Free-to-air “the right way forward” for Formula E in the short to medium-term

Free-to-air is “the right way forward” for the electric Formula E championship in the short to medium-term, according to one of the leading figures in the series.

This weekend, the Marrakesh E-Prix airs live on free-to-air television for fans in the UK on BBC Two, with presenter Jennie Gow reporting live on-site for the first time.

Only one other race has aired live on BBC’s linear television channels before now: the Hong Kong E-Prix in March 2019, where Gow presented live from their studios in Salford.

Since its inception in 2014, Formula E has struggled to find a stable home, moving from one free-to-air station to another in relatively quick succession.

The series started life on ITV4 for Formula E’s first two seasons, before moving to Channel 5 for a further two seasons. The series landed on the BBC for the start of season five in December 2018.

However, the potential for more money has not tempted organisers to move the championship exclusively to pay television.

And speaking exclusively to Motorsport Broadcasting ahead of the E-Prix this weekend, Formula E’s Head of Content Sebastian Tiffert believes that free-to-air remains is the way forward for the championship.

“I think wherever we have the largest audience is the right way forward, and you still get that through free-to-air broadcasters, and this is where we want to see Formula E in the future,” Tiffert said.

“Having the Marrakesh E-Prix on BBC Two is great, because we’re bring the race to a wider audience. We hope fans get excited [by what they see] because we believe we have a fantastic racing product with a lot of action on-track involving great drivers and great teams.”

“What the future holds I don’t know, but I think in the short to mid-term, free-to-air broadcasters and big broadcasters are the way forward for us,” he added.

Content teams realigned within Formula E’s structure
Tiffert joined Formula E last September, following a 14-year stint at Eurosport. Whilst at Eurosport, Tiffert moved through the ranks, to eventually becoming their Global Director of Motorsports before joining Formula E.

One of the main changes behind the scenes in recent months at Formula E has involved their content teams, which have all been centralised into one division under the leadership of Tiffert.

“Previously, we had the content team divided between broadcast, social media, and website platforms in different departments across Formula E, we have now centralised into a proper content team for the first time,” Tiffert told Motorsport Broadcasting during a wide-ranging conversation.

“We’ve regrouped under one roof, everything from broadcast to digital (meaning website and app content) and the social media content.”

“The analogy I always use is that we don’t want to tell ten different stories; we’d rather tell the same story, but in ten different ways depending on who we’re talking to.”

“There was the same look and feel I believe before, but you didn’t have everyone sitting together, making sure everybody was going down the same storyline. Sometimes one platform misses a story for one reason or another. The important thing now is that TV is working with social, social is working with TV, for each other, on the same story.”


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

A new decade, a new name: reviewing the motor sport journalism landscape

The start of the 2020 motor racing season sees a new name enter the starting grid in the journalism world, following a winter of change for many involved in the sector.

Just how much has the scene changed in the off-season, and what can we expect to see moving forward? Motorsport Broadcasting looks at what 2020 has to offer…

The Race enters the market…
Part of the Torque Esports Group, The Race intends to shake up motor sport journalism with its offering this year across five different content strands (Formula 1, MotoGP, IndyCar, Formula E and E-Sports).

Led by Andrew van de Burgt and Glenn Freeman under the watch of Darren Cox, the trio have brought Edd Straw, Matt Beer and Scott Mitchell in from Autosport to front their F1 offering.

In addition, Sam Smith leads their Formula E coverage, whilst ex-MCN Sport correspondent Simon Patterson leads their MotoGP reporting.

Other familiar names, such as ex-F1 technical director Gary Anderson and broadcaster Toby Moody also shape The Race’s coverage this season.

Limiting The Race’s remit to five pillars to begin with is a good idea in my view. I am always of the viewpoint that it is better to cover several topics brilliantly, rather than many topics shoddily. Let the readers, and the underlying data points, tell you where to go for the next step of your journey.

The Race has followed in The Athletic’s footsteps by bringing in established names from elsewhere in the hope of hooking fans onto their product.

Crucially, I understand that The Race, unlike The Athletic, will remain free for fans to consume, which should allow them to build a solid foundation to begin with.

The way the site covered Haas’ F1 launch was a positive early sign, with plenty of analysis across their platforms.

Websites - The Race.png
The Race’s website homepage as of February 15th, 2020.

Personally, I hope the site does not report day-to-day chatter in substantial detail, otherwise the analytical pieces may be less noticeable amongst the noise.

One might argue that The Race should not run live text feeds for example, instead using that resource to produce distinctive content – otherwise the brand may end up in an identity crisis: trying to be different, but keeping it same-y in tandem.

…presenting opportunity for journalists, young and old…
The Race’s arrival on the scene has created opportunity for a new generation of talent elsewhere.

Respected motor sport journalist Luke Smith arrives into the Motorsport Network fold at Autosport from Crash Media Group, whilst Alex Kalinauckas moves up to join Smith in the F1 paddock this year.

Kalinauckas’ exit from the Formula E paddock means Matt Kew moves into the vacancy left by Kalinauckas.

Unfortunately for the Richmond-based outlet, the exits have not slowed down recently, with Autosport.com international editor Jack Benyon the most recent to announce his departure.

Irrespective of your viewpoint on the wider Motorsport Network decision making, it is imperative for the future of Autosport that they stem the flow quickly, bringing back a sense of stability which they lost late last year.

Can Autosport bounce back? Yes. Will Autosport bounce back? The verdict is out, but I really hope it does. It is important for motor sport journalism that The Race succeeds, however it is equally important that Autosport remains in its current form.

More opportunities for budding journalists can only be a good thing, as the three vacancies that Autosport currently have online show (here, here, and here).

For all the talk about The Race over the past few weeks, it is Autosport that has the brand name and a large following attached to it that The Race does not yet possess, which is to be expected when comparing a start-up with a 70-year old brand.

That helps when you look at this from a search engine perspective rather than a social media perspective: the bigger reach of Autosport will undoubtedly help them compared with The Race in the short to medium-term.

Websites - Autosport.png
Autosport’s website homepage as of February 15th, 2020.

Alongside Autosport is Motorsport.com under the Motorsport Network banner, where the likes of Jonathan Noble remain.

…whilst some try to break into the upper echelons…
The Race’s competition is not just Motorsport Network, and to think that is a foolish statement to make.

The likes of Crash Media Group, RaceFans and Motorsport Week are all trying to break into Motorsport Network’s monopoly, some succeeding more than others.

Outside of F1, there are websites that specialise in other forms of motor sport.

Most recently, Inside Electric has established itself as an independent Formula E website, whilst DirtFish has expanded on its World Rally Championship offering, taking esteemed journalist David Evans with them in the process.

Number of followers on Twitter as of February 15th
323k – Autosport (Feb 2009)
152k – WTF1 (Nov 2019)
139k – Motorsport.com (Apr 2009)
98k – RaceFans (Feb 2008)
60k – Motor Sport Magazine (Mar 2009)
34k – Motorsport Week (Mar 2009)
34k – Crash.net (Jan 2009)
15k – Touring Car Times (Jul 2009)
14k – Motorsport Broadcasting (Feb 2012)
12k – DirtFish (Dec 2010)
10k – The Race (Jan 2020)
10k – Dailysportscar News (Jun 2015)
4k – e-racing.net (Mar 2014)
4k – e-racing365 (Oct 2016)
1k – Inside Electric (Sep 2019)

There are only a limited number of hours in the day, and there is a limited pool of passionate motor sport fans, so The Race’s arrival is likely to negatively impact the above sites in my opinion. How quickly The Race grows will dictate the impact it has elsewhere.

If you are a site which has small profit margins, a difference of 5 to 10 percent in your audience year-on-year could be the difference between another year online or closure.

Whilst The Race may succeed in driving up the quality of motor sport journalism, there could (regrettably) be casualties elsewhere. However, sites should only feel threatened by the emergence of The Race if they themselves fear extinction in the first place.

In just over a month, The Race has amassed 10,000 followers on Twitter. In isolation, the figure is relatively small, but consider that the likes of Crash.net and Motorsport Week have 34,000 followers built up over a ten-year period!

That is not a dig at either site, merely a reflection on why The Race opted to bring in the people they did instead of plucking for unknown talent.

Websites - WTF1.png
WTF1’s website homepage as of February 15th, 2020.

It would be amiss to not mention F1 themselves, who have in-house journalists working for their website. Yes, F1 competing against journalists that they accredit to their own events. No, that is not a mistake, nor a typo…

…and others exist to entertain
One name referenced above is WTF1, which Dennis Publishing acquired last year.

WTF1 may exist primarily to entertain rather than to break news stories, however, the site now regularly reports news to a much younger audience thanks to the brand that the team have built over the past ten years.

Arguably, WTF1 is a bigger brand to the younger generation of motor sport fans than what Autosport currently is.

Despite scooping the exclusive story with the Haas livery unveil, WTF1 received far more engagement across social media than The Race, thanks to their loyal audience.

If The Race wants to be a successful player in the long-term and become an attractive proposition to potential future buyers outside of the Torque stable, it needs to establish a middle ground between Motorsport Network’s audience base (Autosport / Motorsport) and WTF1.

How it does that is not an easy task given that The Race wants to give readers a more analytical view of the world. Although they exist on opposite ends of the Richter scale, both entities have an interest in the Esports space, which may present opportunities further down the line.

One thing is for certain: the future is all to play for…


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

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