News round-up: F1 and Tata split; NBC grabs MotoGP rights in US

The motor sport broadcasting news is coming thick and fast as we race into 2020, with news on both two and four wheels.

In this edition, news of a surprising split on the F1 front, whilst news also emerges of changes for MotoGP fans this season.

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.

As suggested in the last round-up of 2019, I have created a category for the news round-ups, so all historical round-ups are easily accessible in one place (over here). As always, I appreciate any feedback on both the site and the round-ups as a whole, good, or bad.

Formula 1

  • F1 and Netflix have confirmed that season two of Drive to Survive lands on the platform on Friday 28th February, a week earlier than the equivalent season one release date.
    • As exclusively revealed over the festive period, Mercedes’ German Grand Prix calamity will feature in the series, contrary to earlier speculation.
  • F1 and Tata Communications have split ahead of the 2020 season, ending an eight-year relationship. The Indian-based company were F1’s official Connectivity Partner.
    • In a statement to Reuters, Tata’s Vice President of Marketing Amit Sinha Roy said Tata wanted “to explore other platforms that will allow us to showcase the full power of our digital services to our key customers.”
    • Roy confirmed that Tata will continue their relationships with F1’s other partners, such as Sky Sports and Star Sports.
    • It will be interesting how much the change impacts F1 this season, given that Tata provided F1 with on-site backups (including the World Feed), as well as fibre connectivity to get F1 on-air, amongst other artefacts.
  • F1 has reported on their viewing figures for the 2019 season.
    • A cumulative TV audience of 1.922 billion viewers watched the season, an increase on the 2018 figure of 1.758 billion viewers, which F1 says is the highest cumulative audience since 2012. Therefore, 91.5 million people viewed each race last year, compared with 83.7 million in 2018, an increase of 7.8 million per race.
    • However, the amount on unique viewers dropped year-on-year from 490.2 million in 2018 to 471 million in 2019.
    • F1 touts other increases across the board, with social media continuing to grow strongly.
  • F1’s Director of Media Rights, Ian Holmes, has defended the use of pay television within the sport.
    • “It goes without saying that an FTA broadcaster is going to generate a larger audience than a pay TV channel. That said, it is a bit of an oversimplification. Firstly, there are always commercial elements to be considered but equally as important, is to look at who the viewers are, what the demographics are, and therefore who you’re addressing,” Holmes said.
    • “Furthermore, pay TV often provides far more in depth coverage and I think it would be fair to say that in the likes of Sky and Canal+ they have and continue to strive to improve the overall standard of F1 coverage, bringing to the fan far more than ever existed in the past – and they do a fantastic job. Then there are those people who are consuming F1 content on the different digital and social channels of our broadcast partners and our own F1 owned and operated platforms and channels,” he added.
  • The change to the US Grand Prix start time for 2020 does not impact UK fans, as the race moves a week later this year (I have amended the article which referenced this last week). The British Grand Prix moves an hour later, beginning at 15:10 BST time on Sunday 19th July.
    • The earliest start for UK fans is the Australian Grand Prix, which begins at 05:10 GMT on 15th March, with the latest being the US, Mexican and Canadian rounds, which all begin at 19:10 UK time.
    • The new Vietnam round begins at 08:10 UK time on Sunday 5th April, whilst the Dutch Grand Prix starts at 14:10 UK time.
    • The 2020 season avoids a clash with the Wimbledon finals, although the Canadian round clashes with the opening weekend of Euro 2020 as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
    • In addition, five Formula E races fall on the same weekend as F1, meaning Jack Nicholls may miss the corresponding F1 races over on 5 Live.
    • Half of the MotoGP races clash with F1, with one potential direct clash (between Azerbaijan and Catalunya on June 7th).
  • W Series will make two appearances on the F1 support bill this year, appearing at the US and Mexican rounds. No word on how the scheduling will work during either weekend, or which UK broadcaster will cover W Series.
    • Elsewhere, every W Series race from 2019 is now available to watch via YouTube.
  • A new documentary from the makers of 1: Life on the Limit premieres at the Manchester Film Festival on March 8th.
    • The film, which focuses on ex-FIA president Max Mosley, has been in development since at least 2018, with Alexandra Orton serving as writer.
    • Michael Shevloff, who directed Life on the Limit, is directing the documentary, with Flat Out Films again involved.

Motorsport Network

  • Kelsey Media has acquired the weekly Motorsport News magazine from Motorsport Network.
    • Phil Weeden, who is Kelsey Media’s Chief Operating Officer, said “This is a fabulous product, representing the very heart of grass roots motorsport. With our strong connections to the world of motoring and a passion for all forms of motorsport, we’re looking forward to injecting fresh energy and enthusiasm into Motorsport News.”
    • Motorsport Network’s president James Allen added “Our focus is very clear; digital first with a slimmed down portfolio of print titles, to reflect our customer’s needs.”
  • Contrary to earlier announcements, the network has retained F1 Racing magazine, however from March the magazine will be moving away from the F1 branding. Instead, the magazine will be known as Grand Prix Magazine.
  • James Dickens joins Motorsport Network as their Vice President of Editorial. Dickens joins from football outlet Goal (under the DAZN Group), where he was Global Editor in Chief for nearly two years.
  • The haemorrhaging of staff has continued on the journalism side, with Tom Errington (Autosport’s DTM correspondent) and James Roberts (F1 Racing’s Associate Editor) both departing.
    • The two announcements take the tally to eight for those that have announced their exit since October, leaving the magazine’s output depleted ahead of the new season.

Elsewhere…

  • Formula E have released further details about their new ‘Driver’s Eye’ camera angle, which they say is “a world’s first in any category of FIA-sanctioned single-seater racing.”
    • Weighing in at 2.5 grams and measuring 8.5 millimetres in diameter, Formula E showcased the angle fully for the first time during the Santiago E-Prix.
    • “Driver’s Eye provides a new perspective from inside the helmet in live race conditions, showing the skill it takes to thread the car between the walls while processing data and communicating with the team at speed,” says Sebastian Tiffert, Formula E’s Content, Editorial and Digital Director.
    • “Driver’s Eye adds a unique dimension to the viewing experience and the innovative camera technology immerses fans in wheel-to-wheel racing. We are delighted to bring our fans closer to the drivers’ sensory experience and their engagement with Driver’s Eye content across social media demonstrates the value of innovations core to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship,” Tiffert added.
  • Eurosport have retained the rights to the World Superbikes series, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.
    • Although no announcement has yet been forthcoming from the championship, Eurosport officials have confirmed to this site that they will again be the home of Superbikes in 2020.
  • MotoGP is moving to NBC for US fans, according to respected reporter Adam Stern. Races will air across NBC and NBCSN, with a mixture of live and tape-delay on offer.
  • The bike series is also starting 2020 in style with a new graphics package, commercial rights holder Dorna have confirmed, with further details expected towards the end of February.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that is worth a mention, drop a line in the comments section below.


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

The Race outlines content plans ahead of upcoming launch

The Race have unveiled their plans for the 2020 season, including the championships that they plan to cover in-depth during their inaugural year.

The outlet’s Global Head of Motorsport Andrew van de Burgt took to their opening podcast, available to listen to now, to discuss their plans.

“We’re a new digital motor sport platform that’s hopefully super serving the super fan with world class motor racing content,” Van de Burgt said.

“We’re going to have a web platform [launching first week of February], that will be where you get your traditional in-depth news and technical analysis, but we’ll also be prolific in video through our YouTube channel.”

“We’ll be making a host of different podcasts, much like this one, branching out across the other forms of motor sport.”

“We’ll be prolific across social as well. That’s not just tweeting links to our stories, that’s creating content primarily to exist on those social channels.”

Van de Burgt added that currently a print version of The Race is “not on the horizons.”

Initially, The Race’s content will consist of five key strands:

  • Formula 1
    • Led by Edd Straw, Mark Hughes, and Scott Mitchell
  • Formula E
    • Led by Sam Smith and Peter McCool
  • MotoGP
  • IndyCar
  • eSports

Three of the five are unsurprising, with IndyCar and eSports the potential two surprises. Van de Burgt sees IndyCar as a “real growth opportunity” overall, also outlining how the outlet intends to cover eSports.

“We won’t be doing the same type of coverage [for eSports] because it doesn’t lend itself to that, but we will be applying the same level of rigour and professionalism to our coverage there,” he said.

“We’ll be announcing a few more details about how that will actually work, but the idea is to try and bring together a defuse world.”

“There’s been a lot of tribalism, for whether you are a console or a PC gamer, or even within the games, whether its Assetto Corsa, iRacing or rFactor. We will be aiming to cut through all of that to surface the best content.”

Van de Burgt is keen to emphasise that the outlet will also cover other events, where there is a clear remit and reader interest to do so, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“We’ll be very attentive to the fans needs and desires, and if there is a groundswell of interest in something else, then we will expand our coverage to cover that in the future,” he added.

“To begin with, I had to make a call on where to put the resources, and those were the five places where I decided to do it.”

As Motorsport Broadcasting revealed earlier this month, eSports expert Darren Cox formally established the outlet last September, whilst both Van de Burgt and Glenn Freeman oversee the project from an editorial standpoint.

Freeman, Straw and Mitchell join The Race having previously been part of Autosport’s F1 coverage last season.

“I think I’ve been incredibly lucky that the Formula 1 team I’ve got: yourself, Mark Hughes and Scott Mitchell,” Van de Burgt said.

“You’re spanning a whole host of skills there from a profound understanding of how the performance of the cars work, an amazing contact space across the sport, and a news sense that we really need to sniff out the best of those stories.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could have asked for a stronger line-up than that.”

Having spoken to journalists within the industry, the feeling is that the emergence of The Race is good news overall, as it gives fans a different outlet and perspective to get their analysis from.

The Race intends to launch their website in early February, ahead of both F1 and MotoGP testing, which commence later that month, where Van de Burgt says The Race will “be showing our true colours in terms of the depth of the coverage.”


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

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.


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

F1 surges towards MotoGP in the social media stakes

Motorsport Broadcasting has dissected social media figures over the past six years, looking across the landscape at what has happened, and what we should be looking out for next.

As always when analysing social media data, it is not about the month-by-month changes, but rather looking at the longer-term trend across the year, and in some cases several years. Across the social platforms, the trend from a motor sport perspective remains the same: Instagram is ever more important, Facebook is stable, whilst Twitter is on the decline.

How well are stakeholders reacting to the change? We take a deep dive below the headlines to see what we can find…

A little health warning to begin that the three sections below use different time periods for the comparisons:

  • Championships – comparing data from December 20th, 2018
  • Teams – comparing data from July 1st, 2018
  • Drivers – comparing data from April 6th, 2019

We use publicly available data for this analysis, such as the number of followers. Whilst the figures presented do not give a reliable indicator as to the engagement per series, the figures do give an idea as to whether a championship or team is attracting a new audience, which is critical for the growth of the sport moving forward.

F1 set to overtake MotoGP in 2020
The big news is that Motorsport Broadcasting predicts that Formula 1 will overtake MotoGP to become the biggest motor sport series on social media in the latter stages of 2020, a remarkable achievement considering how far F1 has come in recent years in comparison to the bike series.

In the past year, F1’s following across the three main social media platforms has increased by 28.9 percent from 16.73 million to 21.56 million followers. In contrast, MotoGP’s following has increased by 11.5 percent, from 22.20 million to 24.76 million followers, which is still strong in isolation.

MotoGP’s following skews towards Facebook, whereas F1 is more split across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. F1 is clearly hitting the right buttons on social media, attracting a new audience to their social channels, and rightly so given the amount they are investing in it.

The challenge for MotoGP is to adapt their social media offering. F1’s social media offering in 2019 is distinctly un-corporate, almost making MotoGP look old school which is not an observation you would make even two years ago.

Second best is not a bad position to be in, and MotoGP would be far ahead of every other motor racing series in that scenario. But, now is probably the time for the leading bike series to overhaul their offer heading into the 2020 season. The same statement applies for NASCAR…

Social media - December 2019 - F1 vs MotoGP vs NASCAR.png

2019 has been another excellent year for the World Rally Championship, with their reach increasing by 15.8 percent, from 3.59 million to 4.16 million followers. An increased focus on Instagram helped their audience swell by 59.5 percent to 1.17 million followers, pushing the championship ahead of NASCAR on the image-sharing platform.

Formula E also gained massively during 2019, jumping by 47.8 percent from 1.65 million followers to 2.44 million followers, overtaking World Superbikes, the World Touring Car Cup, and the IndyCar Series.

However, Formula E’s following has stalled at around 1.6 million likes on Facebook (unusual considering the significant growth directly preceding it), although Instagram continues to grow solidly for the electric series.

The series has made significant noise in recent days with the announcement that they are teaming up with South Korean boy band BTS.

A tweet announcing the collaboration generated over 80,000 retweets and 150,000 likes, by far the largest ever motor sport related tweet. It will be interesting to see if the announcement results in any new followers for Formula E.

Further down the pecking order, Formula Two had a good year on social media, but there is a sad explanation behind the gain.

The F1 feeder series has seen their following double from 265,000 followers to 536,000 followers, but additional analysis from Motorsport Broadcasting shows that traffic towards their channels surged following the death of Anthoine Hubert during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend in August.

Williams and Racing Point on-track struggles hurt social performance
A poor year on-track for the Williams and Racing Point Formula 1 outfits has continued off the circuit, with little social media growth, despite Poland’s Robert Kubica returning to F1 for the former.

The teams, based at Grove and Silverstone respectively, have seen their portfolio of channels grow by just 400,000 followers (or 19 percent) across the past 18 months. As a result, Racing Point have dropped behind Toro Rosso (soon to be re-branded AlphaTauri), with Alfa Romeo now snapping at Racing Point’s heels.

On Instagram, Racing Point’s growth is the lowest of the whole grid, whilst Williams hold that stat over on Twitter.

It is unlikely Toro Rosso could overtake Renault any time soon however, as Renault sit in Class 1.5 on their own, six million followers behind the top four, but over two million followers ahead of Williams.

Social media - December 2019 - F1 teams.png

The gulf between Class 1 and Class 2 shows no sign of slowing, with Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren continuing to record healthy social media growth. The four teams have each increased their total following by between 2.5 and 3 million followers in the past 18 months, dwarfing the rest of the field.

What is fascinating is the profile of the four teams across social media. On Facebook, Mercedes is comfortably king with 11.31 million likes, but Red Bull continues to record sizeable increases, jumping from 9.05 million likes to 10.24 million likes since Summer 2018.

Over on Instagram it is McLaren setting the standard, increasing their following by 91.8 percent, jumping from 2.60 million followers to 4.98 million followers, numbers undoubtedly helped by both of their drivers having a large presence on the platform.

Hamilton continues to reign supreme
Threatened by lawyers in the previous era, one driver continues to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

Since April, Lewis Hamilton’s Instagram following has jumped by 3.26 million followers, from 10.47 million to 13.73 million, a simply staggering amount of growth.

Only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc could claim to be remotely close in terms of raw growth (from a much lower base too), moving the needle from 1.01 million to 2.60 million followers, an increase of 1.59 million.

In his second season, Leclerc is already the fourth most popular driver on Instagram, behind Hamilton, Max Verstappen, and Daniel Ricciardo, with much more growth possible for the Monegasque driver.

Across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Hamilton’s 23.56 million follower tally is greater than the next seven F1 drivers combined, covering Ricciardo, Verstappen, Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz. It is ever more pertinent that rivals challenge Hamilton harder than ever for his crown in 2020.

Instagram is the main contributor to Hamilton’s social media growth, with little gains for the six-time champion on Facebook or Twitter.

Social media - December 2019 - with and without Hamilton.png

Leclerc is the fastest growing driver on Facebook, but with an increase of only 91,000 likes since April, whilst McLaren rookie Lando Norris takes the honours on Twitter, increasing by 211,000 followers. Intagram is clearly the place to be for personality driven content, as the figures show.

Moving forward, Norris and Leclerc are the drivers to watch, having grown in total on social media by 1.12 million followers (or 280 percent) and 1.89 million followers (or 144 percent) respectively. Both are very young, and immensely popular with their fan bases on Instagram.

In comparison, Verstappen’s following has increased by 941,000 accounts. Whilst consistent, Verstappen’s growth is way behind the brand that Hamilton has built up over the past ten years.

Hamilton’s brand is awesome for F1, but could become detrimental if he retires on top, devaluing the rest of the competition in the process. In my view, dethroning Hamilton is important to elevate someone beyond the glass ceiling in the eyes of the wider public.

2020 looks set to be a fascinating year on the social media front, with F1 set to usurp MotoGP on top, Formula E continuing to make strong gains, and the new generation making an impact on the F1 front. It is all to play for…


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal

F1 to stream Mexican Grand Prix on Twitch in selected territories

Formula 1 has announced that it is to stream the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix on Twitch in selected territories.

The weekend will air live and free on the streaming platform in Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in addition to F1’s usual offering.

However, the World Feed will come with an additional layer in the form of interactivity and gaming elements. An influencer will “co-stream” each session, with German influencer PietSmiet getting in on the act in Germany, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.

In addition, F1 will ask fans to predict the performance of drivers during 10-minute segments which they say will provide an “interactive gaming element to the broadcast.”

Frank Arthofer, F1’s Director of Licencing said “Twitch has incredible reach, a unique creative spin on sports media coverage and an engaged digital audience; they are a perfect partner for us to be working with on this project.”

Farhan Ahmed, Twitch’s Strategic Partnerships Manager added “We’re thrilled to partner with Formula 1 to bring exciting motor racing content to our community in a way that’s unique, shared, and interactive.”

“It’s a pleasure to work with a partner who embraces our community experience, creating something truly exciting, enhanced through co-streaming and extensions.”

> Insight: The over-the-top challenge facing motor sport

Formula 1 meets Voltage, sort of
Influencers? Tick. Live action? Tick. High-profile motor sport? Tick.

To regular readers that all sounds very familiar considering it was just under a year ago that Formula E announced their attempt to enter the influencer space in the form of Voltage.

Formula E entered a partnership with YouTube and GOAT Agency, with the likes of KSI appearing on Voltage from YouTube’s Space Station.

A trailblazer maybe, but Formula E axed Voltage after just six races (although there is some speculation making the rounds that Voltage may be returning for the upcoming season in a different format, we shall see).

The electric series clearly struggled to get the traction they were looking for with Voltage for a myriad of reasons, and made the decision to stop the experiment early on.

Considering Formula E’s Voltage failure, it makes sense for F1 to do a one-off experiment to begin with on Twitch, seeing what works with the possibility of expanding further into 2020.

It is the first time a major motor racing championship (outside of E-Sports) has streamed live on Twitch, although the geo-blocking in place will restrict the amount of people F1 can reach.

Twitch has made the waves in recent months from an F1 perspective with both Lando Norris and Max Verstappen regularly streaming on the platform.

Norris’ Twitch following has tripled since July, moving from 46,000 followers to 143,000 followers, the growth helped by his and Verstappen’s victory in iRacing’s Spa 24 Hours earlier this year.

Clearly F1 has recognised the obvious overlap and is now making in-roads into that area.

There is a good chance that Norris’ typical Twitch viewer does not consume traditional methods of television viewing, hence why F1 wants to experiment with live streaming on Twitch.

Influencers is less of an issue here for me than it was with Formula E: fans watching F1 on Twitch will have specifically chosen to watch it via that platform, whereas some fans watching FE’s Voltage on YouTube had no other choice of platform to watch it on.

Although YouTube is more popular than Twitch on the whole, the opposite is true from a live-streaming perspective, with Twitch outstripping YouTube massively, no doubt influencing F1’s decision making (and may also explain where Formula E went wrong with Voltage).

The move says a lot about F1’s and Twitch’s strategy moving forward. F1 wants a younger audience, Twitch wants to move beyond its roots.

Both brands are at cross-roads in their journey, which is why it is a perfect partnership for the two.


Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal