Hong Kong E-Prix peaks with 355,000 viewers on BBC Two

A packed weekend of motor sport to kick start the traditional season saw Formula E lead the way on its BBC Two debut, overnight viewing figures show.

Formula E makes BBC Two debut
As part of their commitment to air one race on linear television, BBC aired the Hong Kong E-Prix live on BBC Two this past weekend. The race brought in a solid audience, according to audience numbers supplied by Overnights.tv.

An average of 229k (4.6%) tuned into the broadcast from 07:30 to 09:30. Sunday’s audience is an improvement on the last two seasons for Hong Kong, when the race aired on tape-delay on Channel 5.

In a positive sign, the BBC’s race coverage saw consistent growth throughout the broadcast, increasing its audience in most of the five-minute segments between 07:35 and 09:05. The race peaked with 355k (6.5%) at 09:00 as the race concluded.

It is Formula E’s highest UK audience for an Asian-based race since their first ever E-Prix in 2014. Back then, live coverage of the Beijing E-Prix on ITV4 averaged 266k (4.7%) and peaked with 477k (6.8%).

BT Sport and Eurosport make negligible difference to the overall picture, averaging 5k (0.10%) and 8k (0.16%) respectively, if anything showing the importance of free-to-air for Formula E.

For me, Formula E’s audience is solid, whether it is enough to convince the BBC to move the series off the Red Button for the latter half of the season, I do not know. If the peak was nearer to 500,000 viewers, I think the decision may be easier, that is if there is even a discussion here.

Last weekend’s race was Formula E’s first on a mainstream television channel since June last year, so expectations from a viewing figures perspective are lower as a result. With a bit of promotion, a European race could peak at around 800,000 viewers on BBC One, potentially. Time will tell if the BBC genuinely considers that a viable option this season.

MotoGP’s return peaks with 249,000 viewers on BT
A new season of MotoGP kicked off on BT Sport 2 with the Qatar GP. The leading bike series was unaffected by tough football opposition on Sky.

The race brought in an audience similar to previous years. The 90-minute MotoGP slot averaged 190k (1.3%) from 16:30 to 18:00, a slight decrease on last year’s figure of 211k (1.5%), but an increase on the 2014 and 2017 averages.

A peak of 249k (1.6%) watched as Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso went wheel-to-wheel over the finish line for the second year running. The peak audience is in-line with the past two years, which peaked with 247k (1.3%) and 255k (1.9%) respectively.

Free-to-air highlights of the championship moved from Channel 5 to Quest, with the audience dropping significantly year-on-year. Quest aired two highlights shows at 18:00 and 23:00 respectively. Their premiere airing averaged 140k (0.9%), with the repeat bringing in 50k (0.8%).

The combined Quest audience of 190k is down 58 percent on Channel 5’s highlights audience for Qatar last season of 456k (2.5%). It is lower than all bar three MotoGP races on either ITV4 or Channel 5 since the highlights arrangement started in 2014.

Cumulatively, the drop for the highlights airing meant that MotoGP peaked with 513,000 viewers in the UK over the weekend, when accounting for BT’s live airing and Quest’s two repeats, a disappointing number for the championship.

As with all the figures in this piece, on demand platforms such as BT Sport’s online services and MotoGP’s VideoPass over-the-top offering are not included, which may make a small difference to the total MotoGP numbers.

IndyCar struggles on Sky return as St Pete opener plagued by technical issues
It was not a good Sunday for IndyCar, on all fronts. The series returned for a new season in St Petersburg, and with it came a change of channel for UK viewers, as the championship moved from BT Sport to Sky Sports F1.

Viewing figures struggled, with the race averaging 19k (0.11%) from 16:30 to 20:30, a decrease on last year’s BT audience of 25k (0.16%) over a shorter 200-minute time slot. Sky’s coverage peaked with 56k (0.32%) at 18:40 on Sunday, compared with 56k (0.38%) one year ago on BT.

The season opener faced MotoGP on BT and Premier League football on Sky, which may have impacted figures. Last month, F1 testing brought in a higher audience than IndyCar managed, although testing aired across the F1 channel and Main Event.

Considering the buzz when the IndyCar deal was first announced, Sky’s audience is disappointing. IndyCar, from a UK perspective, failed to move the needle outside of the Twitter bubble. However, IndyCar could benefit from cross-promotion during Sky’s main F1 coverage this year, so the picture could change as the season progresses.

The problems with Sky’s IndyCar broadcast may not have helped audience figures, although I doubt it caused a significant dent given the low base to start with.

IndyCar produces two feeds: a domestic feed for NBC, and an international feed. The feeds contain different graphics set, whilst the former is also not a continuous feed of the racing action. For St Pete, Sky aired the domestic feed ‘as-is’, breaking away to their own commercials when NBC in America went to adverts or went ‘side-by-side’.

What this meant was a downgrade on coverage offered by BT Sport in previous years. It was expected that Sky would take some commercials (@IndyCarUK understands four ad-breaks), but also utilise the feed to stay on the action for most of the race outside of yellow flag periods.

Whether Sky were unaware that the domestic feed was going to break away from the action or not is unclear. Either way, the communication between Sky Sports, NBC Sports and IndyCar needs to be clearer ready for Austin in two weeks’ time.

In a separate issue, IndyCar’s broadcast lost pictures completely for around 15 minutes on Sunday, affecting both the domestic NBC feed and the international feed. IndyStar Sports writer Jim Ayello reports that there was “a power supply failure to one of IMS Productions’ up-links due to two amplifiers overheating,” which caused the feed to go down.

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Quest grabs MotoGP highlights

Highlights of the MotoGP championship will air on Quest for the next two seasons, the broadcaster has confirmed, in an eleventh hour announcement.

The package previously aired on ITV4 from 2014 to 2016, before the contract went to Channel 5 in time for the 2017 season. Now, the 60-minute highlights package, produced by BT Sport, heads to the free-to-air branch of Discovery Communications. Discovery also owns Eurosport, with coverage of the British Superbikes series also airing on their portfolio of channels.

The 60-minute highlights show will also be available via Quest’s on-demand platform QuestOD, with highlights of Qatar airing this Monday (11th March) at 18:00.

It has been a roller-coaster three years for Channel 5, who appear to have fell in and out of love with motor sport very quickly. The order of events suggests that there has been a decision taken at a higher level to wind down their motor racing commitments, rather than each individual series choosing to part company with Channel 5.

The free-to-air broadcaster picked up, and promptly stopped showing MotoGP and Formula E within the space of two and a half years, with highlights of the World Rally Championship almost suffering the same fate.

Channel 5’s recent motor sport history
> January 2016: Secures WRC highlights
> September 2016: Secures Formula E
> March 2017: Secures MotoGP highlights
> November 2018: Loses Formula E
> January 2019: Loses WRC highlights (briefly)
> March 2019: Loses MotoGP highlights

Simon Downing, Quest’s Head of Channel, said “We are delighted to add MotoGP to our premium sport portfolio. It’s the highest profile two-wheel event on the calendar and we are proud to be able to offer this exclusively free-to-air to our viewers – not just on linear but across our digital platforms too.”

“We’re really looking forward to the upcoming season on what I’m sure will once again provide many exciting moments across all three Championships.”

MotoGP highlights brought in solid viewing figures on Channel 5 over the past two seasons, regularly peaking with over half a million viewers. The two seasons that Channel 5 aired averaged 406k (2.4%) and 404k (2.3%) respectively according to overnight viewing figures supplied by Overnights.tv.

It is highly unlikely that MotoGP will reach those numbers on Quest. ITV4’s final season covering MotoGP in 2016 averaged 285k (1.4%) in a Monday evening time slot at 20:00. The earlier time slot on Quest, combined with the channel’s lower standing may mean that averages struggle to get above 250,000 viewers.

It is unclear whether ITV4 was an option, which MotoGP passed upon, or whether ITV were simply not interested. Having a free-to-air presence is always excellent news, and MotoGP fans should be glad that the package remains. The eleventh hour announcement though suggests that Dorna have struggled to find a home for the free-to-air package.

With the Quest contract being a two-year deal, however, the days of MotoGP reaching a large audience are large gone, and look unlikely to return any time soon.

Scheduling: The 2019 Qatar MotoGP / Hong Kong E-Prix

After a dominant display in 2018, Marc Marquez looks to keep hold of the MotoGP crown, as the championship springs back to life in Qatar.

This year though, Marquez has a new partner at Repsol Honda in Jorge Lorenzo, a pairing that will be fascinating to watch as the season progresses. For UK fans, live coverage of the series remains on BT Sport.

2019 is the first of BT’s new three year MotoGP contract, and with it Suzi Perry is on-board as BT’s presenter at every race this season. The main personnel change for BT is that James Toseland is no longer with the team.

On the free-to-air front, highlights of the championship move from Channel 5 to Quest, with the 60-minute show airing in an earlier time slot on Monday evenings.

Staying on tarmac, Formula E makes the jump to BBC Two for the Hong Kong E-Prix as part of their commitment to air one race on terrestrial television. In a throwback to ITV’s coverage of the series, Jennie Gow presents from the BBC’s Salford studios.

Jamie Chadwick and Marc Priestley are alongside Gow in the BBC studio, instead of Billy Monger as originally billed. Prior to the live airing, delayed coverage of qualifying airs via the Red Button for the first time.

To be honest, there is an argument that the Formula E World Feed on its own would have been a better approach, especially as the World Feed output has matured since ITV covered the series in its inaugural years. Saying that, adding a bit of colour to the broadcast is par for the course for BBC’s sporting output on linear television, so it is not too surprising.

Meanwhile, the IndyCar Series moves from BT Sport to Sky Sports F1 in a multi-year deal, with Sky covering qualifying and the race live. The expectation is that Sky are taking IndyCar’s World Feed without any bespoke wrap-around content. UK viewers will hear the likes of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy calling the action.

There is a lot of action across the weekend, with IndyCar overlapping with both MotoGP and the climax of Rally Mexico.

MotoGP – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
02/03 – 19:45 to 20:45 – Season Preview
08/03 – 10:30 to 18:15 – Practice 1 and 2
09/03 – 10:15 to 13:15 – Practice 3
09/03 – 14:00 to 16:15 – Qualifying
10/03 – 11:30 to 19:00
=> 11:30 – Warm Ups
=> 13:15 – Moto3
=> 15:00 – Moto2
=> 16:30 – MotoGP
=> 18:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP  – Qatar (Quest)
11/03 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Hong Kong
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying also air live on YouTube…
09/03 – 07:45 to 08:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
09/03 (Saturday night) – 23:15 to 00:15 – Practice 1 (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 01:45 to 02:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 03:30 to 05:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport 3 and Eurosport)
10/03 – 06:00 to 07:30 – Qualifying Delayed (BBC Red Button)
10/03 – 07:30 to 09:30 – Race
=> live on BBC Two until 09:15
=> live on BT Sport 3
=> live on Eurosport 2
10/03 – 07:30 to 09:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)

IndyCar Series – St Petersburg (Sky Sports F1)
09/03 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying
10/03 – 16:30 to 20:30 – Race

World Rally Championship – Mexico (All Live)
Every stage also live via WRCPlus.com
07/03 – 16:45 to 18:15 – Shakedown (BT Sport Extra 1)
08/03 – 01:30 to 03:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport Extra 1)
08/03 – 15:00 to 02:15 – Stages 2 to 9 (BT Sport Extra 3)
09/03 – 13:15 to 02:45 – Stages 10 to 18 (BT Sport Extra 1)
10/03 – 14:00 to 19:45 – Stages 19 to 21 (BT Sport Extra 2)

World Rally Championship – Mexico
08/03 – 02:00 to 03:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 3)
09/03 – 05:00 to 05:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
09/03 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Stage 12 (BT Sport/ESPN)
10/03 – 05:00 to 05:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 18:00 to 19:30 – Stage 16 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
11/03 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
11/03 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

Asia Talent Cup – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
09/03 – 13:15 to 14:00 – Race 1
10/03 – 10:30 to 11:30 – Race 2

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Hong Kong (BT Sport 3)
10/03 – 00:15 to 01:15 – Qualifying
10/03 – 05:45 to 06:45 – Race

As always, I will update the schedule if anything changes.

Updated on March 5th with changes to the BBC’s Formula E line-up. Updated further on March 8th, with Quest’s MotoGP deal announcement.

Scheduling: The 2018 Ad Diriyah E-Prix / Christmas reviews

A bass riff may not accompany Formula E, nor may it be airing on one of the BBC’s traditional television outlets, but nevertheless, the electric series takes a major step into the future as season five begins, with live coverage across the BBC’s digital platforms.

The start of the 2018-19 season takes the championship to a new, perhaps controversial, location as the series descends on Saudi Arabia for the Ad Diriyah E-Prix.

For UK fans, as well as the BBC and incumbents Eurosport, the actions airs live on BT Sport and YouTube for the first time. The BBC’s coverage is of the race itself, from the five-minute sting to after the chequered flag, excluding the pre-race festivities.

In a departure from last season, Eurosport are taking the World Feed commentary with Bob Varsha, Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti, a surprise considering Eurosport usually provide their own commentary feed for motor racing events.

However, BT Sport is the only UK television station that will air every Formula E session live, including the Shakedown on Friday afternoons, as well as practice on Saturday mornings. For non-BT Sport fans, the good news is that every session airs live via YouTube. Additionally, highlights air on Discovery-owned channel Quest following their Football League highlights show on Saturday, with a repeat on Sunday morning.

Vernon Kay and Nicki Shields complete the World Feed line-up. Kay stays in the Formula E paddock after impressing as Channel 5’s presenter last season. Last year, North One Television produced Channel 5 output, North One also forming part of Formula E’s worldwide output alongside Aurora.

Laurence McKenna hosts the tailored YouTube race programme, called ‘Voltage’, with Becky Evans alongside him. Neither are names regular readers will recognise, but both are young and active in the car scene on social media, and are exactly the right people to grow Formula E’s presence amongst the younger generation.

Red Bull profiled Evans here, whilst McKenna has presented a variety of social media output and podcasts in the past few years. KSI and Zerkaa, who form part of the Sidemen (a group of YouTube personalities), join McKenna and Evans in the YouTube London hub.

Elsewhere, December is packed with season reviews. BT Sport are going the extra mile with their MotoGP review show airing live from The Bike Shed in London. Suzi Perry presents as usual, with special guests including Bradley Smith, Sam Lowes, and triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Sky’s F1 review show premieres on Christmas Eve, whilst Channel 4 are not airing a formal Christmas show following their short review during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

Formula E – Ad Diriyah
All sessions air live via YouTube and the following UK channels…
14/12 – 11:45 to 12:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
15/12 – 04:00 to 04:45 – Practice 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 06:00 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 07:30 to 09:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN and Eurosport 2)
15/12 – 11:00 to 13:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms from 12:00
=> live on BT Sport/ESPN
=> live on Eurosport 2
15/12 – 11:30 to 13:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)
15/12 – 22:30 to 23:30 – Highlights (Quest)

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Ad Diriyah (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 04:45 to 05:30 – Qualifying
15/12 – 09:30 to 10:30 – Race

MotoGP (BT Sport 2)
09/12 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Season Review

BBC Radio F1
TBC – Season Review

Sky Sports F1
24/12 – 19:00 to 21:00
=> 19:00 – Alonso / Johnson Car Swap
=> 19:30 – Jean Todt Exclusive: Future of F1
=> 20:00 – Season Review

In the run-up to Christmas, keep an eye on this post in the event of any changes to the review programming over the festive period.

Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2018 Verdict

The 2018 Formula One season has ended, and with it, brings down the curtain on the motor racing year.

On-track, it has been a year of generally good racing wherever you look. Whilst neither the F1 or MotoGP seasons went down the wire, the racing in both has been worth watching on many occasions this year.

Off the track, there have been many developments on the broadcasting front. Traditionally, the end of season verdict has stuck to the UK F1 view point, but we live in a motor sport world far greater than both the UK and F1, and with that in mind it makes sense to expand the scope of the verdict to encompass all elements of broadcasting.

Whether it has been the launch of F1 TV, or World Rally Championship’s All Live service, there has been plenty of movement in the online arena. Liberty Media have made their mark on Formula 1’s graphics set, whilst closer to home, 2018 was the last year of Channel 4’s current F1 contract, the broadcaster remaining in a reduced capacity, for 2019 at least.

Now, we want your opinion. Has something irritated you with this year’s motor sport coverage? Have I missed a revolution that this site should be covering? And what would you like to be different about the motor sport broadcasting scene in 2019? Are you planning to watch a new series next season?

As always, the best thoughts and views will form a new article closer to the festive period.