if not longer, from figuring out what the idea is, getting ideas on the drawing board, and then bringing together all stakeholders, including the FIA.”

“Driver’s Eye is integrated into the helmet, so it has to be developed in a way so that it passes all of the homologation tests and obligations with the FIA, not compromising the driver’s safety, which is very important to us of course.”

“And then the next one was the engineering and development part, which was to make the camera that small, that stable and then to have the processors and the software which allows you to control the image from a distance.”

“The normal on-board shots from the car can be spectacular, but it’s very stabilised and it doesn’t move with the car, whereas this one is raw, which is the beauty of this camera, it’s so unique,” he adds.

Formula E’s intention, before COVID-19, was to increase the amount of Driver’s Eye cameras across the field gradually across season six, although Tiffert is keen not to sacrifice the quality for the sake of quantity, in his words “overwhelming” the product.

“We’re discussing all possibilities internally to see how far we can push this, and then time will tell what people are really interested in. But this is great content, an immersive experience where people may in the future only want to see the race from that camera angle.”

After a five-month hiatus, Formula E returns on Wednesday 5th August for the final hurdle of season six, with Vernon Kay leading the show as presenter, whilst Jack Nicholls returns in his role as lead commentator.

Interview was conducted earlier this year prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.


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