Formula E looking for ‘channel consistency’ and audience consolidation in future TV deals

Formula E are looking for ‘channel consistency’ and audience consolidation in future television deals, series organisers have told Motorsport Broadcasting.

Since the electric series launched in 2014, Formula E has aired across five different broadcasters in the UK.

Currently, the series airs live across BBC’s digital platforms, with live coverage also airing on Eurosport, but both deals end following the 2020-21 season.

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting on the eve of the New York E-Prix weekend, Formula E’s chief media officer Aarti Dabas said that the series was exploring making it ‘simpler’ to watch Formula E moving forward.

“When you drive a message, with the clutter that’s around, you want a simple message, watch it on this channel, live,” Dabas believes. “You don’t want five different channels over there and five calls to action.”

“It’s a good question because we’re definitely looking at a more consistent channel strategy in the UK and other markets. And when I think of the channel strategy, I know that every race currently we are like, is it on BBC Red Button, is it on network, is it on Quest. It’s hard.”

Dabas, who joined Formula E in June 2020, believes that channel consistency, along with localised content, are both key if Formula E is going to become a tier 1 sport in key territories.

“For us we are aiming to be a tier 1 sport, and channel consistency is going to drive the numbers,” Dabas says. “We are looking to see how we can have consistent channels whether it’s with BBC, or with any other channel that we go with.”

Sat.1 deal in Germany an early success story for Dabas

Citing her previous role, Dabas notes that cricket saw a 50% jump in audiences in India following the creation of a localised feed, instead of the Indian coverage taking the English language feed.

Dabas’s team are trying to replicate that approach in Formula E, with their deal with German station Sat.1 an early success story.

Sat.1 airs a one-hour bespoke pre-show, with a dedicated on-site crew producing coverage for German viewers, featuring the likes of former racer Daniel Abt on commentary.

“It took a while to do and draft the deal [with Sat.1], because both from their end and ours, we wanted to work on something that helped them grow their audiences. Eventually they want younger people to watch their channel, and Formula E is the right fit.”

“They’re [Sat.1] actually owning the product with language, relevant talent, so it doesn’t look like they just take the World Feed.”

“I think ultimately that is the model we want to replicate in most key markets because that is what’s going to build audiences for us.”

“The second New York race is on CBS [in the US], a big free-to-air channel. There’s marketing support on the This Morning show on CBS which is a huge crossover from sport into entertainment.”

“We have to look at growing holistically rather than actually ‘here’s a sport, here’s a feed’, put it on and people will watch, those days are gone I think.”

Formula E is taking a long-term approach on the rights front, aiming to build their audience first, with the hope that revenues will follow later.

“It’s a hedge bet, placing 3 million for three years in a territory for rights. But in those three years, if that sport is not performing and building audiences, you’ve actually taken the sport backwards,” Dabas tells me over a Teams call from New York.

“I think, rather than focus on revenue first, you focus on audience first, and then the revenue follows. Those are the sports that will see growth, rather than sports that are looking at short term revenue versus long term growth.”

Formula E re-assessing social media content strategy

The championship is also re-assessing their social media content strategy to help them grow audiences further.

“When I joined, I could see that the Formula E content was all over,” Dabas recalls.

“It was everywhere, the teams were putting it out, partners, broadcasters, YouTube, but ultimately did that actually grow the audience? I think for us it’s about working with partners and adding value, otherwise we’re simply just putting the content on YouTube.”

“Avid fans will probably love it because they can see it for free, but we have to go beyond those fans and I think hopefully in two or three years we can reach a position where we reach the fans who don’t yet know us.”

“And then for our avid fans we have something else to give to our digital products. Avid fans should be actually looked after and rewarded for being avid fans, and right now all we’re doing is putting it out on YouTube.”

Dabas believes the content across Formula E’s platforms, whether it is the championship-led channels or the team channels needs to have a narrative.

“There has to be a narrative and we should cross promote each other, rather than all of us trying to be on top of each other, diverting attention and fragmenting audiences.”

“So, I think when I talk about the consolidation audience approach, I think there is also about complementary content rather than competing content that we need to look at.”

Formula E’s UK broadcast plans for the London E-Prix weekend, which takes place on July 24th and 25th, will be announced shortly.

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Murray Walker, 1923-2021

The voice of Formula 1, Murray Walker has died at the age of 97, the BRDC has confirmed.

Walker commentated on motor sport for decades, from his first Grand Prix race in 1949 all the way through until retiring from his Formula 1 commentary role at the end of 2001, for both the BBC and ITV.

In a statement, the BRDC said “It’s with great sadness we share the news of the passing of BRDC Associate Member Murray Walker OBE.”

“A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nations favourite commentator and a contagious smile. Murray will be sadly missed; his mark and voice will live on in motorsport and our hearts forever.”

“We thank Murray for all he has done for our community.”

Writing on Twitter, Martin Brundle, who commentated with Walker full-time from 1997 to 2001 said “Rest in Peace Murray Walker. Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend.”

Silverstone’s Managing Director Stuart Pringle said “It is with great sadness that I have to inform Silverstone’s fans that Murray Walker died earlier today. He was to so many of us fans of F1, the voice that epitomised the sport we love.”

“Knowledgeable beyond words and with a passion that occasionally got the better of him in commentary, he brought the sport and some of its greatest moments to life in a way that ensured they remained seared in our memories for ever.”

“Much will be written about the impact that Murray had on the sport and we will make a more fulsome tribute in due course, but for the time being rest in peace Murray and thank you.”

A legend who has inspired generations

When people think of F1, past or present, they think of a handful of names. Senna. Schumacher. Fangio. Prost. Hamilton. Bernie. And Murray.

The first F1 race I watched was the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix. Two things got me addicted to F1 that year and into the 2000s: Michael Schumacher in the iconic Ferrari, with Murray Walker and Martin Brundle providing the sound track. Without Murray, I doubt this site would exist.

Although Walker did step aside at the 2001 US Grand Prix, the joys of the internet means that his commentary lives forever, and is easy to find on any F1 archive clip from the 1970s to the 1990s.

I cannot mention Walker without mentioning James Hunt, two opposites, but joined together in the commentary box discussing the one thing they loved most: motor sport.

During Walker’s tenure, F1’s popularity in the UK boomed, thanks in part to Nigel Mansell’s and Damon Hill’s on-track successes, but also due to Walker’s commentary, Walker communicating the intricates of the sport to the masses.

Lines such as “And I’ve got to stop, because I’ve got a lump in my throat!” are forever etched in F1 history, and will always will be.

I had the pleasure of meeting Murray twice. The first was at a signing for his ‘Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken’ book in late 2002. What I remember about the evening most was not the actual signing, but the long queue of hundreds of people, which stretched far outside the Waterstones.

From kids, like me, through to the grandparents, everyone wanted Murray to sign a copy of the book. And that was a sign of just how much people connected with Murray at home. Murray was special, and he brought our wonderful sport to life.

Fast forward 16 years, and to the second meeting of me and Murray, this time at Channel 4’s Formula 1 launch.

Murray was on stage with the rest of the Channel 4 team, before joining the rest of the team in roundtable discussions with media afterwards. Even at the age of 92, Murray was in fine form.

Sadly, there will not be a third meeting.

The motor racing paddock is filled with young talent: racers, mechanics, hospitality, and on the broadcasting side, producers, commentators, presenters and so on.

All of them have a connecting bond: they grew up listening to Murray’s infectious commentary. Without Murray, the motor racing paddock today would be a worse place. There will never be another Murray Walker.

Murray, you inspired generations, not one generation, but multiple. Legend is bandied around far too much, but you were a legend, and simply the best.

We’ll miss you.

BBC and Eurosport retain Formula E rights as season 7 approaches

The BBC and Eurosport will continue to show Formula E for the 2020/21 season, it has been confirmed.

As in the past two seasons, the BBC will air live coverage across their free-to-air platforms, including the Red Button service, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC Sport website.

Some races may also air on BBC One or BBC Two, however this is dependent on how the Formula E schedule evolves across 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Extending our partnership with the BBC gives us the platform to bring the unpredictable action of our all-electric racing to people in the UK on mainstream channels and the popular BBC digital channels, as we also look to engage the next generation of sports fans around the world with our BBC Global News content partnership,” said Aarti Dabas, Formula E’s Chief Media Officer.

In addition to the BBC’s offering, live coverage will air on Eurosport, whilst fans can also watch every session live via Formula E’s YouTube channel.

Since launching in 2014, Formula E’s live coverage has jumped around various stations: from ITV4, to Channel 5 and now remaining on the BBC. It is unknown whether Formula E benefits financially from the current BBC deal.

Normally the broadcaster pays the series to air their content, but it is likely that the amount of money exchanged here is negligible, given that the electric series benefits more from the deal than the BBC.

The season kicks off this Thursday, with 2 night races in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

Thursday 25th February
15:10 to 16:10 – Practice 1 (YouTube)

Friday 26th February
10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 2 (YouTube)
12:45 to 14:15 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button)
16:30 to 18:30 – Race 1 (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
=> Eurosport 2 coverage runs from 16:50 to 18:00

Saturday 27th February
10:55 to 11:55 – Practice 3 (YouTube)
12:45 to 14:30 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button)
16:30 to 18:30 – Race 2 (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
=> Eurosport 2 coverage runs from 16:50 to 18:00

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Sunday 21st February and are subject to change.

Fresh from the I’m a Celebrity castle, Vernon Kay returns as Formula E presenter, Kay now heading into his fourth season with the team. Joining him in pit lane are the usual trio of Jack Nicholls, Dario Franchitti and Nicki Shields.

Who’s who?

Behind the lens, Formula E partners with many external stakeholders to execute its vision.

Production companies Aurora Media Worldwide and North One Television bring their expertise together to form Formula E TV, the entity responsible for producing World Feed coverage of every session.

Aurora have been part of the Formula E journey since the championship’s first ever race in Beijing in 2014, with North One joining them ready for the 2017/18 season.

On the facilities front, Timeline TV provides equipment and facilities for the production team to use every race weekend, ensuring that everything Formula E TV wants to achieve on-screen is technically possible.

No series is complete without a strong brand and social media presence, which is where both Little Dot Studios and CSM enter the picture.

In recent years, Little Dot has been responsible for some of Formula E’s best social media projects, including their stunt involving a Formula E car and a cheetah in 2017. The stunt has amassed 45 million views on YouTube, easily the most watched video on Formula E’s YouTube channel.

In addition, Little Dot works with Formula E’s outfits, helping them on their social media journey.

Meanwhile, CSM’s involvement surrounds Formula E’s PR and branding, on and off-site, ensuring that the championship’s branding is consistent across all platforms, from trackside hoardings all the way through to Twitter.

Eight races are currently scheduled for season seven, with further race announcements expected in early spring.

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Scheduling: The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix / Formula E season finale

Formula 1 celebrates seventy years, with a second race at Silverstone owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a revamp of their schedule.

The second Silverstone race will not air live on Channel 4, as their contract with Sky only allows them to air the race given the formal ‘British Grand Prix’ title live. As thus, the broadcaster reverts to their usual highlights format, however, their team will remain in the paddock, for the 70th Anniversary round at least.

In the eight years since Motorsport Broadcasting launched, this is probably the most congested scheduling piece I have written, with Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E and World Superbikes all taking place on the same weekend.

Beneath that the British Touring Car Championship, British Superbikes, as well as all the Formula 1 and MotoGP support races, are all fighting for column inches.

The clashes mean that Jack Nicholls will not be part of the BBC’s 5 Live F1 coverage for the weekend.

Nicholls is out in Berlin for the Formula E finale, which concludes on Thursday 13th August, again another quirk due to the pandemic. The middle two races from Berlin also air live on free-to-air channel Quest. Nicholls’ 5 Live F1 replacement has yet to be confirmed.

It is worth mentioning that many people behind the scenes, whether it is camera operators, directors, floor managers, and so on, would normally work multiple of these events in a given year, the clashes meaning that some lose out on work that they would have otherwise have had.

For example, some of BT Sport’s MotoGP production team also works British Superbikes and World Superbikes for Eurosport – a clash makes it impossible to work both. Similarly, some of those working on the Formula E production may work other events during the year.

However, the net positive is that it means others within the industry may receive opportunities that they may not have received in a normal racing year, which is worth bearing in mind if some of the direction elsewhere is sub-standard over the next two weeks…

For Sky, Ted Kravitz is not with the team now until the Italian Grand Prix next month, meaning that there is no Notebook for the next three races.

Back on the scheduling front, IndyCar organisers have cancelled their Mid-Ohio double header due to the pandemic, which is one less scheduling headache for Sky Sports. Elsewhere, the Euroformula Series is absent from BT Sport’s schedule, so fans wanting to prioritise that series will need to watch on YouTube.

A huge apology below if anything is incorrect: due to the amount of sport taking place now (and cancellations), schedules are subject to change at short notice.

Channel 4 F1
08/08 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying Highlights
09/08 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
07/08 – 10:30 to 12:50 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
07/08 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2
08/08 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3 (also Sky One)
08/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky One)
09/08 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag

Supplementary Programming
07/08 – 17:30 to 18:00 – The Story so Far
12/08 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
05/08 – 19:30 to 20:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
08/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/08 – 12:00 to 15:00 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up during 5 Live Sport
=> 14:00 – Qualifying
09/08 – 12:00 to 16:00 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up during 5 Live Sport
=> 14:00 – Race

MotoGP – Czech Republic (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
07/08 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
07/08 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
08/08 – 08:45 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
09/08 – 07:30 to 14:30
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Czech Republic (Quest)
10/08 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Berlin
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
All sessions are available live on BBC’s website
05/08 – Event 1 – Race 1
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
06/08 – Event 1 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
08/08 – Event 2 – Race 1
=> 17:30 to 19:30 (Quest)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
09/08 – Event 2 – Race 2
=> 17:30 to 19:30 (Quest)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
12/08 – Event 3 – Race 1
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
13/08 – Event 3 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)

British Superbikes – Donington Park
08/08 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
08/08 – 15:00 to 17:30 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 13:30 to 14:30 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Race 3 (Eurosport 2)
12/08 – 20:00 to 21:30 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
09/08 – 10:20 to 18:15 – Races

Formula Two – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
07/08 – 12:50 to 13:45 – Practice
07/08 – 16:55 to 17:30 – Qualifying
08/08 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1
09/08 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2

Formula Three – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
07/08 – 09:30 to 10:20 – Practice
07/08 – 14:00 to 14:45 – Qualifying
08/08 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
09/08 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
09/08 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Darwin (BT Sport 3)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
08/08 – 06:45 to 08:00 – Race 1
09/08 – 04:30 to 05:45 – Race 2
09/08 – 06:45 to 08:00 – Race 3

World Superbikes – Algarve
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
08/08 – 10:45 to 13:00 – Qualifying 1 (Eurosport 2)
08/08 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 10:45 to 13:30 – Qualifying 2 and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
TBC – Highlights (ITV4)

If the schedules do change, this post will be updated.

Updated on August 7th as the Supercars round from Darwin has been moved by a week.


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Scheduling: The 2020 British Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads home for the second of its triple-headers this season, with the British Grand Prix!

As usual, the race airs live on free-to-air television, this year’s race airing across Channel 4, Sky One, Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, as well as on radio via BBC Radio 5 Live, giving fans plenty of options.

Although the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire hosts two races this season, only the first one will air live on Channel 4.

As revealed by Motorsport Broadcasting earlier this year, Channel 4’s contract with Sky only allows them to air the race titled the ‘British Grand Prix’ live, and not any race held at Silverstone live.

However, the site can confirm that Channel 4’s live coverage from both Silverstone races will come from the paddock for the first time this year, the team having based themselves from the Silverstone Experience during the first triple-header.

Joining Steve Jones from Silverstone will be David Coulthard, Ben Edwards, Mark Webber, Billy Monger and Lee McKenzie.

Over on 5 Live in the build-up to the weekend, Jennie Gow presents a special show looking back at 70 years of Silverstone, with guests including Coulthard, Webber and double World Champion Mika Hakkinen joining her.

Outside of the F1 sphere, both the World Superbikes and Formula E seasons get back underway, the latter restarting on Wednesday 5th August.

Scheduling clashes with the Snooker World Championship mean that Formula E’s first two races from Berlin will primarily air across Eurosport 2 and the BBC Sport website, the snooker taking priority for both.

The British Touring Car Championship also begins its campaign, with ITV4 providing extensive coverage from Donington Park.

Channel 4 F1
31/07 – 10:55 to 12:35 – Practice 1
31/07 – 14:55 to 16:35 – Practice 2
01/08 – 10:55 to 12:00 – Practice 3
01/08 – 13:00 to 16:00 – Qualifying
02/08 – 13:00 to 17:00 – Race
=> 13:00 – Build-Up
=> 13:45 – Race
=> 16:15 – Reaction

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
31/07 – 10:30 to 12:50
=> 10:30 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 11:00 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
31/07 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2
01/08 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3 (also Sky One)
01/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky One)
02/08 – 12:30 to 17:30 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 17:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
31/07 – 17:30 to 18:00 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
05/08 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
28/07 – 20:00 to 22:00 – 70 Years of Silverstone (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
31/07 – 10:55 to 12:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
31/07 – 14:55 to 16:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/08 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
02/08 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – Berlin (Eurosport 2)
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
All sessions are available live on BBC’s website
05/08 – Race 1
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
06/08 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)

British Touring Car Championship – Donington Park (ITV4)
02/08 – 10:35 to 18:15 – Races

Ferrari Challenge – Portimao (Sky Sports F1)
01/08 – 16:55 to 17:55 – Race 1 (tape-delay)
02/08 – 17:30 to 18:30 – Race 2 (tape-delay)

Formula Two – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
31/07 – 12:50 to 13:40 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
31/07 – 16:55 to 17:30 – Qualifying
01/08 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1
02/08 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Formula Three – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
31/07 – 09:30 to 10:20 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
31/07 – 14:00 to 14:45 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
01/08 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
02/08 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
02/08 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)

World Superbikes – Jerez
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
01/08 – 09:45 to 12:00 – Qualifying 1 (Eurosport 2)
01/08 – 12:30 to 15:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
02/08 – 09:45 to 12:15 – Qualifying 2 (Eurosport 2)
02/08 – 12:45 to 15:15 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
06/08 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

If the scheduling details change, this post will be updated.

Update on July 31st – Good news: the first two Formula E races from Berlin will now also air live on the Red Button after all.


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