The over-the-top challenge facing motor sport

Over-the-top broadcasting. It is a phrase many visitors to this site will have seen referenced repeatedly, and it is only going to become more prominent as time progresses.

What it means is relatively simple: to deliver a service direct to the customer watching at home, rather than through a third-party satellite television channel or cable platform.

In the modern media landscape that poses many questions as to what the right or wrong approach is to take, if there is such a simple answer.

Motor sport faces a major challenge in not only understanding the landscape, but also exploiting it, satisfying stakeholders, and most importantly broadening the reach of the sport in the process.

An upward struggle
Whether it is MotoGP, World Rally Championship or Supercars over in Australia, most of motor racing’s big entities have an over-the-top platform now of some nature. All vary to different degrees, and hold a different level of importance for each series.

Late to the game and trying to catch up on the digital front, Formula 1’s over-the-top platform went live in May 2018 with F1 TV. However, the platform struggled on the technical front, with a variety of teething problems, leading to suggestions that the platform launched too early.

Speaking in front of industry experts at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, their Director of Marketing and Communications Ellie Norman was unashamed to admit that it has not been the smoothest of starts for F1 in the OTT world.

“It’s been a bumpy ride, I would suggest that we definitely launched F1 TV too soon,” Norman says.

Norman points to a ‘growth hacker’ mentality that F1 now has, the organisation unafraid to try things out to see what works, and what does not, even if it backfires.

“Working within digital is a really different space to working in broadcast, and often you are always in beta mode. But one thing I think we’ve done is, we’ve listened to the fans, and responded quickly by refunding them,” Norman told the audience.

“Twelve months on, the product is more stable, and I think it’s in a much better place now with the fan input, seeing how users engage with it, use it, and what they want for it. And that has been invaluable.”

The battle between pay-TV and OTT
But F1’s roadblocks on the over-the-top front expand far beyond the first twelve months.

Whilst most of the world can access F1 TV’s basic offering, many countries, including the UK, cannot access F1 TV’s premium tier. The only way UK fans can access the live race action is via Sky Sports, thanks to an agreement signed between Sky and ex-F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone back in 2016.

For many, this is a source of frustration, with some fans feeling locked out of live F1 for the foreseeable. For F1, and sport in general, the balance is ‘delicate’ between over-the-top and pay television.

Over-the-top pricing
A snapshot for UK fans

MotoGP (live) – £177.26
WRC (live) – £79.76
WEC (live) – £38.99
Supercars (live) – £32.98
F1 TV (archive and non-live) – £19.99

Pricing per year.
WEC covers 2019/20 season.
WEC excludes Le Mans.

Do motor sport brands throw live content onto their over-the-top platform, allowing them to target a different audience directly, but potentially miss a key revenue stream?

Or, do the brands air their content live on pay television, helping the bank balance, but not their reach?

Gernot Bauer, Eurosport’s incoming Head of Motorsport, puts it bluntly. “As a broadcaster, I won’t pay a lot of money if every federation has a competing product because it puts so much challenge on us as a broadcaster.”

For broadcasters such as Eurosport and Sky, the emergence of a new over-the-top platform could cause their audience figures, and therefore revenue streams, to fall.

Having invested £1 billion over six years, unlocking F1 TV in the UK would cause consternation between F1 and Sky.

“Our investment is significant as one of the one of the investments that underpins F1, as all our rights do in every sport,” explained Scott Young, Sky’s Head of F1.

“I think that’s one of the differences between an OTT platform right now and major sporting broadcasters, like Sky and Eurosport, that actually invest a large amount of money that goes into those sports of which they need to help fund the teams to compete.”

Young denied suggestions that Sky’s relationship with F1 had become ‘strained’ because of F1 TV, but warned of the consequences if the balance between pay and over-the-top changed too quickly.

“There’s an ecosystem in there that is quite delicate, and if you unravel it too quickly it can have some lasting effects,” he said.

The NASCAR approach
The World Endurance Championship and World Rally Championship are examples of series that are nicely suited to the modern OTT way.

Both are long in duration, meaning that they can play out live in their entirety on OTT, without interruption from other sports on linear television.

Not every championship uses their over-the-top offering for live action though (for contractual or strategic reasons), which leads to the question of just how valuable OTT is without much live content to bring the viewer in.

“As each racing series creates their own OTT product it forces us, and them, to rethink that philosophy,” Bauer says.

“What is OTT, are you an alternative broadcaster for life? Are you a video on demand for archive material, or are you an app where you combine everything from Instagram to Twitter and so on? There is not one answer.”

For NASCAR, the situation is tricky, as all their premium-tier live content is exclusive to Fox and NBC in the US through until 2024, meaning that the series has no choice but to get creative with their domestic OTT offering.

NASCAR owns the Fans Choice platform and the RaceView service, but neither offer fans domestically live coverage of NASCAR races (overseas fans have access to Trackpass which offers live coverage).

“If we’re doing OTT, then it’s got to be driver lifestyle content, or it’s got to be some of our other series that we broadcast internationally,” explains Jill Gregory, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.

“I think as we look to the new media landscape, as everybody is today, we’re trying to decide what is the right mix.”

“We need to think about what goes on to traditional broadcasting, and what do you keep out for either your own OTT product, or even partnerships with social media platforms, the Amazon’s, and the Hulu’s.”

“For us, it’s about knowing where the fans want their NASCAR content and maximizing our exposure,” Gregory concluded.

2019 WEC - 6 Hours of Silverstone - OB Truck.jpg
Inside the World Endurance Championship OB truck at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, WEC one of the many tackling the OTT hurdle head on.

Second screen “has become first screen”
Of course, the likes of Sky, Fox and NBC have their own over-the-top platforms.

In the case of Sky, Now TV is becoming a more prominent player for cord-cutters due to its lower entry price. As Young alluded to however, Sky “need to do a better job” of promoting their other services to audiences.

That job is becoming increasingly important because, as Motorsport Broadcasting pointed out last month, research from UK’s communications body Ofcom shows that traditional viewing is falling quicker than ever before, with around half of UK homes now subscribing to at least one streaming service.

“You don’t need to be at home in front of your TV anymore [to consume sport]. Many people still think that way but they are not acting this way,” Bauer told the audience.

“I am constantly on my phone, watching on my phone on my iPad, on my laptop. I consume not the whole race anymore but certain bits of highlights, and that is interesting to me as it helps smaller federations to get a direct engagement with the fans.”

Young added that Sky’s current F1 audience is viewing other streams alongside the main F1 channel. In his opinion, the second screen “has become first screen.”

“We’re seeing a lot of data now on people actually not only watching data channels but watching other streams, watching our highlights, watching social feeds come through whilst they’re actually watching the live race.”

“And that to me is an amazing opportunity that we’re focused on tapping into.”

For broadcasters and championships alike, it is a constant battle to try to not only retain existing audiences, but to bring in a new, younger audience. That battle will only intensify over the forthcoming years.

Is over-the-top going to become the long-term destination for F1 and motor sport, replacing pay television for the next generation, or can the two entities coexist side-by-side? Could free-to-air television even make a resurgence?

Only time will tell.


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News round-up: Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, news emerges of potential upcoming changes to Formula 1’s leadership team.

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

ICYMI: Round-Up #3 (July 1st): Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

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

Formula 1

  • Earlier in the season, news outlets revealed that Netflix’s cameras would be getting up close to Mercedes during the German Grand Prix weekend, as part of filming for series two of Drive to Survive. Unfortunately for Mercedes, race day turned into a bit of a disaster.
    • The Press Association reports that, after the Germany disaster, Mercedes invited Netflix back for the closing phase of the Hungarian Grand Prix one weekend later. The race saw Lewis Hamilton come from behind to take victory away from Max Verstappen in the closing laps.
  • According to RaceFans, Formula 1 and Sky are rumoured to be working on a multi-part documentary to be released in Summer 2020. The series will coincide with Formula 1’s 70th anniversary, although no details have been officially confirmed as of writing.
  • Sean Bratches is set to leave his role as F1’s Managing Director of Commercial Operations at the end of the year, the BBC’s Andrew Benson is reporting.
    • Bratches joined F1 following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the group in 2017, and has spoken in recent times about F1’s free-to-air and pay TV mix.
    • Benson also reports that Chase Carey and Ross Brawn are set to remain in their existing roles.

DTM / W Series

  • The DTM touring car series is holding a joint event with Super GT at Fuji in November, in what both are billing as a ‘Dream Race’. The joint event presents many decisions about which drivers will take part.
    • However, speaking to Autosport last month, Audi motor sport boss Dieter Gass said that having drivers’ share duties is unlikely as DTM believes there are “complication[s] in explaining the rotation to TV audiences.”
  • As of last month, there was no word on where W Series’ documentary will air. I understand that series bosses are flexible as to where the series eventually ends up, and in what format. Production company Whisper filmed documentary content throughout, from the first driver selection test through to season finale.

Formula E

  • One of Eurosport’s leading figures is to join Formula E, e-racing365 reports. Sebastian Tiffert, who was Eurosport’s former executive producer for their Olympics Games offering, is to join Formula E as the head of their media content department. Tiffert is set to “manage the broadcast, social and digital media elements” of Formula E.

MotoGP

  • Vislink Technologies have extended their contract with Dorna to be MotoGP’s official RF systems supplier. Vislink, who have held the contract since 2002, will continue to partner with MotoGP for the next three seasons.
    • “The continuation of our engagement with Dorna is testament to our leadership in live sports broadcasting, and delivering reliable, crystal-clear video to MotoGP fans around the globe,” said John Payne, President and COO of Vislink.

Elsewhere…

  • Dieter Rencken reports that negotiations are ongoing to sell Motorsport Network.
    • Billionaire Mike Zoi leads the group, which owns the likes of Motorsport.com, Autosport and F1 Racing, as well as a stake in Formula E. Other stakeholders within the group include McLaren boss Zak Brown (chairman) and James Allen (EMEA President).
    • Rencken adds that Dmitry Mazepin, whose son Nikita Mazepin races in Formula Two, is in the running to purchase the group.
  • The promotor of the World Rallycross series is reporting strong interaction figures over on Facebook. Using figures from Crowdtangle, IMG’s Vincent Haas notes that the series has the highest interaction rate of any motor sport series on the social media platform, as well as over 50 million video views.
  • Netflix subscribers will soon be getting a slice of NASCAR action, but maybe not in the way they expected. The two parties are collaborating on a new comedy series starring Kevin James.
    • The Crew sees the action play out in a NASCAR garage, with James acting as crew chief.
    • NASCAR’s Matt Summers (Managing Director, Entertainment Marketing & Content Development) and (Senior Vice President & Chief Digital Officer) will serve as Executive Producers from NASCAR’s perspective.

See anything else worth mentioning on the news front? Drop a line in the comments section below.


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In conversation with Ellie Norman

Over the past two years, Formula 1 has undergone a digital transformation since Liberty Media acquired control of the sport.

Last week at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, Motorsport Broadcasting caught up with one of the faces leading the effort to bring F1 into the modern world. Ellie Norman (@ChikinCS) is Formula 1’s Director of Marketing and Communications, and we got her view on how things have gone so far.

Before Formula 1, you had stints at both Honda and Virgin Media, just talk to us about what you were involved in there.

I first spent five years on the agency side, where Honda was my client, and then directly with Honda for eight years, always in a marketing and advertising role.

Through that period, it was always about building meaning and value in the Power of Dreams brand. It was about elevating Honda at that time in the UK and Europe where the perception was that they lagged behind the more established European brands.

I spent five years in between Honda and F1 at Virgin Media. My focus shifted into being one market specific in the UK, so it was great to deepen learning versus working across international markets.

Interestingly it is an entertainment company, so they’re really understanding the landscape of TV consumption, the role that entertainment plays, cord cutting, the involvement of digital platforms, direct to consumer. Moving to F1 is a perfect combination of both automotive and entertainment.

Honda and Virgin Media both have huge marketing teams, yet you join F1 and find that is greenfield in nature, with little marketing, which was quite a culture shock I imagine!

F1 is such an incredible brand with a huge history. Bernie [Ecclestone] did an incredible job to build it into the business that it was, but my perception was that it had been underutilised, and that there was a role marketing could play.

Part of the appeal was having the ability to come into what is close to a 70-year old start-up and to be able to establish marketing from the ground up, agreeing what the infrastructure needed to be, shoring up the fan base, bringing in new fans. And that was exciting, too good of an opportunity for me not to take.

How difficult has it been in your role to attract new fans into F1, without alienating the existing fan base?

You are always treading a balance between holding onto your current fans, knowing who you are and what you stand for, but also needing to adapt and be contextually relevant to the fans of tomorrow, understanding what their motivations are, what platforms they are on and how they can be engaged, and bringing them into your sport.

Ultimately, we are a means of entertainment. The appeal of Formula 1 is that we have an ability to bring large groups of people together around live events. The on-track product is vitally important, but it is the entertainment that surrounds that as well.

15 to 20 years ago, there was one entry point for new fans, in front of the television, whereas now there are many different entry points. Does that make the job more complex?

It is very, very complex, the marketplace is fragmented.

The one thing I think we’re very fortunate with is that live sports is one of the last bastions that does bring millions of people together around a fixed time.

What can you learn from other brands, such as NASCAR, or non-motor sport brands, like the Premier League or Netflix?

It’s always interesting I think to look outside of your own echo chamber. Aside from other live sports, I’m always fascinated to know how entertainment properties operate, for example music festivals such as Glastonbury.

How are they engaging with fans, at a digital level in terms of insight, access, experiences that bring them closer? We can take learnings from that and pull that into Formula 1. I think part of the mentality needs to be an openness to try and to test things.

The fan festivals are a great example of where you can take the richness of the sport out of a race track and into city centres. It’s a visceral sport, the closer that people can get to seeing teams, drivers, hearing and smelling the cars, it moves you, and that’s what we know people love.

You did the ‘Engineered Insanity’ promotion last year, and have continued that this year.

‘Engineered Insanity’ is our brand positioning. It’s man and machine pushed to their limit; it’s opposing forces working together in harmony. We launched that brand platform and positioning in 2018, and this year we continued that work.

We brought it to life this year through a partnership with The Chemical Brothers, which was again a way to look outside the echo chamber of motor sport and to work with renowned musicians in their field, who are renowned for engineering their music and to bring those two audiences together. We knew there was an overlap of passion between a Chemical Brothers fan and Formula 1.

It’s interesting when you look at actually where people, and what they’re passionate about, it shows up through gaming, through music, food experiences, and there’s a way where Formula 1 can partner with many different brands within the wider world to take Formula 1 out to that fan base, and be relevant to them.

You cited Netflix earlier as a competitor of someone’s share of time. The Netflix series has been incredibly popular for us, and that was a way for us to reach a light, lapsed or a non-F1 fan through engaging long form content.

E-Sports is massive. We know younger audiences spend an awful lot of time within an E-Sports environment. Now, whether that’s watching it or playing it, Formula 1 is very closely aligned to E-Sports. You’re sitting in a seat, you’ve got your pedals, your steering wheel. We know all our F1 drivers spend hours and hours perfecting their laps within a sim.

So, this is how we can converge those worlds together.

Have you seen the demographics on your social media platforms change because of E-Sports?

Social media has grown ferociously. In the last two years, Frank [Arthofer] and our digital team have grown that to over 23 million people, a 54 percent year-on-year increase, making us the fastest growing sport across social media.

75 to 80 percent of the audience watching E-Sports is below 34 years old, so it’s really shifting the dynamic. We’re taking Formula 1 out, and showing a different side of Formula 1 to these audiences in places they’re already passionate about.

You’re now starting to scrape the surface of both of Formula 1’s feeder series, Formula Two and Formula Three. People may not realise this, but both are Formula 1 properties. [Note from David: this interview was done prior to Anthoine Hubert’s fatal accident at the Belgian Grand Prix]

They are incredible series, very competitive racing, wheel-to-wheel competition, you always have the interesting sprint races, for example with reverse grid in F2. And what we see is a lot of our Formula 1 drivers coming through the ranks of having either raced in Formula Two or Three, and there’s some really interesting characters and stories within those series.

Again, this is about us demonstrating the journey that racing talent goes through to get into Formula 1. There’s much more focus internally on what we can do with Formula Two and Formula Three to bring those closer to Formula 1 and to give them their own spotlight.

It’s F1’s 70th anniversary next year, is there anything in the pipeline that you can tell us?

We are busy back in the office, we have a range of ideas that we would love to see next year. All I can say is watch this space!

My thanks go to Ellie Norman for spending the time with me on the above piece.


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F1 avoids television blackout during German Grand Prix

The German Grand Prix saw one of the greatest races of the modern era take place, with Max Verstappen storming to victory in changeable conditions.

Off the track, Formula 1 faced their own technical battle which nearly saw Saturday’s action plunged into darkness for half of the worldwide audience.

Writing in F1’s Media Pass ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Television Systems Group Manager Trevor Turner explained in further detail what happened.

Instead of copying and pasting his quotes word for word, it is worth analysing what Turner has said in detail, as Turner gives a fascinating insight into the intrinsic nature of motor sport broadcasting.

The World Feed
As this site revealed last month, there are four different versions of the F1 World Feed, catering for different regions.

Turner’s post reveals the nature of these feeds, and where they are distributed from:

  • European feed – distributed from an on-site Eurovision Services up-link and fibre truck
  • Asian feed – distributed from F1’s Media and Technology Centre in Biggin Hill
  • American feed – distributed from F1’s Media and Technology Centre in Biggin Hill

It is likely that the fourth World Feed serves F1’s over-the-top broadcast, although Turner does not directly confirm this.

Additionally, Turner confirms that the Eurovision Services truck provides “additional transmission services for Canal+ in France and Movistar in Spain,” and is also the hub for all of F1’s additional feeds, such as the pit lane channel and on-board channels.

Over in the UK, F1’s Biggin Hill base also delivers digital content, such as social media, web and F1 TV content.

Tata Communications, F1’s official Connectivity Partner, provides different backups on-site, including a backup of the World Feed.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, a fire destroyed the Eurovision Services truck (referenced above) at the Hockenheim circuit. In other words, the German Grand Prix was facing blackout for all its audience across Europe. Swift co-operation was required between F1’s stakeholders, including F1, their broadcast partners, and Tata.

“While the truck itself looked relatively intact, inside it was completely destroyed,” Turner said.

“It quickly became clear that we were in real trouble. RTL [F1’s German broadcast partner] had already stepped up and arranged for two satellite trucks to be driven to Hockenheim (one from Frankfurt and another from Munich) but neither was expected to arrive before FP3.”

Broadcasters’ help F1 out ahead of FP3
With the Eurovision Services truck out of action, the Asian international feed became a far more important asset than in previous events.

Geneva is home to Eurovision Services, which is a subsidiary of the more widely recognised European Broadcasting Union (EBU). It is this facility which played a key part in getting the feeds to air, as Turner explains.

“So, the first solution was to use the Asian international feed at our UK Media Technology Centre to cover the loss of transmissions over Europe (now which were no longer possible directly from the track) and Eurovision teams in Geneva to plan transmission of this feed in both HD and UHD formats from an alternative fixed satellite facility,” Turner notes.

My day-to-day job (Senior Data Engineer for those interested) involves me hearing the phrases ‘upstream changes’ and ‘downstream changes’ daily. How do changes up the chain affect me, and how will changes I make affect those further along on the chain?

I can only imagine that those pieces of terminology are commonplace in broadcasting, except the risk involved is significantly greater.

A sport beamed to millions of viewers worldwide on a bi-weekly basis, any change presents high risk if not thoroughly tested. Other parties stepped up to help introduce additional fail-safes, including both UK broadcasters, preventing further issues from occurring during the weekend.

European feed – ‘business as usual’ process

  1. Content generated at track
  2. Transmitted across Europe via Eurovision Services truck

European feed – Germany process

  1. Content generated at track
  2. Content sent via Tata’s fibre links to F1’s Biggin Hill HQ
  3. Content passed from F1’s Biggin Hill HQ to Eurovision Services’ Geneva HQ
  4. Transmitted across Europe via Eurovision Services’ Geneva HQ

“Tata offered access to their on-site back up world feed satellite link to support the new transmission set-up we’d put in place for Europe,” says Turner. “In addition, RTL offered access via their fibre to Cologne and Sky UK’s Master Control Room (MCR) was on standby to support with signals which they also had available via F1 and Tata in London.”

Now having overcome the main hurdle, getting the third practice session on-air to its core audience, F1 next needed to understand how to facilitate the needs of their other stakeholders, as well as their own additional feeds.

From Biggin Hill to Geneva, and beamed worldwide
The additional feeds were more of a concern for F1, given that the feeds are not only used on F1 TV, but also by a variety of worldwide broadcasters, such as Sky Sports in the UK.

“That content is available at the UK Media and Technology Centre via Tata’s fibre links, so our Master Control Engineer, Russell Tree, managed to access those signals and configured some spare equipment to get those channels to Eurovision’s hub in Geneva where they were able to repackage them and get them to our clients.”

Canal+ and Movistar’s additional feeds followed a similar route to that of the additional track feeds, both passing through Geneva.

“We offered them access to F1’s social media and post-production edit video connections from the circuit to F1’s UK MCR where they were again on-passe to Eurovision,” says Turner. “This would restrict F1’s social and edit activity during FP3 and Qualifying but our colleagues in F1 editorial were happy to help given the gravity of the situation.”

All the hard work behind the scenes now complete and to the viewer at home, nothing had changed. Everyone was able to keep the show turning, which is a testament to those on the ground.

F1 pulls together in a near TV crisis
It is not unusual for behind the scenes technical issues to hit F1’s broadcasts, and for the individual crews to help one another out in the middle of a broadcast crisis.

Several years ago, Sky Sports stepped in to help the BBC when their graphics machine crashed, Sky helping to get the BBC programme back on the road. Rivals on-screen, a camaraderie atmosphere exists off it.

The system that F1 collectively implemented for the third practice session in Germany remained in place throughout the remainder of the weekend, only suffering minor hiccups with their Ultra HD offering on Sunday. The two RTL trucks that arrived at the track following FP3 were not utilised to avoid additional risk.

Turner was extremely happy with how the weekend turned out.

“We were able to broadcast FP3 live without any issues. It was real team effort and the assistance we received from all our partners – at Eurovision, Tata Communications, RTL, Sky – was brilliant,” says Turner.

“It really was a bit like a Formula 1 team arriving on Saturday morning to find they got a problem and need to do an engine change in a real hurry. In fact, it was worse. It was like opening the garage and finding that the car’s gone!”

“If I was calling it as a race result, I’d say we started in 20th and won the race. So, one place better than Sebastian!”

The additional resources F1 implemented for Germany will remain in place this weekend, as the championship heads to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Thanks to Darshan Chokhani (@DarshanChokhani) for alerting me to the quotes.


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News round-up: New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, initial details surrounding a new Formula Two documentary emerge, whilst Facebook touts MotoGP’s success on the social media platform.

The regular round-up is intended to give you a bite sized round-up of the latest news making the rounds, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way. The snippets I mention would not normally be mentioned in longer pieces, so consider the round-ups additional to the other material posted.

ICYMI: Round-Up #3 (July 1st): Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

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

Formula 1

  • Formula 1 are working on a new documentary shining a light on their feeder series Formula Two, this site can reveal. Details are sketchy, but I understand Martin Turner and Formula Two’s television producer Mark Tomlinson are two names working on the documentary, filming interviews during recent race weekends.
  • Joe Saward reports that Formula 1 could be returning to NBC in the US, taking F1 away from incumbent rights holder ESPN.
    • F1 left NBC for ESPN at the end of the 2017 season, following a dispute between F1 and NBC. At the time, NBC wanted to retain exclusive digital rights to F1, something F1 were unwilling to let happen, as this would have prevented the over-the-top F1 TV product from launching in the US.
    • Since then, NBC’s owners Comcast have bought Sky UK, so a return to NBC for F1 would make strategic sense for all parties. Maybe NBC no longer sees F1 TV as a major threat either, which does not spell good news F1 TV’s subscriber numbers if that is indeed the case…
  • Readers may remember that back at the Canadian Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas spun coming out of the second corner during qualifying.
    • The spin aired live on some outlets, such as Radio 5 Live and Channel 4 (during their highlights show), but other outlets, such as Sky Sports F1, did not air it live.
    • Each camera operator has a ‘push to live’ button meaning that, if an incident is unfolding in front of them, they can push a button that bypasses the director and allows them to go live to air (although clearly this should only be used under exceptional circumstances).
    • In Canada, the feed Sky was taking was different to that Radio 5 Live, Channel 4 and others took – there are four different ‘World Feed’ options, catering for different regions.
    • At the time of the Canadian qualifying session, the ‘push to live’ mechanism was only being sent to two of the four feeds. The issue was rectified for race day.
  • Formula 1 has launched F1 Tracks, a music playlist that will be updated on a weekly basis across major audio streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple and Deezer. The tracks are filtered into four categories (Pace, Mechanical, Spirit and Fan).
    • To quote F1 themselves in response to a fan question on Twitter, F1 Track “gives us a dynamic platform for fans that brings [music and sport] together – and allows us to create exciting promotional opportunities within F1 such as getting talent in to races for performances, DJ sets, interviews, and others.”
  • Fans heard a new voice on the World Feed during the British Grand Prix weekend. Jake Sanson commentated on Formula Two practice and qualifying, as well as all of Formula Three’s sessions alongside Alex Jacques.
  • The most recent series of Top Gear featured a segment looking at the Lotus 79, which won the 1978 Constructors’ Championship. Honestly, this is an excellent VT from start to finish, and is Top Gear at its strongest.
    • Chris Harris narrates the piece, and takes the Lotus 79 out on-track in the latter half of the segment. The piece also features contributions from Peter Wright (R&D at Lotus from 1975 to 1983), Mario Andretti and Clive Chapman.
    • UK readers can watch the segment on BBC iPlayer here (46 minutes in), the episode available on iPlayer for the next eleven months.

Elsewhere…

  • Facebook are touting MotoGP as one of their success stories on the platform. The social media outlet says that MotoGP “aimed to drive incremental referral traffic to its website differently, through a strong links publishing strategy on Facebook with a video focus.”
    • After implementing the strategy, MotoGP saw their referral traffic from social media to their website increasing by 40 percent year-on-year, with referrals from Facebook leaping by 90 percent year-on-year.
  • The new electric SUV off-road racing series Extreme E, which is operated by Formula E, has signed a multi-year broadcast deal with Fox Sports. The deal, which covers USA, Canada, and the Caribbean, will see Fox Sports cover the first three campaigns beginning with the inaugural series in 2021.
    • Bill Wagner, who is Fox Sports’ EVP and Head of Programming, said “FOX Sports is excited to add Extreme E to its programming line-up in 2021. Extreme racing in extreme environments, all using the latest electric technology makes for inviting programming across multiple audiences.”
  • The BBC published an article looking at Shiv Gohil’s Formula E photography which is worth a read (here).
  • Greenlight Television have announced that King of the Roads will air on Motorsport.tv. All ten Road Races will air on a same day basis on the over-the-top platform.

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


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