Why is IndyCar not drawing a bigger UK audience? A few thoughts…

In a guest article, Jack Ainslie (@JackAinslie) looks at NBC’s coverage of the IndyCar Series stateside, and why audience figures closer to home are not as high as they could be…

As the 2019 IndyCar Series season concluded at Laguna Seca last month with Josef Newgarden coming out on top, it also marked the end of the first year of Sky Sports’ collaboration with NBC to televise the series in the UK.

It was NBC’s first year as the sole US broadcaster of the sport, having shared the rights with ABC previously. Thus, it seems appropriate to review the broadcasting output of what has been a thrilling season of racing.

Viewers in the UK watch the NBC broadcast with no input from Sky. The NBC product has been fantastic, with increased viewership stateside. The Indianapolis 500, the premier event of the series, reversed a ratings slide suffered under ABC’s stewardship of the event.

An average audience of 5.45 million people watched the event across all of NBC’s platforms, an increase of 11 percent on the previous year and the highest average audience since the 100th running of the race in 2016. Overall, audiences increased by nine percent compared with 2018.

Diffey, Bell and Tracy steer the show
In my view, the increase is partly down to the excellent commentary team of Leigh Diffey and his analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy – both former IndyCar drivers. There is also an extensive line up of pit reporters who often speak to strategists during races.

The excitement the trio clearly have for the racing is infectious, mixing analysis with just plain enthusiasm. Diffey does not dominate the commentary, often allowing for his co-commentators to converse between themselves for periods of time.

They are not shy of speaking out when they see something wrong – Tracy called for Takuma Sato to be suspended after a serious crash at the Pocono race. However, the trio share an appreciation of the racing and a willingness for all drivers to do well. Tracy was one of the first to congratulate Sato when he won the next race at the Gateway oval.

The actual broadcast is also strong. Depending on when NBC’s coverage starts, we sometimes have extensive build up (also presented by Diffey and co), or occasionally being just minutes away from the race. The build-up is generally just analysis and driver interviews however there have been on occasion some excellent driver features, which NBC should continue to do into 2020.

The graphics are sleek and do their job during the race. The coverage provides a wide array of camera angles throughout the broadcast including the standard camera mounted above the cockpit, a cockpit cam facing the drivers, as well as the infamous visor cam.

2019 IndyCar Series Laguna Seca - Alex Rossi.png
Looking back from Alexander Rossi towards Josef Newgarden. Note how the on-board angle is sponsored, and also the light blue next to Herta’s name on the timing wall. The light blue indicates that Herta has activated the ‘push to pass’ system.

However, not all on-board camera angles are available to viewers watching at home. Fans at home only see between ten and twelve camera angles where third parties are sponsoring them, meaning that we sometimes do not get the best view of incidents if the main camera operators have not picked an incident up.

The visor cam really shows the thrill of the ride – particularly on the bumpy street tracks allowing us to see the speed of the cars as well as sensing the rough ride the drivers are going through. IndyCar often uploads these clips to their YouTube channel in addition to extensive race highlights, helping to cement their strong online presence.

NBC has heavily promoted races on other parts of its network, which benefited the 500 significantly. Us Brits may not enjoy the heavy amount of promotion of other NBC televised events during races but it does NBC’s commitment to increasing IndyCar’s viewership.

Little improvement for Sky compared to BT in UK
Closer to home, it is disappointing that Sky have been unable to build a larger viewership of the sport than it generally had during its BT days.

The racing product has been excellent, with absorbing, incident packed, overtaking laden races. There have been seven different winners and nine other drivers finishing in the podium positions – including drivers classified as low as 22nd in the championship. The racing itself is certainly not the reason for the lack of viewers.

Sky is in a strong position with an already present audience of committed motorsport fans regularly watching its coverage of Formula 1. So why the lack of interest in IndyCar?

Of course, IndyCar is not as ‘prestigious’ as Formula 1, therefore it seems reasonable to assume it will never reach the same figures as F1. However, there is familiarity for British audiences – drivers such as Sato, Max Chilton, Marcus Ericsson, and Alexander Rossi are names familiar to the committed F1 petrol head.

Oval racing is also not familiar to many of us in the UK and often dismissed (the Rockingham circuit which hosted Champ Cars in the early 2000s recently closed down), however the ovals have seen some of the most thrilling races in IndyCar this year.

Commercial breaks are a problem for IndyCar and its international audience. Unlike British motorsport coverage, American networks take advertising breaks during races. Whilst Sky do not cut to adverts during the US breaks it does mean that commentary falls silent in the gaps as Diffey and co. understandably do not continue commentating during the US breaks.

2019 IndyCar Series Laguna Seca - Colton Herta.png
Looking at Colton Herta as he tackles the corkscrew complex at Laguna Seca.

The on-screen graphics also disappear during US ad-breaks for UK viewers, which may confuse new viewers who are trying to follow the on-track action. Whilst NBC try to confine advertising to safety car (or ‘caution’) periods this is not always possible. It is also not thrilling for viewers to watch cars following the pace car with no commentary.

Promotion lacking outside of Indianapolis 500
During the Indianapolis 500, Tom Gaymor and Alex Brundle commentated during US advertising breaks leading to some continuity for UK viewers. It would be great for Sky to provide this at more races like BT did. As an unashamed fan of Alex Jacques, it would be great to see him call some Indy races, however this is probably impossible and merely a wish of mine!

The Indianapolis 500 understandably garnered Sky’s largest IndyCar audience of the season, with frequent mentions to the 500 from David Croft and Simon Lazenby during their Monaco Grand Prix coverage. Whilst the race was bound to gain a larger than usual audience due to its place as the top event of the season, there is a chance this promotion of the race could have directed more viewers its way.

Unfortunately, Sky did not repeat the promotion during other F1 weekends which coincided with IndyCar races, with little mention of IndyCar elsewhere during Sky’s F1 coverage. Four drivers were in contention for IndyCar’s crown as the championship entered its season finale, yet Sky did not reference this during their Singapore Grand Prix coverage.

Many races take place at reasonable times for UK viewers to watch however some of the night races take place in the early hours for British viewers. Sky could replay some of the races at more reasonable time slots during the week, as BT Sport did on occasion. Whilst this may not draw huge audiences, it would still allow a dedicated IndyCar following to build.

The IndyCar Series has fantastic racing and NBC is providing an excellent product for UK viewers to watch (even with presenters of motorsport in full suits!). However, Sky needs to push advertising of the series more.

Sky could do this through cross promotion, which seems to have worked well for NBC to build its own domestic audience as well as perhaps adding in some of their own personnel to make the broadcasts a more seamless experience for the UK viewer.

There is no doubt that the potential is there for the series to become far more popular in the UK than it is at present.

Have you been watching IndyCar this year? What have you enjoyed or not enjoyed? Do you think Sky could increase viewership through involving their own personnel or simply more advertising? Have your say in the comments below.

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Scheduling: The 2019 Belgian Grand Prix

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

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

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

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

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
30/08 – 09:45 to 11:55 – Practice 1
30/08 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2
31/08 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
31/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event from 14:15)
01/09 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid
=> 14:05 – Race
=> 16:00 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
29/08 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
29/08 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
30/08 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
31/08 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The F1 Show
04/09 – 20:00 to 20:30 – F1 Midweek Debrief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scheduling: The 2019 German Grand Prix

Germany plays host to the half way stage of the Formula 1 season, as the paddock heads to Hockenheim.

After live coverage at Silverstone, it is back to highlights for Channel 4 for the remainder of the season, as Billy Monger joins the team for the weekend alongside regulars Steve Jones, David Coulthard and Ben Edwards. Sky’s coverage of qualifying and the race airs across their F1 channel and Main Event.

Due to the different contractual arrangements in play between F1 and circuit organisers, Formula Two and Formula Three are again absent, leaving a lighter weekend schedule for fans attending the Grand Prix. The last time Formula Two (or GP2 as it was known then) raced at Hockenheim was back in 2016.

Elsewhere, the IndyCar Series heats up, with only four races remaining following the Mid-Ohio round. It is also a busy weekend on the endurance front, with Spa and Suzuka playing host to four- and two-wheel racing respectively.

Channel 4 F1
27/07 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
28/07 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
26/07 – 09:45 to 11:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event until 11:00)
26/07 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2
27/07 – 10:45 to 12:30
=> 10:45 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
27/07 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event from 14:00)
28/07 – 12:30 to 17:30 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Paddock Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 17:00 – Notebook (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Supplementary Programming
25/07 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
25/07 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
26/07 – 16:00 to 16:30 – The Story so Far
27/07 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
25/07 – 19:30 to 20:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
27/07 – 14:00 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
28/07 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – 24 Hours of Spa
Also airs live on YouTube
27/07 and 28/07 – Race
=> 15:15 to 17:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 21:00 to 22:30 (Eurosport 2)
=> 09:30 [Sunday] to 10:50 (Eurosport)
=> 14:00 to 16:00 (Eurosport 2)

IndyCar Series – Mid-Ohio (Sky Sports F1)
27/07 – 19:30 to 21:30 – Qualifying
28/07 – 20:30 to 23:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Germany (Sky Sports F1)
28/07 – 11:20 to 12:00 – Race

Suzuka 8 Hours (Eurosport 2)
28/07 – 03:15 to 12:00 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Ipswich
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
27/07 – 06:45 to 08:30 – Race 1 (BT Sport 2)
28/07 – 04:45 to 06:45 – Race 2 (BT Sport 3)

This article will be updated if details change.


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Scheduling: The 2019 British Grand Prix / New York City E-Prix

Formula 1 heads home to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix!

For the first time this season, the race airs live on free-to-air television, with Channel 4 airing live coverage of the Grand Prix. Both Channel 4 and Sky have an ensemble cast on offer for the weekend.

No restrictions in place for Channel 4
Steve Jones continues to front Channel 4’s presentation team, with Eddie Jordan, Mark Webber and David Coulthard alongside him. Lee McKenzie will be roving the pit lane, as well as providing paddock interviews, whilst Coulthard will also be alongside Ben Edwards in the commentary box.

It is worth noting that the restrictions in place for Channel 4’s highlights programming are lifted for the British Grand Prix weekend, meaning that the structure of Channel 4’s coverage will remain similar to last season.

Simon Lazenby fronts Sky’s offering, with analysts including Martin Brundle, Jenson Button and Damon Hill providing analysis. Brundle is alongside David Croft on commentary, whilst Ted Kravitz is also back with his Notebook output.

As-is now tradition for Silverstone, Sky’s F1 Show airs on Thursday afternoon, but this year the show airs live from Club corner due to the renovations currently taking place on the main start-finish straight.

The change means that there is no Welcome to the Weekend on Thursday, as The F1 Show effectively moves from Saturday into its time slot. Welcome to the Weekend moves to Wednesday under the title of Welcome to Silverstone.

As noted recently, Sky Sports have gone the extra mile in the run-up to Silverstone. During the Silverstone weekend, a special documentary will air focusing on Sir Frank Williams’ fifty years in Formula 1. The documentary premieres following the Formula Two feature race on Saturday.

In addition, Sky are also continuing with their live coverage throughout the Friday lunch break, meaning that they are live from Silverstone from 09:30 to 17:00 on Friday, a set-up this site has advocated for a long time.

Meanwhile, Channel 4 is airing a special interview segment, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff interviewing England’s football manager Gareth Southgate. The film first airs on Friday after the second practice session.

Over on 5 Live, Jack Nicholls’ commitments with Formula E mean that Formula Two commentator Alex Jacques is his super-sub for the whole of the Silverstone weekend.

Cricket World Cup set to throw a spanner in the works
There is plenty going on from both broadcasters to make Silverstone feel like a special weekend. However, the Grand Prix faces stiff competition from both the Wimbledon finals, and the Cricket World Cup final.

The Cricket World Cup final is interesting, because Sky Sports have announced that they will make the final free-to-air if England make it. And who holds the free-to-air highlights rights for the Cricket World Cup? Channel 4….

Various media outlets are reporting that Channel 4 and Sky are in talks, in the event that England make the final. Either the Grand Prix will need to be moved to More 4 or, the Cricket World Cup final will need to air on More 4 during the Grand Prix.

If England made the final and I was a betting man, I would place good money on both the F1 build-up and post-race analysis moving to More 4. Nothing is confirmed, and will not be confirmed until Thursday 11th July, when England’s semi-final takes place.

Elsewhere…
The 2018-19 Formula E season comes to its conclusion with a double-header in New York, as Jean-Eric Vergne looks set to clinch his second championship. Both races air live across BBC’s Red Button, Eurosport 2 and BT Sport 2.

Prior to the big weekend, Sky Sports F1 are airing live coverage from the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The channel usually covers two-hours of live action, but has expanded the live amount this year to three hours. The action airs this Sunday (7th July) from 14:00.

With Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E, IndyCar, the W Series, and much, much more motor sport coming up throughout July, there is plenty on offer to whet the appetite.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
12/07 – 09:55 to 11:50 – Practice 1
12/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2
13/07 – 10:55 to 12:25 – Practice 3
13/07 – 12:55 to 15:50 – Qualifying
14/07 – 12:55 13:10 to 16:45 17:30 – Race

Supplementary Programming
12/07 – 15:35 to 16:00 – Wolff meets Southgate

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
12/07 – 09:30 to 17:30
=> 09:30 – F1: Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event from 09:45)
=> 11:55 – F2: Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:45 – Paddock (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:45 – F1: Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 15:55 – F2: Qualifying
=> 16:30 – The Story so Far
=> 17:00 – F3: Qualifying Tape-Delay
13/07 – 10:30 to 12:30 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 10:30 – Practice 3
=> 12:10 – Paddock Walkabout
13/07 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
14/07 – 12:30 to 17:30 – Race
=> 12:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – On the Grid
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Paddock Live
=> 17:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
07/07 – 14:00 to 17:00 – Goodwood Festival of Speed
10/07 – 18:30 to 19:00 – Welcome to Silverstone
11/07 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
11/07 – 16:30 to 17:30 – The F1 Show
12/07 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
13/07 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Sir Frank: 50 Years in F1
17/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
11/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
12/07 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
12/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/07 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/07 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14/07 – 14:00 to 16:30 – Race Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – New York City (race 1)
Also airs live on YouTube
12/07 – 20:45 to 21:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 12:15 to 13:30 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 14:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 16:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 2 and Eurosport 2)
13/07 – 20:30 to 22:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport 2
=> live on Eurosport 2 from 21:00 to 22:00

Formula E – New York City (race 2)
Also airs live on YouTube
14/07 – 13:45 to 15:00 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
14/07 – 16:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 2 and Eurosport 2)
14/07 – 20:30 to 22:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms
=> live on BT Sport 2
=> live on Eurosport 2 from 21:00 to 22:00

Euroformula – Red Bull Ring (BT Sport/ESPN)
Also airs live on YouTube
13/07 – 14:30 to 15:45 – Race 1
14/07 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

Formula Two – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
12/07 – 11:55 to 12:45 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
12/07 – 15:50 to 16:30 – Qualifying
13/07 – 15:35 to 16:50 – Race 1
14/07 – 09:50 to 10:50 – Race 2

Formula Three – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
12/07 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Qualifying Tape-Delay
13/07 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
14/07 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Toronto (Sky Sports F1)
13/07 – 19:00 to 20:30 – Qualifying
14/07 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race

International GT Open – Red Bull Ring (BT Sport/ESPN)
Also airs live on YouTube
13/07 – 15:45 to 17:15 – Race 1
14/07 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – New York City (BT Sport 2)
13/07 – 13:30 to 14:15 – Qualifying 1
13/07 – 18:45 to 20:00 – Race 1
14/07 – 12:55 to 13:40 – Qualifying 2
14/07 – 18:45 to 20:00 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
14/07 – 11:10 to 11:50 – Race

World Superbikes – Laguna Seca
Also airs live on World Superbikes‘ Video Pass (£)
13/07 – 18:45 to 19:45 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
13/07 – 22:00 to 23:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
14/07 – 18:45 to 19:45 – Qualifying Race (Eurosport 2)
14/07 – 22:00 to 23:15 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
17/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, coverage plans are subject to change back, so check back here for further adjustments.

Update on July 11th – England are in the Cricket World Cup final, having beaten Australia. Free-to-air coverge will now air live on Channel 4, but will switch to More 4 during the Grand Prix.

In my view, Channel 4 have made the right call here. England were last in the CWC final in 1992, whereas the British Grand Prix is a yearly event, so the decision to move some of the build-up and the reaction of the F1 to More 4 is a no brainer. Of course, the F1 is going to be squeezed massively on Sunday, but that is FOM’s fault on the scheduling front and not Channel 4’s or Sky’s.

Elsewhere, Claire Cottingham has confirmed that she will be part of Channel 4’s coverage this weekend, and likewise Alex Brundle has announced that he will be alongside Alex Jacques on Formula Two commentary for the feature race.

Update on July 12th – Interestingly, perhaps contractually, F1’s build-up and post-race show is not airing on More 4. Instead, Channel 4 have trimmed their F1 programming by an hour, with 15 minutes cut from the build-up and 45 minutes cut from the post-race analysis, leaving a total length of 3 hours and 35 minutes.

News round up: Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, Sky Sports ramp up preparations for their British Grand Prix coverage, whilst Formula E have won an award focussing on their television offering.

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

  • Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that the team will feature in the Netflix’s second season of Drive to Survive, having played no part in season one. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Wolff said that Netflix will film with the team at one race this year, which will “probably be Hockenheim.”
  • Ahead of the British Grand Prix next month, Sky Sports F1 have been busy filming different features.
    • Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert have been revisiting the 1995 British Grand Prix in Sky’s own cinema. Herbert won the race after Hill collided with Michael Schumacher in the closing stages.
    • A documentary celebrating Frank Williams’ fifty years in Formula 1 will premiere following the Silverstone qualifying session. The documentary features current Sky analyst and Williams Heritage driver Karun Chandhok driving the Brabham BT26, which was entered in 1969 by Williams as a privateer. Piers Courage raced the car to second place in the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix, their first ever podium.
  • F1’s in-house digital team have filmed two excellent pieces of content in recent weeks.
    • The team gave fans a peek behind the scenes with McLaren during the Monaco qualifying session.
  • F1’s in-house digital team is now also producing the content for Formula Two and Formula Three across social media, which explains the recent surge in video content across both of those championships.
  • To help with Formula Two’s growth, Formula 1 has launched an official podcast for their feeder series. Following in the footsteps of Beyond the Grid which launched a year ago, the Road to F1 podcast sees Alex Jacques and Rosanna Tennant interview the stars of Formula Two on their way to F1.
  • W Series commentator Claire Cottingham substituted for Jennie Gow during 5 Live’s coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix. Gow will be back in pit lane for 5 Live at Silverstone.
  • Recent audience figures in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. Live coverage airs on pay-TV outlet Ziggo Sport, and according to audience agency SKO
    • The Monaco Grand Prix averaged 547k (34.3%) for the pre-race build-up, 1.24m (46.1%) for the race itself and 637k (22.8%) for the post-race analysis.
    • In comparison, coverage of the French Grand Prix averaged 396k (26.5%), 824k (40.9%) and 357k (19.8%) respectively.
    • Max Verstappen’s dramatic victory in Austria averaged 479k (29.1%), 1.20m (49.5%) and 878k (36.9%).
    • France rated lower across all metrics. Austria rated lower than Monaco for both the pre-race build-up and race, noticeably closing the gap for the latter. Amazingly, Verstappen’s victory meant that the post-race segment for Austria rated higher than the French Grand Prix itself!
  • ESPN in the US continue to tout their own F1 audience figures. Live coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix attracted 1.1 million viewers on ABC, an increase of 17 percent on last year’s figure.

Formula E

  • Formula E TV won the ‘Best in Sports Media’ prize in 2019 Sports Business Awards. Formula E fought off competition from the likes of BBC Sport and the PGA European Tour to win the category.
    • The SBA said that Formula E’s television content “creates jeopardy, develops character and narrative throughout, uses technology and innovation to create a point of differentiation, and educates consumers about electric mobility while giving global manufacturers a platform to test and develop road-relevant technologies.”
  • The BBC’s technology programme Click went to Berlin at the end of May to find out more about the innovations driving the electric series (link).
  • On the social media side, Formula E’s team have been busy linking the championship in with popular culture. Heading into the Bern E-Prix, Formula E put their own spin on Crash Team Racing across their social channels.

Elsewhere…

  • IndyStar posted in the run up to the Indianapolis 500 an excellent behind the scenes look at NBC’s IndyCar coverage. The article is well worth a read, even if a little late noting on my behalf.
  • According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, an audience of 1.10 million viewers watched the IndyCar Grand Prix at Road America on NBC in the US, their highest IndyCar audience on record outside of the Indianapolis 500.
  • The remainder of the 2019 VLN Series will air live on Lets Go Racing’s YouTube channel. The channel, which also airs the Japanese Super Formula championship, was founded following the demise of Nismo TV at the end of last season.
  • Fans of the British Superbike championship in the US and Canada can now watch the championship live via MotorTrend On Demand platform.
  • A trailer for the new Ford versus Ferrari film was released last month ahead of its theatrical release in November. The film, which starts Matt Damon and Christian Bale, focuses on Ford’s attempts to beat Ferrari in the run up to the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. For UK readers, the film will premiere under the title of Le Mans ’66.
  • The Le Mans Esports Series generated some big numbers across digital media during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend. Ben Rossiter-Turner, the Managing Director of Virtually Entertained, gave readers a behind the scenes look at the series on his LinkedIn page.
  • In today’s unusual mention, Channel 4 Weather is now sponsored by W Series.

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