News round-up: F1 overtakes MotoGP on Instagram; BBC to air Extreme E

In the coronavirus-free round-up, Formula 1 jumps ahead of MotoGP in the Instagram stakes, whilst the BBC have increased their motor sport portfolio with the acquisition of another electric series.

Where possible, Motorsport Broadcasting endeavours to link directly to the original source instead of linking to a third-party site that may have misinterpreted the original headline.

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.

All of the round-ups to date can be found here, and as always, all feedback on the site, positive and negative, is more than welcome.

Formula 1 – contractual arrangements

  • Austria – Red Bull broadcaster Servus TV is looking to snatch television rights off ORF when the latter’s contract with F1 expires at the end of 2020, according to an article on the Osterreich website.
    • Osterreich expects an announcement following this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
  • Canada – F1 will continue to air on TSN and RDS after the parties agreed a new deal until the end of the 2024 season.
    • As part of the new deal, fans can access additional feeds via the TSN and RDS app. F1 says that last year was the most-watched season ever on TSN, which coverage reaching “nearly 5.3 million Canadian viewers” across the two networks.
    • It should be noted that Canadian fans can also watch F1 live through F1’s over-the-top service F1 TV Pro.
  • Portugal – Eleven Sports has created an annual pass to allow motor sport fans to watch all of their motor sport content, as well as other sports.
    • The pass covers Formula 1, their feeder championships Formula Two and Formula Three, as well as the Porsche Supercup and TCR touring car series.
    • The pass costs Portuguese fans just €49.99 across the year, or €4.17 per month. In UK pounds, that works out at £43.79 across the year, or £3.65 per month.
  • USA – Mothers Polish will continue to sponsor ESPN’s coverage of Formula 1 until the end of 2022, meaning that American viewers can continue to enjoy F1 without commercial breaks.
    • As in 2018 and 2019, ESPN will take Sky Sports F1’s UK offering this season, extended in length on race day because of Sky’s own scheduling changes for UK fans.

Formula 1 – other news

  • Over on social media, Formula 1 is now the most popular series on Instagram in terms of the number of followers, overtaking MotoGP towards the end of February. F1 now has 9.00 million followers, whilst the bike series has 8.90 million followers.
  • There was recognition for three familiar faces in the broadcasting world at the 2019 British Sports Journalism Awards, held last month.
    • Channel 4’s F1 presenter Steve Jones won the award for Sports Presenter of the Year.
    • F1 commentator Alex Jacques received the Silver Award for the Broadcast Ones to Watch (on-air).
    • Former presenter of ITV’s F1 coverage Jim Rosenthal received the Doug Gardner Award for Services to Sports Journalism and the SJA. Writing on Twitter, Rosenthal said he “never saw it coming,” and that he was “blown away by the reaction.”
  • F1 are relaunching their official F1 magazine after a 16-year hiatus. The first iteration of the magazine closed in 2004, but is now being relaunched by owners Liberty Media, with ex-associate editor of F1 Racing magazine James Roberts at the helm.
    • The magazine brings together a range of motor racing correspondents including Rebecca Clancy (The Times) and Giles Richards (The Guardian), as well as Oliver Owen (previously The Observer).
    • The magazine aims to offer “unrivalled access to the heroes of the sport, with in-depth interviews, exclusives, strong opinion and intelligent summaries.”
    • An interesting sub-plot to this is that Lifestyle Media House Limited are publishers of the new magazine. Lifestyle Media were originally meant to be purchasing F1 Racing magazine off Motorsport Network. That deal fell through, and coincidentally, Motorsport Network have since renamed F1 Racing magazine to GP Racing. Read into that what you will…
  • Alex Brundle is to join Alex Jacques in the Formula Two commentary box for five weekends this season, he has announced.
    • Writing on his Twitter, Brundle says he will partner Jacques for the Bahrain, Dutch, Belgium, Russian and Abu Dhabi rounds this year.

Elsewhere…

  • The BBC is to air live coverage of the new Extreme E series in a “multi-year deal.” The series, which begins in January 2021 sees all-electric SUV cars compete in remote locations around the world.
    • Ali Russell, Extreme E’s chief marketing officer, said: “The UK has an insatiable appetite for world-class motor racing and a groundswell of backing for sustainable technologies – particularly pertinent given the government’s plans to bring forward the transition to fully-electric motoring to 2035.”
  • James Hinchcliffe is to join NBC’s on-air team for their coverage of the IndyCar Series this year. Hinchcliffe will commentate on ten races this season, the first of which is this weekend in St Petersburg.
  • A new look and feel greeted MotoGP fans over the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, with a new graphics set.
    • Keep an eye on Motorsport Broadcasting over forthcoming weeks for in-depth analysis on the new package.
    • Also on the MotoGP front, the series has teamed up with Facebook, bringing exclusive content to the social media platform. MotoGP says that there will be “original and exclusive” content available on Facebook Watch, and will be between “three and seven minutes in length.”
  • The recent series of Top Gear featured an excellent 20-minute segment celebrating 25 years since Colin McRae won the World Rally Championship in his Subaru Impreza 555.
    • The segment is available to watch on BBC iPlayer here until March 2021.
  • Sky Sports F1 is to air highlights of the inaugural Ultimate Karting Championship. The series kicks off in April, with Jake Sanson providing commentary on the seven events.
  • Paul O’Neill will no longer be part of ITV Sport’s BTCC “Social Saturdays” segments across social media, he has confirmed.
    • The segments, which were uploaded to ITV Motorsport’s Facebook and Twitter channels, saw O’Neill roam the paddock, bringing fans closer to the sport prior to the main event on Sunday.
    • It is unclear if the social segments are continuing with a different host, or if ITV and TOCA have dropped the segment for 2020.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that is worth a mention, drop a line in the comments section below.


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Coronavirus and motor sport broadcasting

For many, March normally signals the start of another exciting, exhilarating, and tense motor racing season, with many twists and turns set to greet drivers, teams, and broadcasters.

This year, things are different, thanks to the unknown quantity that motor sport has little to zero control over, as coronavirus is set to wreak havoc over the early phase of the 2020 motor racing season.

The list of events impacted is growing, with the main casualties to date F1’s Chinese Grand Prix, and MotoGP’s Qatar and Thailand rounds of the championship.

The impact coronavirus is having on motor sport goes far beyond broadcasting, however this being a broadcasting site, we are going to stick to the subject in hand.

On the broadcasting side, there is not only the financial impact, but also the human impact as events disappear off the calendar. A scenario such as coronavirus impacting the season is unprecedented in the modern era.

Many of the questions posed below are rhetorical, some of which broadcasters will no doubt be thinking about day and night currently.

Compensation for broadcasters?
To air motor sports, broadcasters pay the respective promoters a pre-agreed amount covering each season, which can vary from a few pounds (literally) to £200 million if you are Sky paying F1.

Now, given that parties agree contracts years in advance, the agreement is unlikely to specify a set number of races per year. However, in my view it is likely that the contract states that the commercial rights holder must deliver a minimum of X races per year to deliver the contract.

For example, the F1 contracts may state that the commercial rights holder must deliver at least 16 races per year to fulfil the agreement, otherwise be subject to potential refunds.

Over in MotoGP, the CEO of commercial rights holder Dorna Carmelo Ezpeleta has revealed that a season must have 13 races to constitute a World Championship.

Motor racing is unlike other sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup, whereby the number of matches in that case is known years in advance. Anyone who follows motor sport knows that calendars can flip from 20 to 19 to 21 races year-on-year-on-year.

I mention the Rugby World Cup because last year’s event saw three matches cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis, which cost French broadcaster TF1 “more than €1 million,” although Sports Business reported at the time that organisers would “hold talks with affected broadcasters over any possible compensation.”

The point here is that F1 and MotoGP will want to show broadcasters that they have made every possible attempt to hold races, hence why organisers have postponed both the F1 China and MotoGP Thailand rounds until later dates and not cancelled them outright.

MotoGP organisers have already rescheduled Thailand for October, however reorganising the Chinese round is proving to be more difficult for F1 and Liberty Media…

Remote coverage?
As a broadcaster, do you treat races as business as usual, or do you take the more cautious approach and keep your personnel away from the race track?

German F1 free-to-air broadcaster RTL are taking the cautious route, opting to present their shows for Australia, Bahrain, and Vietnam from their base in Cologne, with none of their talent heading overseas.

Writing on their website, RTL’s Sports Director Manfred Loppe said “The spread of the coronavirus, the associated incalculable health risks for all colleagues and, furthermore, a broadcast security that can no longer be guaranteed due to the immediate measures when infected.”

“This only allows for one decision, namely to produce from the Cologne broadcasting centre.” As of writing, RTL are the only broadcaster to declare that they are not travelling to Melbourne.

Closer to home, Motorsport Broadcasting understands from close sources that Sky Sports plan to present their coverage of the Australian Grand Prix from on-site in Melbourne, but that UK government and internal advice is being “closely monitored.”

The BBC’s and Channel 4’s plans for Australia remain unclear as of writing, both keeping their cards close to their chest. BT Sport have opted to present commentary of this weekend’s Qatar Moto2 and Moto3 races off-tube, although arguably Dorna made the decision for them by cancelling the premiere class.

Talent working for those broadcasters will follow the instructions given – whether that is “stay at home” or “fly out,” irrespective of their own personal preferences.

Further afield, Sky have labelled Vietnam, the site of round three of the 2020 Formula One season, as a “high-risk” country. The categorisation means that staff who have returned from Vietnam cannot work on a Sky broadcast for a further 14 days.

For all within broadcasting, working remotely is becoming an ever-present thing, which helps when faced with situations such as this one.

Formula 1’s live coverage of testing last month was delivered remotely from Biggin Hill, with only on-air talent, camera operators and a disaster recovery function present on-site in Barcelona.

If needed as a last resort, F1 could rely on local camera operators for the three early season fly-away races which, whilst not ideal, would keep the show moving.

Working remotely also helps from a logistical perspective, with many within the F1 circus having to change their travel plans for Australia to avoid travelling through Singapore.

The fewer people F1 takes to Australia without impacting their broadcasts, the better.

Human impact
Behind every motor sport broadcast that fans watch worldwide is a team of fantastic producers, directors, camera operators, floor assistants, the list goes on.

Some of those will be employed directly by the broadcasters they are working for; others will be freelance. As an example, a freelancer may work on a football match one weekend, a Grand Prix the next, and then tennis the weekend after to keep the income flowing in.

The moment one Grand Prix disappears is the moment a freelancer loses income. The situation becomes critical if organisers cancel multiple events in quick situation, exactly the situation we currently find ourselves in thanks to coronavirus.

This might sound like an exaggeration, but for many people inside and outside of broadcasting, this is their livelihood at stake, which looks to be uncertain in the immediate short-term future unless coronavirus rapidly disappears.

Whilst no one likes to see sporting events get cancelled, there is not only the financial impact from an organisational perspective, but also the financial impact from a personal perspective to bear in mind.

The Formula 1 season starts in just 10 days’ time, but whether F1 ends up racing in 10 days’ time, is anyone’s guess in an uncertain climate…


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F1 TV subscribers to receive richer offering in 2020

Fans of Formula 1 watching the sport via F1’s over-the-top platform will receive a richer offering this season.

The platform has grown since it first launched in May 2018, both in terms of size and content. Now, F1 TV Pro subscribers will receive a bespoke pre-race build-up for the first time, fronted by Will Buxton.

Buxton, who joined F1 after covering the sport with NBC from 2013 to 2017, will continue to present F1 TV’s Tech Talk output as well as their post-race programming.

In addition, F1 says that they are improving their Pit Lane Channel this season, with a co-commentator joining Alex Jacques at every race this season.

The Pit Lane Channel will also feature new camera angles from the pit wall and pit box, as well as exclusive interviews from the paddock.

The premium-tier service is available in eleven additional countries for 2020, taking the tally to 77. For fans in the US, the service is available on Roku for the first time.

However, UK fans are still unable to access F1 TV Pro, meaning fans who want to watch F1 live will need to subscribe to Sky Sports F1 in some form.

Testing gets the full World Feed treatment
As part of the announcement, F1 also confirmed that subscribers to their over-the-top platform will receive an improved live timing experience.

The improved experience for fans was clear from the first seconds of testing, with a more detailed view of lap times for each driver.

From a graphics perspective on-screen, testing now feels like an extension to a race weekend: the timing wall, split times, on-board angles, and team radio all on offer as proceedings opened in Barcelona.

In fact, it was the second day of testing when coverage came into its element: revealing the ‘Dual Axis Steering’ (DAS) device on the new Mercedes W11, only noticeable via on-board camera angles.

Mercedes would have successfully hidden the device until Australia just two years ago, something that is now impossible thanks to the level of coverage F1 is giving testing.

You can criticise live coverage of testing all you want, but on days like today, it proved its use to both fans and journalists, giving F1 publicity that it would have not received in previous years.

As was the case twelve months ago, personnel from Sky and F1 formed the hybrid team for testing, with nine people live on-air during the first day of running.

Alex Jacques, Jolyon Palmer, Rosanna Tennant, and Tom Clarkson represented F1’s in-house digital output, with David Croft, Rachel Brookes, Natalie Pinkham, and Ted Kravitz joining from Sky, Kravitz back for testing after his absence last year.

Laura Winter was the ninth person on-screen during day one, Winter joining the F1 team during ten race weekends in 2020, whilst Will Buxton also featured during the second day.

Briatore to feature on Beyond the Grid
Clarkson’s stint in the commentary box saw him confirm Flavio Briatore as one of the guests on F1’s official Behind the Grid podcast this year.

Now in its third season, the first episode of 2020 lands on Wednesday 11th March prior to the Australian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere, German Formula 1 broadcaster RTL has announced that they are producing their coverage of the Vietnam Grand Prix from their base in Cologne because of the “incalculable spread of coronavirus,” with none of their personnel set to travel to Hanoi.

“We have a high level of responsibility for our employees. When reporting from Hanoi, the risks to their health appear to be too great after careful examination,” RTL’s sports director Manfred Loppe explained.

“We came to this decision after querying numerous information points and, bottom line, none from our point of view have received a reliable assessment of the situation on site.”

Motorsport Broadcasting has reached out to UK broadcasters to confirm their current stance on the Hanoi event, which takes place across the weekend of 3rd to 5th April.


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Scheduling: The 2020 F1 Pre-Season Tests

Every day. Every minute. Live.

Formula 1 springs back into life with two pre-season tests, both of which take place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.

Last year, F1 experimented by airing the first test live via their over-the-top platform, with Sky Sports also covering the afternoon sessions live.

Thanks to the positive response, F1 are taking testing further than ever before this year, with every minute airing live via Sky Sports for fans in the UK and Italy, as well as F1 TV Pro for the territories the over-the-top service is available in.

11 new countries get their hands on F1 TV Pro for the first time this season, including South Africa. However, the UK remains absent from the list.

As well as opening up garages during testing, F1 promises an improved live timing feed for testing which will presumably feed through to the on-screen graphics set.

In addition to the on-track action, a one-hour wrap-up show called The Story so Far will air following the first five days. As of writing, there is no word on who will be covering testing, but F1 says it will be a hybrid of Sky and F1 talent on hand to call the action.

For F1 TV Access subscribers (which UK fans can subscribe to), F1 has confirmed that exclusive content from Will Buxton and Jolyon Palmer will feature during the testing period, as well as lunch time press conferences for fans to watch.

In total, 53 hours of live action is set to air over the six days of testing, more than enough to whet the appetite ahead of the season opening Australian Grand Prix in March.

F1 Testing – Barcelona (Sky Sports F1)
11/02 – 17:30 to 18:15 – Ferrari Car Launch
13/02 – 13:30 to 14:00 – McLaren Car Launch
19/02 – 07:55 to 18:00 – Day 1
=> 07:55 – Morning Session
=> 12:00 – Break
=> 13:00 – Afternoon Session
=> 17:00 – The Story so Far
20/02 – 08:00 to 18:00 – Day 2
=> 08:00 – Morning Session
=> 12:00 – Break
=> 13:00 – Afternoon Session
=> 17:00 – The Story so Far
21/02 – 08:00 to 18:00 – Day 3
=> 08:00 – Morning Session
=> 12:00 – Break
=> 13:00 – Afternoon Session
=> 17:00 – The Story so Far
26/02 – 08:00 to 18:00 – Day 4
=> 08:00 – Morning Session
=> 12:00 – Break
=> 13:00 – Afternoon Session
=> 17:00 – The Story so Far
27/02 – 08:00 to 18:00 – Day 5
=> 08:00 – Morning Session
=> 12:00 – Break
=> 13:00 – Afternoon Session
=> 17:00 – The Story so Far
28/02 – 08:00 to 17:00 – Day 6
=> 08:00 – Morning Session
=> 12:00 – Break
=> 13:00 – Afternoon Session

As always, schedules are subject to change, and this article will be updated if needed.

Update on February 6th – F1 has today issued a press release confirming testing details, which is now included in the main body above.


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News round-up: F1 and Tata split; NBC grabs MotoGP rights in US

The motor sport broadcasting news is coming thick and fast as we race into 2020, with news on both two and four wheels.

In this edition, news of a surprising split on the F1 front, whilst news also emerges of changes for MotoGP fans this season.

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.

As suggested in the last round-up of 2019, I have created a category for the news round-ups, so all historical round-ups are easily accessible in one place (over here). As always, I appreciate any feedback on both the site and the round-ups as a whole, good, or bad.

Formula 1

  • F1 and Netflix have confirmed that season two of Drive to Survive lands on the platform on Friday 28th February, a week earlier than the equivalent season one release date.
    • As exclusively revealed over the festive period, Mercedes’ German Grand Prix calamity will feature in the series, contrary to earlier speculation.
  • F1 and Tata Communications have split ahead of the 2020 season, ending an eight-year relationship. The Indian-based company were F1’s official Connectivity Partner.
    • In a statement to Reuters, Tata’s Vice President of Marketing Amit Sinha Roy said Tata wanted “to explore other platforms that will allow us to showcase the full power of our digital services to our key customers.”
    • Roy confirmed that Tata will continue their relationships with F1’s other partners, such as Sky Sports and Star Sports.
    • It will be interesting how much the change impacts F1 this season, given that Tata provided F1 with on-site backups (including the World Feed), as well as fibre connectivity to get F1 on-air, amongst other artefacts.
  • F1 has reported on their viewing figures for the 2019 season.
    • A cumulative TV audience of 1.922 billion viewers watched the season, an increase on the 2018 figure of 1.758 billion viewers, which F1 says is the highest cumulative audience since 2012. Therefore, 91.5 million people viewed each race last year, compared with 83.7 million in 2018, an increase of 7.8 million per race.
    • However, the amount on unique viewers dropped year-on-year from 490.2 million in 2018 to 471 million in 2019.
    • F1 touts other increases across the board, with social media continuing to grow strongly.
  • F1’s Director of Media Rights, Ian Holmes, has defended the use of pay television within the sport.
    • “It goes without saying that an FTA broadcaster is going to generate a larger audience than a pay TV channel. That said, it is a bit of an oversimplification. Firstly, there are always commercial elements to be considered but equally as important, is to look at who the viewers are, what the demographics are, and therefore who you’re addressing,” Holmes said.
    • “Furthermore, pay TV often provides far more in depth coverage and I think it would be fair to say that in the likes of Sky and Canal+ they have and continue to strive to improve the overall standard of F1 coverage, bringing to the fan far more than ever existed in the past – and they do a fantastic job. Then there are those people who are consuming F1 content on the different digital and social channels of our broadcast partners and our own F1 owned and operated platforms and channels,” he added.
  • The change to the US Grand Prix start time for 2020 does not impact UK fans, as the race moves a week later this year (I have amended the article which referenced this last week). The British Grand Prix moves an hour later, beginning at 15:10 BST time on Sunday 19th July.
    • The earliest start for UK fans is the Australian Grand Prix, which begins at 05:10 GMT on 15th March, with the latest being the US, Mexican and Canadian rounds, which all begin at 19:10 UK time.
    • The new Vietnam round begins at 08:10 UK time on Sunday 5th April, whilst the Dutch Grand Prix starts at 14:10 UK time.
    • The 2020 season avoids a clash with the Wimbledon finals, although the Canadian round clashes with the opening weekend of Euro 2020 as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
    • In addition, five Formula E races fall on the same weekend as F1, meaning Jack Nicholls may miss the corresponding F1 races over on 5 Live.
    • Half of the MotoGP races clash with F1, with one potential direct clash (between Azerbaijan and Catalunya on June 7th).
  • W Series will make two appearances on the F1 support bill this year, appearing at the US and Mexican rounds. No word on how the scheduling will work during either weekend, or which UK broadcaster will cover W Series.
    • Elsewhere, every W Series race from 2019 is now available to watch via YouTube.
  • A new documentary from the makers of 1: Life on the Limit premieres at the Manchester Film Festival on March 8th.
    • The film, which focuses on ex-FIA president Max Mosley, has been in development since at least 2018, with Alexandra Orton serving as writer.
    • Michael Shevloff, who directed Life on the Limit, is directing the documentary, with Flat Out Films again involved.

Motorsport Network

  • Kelsey Media has acquired the weekly Motorsport News magazine from Motorsport Network.
    • Phil Weeden, who is Kelsey Media’s Chief Operating Officer, said “This is a fabulous product, representing the very heart of grass roots motorsport. With our strong connections to the world of motoring and a passion for all forms of motorsport, we’re looking forward to injecting fresh energy and enthusiasm into Motorsport News.”
    • Motorsport Network’s president James Allen added “Our focus is very clear; digital first with a slimmed down portfolio of print titles, to reflect our customer’s needs.”
  • Contrary to earlier announcements, the network has retained F1 Racing magazine, however from March the magazine will be moving away from the F1 branding. Instead, the magazine will be known as Grand Prix Magazine.
  • James Dickens joins Motorsport Network as their Vice President of Editorial. Dickens joins from football outlet Goal (under the DAZN Group), where he was Global Editor in Chief for nearly two years.
  • The haemorrhaging of staff has continued on the journalism side, with Tom Errington (Autosport’s DTM correspondent) and James Roberts (F1 Racing’s Associate Editor) both departing.
    • The two announcements take the tally to eight for those that have announced their exit since October, leaving the magazine’s output depleted ahead of the new season.

Elsewhere…

  • Formula E have released further details about their new ‘Driver’s Eye’ camera angle, which they say is “a world’s first in any category of FIA-sanctioned single-seater racing.”
    • Weighing in at 2.5 grams and measuring 8.5 millimetres in diameter, Formula E showcased the angle fully for the first time during the Santiago E-Prix.
    • “Driver’s Eye provides a new perspective from inside the helmet in live race conditions, showing the skill it takes to thread the car between the walls while processing data and communicating with the team at speed,” says Sebastian Tiffert, Formula E’s Content, Editorial and Digital Director.
    • “Driver’s Eye adds a unique dimension to the viewing experience and the innovative camera technology immerses fans in wheel-to-wheel racing. We are delighted to bring our fans closer to the drivers’ sensory experience and their engagement with Driver’s Eye content across social media demonstrates the value of innovations core to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship,” Tiffert added.
  • Eurosport have retained the rights to the World Superbikes series, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.
    • Although no announcement has yet been forthcoming from the championship, Eurosport officials have confirmed to this site that they will again be the home of Superbikes in 2020.
  • MotoGP is moving to NBC for US fans, according to respected reporter Adam Stern. Races will air across NBC and NBCSN, with a mixture of live and tape-delay on offer.
  • The bike series is also starting 2020 in style with a new graphics package, commercial rights holder Dorna have confirmed, with further details expected towards the end of February.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that is worth a mention, drop a line in the comments section below.


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