Scheduling: The 2016 Mexican Grand Prix

This weekend sees Formula 1 return to Mexico in its second year back on the calendar after a successful debut weekend in 2015. The weekend could also see Nico Rosberg claim his first Formula 1 championship.

Channel 4 are running extended programming on Saturday, with their practice three show 95 minutes long and their qualifying programme a whopping three hours long. This partially makes up for the fact that their race programme is shorter than usual, due to the new series of Humans following straight after the race has finished. We could see Channel 4 “running off the air” as soon as a new world champion is crowned, which I hope doesn’t happen. Hopefully More4 is used in the event of that happening.

Elsewhere, live coverage of the World Rally Championship returns to free-to-air television for the first time in over a decade with the Power Stage from the Wales Rally GB being aired live on Channel 5, as part of the agreement announced back in January. Channel 5’s live programme will be presented by Nicky Grist and Matthew Lorenzo; the latter name long-time readers will recognise well from Sky’s F1 Digital+ coverage back in 2002.

NOTE: Clocks go back one hour on Sunday 30th October, with the change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. The times listed are for BST on Saturday and before; GMT for Sunday and afterwards…

Channel 4 F1
28/10 – 15:55 to 17:40 – Practice 1 (More4)
28/10 – 19:55 to 21:35 – Practice 2 (More4)
29/10 – 15:55 to 17:30 – Practice 3 (Channel 4)
29/10 – 18:00 to 21:00 – Qualifying (Channel 4)
30/10 – 18:00 to 21:00 – Race (Channel 4)

Sky Sports F1
28/10 – 15:45 to 17:50 – Practice 1
28/10 – 19:45 to 22:00 – Practice 2
29/10 – 15:45 to 17:15 – Practice 3
29/10 – 18:00 to 20:45 – Qualifying
30/10 – 17:30 to 22:15 – Race
=> 17:30 – Track Parade
=> 18:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 18:30 – Race
=> 21:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
27/10 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Driver Press Conference
27/10 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
28/10 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Team Press Conference
28/10 – 22:30 to 23:00 – The F1 Show
02/11 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
27/10 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
28/10 – 15:55 to 17:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/10 – 18:55 to 20:35 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/10 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – Malaysia (BT Sport 2)
28/10 – 02:00 to 09:00
=> 02:00 – Practice 1
=> 04:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 06:00 – Practice 2
29/10 – 02:00 to 09:15
=> 02:00 – Practice 3
=> 05:00 – Qualifying
30/10 – 01:30 to 03:15 – Warm Up
30/10 – 03:30 to 08:15
=> 03:30 – Moto3 race
=> 05:15 – Moto2 race
=> 06:45 – MotoGP race

MotoGP – Malaysia (ITV4)
31/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights

Euroformula – Jerez
29/10 – Race 1
=> 14:00 to 15:00 (BT Sport X3)
=> 14:05 to 15:15 (Motors TV)
30/10 – Race 2
=> 11:15 to 12:15 (BT Sport X1)
=> 12:05 to 13:10 (Motors TV)

Formula V8 3.5 – Jerez
29/10 – 12:45 to 14:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport 2)
30/10 – 12:15 to 13:45 – Race 2 (BT Sport X1)

World Rally Championship – Wales Rally GB
28/10 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
29/10 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:45 to 22:15 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
30/10 – Live: Stage 1 (BT Sport 1 / 4K)
30/10 – Live: Power Stage
=> 11:50 to 13:10 (Channel 5)
=> 12:00 to 13:00 (BT Sport 1 / 4K)
30/10 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 22:15 to 22:45 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
31/10 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Superbikes – Qatar (British Eurosport 2)
29/10 – 15:15 to 19:00 – Qualifying and Race 1
30/10 – 16:00 to 19:00 – Support and Race 2

UK’s Formula 1 ratings hit new low as pay TV beats free-to-air highlights for first time

The United States Grand Prix dropped to a new low for the 2016 Formula One season as Sky Sports’ coverage of the race beat Channel 4’s highlights programme, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Sky Sports 1 and F1 from 19:00 to 22:30, averaged 984k (4.6%). An audience of 569k (2.7%) watched on Sky Sports F1, with a further 416k (1.9%) watching on Sky Sports 1, the audience split 58:42 in the dedicated channel’s favour. Sky Sports 1’s coverage benefited from following Chelsea’s 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United, which 1.47m (10.3%) watched from 15:30 to 18:30.

The numbers are Sky’s lowest for USA since 2013 when the championship was already wrapped up. Since then, Sky Sports F1’s numbers have dropped, with Sky Sports 1’s simulcast increasing slightly, arresting the decline. Sky’s average is down 13 percent on 2015 and down 26 percent on 2014. On the other hand, Sky’s USA viewing figures are their highest of the season so far.

Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 841k (13.5%) from 23:00 to 01:00. In the Channel 4 landscape, based on that timeslot, it is a good number and will be above their own slot average. In the Formula 1 landscape, this is a frankly awful number and one that raises a lot of questions. There are a lot of takeaways from this number that are worth mentioning.

Sky Sports beat Channel 4’s highlights programme. Only just, at a ratio of 54:46, but they can say that they’ve done it, although I wouldn’t shout about it considering both channels averaged less than one million viewers. The time slots are imbalanced and in Sky’s favour, but it shows how times have changed from BBC’s viewing figures last season. Let’s make it clear: viewers have not switched from free-to-air to pay TV in how they consume Formula 1. They’ve either switched off completely or moved to other methods of viewing, such as Now TV and Sky Go.

“Viewing of F1, EFL and cricket is up strongly year on year, and The Open saw a reach of 8m on TV and 2.8m unique users online. Through our growing digital platforms and apps, On Demand service and Now TV offering, there is something for every sports fan.” – Sky Sports’ Managing Director Barney Francis, speaking to The Guardian in response to press articles about declining football viewing figures

The shared contract between Sky and BBC/Channel 4 has underlined how poor the deal has been with respect to the North American races. Historically, North American races would have been a four to five million plus banker rating. Now, thanks to the way the ‘pick’ system works, America has been reduced to being aired on the fringes of primetime to a depleted audience. It simply is not good enough. Nothing will change on this front anyway, but Channel 4’s number illustrates the point well in my opinion.

The other point is that Channel 4’s scheduling was poor. Scheduling a film premiere before it is good, but it was not blockbuster power. The Grand Budapest Hotel averaged 1.22m (6.7%) from 21:00 to 23:00. Formula 1’s highlights programme ideally should have started at 22:30, with a 90-minute run-length. Stretching it out until 01:00 was only going to deplete viewing figures, which should have been considered when scheduling the highlights. It was by choice as opposed to a contractual obligation: in 2014, the BBC’s highlights programme started at 22:30 despite the race starting at 20:00.

The combined audience of 1.83 million viewers is the lowest Formula 1 has averaged in the overnight viewing figures since the 2006 French Grand Prix. That race averaged 1.82m (23.2%) from 12:05 to 14:55 on July 16th, 2006 on ITV. It is a desperately poor number in a season that has continued to lose interest since the Summer break. The consolidated numbers won’t change the picture too much unless a significant number of people time shifted the highlights programme.

Live coverage of qualifying averaged 306k (1.5%) on Sky Sports F1 from 18:00 to 20:45, a record low for USA. 2014’s qualifying session averaged 532k (2.8%), airing an hour earlier.

Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.00m (7.1%) from 22:00 to 23:30 meaning that their qualifying programme beat their race programme, which is extremely rare. It probably isn’t too surprising when you compare the respective time slots but underlines why the highlights need to be aired in the earliest possible time slot for the American races.

The combined average of 1.31 million viewers is the second lowest of 2016, only ahead of Japan from two weeks ago.

The 2015 United States Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Live in-car footage set to take centre stage in revamped F1 app

The official Formula 1 app is set to get an overhaul, with a new version of the app currently in beta testing.

Images have been circulating on social media with Dutch users testing the app. The new app appears to give users the ability to customise which of the 22 cars they wish to ride on-board with. The key word in the linked tweet is “all”. In previous iterations of Sky’s Race Control app, there was always the limitation of how many cars the user could choose from. That is about to change.

This is clearly a significant development as the F1 app has never featured live footage of any nature before, and is a major step in the right direction from Formula One Management (FOM). I assume the testing is in preparation for the 2017 season, but as of writing we do not know yet.

What we do know is that there has been a lot of advances in the way data is transferred by Tata Communications, which will open up avenues such as every on-board camera being open at one time, and available for the viewer to use. Ideally, FOM need to be looking at MotoGP’s Video Pass and beyond for what content they need to be delivering to the consumer.

Of course, there are further questions: will this come at a cost to the customer (almost certainly an increase for F1 Access) and will it be geo-blocked where rights restrictions are in place (UK with Sky for example). On the surface, this looks like a very promising development.

As ever, we await further information and I’ll update this post when we hear anything, but it looks like 2017 will see a significant change in this landscape.

Scheduling: The 2016 United States Grand Prix

17 down, four to go. For Nico Rosberg, there’s a very good chance that he could become Formula One Drivers’ Champion before Abu Dhabi if he secures a win in Austin this weekend. Elsewhere, the MotoGP championship was clinched by Marc Marquez in Motegi last weekend, meaning that the paddock will be slightly more relaxed than last year in Australia!

Sky Sports are airing F1 every session exclusively live, with the race being simulcast on Sky Sports 1. There is a special documentary on the F1 channel following the race entitled ‘Two Weeks to Win’ looking at Mercedes F1’s turnaround from the Spanish Grand Prix to the Monaco Grand Prix this season. The documentary was released by UBS in August and produced by Whisper Films, who of course also produce Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage (although a good handful of Whisper’s staff used to work for Sky F1). Either way, it is not a Sky produced exclusive.

For those of you without Sky, the bad news is that Channel 4’s highlights programme is not on until 23:00 which is frankly ridiculous. It is the latest a highlights programme has started since the shared deal started in 2012.In 2014, when the race started at 20:00, BBC One’s highlights programme aired from 22:30 to 00:00. So it isn’t that Channel 4 can’t do it, they’ve just chosen not to, instead scheduling a film premiere before the F1 from 21:00 to 23:00.

On the MotoGP front, Suzi Perry is presenting BT’s MotoGP coverage from Australia which is a nice bit of commitment from themselves, even if the timing is somewhat unlucky with the main title already wrapped up. I don’t believe this extends to their speedway coverage which is also in Australia, albeit a two hour drive away.

Channel 4 F1
22/10 – 22:00 to 23:30 – Qualifying Highlights
23/10 – 23:00 to 01:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
21/10 – 15:45 to 17:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Mix)
21/10 – 19:45 to 22:00 – Practice 2
22/10 – 15:45 to 17:15 – Practice 3
22/10 – 18:00 to 20:45 – Qualifying
23/10 – 18:30 to 23:15 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 18:30 – Track Parade
=> 19:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 19:30 – Race
=> 22:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
19/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
20/10 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Driver Press Conference
20/10 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
21/10 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Team Press Conference
21/10 – 22:30 to 23:00 – The F1 Show
23/10 – 23:15 to 23:45 – Two Weeks to Win: Mercedes F1
26/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
20/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
21/10 – 15:55 to 17:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/10 – 19:30 to 22:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – Australia (BT Sport 2)
21/10 – 00:00 to 07:00
=> 00:00 – Practice 1
=> 02:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 04:00 – Practice 2
22/10 – 23:00 (Friday) to 07:15
=> 23:00 – Practice 3
==> extended following heavy rain on Friday
=> 03:00 – Qualifying
23/10 – 00:30 to 02:15 – Warm Up
23/10 – 02:30 to 07:15
=> 02:30 – Moto3 race
=> 04:15 – Moto2 race
=> 05:45 – MotoGP race

MotoGP – Australia (ITV4)
24/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights

Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 – Estoril (BT Sport 2)
22/10 – 13:15 to 14:00 – Race 1
23/10 – 10:00 to 10:45 – Race 2

European Le Mans Series – 4 Hours of Estoril (Motors TV)
23/10 – 13:10 to 18:05 – Race

Speedway Grand Prix – Australia (BT Sport 2)
22/10 – 09:45 to 13:15 – Races

V8 Supercars – Gold Coast 600
22/10 – 04:30 to 07:30 – Race 22 (BT Sport 1)
23/10 – 05:00 to 08:00 – Race 23 (BT Sport//ESPN)

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


Looking at MotoGP’s Video Pass

Normally, when I mention the need for a Formula 1 over-the-top service, the first comparison is with the WWE Network, which launched in 2014. But, there is a comparison that can be made with a service much closer to home. Enter the MotoGP Video Pass.

For the 2016 season, fans in the UK have only had access to the premium option due to the television contract in place with BT Sport. The option costs €199.00 across the whole season, dropping pro rota as the season progresses. The remaining four races (Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Valencia) costs the customer €44.95, or £40.41. The standard pass costs €99.95, but is not available to UK readers.

With 18 races a season, this currently works out as:

  • Premium: €11.06 / £9.95
  • Standard: €5.55 / £4.99

Across the year, this works out as the following per month:

  • Premium: €16.58 / £14.91
  • Standard: €8.33 / £7.49

In comparison, the WWE Network costs £9.99 a month. Netflix ranges from £5.99 to £8.99 a month for their premium option. Amazon Prime at most costs £7.49. If anything, the MotoGP Video Pass is slightly on the expensive side considering the range of content that you receive with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. If anything, a third tier is perhaps needed for the MotoGP Video Pass: retain the high-end Premium pass, but drop the standard pass slightly and introduce an in-the-middle pass.

One feed, two screens, a three-way or four feeds open all at once: the MotoGP Video Pass leaves the customisation choice down to you.

However, there is a major problem with the MotoGP Video Pass. It is a one-off payment for the full season, not a monthly subscription. Not everyone wishes to pay ~£160 out in one go, and instead would prefer to pay it monthly with an option to cancel. The fact that there isn’t an option to do that is surprising. I imagine Amazon and Netflix’s subscription numbers would be lower if consumers were forced to pay the full amount out at the start of their contract instead of a rolling monthly payment.

It is also worth noting that the customisation is not available for the standard Video Pass, only the premium pass, which should not be a surprise when you see the respective prices. In any case, I’ve parted with £40.41 now for a premium subscription which will run out on November 14th. The main reason for this is so I can watch Motegi and Philip Island without the fear of walking into spoilers a few hours after the race has finished. Half way through the registration I’m reminded what is included: live and on demand coverage, six live feeds, audio mixer, classics and the extensive video library, amongst many more things. Sounds pretty good, time to dive in!

Layout and usability
It is astonishing how easy it is to get the UI of a website wrong by failing to follow basic standards. There are some basic principles to follow when designing a website from page layout to the colour scheme used. The interface needs to be reactive for all devices. The best phrase I’ve come across in this fora is KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. When someone has paid to access the Video Pass, in return they should get an interface that is neat, and does what they expect. Anything that falls short of the minimum standard, and the customer will be expecting a refund.


The MotoGP Video Pass is aesthetically pleasing from the get-go. There are seven drill down pages which can be accessed from the navigation bar:

  • Best of: This is the landing page, consisting of video content generated for this weekend’s race, but also historical content that has relevance on this day. For example, the landing page contains content related to Toni Elias’ win in the 2006 Portuguese MotoGP and the 1992 Japanese Grand Prix which was Dorna’s first MotoGP race.
  • Live: The live World Feed. At the time I’m writing this, the feed is not active, the next session due to start is in eight hours’ time for the Moto3 warm-up. Heading to this page also gives you a detailed history of the most recent sessions that have. happened, which may be useful if you had to dip out of something half way through.
  • 2016 Season: Video links to every single session from the 2016 season so far. This page contains a relatively spoiler-free screenshot of each section. But Dorna have appreciated that fans may want to just see a chronological listing of every session without any context, which is where the next tab comes in…
  • No Spoiler: A simple idea well executed. A no-frills, spoiler free page which lists every session going back to 2002. Want to watch the 2004 season without any context whatsoever? Not a problem. Each video page has a different layout depending on whether you wish to watch with or without spoilers.
  • Show: An in-depth look inside the world of MotoGP, from technology insights to off-track gossip.
  • Past Seasons: A mirror of the ‘2016 Season’ page, but instead for every season from 1992 to 2008.
  • All videos: Everything that has been uploaded to the MotoGP video vault.

It is a straightforward process, and everything is accessible within three or four clicks, as it should be. For example, to access the 2004 South African Grand Prix, it is a case of pressing ‘Past Seasons’ on the navigation bar, clicking ‘2004’, scrolling down to the foot of the page (it was race one) and pressing ‘MotoGP Race – Full session – Africas´s Grand Prix’. It is that simple, as it should be.

One element I’m struggling to see is a way to quickly watch and organise, for example, Marc Marquez’s classic races. Can I bookmark six races to watch later at a time convenient for me? The organisation is excellent and well thought through, but tailored ‘driver’ pages with all their best races in would be a nice addition. Anyway, the main reason I’m here is to watch the MotoGP qualifying session from Motegi. So let’s get to it.

The video interface
Remember that for every session from 2002 onwards, there are two entry points: a spoiler option and a no-spoiler option. With that, you’re presented with two different interfaces when you load up the video. The no-spoiler option takes you straight into the session.

MotoGP Video Pass - video window.png
The MotoGP Video Pass window ahead of the 2016 Japanese MotoGP qualifying session.

The spoiler option presents you with three different options:

  • Full Video: Identical as the no-spoiler option, except the spoiler interface contains bookmarks of all the key moments.
  • Condensed Video: Plays all of the pre-selected bookmark moments only.
  • Customize Session: Allows you to select which of the bookmarked moments to play in full.

The condensed versions are nice to have, but I couldn’t imagine using them if I was using the Video Pass in anger, simply because the condensed video clips are likely to have been uploaded to social media in a much quicker time frame. However, they may be useful if you’re watching a historical event and only want to watch the key battles for the lead.

The interface itself, and the customisation available is immense. Going from left to right:

  • Settings (toggle): Choose between low, 360p, 540p, 720p and Auto for video quality.
  • Updates: Session updates as you are watching. This was blank for me irrespective of which option I chose, so I think this is active only during the live World Feed.
  • Highlights: Switch to the key moments in the session. This is blank if you’ve chosen the no-spoiler option, but shows the bookmarks if you’ve chosen the spoiler options.
  • View: This is where the customisation really begins. Choose your choice of six possible multi-screen options. Once you’ve chosen your multi-screen option, drag in the cameras you wish to choose from the options available.
  • Cameras: Choose from the World Feed, four on-board options, live timing and live tracking.
  • Volume
  • Audio Configuration: If you want to watch MotoGP without commentary, this is the place for you. Mute the commentary, choosing the ambient sound only, or the on-board of your choice (assuming you’re watching the on-board feed in question)

In essence, if you wanted to watch the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session from the perspectives of Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez, with the World Feed in the background without commentary, you can do that. The live stream might be different, but not once did the interface crash with the amount of tweaks I was performing to the layout on-screen.

My experience so far is excellent with the Video Pass. There are no glaring omissions as far as I can see, nor any usability mishaps. It highlights how far behind Formula 1 is with their online offering. The pass is everything a MotoGP fan would want, and perhaps a little bit more as well.