Scheduling: The 2019 Rally Monte Carlo / Santiago E-Prix

Every stage, of every rally, live. All Live is back for year two, with the Monte Carlo rally opening the 2019 World Rally Championship!

The rallying curtain raiser takes place from Thursday 24th January through to Sunday 27th January. Every stage is not only available via WRC’s over-the-top service, but for the first time ever is also available on BT Sport.

BT are airing the main All Live feed via their Red Button service throughout the 2019 season, offering rallying fans an alternative way to view the action. BT’s existing 2018 commitments remain, with a select number of stages (WRC’s live World Feed content) airing on their linear channel as well as the daily highlights packages.

Further west, Mexico City plays host to the Race of Champions this weekend. The action airs live on Sky Sports F1, with Will Buxton and Neil Cole on commentary, and David Croft and Jennie Gow reporting from the pit lane.

Elsewhere, Formula E heads to Santiago for the third round of the season, with BBC, Eurosport, BT Sport and YouTube covering the race live.

Race of Champions – Mexico City (Sky Sports F1)
19/01 – 19:00 to 22:00 – Nations Cup
20/01 – 19:00 to 22:00 – Race of Champions

Formula E – Santiago
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying also air live on YouTube…
25/01 – 18:15 to 19:00 – Shakedown (BT Sport 3)
26/01 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 3)
26/01 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 3)
26/01 – 14:45 to 16:15 – Qualifying (BT Sport 3)
26/01 – 17:45 to 18:30 – Qualifying Delayed (Eurosport 2)
26/01 – 18:30 to 20:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport 3
=> live on Eurosport 2
26/01 – 18:30 to 20:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)
27/01 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

World Rally Championship – Monte Carlo (All Live – BT Sport Extra 1)
Every stage also live via WRCPlus.com
24/01 – 09:45 to 11:00 – Shakedown
24/01 – 17:30 to 18:15 – Opening Ceremony
24/01 – 18:30 to 20:45 – Stages 1 and 2
25/01 – 06:15 to 17:15 – Stages 3 to 8
26/01 – 06:45 to 14:30 – Stages 9 to 12
27/01 – 06:45 to 12:45 – Stages 13 to 16

World Rally Championship – Monte Carlo
24/01 – 18:30 to 19:30 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 1)
25/01 – 21:45 to 22:15 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
26/01 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Stage 12 (BT Sport 1)
27/01 – 00:45 to 01:15 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
27/01 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Stage 16 [Power Stage] (also BT Sport 3)
27/01 – 19:15 to 19:45 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)

Eagle eyed readers will spot zero reference to World Rally Championship’s free-to-air highlights programme. That is because there is currently no word on who is airing the package, and there is no sign of it in Channel 5’s current schedules either. As and when – or if – the schedule updates, I will update this article.

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BT Sport to show every WRC stage live this year

BT Sport are to show every stage of the 2019 World Rally Championship live, this site can confirm.

In previous years, BT only aired stages that WRC covered live via their World Feed. The boundaries changed in 2018, as the series launched their over-the-top platform All Live, which covered every stage of the championship live. Despite this, BT and other pay-TV broadcasters did not air the All Live content.

Now in its second season, the UK are amongst three markets (the others being France and Greece) that are taking the All Live output. The plan is for BT to air the All Live content behind their Red Button service.

Speaking to me at the Autosport Show, WRC Promoter Oliver Ciesla explained the reasoning behind the year-on-year change.

“Last year the service was new, so we first needed to check the technical stability,” Ciesla said. “We wanted to make sure that the product, and the way we shape it, is good for the market. With the product being mature now for 2019, we bring it to the market.”

“There is a big appetite in the market from digital and pay channels for live content at world championship level. It’s not to broaden the audience, it’s more an additional service for the hardcore fans, they want more, they get more.”

“For domestic events in the home country however, we’re always trying to make sure that they get the maximum free-to-air coverage.”

Channel 5’s UK TV rights up in the air
Question marks remain over which UK broadcaster will air free-to-air coverage of the championship with Ciesla unable to confirm a broadcaster, despite the first round in Monte Carlo being less than two weeks away.

Regular highlights returned to free-to-air television in March 2013 on ITV4, with Channel 5 picking up the baton since 2016.

Ciesla ruled out the possibility of airing stages live via social media, to try to attract a different audience towards All Live. “There is an opportunity to put live streams on our social media channels, but at the moment this is not part of our media mix, we commercialise that in a different manner,” Ciesla added.

“We have increased the global television audience by 40 percent since we started on the job, plus introduced all of the digital and pay services,” Ciesla said. “There is still some space for us to grow on either side.”

In addition, WRC announced during the Autosport Show that All Live will air in the Spanish language for the first time, a natural step for a series that has four rounds in Spanish speaking countries (Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Spain).

Update on January 18th – WRC organisers have confirmed that BT Sport have extended their contract, in a new multi-year deal to cover the championship.

Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict

The 2018 Formula One season has ended, and with it, brings down the curtain on the motor racing year.

On-track, it has been a year of generally good racing wherever you look. Whilst neither the F1 or MotoGP seasons went down the wire, the racing in both has been worth watching on many occasions this year.

Off the track, there have been many developments on the broadcasting front. Traditionally, the end of season verdict has stuck to the UK F1 view point, but we live in a motor sport world far greater than both the UK and F1, and with that in mind it makes sense to expand the scope of the verdict to encompass all elements of broadcasting.

Whether it has been the launch of F1 TV, or World Rally Championship’s All Live service, there has been plenty of movement in the online arena. Liberty Media have made their mark on Formula 1’s graphics set, whilst closer to home, 2018 was the last year of Channel 4’s current F1 contract, the broadcaster remaining in a reduced capacity, for 2019 at least.

Now, we want your opinion. Has something irritated you with this year’s motor sport coverage? Have I missed a revolution that this site should be covering? And what would you like to be different about the motor sport broadcasting scene in 2019? Are you planning to watch a new series next season?

As always, the best thoughts and views will form a new article closer to the festive period.

Scheduling: The 2018 Rally Australia / Valencian MotoGP

Ogier. Neuville. Tanak. Three contenders, but only one can be World Rally Champion in 2018. The rallying year comes to a climax down under in Australia, as Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak look to dethrone Sebastien Ogier from the top of the mountain.

All the action unfolds through the night live via WRC’s over-the-top All Live platform, with selected stages and daily highlights airing on BT Sport. If you miss the live action, fear not, you can watch again on All Live via their on-demand playback. Free-to-air highlights follow later in the week as usual on Channel 5.

Also concluding this weekend are MotoGP and the World Touring Car Cup. The latter forms part of the blue riband Macau weekend which, along with the Formula Three and GT races, airs live on Eurosport. The only thing from Macau not live on Eurosport is the Macau motorcycle race, that presumably airing via Motorsport.tv’s over-the-top service.

Into the virtual world, Sky Sports F1 plays host to the final of the 2018 F1 ESports series, which is also airing live on Formula 1’s Facebook page.

Elsewhere, a special Billy Monger documentary, produced by Oxford Scientific Films, airs on BBC Two on Monday evening, the documentary looking at his ongoing road to recovery.

There is plenty of offer to whet the appetite as the motor sport season draws to a close.

World Rally Championship – Australia
Every stage live via WRCPlus.com
15/11 – 20:30 (Thursday) to 07:15 (Friday) – Day 1 (All Live)
16/11 – 12:15 to 12:45 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
16/11 – 20:00 (Friday) to 07:15 (Saturday) – Day 2 (All Live)
16/11 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Stage 9 (BT Sport 2)
17/11 – 01:00 to 02:00 – Stage 13 (BT Sport 1)
17/11 – 12:30 to 13:00 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
17/11 – 19:00 (Friday) to 03:30 (Sunday) – Day 3 (All Live)
17/11 – 21:30 to 22:30 – Stage 21 (BT Sport 2)
18/11 – 02:00 to 03:30 – Stage 24 (BT Sport 1)
18/11 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
21/11 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

MotoGP – Valencia (BT Sport 2)
16/11 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
17/11 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
18/11 – 07:30 to 15:00
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Valencia (Channel 5)
20/11 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

FIA GT World Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
18/11 – 04:00 to 05:30 – Race

Formula Three World Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
18/11 – 07:30 to 08:30 – Race

World Touring Car Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
17/11 – 06:00 to 07:30 – Race 1
18/11 – 00:00 to 01:15 – Race 2
18/11 – 03:00 to 04:00 – Race 3

World Endurance Championship – 8 Hours of Shanghai
18/11 – 02:30 to 09:30 – Race (BT Sport 3)
18/11 – 05:30 to 07:30 (Eurosport)
18/11 – 08:30 to 09:15 (Eurosport)

F1 ESports Series (Sky Sports F1)
17/11 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Final

Driven: The Billy Monger Story
19/11 – 21:00 to 22:00 (BBC Two)

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.

How All Live is changing the face of rallying: planning

Whilst many motor racing publications tend to focus on Formula 1 or MotoGP’s broadcasting exploits, elsewhere in the motor sport spectrum, a quiet revolution has been taking place that deserves far more attention than what it has received.

To discover more, this writer took a trip up to Deeside to see what the fuss was about for a three-part series. If you missed the first part, head over here

So, the World Rally Championship has laid its production foundations for the future of the series. WRC gives fans 24/7 access to the championship, broadcasting every stage live on their All Live over-the-top service to fans worldwide. It is a herculean operation that requires a significant amount of planning.

Planning for a rally event, as is true for most forms of motor racing, starts years before the event takes place, sourcing out potential new locations for the rally to conquer. “Normally we get sent a provisional itinerary from the promoter, which we comment on,” says Steve Turvey, who is WRC’s Location Director.

“They already know what we want, sometimes that isn’t possible, sometimes it is a compromise, sometimes it is a negotiation, but there is a common goal to make it work for TV. Some organisers will say ‘there you are, take it or leave it’, others come to us with an open book and say ‘tell me what you want’, and that’s part of the job.”

The operational angle
The planning phase ramps up in the months leading into the rally, with a reconnaissance mission taking place beforehand. Commonly known as a ‘reccee’, the purpose of it is for the production team to source out the best shots for television.

“We drive all the stages during the reccee, choosing the action shots for the highlight packages,” Turvey tells me. “We sometimes trim the live stages to get the best section for the last part of the stage. There’s a few things we look out for, as an example, we don’t want anything that is tree covered, we want the good vantage points.”

Although the team now covers every rally stage live, there is still an element of ‘the old’ and ‘the new’ on the production side.

As in previous years, television networks around the world, such as BT Sport, cover several stages live, meaning that the production team still produces a World Feed for these stages. The remainder are exclusive to the new over-the-top platform, which brings with it a new requirement for the team to consider during planning.

“As a minimum, we want to see every WRC car through each stage for All Live, so we’ve got to consider the timings carefully. We need to make sure there’s enough time between the first WRC car starting and the final WRC car finishing, before the next stage starts to avoid any overlap.”

Turvey’s planning in the weeks before each rally must take this into account. A spreadsheet created by him builds up a timeline for all four days, broken into five-minute intervals, covering on and off-air times, sunrise and sunset, the talent involved with each stage (both on and off-air), the studio guests and so on.

The production team meticulously plans everything to the finest detail, down to the helicopter route! The helicopter might seem trivial, but no plane, no on-board cameras. The spreadsheet is not simply X + Y for calculating the gap between stages, but Turvey uses historical information, such as the average speed to calculate the stage gaps. Turvey describes it as “military operation”, everything reviewed with a fine-tooth comb.

“There’s absolutely nothing left to chance, everything is planned to the second. We know exactly the second the first car starts and the last car finishes. We’re trying to cover the rally, but we’re not trying to change it. The organisers have got ideas of their own, they start at 07:56 [here in Wales] for example because that is the first minute that they will get full daylight for everybody, and then they will be running until they start to get darkness.”

With rallying covering a large terrain, it means that WRC’s personnel are constantly on the move, which they monitors through a own tracking system to ensure that elements outside out of their control do not hold them up, such as marshals, closed roads, “or even if we’re snowed in during Sweden” as Turvey puts it!

“We appreciate it is live TV, so that is very much plan A, sometimes we end up with plan C,” Turvey continues. “If you have an event like Turkey, when the entry list was decimated due to the conditions, what we ended up broadcasting was nothing like the original plan, and that’s the great thing about the people we’ve got. We’ve got multi-skilled, multi-talented reporters out there.”

The editorial stance
On an editorial level, it is critical that the team is singing off the same hymn sheet. At their Deeside base for the Wales Rally GB, there are multiple production offices on the go, which Kevin Piper, WRC’s Editor in Chief, describes as a “multi-layered operation.”

There are at least four layers to the WRC production operation: highlights (both 26-minute and 52-minute), the bite-size news segments, All Live, and the World Feed; and that is ignoring all the invisible layers that are in between.

As stories unfolded during the Wales event, you could hear the production team chatting to one another, ensuring that the outlook was consistent across all of WRC’s products. “I take overall responsibility for the editorial content which is an ongoing process throughout the year,” Piper tells me.

“I take on-board ideas and proactively get suggestions from the rest of the team. We talk to each other between each event so that we know where we want to go moving forward.”

As part of the planning phase, Piper’s team are also in regular dialogue with WRC’s manufacturers and drivers, so that they can get the best on-screen product and interviews on-air. The 52-minute highlights programme contains a mixture of on-stage action, as well as feature segments, which requires co-operation from the teams involved.

“We know what the features for the highlights show are before we arrive at an event, and we’ll shoot these in advance of the event on the Wednesday and Thursday, ready for our editors to edit them during the weekend,” says James Parnis, who leads the 52-minute highlights strand of programming.

“For the Wales show, we’re doing a three-minute feature with Craig Breen and Scott Martin, who are having drone flying lessons from the guys at DJI Pilots. Because of what happened in Turkey, we’re also doing a technical feature, which we shot before the event on drivers and co-drivers having to repair their own cars out on the road section.”

2018 Wales Rally GB - time line snippet
The All Live and World Feed time line for Saturday morning’s action in the Wales Rally GB, covering stages 10 through to 14.

“By pre-planning, shooting stuff and editing stuff before the event even begins, that gets us ahead of the game. That’s the plan anyway, it doesn’t always pan out like that, sometimes we have to be reactive and come up with feature ideas during the event,” Parnis continues.

The features, which WRC also plays out on All Live, help the 52-minute programme breathe although Parnis is keen to emphasise that the on-stage action takes priority. “Look at the Saturday in Turkey, so much happened! Whilst we have our own ideas, if the action out there on the stages is incredible, then that takes precedence. That’s what people want to watch, they want to see the best action.”

Quickly as the weekend ends, Piper is looking ahead to future events. “Once the event is established, you follow the storylines on top of the features as with any live event. Afterwards we have a debrief as we look ahead straight away to at least the next rally, if not a little bit further than that.”

The television feeds
Calling the job of a television director ‘easy’ is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, however the introduction of All Live has helped WRC’s television director Marko Viitanen this year.

“From a director’s point of view, making that one live television stage needed a lot of prep, because you needed to know what happened on the previous stages,” Viitanen says. “Now, when you’re directing All Live, you live the rally from start to finish. You know the order of the cars by heart, you know your shots, because you’re seeing all the on-board shots. You have the information burning through your brains, it is kind of easier!”

“I always compare directing rallying to cross-country skiing. In the best possible scenario, you have several cars on stage, and we can balance and bounce cars between the splits. We can actually put pictures to the stuff you, me, rally fans sitting at home have been watching on the timing screens for years.”

The set-up for the live World Feed stages is different to that for the over-the-top All Live stages. “We have a range of materials on offer for the World Feed,” Turvey notes. “There is a long action section at the end of the stage, covering the last couple of kilometres. We call this a line-cut section consisting of typically seven cameras, with an OB (outside broadcast) van.”

“We have a set team both on and off-air, with Jon Desborough leading commentary. In addition, there is a full graphics package, start camera, finish camera with interviews.”

All the work that Turvey is doing is on-top of his existing role from 2017, and as the team leaves Deeside, Turvey is already planning further ahead. “We’ll do the initial planning for [the next round in] Spain before we leave here, which is the on-air and off-air times. By the end of this weekend I’ll have this information ready for Spain.”

Beyond Spain, discussions are already beginning about next year’s rally, with the possibility of the opening stage moving to Liverpool and Manchester. And with that, the cycle for the 2019 Wales Rally GB begins already, it is the show that never stops…

Coming in the third and final part, we continue our look behind the scenes at the breadth and depth of WRC’s production suite.