Scheduling: The 2020 Rally Monte Carlo

All day. All weekend. All live. The World Rally Championship returns in style this weekend with its traditional season opener at the south of France, and for the third year running, all the action airs live.

Every stage will air live via both BT Sport’s Red Button service and WRC’s over-the-top platform for fans to watch. There are several movers and shakers in the presentation line-up to begin the 2020 season.

With Kiri Bloore expecting a baby soon, Abi Stephens steps into the presenting shoes for Monte Carlo, joined by Julian Porter in the WRC paddock.

Becs Williams returns to the commentary booth, joined by a variety of personalities throughout the weekend, whilst Jon Desborough continues to provide commentary for the stages airing live on mainstream television.

Hayley Edmonds replaces Molly Petit, who is on maternity leave, Edmonds providing interviews for the TV live stages.

Meanwhile, both Emyr Penlan and Ben Constanduros will provide interviews for the All Live stages during the rally. One absentee this season is Colin Clark, who announced earlier this week that he is moving to American outlet DirtFish for 2020 after 15 years with WRC.

For those without All Live and BT Sport, highlights of the championship switch from 5Spike to ITV4, with highlights expected to air in a Tuesday evening time slot for most of the season.

With nearly 23 hours of live coverage from Monte Carlo across four days, there is plenty to whet the appetite for rally fans this weekend.

World Rally Championship – Monte Carlo (All Live)
Also airs live on WRC+ (£)
23/01 – 18:00 to 22:30 – Esports, Stages 1 and 2 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 19:30 – Stage 1
=> 21:26 – Stage 2
24/01 – 06:45 to 16:45 – Stages 3 to 8 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 07:36 – Stage 3
=> 08:56 – Stage 4
=> 10:21 – Stage 5
=> 12:54 – Stage 6
=> 14:14 – Stage 7
=> 15:39 – Stage 8
25/01 – 07:30 to 16:00 – Stages 9 to 12 (BT Sport Extra 2)
=> 08:30 – Stage 9
=> 09:56 – Stage 10
=> 13:00 – Stage 11
=> 14:26 – Stage 12
26/01 – 06:45 to 12:45 – Stages 13 to 16 (BT Sport Extra 2)
=> 07:17 – Stage 13
=> 08:00 – Stage 14
=> 09:55 – Stage 15
=> 11:00 – Stage 16

World Rally Championship – Monte Carlo
23/01 – 19:30 to 20:30 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 3)
24/01 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
25/01 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Stage 11 (BT Sport 1)
25/01 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
26/01 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Stage 14 (BT Sport 2)
26/01 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Stage 16 [Power Stage] (BT Sport 2)
26/01 – 19:00 to 19:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
28/01 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

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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.”

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Channel 4's F1 race edit to switch to 'Extended Highlights' format for 2020

Viewers watching Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage in 2020 will receive more of the action than last year, Motorsport Broadcasting can exclusively reveal.

As part of a new arrangement with Sky Sports, Channel 4 aired Formula 1 in highlights form in 2019, with the British Grand Prix also airing live. Both parties agreed to extend the partnership last Autumn, taking the agreement through to the end of 2022.

The highlights deal allowed Channel 4 to cover 50 percent of the race during their edit, a decrease on the amount stipulated in the 2012 to 2018 broadcasting contract between Formula 1, Sky, and their free-to-air partner at that time.

However, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that Channel 4 and Sky have loosened at least two elements of the free-to-air contract for 2020.

This season, fans watching via Channel 4 will now see 70 percent of the racing action, increasing the race edit from 45 minutes to around 60 minutes (depending on race). The change brings Channel 4’s 2020 agreement closer to the 2012 to 2018 contract – at least in terms of the race edit.

The extension means that Channel 4’s race day show, produced by Whisper, will be 150 minutes in length for 2020 instead of 120 minutes, a similar amount compared with 2016 to 2018 for Channel 4 (including commercials).

In addition, Motorsport Broadcasting understands that both qualifying and the race day show can now begin two and a half hours after the chequered flag has fallen instead of three hours. Highlights for most European races will therefore air from 18:30 to 21:00, instead of 19:00 to 21:00 as they did last year.

The two races likely to prove troublesome this year are the United States and Mexican Grand Prix, which both begin at 19:10 UK time. Expect highlights to change to 22:30 to 01:00 this season, unless Sky gives Channel 4 any additional leeway on this front.

As of writing, there is no confirmation on the status of the additional restrictions that Sky imposed on Channel 4 prior to the 2019 season, such as the restriction of Channel 4 personnel on the grid or within the interview pen.

Overall, this is good news for fans watching Formula 1 via free-to-air television, and another sign that the relationship between Sky and Channel 4 is strong.

Both broadcasters expected to retain current line-ups
Although neither broadcaster has yet to confirm their on-air team, Motorsport Broadcasting expects both to field a similar line-up, with no upheaval like last year.

Ben Edwards is expected to return as Channel 4’s lead commentator, joined by personalities such as David Coulthard and Billy Monger throughout the course of the season.

Barring a change of direction, Sky are retaining Ted Kravitz for 2020, although the number of races Kravitz will be with Sky for is unclear. The likes of David Croft, Martin Brundle and Simon Lazenby are staying part of Sky’s line-up.

Meanwhile, newly announced W Series lead commentator Alex Jacques returns as commentator for Formula Two, Formula Three and Formula 1’s Pit Lane Channel this year.

Testing begins on Wednesday 19th February, with the season itself getting underway in Melbourne on Sunday 15th March, both of which are airing live on Sky Sports.

A correction was made to this article on January 19th. Although the United States Grand Prix begins an hour later local time, timezone differences / daylight savings mean that there is no difference to the UK race time and Channel 4’s highlights should therefore start half an hour earlier. My apologies for this error.

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World Rally Championship highlights to return to ITV4 in "multi-year" deal

Highlights of the World Rally Championship will return to ITV4 in a “multi-year” deal, securing the free-to-air future of the series, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.

The series aired in highlights form on ITV4 from 2013 to 2015, before moving to Channel 5 in 2016, with an audience of around 300,000 viewers enjoying the rallying action on the network.

Although good for rallying, the average audience on Channel 5 for WRC was below the slot average, with question marks hanging over the free-to-air rights prior to the 2019 season.

Free-to-air viewers missed action from the 2019 Monte Carlo Rally as a result, however a deal was struck to keep WRC on the Channel 5 network from round two onwards, this time on sister network 5Spike.

Now, organisers have confirmed to this site that the series will return to ITV4 this season, with highlights airing predominantly on Tuesday evenings at 20:00.

As with Channel 5’s previous deal, ITV4 will also air live coverage of the Power Stage from the Wales Rally GB and daily highlights of that event.

All Live to remain on BT Sport platform
WRC’s existing arrangements with pay-TV broadcaster BT Sport remain the same, with live coverage and event highlights airing across BT’s linear channels.

In addition, as in 2019, BT will again show every stage live via their Red Button service, the broadcaster taking WRC’s All Live service.

WRC’s over-the-top All Live platform returns for a third season with the Monte Carlo Rally from Thursday 23rd January, priced at £7.69 per month, or £76.97 across the year based on current conversion figures.

Coverage of the Wales Rally GB remains on S4C, whilst Red Bull TV will continue to air highlights and live coverage of one Saturday stage from each event.

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F1 unveils first-ever Strategic Plan

Formula 1 has today unveiled its first-ever strategic plan, giving fans an insight on what the future holds for the series ahead of its 70th year.

The slide deck builds upon what Liberty Media have achieved during their first three years as guardians of the sport.

The plan, released as part of F1’s Corporate Strategy, covers all aspects of the sport at a high level, broken into six pillars:

  • Race
  • Engage
  • Perform
  • Sustain
  • Collaborate
  • Empower

On the broadcasting side, Formula 1 makes it clear the direction that the sport is heading in, with a strong focus on bringing in younger fans through an expansion of F1’s Esports Championship, and through engaging with influencers.

F1 also references ‘exciting new formats’ on the sporting side, but does not offer any specifics on what this would entail. An attempt to bring in reverse-grid qualifying races for three races in 2020 failed to gain the required approval of all F1’s teams.

Interestingly, the slide deck makes no reference to free-to-air or pay television. Instead, the sport says it will ‘reach the broadest audience on relevant linear and digital platforms,’ suggesting that the distribution model will remain different on a country-by-country basis moving forward.

As anticipated, F1 intends to grow their over-the-top platform to, in their words, ‘super-serve hardcore fans.’ Over-the-top is not new, or a surprise, but it is fascinating to see F1 reference this in a public-facing document, something that was unthinkable five years ago.

Elsewhere, F1 mentions the desire to ‘multi-feed’ through a ‘more cloud-based sports broadcasting platform, showing where they see the future to be from an innovation perspective. 5G gets a mention in the slide-deck, with F1 hoping that will enable a ‘hyper-connected car, fan and paddock.’

Sustainability is a key theme throughout the slide deck, with F1 wanting to ‘minimise the amount of equipment and people sent to each race,’ building their facility further at Biggin Hill to support in this mission.

Other key areas on the broadcasting front include sharing content and talent, as well as generally increasing the awareness of Formula 1 through promotional opportunities.

F1 does not offer any timescales on the period that the Strategic Plan covers, but given some of the ambitions that the sport covers, I suspect it covers the next five years, with a view to look beyond that in many of the areas.

At the start of the month, F1 unveiled an amended logo to celebrate 70 years of F1, with activities planned throughout the year to celebrate the milestone.

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