Live MotoGP peaks with 472,000 viewers on ITV as broadcaster enters new deal

Live coverage of the British MotoGP round on ITV peaked with fewer than half a million viewers, overnight viewing figures show.

The broadcaster aired the race live from 12:30 to 14:30 on Sunday, providing a bespoke pre- and post-race offering fronted by Matt Roberts.

An average of 277,470 viewers (3.72% audience share) watched the broadcast, according to audience data supplied to this site by Overnights.tv.

A peak of 472,300 viewers (6.17% audience share) were watching at 13:18, as Fabio Quartararo stretched his margin at the front of the field.

Earlier this year, the Le Mans round aired on ITV4, peaking with 425,900 viewers.

2021 marks the first of a four year deal that ITV has with MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna. The deal sees ITV4 airing highlights from every race, with two races each year also airing live and free-to-air across ITV’s portfolio of channels.

BT Sport remains MotoGP’s main rights holder from a UK perspective, the pay-TV broadcaster airing every session live until the end of the 2024 season.

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting last weekend, Manel Arroyo, MotoGP’s Chief Commercial Officer, contextualised BT’s relationship within the wider UK ecosystem.

“In the UK, we’re working very hard with Silverstone, and also very important for us is Triumph, our engine supplier for Moto2. And all together [with BT], we are trying to create momentum, to push the popularity of the sport.”

“We have seen the commitment from BT with us all these years and we are happy with that. In this new deal, we’re approaching the free-to-air window in a different way [with ITV].”

“We’re very happy because we are in a fantastic position to achieve new audiences through our broadcast offer, ITV4 with highlights, plus the two GPs live, one in Le Mans and the second one today.”

ITV’s offering struggles to draw in the viewers

Arroyo’s comments to this site make sense: free-to-air coverage on ITV’s main channel should draw a significant audience.

The fact that it did not is perplexing and surprising in equal measure. Including BT Sport will bring the average and peak audiences up, but unlikely to be much higher than the Le Mans audience in May.

Clashing with the F1 build-up on Sky Sports and the Paralympics on Channel 4 likely did not help, however it is clear the audience interest was not there from the get-go.

But, sticking a race on free-to-air television, and then not promoting it is an odd strategy to take.

As some pointed out to this writer over the weekend, the main PR exercise ahead of Silverstone saw Spanish rider Marc Marquez visiting Manchester City’s training ground.

Only one outlet, the Daily Mail picked up, but failed to note that the British MotoGP was airing live on ITV.

COVID restricts what MotoGP can do to promote the series, but not using the British stars, led by Cal Crutchlow and Jake Dixon for Silverstone, was a missed opportunity.

Live coverage of MotoGP on BBC Two back in 2013 regularly averaged one million viewers, which MotoGP needs to be aiming towards for their free-to-air offerings, combined across BT and ITV.

On this occasion at least, MotoGP failed to hit the mark.

The good news though is that MotoGP’s deal with ITV is in place until the end of the 2024 season, giving them more chances moving forward to increase the championship’s reach in the UK.

Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.

Scheduling: The 2021 British MotoGP

After its absence last year due to the pandemic, MotoGP returns to Silverstone over the Bank Holiday weekend for the British Grand Prix!

Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo has a 47 point lead following a consistent season so far and four victories to his name. Can anyone close him down, or is it too late?

MotoGP – the coverage

For the first time since 2013, coverage of the race airs live on free-to-air television, with ITV covering the action on Sunday. It is the second race to air on one of ITV’s channels this season, following the Le Mans round which aired live on ITV4.

Matt Roberts presents ITV’s coverage; the first time Roberts has presented MotoGP since the sport left the BBC in 2013. Roberts is now a regular fixture on Eurosport’s bikes coverage, presenting their British Superbikes and World Superbikes offering.

James Haydon and James Toseland join Roberts, while ITV will be taking the World Feed commentary comprising of Steve Day, Matt Birt and Simon Crafar.

For fans of motor sport on free-to-air TV, this weekend sees MotoGP, W Series, British Touring Cars and Extreme E airing live across ITV, Channel 4 and ITV4.

Suzi Perry presents BT Sport’s extensive MotoGP coverage of all three classes during the weekend, alongside the likes of Gavin Emmett, Neil Hodgson, and Sylvain Guintoli.

Alternatively, fans can watch the action throughout the season via MotoGP’s VideoPass service, giving you every session live and access to MotoGP’s rich archive. Currently, the series is offering £85.63 for the remainder of the 2021 season.

Friday 27th August
08:45 to 16:15 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
=> 09:00 – Moto3
=> 09:55 – MotoGP
=> 10:55 – Moto2
=> 13:15 – Moto3
=> 14:10 – MotoGP
=> 15:10 – Moto2

Saturday 28th August
09:00 to 16:15 – Practice and Qualifying (BT Sport 2)
=> 09:00 – Moto3: Practice 3
=> 09:55 – MotoGP: Practice 3
=> 10:55 – Moto2: Practice 3
=> 12:35 – Moto3: Qualifying
=> 13:30 – MotoGP: Practice 4
=> 14:10 – MotoGP: Qualifying
=> 15:10 – Moto2: Qualifying

Sunday 29th August
09:00 to 16:30 – Races (BT Sport 2)
=> 09:00 – Warm Ups
=> 10:30 – Moto3: Race
=> 12:30 – MotoGP: Race
=> 14:15 – Moto2: Race
=> 15:30 – Chequered Flag
12:30 to 14:30 – MotoGP: Race (ITV)

Monday 30th August
20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 British MotoGP. Scheduling details correct as of Monday 23rd Augst and are subject to change.

Meanwhile, Formula 1 heads to Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, as the final half of the 2021 season begins.

F1 – the coverage

Despite stepping down as host of their F1 podcast earlier this week, Steve Jones continues to present Channel 4’s highlights offering.

Joining Jones in the F1 paddock are Billy Monger and Mark Webber, Monger joining Alex Jacques on commentary for both F1 and W Series.

David Coulthard will also be in Belgium, however as part of Channel 4’s W Series programming alongside Naomi Schiff.

With both of them presenting from the W Series paddock, the COVID restrictions mean that Coulthard cannot be part of the F1 ‘bubble’ at the same time.

Over on Sky, the broadcaster will be airing a special feature during their coverage, as Mick Schumacher drives the car his father first drove in F1 at Silverstone: the Jordan 191.

All F1 sessions are available to listen live via BBC’s F1 website

Thursday 26th August
17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:00 to 19:30 – F1: Drivers’ Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 27th August
09:05 to 09:50 – F3: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
10:00 to 11:45 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
12:50 to 13:30 – F3: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
13:45 to 15:30 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 to 22:00 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Saturday 28th August
09:25 to 10:25 – F3: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
10:45 to 12:10 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
13:00 to 15:30 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
15:00 to 16:20 – W Series: Race (Channel 4)
16:45 to 17:45 – F3: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
18:00 to 19:30 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (Channel 4)

Sunday 29th August
09:30 to 10:30 – F3: Race 3 (Sky Sports F1)
11:05 to 11:45 – Porsche Supercup: Race (Eurosport 1 and Sky Sports F1)
12:30 to 17:00 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 13:55 – Race
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
18:30 to 21:00 – F1: Race Highlights (Channel 4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Monday 23rd Augst and are subject to change.

If details change, this article will be amended.

Updated on August 27th with further information on ITV’s MotoGP coverage.

Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.

MotoGP performs solidly as live action returns to free-to-air TV

MotoGP’s first live race on free-to-air television in the UK in over seven years saw viewing figures increase, in-depth analysis by Motorsport Broadcasting shows.

Muddying the picture however is the fact that highlights of the race slumped because of the live coverage.

Consolidated data via BARB, which accounts for viewers who watched within seven days of the original transmission, allows us to draw some conclusions.

Live action performs well across BT Sport and ITV4

Since 2014, BT Sport have aired MotoGP exclusively live, with audiences regularly hovering between 150,000 and 250,000 viewers.

Pleasingly for the pay-TV broadcaster, who will continue to cover MotoGP until at least 2024, figures for their live French Grand Prix programming on Sunday 16th May were in-line with expectations.

An average audience of 176,000 viewers watched Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP on BT Sport 2 from 09:30 to 14:08, as weather conditions changed throughout the day in France.

Two weeks earlier in Jerez, an average of 174,000 viewers watched BT’s programming across the same time slot.

In other words, BT was unimpacted by the choice on offer for the French round, showing how highly fans regard BT’s coverage.

ITV4’s free-to-air coverage, which took MotoGP’s World Feed commentary for the duration, averaged 213,000 viewers from 09:45 to 14:15, a solid number from a standing start.

An average audience of 389,000 viewers watched the live action from Le Mans, across all three classes, an increase of 124% on the BT-only figure from Jerez.

When focussing only on the MotoGP class, an average of 238,000 viewers watched the race via BT Sport, compared with 236,000 viewers for Jerez.

ITV4’s figure for the MotoGP segment (from 12:35 to 14:15) is unknown, however we can draw some conclusions from publicly available data.

Motorsport Magazine reports that a one-minute overnight peak of 425,900 viewers watched the Le Mans race on ITV4, and live sport does not add additional viewers on within the seven-day consolidation window.

Thus, it is fair to conclude that ITV4’s coverage peaked with around 430,000 viewers, averaging around 300,000 viewers for the MotoGP segment itself, including pre-race build-up and immediate post-race analysis.

Motorsport Broadcasting’s analysis suggests that an average audience of 538,000 viewers watched the MotoGP race, an increase of 128% on the BT-only figure from Jerez.

But highlights slump shows that live viewers were not returning fans

While the surge in MotoGP’s live audience is excellent, and shows why MotoGP needs the live free-to-air presence, ITV4’s highlights audience slumped the day after the race.

According to industry website Thinkbox, which publishes BARB data on a rolling week-by-week basis, highlights of the Le Mans round on ITV4 averaged 91,000 viewers, the 40th most watched show on ITV4 that week.

In comparison, highlights from Jerez a fortnight earlier averaged 296,000 viewers, and was the 6th most watched show on ITV4.

Looking at the MotoGP segment in isolation, the audience figures in totality suggest that an average of around 628,000 viewers watched the MotoGP action for Le Mans, with between 550,000 viewers and 600,000 viewers doing the same for Jerez.

So, whilst the change between Jerez and Le Mans did result in more viewers watching MotoGP live, these viewers were not new (in most cases).

Instead, all that happened was that around 70% of ITV4’s regular highlights audience jumped ship to the ITV4 live show on Sunday.

How many viewers were new, or returning, is difficult to quantify, but Motorsport Broadcasting’s analysis suggests that this figure is below 100,000 viewers, which makes the figures in totality look less spectacular than first suggested.

The headline here is that more people watched MotoGP live, with MotoGP recording its highest live average since 2013, thanks to its free-to-air presence, but that these viewers were not ‘new’ in the wider context.

The deal to air two races live across ITV’s network was broken first on Motorsport Broadcasting, with other news outlets following suite. However, an official press release was only issued by MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna two days before the race.

If Le Mans was going to break through and capture more viewers, organisers needed to announce the deal far earlier rather than it coming across as an eleventh-hour deal. The timing very much felt like all parties were testing the waters to see what the reaction would be.

If fans knew before the season that ITV4 were airing races live, it may have given some an extra incentive to keep in touch with the highlights package throughout the season rather than jumping in cold.

An unscientific poll over on this site’s Twitter page suggests that BT’s audience may see a small bump over the months ahead thanks to Le Mans airing live on free-to-air television.

MotoGP has another bite of the free-to-air cherry in August, as Silverstone airs live on ITV’s main channel, and thus has a much bigger chance at attracting a wider audience who would never normally watch the championship.

Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.

Scheduling: The 2021 Indianapolis 500

After almost 40 hours of practice and 7 days of on-track action, it comes down to this. Welcome, to the 2021 Indianapolis 500!

Scott Dixon is on pole for the race from the brickyard, can he convert pole to victory to win his second 500?

Joining Dixon on the front row are Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay, both young chargers looking to win their first Indianapolis 500.

There are five ex-Formula 1 drivers on the 2021 grid, led by Alexander Rossi in 10th place.

Indianapolis 500 – the coverage

Live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 airs exclusively on Sky Sports F1, with the broadcaster’s offering coming live from McLaren’s Technology Centre in Woking.

Natalie Pinkham presents Sky’s broadcast, with Tom Gaymor and McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris joining her.

Sky’s coverage will serve as a wrap around to the main US offering, meaning that UK fans will not miss a second of NBC’s US coverage. Sky will build-up to the US coverage from 15:45, before handing over to NBC at 16:00.

From 16:00 onwards, UK fans will hear Sky’s line-up during the frequent US ad-breaks over the hours that follow.

Leigh Diffey leads the commentary line-up for the third year running, with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy joining Diffey.

Down in pit lane, Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Kevin Lee will keep fans abreast of developments as the race progresses.

Meanwhile, Mike Tirico, Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, and Steve Letarte will provide additional views from NBC’s on-site studio, whilst Rutledge Wood will be out around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Friday 28th May
16:00 to 18:00 – Carb Day

Sunday 30th May
15:45 to 21:00 – 105th Indianapolis 500
=> race starts at 17:45

Full UK scheduling details for the 2021 Indianapolis 500. Scheduling details correct as of Monday 24th May and are subject to change.

Elsewhere, MotoGP heads to Mugello for round six of the 2021 season. Ducati’s Jack Miller will be looking to win three races in a row after winning a changeable French Grand Prix last time out.

MotoGP – the coverage

After airing live on ITV4 for Le Mans, coverage airs this weekend exclusively on BT Sport, with ITV returning to the frame later this year for the British Grand Prix.

For BT, the weekend marks a big milestone on the return to normality, as the broadcaster begins a phased return to the MotoGP paddock.

Since the start of the pandemic, BT’s MotoGP team has based themselves in the UK, firstly in Hinckley at Triumph’s headquarters, before moving to the BT Tower in London.

While BT’s main presentation and commentary will remain at the BT Tower for now, a small crew led by Natalie Quirk, will be present on-site interviewing the stars of the show. Joining Quirk on-site is 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli who will be part of the team for the remainder of the season.

ITV4’s highlights airs later than usual at 23:00 due to live coverage of French Open tennis.

Friday 28th May
08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:00 – Moto3
=> 08:55 – MotoGP
=> 09:55 – Moto2
12:15 to 15:00 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 2)
=> 12:15 – Moto3
=> 13:10 – MotoGP
=> 14:10 – Moto2

Saturday 29th May
08:00 to 16:15 – Practice and Qualifying (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:00 – Moto3: Practice 3
=> 08:55 – MotoGP: Practice 3
=> 09:55 – Moto2: Practice 3
=> 11:35 – Moto3: Qualifying
=> 12:30 – MotoGP: Practice 4
=> 13:10 – MotoGP: Qualifying
=> 14:10 – Moto2: Qualifying
=> 15:15 – Red Bull Rookies Cup: Race 1

Sunday 30th May
07:30 to 14:30 – Races (BT Sport 2)
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3: Race
=> 11:00 – Moto2: Race
=> 12:30 – MotoGP: Race
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag
14:30 to 15:30 – Red Bull Rookies Cup: Race 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)

Monday 31st May
23:00 to 00:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Italian MotoGP. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 25th May and are subject to change.

It promises to be an exciting weekend of action on both two wheels and four wheels, with plenty to whet the appetite over the Bank Holiday for UK readers.

Last updated on Tuesday 25th May.

Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.

Murray Walker, 1923-2021

The voice of Formula 1, Murray Walker has died at the age of 97, the BRDC has confirmed.

Walker commentated on motor sport for decades, from his first Grand Prix race in 1949 all the way through until retiring from his Formula 1 commentary role at the end of 2001, for both the BBC and ITV.

In a statement, the BRDC said “It’s with great sadness we share the news of the passing of BRDC Associate Member Murray Walker OBE.”

“A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nations favourite commentator and a contagious smile. Murray will be sadly missed; his mark and voice will live on in motorsport and our hearts forever.”

“We thank Murray for all he has done for our community.”

Writing on Twitter, Martin Brundle, who commentated with Walker full-time from 1997 to 2001 said “Rest in Peace Murray Walker. Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend.”

Silverstone’s Managing Director Stuart Pringle said “It is with great sadness that I have to inform Silverstone’s fans that Murray Walker died earlier today. He was to so many of us fans of F1, the voice that epitomised the sport we love.”

“Knowledgeable beyond words and with a passion that occasionally got the better of him in commentary, he brought the sport and some of its greatest moments to life in a way that ensured they remained seared in our memories for ever.”

“Much will be written about the impact that Murray had on the sport and we will make a more fulsome tribute in due course, but for the time being rest in peace Murray and thank you.”

A legend who has inspired generations

When people think of F1, past or present, they think of a handful of names. Senna. Schumacher. Fangio. Prost. Hamilton. Bernie. And Murray.

The first F1 race I watched was the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix. Two things got me addicted to F1 that year and into the 2000s: Michael Schumacher in the iconic Ferrari, with Murray Walker and Martin Brundle providing the sound track. Without Murray, I doubt this site would exist.

Although Walker did step aside at the 2001 US Grand Prix, the joys of the internet means that his commentary lives forever, and is easy to find on any F1 archive clip from the 1970s to the 1990s.

I cannot mention Walker without mentioning James Hunt, two opposites, but joined together in the commentary box discussing the one thing they loved most: motor sport.

During Walker’s tenure, F1’s popularity in the UK boomed, thanks in part to Nigel Mansell’s and Damon Hill’s on-track successes, but also due to Walker’s commentary, Walker communicating the intricates of the sport to the masses.

Lines such as “And I’ve got to stop, because I’ve got a lump in my throat!” are forever etched in F1 history, and will always will be.

I had the pleasure of meeting Murray twice. The first was at a signing for his ‘Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken’ book in late 2002. What I remember about the evening most was not the actual signing, but the long queue of hundreds of people, which stretched far outside the Waterstones.

From kids, like me, through to the grandparents, everyone wanted Murray to sign a copy of the book. And that was a sign of just how much people connected with Murray at home. Murray was special, and he brought our wonderful sport to life.

Fast forward 16 years, and to the second meeting of me and Murray, this time at Channel 4’s Formula 1 launch.

Murray was on stage with the rest of the Channel 4 team, before joining the rest of the team in roundtable discussions with media afterwards. Even at the age of 92, Murray was in fine form.

Sadly, there will not be a third meeting.

The motor racing paddock is filled with young talent: racers, mechanics, hospitality, and on the broadcasting side, producers, commentators, presenters and so on.

All of them have a connecting bond: they grew up listening to Murray’s infectious commentary. Without Murray, the motor racing paddock today would be a worse place. There will never be another Murray Walker.

Murray, you inspired generations, not one generation, but multiple. Legend is bandied around far too much, but you were a legend, and simply the best.

We’ll miss you.