The top 10 blogs of 2012

Since setting up The F1 Broadcasting Blog in April, I have written 251 blogs. The growth of the website since April has been phenomenal, surpassing the 60,000 views mark on Christmas Day. The website continues to grow, evidence of that can be seen clearly as this month has averaged more views than any month before September despite no racing taking place. Unsurprisingly, some blogs have proved, for one reason or another, to be more popular than others and here is a look back at those more popular blogs from 2012.

10. Chris Evans rules himself out of BBC F1 presenter – November 4th
The main broadcasting story undoubtedly this year was the rumours swirling the BBC F1’s presenter position and who would replace Jake Humphrey. Chris Evans was a contender, but ruled himself out in his Daily Mail blog.

9. Eddie Jordan’s credibility – September 5th
Whilst the BBC F1 presenting change was the main broadcasting story, Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was definitely the main saga of 2012, which began with Eddie Jordan’s bombshell. The revelation led me to evaluate his credibility in revealing such a story.

8. BBC F1 versus Sky Sports F1: Your Verdict – November 25th
Following the conclusion of the Brazilian Grand Prix, I asked for your verdict on the 2012 Formula One broadcasting scene. The response was fantastic with many detailed responses, which led me to publish a follow-up blog picking out the best comments.

7. F1 2012 DVD season review to be released in 2013 – November 10th
The news that the 2012 Formula One DVD season review would not be released until 2013 was unsurprisingly read a lot during the run up to Christmas and in the immediate aftermath. Not too long now, though, until the DVD hits the shelves.

6. Tom Clarkson doing Lee McKenzie’s job this weekend – June 9th
With Jake Humphrey elsewhere, Lee McKenzie was promoted to the presenter role for the Canadian Grand Prix. In her place was Tom Clarkson, which led to the birth of the above blog article. For me, this was the first time I noticed that the blog was going to properly take off.

5. Mark Pougatch emerges as contender for BBC F1 presenter position – November 15th
Alongside Lee McKenzie and Chris Evans, The Times journalist Kevin Eason labelled Mark Pougatch as a contender for the BBC F1 presenter seat. All three would turn out to be wide of the booth as Suzi Perry was announced as BBC F1 presenter.

4. Jake Humphrey to join BT Vision, leaving BBC at the end of 2012 – September 18th
The initial story I published on September 18th, as it was announced that Jake Humphrey would be leaving BBC’s Formula 1 team and heading to BT Vision’s football coverage.

3. Predicting the 2013 calendar pick order – September 21st
As the 2013 calendar was announced, I took a gamble, stepped into the BBC’s and Sky’s shoes and predicted what actions they would take in determining which races would be live on BBC, and which would be exclusively live on Sky. Whilst I was right some of the time, I was not right all of the time…

2. A few thoughts on Jake Humphrey leaving the BBC – September 18th
As a follow on to number four, later in the day on September 18th, I published my reaction to Jake Humphrey’s BBC F1 departure and speculated about who would replace him. In all cases though, I was wide of the mark.

1. Italian Grand Prix records highest rating since 1998 – September 10th
Before Jake Humphrey announced his BBC F1 departure, all was going swimmingly well. Until on the Monday after Monza it turned out that there were a few famous faces reading this blog. Cue a influx of hits sending the web traffic up many notches!

It has been a fascinating eight months since I began the blog. I have, and still do, enjoy writing content for this blog. Hopefully the success that has been 2012 will continue into 2013.

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The ratings picture: The 2012 Verdict

Aside from looking at both the BBC F1 and Sky Sports F1 teams and their respective programming, a key component of this blog in 2012 has been to look at the ratings picture for every individual race. The ratings picture in 2012 has been haphazard thanks to the deal between BBC and Sky, some races have been wildly up and some have disappointed, but overall it is possible to draw some conclusions and bring together averages which I intend to do in this blog.

Before we get into figures, the main figures I use are programme averages. Why? Because they are the most widely available – especially when you are looking at historical Formula 1 figures from say ten years ago. Not every article will attach a ‘race average’ to it. However, I have done some calculations of my own using viewing figures that I have – which I will explain further later. All figures for 2012 comprise of one of the following, where appropriate:

– Sky live and BBC highlights
– Sky live, BBC live and BBC re-run (Asian based races)
– Sky and BBC live (non-Asian based races)

In August, I noted that Formula 1 in 2012 was set to be the lowest rated since on UK television since 2008. That prediction turned out to be true. Furthermore, analysis shows that there are 500,000 viewers that are not tuning into BBC highlights weekends that would otherwise tune into BBC live weekends.

Below are the season averages, based on full programme broadcasts:

– 2006 – 2.75 million
– 2007 – 3.61 million
– 2008 – 4.01 million
– 2009 – 4.38 million
– 2010 – 4.41 million
– 2011 – 4.62 million
– 2012 – 3.89 million (or 4.10 million using the ‘35 percent theory‘)

You may note some minor differences in the viewing figures above versus the ones I published in August. The reason for this is because all the figures from 2006 to 2012 now that I use are consolidated figures (which take into account anyone who has watched within 7 days) whereas before it was a mixture of overnight ratings and consolidated ratings. You will also notice that the 3.89 million figure for 2012 is the lowest since 2007. This is where the ’35 percent theory’ that I explained in August comes back in. When comparing to previous years, the BBC F1 programme started at 12:10 and ran to about 15:15. Sky Sports F1 live programmes ran from 11:30 to 16:15 meaning that the total average for Sky Sports F1 would be artificially deflated as a result. Applying the ’35 percent theory’ on top of the Sky figures gives you the 4.10 million average above. When both BBC and Sky are live, the average for those ten races is 4.38 million viewers. When only Sky are live and when BBC are showing highlights, that figure drops to 3.88 million viewers. Only twice for those ten races has the programme average been above 4 million, Bahrain and Hungary. The remaining eight races with exclusive Sky coverage recorded a average of under 4 million viewers. I would be questioning why that is the case, a 500,000 viewer difference between the two feels significant to me and appears to prove that the majority of fans still prefer to see Formula 1 in 2012 live.

Whilst the change in Formula 1 broadcasting for 2012 is one reason for the overall drop, it is not the only reason. The Olympics is another reason, as is Euro 2012 and Wimbledon. All three sporting events have hit Formula 1’s ratings this year. Formula 1 was always going to be hit by the Summer of Sport. But would the 2012 season have faired better if every race live on the BBC? Absolutely, and I think the fact that the average when races were live on BBC is 500,000 higher than when they were exclusively live on Sky proves that. BBC have every possible way of promoting sporting events – radio, TV, interactive, online. Formula 1 would remain in the limelight and would not become a forgotten sport for the Summer. I think the average would have been down on previous years, but it would have remained well above 4 million viewers in my opinion, near to 2010 levels.

Figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1.

The drop for 2012 is disappointing. But things need to be kept in perspective, Formula 1 is still immensely popular in the UK, and we are not going back to the mid 2000’s, where Formula 1 was struggling to achieve over 3 million viewers as Figure 1.1. above shows. The ratings should rebound in 2013 – no Olympics and no European Championship’s means that Formula 1 has weaker competition next Summer. If viewing figures do not rebound, then questions must be asked whether the BBC and Sky deal was a worthwhile deal for the money-makers to enter into. It also brings up the question of BBC Sport’s Formula 1 team extremely dedicated and hard work across these past few years in increasing the popularity of Formula 1 after the Schumacher years only for those higher up at the BBC to flush over half a million viewers down the toilet.

I noted during my August blog that I hoped the the season average would increase. At the Summer break, the 2012 season was averaging 4.14 million viewers. That figure has dropped very slightly by 40,000 viewers. Not a large drop, but a slight drop for whatever reason. A worrying statistic for me is that only four races seen their figures increase versus 2011. They were Brazil (up by 1 million), Italy, China and Europe. Two races were not on the calendar in 2011, meaning that fourteen rounds seen their figures drop versus 2011. Whilst some rounds clashed with other sporting events, I am fairly certain that does not apply for every one of those fourteen rounds. Canada unsurprisingly recorded the biggest drop versus 2011, whilst Japan and India also recorded sizeable drops. 2013 should see an automatic increase in significant numbers for Canada as the race will be live on BBC One.

The 4.38 million average for the BBC and Sky live races is an average I would have expected overall if BBC was showing every race live. There is an argument – and this applies for every race – that the 520,000 viewers drop is purely due to Sky’s longer airtime as there is a higher viewership for Sky when they are live, hence more weighting on their ratings. That is a completely false assumption to make due to the fact that I have already equalised the ratings as demonstrated above. Using consolidated figures and 5-minute breakdowns, The F1 Broadcasting Blog has taken averages from seven races across the past seven years and calculated the overall averages. Those races are Monaco, Spain, Britain, Belgian, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Europe. The average is from race start to chequered flag only. The results are as follows:

Race averages (Mon, Spa, UK, Sin, AbD, Eur)
– 2006 – 2.92 million (32.4%) (exc. Belgium, Singapore and Abu Dhabi)
– 2007 – 4.09 million (36.5%) (exc. Singapore and Abu Dhabi)
– 2008 – 4.57 million (37.9%) (exc. Abu Dhabi)
– 2009 – 4.95 million (43.9%)
– 2010 – 5.61 million (43.5%)
– 2011 – 5.58 million (43.7%)
– 2012 – 5.03 million (38.4%)

The conclusion that there has been a viewership drop is unquestionable. Those seven races were all BBC and Sky live races, and the race average is again in the lowest since 2009 – a similar story to the 4.38 million programme averages. Qualifying in 2012 has fared well, averaging 2.32 million viewers. Whilst it is down on 2009, 2010 and 2011 – it does stand in-line with 2010’s average of 2.41 million viewers which itself was affected by a Summer dominated by sport.

Focussing on Sky only to end the piece, live coverage of practice 1 has averaged 65,000 viewers; practice 2 has averaged 75,000 viewers; practice 3 has averaged 94,000 viewers. All three of those numbers have dropped off compared to the where they were at the Summer break, possibly suggesting that viewer fatigue had set in for the latter stages of the season. The F1 Show, when on location at race weekends, has averaged 45,000 viewers. I’ve covered my thoughts on those figures before and the main conclusion is that those figures are extremely low and below Sky’s own expectations. The GP2 Series and GP3 Series on Sky Sports F1 have also fared poorly, both averaging below 100,000 viewers. In my opinion that is due to the lack of advertising that Sky give to the feeder series’, neither series have had adverts promoting them on Sky so it is little wonder to see either series struggle for viewers on the channel. It is worrying that the stars of the feature are being seen by what feels like ‘one man and a dog’, GP2 and GP3 definitely need more of a prominent status here in the UK for 2013.

Several weeks on, and nearly 15,000 words later, that is my 2012 Verdict. Due to reasons already explained, I had hoped to have finished the verdict before Christmas but in any case, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the pieces and as always, comments are welcome. Roll on 2013!

Note: All the figures quoted here are the averages for the whole race programme, not the race average unless stated. Figures are mostly official figures from BARB and Broadcast magazine. While I have made comparisons and analysis of figures, I should note that I do not have every single ratings figure. The figures for that races that I am missing are:

1992 – Australia, San Marino, France, Portugal, Japan (live and both for AUS, JPN)
1993 – France (live), Japan (highlights)
1994 – Pacific (highlights), San Marino, France, Hungary, Japan (live)
1995 – Australia, Argentina, San Marino, Spain, Japan (all live)
1996 – Canada, Japan (all live)
1997 – Japan (live)
1998 – Australia,France, Japan (all live)
2000 – Malaysia (live and re-run), Japan (live)
2001 – Japan (live)
2003 – Malaysia; Japan (both live)
2004 – China (live)

If anyone is reading and has any of them ratings, leave a comment. While this piece focusses primarily on the 2012 ratings picture, my April piece focussed on the ratings picture for the past twenty years. For anyone wishing to read that, please click here.

Racing Legends, a two part series, on BBC Two

Starting tonight and continuing tomorrow, Racing Legends pairs a celebrity with a legend as the celebrity retraces the steps of that particular racing legend.

Tonight’s episode at 20:00 on BBC Two follows Sir Patrick Stewart as he retraces the steps of three time Formula 1 champion Sir Stirling Moss, whilst tomorrow’s episode, also at 20:00 follows James Martin as he looks at the career of Sir Jackie Stewart. Patrick Stewart and Moss travel to Florence in Italy; Martin and Jackie Stewart head to the Alps and then onto the legendary Monza circuit.

Both programmes will be available on the BBC iPlayer for seven days after original transmission. This was meant to be a three part series, but the third part (Colin McRae and Sir Chris Hoy) has been pulled according to this post on AUTOSPORT Forum due to a ‘contractual problem’. The third part will therefore air at a later date.

Sky Sports F1’s mid-week output: The 2012 Verdict

Having looked at both BBC Sport’s and Sky Sports’ Formula 1 output at race weekends this season and at how both line-ups have performed, the latter two parts will focus on two separate issues. Part 6 (this part) will look at Sky Sports F1’s output outside of race weekends while part seven will look at the ratings picture from this past season and examine whether ratings have gone up or down as a result of the BBC and Sky deal that came into effect at the beginning of 2012.

Following the decision to create a channel for Formula 1 at the end of 2011, it meant that more programming had to be created so that Sky Sports F1 felt and looked like a channel. As thus, this season after every race weekend, Sky Sports F1 has broadcast:

Fast Track – a quick-fire look back at a race weekend accompanied by a backing track (30 minutes)
Weekend in Stills – photographs from a race weekend via Sutton images with a backing track (30 minutes)
Weekend in Words – a review of the interviews done across a race weekend (60 minutes)

Since the Summer break, when I did my August review, the only programme that has been added to the schedule was a six part series entitled “Britain’s Next F1 Star“, looking at the stars coming up through the ranks into Formula 1. Apart from that, though, nothing else has been added meaning that my mid-season thoughts are largely unchanged. Whilst I can see why some would find Weekend in Stills a good programme to watch, I don’t feel the same way for either Fast Track and Weekend in Words. Neither offer a new perspective for a race weekend, and instead are there to regurgitate material that has already been released. Weekend in Words in particular smacks of lazy programming in my opinion, at the best of times Formula 1 drivers sound and feel like ‘PR bots’ so I do not know why people would want to sit through this in any way, shape or form.

Instead, Sky should look at exploiting the footage that is hidden behind the Red Button and not released publicly and turn that into a programme. In my opinion there is so much programming that could be made from the footage, yet they are doing nothing with it. Whether that is for contractual reasons or not, I do not know. I made a little list back in August and will do the same below (although I won’t go back to that post to look at those thoughts, the list below will be similar to the one back then).

The Heart of Racing – an onboard view from one driver only, intersperced with their team-radio – whether its the race winner or someone further down (30 minutes)
Going Hybrid – a better version of the World Feed, except comprising of the World Feed, plus Onboard, Pitlane feeds and exclusive team-radio (60 minutes)
A Weekend with… – a weekend with a particular member of a team or an official looking at their activities during a race weekend from Thursday to Sunday from a video diary perspective (30 minutes)
The Little Extras – the little bits of footage that was shown on Sky Race Control during a race weekend, but never made the World Feed (30 minutes)
Extended Interview – an extended interview from the race weekend with no cuts (30 minutes – similar to the one they shown with Sebastian Vettel and Ted Kravitz following India. The beauty of that 15 minute cut was that it felt much ‘rawer’ than what it came across in the shorter 5 minute cut during the Indian Grand Prix race show as you seen a different side of Vettel and the laughs and jokes that do not come across in shorter cuts. The extended cuts would also show the drivers’ as more relaxed as well as the full answers to questions posed to them rather than a cut down version)

The thing is, at the moment there is nothing to entice me to watch Sky Sports F1 outside of race weekends, aside from The F1 Show, which is one hour out of a potential 15 hours (3 hours per day, Monday to Friday). The viewing figures outside of a race weekend are terribly low because there is zero incentive for anyone to tune in. All the channel consisted off for the majority of the year was repeat after repeat. Another show I would had, which I deliberately have not mentioned above is a studio show with journalists giving their opinion on all things Formula 1. It seems like this was trialled out in the Summer with David Croft presenting and I hope this returns in 2013 as it would significantly bolster their line-up. Unlike the above shows, it would not need to be every week, maybe six or seven editions a year spread throughout the year depending on what stories crop up in Formula 1, the benefit of having them spread out means you can get different journalists on screen and therefore different viewpoints.

As well as the above, a nod to the past must be given with documentaries being shown alongside the F1 Legends series. Unfortunately, though the signs are that Sky have been rejecting documentary series’, see these two tidbits here and here. The comment in the second link is staggering: “As an aside, when I approached the Head of F1 at Sky TV with the programme, (I showed him a 5 min clip) his ONE comment was ‘The interviews are crap but the old film is good.'” The fact that a dedicated Formula 1 channel is rejecting old documentaries shows that there is something seriously wrong with the decision making process. It is a channel that should be aimed at Formula 1 fans. You are not going to find Formula 1 documentaries that will cater to the casual Formula 1 fan, that won’t happen. They should be accepting the documentary offers as it would help increase the channel reputation and it would only help the channel further in the future. As with everything, you have to start somewhere, and it is not automatically the end of the world if one ‘bad’ documentary makes it to air. Whether it is old documentaries, or just ‘Top 10 Greatest Drivers’ and ‘Top 10 Greatest Races’ for example in the pre-season, things like this will help increase the reputation of the channel. Having a sparse channel outside of the weekend makes it look like the channel is run on a shoe-string budget which is not the impression they should be giving.

There are plenty of directions Sky could go with potential documentaries in 2013 but the outlook does not appear rosy. In 2012, you could argue that they were short of time as they only won the rights in July of 2011, but in March 2013, that argument falls down like a stack of cards. The channel should be stacked of programming come March, there really is zero excuse. After all, why bother having a dedicated Formula 1 channel, yet only make a half hearted effort of it? With the pre-season, as I noted above, they could air a ton of pre-season documentaries along the lines ‘Top 10s’ and get the contributions of their own on-air team alongside Formula 1 legends. Things like that would be relatively cheap compared to a detailed Formula 1 documentary on a team’s history, but it fills airtime, it does the job and brings a feel of ‘newness’ to the channel rather than yet more repeats. Sky seem to have the attitude that nothing before 2012 matters, hence why there is a heavy weighting on 2012 programming with the programming on ‘rinse and repeat’ in the off-season currently.

Which brings us nicely to classic races. The lack of classic Formula 1 races in 2012 on Sky Sports F1 was bewildering and staggering when you consider BBC’s fantastic classic F1 series online. Yes, they screened classic races from Monaco and Britain, but that was it. Nothing in the latter half of the season. In 2013, classic Formula 1 races is a must. Not season reviews, but classic F1 races. You may say, “they may not have the rights to screen them”. If so, it is beggars belief that they would create a channel without having the core archive rights beforehand as you leave yourself falling down a hole by doing that. In my opinion, classic F1 races are absolutely essential for the channel to succeed. After all, why bother building a channel without the core rights? It does not need to be tons of classic races, otherwise they will run out fast, but two or three a week would be sufficient before a race weekend. In fact, it does not even need to be a ‘classic’. Every race has a story. Why not exploit that story and re-tell the story in a new format (like ‘Senna’, but just one race), which goes back to the documentary mentions above.

With the above in mind, I would consider the following a strong schedule after a particular race weekend, in this case after the Australian Grand Prix and before the Malaysian Grand Prix:

Monday 18th March
19:00 – Replay from the Circuit
– replay of the Australian Grand Prix

Tuesday 19th March
19:00 – Fast Track
19:30 – The Heart of Racing
20:00 – Going Hybrid
21:00 – Classic F1: 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix

Wednesday 20th March
19:30 – A Weekend With…
20:00 – The Little Extras
20:30 – Extended Interview
21:00 – Classic F1: 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix

Thursday 21st March
19:30 – Weekend in Words
20:30 – Weekend in Stills
21:00 – Classic F1: 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix

Friday 22nd March
01:30 – Live from the Circuit
04:45 – Going Hybrid (R)
05:45 – Live from the Circuit
09:45 – The F1 Show
10:45 – Classic F1: 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix (R)
12:45 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
16:00 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
20:00 – The F1 Show (R)
21:00 – F1 Legends
21:30 – A Weekend With… (R)
22:00 – The Little Extras (R)
22:30 – Extended Interview (R)
23:30 – Fast Track (R)
23:30 – The Heart of Racing (R)

Saturday 23rd March
02:45 – Live from the Circuit
06:15 – Going Hybrid (R)
07:15 – Live from the Circuit
09:45 – Classic F1: 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix (R)
11:45 – The F1 Show
12:30 – The Little Extras (R)
13:00 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
17:30 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
20:00 – The F1 Show (R)
21:00 – Classic F1: 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix (R)

Sunday 24th March
06:00 – Live from the Circuit
12:30 – documentary
13:30 – Replay from the Circuit (R)
20:00 – Malaysian Grand Prix Highlights (R)

In the very least, there needs to be more content outside of race weekends. The media and sponsorship releases last week made no mention of any new content outside of race weekends, so time will tell whether the schedules look any different come late February and early March. I will praise the fact that they have some new content on over Christmas, specifically their 2012 season review and the twelve individual team reviews as they could have took the easier option and shut the channel over the Winter. Of course, with any new programming, it needs to be advertised – not once was Britain’s Next F1 Star trailed in adverts on Sky Sports F1, a problem that was common across the channel this season.

I don’t like to criticise, but it is not often a sport is given a dedicated channel and at the moment I do not feel Sky are exploiting the channel to its full potential outside of race weekends. This part of the ‘2012 Verdict’ may sound like the most critical, but for me, this was by far the weakest part of the product. Sky are approaching this as a ‘programme’ without thinking about the remainder of the channel. If they are thinking of it as a ‘programme’ then they should axe the channel in all honesty. There is nothing on Sky Sports F1 at the moment that they could not do on another Sky Sports channel. Which is why they need to bolster the content to justify the channel’s existence. Like I say though, this past season there may have been a perfectly valid reason that there was not enough time between July 2011 and March 2012 to commission, film and air content – although they did a very good job with what they did air, such as the Legends show which is returning in 2013. Hopefully the scope for that is expanded, also with sensible scheduling as once a week as I don’t think scheduling it after races worked.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome. Do you think Sky’s mid-week output needs to improve? Coming up in part seven, it is my look at the 2012 ratings.

Merry Christmas from The F1 Broadcasting Blog

Today is the one day of the year where I do not plan to write any content on this blog. Instead, I will simply say Merry Christmas! I hope you and your families and friends have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year. More importantly, the weather has been dicey to say the least as of late here in the UK with some flooding in parts of England and Wales so I hope everyone reading stays safe.

Also, from me, a personal thank you for reading and commenting on the blog since April, it is much appreciated. Since April, the blog has amassed 60,000 hits and I hope that number grows ever further into 2013. More content will be coming up before the New Year as I finish the ‘2012 Verdict’ series.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Cheers,
Dave
Owner of The F1 Broadcasting Blog