Scheduling: The 2019 Australian Grand Prix

A new year, a new era.

Formula 1 roars back into life, with the championship starting down under in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix!

For UK fans, the action airs exclusively live on Sky, with highlights on Channel 4. If you are not yet accustomed to hearing that sentence yet, you will soon, as that sentence applies for 20 of the 21 races this season, and (partially) applies until the end of 2024.

Change at Sky…
A lot has happened since both broadcasters went off the air at the end of 2018. Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button have joined Sky for the upcoming season, adding depth to their line-up.

The rest of Sky’s line-up remains the same as last year, 2019 marking their eighth season covering the sport. Simon Lazenby will continue to front their coverage, with David Croft and Martin Brundle on commentary.

Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Anthony Davidson, Johnny Herbert, and Damon Hill will provide analysis throughout the season, with Natalie Pinkham and Rachel Brookes also contributing to Sky’s coverage.

However, Sky have reduced Ted Kravitz’s contribution for 2019, after u-turning on an earlier decision to axe him from their coverage. Kravitz is with Sky for 14 races this season, whilst his Notebook output is no more based on current schedules. Kravitz is presenting a midweek show called Midweek Debrief, but this is an F1 production as opposed to an in-house Sky production.

On the programming front, Sky have extended their Thursday preview show, added a 30-minute wrap-up show on Friday, and kept The F1 Show on Saturday’s after qualifying. On race day, Sky have also extended Paddock Live to an hour, but it also starts half an hour earlier, meaning that Sky will head off-air earlier on Sunday’s than previously.

Sky are simulcasting their programming throughout the weekend across Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event. On Sunday, they are replaying the race five times in full across the F1 channel, Sky One and Main Event before Channel 4’s highlights programme has even started!

…and at Channel 4…
With Chandhok moving over to Sky, Channel 4 have added Billy Monger and Stefano Domenicali to their line-up. Both of them join Steve Jones, David Coulthard and Mark Webber in Melbourne, with Ben Edwards continuing to commentate alongside Coulthard. The broadcaster has retained Lee McKenzie, despite McKenzie previously intending to move onto pastures new this season.

As expected, Channel 4’s highlights programme is shorter than last year, with decreases of 20 minutes (18%) and 45 minutes (27%) for qualifying and the race respectively. The decreases are bigger than expected, as Australia received a generous edit from Channel 4 historically compared to races later in the season.

Decreases aside, fans will notice change from the very first second of Channel 4’s programme. Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain is no more. In its place I understand is a new, modern theme to kick-start Channel 4’s 2019 coverage.

…and at the Beeb
For those of you without Sky, the BBC’s 5 Live coverage of Formula 1 remains. The broadcaster has not officially confirmed their radio line-up, although expect no changes on the personnel side. IMG are producing their coverage this season after winning the contract from USP Content last October.

Elsewhere in the motor sport spectrum, the World Endurance Championship returns to action in Sebring, whilst Supercars plays its part on the F1 support bill, which UK viewers will have access to for the first time.

Channel 4 F1
16/03 – 12:00 to 13:30 – Qualifying Highlights
17/03 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
15/03 – 00:30 to 02:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 02:45 to 04:30 – Practice 3
=> 02:45 – Practice 3
=> 04:10 – Paddock Walkabout
16/03 – 05:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 05:00 – Pre-Show
=> 05:55 – Qualifying
17/03 – 03:30 to 08:00 – Race (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 03:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 04:30 – On the Grid
=> 05:05 – Race
=> 07:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
13/03 – 06:00 to 07:00 – Melbourne F1 Launch Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
14/03 – 05:00 to 06:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference
14/03 – 07:00 to 08:00 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 07:00 to 07:30 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
20/03 – 18:00 to 18:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
14/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15/03 – 00:55 to 02:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/03 – 04:55 to 06:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 02:55 to 04:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 05:55 to 07:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/03 – 04:30 to 07:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Asia Talent Cup – Thailand (BT Sport 3)
16/03 – 07:15 to 08:15 – Race 1
17/03 – 04:30 to 05:30 – Race 2

Virgin Australia Supercars – Melbourne (BT Sport 2)
15/03 – 06:30 to 08:15 – Race 1
16/03 – 01:15 to 02:30 – Race 2
16/03 – 07:00 to 08:45 – Race 3
17/03 – 02:15 to 03:45 – Race 4

World Endurance Championship – 1000 Miles of Sebring
15/03 – 19:30 to 04:30 – Race (BT Sport 3)
15/03 – 19:45 to 04:30 – Race (Eurosport)

World Superbikes – Thailand
16/03 – 05:30 to 10:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
17/03 – 05:30 to 10:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
21/03 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

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

Update on March 12th – Added Ted Kravitz’s new show with F1 TV (also airing on Sky), plus updated the Supercars schedule.

Update on March 15th – Added Stefano Domenicali to Channel 4’s line-up. Also, Supercars has disappeared from BT Sport’s schedules. Historically, there were restrictions around what broadcasters could air from Supercars in Melbourne as it falls under the F1 support package, restrictions which still apply. The only place for UK fans to see the action is via SuperView,.


Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict

The 2018 Formula One season has ended, and with it, brings down the curtain on the motor racing year.

On-track, it has been a year of generally good racing wherever you look. Whilst neither the F1 or MotoGP seasons went down the wire, the racing in both has been worth watching on many occasions this year.

Off the track, there have been many developments on the broadcasting front. Traditionally, the end of season verdict has stuck to the UK F1 view point, but we live in a motor sport world far greater than both the UK and F1, and with that in mind it makes sense to expand the scope of the verdict to encompass all elements of broadcasting.

Whether it has been the launch of F1 TV, or World Rally Championship’s All Live service, there has been plenty of movement in the online arena. Liberty Media have made their mark on Formula 1’s graphics set, whilst closer to home, 2018 was the last year of Channel 4’s current F1 contract, the broadcaster remaining in a reduced capacity, for 2019 at least.

Now, we want your opinion. Has something irritated you with this year’s motor sport coverage? Have I missed a revolution that this site should be covering? And what would you like to be different about the motor sport broadcasting scene in 2019? Are you planning to watch a new series next season?

As always, the best thoughts and views will form a new article closer to the festive period.

Can BTCC capitalise on F1’s reduced free-to-air presence from 2019?

As the curtain draws on the 2018 British Touring Car Championship this weekend at Brands Hatch, attention will quickly turn to the 2019 season.

Next year is significant from a broadcasting perspective, as BTCC stands with Formula E as being the last two motor racing series with a major live free-to-air presence on UK television. From 2019, only one F1 race will air live on free-to-air television. But, can BTCC take advantage of the opportunity that lies in front of them, and grasp it with both arms?

On-track, the championship is in an excellent position, and has been for many years. “The BTCC has been in a dominant position in this country since the early 90’s. We’re going through a real boom period currently, with a full grid of 31 cars,” series director Alan Gow tells me.

“We’ve struck a terrific combination of the way our technical and sporting regulations all work, we’re delivering what people want to see. The series is absolutely in rude health.”

The BTCC headlines a packed weekend of action, with a variety of support races on action to whet the appetite. Whether it is the Renault Clio Cup, the Porsche Carrera Cup, or the single-seater British Formula 4 series, there is plenty on offer for everyone.

“There’s a lot of entertainment, and it is great value for money,” Gow says. “A family can come along and be thrilled and entertained all day from 9 till 6!”

Although BTCC is the main attraction for fans, ITV4 covers all the action, including support races, as it has done for the past decade. On Sunday’s, the broadcaster airs the three touring car races live, with support races covered either live or on tape-delay, helping the profile of the underclass events immensely.

> 60 years of British Touring Cars: the broadcasting story

Inevitably audience figures ebb and flow throughout the season, with rounds dented by the presence of Formula 1. In yesteryear, the championship did try to avoid the Grand Prix, but this is no longer a consideration.

“In the old days, I used to wait until the F1 calendar was out and then try to avoid the races, but I don’t bother any more. There’s too many of them! We put our calendar out in May, well before the F1 does. The only thing we do avoid is the British Grand Prix,” explains Gow.

Analysis of overnight audience figures supplied by shows the impact that Formula 1 has on BTCC’s viewership. This site analysed audience figures for eight rounds so far this season, Croft the exception as it clashed with England’s World Cup game versus Panama.

Two of those eight rounds, Oulton Park and Snetterton clashed with F1 races that aired exclusively on Sky Sports. The full ITV4 programmes averaged 219k (3.0%) and 305k (3.1%) respectively. A further four rounds clashed with races that aired live on Channel 4, averaging 173k (1.6%).

In other words, live F1 on free-to-air television can wipe around 30 percent off ITV4’s programme audience for BTCC.

Regardless of whether there is a clash between touring cars and Formula 1 or not, the former regularly peaks with over 350,000 viewers each race day.

The peak metric does not fluctuate as much as the programme average, as the final BTCC race of the day takes place long after the F1 has concluded meaning that the audience level by that stage is similar across the season.

The highest peak of the season so far came with the second Snetterton race in July, which peaked with 529k (5.6%) moments before the Hungarian Grand Prix started.

The audience figures suggest that live F1 predominantly moving to pay-TV will boost ITV4’s touring car numbers somewhat. “Every time we come up against a Grand Prix in our time zone, our numbers in the afternoon will take a bit of a dent for that two-hour period while the race is on, and then increase afterwards,” Gow tells me.

“I think the F1 change will drive more people to the BTCC. We’ll be the only live major motor sport on mainstream TV. The audience that Sky gets for Formula 1 is so much less than what Channel 4 gets, so it will have less of an impact on our audience.”

2018 Silverstone BTCC
Bumper-to-bumper racing always the order of the day for British Touring Cars, here during the second race at Silverstone.

Gow, who himself had interest from Sky in the mid-1990s, takes viewers over the potential financial incentive. “I’m old schools, I want the eye balls, I want people to watch our motor racing, it’s what makes it attractive for teams, for sponsors, manufacturers,” Gow says.

“Taking the money and putting it behind a pay wall just doesn’t sit well with my old school way of thinking. I’m sure our attendances would drop behind a pay wall. That’s what sets us apart from others, the accessibility of it, you don’t have to pay to watch it on-screen.”

Whilst the championship is in the right place within the ITV family due to the presence it provides, is there an argument to suggest that, some touring car action should air on ITV’s main channel?

From the outset, shifting all the action to ITV’s main channel is a non-starter, given that ITV is a general entertainment channel. However, in addition to the current ITV4 programme, airing race three live on ITV’s main channel in a two-hour programme from 16:30 to 18:30 on a Sunday evening could appeal to a wider family audience.

It is not like ITV (1) has forgotten about sport. This year alone, the main channel has aired live horse racing, cycling, and coverage of the Goodwood Revival. Notably, ITV placed a lot of effort behind the resurrection of the popular World of Sport Wrestling brand, which was a household name in yesteryear.

However, audiences reacted negatively to the wrestling show. The first episode aired in a Saturday evening time slot at 17:00, attracting around one million viewers. Audience figures quickly slumped by half, with ITV slowly moving the show further into a daytime slot.

Prior to its launch, WOS Wrestling benefited from cross-promotion on ITV’s daytime shows, such as Good Morning Britain and This Morning, as do many of their other sports brands that air live on ITV’s main channel. Why does BTCC not get the same level of attention?

With live Formula 1 primarily on pay television from 2019, now is a good a time as any to experiment more with touring cars and to give it a bit more love and attention across the ITV network. To the contrary, one might argue that, ITV’s BTCC coverage is fine as-is, so what is there to fix?

Whether ITV’s higher-ups beyond the sports division have fallen out with motor sport, giving motor racing a wide berth from their main channel where live coverage is concerned (see also: Formula E), is unclear. For the moment, Gow is clear that BTCC will remain on ITV4.

“We take a lot of air time on ITV4, and you can’t take seven or eight hours out of ITV,” Gow continued. “We want to make ITV4 the destination for touring car fans. ITV shows our highlights programme, and that gets good numbers. Of course, if ITV said to me ‘we’d like to do this,’ I wouldn’t say no, but there’s absolutely no plans at all to do it.”

Gow is happy with BTCC’s current partnership with ITV. “We have such a great relationship with ITV, and I’m very proud of that relationship. At the time they’d signed it, they had never signed a five-year sports deal, so it was a ground-breaking thing for them. They had the faith in us, and were confident in dealing with us.”

“We never relax, but importantly it means the teams know what the championship looks like for the next five years. They have the comfort of knowing what the broadcast arrangements are so they can build their teams and build their business, and that’s really important.”

It is an impossible question as to how many people, if any, new or old, are likely to seek out BTCC again because of Formula 1 moving to pay-TV. ITV commentator David Addison says that touring cars cannot fill the gap ‘like for like’, but for very good reason.

“You are comparing two very different categories, a race that can be up to two hours against one that is 20 minutes. BTCC is elbows out, crash and bash, push and spin, nudge and overtake, drama, tyres, reverse grids, heroes and villains, it’s a bit like apples and pears comparing F1 with touring cars, that’s perhaps why we can’t fill that gap like for like,” Addison comments.

“But if you want to watch motor racing on a Sunday afternoon, I think more people these days come away buzzing about a touring car race than an average Grand Prix.”

Can BTCC capitalise on Formula 1’s live free-to-air demise? They, and ITV, would be foolish not to…

“No plans” for live BTCC to air on ITV’s main channel in 2019

Live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship is set to remain on ITV4 in 2019, with no plans currently for live programming to move to ITV’s main channel, according to the man who heads up the series.

All the action currently airs live on ITV4, as it has done since 2007, with up to eight hours of programming on race day hosted by Steve Rider. A cut down 90-minute highlights show airs in a mid-week time slot late at night on ITV’s main channel.

With a gap in the market as a result of live Formula 1 predominately airing on pay television from 2019, it raises the question of whether the domestic touring car series can capitalise in any way on the television front.

Speaking exclusively to this site ahead of this weekend’s season finale at Brands Hatch, series director Alan Gow says that he is happy with the current television situation. “We have such a great relationship with ITV, and I’m very proud of that relationship.”

“We take a lot of air time on ITV4, and you can’t take seven or eight hours out of ITV,” Gow continued. “We want to make ITV4 the destination for touring car fans. ITV shows our highlights programme, and that gets good numbers. Of course, if ITV said to me ‘we’d like to do this,’ I wouldn’t say no, but there’s absolutely no plans at all to do it.”

The championship has a deal with ITV taking the series through to 2022, which offers all involved long-term security. “At the time they’d signed it, they had never signed a five-year sports deal, so it was a really ground-breaking thing for them,” Gow tells me. “They had faith in us, and were confident in dealing with us.”

“We never relax, but importantly it means the teams know what the championship looks like for the next five years. They have the comfort of knowing what the broadcast arrangements are so they can build their teams and build their business, and that’s really important.”

On the racing front, organisers may extend the third and final race at some meetings next year, following in the footsteps of Snetterton this season. “We have a meeting with the teams in October and that’s when we will discuss potential options. It’s certainly on the cards,” says Gow.

Keep an eye on this site in the next few days for further analysis on what lies in store for British Touring Cars next season.

Scheduling: The 2018 Russian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton aims to leave this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix with one hand on the 2018 Formula One championship, as the paddock heads to the Sochi Autodrom for round 16 of the season.

The race airs exclusively live on Sky Sports, and with it there are some changes to usual proceedings. Martin Brundle steps aside for Russia, as well as the Japanese round next weekend. His replacement is unconfirmed as of writing, but expect Paul di Resta to step up again to commentate alongside David Croft for qualifying and the race.

On the scheduling front, Sky have again demoted the first Formula Two race of the weekend, as they did in Hungary, in favour of The F1 Show. The action airs on a tape-delay instead, which when you consider that two British drivers are battling for the championship shows how little some elements of Sky F1 care about the series.

There is no sign yet of Formula Two appearing live behind the Red Button, but I will update this article if the situation changes. A feature with di Resta and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo from Singapore gets an extended cut on Sky Sports F1 over the Russian weekend, first airing on Thursday evening.

Tom Clarkson joins Channel 4’s team for the weekend, substituting for Lee McKenzize, who is winding down her F1 commitments. Over on 5 Live, coverage is primarily on Sports Extra throughout the weekend due to the Ryder Cup. Also, a reminder for anyone watching the F1 race live, it starts earlier than usual at 12:10 UK time.

Outside of the Formula 1 circles, the British Touring Car Championship ends its season at Brands Hatch, whilst the British Superbike season continues its Showdown phase over in the Netherlands for its annual Assen pilgrimage.

Channel 4 F1
29/09 – 16:30 to 18:30 – Qualifying Highlights
30/09 – 18:45 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
28/09 – 08:45 to 10:55 – Practice 1
28/09 – 12:45 to 14:50 – Practice 2
29/09 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
29/09 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying
=> 12:00 – Pre-Show
=> 12:55 – Qualifying
30/09 – 10:30 to 15:10 – Race
=> 10:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 11:30 – On the Grid
=> 12:05 – Race
=> 14:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
27/09 – 11:00 to 11:30 – Driver Press Conference
27/09 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
27/09 – 18:30 to 19:00 – When Daniel Met Paul
29/09 – 14:35 to 15:05 – The F1 Show

BBC Radio F1
27/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
28/09 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/09 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/09 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/09 – 12:55 to 14:55 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/09 – 12:00 to 13:55 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

British Superbikes – Assen
29/09 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
30/09 – 10:30 to 14:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
30/09 – 15:15 to 17:30 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
03/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
30/09 – 10:30 to 18:30 – Races

Formula Two – Russia (Sky Sports F1)
28/09 – 10:55 to 11:45 – Practice
28/09 – 14:50 to 15:30 – Qualifying
29/09 – 15:05 to 16:20 – Race 1 (tape delay)
30/09 – 09:15 to 10:20 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Russia (Sky Sports F1)
28/09 – 15:45 to 16:25 – Qualifying
29/09 – 08:10 to 09:05 – Race 1
30/09 – 08:00 to 08:45 – Race 2

World Superbikes – Magny Cours
28/09 – 08:40 onwards (Eurosport 2)
=> 08:40 to 09:30 – SBK: Practice 1
=> 10:45 to 12:15 – SBK: Practice
29/09 – 09:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
30/09 – 14:15 to 15:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
04/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

World Touring Car Cup – China (Eurosport 2)
30/09 – 03:00 to 04:00 – Qualifying
30/09 – 07:00 to 09:00 – Races
=> 07:00 – Race 2
=> 08:00 – Race 3

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.