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.

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Spanish Grand Prix sheds viewers year-on-year

The Spanish Grand Prix performed poorly across Sky Sports and Channel 4, official consolidated figures from BARB show.

The race faced tough opposition against the conclusion of the Premier League football season, and with the F1 season not yet living up to expectation on track, viewing figures throughout the weekend suffered.

Consolidated audience figures include viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of broadcast, and exclude commercial breaks. Figures in this article should not be compared to previous overnight ratings posted on this site.

Race
Live coverage of the race itself on Sky Sports F1 averaged 799,000 viewers from 14:05 to 16:20, a decrease on last year’s figure for the equivalent programme of 852,000 viewers.

The remainder of Sky’s programme recorded year-on-year double digit drops. Pit Lane Live from 12:30 to 13:30 averaged 160,000 viewers, compared with 205,000 viewers from twelve months ago.

An hour later, On the Grid averaged 382,000 viewers, a decrease on last year’s figure of 432,000 viewers. Paddock Live rounded off a poor day for Sky on the F1 front, averaging just 97,000 viewers from 16:30 to 17:15.

Sky’s audience drops pale in comparison to Channel 4’s figures later in the evening. The free-to-air highlights package averaged 1.72 million viewers from 19:00 to 21:00, a decrease of 31.4 percent on the 2018 figure of 2.51 million viewers.

On both occasions, Channel 4’s highlights aired in a two-hour time slot, although this year’s offering aired an hour later, and contained less action. Nevertheless, this in totality does not explain the significant year-on-year drop.

Of course, part of the explanation is down to the change of F1 rights that kicked in this year, with less action on free-to-air television. The broadcasting changes are only part of the story: we should not forget that the on-track action has been one-sided.

Based on consolidated figures, the average audience across Channel 4 and Sky decreased year-on-year close to one million viewers. The drop for the peak audience will likely be lower year-on-year, around the half a million viewer ballpark.

Qualifying
Sky’s live coverage of qualifying dropped marginally year-on-year, averaging 425,000 viewers from 13:50 to 15:30, compared with 438,000 viewers for the equivalent time slot last year.

Their build-up averaged 114,000 viewers from 13:00 to 13:50, also a decrease on last year’s figure of 149,000 viewers.

Channel 4’s highlights programme completed the clean sweep of year-on-year drops, averaging 1.25 million viewers compared with 1.52 million viewers twelve months ago.

In the same way that Ferrari domination hurt F1 in the UK in the early 2000’s when the sport aired on ITV, Mercedes domination this year is driving viewers away from Formula 1.

The bad news for all concerned is that alienated F1 fans are not viewing other forms of motor sport. They are leaving the sport altogether.

Over on Eurosport, live coverage of World Superbikes from Imola reached its highest point on Saturday 11th May, when 77,000 viewers watched coverage of race one.

Afterwards, live coverage of Formula E’s Monaco E-Prix averaged 49,000 viewers from 14:30 to 17:00 on the same channel, this figure not accounting for fans watching via other outlets.

Scheduling: The 2019 Indianapolis 500 / Monaco Grand Prix

Motor racing’s ‘biggest weekend’ is here. Welcome to the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix!

For the first time ever, both blue riband events air back-to-back live on Sky Sports F1, providing an afternoon of motor sport entertainment. Sky are taking NBC’s coverage of the 500, with Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, and Danica Patrick on hand. Sky will air the race uninterrupted, with Tom Gaymor and Alex Brundle filling the gaps for UK fans.

Their Monaco schedule is as usual, with practice taking place on Thursday. Both qualifying and the race also air on Sky Sports Main Event. The length of their post-race Paddock Live show is flexible, depending on the amount of analysis required from Monte Carlo.

Channel 4’s team covering Monaco is their largest of the season so far. Steve Jones presents alongside Eddie Jordan, Mark Webber, and Lee McKenzie, with David Coulthard and Ben Edwards on commentary.

Alex Jacques in back on 5 Live duty for practice and qualifying, as Jack Nicholls in on Formula E duty in Berlin. The Formula E schedule is somewhat unusual this weekend to avoid the German FA Cup Final on Saturday evening. Formula E practice moves Friday, with Saturday’s activities taking place earlier than usual.

British Superbikes heads to Donington Park, with most of the action airing on Quest due to the start of the Roland Garros Tennis tournament on Eurosport.

Channel 4 F1
25/05 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
26/05 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
23/05 – 09:30 to 11:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
23/05 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
25/05 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
25/05 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event until 15:00)
26/05 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
22/05 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
22/05 – 17:00 to 17:40 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
22/05 – 17:45 to 18:15 – Jenson’s F1 Memories
23/05 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
25/05 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The F1 Show
29/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
23/05 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/05 – 20:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
26/05 – 13:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500
26/05 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Build-Up (Sky Sports F1 – Red Button)
26/05 – 17:00 to 21:00 – Race (Sky Sports F1)

Formula E – Berlin
Also airs live on YouTube
24/05 – 10:45 to 11:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 2)
24/05 – 14:15 to 15:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 2)
24/05 – 16:45 to 17:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 2)
25/05 – 07:30 to 09:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN and Eurosport 2)
25/05 – 11:30 to 13:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport/ESPN
=> live on Eurosport 2
25/05 – 00:00 to 01:00 – Highlights (Quest)

British Superbikes – Donington Park
25/05 – 11:30 to 13:00 – Qualifying Part 1 (Quest)
25/05 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying Part 2 (Quest and Eurosport 2)
26/05 – 13:00 to 18:30 – Races (Quest)
29/05 – 22:00 to 23:30 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Hockenheim
Also airs live on YouTube
25/05 – 14:15 to 15:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport Extra 2)
26/05 – 11:45 to 12:45 – Race 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)

Formula Two – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
23/05 – 08:10 to 09:00 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
23/05 – 12:15 to 13:00 – Qualifying
24/05 – 10:20 to 11:35 – Race 1
25/05 – 16:00 to 17:05 – Race 2

International GT Open – Hockenheim (BT Sport/ESPN)
Also airs live on YouTube
25/05 – 15:15 to 16:45 – Race 1
26/05 – 12:45 to 14:00 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Berlin (BT Sport/ESPN)
24/05 – 15:30 to 16:15 – Qualifying
25/05 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
26/05 – 09:30 to 10:05 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Winton (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
25/05 – 06:30 to 08:15 – Race 1
26/05 – 04:15 to 06:45 – Race 2

As always, this post will be updated as additional details are confirmed.

Updated on May 22nd at 20:40 – In light of Niki Lauda’s death, Welcome to the Weekend was extended by ten minutes, whilst the build-up to Friday’s first practice session on Sky has also been extended by 15 minutes.

Updated on May 24th at 21:20 – Sky’s Sunday schedule has also changed. In a change to original plans, the broadcaster will now stay live from Monaco until 17:00, with the first hour of NBC’s Indianapolis 500 coverage airing on Sky’s Red Button. Current forecasts for the 500 do not look good, however with showers expected.

Sky’s Baku audience figures jump, but fails to counter Channel 4 decrease

Sky’s Formula 1 viewing figures for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix increased year-on-year, but failed to counter a significant decline for Channel 4’s own coverage, UK consolidated audience figures show.

Site announcement – UK TV overnight audience figures
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond Motorsport Broadcasting’s control, this site will no longer be providing UK overnight audience figures. Motorsport Broadcasting will only be providing UK consolidated audience figures with immediate effect.

A limited about of consolidated audience data is available via the BARB website and released each week for outlets, such as this one, to report on. The financial cost of continuing to report overnight audience figures is too large for this site to consider, even when accounting for the possibility of donations.

The change is far from ideal and limits what I can write about. For example, the BARB website does not provide peak audience figures for each programme, only average figures. Nevertheless, this site will continue to report viewing figures regularly where possible – in one format or another.

Consolidated figures account for viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of transmission, and exclude commercial breaks. Therefore, we cannot compare them to previous overnight audience figures written on this site.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Race
Last year, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix aired live across Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1, whereas this year, coverage aired exclusively live on Sky.

Consolidated figures from BARB show that Sky Sports F1’s live coverage of the race itself averaged 904,000 viewers from 13:04 to 15:21 on Sunday 28th April. This excludes Sky’s pre-race build-up and post-race analysis.

Last year’s race coverage on Sky from 13:04 to 15:36 averaged 666,000 viewers, an increase of roughly 238,000 viewers or 35 percent.

Sky’s On the Grid segment averaged 350,000 viewers from 12:29 to 13:04, also an increase on last year’s figure of 243,000 viewers.

The Paddock Live segment, which started at 15:21, dropped year-on-year, from 178,000 viewers in 2018 to 146,000 viewers this year. Ted’s Notebook followed Paddock Live this year, drawing 104,000 viewers from 16:00.

Meanwhile, Channel 4’s two-hour highlights programme which aired from 19:00, averaged 1.75 million viewers. Last year, Channel 4 split their live programme into three segments, meaning that we cannot make direct year-on-year comparisons.

Back then, their Baku build-up averaged 930,000 viewers (from 12:00), with the race bringing in 2.97 million viewers (from 12:42) and the reaction averaging 1.27 million viewers (from 15:32).

If you compare the race segment only with this year’s full highlights programme, then year-on-year, Channel 4’s average audience has dropped by 1.22 million viewers or 41 percent.

If you were to compare Channel 4’s full programme length (until roughly 16:25), which based on consolidated figures averaged around 2.31 million viewers, then their year-on-year average has dropped by 560,000 viewers or 24 percent.

With no Sky One in play for Azerbaijan, it is becoming clear that Sky’s figures have increased year-on-year. However, their increase has not offset the decrease of Channel 4’s own viewing figures because of them losing live coverage.

Best of the rest
Elsewhere, ITV4’s live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship from Donington Park averaged 204,000 viewers across seven hours on Sunday 28th April. The same meeting in 2018 failed to make ITV4’s top ten for the week, averaging fewer than 237,000 viewers.

Over on Eurosport 2, the Paris E-Prix averaged 27,000 viewers on Saturday 27th April. Bear in mind that Formula E also airs on the BBC’s Red Button and BT Sport, so the number in isolation is incomplete for the championship.

News round-up: Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

As part of a new strand on Motorsport Broadcasting, we will begin to round-up the stories behind the camera that may not have featured in one of the main articles on this site.

The regular round-up will include snippets from across the landscape, every two to four weeks. In the first round-up, a familiar name returns to the F1 fold, plus a whole lot more…

Formula 1

  • After leaving his role as Sky’s Head of Formula 1 in 2017, Martin Turner is back in the F1 fold. Turner is supporting F1 with their new digital programming, including the Weekend Debrief, which Ted Kravitz presents. Both Turner and Sky’s current Head of F1 Scott Young are involved in the production of the show, in a collaboration between F1 and Sky.
  • Formula 1 continues to tweak the format of the post-session ‘interview pen’ for broadcasters. During the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, each ‘group’ could ask each driver one question post-qualifying, with up to three minutes allocated post-race, although I understand that the situation is fluid depending on the race in question.
  • Alex Jacques and Davide Valsecchi’s voices will be on show in the upcoming F1 2019 video game. As in real life, the two lend their dulcet tones to the Formula Two action, which makes its debut in the gaming series.
  • The Azerbaijan Grand Prix saw Max Chilton partner Jolyon Palmer in the BBC 5 Live booth for practice and qualifying. Two weeks later for Barcelona, Tom Gaymor was alongside Palmer on Friday, with Marc Priestley joining him on Saturday.
    • An unusual set of teams, 5 Live’s coverage for both races was based back in the UK, with only Jennie Gow on site. With Jack Nicholls on Formula E duty, 5 Live’s commentary often this year is coming off-tube from the UK.
  • Formula 1 has adjusted the pricing for their over-the-top platform. The premium tier, F1 TV Pro, has had its price reduced from $99.99 to $79.99, or roughly equivalent depending on territory. Formula 1 has yet to give an official reason as to why, although the service experienced problems during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend. Speaking to journalists in Spain, Chase Carey said that it may take ‘another year’ to iron the bugs out of F1 TV.
  • In a change for 2019, selected journalists and outlets can now film content from inside the F1 paddock. The likes of Motorsport Network and Peter Windsor are already taking advantage of the change. However, there are restrictions in place, so that journalists are not treading on the toes of television broadcasters.
  • Sky Sports have launched a YouTube channel for their Formula 1 coverage. As a general rule, anything filmed outside of the race track has unrestricted worldwide access, such as this piece with Sebastian Vettel and Martin Brundle (currently at 97,000 views), however anything filmed inside the circuit, such as this Behind the Scenes feature with McLaren (currently at 10,000 views) is geo-blocked to UK only.
  • Both Porsche Supercup and Formula Three launched their 2019 campaigns in Barcelona, with updated graphics sets. With large fields, the graphics did not offer as much capability as the Formula 1 and Two sets. Nevertheless, Formula Three’s coverage saw the addition of team radio for the first time at that level.

Formula E

  • The Gadget Show’s Georgie Barrat will be part of Formula E’s television team for the remainder of the season, substituting for Nicki Shields who is on maternity. Barrat made her debut with the team in Monaco, although she has been inside the Formula E paddock before, filming a special edition of The Gadget Show during the 2017 Hong Kong E-Prix.
  • As with Formula 1, TMC directed the Monaco E-Prix last weekend, with Aurora Media Worldwide having a smaller on-site presence than usual.
  • Fans of Formula E can now race against their favourite drivers in real-time, as Virtually Live Ghost Racing is now available to download for free on iOS and Android.
    • The game re-creates every Formula E circuit, also doubling up as a second-screen experience, allowing fans to also ride on-board with their favourite drivers. Ben Constanduros and Chris McCarthy share the commentary duties throughout the season.

W Series

  • The news that W Series may become part of the F1 support bill next year in some capacity raises the question of which UK broadcaster would air the series if that scenario came to fruition.
    • Sky airs F1 exclusively live (for every race bar Britain), and may have some say as to whether Channel 4 can show W Series live, if it is part of the F1 under-card.
    • Porsche Supercup’s contract with Formula 1 expires at the end of 2019, which may open an opportunity for W Series.
  • Whisper Films, who produces the World Feed, noted in the run-up to the first round in Hockenheim that half of their “production crew for the 4 May will be female.”
    • Insiders pointed out to this site that many people working on the production were freelance and male, and are unlikely included in Whisper’s headcount.
    • picture of the on-site Channel 4 crew from F1’s Australian Grand Prix (also a Whisper production) highlights the gender imbalance. This is an industry problem as opposed to a Whisper-only problem, but writing statistics that are factually inaccurate will not make the problem disappear.
  • UK viewers will have access to live coverage of qualifying from Zolder onwards. Coverage from Hockenheim was geo-blocked for UK fans, but series organisers have confirmed that fans will be able to watch qualifying across Facebook and Twitter moving forward.
  • More than a week after the first event has concluded, and W Series have yet to upload highlights of the race to YouTube.
  • Prior to the inaugural race, organisers announced that Pitch International will “sell rights to broadcast W Series around the world” outside of the UK. As of writing, series organisers have yet to announce further rights details post-Hockenheim.

Elsewhere

  • Motorsport Network’s over-the-top platform has grabbed live coverage of the Japanese Super GT series. The championship, which features the likes of Jenson Button, initially opted not to pursue an English language live stream for 2019. Super GT in recent years has gained a cult following through NISMO TV’s YouTube stream, a deal which ended following the 2018 season. Instead, the series will air worldwide on Motorsport Network’s portfolio of outlets.
  • A bout of prolonged sickness has left BT Sport’s MotoGP presenter Suzi Perry on the side-lines in recent races. The existing BT team have helped cover the gap, whilst three-time British Superbike champion Niall Mackenzie joined the crew last time out.
  • The UK arm of the TCR Series will not air live in 2019. Instead, highlights of the series will air across the Fast Zone programme on Sky Sports, as well as Motorsport.tv, Front Runner and YouTube.

Spotted anything worth reporting? Drop a line in the comments section below.