News round up: Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, Sky Sports ramp up preparations for their British Grand Prix coverage, whilst Formula E have won an award focussing on their television offering.

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

ICYMI: Round-Up #1 (May 13th): Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

Formula 1

  • Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that the team will feature in the Netflix’s second season of Drive to Survive, having played no part in season one. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Wolff said that Netflix will film with the team at one race this year, which will “probably be Hockenheim.”
  • Ahead of the British Grand Prix next month, Sky Sports F1 have been busy filming different features.
    • Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert have been revisiting the 1995 British Grand Prix in Sky’s own cinema. Herbert won the race after Hill collided with Michael Schumacher in the closing stages.
    • A documentary celebrating Frank Williams’ fifty years in Formula 1 will premiere following the Silverstone qualifying session. The documentary features current Sky analyst and Williams Heritage driver Karun Chandhok driving the Brabham BT26, which was entered in 1969 by Williams as a privateer. Piers Courage raced the car to second place in the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix, their first ever podium.
  • F1’s in-house digital team have filmed two excellent pieces of content in recent weeks.
    • The team gave fans a peek behind the scenes with McLaren during the Monaco qualifying session.
  • F1’s in-house digital team is now also producing the content for Formula Two and Formula Three across social media, which explains the recent surge in video content across both of those championships.
  • To help with Formula Two’s growth, Formula 1 has launched an official podcast for their feeder series. Following in the footsteps of Beyond the Grid which launched a year ago, the Road to F1 podcast sees Alex Jacques and Rosanna Tennant interview the stars of Formula Two on their way to F1.
  • W Series commentator Claire Cottingham substituted for Jennie Gow during 5 Live’s coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix. Gow will be back in pit lane for 5 Live at Silverstone.
  • Recent audience figures in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. Live coverage airs on pay-TV outlet Ziggo Sport, and according to audience agency SKO
    • The Monaco Grand Prix averaged 547k (34.3%) for the pre-race build-up, 1.24m (46.1%) for the race itself and 637k (22.8%) for the post-race analysis.
    • In comparison, coverage of the French Grand Prix averaged 396k (26.5%), 824k (40.9%) and 357k (19.8%) respectively.
    • Max Verstappen’s dramatic victory in Austria averaged 479k (29.1%), 1.20m (49.5%) and 878k (36.9%).
    • France rated lower across all metrics. Austria rated lower than Monaco for both the pre-race build-up and race, noticeably closing the gap for the latter. Amazingly, Verstappen’s victory meant that the post-race segment for Austria rated higher than the French Grand Prix itself!
  • ESPN in the US continue to tout their own F1 audience figures. Live coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix attracted 1.1 million viewers on ABC, an increase of 17 percent on last year’s figure.

Formula E

  • Formula E TV won the ‘Best in Sports Media’ prize in 2019 Sports Business Awards. Formula E fought off competition from the likes of BBC Sport and the PGA European Tour to win the category.
    • The SBA said that Formula E’s television content “creates jeopardy, develops character and narrative throughout, uses technology and innovation to create a point of differentiation, and educates consumers about electric mobility while giving global manufacturers a platform to test and develop road-relevant technologies.”
  • The BBC’s technology programme Click went to Berlin at the end of May to find out more about the innovations driving the electric series (link).
  • On the social media side, Formula E’s team have been busy linking the championship in with popular culture. Heading into the Bern E-Prix, Formula E put their own spin on Crash Team Racing across their social channels.

Elsewhere…

  • IndyStar posted in the run up to the Indianapolis 500 an excellent behind the scenes look at NBC’s IndyCar coverage. The article is well worth a read, even if a little late noting on my behalf.
  • According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, an audience of 1.10 million viewers watched the IndyCar Grand Prix at Road America on NBC in the US, their highest IndyCar audience on record outside of the Indianapolis 500.
  • The remainder of the 2019 VLN Series will air live on Lets Go Racing’s YouTube channel. The channel, which also airs the Japanese Super Formula championship, was founded following the demise of Nismo TV at the end of last season.
  • Fans of the British Superbike championship in the US and Canada can now watch the championship live via MotorTrend On Demand platform.
  • A trailer for the new Ford versus Ferrari film was released last month ahead of its theatrical release in November. The film, which starts Matt Damon and Christian Bale, focuses on Ford’s attempts to beat Ferrari in the run up to the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. For UK readers, the film will premiere under the title of Le Mans ’66.
  • The Le Mans Esports Series generated some big numbers across digital media during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend. Ben Rossiter-Turner, the Managing Director of Virtually Entertained, gave readers a behind the scenes look at the series on his LinkedIn page.
  • In today’s unusual mention, Channel 4 Weather is now sponsored by W Series.

Spot any stories making the rounds worth mentioning? Drop a line in the comments section.

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Whisper diversifies with creation of The Whisper Group

The production company behind Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage have announced that they are diversifying into new areas.

Whisper Films, whose current sports portfolio includes the W Series, Sail GP and F1, will simply be known as Whisper moving forward.

As part of the diversification effort a new brand, The Whisper Group, will oversee the complete portfolio. The group aims to move beyond sport into other areas, such as entertainment and factual.

Alongside Whisper sits Whisper Wales (based in Cardiff) and Whisper West (based in Maidenhead). The wider group have also partnered with graphics agency Chapter 3 Graphics and entertainment arm East Media.

Sunil Patel, Jake Humphrey, and David Coulthard created Whisper Films nine years ago, the trio and the rest of the Whisper family marking the expansion with an event in BT Tower, where their new branding was unveiled.

Speaking to me at the event, Patel explained the reasoning for the change. “For too long, I believe sports production companies have been penned in as ‘one trick ponies’. I believe there is so much talent in the sports genre, which we can port over to other genres,” Patel said.

“We believe that we should be a destination for the best talent in the industry. One day they could be doing sport, next day they could be doing factual entertainment, specialist factual, design. It’s about creating a home for people to move around in.”

Whisper have several original projects in the works, whilst a variety of non-factual documentaries, such as Fergie versus Wenger and Klopp versus Poch, have played out on Channel 4 and Channel 5 recently.

Channel 4 F1 platform has “helped us belong”
Patel reflected on Whisper’s coverage of Formula 1 for Channel 4, which they have been producing since the start of 2016.

“Channel 4 Formula 1 has helped us belong,” Patel said. “There’s no better showcase than Formula 1 every other weekend. Everyone looks at that, and that’s a showcase of our work, we own the moment.”

“Our creativity is at the forefront, it’s constantly being looked at and analysed, by people like yourself pulling it apart, for the right reasons.”

“You can do the best pitch in the world when you’re trying to win new business but, there’s nothing better than what you’re doing, because that’s the showcase.”

Patel, who told me that Whisper remain committed to the sporting arena moving forward, is comfortable with the risk taken.

“It is a calculated risk. What we’re not doing is moving myself into entertainment, or Mark Cole [ex BBC Sport, now Head of Television at Whisper] into entertainment,” he said. “We’re bringing in people who know that field.”

“Our Chief Operating Officer Julie Porter used to run Strictly Come Dancing, and has a huge entertainment background. She had the choice of going to The Voice when it first launched, sticking with Strictly or coming to Whisper when we were nothing, before even one of our first big gigs, producing DTM on ITV4 in 2011, had aired.”

“Julie made that jump over to us. We’ve got lots of people who know that field, and we can turbo charge that with our energy, our passion, our desire to be the best we can be.”

The core underlying message from Whisper last night was that the last nine years formed chapter one of the Whisper journey.

Chapter two, which begins now, will see The Whisper Group embark on a much bigger journey beyond the sporting landscape.

Scheduling: The 2019 Dutch TT / Austrian Grand Prix

From Catalunya to Assen, MotoGP heads to the Netherlands for the Dutch TT, which plays host to round eight of the season.

Marc Marquez looks to maintain his advantage at the top of the championship following his dominant performance last time out. Marquez extended his lead following a three-bike collision between Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, and Andrea Dovizioso in Catalunya.

As always, the action airs exclusively live on BT Sport, the pay TV channel airing over 22 hours of live coverage from the Netherlands. For those without BT, the action is also available via MotoGP’s Video Pass, with highlights airing on Quest on Monday evening.

Elsewhere, Mercedes look to continue their crushing Formula 1 dominance in Austria. Ted Kravitz is absent from Sky’s line-up for the weekend, with Karun Chandhok back in the fray.

If pay TV is not your thing, Channel 4’s highlights air in their usual Sunday evening slot, with Mark Webber and Billy Monger again joining regulars Steve Jones and David Coulthard.

On the domestic front, Knockhill plays host to the latest round of the British Superbikes championship (airing live on Eurosport), whilst Oulton Park is home to the British Touring Car Championship for the weekend (airing live on ITV4).

MotoGP – Assen (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
28/06 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
29/06 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
30/06 – 07:30 to 15:00
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Assen (Quest)
01/07 – 22:00 to 23:00 – Highlights

Channel 4 F1
29/06 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
30/06 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
28/06 – 09:45 to 11:55 – Practice 1
28/06 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2
29/06 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
29/06 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
30/06 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid
=> 14:05 – Race
=> 16:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
27/06 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
27/06 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
28/06 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
29/06 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The F1 Show
03/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
30/06 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Superbikes – Knockhill
29/06 – 16:00 to 18:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
30/06 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Races (Eurosport 2)
03/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Oulton Park (ITV4)
30/06 – 11:30 to 18:00 – Races

Formula Two – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
28/06 – 11:55 to 12:45 – Practice
28/06 – 15:50 to 16:25 – Qualifying
29/06 – 15:35 to 16:45 – Race 1
30/06 – 09:55 to 10:50 – Race 2

Formula Three – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
28/06 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Qualifying Tape-Delay
29/06 – 09:15 to 10:10 – Race 1
30/06 – 08:25 to 09:20 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
30/06 – 11:10 to 12:00 – Race

As always, this article will be updated if listings change.

1.2 million watch Channel 4’s Canadian Grand Prix highlights

An average audience of 1.2 million viewers watched Channel 4’s highlights of a dramatic Canadian Grand Prix, official consolidated figures from BARB show.

Consolidated audience figures include viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of broadcast, and exclude commercial breaks. Figures in this article should not be compared to previous overnight ratings posted on this site.

Race
Highlights of the race aired on Channel 4 from 23:00 to 01:00 on Sunday 9th June, with an average of 1.20 million viewers watching. It is the lowest audience that have watched coverage of the Canadian round on Channel 4.

In 2016, 1.77 million viewers watched their highlights show from 22:42. That number dropped to 1.39 million viewers one year later, dipping again to 1.26 million viewers last year.

The structure of Channel 4’s highlights stayed the same from 2016 to 2018. Including commercials, Channel 4’s coverage consisted of around 25 minutes of build-up, 70 minutes for the race, and then 25 minutes of post-race analysis.

However, the structure of this year’s Canadian programme was significantly different, as Channel 4’s show aired later due to restrictions in their contract with Sky. This year, including commercials, Channel 4 had around 10 minutes of build-up, 60 minutes for the race, and then 50 minutes of post-race analysis.

A shorter race edit, combined with the edit finishing earlier, created a lop-sided programme. The change will have resulted in the final 45 minutes rating significantly lower year-on-year, deflating the average significantly.

Whilst it is never good to be down year-on-year, a decrease of 190,000 viewers and 60,000 viewers compared with the past two years is not that bad if you choose to dissect the figures in detail instead of looking purely at the headline.

Of course, a figure of 1.2 million viewers is still very low in the grand scheme of things, and a far cry compared to what Formula 1 has achieved in the past for Canada when the race aired live on free-to-air television.

Channel 4’s highlights were the 13th most watched show on the network for the week commencing 3rd June.

In stark contrast, seven years ago, Jenson Button’s dramatic victory placed sixth for the week on BBC One with 6.27 million viewers; with the last 90-minutes averaging 6.04 million viewers on BBC Two.

Audience figures for Sky Sports F1 are unavailable, however the race simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event averaged 320,000 viewers from 19:04 on Sunday evening. This figure increases to 423,000 viewers when viewers watching via PC, tablet and smartphone are included.

Superbikes and International GT Open
Elsewhere, Eurosport 2’s live coverage of World Superbikes from Jerez peaked on Sunday afternoon with 67,300 viewers. The segment covers the third Superbikes race of the weekend from 12:58 to 13:38.

Over on BT Sport 3, the first International GT Open race from Spa averaged 16,800 viewers from 15:35 on Saturday afternoon.

In conversation with Tony Jardine

From reporting on radio in the early 1980s, to analysing Formula 1 for audiences across the globe, Tony Jardine’s broadcasting career has spanned nearly four decades.

I reminisced with Jardine at the 2018 edition of the Autosport Show, as we looked back at his broadcasting career.

How did your broadcasting career begin?

It was by accident! I was at the 1982 South African Grand Prix, working as the JPS Lotus press officer, when the infamous drivers’ strike took place.

The Independent Radio News (IRN) news reporter at the time was not in the press box, and I took a phone call from IRN. IRN distributed the radio news, and they were desperate, they needed a voice piece. I said “I can’t do that,” and they were like “Just tell me what you see down the pit lane.”

I did my first ever broadcast from Kyalami about the strike. IRN asked me to do more pieces, and I ended up becoming their Formula 1 correspondent, as well as doing the day job.

From IRN you moved to the BBC, how did that gig come about?

The BBC deal was a very different kettle of fish, in as much that Murray Walker had a conflict between the British motorcycle Grand Prix and the German Grand Prix. The BBC decided they wanted him to do the bikes, and asked me to make my commentary debut in ’85 alongside James Hunt.

That led to me becoming the full-time pit lane commentator with the BBC, and race commentator for South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). I did a lot of live broadcasts for them, but I do want to stress that broadcasting was never my main job. The PR and communications company that I am involved with (HPS Jardine) is still my main mode of employment nearly 40 years later!

The role of pit lane reporter I imagine was quite different back then, given the archaic technology on offer.

It was quite difficult being in the pit lane as communications were not very sophisticated. It was very ancient equipment, you had to carry a lot of batteries, microphones, and headsets around with you. I was always trying to get in touch with the producer to say “I’ve got a story,” but they couldn’t always hear me.

We also could not do a proper grid walk at the BBC, as you were restricted as to where you could go by FOM.

I was literally arrested by Pasquale Lattuneddu, Bernie’s number two man, by going over some yellow line, and had to sit outside the [Formula One Management] office for several hours like a naughty school boy! You were limited as to what you could do on the grid, but I used to go to the edge of the pit lane and report in from there.

Was the pit lane role your main role with the BBC, or were there other roles you played a part in during their F1 coverage?

I started to get involved with the highlights on BBC Two in the early ‘90s. One year, we did the British Grand Prix highlights opening live on stage from the post-race concert, with David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert! I was trying to hear the opening bits of music, so I could make my cue. When I thought there was a gap, I just went for it! I could not hear a word, it was very raw, rough, and ready.

The other thing I provided is what they call a ‘guide commentary.’ When neither Murray or James were overseas, for example in Canada or Japan, but they needed to know what happened, I would lay down a ‘ghost commentary’ over the action. Murray and James would listen to the ‘ghost’ version before they did their own commentary on several hours later.

Towards the end of 1995, we found out that ITV had grabbed the rights to the F1. Did that come as a shock to you and the team?

I was offered a new contract at the end of 1995 and was asked to present the BBC Two highlights from 1997 onwards, as well as doing the pit lane reporter gig. Three days later, the news came through that the BBC had lost [the F1] and ITV had won. I was gutted, as the BBC had empowered me, I said I’d give it a shot.

Jonathan Martin [BBC’s Head of Sport] believed he had a strong relationship with Bernie, and there is a view that he was quite arrogant. “Oh, Bernie wouldn’t do that to us!”, that kind of thing, and then gone.

Tony Jardine during ITV’s coverage of the 2005 Canadian Grand Prix.

Even though my company were involved in promoting the BTCC in the ‘90s, I never really thought about staying with the BBC. My expertise was very much from working in Formula 1.

However, as luck would have it, I knew some of the production companies that were bidding for the ITV coverage. One of the guys from ITV saw me individually, and in the end, ITV said to the successful production company [Chrysalis] that they had to take me too! So, I wasn’t selected by them, but ITV had chosen me already.

That’s when they decided that I become an analyst in the studio. I did nine successful years with ITV and thoroughly enjoyed it, in TV terms that is a very long time.

How did the viewing public react to ITV’s offering in 1997?

I think it was quite warmly received. There were a lot of people waiting to criticise, the adverts were a big issue. However, we had our own studio, we had new graphics, we took it up another level.

At the time, it was unheard of to have a team that size, two analysts, guests, two pit lane reporters. Apart from some of the things we missed because of the ad-breaks, I don’t remember us receiving any massive criticism. Jim [Rosenthal] was one of those consummate professionals that does the job wherever he is, and he’s still working today.

The big difference too was that ITV gave it time. With the BBC, one race would air live, and the next would air as highlights, until 1995 when the Beeb started showing everything.

One of the major revelations about ITV’s coverage was Martin Brundle, so much so that he is still involved in F1 broadcasting to this very day.

I used to regularly go to Martin, both from my company’s perspective, and from a broadcasting perspective, as he was always great at talking. Martin could explain technical things in a very simplistic manner, not talking down to people, but just bringing it to a language you could understand, and maybe even have a little quip to boot.

Towards the end of the BBC’s tenure, Jonathan was with Murray in the commentary box and they brought Martin in as a third commentator. Brundle saw the race unfolding, and made a prediction which Palmer disagreed with, and the rest of it. But, what Brundle said was concise, he had a great idea of the strategy, and it was a great drivers’ perspective of what was going on.

It was a no brainer for ITV to bring him on-board. He took all that incredible knowledge, wit, wisdom, connectivity with drivers into the grid walk which we know and love.

Post-ITV, you have been involved with many different broadcasters on various things, close to home with Sky but also overseas.

I went back to Sky after ITV, and worked the live A1 Grand Prix races with Georgie Thompson, even doing my own grid walk from Brands Hatch!

I did some Sky Sports News work as well, previewing each Grand Prix using the touch screen from 2012. I would do two previews in a day building up to a race. I would script it, say what images I wanted, and Sky would get all the graphics.

On stage, I would talk to the presenter, talk through a lap of the circuit on the touch screen and play in all the video, never once using an autocue. The nightmare of course is that sometimes the touch screen would freeze, you’re live and you only have a certain amount of time, as Sky Sports News are constantly going from sport to sport.

More recently I’ve worked with Angus Scott, another former ITV man, on BeIN Sports’ live F1 shows. Many people in that production were also ex-BBC and Sky people, and BeIN really looked after me and listened to me editorially.

I am very fortunate to have had a lot of different jobs within broadcasting, all of which I have enjoyed. The art of good broadcasting is that you make it look easy, but believe you me, when you are doing it, it’s not.

My thanks go to Tony Jardine for spending the time with me on the above interview.