Hong Kong E-Prix peaks with 355,000 viewers on BBC Two

A packed weekend of motor sport to kick start the traditional season saw Formula E lead the way on its BBC Two debut, overnight viewing figures show.

Formula E makes BBC Two debut
As part of their commitment to air one race on linear television, BBC aired the Hong Kong E-Prix live on BBC Two this past weekend. The race brought in a solid audience, according to audience numbers supplied by Overnights.tv.

An average of 229k (4.6%) tuned into the broadcast from 07:30 to 09:30. Sunday’s audience is an improvement on the last two seasons for Hong Kong, when the race aired on tape-delay on Channel 5.

In a positive sign, the BBC’s race coverage saw consistent growth throughout the broadcast, increasing its audience in most of the five-minute segments between 07:35 and 09:05. The race peaked with 355k (6.5%) at 09:00 as the race concluded.

It is Formula E’s highest UK audience for an Asian-based race since their first ever E-Prix in 2014. Back then, live coverage of the Beijing E-Prix on ITV4 averaged 266k (4.7%) and peaked with 477k (6.8%).

BT Sport and Eurosport make negligible difference to the overall picture, averaging 5k (0.10%) and 8k (0.16%) respectively, if anything showing the importance of free-to-air for Formula E.

For me, Formula E’s audience is solid, whether it is enough to convince the BBC to move the series off the Red Button for the latter half of the season, I do not know. If the peak was nearer to 500,000 viewers, I think the decision may be easier, that is if there is even a discussion here.

Last weekend’s race was Formula E’s first on a mainstream television channel since June last year, so expectations from a viewing figures perspective are lower as a result. With a bit of promotion, a European race could peak at around 800,000 viewers on BBC One, potentially. Time will tell if the BBC genuinely considers that a viable option this season.

MotoGP’s return peaks with 249,000 viewers on BT
A new season of MotoGP kicked off on BT Sport 2 with the Qatar GP. The leading bike series was unaffected by tough football opposition on Sky.

The race brought in an audience similar to previous years. The 90-minute MotoGP slot averaged 190k (1.3%) from 16:30 to 18:00, a slight decrease on last year’s figure of 211k (1.5%), but an increase on the 2014 and 2017 averages.

A peak of 249k (1.6%) watched as Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso went wheel-to-wheel over the finish line for the second year running. The peak audience is in-line with the past two years, which peaked with 247k (1.3%) and 255k (1.9%) respectively.

Free-to-air highlights of the championship moved from Channel 5 to Quest, with the audience dropping significantly year-on-year. Quest aired two highlights shows at 18:00 and 23:00 respectively. Their premiere airing averaged 140k (0.9%), with the repeat bringing in 50k (0.8%).

The combined Quest audience of 190k is down 58 percent on Channel 5’s highlights audience for Qatar last season of 456k (2.5%). It is lower than all bar three MotoGP races on either ITV4 or Channel 5 since the highlights arrangement started in 2014.

Cumulatively, the drop for the highlights airing meant that MotoGP peaked with 513,000 viewers in the UK over the weekend, when accounting for BT’s live airing and Quest’s two repeats, a disappointing number for the championship.

As with all the figures in this piece, on demand platforms such as BT Sport’s online services and MotoGP’s VideoPass over-the-top offering are not included, which may make a small difference to the total MotoGP numbers.

IndyCar struggles on Sky return as St Pete opener plagued by technical issues
It was not a good Sunday for IndyCar, on all fronts. The series returned for a new season in St Petersburg, and with it came a change of channel for UK viewers, as the championship moved from BT Sport to Sky Sports F1.

Viewing figures struggled, with the race averaging 19k (0.11%) from 16:30 to 20:30, a decrease on last year’s BT audience of 25k (0.16%) over a shorter 200-minute time slot. Sky’s coverage peaked with 56k (0.32%) at 18:40 on Sunday, compared with 56k (0.38%) one year ago on BT.

The season opener faced MotoGP on BT and Premier League football on Sky, which may have impacted figures. Last month, F1 testing brought in a higher audience than IndyCar managed, although testing aired across the F1 channel and Main Event.

Considering the buzz when the IndyCar deal was first announced, Sky’s audience is disappointing. IndyCar, from a UK perspective, failed to move the needle outside of the Twitter bubble. However, IndyCar could benefit from cross-promotion during Sky’s main F1 coverage this year, so the picture could change as the season progresses.

The problems with Sky’s IndyCar broadcast may not have helped audience figures, although I doubt it caused a significant dent given the low base to start with.

IndyCar produces two feeds: a domestic feed for NBC, and an international feed. The feeds contain different graphics set, whilst the former is also not a continuous feed of the racing action. For St Pete, Sky aired the domestic feed ‘as-is’, breaking away to their own commercials when NBC in America went to adverts or went ‘side-by-side’.

What this meant was a downgrade on coverage offered by BT Sport in previous years. It was expected that Sky would take some commercials (@IndyCarUK understands four ad-breaks), but also utilise the feed to stay on the action for most of the race outside of yellow flag periods.

Whether Sky were unaware that the domestic feed was going to break away from the action or not is unclear. Either way, the communication between Sky Sports, NBC Sports and IndyCar needs to be clearer ready for Austin in two weeks’ time.

In a separate issue, IndyCar’s broadcast lost pictures completely for around 15 minutes on Sunday, affecting both the domestic NBC feed and the international feed. IndyStar Sports writer Jim Ayello reports that there was “a power supply failure to one of IMS Productions’ up-links due to two amplifiers overheating,” which caused the feed to go down.

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Scheduling: The 2019 Australian Grand Prix

A new year, a new era.

Formula 1 roars back into life, with the championship starting down under in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix!

For UK fans, the action airs exclusively live on Sky, with highlights on Channel 4. If you are not yet accustomed to hearing that sentence yet, you will soon, as that sentence applies for 20 of the 21 races this season, and (partially) applies until the end of 2024.

Change at Sky…
A lot has happened since both broadcasters went off the air at the end of 2018. Karun Chandhok and Jenson Button have joined Sky for the upcoming season, adding depth to their line-up.

The rest of Sky’s line-up remains the same as last year, 2019 marking their eighth season covering the sport. Simon Lazenby will continue to front their coverage, with David Croft and Martin Brundle on commentary.

Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Anthony Davidson, Johnny Herbert, and Damon Hill will provide analysis throughout the season, with Natalie Pinkham and Rachel Brookes also contributing to Sky’s coverage.

However, Sky have reduced Ted Kravitz’s contribution for 2019, after u-turning on an earlier decision to axe him from their coverage. Kravitz is with Sky for 14 races this season, whilst his Notebook output is no more based on current schedules. Kravitz is presenting a midweek show called Midweek Debrief, but this is an F1 production as opposed to an in-house Sky production.

On the programming front, Sky have extended their Thursday preview show, added a 30-minute wrap-up show on Friday, and kept The F1 Show on Saturday’s after qualifying. On race day, Sky have also extended Paddock Live to an hour, but it also starts half an hour earlier, meaning that Sky will head off-air earlier on Sunday’s than previously.

Sky are simulcasting their programming throughout the weekend across Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event. On Sunday, they are replaying the race five times in full across the F1 channel, Sky One and Main Event before Channel 4’s highlights programme has even started!

…and at Channel 4…
With Chandhok moving over to Sky, Channel 4 have added Billy Monger and Stefano Domenicali to their line-up. Both of them join Steve Jones, David Coulthard and Mark Webber in Melbourne, with Ben Edwards continuing to commentate alongside Coulthard. The broadcaster has retained Lee McKenzie, despite McKenzie previously intending to move onto pastures new this season.

As expected, Channel 4’s highlights programme is shorter than last year, with decreases of 20 minutes (18%) and 45 minutes (27%) for qualifying and the race respectively. The decreases are bigger than expected, as Australia received a generous edit from Channel 4 historically compared to races later in the season.

Decreases aside, fans will notice change from the very first second of Channel 4’s programme. Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain is no more. In its place I understand is a new, modern theme to kick-start Channel 4’s 2019 coverage.

…and at the Beeb
For those of you without Sky, the BBC’s 5 Live coverage of Formula 1 remains. The broadcaster has not officially confirmed their radio line-up, although expect no changes on the personnel side. IMG are producing their coverage this season after winning the contract from USP Content last October.

Elsewhere in the motor sport spectrum, the World Endurance Championship returns to action in Sebring, whilst Supercars plays its part on the F1 support bill, which UK viewers will have access to for the first time.

Channel 4 F1
16/03 – 12:00 to 13:30 – Qualifying Highlights
17/03 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
15/03 – 00:30 to 02:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 02:45 to 04:30 – Practice 3
=> 02:45 – Practice 3
=> 04:10 – Paddock Walkabout
16/03 – 05:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 05:00 – Pre-Show
=> 05:55 – Qualifying
17/03 – 03:30 to 08:00 – Race (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 03:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 04:30 – On the Grid
=> 05:05 – Race
=> 07:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
13/03 – 06:00 to 07:00 – Melbourne F1 Launch Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
14/03 – 05:00 to 06:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference
14/03 – 07:00 to 08:00 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
15/03 – 07:00 to 07:30 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
16/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
20/03 – 18:00 to 18:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
14/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15/03 – 00:55 to 02:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/03 – 04:55 to 06:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 02:55 to 04:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/03 – 05:55 to 07:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/03 – 04:30 to 07:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Asia Talent Cup – Thailand (BT Sport 3)
16/03 – 07:15 to 08:15 – Race 1
17/03 – 04:30 to 05:30 – Race 2

Virgin Australia Supercars – Melbourne (BT Sport 2)
15/03 – 06:30 to 08:15 – Race 1
16/03 – 01:15 to 02:30 – Race 2
16/03 – 07:00 to 08:45 – Race 3
17/03 – 02:15 to 03:45 – Race 4

World Endurance Championship – 1000 Miles of Sebring
15/03 – 19:30 to 04:30 – Race (BT Sport 3)
15/03 – 19:45 to 04:30 – Race (Eurosport)

World Superbikes – Thailand
16/03 – 05:30 to 10:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
17/03 – 05:30 to 10:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
21/03 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, I will update the schedule if anything changes.

Update on March 12th – Added Ted Kravitz’s new show with F1 TV (also airing on Sky), plus updated the Supercars schedule.

Update on March 15th – Added Stefano Domenicali to Channel 4’s line-up. Also, Supercars has disappeared from BT Sport’s schedules. Historically, there were restrictions around what broadcasters could air from Supercars in Melbourne as it falls under the F1 support package, restrictions which still apply. The only place for UK fans to see the action is via SuperView,.

Scheduling: The 2019 Qatar MotoGP / Hong Kong E-Prix

After a dominant display in 2018, Marc Marquez looks to keep hold of the MotoGP crown, as the championship springs back to life in Qatar.

This year though, Marquez has a new partner at Repsol Honda in Jorge Lorenzo, a pairing that will be fascinating to watch as the season progresses. For UK fans, live coverage of the series remains on BT Sport.

2019 is the first of BT’s new three year MotoGP contract, and with it Suzi Perry is on-board as BT’s presenter at every race this season. The main personnel change for BT is that James Toseland is no longer with the team.

On the free-to-air front, highlights of the championship move from Channel 5 to Quest, with the 60-minute show airing in an earlier time slot on Monday evenings.

Staying on tarmac, Formula E makes the jump to BBC Two for the Hong Kong E-Prix as part of their commitment to air one race on terrestrial television. In a throwback to ITV’s coverage of the series, Jennie Gow presents from the BBC’s Salford studios.

Jamie Chadwick and Marc Priestley are alongside Gow in the BBC studio, instead of Billy Monger as originally billed. Prior to the live airing, delayed coverage of qualifying airs via the Red Button for the first time.

To be honest, there is an argument that the Formula E World Feed on its own would have been a better approach, especially as the World Feed output has matured since ITV covered the series in its inaugural years. Saying that, adding a bit of colour to the broadcast is par for the course for BBC’s sporting output on linear television, so it is not too surprising.

Meanwhile, the IndyCar Series moves from BT Sport to Sky Sports F1 in a multi-year deal, with Sky covering qualifying and the race live. The expectation is that Sky are taking IndyCar’s World Feed without any bespoke wrap-around content. UK viewers will hear the likes of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy calling the action.

There is a lot of action across the weekend, with IndyCar overlapping with both MotoGP and the climax of Rally Mexico.

MotoGP – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
02/03 – 19:45 to 20:45 – Season Preview
08/03 – 10:30 to 18:15 – Practice 1 and 2
09/03 – 10:15 to 13:15 – Practice 3
09/03 – 14:00 to 16:15 – Qualifying
10/03 – 11:30 to 19:00
=> 11:30 – Warm Ups
=> 13:15 – Moto3
=> 15:00 – Moto2
=> 16:30 – MotoGP
=> 18:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP  – Qatar (Quest)
11/03 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Hong Kong
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying also air live on YouTube…
09/03 – 07:45 to 08:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
09/03 (Saturday night) – 23:15 to 00:15 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 01:45 to 02:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 03:30 to 05:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 3 and Eurosport)
10/03 – 06:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying Delayed (BBC Red Button)
10/03 – 07:30 to 09:30 – Race
=> live on BBC Two until 09:15
=> live on BT Sport 3
=> live on Eurosport 2
10/03 – 07:30 to 09:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)

IndyCar Series – St Petersburg (Sky Sports F1)
09/03 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying
10/03 – 16:30 to 20:30 – Race

World Rally Championship – Mexico (All Live)
Every stage also live via WRCPlus.com
07/03 – 16:45 to 18:15 – Shakedown (BT Sport Extra 1)
08/03 – 01:30 to 03:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport Extra 1)
08/03 – 15:00 to 02:15 – Stages 2 to 9 (BT Sport Extra 3)
09/03 – 13:15 to 02:45 – Stages 10 to 18 (BT Sport Extra 1)
10/03 – 14:00 to 19:45 – Stages 19 to 21 (BT Sport Extra 2)

World Rally Championship – Mexico
08/03 – 02:00 to 03:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 3)
09/03 – 05:00 to 05:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
09/03 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Stage 12 (BT Sport/ESPN)
10/03 – 05:00 to 05:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 18:00 to 19:30 – Stage 16 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
11/03 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
11/03 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

Asia Talent Cup – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
09/03 – 13:15 to 14:00 – Race 1
10/03 – 10:30 to 11:30 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Hong Kong (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 00:15 to 01:15 – Qualifying
10/03 – 05:45 to 06:45 – Race

As always, I will update the schedule if anything changes.

Updated on March 5th with changes to the BBC’s Formula E line-up. Updated further on March 8th, with Quest’s MotoGP deal announcement.

BT Sport loses IndyCar rights

BT Sport will not broadcast coverage of the IndyCar Series this season after losing the rights to the championship.

The series aired on Sky Sports as part of a longstanding relationship until the end of the 2012 season, with regular live studio coverage covering each race. As Sky ramped up their F1 involvement, IndyCar arguably suffered, and the series moved over to ESPN at the start of 2013.

IndyCar continued on ESPN, but under the BT Sport umbrella from August 2013 onwards. Whilst BT Sport’s agreement with ESPN’s international arm lasts until 2022, the decision by IndyCar to break away from ESPN and bring their international rights in-house placed BT Sport’s UK deal under threat.

This site can confirm that BT Sport have lost the rights to IndyCar with immediate effect. Writing on Twitter, BT Sport’s IndyCar commentator Tom Gaymor said  “Unfortunately it looks like IndyCar will not be on BT Sport this year, no more information at the moment! I know a lot of you have been asking, so if it changes, I’ll let you know. I’m as disappointed as you are.”

Typically, IndyCar races average around 25,000 viewers, a figure that has remained relatively static in recent years. Most notably, IndyCar enjoyed its moment in the sun in 2017, when the appearance of Fernando Alonso at the Indianapolis 500 led to BT Sport’s coverage peaking with over 200,000 viewers, by far IndyCar’s highest UK audience in a generation.

For the IndyCar fans that have stuck with BT Sport’s coverage, the parting of ways between the two sides is a shame. Whilst BT Sport did not revolutionise IndyCar coverage as such (the budget remained small), what the motor sport team, led by Nick Kennerley off camera, did provide was a home for the series.

BT’s coverage was commercial free for the most parts with UK commentators Gaymor, Keith Collantine and Oliver Webb providing insight when their US colleagues were on commercial breaks. It is difficult to imagine another network doing the same thing as BT have done for the past few years.

However, if IndyCar’s new home does provide the championship with a wider platform, then overall this is a good move.

IndyCar have yet to announce a new broadcast partner for the UK. One possibility is that IndyCar finds itself back on Sky Sports. Comcast now owns Sky, and has done so since the middle of 2018. In the US, IndyCar is airing on NBC in a new deal starting this season. And Comcast also owns NBC…

I have reached out to IndyCar for further comment.

Scheduling: The 2019 Mexico City E-Prix / F1 Barcelona test 1

Formula E hurdles towards one-third distance as the second leg of its South American tour takes it to Mexico for the Mexico City E-Prix.

The electric championship uses part of the Formula 1 circuit, encompassing the famous stadium section. As usual, the race airs live across the BBC’s digital platforms, with BT Sport, Eurosport and Formula E’s YouTube channel also covering the action.

Formula E’s support series, the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy returns in Mexico, with both qualifying and race airing live on BT Sport. Sweden plays host to round two of the World Rally Championship, where one expects much more snow than what fans saw in Monte Carlo for the season opener.

Meanwhile, Formula 1 testing gets underway in Barcelona, where the big news is that the first test will air live across F1’s over-the-top platform and Sky Sports F1. However, the F1 TV stream is only available to Pro users (which UK fans do not have access to), meaning that UK fans will need to watch Sky F1 for testing.

Sky are covering each of the four afternoon sessions live as well as the review show, whereas F1 TV is covering the complete day live. Sky are not repeating the live action, so if you want to watch it, you will need to set your recorders. Little is known about the presentation team currently, although Karun Chandhok has alluded to his involvement on Twitter.

Elsewhere, the Williams documentary premieres on BBC Two having been released on DVD in 2017. Whilst I am happy to see it premiere on a major platform, the decision to air it against Formula E on the Red Button is an odd move by BBC’s schedulers.

Formula E – Mexico City
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying also air live on YouTube…
15/02 – 21:45 to 22:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
16/02 – 13:15 to 14:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 15:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 3 and Eurosport 2)
16/02 – 21:30 to 23:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms from 22:00
=> live on BT Sport 3
=> live on Eurosport 2
16/02 – 21:30 to 23:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)
18/02 – 00:00 to 01:00 – Highlights (Quest)

Formula E Radio – Mexico City (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/02 – 17:40 to 19:10 – Qualifying
16/02 – 21:45 to 23:15 – Race

F1 Testing – Barcelona 1 (Sky Sports F1)
13/02 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Racing Point Launch
14/02 – 12:00 to 12:30 – McLaren Launch
18/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 1
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> review at 17:00
18/02 – 19:55 to 20:55 – Day 1 Review (R)
19/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 2
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event until 14:00)
=> review at 17:00
19/02 – 20:25 to 21:25 – Day 2 Review (R)
20/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 3
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> review at 17:00
20/02 – 20:05 to 21:05 – Day 3 Review (R)
21/02 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Day 4
=> track action from 13:00 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> review at 17:00
21/02 – 20:05 to 21:05 – Day 4 Review (R)

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Mexico City (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 14:30 to 15:15 – Qualifying
16/02 – 19:45 to 20:45 – Race

Williams Film (BBC Two)
16/02 – 21:00 to 22:45

World Rally Championship – Sweden (All Live – BT Sport Extra 1)
Every stage also live via WRCPlus.com
14/02 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Shakedown
14/02 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Stage 1
15/02 – 06:45 to 17:15 – Stages 2 to 8
16/02 – 06:00 to 19:15 – Stages 9 to 16
17/02 – 05:30 to 12:45 – Stages 17 to 19

World Rally Championship – Sweden
14/02 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 1)
15/02 – 21:45 to 22:15 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
16/02 – 08:30 to 09:30 – Stage 11 (BT Sport 2)
16/02 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Stage 14 (BT Sport/ESPN)
16/02 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
17/02 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Stage 19 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
17/02 – 20:00 to 20:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
18/02 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

As always, I will update this site as and when further details confirmed.

Update on February 15th – Two pieces of good news. WRC highlights will air on 5Spike on Monday, whilst Formula E makes it BBC radio debut on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Formula E has its own bespoke radio commentary, with Claire Cottingham, Tom Gaymor and Marc Priestley in the booth for Mexico.