Analysis: How F1 and MotoGP have interpreted Mugello differently from a broadcasting perspective

The Mugello circuit in Italy is renowned for two wheeled action, with MotoGP fans flocking to the race track each June to cheer on their favourite stars, including Valentino Rossi and the Ducati team.

This year, COVID-19 has meant that MotoGP has had to postpone its visit to the legendary circuit, the first time Mugello has not been on the MotoGP calendar since 1993.

The unusual circumstances have resulted in Formula 1 making its inaugural trip to Tuscany, with the circuit set to be one of the most physically demanding on the calendar for its 20 drivers.

As readers of this site will be all too aware, any new circuit represents a new challenge for those working on the broadcasting front, and Mugello is no different.

Formula 1’s production team comes to Tuscany from Monza with their own intentions and goals, meaning that the result from a television perspective will be significantly different to MotoGP’s own output from their yearly Mugello visit.

But just how different were Formula 1’s camera angles compared to MotoGP’s usual positions for two-wheeled action? Motorsport Broadcasting analyses the running themes from today’s F1 practice sessions…

Higher or lower?
Both championships’ take a significantly different approach in terms of camera height. When analysing last year’s MotoGP race with today’s practice action, it is clear that throughout the 5.2km circuit, F1 have opted to position their cameras lower than MotoGP’s historical positioning.

 

The lower angles help show the direction change of the single-seaters much better than a higher angle – a strategic direction F1, under Liberty Media’s watch, started to take back in 2017. Critically, the lower angles give viewers a better side-on view of the car, which is important for sponsors whose brands are located there.

In contrast, MotoGP’s angles give fans a better idea of the elevation on offer around the Mugello circuit which, in my opinion, F1 does not convey as well as their bike rival.

This is obvious in two main places. MotoGP’s camera angles at the start of the start-finish straight and turn six are higher than F1’s, the bike series making Mugello look like a rollercoaster ride compared to F1. However, F1’s angles show off Mugello’s picturesque backdrop.

The angle at turn six though is deliberate from F1’s perspective. All of the cars will be going flat out heading into here during qualifying, and F1 wants to show the change of direction on offer at high speeds.

Further round the lap, both display the same traits at turns eight and ten: F1 going for the low angle, with MotoGP venturing higher up.

Slip-streaming is a common feature of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, and the higher angles will make it easier to identify when slip-streaming is occurring as the race progresses.

One straight, many cameras
Motor sport is renowned for long straights that head into sharp corners, and Mugello is no different in this regard.

Combined with the elevation change, one camera angle is insufficient to track the machinery from the exit of the final corner to the start of turn one.

At some circuits, such as Shanghai, one camera angle would be enough if you were short on resources, but such an approach would also make for boring viewing.

As Sergi Sendra, Dorna’s Senior Director for Media Content, Television and Production explained to me last year, the TV team typically splits long straights into three: one for the exit from the previous bend, the second for the mid-section as the bikes head to top speed, and finally for the braking zone.

Both MotoGP’s and F1’s positioning in Mugello follows this rule to the letter, with the second angle close to pit lane exit after the starting grid.

Positioning of angles
A common trait from MotoGP is to position additional angles on the inside of corners, and use that as their main angle. During last year’s MotoGP race, the production team utilised an angle on the inside of turn one, using this to show the bike’s lean angle throughout the constant radius hairpin.

For turn four, MotoGP positions their camera on the entry to the corner showing the riders turn into the bend, whereas F1 opted to go for a more direct angle with their positioning.

In my view, MotoGP does a better job in making Arrabbiata one continuous corner, whereas it is not immediately obvious with F1’s angles that the two corners seamlessly link with one another.

The key to all this though is that there is no right or wrong answer to positioning cameras around a race track.

F1 switching its angles to the same position to MotoGP’s angles would not make F1’s product infinitely better, or vice versa.

The answer is much more nuanced than that depending on the constraints that both championships, commercial, budgetary, or otherwise, are working within.

In addition, the action points for bike racing and single-seater racing are inherently different on a circuit-by-circuit basis, meaning you cannot apply a one size fits all model from a production perspective.

For now, F1 will have learnt a massive amount from today, and will no doubt be making tweaks to their camera angles as the weekend progresses in Mugello as race day approaches.


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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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F1 and Sky exploring F1 TV Pro options for UK fans from 2021

Formula 1 and Sky are exploring making the premium tier of their over-the-top platform available to UK fans from 2021, but only to Sky Q subscribers, a survey from F1 reveals.

Since F1 launched their over-the-top platform back in 2018, UK fans have only had access to the basic tier, F1 TV Access. The basic tier allows fans to delve into F1’s rich archive, but crucially prevented fans from watching live content.

The only way to watch live content on F1 TV is by subscribing to the premium tier F1 TV Pro, which is currently geo-blocked to fans in the UK. Sky hold exclusive television rights until the end of 2024, with free-to-air highlights and live coverage of the British Grand Prix sub-let to Channel 4.

What does 2021 hold?
Now, a new survey issued through Formula 1’s official online community for fans, F1 Fan Voice, suggests that UK fans may receive access to F1 TV Pro as early as 2021.

However, F1 has tailored the survey towards fans thoughts towards receiving F1 content exclusively via Sky Q, a statement which encompasses F1 TV Pro.

“F1 TV Pro is F1’s live and on-demand owned and operated direct-to-consumer application which includes every GP live, archive races, original content and support races,” one part of the survey reads.

“If F1 were to make F1 TV Pro available to Sky Q customers only, here are some of the features that would be made available exclusively through Sky Q…,” the survey continues.

Features such as live on-board content, which F1 TV Pro subscribers can access, would require a Sky Q subscription for UK fans to access. The survey asks whether fans would be willing to subscribe to Sky Q, and whether they would pay £25.00 a month to access.

Sky Q is Sky’s newest product, allowing customers to record up to six programmes at once. The product supports 4K and HDR, and integrates with apps such as Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube.

If this comes to fruition, it means fans hoping to ‘cut the cord’ to watch F1 live will have no choice but to subscribe to Sky Q.

F1 TV Pro would sit on top of Sky’s existing F1 offering, as opposed to alongside it. From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense for Sky, although it clearly limits F1’s ability to reach new fans in the UK.

How the UK development stacks up versus other territories
Hiding F1 TV Pro behind a pay TV wall, as opposed to a digital wall, is starting to become a trend, and not a trend that is likely to boost Formula 1’s reach in the longer term.

In June, F1 and Sky revealed that F1 TV Pro will only be available to Sky Sport subscribers in Germany from 2021 onwards, Sky having agreed an exclusive partnership in that territory through to the end of 2024, with free-to-air broadcaster RTL exiting the sport after this season.

Speaking to BlackBook Motorsport before the start of the season, F1’s Global Head of Digital and Licencing Frank Arthofer alluded to the possibility of similar deals being struck elsewhere.

“Going forward, there’s clearly a lot more we can do. On F1 TV we have an opportunity to tell more stories now that we have a more stable technical platform that really goes deep inside the sport, and we know that’s an avid fanbase,” he said.

“Equally, as we think about distribution, there’s probably more we can do with F1 TV alongside our core broadcasters. We announced that in the Sky Germany deal we’ll work together on F1 TV, and I think that may serve as a template for additional markets going forward.”

The UK news is not surprising, however as F1 considers more deals such as, the pricing disparity for F1 TV between different territories increases every further.

In America, fans can watch F1 TV Pro for $9.99 per month. Closer to home, residents of France can access F1 TV Pro for €7.99 per month, yet F1 fans in Germany and UK from next year may need to pay substantially more to access the same content.

Why should a fan in Germany or the UK not feel ripped off at paying three times the price (if not more) for an identical offering?

A two-tier fanbase?
I worry that F1 risks creating themselves a two-tier fanbase in countries such as the UK. Person A subscribes to everything because they can afford it, Person B on the other hand watches the free-to-air offering combined with highlights on YouTube, because they are not as fortunate.

Person B is not less passionate, but circumstances (maybe out of their hand) prevent them from joining Person A.

We want F1 to become more diverse, hence #WeRaceAsOne, which Arthofer says F1 coined before the 2020 season started, but COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter accelerated F1’s plans.

In my view, hiding your key digital asset behind a pay TV wall contradicts the overall strategy that F1 is trying to achieve. Some of the demographics F1 wants to attract to become more diverse may live in communities where deprivation is higher than average, and where pay TV is not the norm.

The two natural paths should be free-to-air to F1 TV Pro, or free-to-air to pay TV. Instead, it appears the only path will be free-to-air to pay TV, and onto F1 TV Pro.

Sky are a business, and if this comes to fruition, I do not blame them for this one, they are protecting the asset that they bought for a reported £1 billion over seven years.

However, F1 risks locking a future generation out of the sport – now more than ever considering recent developments. To quote a recent political phrase, albeit the other way around, F1 risks in the UK being a sport that caters for the few, not the many.


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Analysis: How F1’s return to action fared around the world

A peak audience of close to four million viewers watched Formula 1’s return to action in the UK, overnight viewing figures suggest.

Highlights of the opening round of the season aired on Channel 4 from 18:30 to 21:00, averaging 1.6 million viewers according to industry expert Liam Hamilton on Twitter, making it the most watched programme outside of BBC One and ITV on Sunday.

The free-to-air offering peaked with 2.3 million viewers. That, combined with an average audience of 1.5 million viewers for Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the race itself from 14:05 to 16:00, meant that a peak audience of near to four million viewers sampled F1’s return on Sunday afternoon.

Both figures are in line with what F1 has broadly averaged during the past few seasons, with Sky’s figures a little higher than expected given the Premier League competition on Sky’s other sports channels.

Down under in Australia, a further 111,000 viewers heard Sky’s Formula 1 commentary via Fox Sports late on Sunday evening, according to Australian website TV Tonight.

Netherlands and Germany shine…
In Netherlands, an average audience of 1.44 million viewers (52.3% audience share) watched from 15:05 to 16:58 across Ziggo Sports and Ziggo Sport Select, according to ratings bureaux SKO.

The ‘Select’ channel, which airs Ziggo Sport’s main attractions, averaged 426,000 viewers (15.5%), with the dedicated F1 channel averaging a further 1.01 million viewers (36.8%).

Interest in Formula 1 has soared in the Netherlands in the past few years, thanks to the rise of Max Verstappen, although the number from this past weekend looks to be slightly higher than in previous years.

Over in Germany, an audience of 4.48 million viewers (28.0%) watched Sebastian Vettel’s poor performance on RTL, as they begin their final year broadcasting F1, before an exclusive deal  between F1 and Sky Deutschland kicks into effect next year. The race peaked with 5.15 million viewers.

Quotenmeter says that RTL’s figure is up slightly on the equivalent 2019 figure of 4.36 million viewers (28.6%).

Suffice to say that, as poor as Vettel has been in the past twelve months, Germany’s interest in F1 has held up remarkably. Time will tell if interest will hold when F1 moves behind a pay wall…

For now, Sky Deutschland and RTL both air F1 live in Germany, however no audience figures for the former for Austria are currently available.

Over the border in Austria, ORF’s live free-to-air coverage of the race itself from 15:05 to 16:55 averaged 609,000 viewers (46.0%), as they head into a shared partnership with ServusTV beginning next season.

ORF says that their coverage from the Red Bull Ring reached 1.91 million viewers across the whole weekend.

Stateside, ESPN’s coverage averaged a strong 752,000 viewers from 09:05, peaking with 890,000 viewers as the race concluded, the highest ever for the event, and an increase of 16 percent year-on-year.

…but a poor showing in Spain
In Italy, audience figures were like that seen in the UK.

Live coverage across Sky Sport F1 and Sky Sport Uno averaged 1.32 million viewers (11.3%) from 15:10, with 1.34 million viewers (10.9%) watching delayed coverage of the Grand Prix on Sky’s free-to-air channel TV8. Both shows peaked with just over two million viewers.

Further down Europe, the picture for Formula 1 in Spain looks bleak.

According to Formula TV, An audience of just 104,000 viewers (0.9%) watched live coverage of the race on Movistar’s F1 channel, a dismal figure for a country that once watched in their millions during Fernando Alonso’s heyday.

F1 has fallen out of the public consciousness in Spain, and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz is not recording on their radar, yet. The announcement that Alonso will return to F1 next season with Renault should give F1’s popularity in Spain a much-needed boost.

To put the Spanish figure into perspective, Polish journalist Mariusz Wójcicki reports that live coverage of the Grand Prix averaged 214,000 viewers in Poland.

Whilst the Polish figure is, understandably, down year-on-year with no Robert Kubica on the grid, it does put into perspective the alarmingly low figure in Spain.

Over in France, 1.06 million viewers watched F1’s return to action on Canal+, which they say is a record for Austria since they first began airing F1.

Days of large audience figures are over
Two figures stand out positively for me.

The first is in Netherlands. The raw audience is nothing to shout above in the grand scheme of things, but when you consider that only 17.5 million people live there, it is important, and shows how much Max Verstappen is cutting through the public eye.

Germany also stands out, because it is the last bastion that falls by the wayside, whenever the 2020 season draws to a close. An average audience of over four million viewers may halve overnight.

Across the above ten territories, an average audience of around 14.5 to 16.5 million viewers watched the Grand Prix on television. I have been generous and rounded that up slightly to account for missing data points.

At its peak, that figure will be higher, and then the reach figures that F1 announces in press even higher than that. There will be additional public data available, it is just a matter of trying to find it in the depths of the internet.

The 2020 average television figure will again be down on yesteryear because of F1’s transition towards pay TV. So, where have the viewers gone?

Some will be watching online via one of the respective broadcasters’ over-the-top platforms, others will have migrated to F1’s over-the-top platform, both of which will take up a larger percentage than in previous years.

We cannot quantify the volumes involved, because the relevant parties choose not to disclose these figures publicly, meaning the picture is incomplete. It is highly unlikely that all the lapsed television fans have migrated, however.

Nevertheless, the above offers a snapshot as to how F1 is performing across Europe. The overriding message is that in many territories around Europe, the days of Formula 1 achieving viewing figures of 4, 5, 6, or even 7 million viewers for its live airing, are over.

Updated on July 8th to account for US audience figures.


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Red Bull channel ServusTV and ORF to share F1 rights in Austria from 2021

A television channel owned by Red Bull has secured the rights to broadcast Formula 1 in Austria, however has opted to sublet some of the package back to the incumbent rights holder.

ServusTV, a commercial free-to-air station owned by the Red Bull Media House, will share the broadcasting rights with longstanding national public service broadcaster ORF from 2021 until the end of 2023, ORF’s existing agreement ending after this season.

A statement issued by ORF via their media centre confirms that ServusTV acquired the rights exclusively, with ORF acting as their partner in the arrangement.

The situation is like the current UK F1 deal in that respect: Sky acquired the television rights, and Channel 4 then bought an element back off the pay TV broadcaster (although the scenario in Austria concerns two free-to-air broadcasters).

ORF and ServusTV will confirm the exact race split prior to the start of the 2021 season, however both will air the Austrian Grand Prix from the Red Bull Ring live.

ServusTV’s acquisition adds to their existing sports portfolio, which includes live coverage of MotoGP and the World Superbike series. In May, the channel also secured rights to 33 matches per season of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and the new UEFA Europa Conference League.

Their Director General Dr Ferdinand Wegscheider noted “The new agreement with the Formula 1 fills us with pride and we will do our utmost to write another success story in Austrian motorsport coverage, parallel to MotoGP,” he said.

“With Formula 1, MotoGP, and the Superbike World Championship, ServusTV will offer the best live motor sport program to viewers from 2021 onward.”

“The cooperation with ORF makes sense economically and guarantees that Formula One fans have access to all races live on free-TV.”

The story so far
The last line by Wegscheider outlines the issues that his counterparts over at ORF are facing, a recurring theme in recent weeks on this site.

Speculation about ORF’s continuation as broadcaster is not new. In 2016, ServusTV was again said to be interested but ORF was able to negotiate a reduction in the fee, which Austrian outlet Kleine Zeitung reported reduced their fee from over €15 million to €10 million a year.

However, ORF says that the “economic challenges” in recent times has resulted in a further change from their perspective.

“These are economically challenging times also for ORF, and with the acquisition of the live broadcasting rights of the current Bundesliga season and the UEFA Europa League, ORF was recently able to secure free-TV rights that are equally important for sports and sports fans,” explained ORF Director General Dr Alexander Wrabetz.

“Although the agreement with shared broadcasting rights is a novelty, this cooperation guarantees that Formula 1 will also remain an integral part of ORF’s TV program in the coming years – while at the same time complying with economic requirements. And that is good news for all motor sports fans in Austria.”

ServusTV has increasingly in recent years tried to raise their profile within Formula 1 by inviting motor sport guests to its popular Monday evening talk show broadcast from an aircraft hangar in Salzburg airport (Sport und Talk aus dem Hangar-7). Just last night, the crew invited Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel onto the show, creating headlines across the F1 spectrum.

Speaking ahead of a potential F1 rights deal back in February, Red Bull’s owner Dieter Mateschitz told the Salzburger Nachrichten that they are not “…fundamentally not a sports broadcaster.”

“But we should think twice with such an opportunity. Formula One rights are always interesting for a broadcaster, but we cannot say anything more now,” he added.

“We must wait to see what ORF decides and what Sky does. It simply depends on the situation in the market. We’ll watch that and it is always very interesting.”

Viewing figures remain healthy in Austria, where the rapport between ORF commentator Ernst Hausleitner and pundit Alexander Wurz is frequently praised.

The news from Austria comes after the decision of RTL in Germany to step away from Formula 1 broadcasting, first announced to English-speaking audiences on this site.

Additional reporting by Edmund Wareham.


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