BBC to show majority of MotoGP Qualifying sessions on terrestrial TV

The BBC are to show the majority of this season’s MotoGP Qualifying sessions on either BBC One or BBC Two, it has been confirmed. As noted by Matt Roberts on Twitter:

“so guys… good news is majority of qualifying sessions will be shown live this season on BBC1 or BBC2!”

Schedules currently show that the Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying session will be live on BBC Two at 13:00 on Saturday 4th May, with the French Grand Prix Qualifying session on BBC One two weeks later.

Furthermore, it appears that they will also be broadcasting free practice behind the Red Button if this page is to go by.

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A bright start for Sky

After a good first season covering Formula 1 last year, Sky Sports’ coverage headed into year two with improvements already evident from the outset. Before the crew had even arrived in Melbourne, they had covered the final test live and in 3D for the first time ever. Overall, the coverage was well received, as Sky succeeded in keeping viewers interested for the entirety throughout their live shows.

From there, the road show moved to Australia, where the benefits of producing testing live soon became evident. As I have said earlier, broadcasting testing was not a simple matter of Sky placing a few cameras around the circuit. Sky needed permission from Formula One Management (FOM) to broadcast testing live, which was finally granted to them so they could broadcast the third test live. In my opinion though, Sky producing testing was them saying to FOM “here is what we can do, if you give us the opportunity”. Although FOM produce the majority of the races, apart from Monaco, Sky taking over the testing coverage for Barcelona meant that they could display their own on-screen graphics. The result of this appears to be that FOM have ‘loosened up’ for 2013, and given Sky a bit more freedom in what they can and cannot do.

The changes were noticeable immediately in Australia, as Sky overlaid a few graphics on the FOM feed, such as Mark Hughes’ predictions and captions at various points. Hughes’ predictions are a great little addition and soundbite to the sessions, which I hope continues throughout the year. Another addition included the use of split-screen when Sky cut to an interview, or to show something separate. A gripe of mine last year was Sky cutting away from the World Feed too much and becoming ‘trigger happy’ with the ability to do so. The split-screen is therefore the best of both worlds where this is concerned. FOM loosening up has definitely changed their coverage for the better, in my opinion.

Outside of the World Feed, and down in pit-lane they have been helped by the addition of Rachel Brookes, which coincides with the Sky Sports News team looking more integrated into the Sky Sports F1 product. I don’t know if this is a result of Georgie Thompson’s departure, but for me, Brookes is definitely the better pit-lane reporter on the Sky team, therefore I was pleased to see her getting airtime during their first two race weekends. On the flip side, I did not spot David Garrido during their Australian Grand Prix build-up. Last year, Garrido presented many Sky Sports News segments from a downtown studio in Melbourne – both Garrido and the downtown studio unfortunately appeared to be absent from proceedings this year.

On the subject of Thompson, I felt that she would be a loss to the channel, because her and Ted Kravitz were fantastic presenters for The F1 Show and she was necessary for the Sky Pad segments with Anthony Davidson. As I said in my 2012 verdict last December: “In my opinion, the answer is that Davidson is not a natural broadcaster, so whilst he may be able to describe a particular incident very well, he may not be able to lead an entire segment, hence why Thompson is there to help guide the segment and bring a steady ship on-board. I personally don’t have an issue with their being two people there, arguably it works better with two people than one.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Alongside with moving the Sky Pad outside for Malaysia, it turns out that the Sky Pad works better with one person than two. What was a good segment last year has been turned into a fantastic segment, and Davidson is turning into a natural broadcaster quickly. Whilst that is great, her absent is felt on The F1 Show, I’m not keen on Natalie Pinkham’s style of presenting, as I have said before.

Scheduling wise, the channel appears to have stuck with the same schedule for practice and qualifying, but it will be interesting to see if this changes into the European season. Their qualifying coverage in Australia began with a baptism of fire, thanks to technical difficulties as the TV compound was struck by a power failure. On the whole, their pre-race coverage does not appear to have changed – for better or for worse – compared with 2012. Unfortunately, the ad-breaks still are a bugbear of mine and ruin the flow of the pre-session build-ups.

Whilst there are negatives, the reason I entitled this piece ‘a bright start for Sky’ is mainly because of the post-qualifying and post-race coverage, which has vastly improved compared with 2012. The post session debrief now has a flow to it that was not seen last year, with neat segments for Anthony Davidson’s Sky Pad and Kravitz’s Notebook, along with in-depth analysis with the main players. Furthermore, Malaysia shown that they are not afraid to divert from the formulaic approach, Malaysia’s post-race show was easily one of the best yet for Sky Sports F1. The team appears to have improved and gelled more compared with 2012, with Simon Lazenby now blending in with the remainder of the team nicely. The package is more polished versus 2012, and it is clear for all to see.

Overall, it has been a great start to 2013 for Sky Sports F1, and I hope that continues as the season progresses.

Analysis: Malaysian Grand Prix ratings soar to record highs

For this race weekend only, I have more data to pour over, meaning that there is a different format to the ratings report. Either way, everything as usual is located below.

Friday
Live coverage of practice was on average down compared with 2012, thanks to the rating for practice two nearly halving year-on-year. Practice 1 from 02:00 to 03:50 averaged 64,000 viewers (5.1%), compared with 49,000 viewers (4.0%) last year. The session peaked with 83,000 viewers at 02:30, a higher peak than in 2012. Whilst Practice 1 was up, Practice 2 dropped by nearly half on 2012. 2012’s session averaged 110,000 viewers, compared with only 60,000 viewers (2.4%) on Friday. When factoring in the first repeat airing, the averages are 99,000 viewers and 109,000 viewers, compared with 79,000 viewers and 160,000 viewers in 2012. Overall, this is a drop of 14.9 percent on 2012.

The F1 Show on Friday morning averaged 40,000 viewers (0.67%) at 10:00, a drop of 6,000 viewers on the same edition last year. Factoring in the first repeat airing brings the number for 2013 up to 66,000 viewers, an identical number to 2012. It should be noted that this year, The F1 Show is also simulcast live on Sky1 and is repeated on various Sky Sports channels, presumably in response to the poor ratings it received in 2012. It is difficult therefore to get a clear picture of where about The F1 Show sits in comparison to 2012.

GP2 Practice benefited from the higher practice rating than 2012, averaging 33,000 viewers (3.9%), compared with 5,000 viewers last year, a huge increase percentage wise compared with 2012. This may be as a result of more people recording it, but the Qualifying rating somewhat dispels that myth, Qualifying only bringing 10,000 viewers to Sky Sports F1, marginally above the 2012 number. Sky only have themselves to blame here, as GP2 has again received very little promotion. GP2 should be easy to promote ‘stars of the future’ and the such like, but it seems a 30 second advert promoting the series is difficult to put together.

Saturday
As with Friday, the F1 average dropped for Sky Sports F1 compared with 2012. Practice 3 from 04:45 averaged 36,000 viewers (3.8%), compared with 53,000 viewers last year. Qualifying on the channel also suffered a drop. From 07:00 to 09:45, the programme averaged 336,000 viewers (5.4%), peaking with 639,000 viewers (8.1%) at 08:55. This compares with an average of 420,000 viewers and a peak of 743,000 viewers last year. Overall, Saturday’s Sky Sports F1 live Qualifying coverage dropped an average of 25 percent compared with 2012. Its repeat airing though made up some of the loss, as the repeat at 13:00 averaged 133,000 viewers (1.1%), compared with 79,000 viewers in a similar slot last year, which reduces the drop to an average of 6.3 percent.

Where the Formula 1 dropped, GP2 improved. Its live airing averaged 40,000 viewers (3.3%), higher than last year, which had 17,000 viewers (1.6%). The difference this year, however, was that it had no daytime repeat, unlike last year where it was repeated straight after F1 Qualifying to 78,000 viewers so this needs to be accounted for. This year, the first repeat was seen by 21,000 viewers at 22:45.

Sky’s loss was BBC’s gain, as their ratings went up significantly. Qualifying from 13:00 to 14:15 averaged 2.83 million (24.0%), peaking with 3.07 million (25.6%) at 13:50. This compares with an average of 1.83 million (22.9%) last year. No doubt this is partially due to the awful weather experienced, which increased the amount of viewers watching TV during the day. Percentage wise, it was an increase of 54.6 percent on 2012. The high BBC rating meant that it was the most watched Malaysian Grand Prix Qualifying session on record.

Sunday
Unsurprisingly, the controversial race and the snow mentioned above helped the race become the most watched Malaysian Grand Prix on record – the previous high being 2011 which averaged 4.47 million for live and repeat.

Official Ratings
– 2006 – 3.39 million
– 2007 – 2.84 million
– 2008 – 3.51 million
– 2009 – 4.36 million
– 2010 – 4.37 million
– 2011 – 4.47 million
– 2012 – 3.68 million/4.00 million (using “35.1 percent theory“)
– 2013 – 4.73 million/4.95 million (using Sky figures from only 07:00 to 10:15)

BBC One’s highlights show averaged 4.01 million viewers (27.1%), whilst Sky Sports F1 from 06:30 to 11:30 averaged 722,000 viewers (10.8%). The highlights show peaked with 4.66 million (30.0%) at 16:00, Sky peaked with 1.35m (15.0%) at 09:25, bringing the combined peak to 6.01 million viewers. Last year, the BBC’s highlights averaged 2.73 million (27.9%), whilst Sky had 850,000 (12.0%) from 07:30 to 13:00 (extended due to the red flag), their show peaking with 1.53 million (19.6%). The percentages are slightly down year-on-year, due to the larger audience watching television due to the snow.

Sky’s figures are also down – but this is more down to the red flag last year which meant that viewership remained high during the red flag period. The controversial end to the Grand Prix helped Sky’s figures significantly, with viewership remaining above 300,000 viewers until 11:00, before dropping to 269,000 viewers at the end. The figures are an increase of 32.2 percent on 2012, the second race in a row to increase on 2012, a very good sign.

To round things off, live coverage of the Indy Car Series on ESPN averaged 16,000 viewers, in line with last year’s numbers on Sky Sports. Not bad.

Note: All ratings quoted are overnight ratings.

ITV extend British Touring Car Championship contract

ITV have extended their contract with the British Touring Car Championship series, it was confirmed yesterday. Coverage will remain the same as it is now, with seven hours of live action on ITV4 and Qualifying being streamed online by ITV.com.

BTCC Series Director Alan Gow said: “ITV’s commitment to the BTCC is unrivalled in British motor sport. I’m absolutely delighted to have signed this new contract, which maintains the same vast level of free-to-air coverage the series currently enjoys until at least 2017. The determination from both parties to finalise this deal, more than a year before the expiration of our current contract, is testament to the strength and huge appeal of the BTCC. Many of our teams have been able to sign long-term deals with partners during what’s become a record-breaking age for the BTCC and this new broadcasting agreement will enable them to further build for the future. ITV’s commitment means that more than 230 hours of each BTCC season will be broadcast… and, of course, a great many more hours if we include ITV’s ‘+1 hour’ rebroadcast stations to those figures. This new deal further validates the unrivalled popularity and strength of the BTCC and our incredibly strong relationship with ITV is something that I’m immensely proud of.”

Niall Sloane, Director of Sport at ITV said: “The British Touring Car Championship has been a hit with viewers on ITV4, and ITV Sport is delighted to have secured the rights until at least the end of the 2016 season. We look forward to more great racing and stories in the years to come as the BTCC continues to evolve.”

The news is fantastic for the series, which attracts peak audience figures of near to 1 million viewers for each race weekend. To extend it to 2017 secures the series as well on free-to-air television for the forseeable future. Whilst the coverage level will remain the same for 2013, there will be one personnel change, with Toby Moody stepping down from his main commentary role after one season, being replaced by David Addison.