Scheduling: The 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix / Paris E-Prix

Host of a thrilling race last year, the Baku Street Circuit returns in an earlier slot on the 2018 Formula One calendar.

Because of the domino effect surrounding France, it means that Baku takes the slot previously taken by Russia, with Russia moving into the late-September slot held by Malaysia; Malaysia of course no longer on the calendar for 2018.

The race weekend airs live on both Sky Sports and Channel 4. Eddie Jordan returns to Channel 4’s line-up for the first time in 2018, whilst Lee McKenzie returns after missing Bahrain and China.

Elsewhere, Formula E returns, but the race is only live on 5Spike this weekend. Channel 5’s main station at the same time is airing live coverage of the Premiership Rugby, whilst Eurosport’s duties are split between the World Snooker Championship and cycling’s Tour of Romandy.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
27/04 – 09:55 to 11:45 – Practice 1
27/04 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2
28/04 – 10:55 to 12:25 – Practice 3
28/04 – 12:55 to 15:45 – Qualifying
29/04 – 12:00 to 16:30 – Race
=> 12:00 – Build-Up
=> 12:40 – Race
=> 15:55 – Reaction

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
27/04 – 09:45 to 11:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
27/04 – 13:45 to 15:50 – Practice 2
28/04 – 10:45 to 12:15 – Practice 3
28/04 – 13:00 to 15:45 – Qualifying
=> 13:00 – Pre-Show
=> 13:55 – Qualifying
29/04 – 11:30 to 16:10 – Race
=> 11:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – On the Grid
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
25/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview (also Sky Sports Mix)
26/04 – 12:00 to 12:30 – Driver Press Conference
26/04 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
28/04 – 15:45 to 16:20 – The F1 Show
02/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
26/04 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
27/04 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/04 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/04 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/04 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/04 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – Paris (online via YouTube)
28/04 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Practice 1
28/04 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Paris
28/04 – 10:30 to 12:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 10:30 – Preview
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
28/04 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Qualifying (5Spike)
28/04 – 14:30 to 16:20 – Race (5Spike)
28/04 – 16:35 to 18:00 – Race Delayed (Eurosport 2)
29/04 – 11:40 to 12:45 – Highlights (Channel 5)

British Touring Car Championship – Donington Park (ITV4)
29/04 – 10:40 to 18:20 – Races

Formula Two – Azerbaijan (Sky Sports F1)
27/04 – 07:55 to 08:55 – Practice
27/04 – 11:55 to 12:35 – Qualifying
28/04 – 08:55 to 10:10 – Race 1
29/04 – 10:05 to 11:05 – Race 2

World Rally Championship – Argentina
Every stage live via WRCPlus.com
26/04 – 23:00 to 00:00 – Live: Stage 1 (BT Sport 1)
28/04 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 09:30 to 10:00 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 12:30 to 13:00 (BT Sport 2)
28/04 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Live: Stage 10 (BT Sport 2)
28/04 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Live: Stage 14 (BT Sport/ESPN)
29/04 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 09:30 to 10:00 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 12:30 to 13:00 (BT Sport 2)
29/04 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Live: Stage 16 (BT Sport 2)
29/04 – 16:00 to 17:30 – Live: Stage 18 [Power Stage] (BT Sport/ESPN)
30/04 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 09:30 to 10:00 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 09:30 to 10:00 (BT Sport 1)
01/05 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

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

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Chinese Grand Prix continues F1’s upward trajectory

The Chinese Grand Prix continued Formula 1’s positive start to 2018, overnight UK viewing figures show.

Race
It was a clean sweep on race day, with both Sky and Channel 4 recording year-on-year increases, across both the average audience and peak audience metrics.

Live coverage of the race, which Sky aired across its F1 and Main Event outlets, averaged 494k (12.1%) from 06:00 to 09:30, a slight increase on last year’s audience of 484k (13.2%). It is Sky’s highest audience figure for China since 2015, when the race averaged 589k (15.2%).

The slight drop in share for Sky’s coverage of the race maybe a result of the BBC’s coverage of the Commonwealth Games, resulting in a higher number of viewers watching television at breakfast time.

Sky’s coverage on the F1 channel averaged 335k (8.3%), with Main Event adding a further 159k (3.8%). I should note that last year’s coverage aired exclusively on the F1 channel, but the impact of a simulcast in the breakfast slot is small regardless.

Daniel Ricciardo’s victory peaked with a healthy 847k (13.4%) at 08:45, a 4.1 percent increase on last year’s peak audience of 813k. At the time of the peak, 541k (8.5%) were watching via the F1 channel, with 305k (4.8%) watching via Main Event, a split of 64:36.

Later in the day, Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.88m (17.6%), a massive 23.8 percent up on last year’s average of 1.52m (18.5%). The audience share is lower as total television audience during Formula 1’s time slot was up by 2.4 million viewers year-on-year.

There are various reasons why the total audience can fluctuate massively year-on-year: the weather, Bank Holiday weekends, football matches, other sporting competition not just on free-to-air but elsewhere, and so on. There is an argument as a result to say that their audience should have been even higher than what it actually was.

However, Channel 4’s audience is the highest for China in the three years that they have been covering Formula 1, so it is a very solid number. A peak audience of 2.48m (20.6%) watched Ricciardo’s victory on Channel 4, also a substantial increase on last year’s peak audience of 2.05m (22.3%).

The combined average audience of 2.37 million viewers is an increase of 18.6 percent on last year’s average of 2.00 million viewers. Compared with 2016, the average audience is up by 12.1 percent, making it the highest rated Chinese Grand Prix since 2015, when the race averaged 3.56 million viewers. Similarly, the combined peak audience of 3.32 million viewers is the highest since 2015, up 15.9 percent year-on-year.

Qualifying and Analysis
For the third race in a row, viewing figures for qualifying dropped compared to 2017.

Live coverage of qualifying aired across Sky Sports F1 and Main Event to an audience of 188k (5.1%) from 06:00 to 08:45. 140k (3.9%) watched via the F1 channel, with the remaining 48k (1.2%) watching via Main Event. This was the earliest time slot for qualifying in China since 2014. Back then, Sky’s exclusive coverage of qualifying averaged 236k (7.1%).

Channel 4’s highlights programme aired from 13:00 to 14:30, with 840k (11.0%) tuning in, a decrease on last year’s audience of 861k (13.9%). The combined average audience of 1.03 million viewers is likely to be the lowest for a Saturday qualifying session since the mid 2000’s.

The audience trends so far in 2018 are very interesting. The great news for Formula 1 is that all three races have increased their audience year-on-year, with Bahrain and China recording three-year highs. Given the events of Baku last year, I think we should expect a small year-on-year decrease for Azerbaijan, but nothing dramatic.

You would expect qualifying to follow the trend, except the numbers for qualifying show that viewing figures are dropping for the third consecutive season, even in the face of increases for the race programming. The format of qualifying has been the same for 2006, and you do wonder if the time for change is coming, as mooted in some quarters.

As always, the UK is just a very small snippet of the overall F1 picture, but it would be fascinating to see if the same viewing trends are happening worldwide.

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

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A quick-fire guide to your motor racing streaming services for 2018

Over the years, this site has tended to cover television coverage more than other forms of media, with weekly television schedules whenever there is a Formula 1 race on. The site also has a dedicated page covering all the key UK television and radio contracts.

But, alongside your traditional methods, many championships allow you to watch their action online. Here, we look at what each championship offers directly to the consumer, bypassing the broadcasters, or not as the case may be. This article is aimed at UK readers, but the information may be useful for overseas readers as well.

Note – This is an experimentation post and may not cover every single series out there. Please leave a comment if you find this useful and would like to see this repeated in future with updated information.

Dorna Sports (review)
The commercial rights holder for MotoGP and World Superbikes, Dorna Sports have over-the-top platforms for both. Every session, including support races, airs live on the over-the-top platform with a dedicated on-site team. Full-length replays are available if you missed the action first time round, with the fan able to view the action from a variety of on-board camera angles. Access to the respective platforms also unlock MotoGP’s and World Superbikes’ rich archive.

Available via desktop, Android and Apple devices, the MotoGP package is priced at £174.36 for the complete season, or £44.45 in four instalments. The World Superbikes offering is considerably cheaper than MotoGP at £60.98 for the season, or £13.00 per month. Even considering the smaller calendar, on a per-race weekend basis, the MotoGP price works out at £9.18, whilst the Superbikes offering is just £4.69, a sign of their respective popularity.

Formula E
Despite being one of the newer series in this list, surprisingly the electric Formula E championship does not have an over-the-top platform. Fans wanting to watch the action can find some live coverage on Formula E’s YouTube channel, but the availability depends on territory. UK fans can watch live practice on their YouTube channel, but no further than that.

The geo-blocking restrictions are lifted after the session for practice and qualifying, whilst full races are made available several weeks after the race, although one might argue that they have lost their value by that point in time. The lack of an over-the-top platform currently may come and bite them back in a few years’ time, especially considering the recent developments from Formula 1.

Formula One Management
Announced in February, Formula 1 has confirmed that their streaming service will launch ready for the Spanish Grand Prix in May. At launch, F1 TV Pro will be available via desktop and will only contain Formula 1 coverage; with other devices, and the appearance of the feeder series’ coming later in the year.

However, UK fans will not have access to the premium version due to the television agreements already in place. Barring some form of new arrangement between Formula One Management and Sky, do not expect UK fans to be able to access F1 TV Pro until 2025. F1 TV Access though, is another question…

GT Sport Organisation
GT Sport created and is responsible for the Euroformula Open and the International GT Open, both of which air live in the UK on BT Sport.

As with other championships on a similar footing, GT Sport live streams the action on their two YouTube channels, covering qualifying and the race: EuroFormulaOpen and GTOPENseries. English commentary comes from Ben Evans, who fans in the UK may recognise from BT Sport’s IndyCar coverage.

IndyCar
Unlike Supercars below, IndyCar does not currently offer an over-the-top product for overseas fans of the championship. Race Control only extends as far as live timing, but no visual imagery is involved. However, its social media offering is comprehensive, with live streaming of its feeder Indy Lights series, as well as live action from practice via their various outlets.

For fans without access to BT Sport, the full US race programme from either ABC, ESPN or NBC is uploaded to IndyCar’s YouTube channel around four days after the event. With IndyCar’s domestic rights in the US changing for 2019 in NBC’s favour, the streaming picture could change as well.

SRO Motorsports Group
Not to be confused with GT Sport’s portfolio of championships, SRO Motorsports Group is the commercial rights holder for several of the leading GT championships worldwide. If you are into GT racing, the GTWorld YouTube channel, operated by SRO, is the place to be.

It is on YouTube where SRO live stream the likes of the Blancpain GT Series and the British GT, for free. In addition, the Blancpain website plays host to live streaming of the GT Series.

Supercars
Not in Australia? No problem. The Virgin Australia Supercars streaming service SuperView gives fans outside of Australia the ability to live stream, rewind and replay every Supercars qualifying and race session in 2018. The restriction that previously applied to the Australian Grand Prix weekend was lifted for 2018, meaning that all events are now available on the service.

Priced at £32.80 based on the current conversion rate for the complete season, SuperView is a steal if you are looking to watch some motor racing action at your leisure throughout 2018. With 16 races across the year, the series costs UK fans just £2.05 per race weekend.

World Rally Championship (review)
From 2018, rally fans can view every World Rally Championship stage live. For £7.79 a month, or £77.98 for a complete year, fans can watch every stage either live or on-demand across a variety of devices.

However, you can only do that up and until the next rally comes along: there is no way to view the ‘All Live’ content once it disappears from the schedule a few days after the event finishes. Whilst the live element is great, WRC’s over-the-top product is still rough around the edges which is worth bearing in mind if you are unlikely to watch the action in a timely fashion. Nevertheless, WRC’s pricing structure remain extremely good value for money.

Are there any other major championships that have streaming capability that I have not mentioned? Have your say in the comments below.

Scheduling: The 2018 Chinese Grand Prix / Rome E-Prix

The Chinese Grand Prix plays host to round three of the 2018 Formula One season from the Shanghai International Circuit.

Sky Sports F1’s coverage sees the return of Anthony Davidson for the first time this season. In what might be a first for their coverage, every on-track session is simulcast live on Sky Sports Main Event.

Over on Channel 4, Louise Goodman is the super substitute this weekend for Lee McKenzie. McKenzie returns to Channel 4’s output in Azerbaijan. Aside from the race starting ten minutes later, Saturday’s on-track action takes place one hour earlier than last year.

Formula E heads to Rome for the first time, with the action airing live on 5Spike and Eurosport. In Channel 5’s defence, the race clashes with live coverage of the Premiership Rugby, hence why Formula E finds itself on Channel 5’s sister station again.

Elsewhere, the Euroformula and International GT series’ return to BT Sport for the start of the 2018 season.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
14/04 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying Highlights
15/04 – 14:15 to 16:30 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions (also Sky Sports Main Event)
13/04 – 02:45 to 04:50 – Practice 1
13/04 – 06:45 to 08:50 – Practice 2
14/04 – 03:45 to 05:15 – Practice 3
14/04 – 06:00 to 08:45 – Qualifying
=> 06:00 – Pre-Show
=> 06:55 – Qualifying
15/04 – 05:30 to 10:10 – Race
=> 05:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 06:30 – On the Grid
=> 07:05 – Race
=> 09:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
11/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview (also Sky Sports Mix)
12/04 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Driver Press Conference
12/04 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
14/04 – 08:45 to 09:20 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports Main Event)
18/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview

BBC Radio F1
12/04 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
13/04 – 02:55 to 04:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/04 – 06:55 to 08:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14/04 – 03:55 to 05:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14/04 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/04 – 06:30 to 09:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – Rome (online via YouTube)
14/04 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Practice 1
14/04 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Rome
14/04 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Qualifying (5Spike)
14/04 – 14:30 to 16:15 – Race (5Spike)
14/04 – 13:45 to 16:15 (Eurosport)
=> 13:45 – Qualifying
=> 14:45 – Race
15/04 – 11:50 to 12:50 – Highlights (Channel 5)

British Superbikes – Brands Hatch
14/04 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
15/04 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Races (Eurosport 2)
18/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Euroformula – Estoril
14/04 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport X2)
15/04 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport 1)

European Le Mans Series – Le Castellet (Motorsport.tv)
15/04 – Race
=> 10:45 to 13:00
=> 15:00 to 16:00
=> 18:00 to 19:30

IndyCar Series – Long Beach (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/04 – 21:00 to 00:00 – Race

International GT Open – Estoril (BT Sport/ESPN)
14/04 – 15:00 to 16:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/04 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2 (BT Sport 1)

World Superbikes – Aragon
14/04 – 09:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
15/04 – 10:00 to 13:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
17/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

The above will be updated if anything changes.

Update on April 13th – As several people have pointed out, it is FOM’s feeder series commentator Alex Jacques in the 5 Live commentary box today. Jacques will remain there for tomorrow, with Jack Nicholls returning for the F1 race on Sunday.

Vettel’s victory peaks with highest Bahrain number since 2015

Sebastian Vettel’s victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix peaked with nearly 4.5 million viewers, the highest peak figure for the Bahrain round of the championship in three years, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage the weekend’s action aired across Channel 4 and Sky Sports. Channel 4’s broadcast, encompassing the build-up and the race itself from 15:00 to 18:10, averaged 2.37m (18.9%), a slight increase on last year’s figure of 2.23m (15.2%). For the purposes of the combined average below, the Channel 4 figure used will be the figure above, the same methodology as last year.

Channel 4’s average audience has changed very little over the past three years for Bahrain. Using the 15:00 to 18:30 time slot as the metric, we can see that the 210-minute slot averaged 2.30m (16.2%) in 2016, compared with 2.21m (15.0%) in 2017, and now 2.25m (16.0%) in 2018, a remarkably stable trajectory with very little to separate the three years.

Meanwhile, Sky Sports F1’s coverage from 15:00 to 18:30 averaged 524k (3.7%), a decrease on last year’s audience figure of 597k (4.1%). The average audience is Sky’s lowest for Bahrain since they started covering the sport in 2012.

The combined average audience of 2.89 million viewers is marginally up on both 2016 and 2017, by 50,000 viewers and 70,000 viewers respectively. The margins here are incredibly tight, although the gap may widen once you consider other methods of viewing, such as All 4, Sky Go and Now TV.

It is important to note that the Premier League opposition for the F1 was tougher last year (Chelsea versus Manchester United) compared with this year (Chelsea versus West Ham United), which will have affected audience figures.

An audience of 3.79m (28.2%) watched lights out at 16:15, slightly lower than 2016 and 2017, settling around the 3.9 million mark, once the Premier League game started from 16:30 onwards. As Chelsea gained the lead in the football, viewing figures jumped for the Grand Prix on both channels to a combined figure of 4.23m (28.4%) at 17:10.

The audience jump coincided with the pit lane incident involving Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, which, combined with the on-track battle between Vettel and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, helped figures remain above four million until the chequered flag.

A peak audience of 4.45m (27.2%) watched Sebastian Vettel win the Grand Prix at 17:40. At the time of the peak, 3.62m (22.1%) were watching Channel 4’s output, with a further 830k (5.1%) watching Sky’s coverage, a split of 81:19 in Channel 4’s favour.

Sky’s programme peaked earlier in the race at 16:25 with 884k (6.4%), this being the last five-minute segment before the second Premier League game of the day began on Sky Sports Main Event and their dedicated Premier League channel. Compared with 2017, Channel 4’s peak audience increased by 6.1 percent, whilst Sky’s peak dropped by 8.0 percent.

The combined peak audience of 4.45 million viewers is an increase of 111,000 viewers on last year’s peak figure of 4.34m (25.9%), and an increase of nearly half a million viewers on the 2016 peak of 4.01m (30.2%). However, audience figures remain a far cry from 2015 and before when F1 aired in some form on the BBC: 2015’s race peaked with 6.26m (36.3%).

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying did not fare as well as the race, with viewing figures decreasing compared with 2016 and 2017. Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 from 15:00 to 17:45 averaged 1.08m (9.8%), down on last year’s average of 1.23m (12.7%).

Unusually, Channel 4 was third in its slot during qualifying, behind both BBC and ITV. At the same time, BBC were screening highlights of the Commonwealth Games along with Final Score, whilst ITV aired repeats of Tipping Point and The Chase.

Sky’s programming, simulcast across F1 and Mix, suffered the same fate as Channel 4, with an average of 273k (2.5%) comparing unfavourably with last year’s number of 349k (3.5%). Across the two channels, 246k (2.2%) watched via the F1 channel, and a further 27k (0.2%) watched via Mix.

The combined average of 1.36 million viewers is down 14 percent on last year’s average audience of 1.58 million viewers, the lowest average for Bahrain since 2007. The peak audience of 2.30m (18.5%) came at 17:05, a decrease of 9 percent compared with last year’s peak of 2.54m (22.6%)

Two races into the 2018 season, and overall, minus a few dips for qualifying, it is fair to say that Formula 1’s viewing figures year-on-year so far, are steady. It may be too early to state this as fact, but certainly the indications are that the Halo cockpit protection system has not had any significant bearing on the UK audience figures.

I am happy to hold my hands up and say ‘I was wrong’ where this was concerned given some of the predictions I made at the back-end of last year. Whilst the Halo is not the prettiest thing ever, I have become used to it quicker than I imagined, and it appears I am not alone in that regard.

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

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