After a two-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, motor racing is back! Over the next few weeks, the schedules will begin to fill back up with live motor racing action taking place from across the globe.
Kicking us back into action are two stateside championships: MotoAmerica and the IndyCar Series. MotoAmerica is the American equivalent of the British Superbikes championship, with ten race weekends featuring on the revised 2020 calendar.
This weekend’s MotoAmerica race (30th and 31st May) is the first of two stops for the series at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, with both races airing live on Eurosport for UK viewers.
One week later, the IndyCar Series begins its 2020 tour at the Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday 6th June. For the first time ever, in addition to qualifying and the race, practice also airs live for UK fans on Sky Sports F1.
Elsewhere, there is a plethora of new programming on Sky Sports F1 and BT Sport, whilst there is plenty of Esports action also on offer. RaceFans has a complete list of the Esports events taking place this weekend.
Of interest also to UK readers is the fact that Formula E documentary film ‘And We Go Green‘ premieres on Channel 4 on Tuesday 2nd June at 00:05 (Wednesday morning).
IndyCar Series – Texas (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
06/06 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Practice
06/06 – 22:00 to 23:00 – Qualifying
06/06 (Saturday night) – 01:00 to 04:00 – Race
MotoAmerica – Road America (Eurosport)
30/05 – 20:00 to 22:00 – Day 1
31/05 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Day 2
The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting motor sport in a way we have never seen before, impacting everyone involved in sport.
Collectively, the entire industry stands to lose a significant sum of money, and what the future holds is unclear. The longer this goes on, the worse the financial situation becomes, notwithstanding the fact that a global recession is likely because of the pandemic.
Who are the key players, and what are their role in the overarching ecosystem that is motor sport? Being a broadcasting site, naturally the focus is on broadcasting, although there is heavy linkage between broadcasting and the wider motor sport economy.
Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Forum last September, Sky’s Head of Formula 1 Scott Young spoke about the delicacies of the ecosystem in a conversation around over-the-top broadcasting and pay television.
“Our investment is significant as one of the one of the investments that underpins F1, as all our rights do in every sport,” explained Young.
“I think that’s one of the differences between an OTT platform right now and major sporting broadcasters, like Sky and Eurosport, that actually invest a large amount of money that goes into those sports of which they need to help fund the teams to compete.”
“There’s an ecosystem in there that is quite delicate, and if you unravel it too quickly it can have some lasting effects,” he said.
Young quite clearly encapsulates the key themes of the ecosystem: the broadcasters, the rights holder, and the teams. If the system changes too quickly, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Coronavirus creates a gap in the chamber. The flow of money into the sport stops, meaning that money cannot flow back out the other end easily.
Who are the parties involved, and what are their roles? Let the below diagram explain, using Formula 1 and MotoGP as the key examples…
Much of the above is stating the obvious, however it shows how the ecosystem joins up from one segment to another, from the customer paying the pay TV broadcaster their monthly subscription, all the way through to teams paying their staff.
The diagram is, I admit, a simplistic view of the landscape, but hopefully helps to show how some of the basic activities connect. There are many more inputs and outputs, the diagram only covers the main ones (although if you feel there is a major gap, please shout).
Branch 1 – Pay TV > Commercial Rights Holder Pay-TV broadcasters receive income from both their customers monthly, as well as from advertisers / sponsors who want to advertise during their programming. Not all motor sports air on pay-TV, but overall, that is the way.
Some have suggested that UK’s pay-TV broadcasters BT and Sky should refund subscribers of their sports channels during the coronavirus outbreak, however neither are planning to do so currently.
The income pay-TV broadcasters receive allows them to broadcast prestigious events, the broadcaster paying the relevant Commercial Rights Holder an agreed amount each season.
For MotoGP, the Commercial Rights Holder is Dorna, for F1 it is Formula One Management, for World Rally Championship it is WRC Promoter, and so on.
To attract subscribers, pay-TV broadcasters want to utilise the best talent, on and off-screen. For that, they use a hybrid of permanent in-house staff and freelancers.
Both bring their benefits: being a permanent member of staff gives you added security with a regular pay packet, but makes it unlikely that you can work on events not aired on their outlet.
Freelancers on the other hand may work F1 one weekend, MotoGP the next, and then Formula E the weekend after, each paid on a standalone basis. Three different broadcasters and production teams, but not a problem. That approach brings risks: any cancellation will result in a loss of income.
Branch 2 – Circuit > Commercial Rights Holder The second area is simpler. Fans pay money to attend the circuit to watch a race, the circuit pays the Commercial Rights Holder the fee for holding the race. Investors and sponsors may pump money into the circuit to improve facilities, increasing the prospects of holding major events there.
It sounds simple, until someone cancels the race, which is where the legal complications come in. Mark Hughes over on The Race summarises the situation in relation to the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix.
In the event of the cancellation of a race, someone will lose money. Opting not to refund the fans is an untenable option. The organisers refund the fans, in which case the organisers lose money. Unless the Commercial Rights Holder waives the fee and takes the financial hit.
The worst-case scenario for a circuit is that they lose so much money, they go into administration and liquidation.
Circuits need money to keep operating outside of the F1 and MotoGP race weekends, they need to pay their own employees (not labelled in the diagram) to give one example. In the UK, the Rockingham Motor Speedway closed in 2018 after financial issues.
Cancelling one race might be okay, but would be enough to disturb the cashflow of the circuit. What happens though, if the Commercial Rights Holder opted to take the hit, saving the circuit, but putting themselves at jeopardy?
Branch 3 – Commercial Right Holder > Staff Like the pay-TV scenario above, the Commercial Rights Holder will pay people to run the World Feed for them all the weekend, both freelancers and permanent staff. The talent varies: from directors, to vision mixers, to replay operators, to camera operators, the list is never ending.
F1 has a mixture of freelance talent and permanent talent, same as above. Same positives, same negatives, same risks.
Branch 4 – Commercial Rights Holder > Teams As well as receiving money off pay-TV broadcasters and circuits, the Commercial Rights Holder will receive money off advertisers, sponsors and investors, the Rolex’s of this world.
Pay-TV broadcasters may want compensation off the Commercial Rights Holder if races fall by the wayside, and the same applies for advertisers, whilst circuits may want their fees lowered.
If organisers cancel one race, most championships would be able to deal with it, however when multiple races disappear, the problem amplifies.
For hypothetical sake, assume the Commercial Rights Holder has buckled in the event of cancellation. They have waived the circuit race fee and given both advertisers and pay-TV companies some compensation. Unlikely, but let us continue the worst-case path.
But, hang on. The Commercial Rights Holder needs to the pay the teams their prize money, right? Well, yes. Oh. But, the Commercial Rights Holder has already lost money? Again, yes.
“Okay then, we will not give teams their prize money.” Good luck with that one.
Teams need to pay their permanent staff and freelancers, as well as suppliers, and need some form of income from both the Commercial Rights Holder and sponsors.
Suppliers are important here. Motor sport relies on thousands of small to medium-sized employers worldwide that rarely gets a mention. If any one of those suppliers go under, that could impact the team’s ability to go racing. Suddenly, we have a major problem…
The likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, Repsol Honda, will survive with minimal disruption. The likes of Williams in F1, and many outfits in MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, all the way down the motor sport pyramid I worry about.
I worry about the freelancers, inside and outside of broadcasting, who are out of work for at least the next month. I worry about championships who struggle to make a profit each year.
I appreciate this is a simplistic view of the world, and does not account for all factors (there are many indirect lines excluded).
The point I am getting at though is that the motor sport ecosystem will be seriously tested over the next few months, and the potential longer-term consequences for this sport do not bear thinking about…
In the coronavirus-free round-up, Formula 1 jumps ahead of MotoGP in the Instagram stakes, whilst the BBC have increased their motor sport portfolio with the acquisition of another electric series.
Where possible, Motorsport Broadcasting endeavours to link directly to the original source instead of linking to a third-party site that may have misinterpreted the original headline.
The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.
All of the round-ups to date can be found here, and as always, all feedback on the site, positive and negative, is more than welcome.
Formula 1 – contractual arrangements
Austria – Red Bull broadcaster Servus TV is looking to snatch television rights off ORF when the latter’s contract with F1 expires at the end of 2020, according to an article on the Osterreich website.
Osterreich expects an announcement following this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
Canada – F1 will continue to air on TSN and RDS after the parties agreed a new deal until the end of the 2024 season.
As part of the new deal, fans can access additional feeds via the TSN and RDS app. F1 says that last year was the most-watched season ever on TSN, which coverage reaching “nearly 5.3 million Canadian viewers” across the two networks.
It should be noted that Canadian fans can also watch F1 live through F1’s over-the-top service F1 TV Pro.
Portugal – Eleven Sports has created an annual pass to allow motor sport fans to watch all of their motor sport content, as well as other sports.
The pass covers Formula 1, their feeder championships Formula Two and Formula Three, as well as the Porsche Supercup and TCR touring car series.
The pass costs Portuguese fans just €49.99 across the year, or €4.17 per month. In UK pounds, that works out at £43.79 across the year, or £3.65 per month.
USA – Mothers Polish will continue to sponsor ESPN’s coverage of Formula 1 until the end of 2022, meaning that American viewers can continue to enjoy F1 without commercial breaks.
As in 2018 and 2019, ESPN will take Sky Sports F1’s UK offering this season, extended in length on race day because of Sky’s own scheduling changes for UK fans.
Formula 1 – other news
Over on social media, Formula 1 is now the most popular series on Instagram in terms of the number of followers, overtaking MotoGP towards the end of February. F1 now has 9.00 million followers, whilst the bike series has 8.90 million followers.
Channel 4’s F1 presenter Steve Jones won the award for Sports Presenter of the Year.
F1 commentator Alex Jacques received the Silver Award for the Broadcast Ones to Watch (on-air).
Former presenter of ITV’s F1 coverage Jim Rosenthal received the Doug Gardner Award for Services to Sports Journalism and the SJA. Writing on Twitter, Rosenthal said he “never saw it coming,” and that he was “blown away by the reaction.”
F1 are relaunching their official F1 magazine after a 16-year hiatus. The first iteration of the magazine closed in 2004, but is now being relaunched by owners Liberty Media, with ex-associate editor of F1 Racing magazine James Roberts at the helm.
The magazine brings together a range of motor racing correspondents including Rebecca Clancy (The Times) and Giles Richards (The Guardian), as well as Oliver Owen (previously The Observer).
The magazine aims to offer “unrivalled access to the heroes of the sport, with in-depth interviews, exclusives, strong opinion and intelligent summaries.”
An interesting sub-plot to this is that Lifestyle Media House Limited are publishers of the new magazine. Lifestyle Media were originally meant to be purchasing F1 Racing magazine off Motorsport Network. That deal fell through, and coincidentally, Motorsport Network have since renamed F1 Racing magazine to GP Racing. Read into that what you will…
Alex Brundle is to join Alex Jacques in the Formula Two commentary box for five weekends this season, he has announced.
Writing on his Twitter, Brundle says he will partner Jacques for the Bahrain, Dutch, Belgium, Russian and Abu Dhabi rounds this year.
The BBC is to air live coverage of the new Extreme E series in a “multi-year deal.” The series, which begins in January 2021 sees all-electric SUV cars compete in remote locations around the world.
Ali Russell, Extreme E’s chief marketing officer, said: “The UK has an insatiable appetite for world-class motor racing and a groundswell of backing for sustainable technologies – particularly pertinent given the government’s plans to bring forward the transition to fully-electric motoring to 2035.”
James Hinchcliffe is to join NBC’s on-air team for their coverage of the IndyCar Series this year. Hinchcliffe will commentate on ten races this season, the first of which is this weekend in St Petersburg.
A new look and feel greeted MotoGP fans over the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, with a new graphics set.
Keep an eye on Motorsport Broadcasting over forthcoming weeks for in-depth analysis on the new package.
Also on the MotoGP front, the series has teamed up with Facebook, bringing exclusive content to the social media platform. MotoGP says that there will be “original and exclusive” content available on Facebook Watch, and will be between “three and seven minutes in length.”
The recent series of Top Gear featured an excellent 20-minute segment celebrating 25 years since Colin McRae won the World Rally Championship in his Subaru Impreza 555.
The segment is available to watch on BBC iPlayer here until March 2021.
Update – both F1 and IndyCar have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.
An air of uncertainty surrounds motor sport as the Formula 1 paddock beckons on Melbourne, Australia for the start of the 2020 Grand Prix season.
As I write this article, the Australian Grand Prix is still set to take place on Sunday 15th March. However, the coronavirus outbreak means that nothing is certain, and that the details in this article are accurate as of right now, but could change rapidly in the days ahead.
On the broadcasting side, very little has changed in terms of personnel over the winter break, a stark contrast to twelve months ago.
Simon Lazenby continues to lead Sky’s coverage of Formula 1 in Melbourne, alongside the likes of Paul di Resta, Martin Brundle, Jenson Button, Karun Chandhok and David Croft.
Ted Kravitz remains with Sky for 2020, in what Motorsport Broadcasting understands will be a similar arrangement to 2019, with Kravitz part of Sky’s output for most of the 22 races this year.
Meanwhile, Steve Jones continues to steer Channel 4’s ship, with David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Ben Edwards again alongside the Welshman. Over on BBC Radio 5 Live, Jack Nicholls, Jolyon Palmer and Jennie Gow preside over events from Melbourne.
As reported earlier, close sources have indicated to this site that Sky will be presenting their output from Melbourne on-site, however the situation for Channel 4 and BBC is unclear.
On the scheduling front, Sky’s build-up for the 22 races extends to 130 minutes this season, which must be some kind of record. The change means that their live race day shows clock in at five and a half hours when also accounting for the Notebook.
There are other smaller changes to Sky’s schedule, namely Welcome to the Weekend moving from Thursday’s to Friday’s immediately before the first practice session.
The free-to-air broadcaster can now air 60 minutes of the race itself, instead of 45 minutes as was the case last year.
Elsewhere, the IndyCar Series is back for its second season on Sky Sports F1, whilst the World Rally Championship heads to Mexico for round three of 2020.
Channel 4 F1 14/03 – 12:00 to 13:30 – Qualifying Highlights 15/03 – 14:10 to 16:40 – Race Highlights
Sky Sports F1 Sessions
13/03 – 00:30 to 02:45 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 00:30 – Welcome to the Weekend => 01:00 – Practice 1 13/03 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event) 14/03 – 02:45 to 04:30 (also Sky Sports Main Event) => 02:45 – Practice 3 => 04:10 – Paddock Walkabout 14/03 – 05:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event) => 05:00 – Pre–Show => 05:55 – Qualifying 15/03 – 03:00 to 08:30 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event) => 03:00 – Sunday Social => 04:00 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky One) => 05:05 – Race (also Sky One) => 07:00 – Chequered Flag => 08:00 – Notebook
12/03 – 05:00 to 05:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference 13/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event) 14/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event) 18/03 – 20:00 to 20:30 – F1 Weekend Debrief
BBC Radio F1 All sessions are available live onBBC’s F1 website
12/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live) 13/03 – 00:55 to 02:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra) 13/03 – 04:55 to 06:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra) 14/03 – 02:55 to 04:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra) 14/03 – 05:55 to 07:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra) 15/03 – 04:30 to 07:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
IndyCar Series – St. Petersburg (Sky Sports F1) 14/03 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying 15/03 – 18:30 to 22:00 – Race
World Rally Championship – Mexico (All Live) Also airs live onWRC+ (£)
13/03 – 01:15 to 03:00 – Stages 1 and 2 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 02:08 – Stage 1
=> 02:31 – Stage 2
13/03 – 13:45 to 03:00 – Stages 3 to 12 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 15:08 – Stage 3
=> 16:16 – Stage 4
=> 17:14 – Stage 5
=> 18:12 – Stage 6
=> 21:35 – Stage 7
=> 22:43 – Stage 8
=> 23:41 – Stage 9
=> 01:21 – Stages 10 and 11
=> 02:14 – Stage 12
14/03 – 13:45 to 02:30 – Stages 13 to 21 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 14:58 – Stage 13
=> 16:01 – Stage 14
=> 17:08 – Stage 15
=> 20:56 – Stage 16
=> 21:59 – Stage 17
=> 23:08 – Stage 18
=> 00:38 – Stages 19 and 20
=> 01:26 – Stage 21
15/03 – 13:30 to 18:45 – Stages 22 to 24 (BT Sport Extra 2)
=> 14:38 – Stage 22
=> 15:56 – Stage 23
=> 17:18 – Stage 24
World Rally Championship – Mexico
13/03 (Thursday night) – 02:00 to 03:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 2)
14/03 (Saturday morning) – 06:00 to 06:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
14/03 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Stage 15 (BT Sport 3)
15/03 (Saturday night) – 04:30 to 05:00 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
15/03 – 17:00 to 18:30 – Stage 24 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
16/03 (Sunday night) – 03:00 to 03:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
17/03 – 22:30 to 23:30 – Highlights (ITV4)
Of course, the listings above are subject to change, so keep an eye on both this site and the official championship social channels for the latest up to date information.
The chequered flag has fallen on another year of Formula 1, and with it the end of the 2019 motor racing season.
Despite both MotoGP and F1 having a relatively predictable outcome, the journey to the destination has been enticing throughout. From the thrilling German Grand Prix on four wheels, to Alex Rins beating Marc Marquez at Silverstone by milometers on two wheels, there was something for everyone this year.
Off track, 2019 has been a year of change for fans of F1 in the UK. Live coverage of the sport aired exclusively on Sky Sports for the first time ever, following in the footsteps of MotoGP which moved to BT in 2014. Only the British Grand Prix aired live on free-to-air television.
In the social media space, F1 continues to make excellent strides in an ever-changing world, whilst others have had to rethink their strategy to work out how best to engage with their audience.
Now, Motorsport Broadcasting wants your opinion on the past twelve months. Which personality has shone in 2019 and deserves a bigger presence in 2020? What was the low-light from a broadcasting perspective for you this season? And, if there was one thing you could change next season, what would it be?
As always, the best thoughts will form an article on this site over the festive period.