Toyota’s Le Mans victory peaks with 343,000 viewers

Toyota’s first Le Mans victory, with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and debutant Fernando Alonso at the helm, peaked with 343,000 viewers on Sunday afternoon in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.

Le Mans down on 2017, but solid against World Cup competition
2018 was always going to be a tough year for Le Mans thanks to reduced competition in the flagship LMP1 class, as well as the football World Cup competition getting underway, but the famous race fared solidly.

Live coverage of the race aired in its entirety on Eurosport, with three portions airing on free-to-air channel Quest TV. ITV4’s coverage, which was present last year, did not return for 2018 which should be factored into year-on-year comparisons. However, the level of coverage was like that provided in 2015 and 2016.

The audience figures in this piece exclude those who watched via the Eurosport Player, FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) App or via other online means.

Across all UK television outlets, the whole race averaged 84k (1.3%) from 13:45 on Saturday through to 14:15 on Sunday, which is in the same ballpark as previous years. The audience is lower than 2015 and 2017, when the race averaged 98k (1.5%) and 98k (1.7%) respectively. In both years there was no major football tournament to contend with.

Le Mans was up on the 2016 race average of 73k (0.9%), which should be considered a success, considering 2016 clashed with the Euro 2016 tournament (the weekend also clashed with Formula 1’s European Grand Prix).

Eurosport’s coverage averaged 53k (0.9%) from 13:45 on Saturday, a slight decrease on last year’s audience of 59k (1.0%). It is Eurosport’s worst average audience for the race since 2012, although the margins are tight between the different years. Their coverage peaked with 146k (2.4%) at 10:50 on Sunday, down around 20,000 viewers on the 2017 peak audience of 166k (2.5%).

Unlike in previous years, Eurosport’s coverage did not build its audience in the final few hours, slipping back under 100k at 12:05, and only jumping back above that mark at 13:20. At 13:50, 135k (1.5%) were watching Eurosport’s coverage.

Three separate shows aired on Quest TV. The start of the race averaged 62k (0.7%) from 13:30 to 15:00, down on last year’s audience of 89k (1.6%). Saturday’s evening update at 22:00 averaged 102k (0.8%), an increase of 4,000 viewers on last year’s figure of 98k (0.7%).

The highlight for Quest was Sunday’s live coverage, which averaged 130k (1.8%), peaking with 209k (2.3%) at 13:50, their highest Le Mans peak since 2015.

The combined peak audience of 343k (3.8%) came at 13:55 on Sunday, with the audience split 134k vs 202k in Quest’s favour. The peak audience is down 176,000 viewers year-on-year, some of that a result of ITV4 no longer airing coverage, some of it due to the World Cup.

Even-stevens between BTCC and Formula E
The weekend prior to Le Mans, as well as Formula 1’s excursion to Canada, there was British Touring Car Championship action from Oulton Park and Formula E racing from Zurich, both airing live on free-to-air television on Sunday 10th June.

The touring car action aired on ITV4 from 11:15 to 18:10, to an average audience of 219k (3.0%). Race 1 started at 12:20, averaging 221k (3.7%), with race 2 following on with an audience of 285k (4.0%) at 14:50.

An opening lap accident halted race 3, resulting in a 25-minute delay. 329k (3.2%) watched the delayed race from 17:30 to 17:55, with the peak audience of the day coming at 17:45 as 347k (3.4%) watched the closing laps.

Further up the channel order, Channel 5’s coverage of the Zurich E-Prix averaged 290k (3.0%) from 16:30 to 18:15. The race itself from 17:00 to 17:55 averaged 331k (3.4%), peaking with 396k (4.0%) at 17:25. Eurosport 2’s coverage of Formula E is unlikely to make a substantial difference to audience figures.

It is interesting to note that 70,000 viewers switched from Formula E to the BTCC as race 3 restarted, with ITV4 overtaking Channel 5 at this point. Channel 5 dropped from 396k (4.0%) to 304k (3.0%) between 17:25 and 17:40, whilst ITV4 increased from 275k (2.8%) to 338k (3.3%) in the same period.


Scheduling: The 2018 French Grand Prix

Formula 1 returns to Paul Ricard for the first time since 1990, with the French Grand Prix! The race makes its return to the calendar, having last held a Grand Prix in 2008 at Magny-Cours. It forms the start of Formula 1’s first ever triple-header, Austria and Britain following in the next two weeks.

A returning race is normally a big thing, generating more publicity for the sport than usual, however that is not quite the case this year thanks to the clash with football’s World Cup extravaganza.

The start times for all the weekend’s action is an hour later than usual (and 130 minutes later than the 2017 European times), the change designed to avoid a clash on Sunday between the Grand Prix and England’s football game against Panama.

Because of the race starting at 15:10 UK time, Channel 4’s highlights are pushed deep into the evening. Channel 4 have opted to keep Bake Off: The Professionals and The Handmaid’s Tale in their usual slots, the F1 highlights starting at 22:10.

The free-to-air broadcaster cannot start their highlights programme at 18:00 (less than 3 hours after the race starts), so the options were to run a truncated show from 19:00, start the programme at 19:00 and drop either Bake Off: The Professionals or Handmaid’s Tale for a week, or do what they have done and start the F1 at 22:15.

It is very unfortunate as the F1 would comfortably bring in more viewers than both programmes based on audience figures so far. The football competition in that scenario would have been Poland versus Colombia, not exactly tier 1 material.

Sky have failed to capitalise on their exclusively live coverage, sticking to the usual routine of airing coverage on the F1 channel, with a Main Event simulcast. Exclusive race or not, I am struggling to grasp why they have not gone a step further and aired live coverage on Sky 1.

There is a massive shop window here for Sky to bring new viewers to their output, and they have not recognised that fact. Furthermore, there is limited coverage on 5 Live, so a major missed opportunity, in my eyes. A separate question is just why the FIA decided to run a triple-header in the middle of the biggest sporting event of the year, and not at either the start or end of the European season…

On the personnel front, Tom Clarkson continues to be super sub for Channel 4 reporter Lee McKenzie, McKenzie currently presenting rugby coverage elsewhere on Channel 4.

Channel 4 F1
23/06 – 18:30 to 20:10 – Qualifying Highlights
24/06 – 22:15 to 00:10 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
22/06 – 10:30 to 12:55 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
22/06 – 14:45 to 16:50 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
23/06 – 11:45 to 13:15 – Practice 3
23/06 – 14:00 to 16:45 – Qualifying
=> 14:00 – Pre-Show
=> 14:55 – Qualifying
24/06 – 13:30 to 18:10 – Race
=> 13:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 14:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 15:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 17:30 – Paddock Live (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Supplementary Programming
20/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview (also Sky Sports Mix)
21/06 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Driver Press Conference
21/06 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
23/06 – 18:15 to 18:50 – The F1 Show
27/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Review (also Sky Sports Mix)

BBC Radio F1
22/06 – 10:55 to 12:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
22/06 – 14:55 to 16:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/06 – 11:55 to 13:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/06 – 14:55 to 16:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/06 – 15:00 to 18:00 – Race Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain GT Sprint Series – Misano (BT Sport 2)
23/06 – 18:45 to 20:30 – Qualifying Race
24/06 – 12:15 to 14:15 – Championship Race

British Touring Car Championship – Croft (ITV4)
24/06 – 11:15 to 18:20 – Races

Formula Two – France (Sky Sports F1)
22/06 – 12:50 to 13:50 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
22/06 – 16:50 to 17:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
23/06 – 16:45 to 18:15 – Race 1
24/06 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Race 2

GP3 Series – France (Sky Sports F1)
22/06 – 17:45 to 18:30 – Qualifying
23/06 – 10:25 to 11:20 – Race 1
24/06 – 09:45 to 10:40 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Road America (BT Sport/ESPN)
24/06 – 17:30 to 20:30 – Race

World Superbikes – Laguna Seca
23/06 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
23/06 – 21:15 to 23:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
24/06 – 21:30 to 23:15 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
26/06 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

World Touring Car Cup – Vila Real (Eurosport 2)
26/06 – 09:00 to 10:30 – Qualifying
26/06 – 15:00 to 18:00
=> 15:00 – Race 2
=> 16:30 – Race 3

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.

F1 slumps to lowest UK audience of modern era

After a promising start to the 2018 season, Formula 1’s UK audience figures crashed through the floor during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired across Sky’s dedicated F1 channel, and their Main Event channel. Main Event were meant to join Sky F1 at 17:30, however this was pushed back to 19:05 as England’s cricket ODI with Scotland overran.

Sky Sports F1’s broadcast from 18:00 to 21:30 averaged 704k (4.2%), an identical figure to 2017, and an increase on 2016’s figure of 620k (2.9%).

What hurts Sky is that their Main Event simulcast performed poorly. An audience of 120k (0.7%) watched the simulcast, compared with 234k (1.1%) in 2016 and 259k (1.4%).

The combined average audience for the live broadcast was 787k (4.7%), down 18.3 percent on 2017’s average of 962k (5.2%), and a slightly smaller drop compared with 2016’s figure of 853k (4.0%).

It is likely that ITV’s Soccer Aid took away some of the floating casual audience that would have tuned into Sky’s F1 broadcast. The charity match averaged 3.86m (21.2%) across a three and three-quarter hour slot for the free-to-air broadcaster.

The race broadcast on Sky peaked with 1.30m (6.8%) at 20:40 as Sebastian Vettel won the Grand Prix, a dip compared to their 2016 and 2017 peaks of 1.41m (6.3%) and 1.47m (7.0%) respectively.

It should be noted that the total television audience dropped compared with previous years, but I would have expected Formula 1 to hold up better and to increase its share in this situation, as live sport tends to do.

Channel 4’s highlights programme struggled, averaging just 856k (12.2%) from 22:40 to 00:40, a decrease on both 2016 and 2017’s average audiences of 1.30m (15.3%) and 970k (11.6%) respectively.

The time slot for all three years was broadly the same, so the scale of the drop is somewhat shocking. Channel 4’s show peaked with 1.26m (14.7%) at 23:10 as the highlights edit started.

The combined average audience of 1.64 million viewers is the lowest average audience in the modern era for a Formula 1 race in the UK dating back to at least 2005.

Realistically, you probably need to go back to the days when the BBC did not air some races live in the mid-1990s, which makes Canada’s number a near 25 year low for the sport in the UK.

Compared with 2017, the combined average audience is down 15.0 percent (1.93m), and down 23.7 percent on 2016 (2.15m).

To show the scale of the problem for Canada, the combined peak audience of 2.56 million viewers is 300,000 viewers lower than the average audience from the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying aired on Sky Sports F1 from 18:00 to 20:35, averaging 345k (2.7%), a slight bump on last year’s figure of 342k (2.2%).

Channel 4’s highlights suffered in a late-night time slot, averaging 614k (7.9%) from 22:55 to 00:25. Sky’s live coverage peaked with 684k (4.8%), compared with Channel 4’s peak audience later in the evening of 780k (9.5%).

The combined average audience of 960,000 viewers is the lowest for a Saturday qualifying session since the late 2000’s, and the lowest for Canada since 2006.

The above set of numbers do not include Sky Go, Now TV or All 4, which will increase total volumes slightly. However, even including them is not changing the fact that all the numbers are frankly abysmal and a new low for the sport in this country, an especially poor number coming off what has been a positive start to 2018 for Formula 1.

Canada has had a few problems, the main one being that the free-to-air highlights have aired in a graveyard time slot when not aired live since 2012. The problem was exacerbated this past weekend, with Channel 4 prioritising live rugby coverage over highlights of F1 weekend.

However, the fact also that Sky’s television audience is not improving with 2019 fast approaching should be a clear message to Liberty Media that viewers are unwilling to tune into Sky’s pay-TV broadcasts of Formula 1 in large volumes.

It is a problem that needs to be addressed and tackled, one way or the other. Time is ticking…

The 2017 Canadian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Scheduling: The 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans

The famous endurance race returns, it is time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans!

Forming part of the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship season, the race airs live across Discovery Network’s portfolio of channels. The complete race airs live on Eurosport, with supplementary live coverage also airing on Quest TV, as has been the case for the past four years, helping Le Mans reach a wider audience. However, ITV4’s coverage does not return this year.

Eurosport are upping the ante, with what they are claiming is to be their biggest Le Mans production to date. Jennie Gow switches from Formula 1 to endurance racing, joining the Eurosport team in pit lane alongside Sam Hancock.

It is a different feel to the Eurosport line-up this year, with one of their staple figures, Martin Haven moving to WEC’s in-house team. Carlton Kirby and Mark Cole lead Eurosport’s commentary, joined by Le Mans winners Eric Hilary, Benoit Treluyer, Henri Pescarolo, and Tom Kristensen.

Outside of the traditional television spectrum, qualifying and the race airs live via WEC’s app for £8.99. Alongside Haven are WEC regulars Toby Moody and Allan McNish, joined by Karun Chandhok, Peter Dumbreck, and Julian Porter.

Wednesday 13th June (Eurosport)
15:00 to 19:10 – Practice
20:45 to 23:10
=> 20:45 – Extra
=> 21:00 – Qualifying 1

Thursday 14th June (Eurosport)
17:45 to 23:10
=> 17:45 – Extra
=> 18:00 – Qualifying 2
=> 20:15 – Extra
=> 21:00 – Qualifying 3

Saturday 16th June
08:00 to 09:00 – Warm Up (Eurosport)
12:00 to 23:59 (Eurosport)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up
=> 12:45 – Legends of Le Mans Highlights
=> 13:00 – On the Grid with Tom Kristensen
=> 13:45 – Race
13:30 to 15:00 – Race Start (Quest TV)
22:00 to 23:00 – Saturday Evening (Quest TV)

Sunday 17th June
00:00 to 14:35 (Eurosport)
=> 00:00 – Race
=> 08:00 – Highlights of the Night
=> 14:15 – Extra
10:00 to 14:30 – Race Conclusion (Quest TV)

As always, the post will be updated if anything changes.

Video: What would Coventry MotoFest look like if it aired live on TV?

First held in 2014, Coventry’s annual MotoFest event has grown with each passing year, now a firm fixture on the calendar for those that live in the city, including myself.

From 2014 to 2017, organisers held parade laps using a portion of the city’s Ring Road. With a change in law last year bringing motor sport back to the UK’s towns and cities, organisers took advantage of this, adding a sprint time trial event to the Moto Fest bill.

But, what would the city, which is also UK City of Culture for 2021, look like from a broadcasting point of view if it ever aired on television? Where would you place the cameras? I had a bit of fun across the two-day event, filming the machinery from various vantage points around the Ring Road based course.

I should note that the organisers did not ask me to write this, I have had no contact with them, just thought that this would make for an interesting piece of the site, and it falls into the broadcasting bracket very nicely.

So, how did I get on? Pleasingly, the result is a 90 second ‘directors cut’ lap of the 2018 Coventry MotoFest course! 30 minutes of footage from 18 different angles cut into a short edit. It is not intended to be perfect.

A few years ago, during University, I did gain an Adobe Premiere Pro certificate, but for this I jumped into DaVinci Resolve, which in terms of look and feel in my view is easier to use than Premiere Pro.

I filmed this on my Nexus 6P, no specialist camera, just me and my (un)steady hands. Resolve’s stabiliser function was my best friend for most of the clips! I had a good idea of where to get the best angles, but sometimes I used my instinct if an opportunity presented itself.

Some areas were restricted, such as the tunnel, whilst viewing areas down at the far end of the circuit were also limited, preventing me from poking my Nexus through the railings! Maybe I should have done my own recce

Once I had narrowed the clips down to the chosen ones, it was a matter of making sure they cut in and out at the right moment, road markings as well as my own knowledge guiding the process.

The cars in each clip were different, which resulted in different tones, so it was vital to correct that and attempt to equalise the audio in the editing process. Some of the sound is also taken from the preceding or following clip, as portions of it turned out to be unusable.

Being an event on public roads in a city centre, some cars were not taking break neck speeds around the course, so one or two clipsp may look slightly slower than those around them, but that is the luck of the draw.

Whilst I have corrected the key things in the first version, one thing caught me out and that was the sun, which eagle-eyed watchers will notice suddenly re-appear at around 28 seconds in. I want to do colour correction, across the whole film but that is a longer task for the future.

Currently, Coventry MotoFest does not look like UK’s version of Monte Carlo, but a bit of colour enhancements will change that. Maybe