Alonso effect helps IndyCar’s UK audience soar to six-year high

The Indianapolis 500 started in fine fashion last weekend, with the IndyCar Series recording its highest UK audiences in nearly six years, overnight viewing figures show.

Indy qualifying impresses
Live coverage of the first day of qualifying, broadcast on Saturday evening from 21:00 to 00:00 on BT Sport/ESPN, averaged 44k (0.31%). The scheduled slot from 21:00 to 23:00 averaged 45k (0.27%), meaning that the audience stayed very stable during the overrun.

Coverage started relatively low, with an audience of 14k (0.06%) watching at 21:10. This quickly built up though, hitting 30k at 21:25, 40k at 21:50 and then peaking with an excellent 68k (0.41%) at 22:05. Audiences stayed above 50k until 22:55, partly attributed to Sebastian Bourdais’ horrific crash, which stopped the session for around 40 minutes.

The audience for day one is the highest ever for the IndyCar series on BT Sport, and the highest since Sky Sports’ broadcast of the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Viewing figures dropped for day two of qualifying. An average audience of 29k (0.17%) watched qualifying on BT Sport/ESPN from 21:00 to 23:00 on Sunday evening, peaking with 43k (0.26%), again during the segment when Fernando Alonso was on circuit.

Although there is a larger audience around on Sunday evenings, coverage of on-track action was sporadic: Saturday had action without commercials from 21:00 until Bourdais’ crash at around 22:30, giving a chance for the audience to build. On the other hand, Sunday’s qualifying programme had twenty minutes with no on-track action from 21:40 to 22:00, which would have depleted viewing figures.

Next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 is likely to be the biggest figure for an American domestic motor race in a generation in the UK, with more than 100,000 viewers expected. It is difficult to be more specific than that at this stage as warm weather is likely to knock audiences.

Formula E jumps to second highest figure of season
It was a good weekend as well for the electric Formula E championship. Round six of the season took place last Saturday in Paris. The race, which aired live on Channel 5 from 14:30 to 16:20, averaged 381k (4.4%), peaking with 468k. Last year’s action from Paris, which aired on ITV4, peaked with 187k (2.1%) in a similar time slot.

It is the highest share of the season for Formula E and the second highest audience of the season, behind Buenos Aires. It is also comfortably the highest non-London race ever for the championship (also beating part one of last year’s London ePrix which aired on ITV).

Whilst it is too early to say whether the championship is drawing in new viewers as this is just one race in isolation, the audience figure for Paris is an encouraging sign for the series. Formula E should be able to maintain some momentum going forward, with no elongated gaps between now and the end of the season.

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Sky Sports F1 to broadcast Porsche Supercup live this year

Sky Sports F1 is to broadcast the Porsche Supercup series live for the remainder of this season, I can confirm.

The channel from the Monaco Grand Prix weekend onwards will broadcast live coverage of every Porsche Supercup race.

Sky’s deal does not affect Eurosport’s current Porsche Supercup contract. Eurosport currently broadcast every race in either live or highlights form, and have done for many years; Sky having never aired the series live.

Live coverage of the series did initially appear in Sky’s draft Spanish Grand Prix schedules, before its removal. This time, I understand that the deal is definite, starting with this weekend.

BBC’s current 5 Live Formula 1 commentator and part-time Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls has been hired by Sky to commentate on the remaining Porsche Supercup races this season.

Scheduling: The 2017 Monaco Grand Prix

Aside from the 101st Indianapolis 500 this weekend, there is the small matter of the Monaco Grand Prix!

Channel 4 will be covering the race live, the first time that a free–to–air broadcaster has done so since 2012. Susie Wolff is back with the team in Monaco, her first appearance this season, whilst Mark Webber and Eddie Jordan will also be part of the team. Like in Russia, the channel will be on air for four and a half hours on race day. The third episode of F1 Meets airs between practice three and qualifying on Saturday, as Lee McKenzie chats to Claire Williams.

Over on Sky Sports, the race will be simulcast on Sky Sports Mix, the first simulcast on Mix since Malaysia last year. The rest of the weekend scheduling is as anticipated, with practice taking place on the Thursday, a Monaco tradition.

Outside of the F1 and the Indianapolis 500, it is a packed weekend of motor sport, with Formula Two and World Superbikes amongst the other events taking place across the weekend.

For the Indianapolis 500 schedule, please head over here

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
25/05 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1
25/05 – 12:55 to 15:00 – Practice 2
27/05 – 09:55 to 11:25 – Practice 3
27/05 – 11:55 to 14:30 – Qualifying
28/05 – 12:00 to 16:30 – Race
=> 12:00 – Build–Up
=> 12:35 – Race
=> 15:10 – Reaction

Supplementary Programming
27/05 – 11:25 to 11:55 – F1 Meets… Claire Williams

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
25/05 – 08:45 to 10:55 – Practice 1
25/05 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2
27/05 – 09:45 to 11:10 – Practice 3
27/05 – 12:00 to 14:40 – Qualifying
28/05 – 11:30 to 16:10 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live (also on Sky Sports Mix)
=> 12:30 – Race (also on Sky Sports Mix)
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live (also Sky Sports Mix)

Supplementary Programming
24/05 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Driver Press Conference
24/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
24/05 – 21:00 to 21:15 – Paddock Uncut
25/05 – 16:00 to 16:40 – Team Press Conference
25/05 – 16:40 to 17:10 – The F1 Show
26/05 – 17:00 to 17:30 – The F1 Show
31/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
25/05 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/05 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/05 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
27/05 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
28/05 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British GT – Snetterton 300 (Frontrunner)
28/05 – Races
=> 11:20 to 14:00
=> 15:40 to 17:45

Euroformula – Spa
27/05 – 14:30 to 15:30 – Race 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
28/05 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport 3)

Formula Renault Eurocup – Monaco (BT Sport 3)
27/05 – 09:00 to 10:00 – Race 1
28/05 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Race 2

Formula Two – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
25/05 – 10:55 to 11:45 – Practice
25/05 – 15:10 to 16:00 – Qualifying
26/05 – 10:25 to 11:35 – Race 1
27/05 – 15:05 to 16:00 – Race 2

Formula V8 3.5 – Jerez
27/05 – 12:30 to 13:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
28/05 – 12:00 to 13:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport 2)

International GT Open – Spa
27/05 – 15:30 to 17:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
28/05 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport 3)

Porsche Supercup – Monaco
28/05 – Race
=> 08:30 to 09:30 (Eurosport 2)
=> 08:45 to 09:20 (Sky Sports F1)

Speedway Grand Prix – Latvia (BT Sport 3)
27/05 – 16:45 to 20:15 – Races

World Rallycross Championship – Britain (Motorsport.tv)
28/05 – 14:00 to 16:05 – Race

World Superbikes – Donington Park
27/05 – Qualifying and Race 1
=> 10:30 to 16:15 (Quest)
=> 10:30 to 16:15 (Eurosport 2)
28/05 – 10:30 to 16:15 – Support and Race 2 (Quest)

World Touring Car Championship – Germany (Eurosport 2)
27/05 – 10:15 to 12:15
=> 10:15 – Race 1
=> 11:15 – Race 2

As always if anything changes, the above schedule will be updated.

Update on May 23rd –  Sky Sports F1 is to broadcast the Porsche Supercup series live for the first time, I can confirm. The above schedules have been amended as a result.

Scheduling: The 2017 Indianapolis 500

And now… we go green, green, green!

The spectacle that is the Indianapolis 500 is here. This year, there is more attention and intrigue on the event as two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso attempts to add the blue riband event to his resume. Even if Alonso does not win, the 500 as always, promises to be a fantastic event.

As with the other IndyCar events, BT Sport will be screening the race exclusively live, which marks round six of the 2017 IndyCar season. There was some hope that another television or radio station would broadcast the Indianapolis 500, but that has not yet materialised. One source commented that the upcoming general election had reduced the chance of covering the race, with resources now dedicated to other areas. If plans change, including methods to watch the race legally, live via ‘other means’, I will update this post.

Whisper Films, who currently produce Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage, have been brought in to oversee BT’s Indianapolis 500 coverage. As of last week, I understand that Suzi Perry will present coverage from their studios on Olympic Park, helped by the fact that there is no MotoGP action that weekend.

Preparation commenced earlier this month, with key personnel interviewed. BT’s MotoGP reporter Gavin Emmett interviewed Fernando Alonso prior to the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, whilst Whisper conducted filming at McLaren HQ on May 5th. It is likely that BT will bring in special guests to give the race itself a bigger feel compared to your typical IndyCar coverage.

For qualifying, Keith Collantine and Ben Evans will continue to provide commentary whilst American colleagues are on commercial.

Thursday 18th May (YouTube)
17:00 to 23:00 – Practice 4

Friday 19th May (YouTube)
17:00 to 23:00 – Practice 5

Saturday 20th May
13:00 to 14:30 – Practice 6 (YouTube)
20:00 to 23:00 – Qualifying – Day 1
=> 20:00 (YouTube)
=> 21:00 (BT Sport/ESPN)

Sunday 21st May
17:00 to 19:00 – Practice 7 (YouTube)
19:45 to 23:00 – Qualifying – Day 2
=> 19:45 (YouTube)
=> 21:00 (BT Sport/ESPN)

Monday 22nd May (YouTube)
17:30 to 21:00 – Practice 8

Saturday 27th May (YouTube)
15:30 to 16:30 – Public Drivers’ Meeting

Sunday 28th May (BT Sport/ESPN)
16:30 to 21:00 – Race

If anything changes regarding the UK television coverage, I will update this post.

Update on May 20th at 11:50 – Keith Collantine and Oliver Webb will be commentating on qualifying for UK viewers. Furthermore, as noted above, Suzi Perry has confirmed she will be presenting BT’s coverage next Sunday.

Update on May 20th at 13:10 – Perry will be joined by Mike Conway and the Guardian writer Richard Williams next Sunday, with Collantine and Ben Evans on commentary during the US adverts.

Update on May 22nd – Further confirmation from Perry that Gavin Emmett and Jonathan Green will also be joining Perry in the studio. Also confirmed is that Collantine and Evans will not be part of BT’s Indianapolis 500, which is a real shame considering both have been part of BT’s coverage of IndyCars for a while now. Loyalty clearly does not count for much.

Spanish Grand Prix continues upward trajectory

The Spanish Grand Prix continued Formula 1’s recent upward trajectory in the ratings following on from positive numbers in Bahrain and Russia, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Year-on-year comparisons are difficult for this race for the individual broadcasters, as both channels aired the race live last year, whereas Sky Sports had exclusive live coverage this season. However, the numbers do show an interesting pattern. As always, figures exclude on-demand methods such as Now TV, Sky Go and All 4.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Sky Sports F1 from 12:00 to 15:30, averaged 530k (6.7%), peaking with 888k at 14:35 as Lewis Hamilton claimed victory. In comparison, Sky’s coverage last year, despite sharing with Channel 4, averaged 559k (6.4%), with a peak figure of 883k. So, despite having exclusivity, Sky’s figures failed to increase.

A peak figure below one million viewers for a Sky exclusive European round is disappointing, especially considering that two Premier League games on Sky Sports 1 brought in audiences over the magic million mark (West Ham vs Liverpool and Tottenham vs Man United).

Channel 4’s highlights programme, which aired from 18:45 to 21:00, averaged 2.12m (11.5%), peaking with 2.89 million viewers. Their highlights number marks an increase on the number for their Spanish Grand Prix live programme last year. Overall, Channel 4 should be pleased, with a number that is higher than a lot of their highlights programming from 2016, only behind Austria and Germany.

The combined audience of 2.65 million viewers is up 6.4 percent on last year’s average audience of 2.49 million viewers. The combined peak audience of 3.78 million viewers is up 5.6 percent on last year’s peak audience of 3.58 million viewers. Whilst both metrics represent a sizeable drop compared to 2015, the viewing figures mark a positive step in the right direction as the championship battle continues to heat up.

Qualifying
Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast on Sky Sports F1 from 12:00 to 14:40, averaged 289k (4.0%), peaking with 476k. Channel 4’s highlights programme from 17:30 to 19:00 added a further 1.14m (8.1%), with 1.56m watching at its peak.

The qualifying highlights followed an identical pattern to that of the race a day later: Channel 4 up slightly, Sky Sports down slightly despite the latter having exclusivity.

The combined average audience of 1.43 million viewers is up 9.3 percent on last year’s average audience of 1.31 million viewers. However, and failing to complete a ‘clean sweep’ as a result, the peak audience was down slightly year-on-year, with a combined peak audience of 2.04 million viewers recorded compared with a peak of 2.16 million viewers in 2016.

The 2016 Spanish Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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