Scheduling: The 2019 Sanya E-Prix

Formula E remains in the far east for the second leg of its Asian tour, as the championship heads to China for the Sanya E-Prix.

After its one-off appearance on BBC Two last time out in Hong Kong, the series returns to BBC’s Red Button on Saturday, with World Feed only coverage returning. As always, Vernon Kay and Nicki Shields preside over proceedings, with Bob Varsha, Jack Nicholls, and Dario Franchitti in the commentary box.

On the radio side, Tom Gaymor, Claire Cottingham and Marc Priestley will commentate on the action for Formula E Radio as well as BBC 5 Live Sports Extra.

Over in the west, the Circuit of the Americas plays host the IndyCar Series. Barring any technical difficulties, the race itself will run without commercials for UK viewers on Sky Sports F1, a stark contrast to the first race in St Petersburg when the UK programme followed the same ad-break pattern as their US counterparts.

Formula E – Sanya
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying also air live on YouTube…
22/03 – 07:45 to 08:45 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
22/03 – 23:15 to 00:15 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 1)
23/03 – 01:30 to 02:15 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 1)
23/03 – 03:00 to 04:45 – Qualifying (BT Sport 1 and Eurosport)
23/03 – 06:30 to 08:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport 1
=> live on Eurosport
23/03 – 06:30 to 08:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)
24/03 – 00:00 to 01:00 – Highlights (Quest)

Formula E Radio – Sanya (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/03 – 03:15 to 04:50 – Qualifying
23/03 – 06:45 to 08:20 – Race

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Sanya (BT Sport 1)
23/03 – 00:15 to 01:00 – Qualifying
23/03 – 04:45 to 05:45 – Race

IndyCar Series – Austin (Sky Sports F1)
23/03 – 19:00 to 20:30 – Qualifying
24/03 – 17:00 to 20:00 – Race

If anything changes, the schedule will be updated.


Hong Kong E-Prix peaks with 355,000 viewers on BBC Two

A packed weekend of motor sport to kick start the traditional season saw Formula E lead the way on its BBC Two debut, overnight viewing figures show.

Formula E makes BBC Two debut
As part of their commitment to air one race on linear television, BBC aired the Hong Kong E-Prix live on BBC Two this past weekend. The race brought in a solid audience, according to audience numbers supplied by

An average of 229k (4.6%) tuned into the broadcast from 07:30 to 09:30. Sunday’s audience is an improvement on the last two seasons for Hong Kong, when the race aired on tape-delay on Channel 5.

In a positive sign, the BBC’s race coverage saw consistent growth throughout the broadcast, increasing its audience in most of the five-minute segments between 07:35 and 09:05. The race peaked with 355k (6.5%) at 09:00 as the race concluded.

It is Formula E’s highest UK audience for an Asian-based race since their first ever E-Prix in 2014. Back then, live coverage of the Beijing E-Prix on ITV4 averaged 266k (4.7%) and peaked with 477k (6.8%).

BT Sport and Eurosport make negligible difference to the overall picture, averaging 5k (0.10%) and 8k (0.16%) respectively, if anything showing the importance of free-to-air for Formula E.

For me, Formula E’s audience is solid, whether it is enough to convince the BBC to move the series off the Red Button for the latter half of the season, I do not know. If the peak was nearer to 500,000 viewers, I think the decision may be easier, that is if there is even a discussion here.

Last weekend’s race was Formula E’s first on a mainstream television channel since June last year, so expectations from a viewing figures perspective are lower as a result. With a bit of promotion, a European race could peak at around 800,000 viewers on BBC One, potentially. Time will tell if the BBC genuinely considers that a viable option this season.

MotoGP’s return peaks with 249,000 viewers on BT
A new season of MotoGP kicked off on BT Sport 2 with the Qatar GP. The leading bike series was unaffected by tough football opposition on Sky.

The race brought in an audience similar to previous years. The 90-minute MotoGP slot averaged 190k (1.3%) from 16:30 to 18:00, a slight decrease on last year’s figure of 211k (1.5%), but an increase on the 2014 and 2017 averages.

A peak of 249k (1.6%) watched as Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso went wheel-to-wheel over the finish line for the second year running. The peak audience is in-line with the past two years, which peaked with 247k (1.3%) and 255k (1.9%) respectively.

Free-to-air highlights of the championship moved from Channel 5 to Quest, with the audience dropping significantly year-on-year. Quest aired two highlights shows at 18:00 and 23:00 respectively. Their premiere airing averaged 140k (0.9%), with the repeat bringing in 50k (0.8%).

The combined Quest audience of 190k is down 58 percent on Channel 5’s highlights audience for Qatar last season of 456k (2.5%). It is lower than all bar three MotoGP races on either ITV4 or Channel 5 since the highlights arrangement started in 2014.

Cumulatively, the drop for the highlights airing meant that MotoGP peaked with 513,000 viewers in the UK over the weekend, when accounting for BT’s live airing and Quest’s two repeats, a disappointing number for the championship.

As with all the figures in this piece, on demand platforms such as BT Sport’s online services and MotoGP’s VideoPass over-the-top offering are not included, which may make a small difference to the total MotoGP numbers.

IndyCar struggles on Sky return as St Pete opener plagued by technical issues
It was not a good Sunday for IndyCar, on all fronts. The series returned for a new season in St Petersburg, and with it came a change of channel for UK viewers, as the championship moved from BT Sport to Sky Sports F1.

Viewing figures struggled, with the race averaging 19k (0.11%) from 16:30 to 20:30, a decrease on last year’s BT audience of 25k (0.16%) over a shorter 200-minute time slot. Sky’s coverage peaked with 56k (0.32%) at 18:40 on Sunday, compared with 56k (0.38%) one year ago on BT.

The season opener faced MotoGP on BT and Premier League football on Sky, which may have impacted figures. Last month, F1 testing brought in a higher audience than IndyCar managed, although testing aired across the F1 channel and Main Event.

Considering the buzz when the IndyCar deal was first announced, Sky’s audience is disappointing. IndyCar, from a UK perspective, failed to move the needle outside of the Twitter bubble. However, IndyCar could benefit from cross-promotion during Sky’s main F1 coverage this year, so the picture could change as the season progresses.

The problems with Sky’s IndyCar broadcast may not have helped audience figures, although I doubt it caused a significant dent given the low base to start with.

IndyCar produces two feeds: a domestic feed for NBC, and an international feed. The feeds contain different graphics set, whilst the former is also not a continuous feed of the racing action. For St Pete, Sky aired the domestic feed ‘as-is’, breaking away to their own commercials when NBC in America went to adverts or went ‘side-by-side’.

What this meant was a downgrade on coverage offered by BT Sport in previous years. It was expected that Sky would take some commercials (@IndyCarUK understands four ad-breaks), but also utilise the feed to stay on the action for most of the race outside of yellow flag periods.

Whether Sky were unaware that the domestic feed was going to break away from the action or not is unclear. Either way, the communication between Sky Sports, NBC Sports and IndyCar needs to be clearer ready for Austin in two weeks’ time.

In a separate issue, IndyCar’s broadcast lost pictures completely for around 15 minutes on Sunday, affecting both the domestic NBC feed and the international feed. IndyStar Sports writer Jim Ayello reports that there was “a power supply failure to one of IMS Productions’ up-links due to two amplifiers overheating,” which caused the feed to go down.

Scheduling: The 2019 Qatar MotoGP / Hong Kong E-Prix

After a dominant display in 2018, Marc Marquez looks to keep hold of the MotoGP crown, as the championship springs back to life in Qatar.

This year though, Marquez has a new partner at Repsol Honda in Jorge Lorenzo, a pairing that will be fascinating to watch as the season progresses. For UK fans, live coverage of the series remains on BT Sport.

2019 is the first of BT’s new three year MotoGP contract, and with it Suzi Perry is on-board as BT’s presenter at every race this season. The main personnel change for BT is that James Toseland is no longer with the team.

On the free-to-air front, highlights of the championship move from Channel 5 to Quest, with the 60-minute show airing in an earlier time slot on Monday evenings.

Staying on tarmac, Formula E makes the jump to BBC Two for the Hong Kong E-Prix as part of their commitment to air one race on terrestrial television. In a throwback to ITV’s coverage of the series, Jennie Gow presents from the BBC’s Salford studios.

Jamie Chadwick and Marc Priestley are alongside Gow in the BBC studio, instead of Billy Monger as originally billed. Prior to the live airing, delayed coverage of qualifying airs via the Red Button for the first time.

To be honest, there is an argument that the Formula E World Feed on its own would have been a better approach, especially as the World Feed output has matured since ITV covered the series in its inaugural years. Saying that, adding a bit of colour to the broadcast is par for the course for BBC’s sporting output on linear television, so it is not too surprising.

Meanwhile, the IndyCar Series moves from BT Sport to Sky Sports F1 in a multi-year deal, with Sky covering qualifying and the race live. The expectation is that Sky are taking IndyCar’s World Feed without any bespoke wrap-around content. UK viewers will hear the likes of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy calling the action.

There is a lot of action across the weekend, with IndyCar overlapping with both MotoGP and the climax of Rally Mexico.

MotoGP – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
02/03 – 19:45 to 20:45 – Season Preview
08/03 – 10:30 to 18:15 – Practice 1 and 2
09/03 – 10:15 to 13:15 – Practice 3
09/03 – 14:00 to 16:15 – Qualifying
10/03 – 11:30 to 19:00
=> 11:30 – Warm Ups
=> 13:15 – Moto3
=> 15:00 – Moto2
=> 16:30 – MotoGP
=> 18:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP  – Qatar (Quest)
11/03 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Hong Kong
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying also air live on YouTube…
09/03 – 07:45 to 08:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
09/03 (Saturday night) – 23:15 to 00:15 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 01:45 to 02:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 03:30 to 05:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 3 and Eurosport)
10/03 – 06:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying Delayed (BBC Red Button)
10/03 – 07:30 to 09:30 – Race
=> live on BBC Two until 09:15
=> live on BT Sport 3
=> live on Eurosport 2
10/03 – 07:30 to 09:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)

IndyCar Series – St Petersburg (Sky Sports F1)
09/03 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying
10/03 – 16:30 to 20:30 – Race

World Rally Championship – Mexico (All Live)
Every stage also live via
07/03 – 16:45 to 18:15 – Shakedown (BT Sport Extra 1)
08/03 – 01:30 to 03:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport Extra 1)
08/03 – 15:00 to 02:15 – Stages 2 to 9 (BT Sport Extra 3)
09/03 – 13:15 to 02:45 – Stages 10 to 18 (BT Sport Extra 1)
10/03 – 14:00 to 19:45 – Stages 19 to 21 (BT Sport Extra 2)

World Rally Championship – Mexico
08/03 – 02:00 to 03:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 3)
09/03 – 05:00 to 05:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
09/03 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Stage 12 (BT Sport/ESPN)
10/03 – 05:00 to 05:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 18:00 to 19:30 – Stage 16 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
11/03 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
11/03 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

Asia Talent Cup – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
09/03 – 13:15 to 14:00 – Race 1
10/03 – 10:30 to 11:30 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Hong Kong (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 00:15 to 01:15 – Qualifying
10/03 – 05:45 to 06:45 – Race

As always, I will update the schedule if anything changes.

Updated on March 5th with changes to the BBC’s Formula E line-up. Updated further on March 8th, with Quest’s MotoGP deal announcement.

IndyCar returns to Sky Sports for 2019

The IndyCar Series will return to Sky Sports for the upcoming 2019 season in a multi-year deal, the broadcaster has confirmed, following the news earlier this week that BT Sport have lost the rights to the championship.

The single-seater series previously enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Sky, which ended following the 2012 season. Now, the series returns to Sky, however the series will air exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, a surprising move considering the reluctance to air IndyCar action on the channel in 2012.

Sky will air both qualifying and the race for each round on the F1 channel, the first time this level of coverage has been available to UK fans.

Steve Smith, Director of Content and Production at Sky Sports, said “The NTT IndyCar Series is one of the most thrilling competitions in motor racing, crowned by the world renowned ‘Indy 500’, and it’s great to be able to work with our new partners at NBC to bring it to a whole new audience here in the UK and Ireland.”

“Alongside our biggest ever season of F1, it will be part of an incredible line-up of motor racing on Sky Sports this year.”

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said “We are pleased to reach a deal with Sky Sports to showcase the NTT IndyCar Series on the Sky Sports F1 channel for the next several seasons.”

“IndyCar values the commitment Sky and NBC have made to the series and the support of Comcast-NBCUniversal to help make this deal possible. We look forward to starting our season next week on Sky.”

World Feed only coverage expected
I understand that Sky will be taking IndyCar’s World Feed, with no additional wrap-around or bespoke content, unlike in their previous iteration of coverage, when Sky provided extra studio coverage, typically fronted by Keith Huewen.

For those that watched BT Sport’s commercial free coverage, some may consider the move to Sky to be a downgrade, but airing the series on the F1 channel should open the series to a much wider audience, assuming Sky gives IndyCar promotion within their F1 coverage.

Prior to 2012, IndyCar was the only live motor racing show in town on Sky, and promotion was minimal as a result. IndyCar never benefited from Sky’s F1 coverage in 2012, with the F1 channel acting as an overflow station on two occasions, whereas this time round every race will air on the F1 channel.

It appears that Formula 1 themselves, now led by under Liberty Media, are happy for this to happen, whereas Formula 1 under Bernie Ecclestone’s ownership were reluctant back in 2012. It does make prospects for the Indianapolis 500 interesting, which falls on the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix, and features two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso.

If given an appropriate level of cross-promotion, the 500 could benefit significantly. BT Sport’s coverage of Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 debut in 2017 peaked with 203,000 viewers, so Sky should be able to match that comfortably. I daresay Sky should provide some bespoke wrap-around coverage for the 500, but that might be a bridge too far.

Aside from the build-up for the 500, the chances of a direct clash with the F1 season is highly unlikely.

Multiple reasons behind Sky’s IndyCar deal
Comcast now owns Sky, and has done so since the middle of 2018. In the US, IndyCar is airing on NBC in a new deal starting this season. Comcast also owns NBC, which is one reason this deal fits together nicely for all parties as noted in the quotes from both Sky and IndyCar.

Additionally, one of the suggestions touted by industry sources is that IndyCar may be part of a wider strategy to expand the scope of Sky Sports F1 to cover other motor sport championships, which is now possible with Liberty at the F1 helm. In my view, this is exactly how Sky should use the channel outside of live F1 weekends.

Of course, adding other championships to Sky F1 helps drive up subscriptions for those fans ‘on the edge’ of taking out Sky’s ‘best ever’ deal for the F1 channel which runs through March.

It is unclear whether BT Sport bid for IndyCar this season. What we do know is that their new contracts with MotoGP and the World Rally Championship kicked in from this season. Both are world championships, the latter coming with a significant increase in hours due to WRC All Live, which may have sealed IndyCar’s BT fate if there was no money lying round for the American based series.

The 17-round IndyCar Series season gets underway on March 10th in St. Petersburg, finishing on September 22nd in Laguna Seca.

BT Sport loses IndyCar rights

BT Sport will not broadcast coverage of the IndyCar Series this season after losing the rights to the championship.

The series aired on Sky Sports as part of a longstanding relationship until the end of the 2012 season, with regular live studio coverage covering each race. As Sky ramped up their F1 involvement, IndyCar arguably suffered, and the series moved over to ESPN at the start of 2013.

IndyCar continued on ESPN, but under the BT Sport umbrella from August 2013 onwards. Whilst BT Sport’s agreement with ESPN’s international arm lasts until 2022, the decision by IndyCar to break away from ESPN and bring their international rights in-house placed BT Sport’s UK deal under threat.

This site can confirm that BT Sport have lost the rights to IndyCar with immediate effect. Writing on Twitter, BT Sport’s IndyCar commentator Tom Gaymor said  “Unfortunately it looks like IndyCar will not be on BT Sport this year, no more information at the moment! I know a lot of you have been asking, so if it changes, I’ll let you know. I’m as disappointed as you are.”

Typically, IndyCar races average around 25,000 viewers, a figure that has remained relatively static in recent years. Most notably, IndyCar enjoyed its moment in the sun in 2017, when the appearance of Fernando Alonso at the Indianapolis 500 led to BT Sport’s coverage peaking with over 200,000 viewers, by far IndyCar’s highest UK audience in a generation.

For the IndyCar fans that have stuck with BT Sport’s coverage, the parting of ways between the two sides is a shame. Whilst BT Sport did not revolutionise IndyCar coverage as such (the budget remained small), what the motor sport team, led by Nick Kennerley off camera, did provide was a home for the series.

BT’s coverage was commercial free for the most parts with UK commentators Gaymor, Keith Collantine and Oliver Webb providing insight when their US colleagues were on commercial breaks. It is difficult to imagine another network doing the same thing as BT have done for the past few years.

However, if IndyCar’s new home does provide the championship with a wider platform, then overall this is a good move.

IndyCar have yet to announce a new broadcast partner for the UK. One possibility is that IndyCar finds itself back on Sky Sports. Comcast now owns Sky, and has done so since the middle of 2018. In the US, IndyCar is airing on NBC in a new deal starting this season. And Comcast also owns NBC…

I have reached out to IndyCar for further comment.