Channel 4 to continue to air F1 in “multi-year” deal with Sky

Channel 4 are to continue broadcasting Formula 1 after agreeing a new multi-year deal with Sky, the broadcaster has confirmed.

The free-to-air broadcaster first started airing the sport in 2016, taking over the BBC’s legacy contract. From 2016 to 2018, Channel 4 aired half the races live, and the other half in highlights form.

This year, Channel 4 have aired the free-to-air element of Sky’s exclusive deal with Formula 1, that being live coverage of the British Grand Prix and highlights of every race.

That arrangement will continue into next year, in what Motorsport Broadcasting understands to be a new three-year deal until the end of the 2022 season.

I also understand that the contract to produce Channel 4’s coverage will soon be put out to tender, meaning that it is not guaranteed Whisper will continue to cover the sport. Nevertheless, the fact that the contract is going out to tender implies that Channel 4 have retained editorial control.

As was the case last year, the F1 agreement forms part of a wider package between Channel 4 and Sky, which the two are billing as a “new, broader, strategic partnership spanning content, technology and innovation.”

Channel 4’s CEO Alex Mahon said “Channel 4 has established itself as the go-to channel for free to air television coverage of Formula 1 and we’re thrilled that motorsport fans will be able to continue to enjoy the excitement of F1 through our highlights of all the races and live coverage of the British Grand Prix.”

Analysis: Little surprise as Channel 4 retains F1 highlights
The news that Channel 4 have retained their F1 highlights package is actually not a major surprise as some may think.

Earlier in the Summer, Channel 4 and Sky partnered to bring cricket fans coverage of the Cricket World Cup final featuring England to a much wider audience, with live coverage airing across Channel 4 and More4.

Whilst the British Grand Prix did not exactly benefit on that day, it showed that the partnership between Channel 4 and Sky was strong, admittedly there was public pressure involved as well.

Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Forum last month, Sky’s Head of F1 Scott Young explained the importance of free-to-air to Sky in relation to their F1 contract.

“It was very important for Sky to transition into this new exclusive role and to have a component of this broadcast on free to air television. Our executive group is very focussed on making sure that in some way that continues beyond one year,” Young said prior to today’s announcement.

“There’s not a closed shop mentality about how we work with free-to-air.”

“It’s about how that ecosystem works where we can still create subscriber base television, where we can grow the revenue to give to the federations, and that a broader consumer can actually start to see what we produce and then want to consume more of our platforms.”

Although Channel 4 remains the biggest F1 broadcaster from an audience perspective in the UK, their audience figures have dropped year-on-year.

In depth, deep dive analysis from Motorsport Broadcasting at the halfway stage of the season showed that their F1 audience has dropped by around 15 percent, some of that heading over to Sky.

On the production front, I would be extremely surprised if Whisper did not retain control, and if the on-air team did not stay broadly the same. But hey, stranger things have happened.

Overall, this is good news for F1 in the UK, and provides some stability on the broadcasting front, with both TV and radio contracts now locked in until at least the end of the 2021 season.


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Scheduling: The 2019 Singapore Grand Prix / Aragon MotoGP

Formula 1 heads out of Europe and over to Singapore for the start of the flyaway season, as the countdown continues to Abu Dhabi.

The night-race from Singapore falls on the same weekend as the Aragon MotoGP round, with a clash initially looking likely. However, a late switch from Dorna to move the main MotoGP race earlier means that both avoid a direct clash. The F1 begins at 13:10 UK time, with MotoGP’s main event from Aragon beginning at 12:00.

Both races air exclusively live on pay-TV, F1 live on Sky Sports, with MotoGP on BT Sport. Highlights of the latter air on Quest, which reverted to two airings as of recent races after a bit of back and forth from a scheduling perspective over the Summer.

Ted Kravitz is not with Sky in Singapore (sorry Lando, if you are lurking), but will be back with Sky in Russia. There is no Formula Two or Formula Three this weekend, both returning in Russia.

Elsewhere, the IndyCar season concludes, returning to Laguna Seca for the first time in 15 years. The action airs live on Sky’s F1 channel, as IndyCar concludes the first of a multi-year deal with the broadcaster.

Channel 4 F1
21/09 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
22/09 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
20/09 – 09:15 to 11:15 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
20/09 – 13:15 to 15:15 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
21/09 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
21/09 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
22/09 – 11:30 to 16:00 – Race
=> 11:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event until 13:00)
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
19/09 – 13:30 to 14:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference
19/09 – 16:30 to 17:00 – Welcome to the Weekend
20/09 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far
21/09 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The F1 Show
25/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
19/09 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
20/09 – 09:25 to 11:05 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
20/09 – 13:25 to 15:05 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
22/09 – 13:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Aragon (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
20/09 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
21/09 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
22/09 – 07:30 to 15:30
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – MotoGP
=> 13:15 – Moto2
=> 14:30 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Aragon (Quest)
23/09 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

British Superbikes – Assen
21/09 – 14:00 to 16:30 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
22/09 – 11:30 to 17:00 – Races (Eurosport 2)
26/09 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Barcelona
Also airs live on YouTube
21/09 – 14:30 to 15:30 – Race 1 (BT Sport Extra 2)
22/09 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport Extra 3)

IndyCar Series – Laguna Seca (Sky Sports F1)
21/09 – 21:30 to 23:00 – Qualifying
22/09 – 19:30 to 23:00 – Race

International GT Open – Barcelona
Also airs live on YouTube
21/09 – 15:30 to 17:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport Extra 2)
22/09 – 14:00 to 15:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport Extra 3)

Red Bull Rookies Cup – Aragon (BT Sport 2)
21/09 – 15:15 to 16:15 – Race

Speedway Grand Prix – Britain
20/09 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 1)
21/09 – 16:15 to 20:30 – Races (BT Sport 2)

As always, the schedule will be updated if timings change.


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Scheduling: The 2019 Italian Grand Prix

From Spa, Formula 1’s ten teams head south to Monza for the last stop of the European leg, with the Italian Grand Prix!

After a light-weight line-up on Sky last weekend, Ted Kravitz is back with the team for their coverage from Monza. Over on Channel 4, Stefano Domenicali returns to the team after first appearing in Australia and Canada. Meanwhile, Claire Cottingham deputises for Jennie Gow on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The Formula Two and Formula Three seasons are quickly heading towards their conclusion. There are only three rounds of Formula Two remaining this year, whilst Formula Three’s season finale takes place in Russia.

All of the F1 paddock, including F2 and F3, head into Monza with a heavy heart following the fatal accident of Anthoine Hubert last weekend in Spa.

Channel 4 F1
07/09 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
08/09 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
05/09 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
05/09 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
06/09 – 09:45 to 17:30
=> 09:45 – F1: Practice 1
=> 11:55 – F2: Practice
=> 12:45 – Paddock Live
=> 13:45 – F1: Practice 2
=> 15:50 – F2: Qualifying
=> 16:30 – The Story so Far
=> 17:00 – F3: Qualifying Tape-Delay
07/09 – 09:30 to 17:15
=> 09:30 – F3: Race 1
=> 10:15 – Paddock Live
=> 10:45 – F1: Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Live
=> 13:00 – F1: Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – F1: Qualifying
=> 15:35 – F2: Race 1
=> 16:45 – The F1 Show
08/09 – 08:30 to 17:30
=> 08:30 – F3: Race 2
=> 09:15 – Paddock Live
=> 09:40 – F2: Race 2
=> 10:40 – Paddock Live
=> 11:05 – Porsche Supercup: Race
=> 11:40 – Paddock Live
=> 12:30 – F1: Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – F1: On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – F1: Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – F1: Paddock Live
=> 17:00 – F1: Notebook
11/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
05/09 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
08/09 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Superbikes – Oulton Park
07/09 – 11:00 to 13:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
07/09 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
08/09 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Races 2 and 3 (Eurosport 2)
11/09 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Silverstone
Also airs live on YouTube
07/09 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
08/09 – 13:45 to 14:45 – Race 2 (BT Sport 2)

International GT Open – Silverstone
Also airs live on YouTube
07/09 – 16:00 to 17:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
08/09 – 14:45 to 16:15 – Race 2 (BT Sport 2)

Speedway Grand Prix – Denmark (BT Sport 3)
07/09 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

World Superbikes – Algarve
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
06/09 – 10:25 onwards (Eurosport 2)
=> 10:25 to 11:30 – SBK: Practice 1
=> 15:00 to 15:55 – SBK: Practice 2
=> 15:55 to 17:00 – SSP: Practice 2
07/09 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying Tape-Delay and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
08/09 – 10:30 to 13:00 – SSP: Superpole Race (Eurosport 2)
08/09 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Race 2 Tape-Delay (Eurosport 2)
10/09 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, the schedule will be updated if plans change.

Update on September 4th – Well, Sky Sports F1’s schedule for the weekend has radically changed. No, this is not a mistake, nor a typo, but schedules for the weekend show that Sky will be live from Friday morning through to Sunday evening.

The 5-minute fillers between sessions have gone. I do not know if this is a one-off for whatever reason, or a change of direction going forward (perhaps experimenting ahead of 2020?). Either way, the site will be updated as and when more information comes out.

Update on September 8th – An update on this, more for completeness purposes. Aside from an Ask Crofty special on Saturday with Nico Rosberg, none of the other special segments from Sky were actually live. In fact, it was the same pre-recorded material on a loop, just under a different title.


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Scheduling: The 2019 Belgian Grand Prix

After the Summer break, Formula 1 heads to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix! With nine races remaining until the season finale in Abu Dhabi on December 1st, can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton from winning his sixth Drivers’ Championship?

All nine races air exclusively live on Sky Sports. Sky will be thin on the ground in Belgium, with both Anthony Davidson and Paul di Resta at Silverstone for the start of the 2019-20 World Endurance Championship season (airing live on BT Sport/ESPN). Ted Kravitz is also absent, returning to the team in Monza next time out.

Meanwhile on the Channel 4 front, Mark Webber joins Steve Jones and David Coulthard in the paddock for their highlights offering. Slightly unusual is the fact that Channel 4’s qualifying highlights air at 18:00 instead of 18:30, but this is still three hours after qualifying ends, so still within their contractual obligations.

Channel 4 F1
31/08 – 18:00 to 19:30 – Qualifying Highlights
01/09 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
30/08 – 09:45 to 11:55 – Practice 1
30/08 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2
31/08 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
31/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event from 14:15)
01/09 – 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
29/08 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
29/08 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
30/08 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
31/08 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The F1 Show
04/09 – 20:00 to 20:30 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
30/08 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/08 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
31/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
31/08 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/09 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

European Le Mans Series – Silverstone (BT Sport Extra 4)
Also airs live on YouTube
31/08 – 14:00 to 19:15 – Race

Formula Two – Belgium (Sky Sports F1)
30/08 – 11:55 to 12:45 – Practice
30/08 – 15:50 to 16:30 – Qualifying
31/08 – 15:35 to 16:45 – Race 1
01/09 – 10:05 to 11:05 – Race 2

Formula Three – Belgium (Sky Sports F1)
30/08 – 17:00 to 17:35 – Qualifying Tape-Delay
31/08 – 09:30 to 10:20 – Race 1
01/09 – 08:40 to 09:30 10:05 to 11:05 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Portland (Sky Sports F1)
31/08 – 23:00 to 00:30 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
01/09 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Belgium (Sky Sports F1)
01/09 – 11:25 to 12:05 – Race

Speedway Grand Prix – Germany (BT Sport 3)
31/08 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

World Endurance Championship – 4 Hours of Silverstone (BT Sport/ESPN)
01/09 – 12:00 to 16:00 – Race

As always, the schedule will be updated if plans change.

Update on September 1st at 09:05 – Due to the death of Anthoine Hubert during yesterday’s Formula Two race, the second Formula Two race of the weekend has been cancelled. The second Formula Three race moves into the slot occupied by Formula Two.

Lee McKenzie on the art of broadcasting

Lee McKenzie is a name familiar to many readers of Motorsport Broadcasting, having covered motor sport for many years, as well as other forms of sport.

I sat down with her a couple of weeks ago at the W Series season finale in Brands Hatch, as we discussed a range of topics, from her upbringing and interview style, to giving advice to budding journalists coming through the ranks.

You’ve been around motor racing a lot since you were younger, through your Dad [Bob].

I was going to Formula 1 races when I was ten years old, I’ve known Bernie since I was a small child. My Dad was at Senna’s funeral, and wrote books on both Damon and Nigel. I’ve been surrounded by all this, in different sports, not just motor sport, all my life.

I started out as a rugby journalist and I started in equestrian, my two real passions. People just associate motor racing with me because that’s what they’ve been watching. I love doing the Paralympics, Para sport, Wimbledon, all that kind of thing. I’ve not done a full F1 season since 2012, it’s never been my only job, it’s never been my first job!

You go to other sports, and you think “actually F1 does this really well,” and then you go to other sports and meet other athletes, and think “yeah, we could learn from that.” There’s always a roundness to doing many other things, because it makes you more complete as a person.

I have been fortunate to have had that upbringing, but I wouldn’t have had a job had I not been good. I know that may sound arrogant, but if I was just somebody’s daughter, I wouldn’t have had a long career.

This year you have been presenting the new W Series. Has it been a different style of presenting for you, or do you tackle all sports similarly?

It doesn’t matter what sport I present; I present them all in a similar way. It takes an awful lot of prep, it’s not just the bit you see on camera. But I’ve thought the quality of racing has been fantastic.

It’s hard selling any television programme when the sport doesn’t do it justice, so the fact that the racing has been of such a high quality is great. It’s an easy sell from that point of view.

A lot of what you’re doing is reacting to the sport that’s been. Prepping for an Olympics or a Commonwealth Games is much, much harder. There are so many countries, sports, people. Here, I only need to know about 18 to 20 people, a few of whom I knew anyway.

We do a lot of filming in advance, so not everything we’re doing in that two hours. I’ve written all my scripts by the time I’ve got here; I’ve got the running order.

There’s a lot of blank sections that you fill in after qualifying, the whole of part two I can’t write a single word for yet, but that’s the excitement. And you obviously can’t write the ending of any television programme on sport, not a single thing, but I love that bit.

You’ve covered many different sporting events as you mentioned earlier, as well as non-sporting events before that. How do you get the best out of the different personalities involved?

I’m a journalist, I’m not a TV presenter. I’ve covered the Lockerbie trial, general elections, a lot of different sports. You prep, you can’t be a fan. You go in there as a professional, and if you make friends with people, that’s a bonus.

You have to get that level of respect, and I think that’s something you see in quite a lot of the F1 interviews, that level of respect you get from drivers. That’s something I’ve always tried to work hard on. I don’t need to be someone’s friend who I interview on television, but it helps sometimes.

You can be friendly with someone, but it’s how you conduct yourself in that high-pressure moment. It doesn’t matter who I was interviewing, I would never back down from asking a question should a question need to be asked, whether they were friends or not.

Lee McKenzie interviewing Max Verstappen as part of a wider feature during the BBC's coverage of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.
Lee McKenzie interviewing Max Verstappen as part of a wider feature during the BBC’s coverage of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.

If we use Formula 1 as an example, I would ask the same question to every driver differently because you get to know their characters. You’ve got to be a little bit clever with it. If I was trying to ask a question to Lewis [Hamilton] and ask a question to Sebastian [Vettel], it would be the same question but phrased differently.

Is there an F1 interview you’ve done that stands out from the rest, or was a highlight for you?

There’s ones that stand out for different reasons. The Lewis interview in 2011 was a big moment at Monaco, it didn’t necessarily feel good but it felt journalistic.

A lot of interviews with Seb, they always go slightly wrong, but all good fun. I did a hard-hitting sit-down piece with Fernando a few years ago, I was very pleased about that one. You get a good feel for when you’ve done a good interview, and a lot of that comes down to knowing the person and a bit of respect.

Lewis is great to sit down with as well when he’s very open, and touches upon a lot of different things.

Michael Schumacher’s probably one I would single out as, doing interviews with that I really liked. I loved working with Michael, I had a great relationship with him, we did some lovely interviews together.

I took the horse over to his yard and competed. Any time I could spend with Michael at that moment felt special, and not just because of the situation now. I went to Kerpen kart track with him and Seb where they both started out, and that was a lovely piece. Interviews like that stand out for me.

Lewis and Sebastian are the veterans of the F1 paddock now, but do you notice a different interview style for those coming through the ranks, such as Lando and George?

It’s easy to be unguarded and open when you first start out, you measure it on what happens in ten years’ time.

Max has been the same. I spent two days with him and his family in Belgium a few years ago, that was a lovely piece. Of course, you wouldn’t get the opportunity to do that now but I don’t think he’s changed as a person. He was hard-hitting as it was.

I think him and Charles are very open, but again it’s what happens in five years’ time when people’s careers progress that makes them have to shut down a little bit and that to me is understandable.

If you were to give advice to budding journalists coming through the ranks, what would you say?

I would say: prep. There’s no doubt that media in the past 15 to 20 years has changed. But don’t copy and paste. Own the content that you make, and do it with pride.

There’s a lot of people that come to me and say “I want to be a motor sport journalist, can you give me any tips” and I would look at their Twitter feed, and it’s like a crazed fan.

You’ve got to conduct yourself in a way that conveys respect. You’ve got to be a journalist; you can’t be a motor sport journalist I would suggest. I would say that the best journalists in sport come from that news background because it’s a very well-grounded thing, and then follow your passion, and immerse yourself in it.

Bringing it back round to the W Series, the series is not only aiding their on-track skills, but also their media behaviour as well in interviews.

Sometimes it feels like that [coaching], not just the Brits but a lot of European based drivers have known me, or have been watching me on TV.

We do sit down a little bit sometimes and talk things through. They want know how to come to a Grand Prix, they want to know how to do more media stuff, and how they should be conducting themselves.

I will never volunteer that, but if someone wants advice, then absolutely, I’m happy to give that advice.

My thanks go to Lee McKenzie for spending the time with me on the above piece.


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