Looking ahead to 2020

“Pioneers pushed the boundaries.
Technology gave us speed.
Rivalries gave us drama.
Television brought us closer.
And we gave it home.”

Opening this post with the lines from Sky Sports F1’s fantastic 2019 pre-season trailer feels quite apt as we leave the 2010’s and say hello to the 2020’s. The trailer was quite brilliant, showing how F1 – and motor racing – has transformed over the decades, including broadcasting.

The 2010’s will be remembered on the broadcasting side for high definition, pay television, interactivity through social media, over-the-top, multi-stream and multi-platform. Where motor sport broadcasting will be in ten years is anyone’s guess in an ever changing, ever connected world.

For everything that has changed, many things have stayed the same, and some of the F1 personalities that greeted fans for the BBC’s coverage of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix stayed right through to Sky’s coverage of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

2020 promises to be another interesting year on the over-the-top front. F1 continues to try to grow their platform, but is their subscriber base rising at a fast-enough rate? Will UK fans finally get their hands on F1 TV Pro, as unlikely as that sounds?

More interestingly for me, could we see motor racing’s over-the-top platforms converge? Digital sports consultancy 7 League believes we have hit peak subscription and that “some sports will realise that others are best placed to syndicate their content.”

Will any motor racing series’ wanting to break out roll the dice and live stream their content via Amazon, Netflix, or even turn to F1 themselves?

For UK F1 fans, expect 2020 to bring a sense of stability after 2019’s raft of changes, with Sky Sports locked in until 2024 and Channel 4 until 2022. Nevertheless, there are always talking points in the F1 world, and Motorsport Broadcasting will again be covering those as the year unfolds.

Fans have the second series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive to look forward to, expected to land prior to the season opening Australian Grand Prix. As well as covering McLaren’s return to the podium, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that the series will also be featuring Mercedes’ German Grand Prix calamity in full, giving F1 fans plenty to chew over.

There is the outside possibility that Dorna may announce a UK MotoGP contract extension earlier than in previous cycles at the latter end of 2020. BT Sport signed a three-year contract covering 2019, 2020 and 2021, and it is possible that they may seek to extend their deal earlier than anticipated if they feel Sky could come in to swoop the rights.

The start of 2020 should be quieter than what we saw twelve months ago, but there are bound to be plenty of twists and turns off-track as 2020 revs up for another year of motor racing.

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Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2019 Verdict

The chequered flag has fallen on another year of Formula 1, and with it the end of the 2019 motor racing season.

Despite both MotoGP and F1 having a relatively predictable outcome, the journey to the destination has been enticing throughout. From the thrilling German Grand Prix on four wheels, to Alex Rins beating Marc Marquez at Silverstone by milometers on two wheels, there was something for everyone this year.

Off track, 2019 has been a year of change for fans of F1 in the UK. Live coverage of the sport aired exclusively on Sky Sports for the first time ever, following in the footsteps of MotoGP which moved to BT in 2014. Only the British Grand Prix aired live on free-to-air television.

In the social media space, F1 continues to make excellent strides in an ever-changing world, whilst others have had to rethink their strategy to work out how best to engage with their audience.

Now, Motorsport Broadcasting wants your opinion on the past twelve months. Which personality has shone in 2019 and deserves a bigger presence in 2020? What was the low-light from a broadcasting perspective for you this season? And, if there was one thing you could change next season, what would it be?

As always, the best thoughts will form an article on this site over the festive period.

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‘To buy or not to buy’: BT Sport through Sky

As many of you who have followed this site in recent months will be aware, I am officially a homeowner. Which comes with it, some responsibilities. Namely, trying to get the best motor sport content at the cheapest price! Better said than done, of course…

For years I have talked about ‘doing the sums’ across the pay television landscape, now I am doing the sums for real. Where there is only one legal option, the route is clear, but where there are multiple legal routes, the waters become muddy very quickly.

My main priority is to watch Formula 1 live and, as this site analysed earlier in the year, Sky is increasingly cheaper in this respect than rivals Virgin Media. I went with an 18-month offer bundling Sports, Entertainment, Broadband and Netflix together with a Sky Q 1 TB box.

Sky’s broadband option I admit is not the greatest, but a month in and so far, so good. The frustration in the broadband space is that the pricing of Sky, Virgin and BT is more expensive than what it should be, but that is a discussion for another day.

This all leads me to one question: how do I consume the motor racing content that BT Sport currently airs? BT Sport’s motor sport portfolio comprises of the following:

  • MotoGP
  • Supercars
  • World Endurance Championship (excluding Le Mans)
  • World Rally Championship

Sitting below the top four are several other lower-tier championships, such as the Euroformula Series and the International GT Open.

BT Sport have MotoGP secure until the end of 2021, whilst the current World Endurance Championship season (which BT are airing) finishes in June next year.

Although there is no news yet on either Supercars or the World Rally Championship for 2020, expect both to remain on BT Sport.

Pleasingly, all four have an over-the-top offering that is not geo-blocked for UK fans, meaning consumers have a genuine choice. Do you go with BT Sport via Sky and ignore the over-the-top option, or do you cut the cord and go straight to the promoter? It is time to find out…

Note: This is based on my own personal circumstances, taking BT Sport through Sky. If you are taking BT Sport via BT TV or Virgin Media, the calculations will differ, but you could use my calculations as a baseline. And, as always, prices are subject to change.

BT Sport via Sky
If I wanted to watch BT Sport via Sky, normally I would be looking at a cost of either £379.88 (standard definition), or £438.38 (high definition) across the year. Those figures are based on the current standard pricing for BT Sport, which is £29.99 a month, as well as £20.00 upfront. If you want BT Sport in HD, expect to pay an additional £6.50 for month 4 onwards.

These prices are likely to rise over forthcoming months, after the broadcaster agreed a £1.2 billion deal to retain exclusive rights to Europe’s biggest club football competitions.

For the here and now, BT currently has a Black Friday offer, that allows you to watch all of BT Sport’s content in standard definition for as little as £20.00 a month. This comes to £260.00 (standard definition), or £318.50 (high definition) across the year, a saving of over £100 on BT’s normal pricing.

By subscribing to BT Sport via Sky, you also get access to BT Sport’s app, allowing you to watch your favourite content on the move away from the television screen.

From the outset, BT’s Black Friday offer feels like an instant grab. But, how does the combined cost of over-the-top compare with BT’s pricing?

Over-the-top – the ‘musts’
Again, this all depends on your own personal circumstances, and what you like or dislike. MotoGP is easily top of the tree for me, with the World Rally Championship following in behind.

Both the World Endurance Championship and the Supercars are nice to have, but neither are top of the list unfortunately (sorry).

> October 2016: Looking at MotoGP’s Video Pass
> April 2018: A quick fire guide to your motor racing streaming services for 2018
> September 2018: Behind the scenes with BT Sport’s MotoGP production team (1, 2)
> October 2018: How All Live is changing the face of rallying (1, 2, 3)

MotoGP’s over-the-top offering has stayed at €199.99 for the past few years now, but with a record 20 races on the 2020 calendar, there is a good chance that number could rise. UK readers are looking at a cost of around £171.73 across the season.

What BT offers MotoGP fans, and what MotoGP themselves offer fans are two different things. MotoGP’s over-the-top service offers fans access to their rich archive dating back to 2002, as well as a variety of camera angles, and insights from the likes of Steve Day and Matt Birt.

However, BT’s coverage offers additional colour to the MotoGP World Feed that Dorna themselves do not provide. BT’s coverage contains in-depth analysis from Neil Hodgson and Gavin Emmett, with Suzi Perry steering the ship.

2019 was the second year for World Rally Championship’s All Live service, clocking in at €89.99 across the season, or £77.27 for UK fans.

In a change for 2019, series organisers agreed a new deal with BT Sport, allowing BT to take the All Live offering and air it behind the Red Button. It is unknown if that will continue into 2020, again I would be surprised if it did not.

Assuming BT Sport continue to offer the All Live offering, the main differences between the two in my view play out in BT’s favour. WRC’s All Live platform only allows you to playback the All Live offering from the latest weekend, which I find somewhat odd if you want to catch-up with the action from earlier in the season.

To the contrary, All Live allows you to jump on-board with your favourite driver outside of the main feed, a feature currently unavailable to BT Sport viewers.

Combined, MotoGP and WRC’s over-the-top apps is set to cost UK fans £249.00 in 2020, compared with the £260.00 (standard definition) that BT Sport is offering for their portfolio of channels as part of the Black Friday bonanza.

At this point, you really must weigh up the difference of £11.00, whether you care about the picture quality (in which case, go for the apps), or care about the additional sports in BT’s portfolio.

Aside from motor sport, I do watch a bit of football and am a wrestling fan (which becomes more important from a BT perspective, with WWE moving over from January 2020).

Over-the-top – the ‘maybes’
Elsewhere, WEC’s over-the-top app puts you back £29.19 for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, whilst Supercars over in Australia will cost you £31.70, a total of £60.89.

Critically though, both apps give you a lot more than what BT offers, with additional feeds and qualifying, whereas BT only offers you the race itself, which is worth bearing in mind if you are mad into your Supercars or endurance racing.

A slight pain for me is that I would need to Chromecast to watch on the television set, if I was to go down the over-the-top route.

Combined, the cost of all four apps come to £309.89, a not so insignificant amount. If you are reading this during the Black Friday period, BT overall is a better proposition at £260.00 (standard definition), or £318.50 (high definition) across the year.

However, once BT’s Black Friday offer ends, their prices will increase again to £379.88 (standard definition), or £438.38 (high definition), putting them far behind the over-the-top competition.

What did I do?
I gambled and went with BT Sport’s Black Friday offer, which I feel is good value for money compared to the combined price of the MotoGP and the World Rally Championship apps.

Yes, the picture quality is standard definition, but I have the option to upgrade later if I want to. For me, picture quality is not the be all and end all, there is no guarantee for one that the over-the-top quality will be good all year round.

Clearly time will tell as to whether I made the right move. I think the chances of WRC and Supercars moving elsewhere are slim, but you never know.

Everyone is different, and there is no one size fits all answer at all here. If you are subscribing to more than one over-the-top platform in the motor sport space, I would advise looking at the Black Friday deals that are out there in the pay-TV world, because chances are you will be able to save some money, or add a ton of content with little additional cost and discard of your existing over-the-top subscriptions.

If you are reading this post after the Black Friday deals, unless you can haggle the pay-TV provider in question, you probably are better off staying off with over-the-top, for the moment at least.

It is only with BT’s current motor sports portfolio where this choice exists. Neither IndyCar or F1, which air live on Sky, have an over-the-top offering that is available to UK fans. If F1 made their premium-tier subscription available to UK fans tomorrow, the game would change again.

Have you seen any deals in the pay-TV landscape that you are planning to take advantage of? Have your say in the comments below.

Pricing and information correct as of November 24th, 2019, and based on the 2019 season where applicable. Pricing is subject to change.

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Scheduling: The 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix

The championship race may be over, but the racing continues as Formula 1 heads to Interlagos in Brazil for the penultimate round of the 2019 season.

Unusually, the race on Sunday faces tough sporting competition in the form of England’s last Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo. The match kicks off at 17:00 live on ITV, whilst the Grand Prix starts at 17:10 on Sky.

Although England themselves have already qualified for the tournament next Summer, expect the football to put a significant dent in F1’s audience figures.

Elsewhere, both the World Rally Championship and MotoGP series conclude in Australia and Valencia respectively, the latter airing live on BT Sport 1 for the season finale instead of its usual BT Sport 2 home.

Fans of the annual Macau Grand Prix will need to look elsewhere for viewing options, with no UK TV channel currently airing the race (last year the race aired live on Eurosport).

Channel 4 F1
16/11 – 22:50 to 00:20 – Qualifying Highlights
17/11 – 22:30 to 00:30 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
15/11 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 1
15/11 – 17:45 to 19:45 – Practice 2
16/11 – 14:45 to 16:30
=> 14:45 – Practice 3
=> 16:10 – Paddock Walkabout
16/11 – 17:00 to 19:30 – Qualifying
=> 17:00 – Pre-Show
=> 17:55 – Qualifying
17/11 – 15:30 to 20:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event from 16:00)
=> 16:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 17:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 19:00 – Paddock Live
=> 20:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
14/11 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
14/11 – 18:00 to 18:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
15/11 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The Story so Far
16/11 – 19:30 to 20:00 – The F1 Show
20/11 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
15/11 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/11 – 17:55 to 19:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/11 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
16/11 – 17:55 to 19:10 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/11 – 17:00 to 19:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Valencia
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
15/11 – 07:45 to 16:15 – Practice 1 and 2 (BT Sport 2)
16/11 – 08:00 to 16:00 (BT Sport 1)
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
=> 15:00 – MotoE: Race 1
17/11 – 07:15 to 14:30 (BT Sport 1)
=> 07:15 – Warm Ups
=> 08:45 – MotoE: Race 2
=> 09:30 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag
18/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

World Rally Championship – Australia (All Live – BT Sport Extra 1)
Also airs live on WRCPlus.com (£)
14/11 – 05:30 to 07:45 – Stages 1 and 2
14/11 – 21:45 to 07:00 – Stages 3 and 10
15/11 – 21:00 to 08:30 – Stages 11 to 19
16/11 – 19:00 to 04:00 – Stages 20 to 25

World Rally Championship – Australia
15/11 – 12:30 to 13:00 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
16/11 – 04:00 to 05:00 – Stage 16 (BT Sport 1)
16/11 – 12:15 to 12:45 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
16/11 – 21:30 to 22:30 – Stage 22 (BT Sport 1)
17/11 – 11:15 to 11:45 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
18/11 – 18:55 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

World Touring Car Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
15/11 – 05:30 to 07:00 – Qualifying
16/11 – 06:50 to 07:45 – Race 1
17/11 – 00:40 to 01:15 – Race 2
17/11 – 03:10 to 04:15 – Race 3

As always, the schedule will be updated if plans change.

Update on November 13th – The final round of the World Rally Championship season in Australia has been cancelled due to the rapidly spreading bush fires. On the F1 front, both BBC and Sky got their Friday and Saturday schedules out by an hour, I have updated this article with the revised schedule.

For readers looking for the action from Macau, that airs live on Motorsport.tv‘s online platform.

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News round-up: F1 to remain on ESPN in US; Eurosport UK to air British Speedway

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, ESPN extends their relationship with F1 stateside, whilst British Speedway finds itself with a new home in the UK…

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #6 (October 15th): New Brabham film released; MotoGP moves towards HDR resolution

ICYMI: Round-Up #5 (September 12th): Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

ICYMI: Round-Up #3 (July 1st): Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

Site update
Some of you may remember the site update I posted at the end of September, with details on a major change for me (not for the site). The good news: I moved into my own house in the middle of October! So far, I am pleased to say that everything has gone according to plan, with no hitches.

Of course, that does mean I have spent less time on the site front in recent weeks, a situation I expect to continue until the festive period before the usual New Year cycle kicks in.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the guest articles from Jack Ainslie and Nigel Chiu focusing on IndyCar and World RX respectively, giving a different perspective on motor sport broadcasting. A huge thanks to both Jack and Nigel for their contributions in recent weeks.

If anyone else is interesting in writing a guest article over the next few months, please drop me a line, all ideas are welcome.

Formula 1

  • ESPN have retained the rights to broadcast F1 in the US through to the end of 2022 in a new three-year deal. The broadcaster will again simulcast Sky Sports’ UK offering commercial free, covering every F1 session as well as F2, F3 and the Porsche Supercup.
    • Despite earlier suggestions that NBC were interested in reclaiming the rights they lost back in 2017, I understand that NBC and F1 were some distance apart from both a financial and forward-thinking perspective.
    • F1’s US audience figures have increased significantly since ESPN came on-board, increasing by 24 percent since NBC’s final season in 2017.
  • Netflix’s Drive to Survive, which returns for season two in early-2020 has undoubtedly helped the surge in interest stateside.
    • The increased interest also applies to Mexico where circuit organisers say has caused an increase in the number of women attending the Mexico race.
    • Speaking to RaceFans, Mexico’s race promoter Alejandro Soberon said “We noticed that we have like a 30 percent increase in interest [from] women. We have tested and it’s related directly related to the Netflix series. And they answer and they comment and at least in Mexico, it was wildly successful.”
  • By far the biggest story in terms of column inches surrounded a new graphic which debuted at the Japanese Grand Prix showing the condition of each tyre. The graphic depicted the condition in intervals of ten, in percentage form from 100% (full grip) to 0% (no grip).
    • However, the graphic came under heavy criticism, with Pirelli’s Mario Isola calling the graphic “misleading“, and that they are not supplying F1 with the data.
    • It did not take F1 to respond, issuing a press release just an hour before the Mexican Grand Prix, with a full explainer of what the ‘improved’ graphic contained.
      • In their explainer, F1 noted that the graphic, powered by AWS, uses several public sources, such as live timing data, live telemetry data, tyre compound and stint length to build the overall picture.
    • RaceFans have a detailed article on F1’s thinking on the graphics front, featuring comment from Dean Locke, who is F1’s Director of Broadcasting and Media.
  • Leeds Crown Court have jailed a man for 18 months after he threatened to shoot BBC F1 commentator Jack Nicholls and journalist Clive Myrie.
    • Ian Hargreaves, 66, sent threatening messages about both Nicholls and Myrie through the BBC’s online complaints form.
    • Writing on Twitter, Nicholls said “Some people really don’t like my commentary. A huge thanks to the BBC who have been amazing throughout.”
  • Good news for fans of the official F1 season reviews: Duke Video have confirmed that the 2019 season review is reverting to the 2017 format after heavy criticism of the 2018 review.
    • As in 2017 and before, additional content will supplement the feature-length four-hour review.
  • The F1 team performed what was a herculean effort to get operations back up and running following Typhoon Hagibis ready for race day at the Japanese Grand Prix.
    • Motorsport.com interviewed Andrew James, who works as F1 centre’s technical director to get the inside story.
  • F1 came away as winners from the Broadcast Tech Awards, winning ‘Best 360 / VR Production’ award.

Formula E

  • As first revealed by e-racing365, Bob Varsha will not be part of the Formula E commentary booth for the upcoming season, which begins on Friday 22nd November in Saudi Arabia. Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti remain with the team on commentary.
  • I am expecting Formula E to announce this week the destination of several television deals for season six, including their UK free-to-air partner.
    • Last season, the championship aired across the BBC, Quest, Eurosport and BT Sport. The Eurosport arrangement is a two-year agreement that started last season, but the status of the other three are unknown as of writing.

Meanwhile on two-wheels…

  • A new MotoGP television graphic debuted during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. First focusing on Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales, the graphic shows the heart rate of a rider during the heat of the action.
    • In the example Vinales tweeted, his heart rate is at a rather calm 112 beats per minute.
  • Eurosport in the UK have secured the rights to British Speedway until the end of the 2024 season.
    • British Speedway for many years aired live on Sky Sports, gaining a passionate following, but since 2017 has aired to a smaller audience on BT Sport.
    • The move to Eurosport, along with free-to-air highlights on Quest and DMAX, will help revitalise speedway in the UK, which has been on the decline in recent times.

See anything else worth mentioning on the news front? Drop a line in the comments section below.

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