In conversation with Stuart Higgs

During the down time, Motorsport Broadcasting is taking the opportunity to review content that never made it past the drawing board due to time constraints.

Back in 2017, this writer went behind the scenes at a British Superbikes event at Silverstone. As well as looking around the outside broadcast (OB) truck, I spoke to the brains behind British Superbikes, Series and Race Director Stuart Higgs (@StuartHiggs).

Although I published snippets at the time, I never published the full 40-minute extract. Some snippets are no longer relevant, but many of the topics discussed at length are still applicable to the present day, discussing broadcasting and beyond.

To begin with, me and Stuart chat about the hurdles British Superbikes has faced over the past 25 years…

We relaunched British Superbikes in 1996, and it’s gone through several evolutions of promoter and organiser since, most recently 2008, when MSV acquired the commercial rights. I’ve been involved in the championship for most of the twenty-year period beforehand.

2008 saw a convergence of promoter, circuit, and organisational entities all into one group, which really changed the commercial and media landscape because it allowed us to be unfettered in terms of our deal making capability and the ability to promote the championship.

Back in 1996, the circuits all got together to form an organisation called the Motorcycle Circuit Racing Control Board (MCRCB), and that gifted itself by negotiation, the promotional and organisational rights for British championship level motorbike racing in the UK on permanent circuits.

Previously it was left to individual promoters, all run under the regulation body the ACU, but 1996 was the moment when it all changed. We had a single promoter and organiser, led by Robert Fearnall at Two Four Sports, who operated Donington.

This was around the same time I think that Superbikes was making a splash on free-to-air television, which must have helped the championship.

BBC Grandstand really propelled two wheels back into the living rooms, and it followed what happened a couple of years previously with British Touring Cars. It was a nice, snappy 30-minute programmes, with three or four million people watching on a Saturday afternoon. It was the rebirth, and as everyone saw, attendances went up, sponsors like Cadbury, Old Spice and Red Bull came in for the first time, it was the sea change moment.

That brings us up to 1999, when the group of circuits all thought that, given the success so far, they would take touring car and superbike and become this huge motor sport promoting entity.

That all dovetailed at the same time with a company called Octagon, who were owners of the circuits that are now MSV. Octagon acquired the Formula 1 British Grand Prix rights that were going to Brands Hatch, which never happened, and it was a bit of a mess.

Octagon eventually flogged all the circuits to Jonathan Palmer (MSV) in early 2004, and we as a championship were looking for a home. Robert Fearnall negotiated with Dorna, agreeing that they would handle BSB’s commercial rights. And then we created an organising body which would run the sporting side of the championship, led by myself.

Was the partnership successful between yourselves and Dorna?

It was, but the next challenge was a battle between Dorna and ourselves, as the sporting and promoter of the championship, and some of the circuits, now with Jonathan Palmer at the helm, where we’d do a deal with a sponsor, for example Monster, but a track may have a deal with Red Bull for example.

As a championship, we would say “we must have a clean circuit, no billboards,” and they’d say “well we’ve sold this bridge to Vauxhall,” it was constant loggerheads.

It became clear that Dorna was not in it for the long-term, for them it was a good way to get into superbikes, by pumping some investment into a superbike product that was not World Superbikes at the time.

Domestically in the end, I was working on one side and Palmer was very interested in BSB, so we got together, and everything went across to MSV. Suddenly, the handcuffs were off, which leads us to where we are today.

Jonathan [Palmer] as the promoter realised, what I always believed, that you needed the championship rights to prevail, which made the venues wake up and blossom as well.

It allowed us to make long-term deals commercially, long-term television deals, and if you have long-term television deals then you can go to sponsors with confidence. If you can say to a sponsor “this is our current broadcast footprint and circuit attendance,” you can say to a potential partner this is what it is going to in the next five years and immediately people start to think.

That’s where the stability has come from, and obviously we will work on behalf of the teams to help procure their commercial partners and just to support them where we can. It’s a nice position to be in.

Dorna are now starting to invest in support series around the world, the British Talent Cup [started in 2018] which is only a good thing for motorcycle racing in this country.

They acknowledge the UK has been a critical market, one of the most knowledgeable fan bases in the world, and they want to develop further opportunities for the young riders. The series will ride across Dorna’s championship events in the UK, which is World Superbikes and MotoGP, and some races with us, we’re happy with that.

Having the world’s foremost two-wheel motor sport promoter, and having the UK’s biggest venue operator and again promoter all working on the same page is a very interesting development.

Let us move on to a hypothetical scenario for a moment. I am a motor sport fan, who lives in the UK, but never been to a British Superbikes event. What is the draw?

You’re spoilt for choice for what you spend your money on, so value for money is the key here. There’s no other comparable premier sport in the UK that has the value for money for what you see on a day, the access you have to it and the people. We are a national or international level event, priced at a national or even regional sport level.

It’s a spectacle, it’s escapism from the regulated world. I think people appreciate motorcycle racing more when you understand the human side of it as well. The most important thing is the access between the spectator and the rider, and vice versa, that’s one reason I got involved in racing, I idolised Barry Sheene.

I always want to present our championship in a way where, whether people come for the first time or repeated times, they still get that feeling of seeing their heroes. The show can attract you, but like any sport, you enjoy it more when your heart is racing and you have someone to support.

Behind the scenes in the BSB OB truck: the monitor wall
Behind the scenes in the BSB OB truck: the key roles and responsibilities

Looking at the schedule here at Silverstone, there’s loads of action on from early in the morning to late in the afternoon.

Track time is key.

I think the diversity of what is on show, from kids on Moto3 bikes through to one brand series we have like Ducati, many races we also have the sidecar series, which is one of the biggest in the world.

It’s keeping the racing industry going, it’s a churn of riders at all levels, teams of different standards. It’s very important to be able to showcase that to fans watching trackside.

Finances are always a concern irrespective of what level of motor sport you participate in. Are things more stable for British Superbikes under MSV?

Motor sport is still an expensive past time no matter how many cost controls you try and put in. There’s the crash damage cost, the human cost which can’t be reduced that much, and then you get external variables which affects people’s budgets.

Our aim has always been to have an international-level championship performing on a geographical base that’s national, with a bit overseas like Assen. We operate in a small geographical space, but our broadcast footprint is global which means we can offer a unique proposition for teams and investors.

Teams and investors in the championship can pay a fee equivalent to the level of operation but it gets this incredible visibility and reach. If it costs £500,000 to run a decent, mid-range superbike team and you can get the budget to cover that, the money you’re asking of people will still deliver a return that’s probably better than someone investing five times as much on the world stage.

For those who don’t know, British Superbikes has something called the ‘Showdown.’ Talk to us a little bit about the idea behind it.

All sports over the last 30 years have had slight format changes, even in football, you used to get two points for a win, now you get three points for a win. Cricket has gone from sort of test matches to one-day games over the years.

We took a hard look at the end of ’09, after Leon Camier dominated and wrapped the series up by the end of August at Cadwell, and the last three races were like non-events. He won the series on merit, but the reality is people don’t generally win sport on the first day.

There must be a way to make the championship decided on the final day of the competition. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if there is a bit of artificiality injected into it because ultimately it is about entertainment.

April to October is a very long time to maintain the story, particularly when you’re competing against loads of other sports. The Ryder Cup for example can capitulate an entire audience because, you’re not worried about what happened last week, you don’t care about next week, it is one weekend.

Motor sport has championships which go on for a very long time. 24 riders, 12 teams in a championship, you know in a traditional format who your top two or three are going to be before the season.

At the start of our season, 75% of the teams believe they can get to the top six at this stage of the season, which is the reason for doing it. It is not just about the guy at the top of the championship any more, there is all the subplots going into Showdown.

The more talking points you create, the more interest you get. The more interest you get, the more sponsors, awareness, controversy, and even for the people that hate it, I say “good! I’m glad you hate it, because you’re talking about it, and that’s great!”

This weekend [last weekend at Silverstone before Showdown in 2017], we’ve got nine people mathematically chasing six places, and that’s played out over three races, so yes, it elevates this round, then we reset ready for the Showdown.

Some people used to say “well rounds three and four, they don’t count,” well actually they do, because all those podiums are very meaningful to what the outcome will be.

It’s got an artificial element to it, but it makes us stand out from the crowd. WSB are tying themselves up in knots trying to wrestle with their current situation having two dominant teams, they have the reverse grid format, which is all right, it’s just not that radical, and yet they got the uproar for it anyway.

On the UK TV front, how are things looking? Currently you’re with Eurosport and ITV4 in a long-term deal [until the end of 2020].

The longer the television deal, the more stability you get, it works for all parties. Eurosport have been very good to us, we’ve been very good for them.

We joined Eurosport at a time when they were not taken very seriously, and then Discovery took them over. Their presentation standards have massively improved, they will acknowledge that at the start, the EPG and the pictures that you were watching would not always match up! Now, they have some serious rights, the US Open tennis, the Olympics, and we are a big part of their platform.

We took a load of crap at the end of 2007 when it was obvious that ITV didn’t want non-flagship sport on ITV1, they just really wanted football and the odd boxing match. After 2007, I thought Eurosport would do a better job than ITV4, and we’ll back it up with a free-to-air partner, which in the first year was Channel 4. By the end of that year, ITV realised that we were important and we formed part of their ITV4 portfolio, just at the digital cut-over time with Freeview.

Although we’re a long way away from 2020, are you already talking to Eurosport about what the future holds?

We’re talking now to our current partner, understanding what things are in the pipeline for them, and equally they will be asking questions of us in terms of the direction of the championship. It’s keeping it fresh, and bear in mind that people like Eurosport are not just broadcasters, but they have their own event rights as well.

At the same time, it’s trying to work out where the media landscape is going. The maturing sports fans of 2020/2021 are 14-15 years old now in terms of new audience. I’ve got a twelve-year-old daughter, and she doesn’t watch television, not interested. She’s busy watching things on YouTube or talking on social media. The critical thing for all sports is how to engage and make your product more engaging, more understanding.

Television is the most important visibility platform that we have and it will be for the foreseeable future. It’s building the content around that; it’s integrating between social media and other delivery platforms. Some sports are massively advanced in that, you’re seeing it appear in weird places like Twitter or Facebook.

It’s how everyone fits into that, there’s expectation now from people that you click on something and you see it, which conflicts with the pay-TV model where you pay to view it. The whole monetisation of sport, content, and broadcasting, I don’t believe anyone has the right answer. There’s a number of theories, you’ve just got to get through it and see what works for your audience.

My thanks go to Stuart Higgs for spending the time with me on the above piece. Interview was conducted in 2017 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.


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Analysing the motor sport ecosystem and why coronavirus could cripple it

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…

Motor sport ecosystem.png
A simplified view of the motor sport ecosystem.

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).

Motor sport ecosystem - branch 1.png
A simplified view of the motor sport ecosystem (branch 1).

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.

Motor sport ecosystem - branch 1.png
A simplified view of the motor sport ecosystem (branch 2).

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?

Motor sport ecosystem - branch 1.png
A simplified view of the motor sport ecosystem (branch 3).

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.

Motor sport ecosystem - branch 1.png
A simplified view of the motor sport ecosystem (branch 4).

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…


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Scheduling: The 2020 Australian Grand Prix

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.

Channel 4’s highlights programming also changes for 2020, moving back towards its previous ‘Extended Highlights’ format, as revealed exclusively by this site in January.

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

Supplementary Programming
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 on BBC’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 on WRC+ (£)
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.


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Live F1 testing coverage performs solidly on Sky Sports F1

Live coverage of the first Formula 1 test of 2020 performed solidly in the UK, consolidated figures released by BARB show.

For the first-time ever, F1 covered all six days of testing live, with Sky Sports acting as co-producers throughout the two tests.

Viewing figures in this article only include those that watch via the TV set, excluding those that watched via other devices such as Sky Go and Now TV.

Audience figures were generally stable during the first test. The first afternoon from Barcelona averaged 49,000 viewers from 13:00 to 17:00, with the post-session wrap-up show averaging 31,200 viewers. The morning session averaged fewer than 21,400 viewers via the TV set.

Action on the second day averaged 29,500 viewers, with 22,200 viewers watching the morning session and 36,800 viewers watching the afternoon segment. 29,200 viewers watched The Story so Far after the chequered flag had fallen.

The final day of test one recorded the highest numbers of the week, with an average of 38,200 viewers watching testing, split 37,500 and 39,100 respectively. The week hit a peak with The Story so Far on Friday, averaging 53,000 viewers.

Year-on-year comparison are difficult given that some of last year’s action also aired on Sky Sports Main Event.

However, we can see the impact of F1 testing through Sky Sports F1’s weekly reach, which surged from 348,000 viewers for the week commencing 10th February to 850,000 viewers for the week commencing 17th February, a jump of 144 percent.

Last year, the weekly reach jumped from 372,000 viewers to 679,000 viewers for the first test, a weaker jump of 82 percent, although this could be because Sky Sports Main Event simulcasted some of the coverage.

During February 2018, when testing did not air live, Sky F1 hit a weekly reach high of 472,000 viewers, and the jump back then was a result of the annual Race of Champions event. All other weeks in that month averaged under 300,000 viewers.

In comparison, a typical race week reaches just over two million viewers, showing that, although the testing figures are naturally lower, there is appetite for it.

The reason for the huge difference between the averages and the channel reach will be because of the ‘dip in, dip out’ nature of testing, meaning different viewers may have viewed different days, and so on.

Formula E increases on Eurosport; WRC starts positively on ITV4
Although figures for the BBC are unavailable, consolidated viewing figures for Eurosport’s coverage of Formula E show a significant jump for season six so far.

The Santiago E-Prix in January averaged 42,400 on Eurosport, whilst the Mexico City E-Prix four weeks later February 15th averaged 61,700 viewers in a 22:00 time slot.

What is unclear is whether these are new viewers to Formula E, or viewers who previously watched the electric series on Channel 5 but opted to migrate to Eurosport instead of pressing the BBC’s Red Button.

Elsewhere, highlights of the first two rounds of the World Rally Championship on ITV4 have averaged 213,900 viewers and 232,900 viewers for Monte Carlo and Finland respectively.

Both numbers are in-line with what the series was averaging when it last aired on ITV4 in 2015.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Marrakesh E-Prix

Formula E heads to Morocco in Africa next weekend for round five of the 2019-20 season.

Jaguar’s Mitch Evans leads the way after winning last time out in Mexico, with BMW’s Alexander Sims just a point behind in second.

The event airs live on BBC Two as part of the BBC’s commitment to air two races this season via their linear television channels. Jennie Gow presents their coverage, with inaugural W Series champion Jamie Chadwick alongside her.

As in Hong Kong last year, the BBC are providing their own bespoke build-up and post-race wrap-up, dipping in and out of the World Feed throughout both parts, although it is unclear as of writing whether Gow and Chadwick will be in Salford or on-site in Morocco.

The cancellation of the Sanya round on March 21st means that the BBC are airing two races in a row live on BBC Two, with the next round in Rome on April 4th set to air on the same channel.

Elsewhere, the World Superbikes season kicks off down under in Australia. As revealed last month, Eurosport have retained the rights to the season, whilst free-to-air highlights also remain on ITV4.

Looking for the schedule for the second F1 Barcelona test? Head over here

Formula E – Marrakesh
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
28/02 – 15:55 to 16:55 – Practice 1 (BBC’s digital platforms)
29/02 – 07:55 to 08:40 – Practice 2 (BBC’s digital platforms)
29/02 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Qualifying (BBC’s digital platforms)
29/02 – Race
=> 13:30 to 15:15 (BBC Two)
=> 13:45 to 15:00 (Eurosport 2)
29/02 – 23:00 to 00:00 – Highlights (Quest)

World Superbikes – Phillip Island
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
29/02 – 01:00 to 02:30 – Superpole (Eurosport 2)
29/02 – 03:45 to 05:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
01/03 – 00:45 to 03:15 – Superpole and Supersport Races (Eurosport 2)
01/03 – 03:45 to 05:15 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
04/03 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

The schedule will be updated if plans change.


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