W Series “looking at all possibilities” for season two calendar

Organisers of the W Series are looking at all possibilities surrounding the calendar for the 2020 season.

The inaugural season has seen the all-women’s series support the DTM touring car series, an arrangement that will continue in 2020. Beyond that, W Series are hoping to expand the calendar in some way for next season. Reuters reported in May that the series could link up with Formula 1 in the future.

Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting at a Whisper event last week, W Series CEO Catherine Bond-Muir said”We’ll definitely be with DTM for another six races next year.”

“We’ve not yet agreed any other races around the world, but we’re looking at America, Asia, maybe more races in Europe, we’re looking at all possibilities,” Bond Muir added.

At the half way stage of the first season, Bond-Muir is happy with how the series has gone down with fans so far. “We’ve got fantastic audience interest and engagement,” she said.

“I think we’ve knocked it out of the park, with the reach we’ve got through our television deals, we’re in over 340 million households across the world. We’ve got people watching the programming, and we know from social media people absolutely love the racing.”

“Three years ago, when we had a blank sheet of paper, I don’t everthink we could have imagined that we could have appeared in so many households in our first year.”

> Looking back at W Series’ inaugural race

“Those deals were done before we raced a car. Hopefully we can grow on that next year, when people realise what we’re producing is actually really good motor racing.”

In the UK, W Series airs live on Channel 4, whilst Whisper produce the global television feed for the series.

Commenting on the series, Whisper CEO Sunil Patel added “I’m pretty selfish when it comes to W Series. I’ve got a nine-year-old girl who’s grown up with me watching Formula 1, so have a vested interest. She knows the grid back to front, she questions me about speed limits in the pit lane, asking me what tyres Lewis is on.”

“But when I told her there’s going to be a women’s racing series, she was ecstatic, she’s been researching which drivers to follow and so on. That is a snapshot of the transformative effect that W Series is having.”

“We’re covering it, we can help build the characters,” Patel told me. “W Series is already having an impact becauseit’s helping create role models for littlegirls out there, which they didn’t have before. ”

The next round of the W Series takes place this Saturday (6th July) at the Norisring.

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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 Canadian Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads for its annual June trip to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix!

The Grand Prix airs exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, and with it, both Ted Kravitz and Jenson Button are returning to Sky’s line-up for the weekend.

Stefano Domenicali joins Steve Jones and David Coulthard over on Channel 4. Their highlights air later than in previous years due to the contractual restrictions imposed on them by Sky. Qualifying starts at 19:00 on Saturday, with the race starting at 19:10 on Sunday.

Adding three hours onto the expected end time (20:00 for qualifying and 20:40 for the race) takes you to 23:00 and 23:40 respectively, hence why Channel 4’s programming starts when it does over the weekend.

The race faces the UEFA Nations League final, which kicks off at 19:45. The final will see either Portugal or Switzerland face Netherlands or England. Although the tournament is nowhere near the scale of the football World Cup or Euro’s, the clash does demonstrate an unwillingness from Liberty to work their way around major football clashes.

Elsewhere, the W Series line-up is radically different in Misano, as both Kravitz and Coulthard are on duty in Canada. Allan McNish replaces Coulthard as W Series analyst and co-commentator for Misano. MotoGP reporter Amy Dargan replaces Kravitz, whilst Becky Evans (aka Queen B) serves as an additional correspondent.

Channel 4 F1
08/06 – 22:50 to 00:20 – Qualifying Highlights
09/06 – 23:00 to 01:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
07/06 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 1
07/06 – 18:45 to 20:45 – Practice 2
08/06 – 15:45 to 17:30
=> 15:45 – Practice 3
=> 17:10 – Paddock Walkabout
08/06 – 18:00 to 20:30 – Qualifying
=> 18:00 – Pre-Show
=> 18:55 – Qualifying
09/06 – 17:30 to 22:30 – Race
=> 17:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 18:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 19:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 21:00 – Paddock Live
=> 22:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
06/06 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
06/06 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
07/06 – 21:00 to 21:30 – The Story so Far
08/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Show
12/06 – 20:00 to 20:30 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
09/06 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

W Series – Misano (Channel 4)
Qualifying airs live across Facebook and Twitter
08/06 – 14:45 to 16:00 – Race

Euroformula – Spa (BT Sport 3)
Also airs live on YouTube
08/06 – 14:30 to 15:30 – Race 1
09/06 – 12:45 to 13:45 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Texas 600 (Sky Sports F1)
07/06 – 23:30 to 01:00 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
08/06 (Saturday night) – 01:00 to 04:00 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)

International GT Open – Spa (BT Sport 3)
Also airs live on YouTube
08/06 – 15:30 to 17:00 – Race 1
09/06 – 13:45 to 15:15 – Race 2

World Superbikes – Jerez
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
07/06 – 09:25 onwards (Eurosport 2)
=> 09:25 to 10:25 – SBK: Practice 1
=> 13:55 to 14:55 – SBK: Practice 2
=> 14:55 to 15:55 – SSP: Practice 2
08/06 – 09:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
09/06 – 09:30 to 15:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
12/06 – 22:00 to 23:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

The listings will be updated if plans change.

News round-up: F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, it is good news for Formula 1 in the US, whilst Formula E hits the big screen at the Cannes Film Festival.

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

Formula 1

  • Good news for F1 on the US audience front, with ESPN reporting double-digit growth year-on-year. The first five races (excluding Monaco) have averaged 564,000 viewers on ESPN compared with 442,000 viewers last year. ESPN also tout the strong growth in the coveted Adult 18-34 demographic, increasing 107 percent year-on-year.

Formula E

  • A new feature-length documentary covering the 2017-18 season premiered at Cannes Film Festival last week. Fisher Stevens, Malcolm Venville and Leonardo di Caprio produced ‘And We Go Green‘, which goes behind the scenes during Jean-Eric Vergne’s championship winning season. LBI Entertainment are handing distribution rights for the documentary.
  • With Dario Franchitti over at Indianapolis, Tom Blomqvist and Nick Heidfeld joined Jack Nicholls and Bob Varsha on commentary duty during the Berlin E-Prix weekend. Blomqvist was alongside Nicholls for practice and qualifying, with Heidfeld joining Nicholls for the race.

MotoGP

  • Quest have changed the time slot of their MotoGP highlights programming. The first three races aired in an 18:00 and 23:00 time slot on Monday evenings, effectively splitting the audience.
    • Viewing figures have not been good. Their 18:00 showing for Austin made BARB’s consolidated top 15 with 196,000 viewers, all other airings have failed to make Quest’s top 15, averaging around 150,000 viewers or below.
    • From Jerez onwards, Quest reduced the two airings to one, airing at 22:00 only on Monday evenings. Current schedules for Mugello suggest that the one airing strategy will continue moving forward.
  • Suzi Perry is back in the BT Sport hotseat for Mugello, after a recent bout of illness.

W Series

  • Speaking to this site following Zolder, Whisper Films stated that their production team during the Hockenheim and Zolder weekends consisted of 34 people. The split was exactly 50/50, with 17 women and 17 men. The production house says that this covers both permanent staff and freelancers.
    • The figures cover the live World Feed production, as well as highlights
    • The figures also include those working on a documentary that Whisper are producing covering W Series’ inaugural season
  • Speaking to RaceFans, series organisers noted that over 400,000 viewers watched the first race in the UK on Channel 4 from Hockenheim. CEO Catherine Bond-Muir told the site “Even [on] Channel 4 we absolutely knocked out of the park the internal audience estimates.”
  • NBC in America has picked up highlights of the series. The broadcaster will air a one-hour highlights show of each race on their NBCSN channel (including commercials).

IndyCar Series

  • The first Indianapolis 500 to air on NBC drew the 500’s highest audience since 2016. According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, the race drew 5.4 million viewers across TV and digital. The race recorded a 86 overnight rating (excluding digital), also the highest since 2016.
  • Ahead of his Indianapolis 500 commentary debut, NBC lead commentator Leigh Diffey spoke to Phillip Bupp at Awful Announcing about his journey to date (link).

Elsewhere…

  • Eurosport have picked up the rights to MotoAmerica highlights in the UK. The one-hour highlights programme began airing last Saturday.
  • Motorsport Network have announced that their new feature length film Heroes will premiere in the run-up to the British Grand Prix. The trailer, which features swathes of archive F1 footage, was unveiled last week. Manish Pandey, one of the men behind the Senna movie, is director and writer for Heroes.
  • It is worth mentioning changes within the Sky Sports hierarchy in the UK. Sky have promoted Barney Francis into the role of Chief Executive of Future Sport, with Rob Webster succeeding Francis as Managing Director of Sky Sports UK.
  • Down under in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald report that Foxtel, which is owned by News Corporation and Telstra, is struggling against the rise of streaming platforms. The paper reports that “non marquee” sport, including motor racing, are under threat.
  • ESPN in the US featured Billy Monger’s remarkable story in their weekly E:60 magazine programme. The show featured his story last Sunday (ESPN’s Vimeo account have uploaded a preview clip).
  • The BBC have written a fantastic piece looking at Katherine Legge’s battles in motor sport, which is worth a read.

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

Scheduling: The 2019 French MotoGP / Indianapolis 500 qualifying

The month of May ramps up for the IndyCar field as crunch time approaches. Following last Saturday’s dramatic IndyCar Grand Prix, the drivers prepare for the famous Indianapolis 500 with qualifying.

The great news for UK fans is that Sky Sports F1 will air qualifying live across Saturday and Sunday. This includes the portion of qualifying that is airing on the NBC Sports Gold app for US viewers. Given the length of the broadcast, expect ad-breaks in some form.

How does Indianapolis 500 qualifying work?
– Saturday: Top 9 go through to Sunday; Positions 10 to 30 set. One run each.
– Sunday: Position 31 to 33 set (‘Last Row Shootout’). Positions 1 to 9 set (‘Fast Nine Shootout’). One run each.

Closer to home, the W Series heads to Zolder for round two. The race itself airs live on Channel 4, whilst live coverage of qualifying will be available for UK fans via Facebook and Twitter. Lee McKenzie again presents, with Ted Kravitz, Claire Cottingham and David Coulthard completing the line-up.

Le Mans plays host to MotoGP, however BT Sport’s presenter Suzi Perry is again ruled out on medical grounds.

MotoGP – France (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
17/05 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
18/05 – 07:55 to 15:15
=> 07:55 – Practice 3
=> 10:55 – Qualifying
19/05 – 07:30 to 14:30
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – France (Quest)
20/05 – 22:00 to 23:00 – Highlights

W Series – Zolder (Channel 4)
Qualifying airs live across Facebook and Twitter
18/05 – 14:45 to 16:00 – Race

British Touring Car Championship – Thruxton (ITV4)
19/05 – 11:15 to 18:00 – Races

Euroformula – Pau (BT Sport Extra 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
18/05 – 15:00 to 15:45 – Race 1
19/05 – 14:00 to 15:15 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
18/05 – 16:00 to 23:00 – Day 1
19/05 – 17:00 to 20:00 – Day 2

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland (BT Sport/ESPN)
18/05 – 17:30 to 21:00 – Races

World Touring Car Cup – Netherlands (Eurosport 2)
18/05 – 13:15 to 14:30 – Race 1
19/05 – 07:00 to 08:15 – Qualifying
19/05 – 13:10 to 14:00 – Race 2
19/05 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Race 3

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