Motors TV joins Freeview via connected TV

From Thursday 27th February, Motors TV will be available to those with a Freeview HD or HD+ box, with an active internet connection only, it was confirmed today.

Arqiva’s Director of Hybrid TV, Digital Platforms Russ Armstrong said that “Motors TV is a brand that understands their audience and the various nuances between devices and platforms their audience engage on. Providing their content on the Freeview platform allows new viewers to discover their channel. Great content is as popular as ever and through Connect TV we’re working with broadcasters to ensure a seamless delivery of their channels.”

Frederic Viger, Head of Programming and Acquisitions at Motors TV, added “We’re delighted to be joining the Freeview family through Arqiva’s Connect TV. Scores of motor sport fans will now have access to the widest and most diverse range of live, delayed and highlights programming that features both international and domestic championships. It was something that prospective viewers had been calling for and I’d like to think that we’ve responded to their wishes. The proliferation of internet-connected television made this a very attractive platform.”

An interesting take on things from Motors TV, although I find it ironic that it is only available to those with a HD box, despite Motors TV being anything but high definition. Still, it is good to see Motors TV heading to Freeview, albeit for those who only have the box connected to the internet.

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Revamped F1 Show to feature studio audience

The F1 Show is to be revamped for the 2014 Formula One season and will feature a studio audience, it has been confirmed by Sky Sports today. The past two years have not featured a studio audience, and have been presented by Ted Kravitz alongside Georgie Thompson and Natalie Pinkham respectively. Sky did deviate from this last Summer with a 90 minute special taped the day before, which 62 percent of you wanted to see happen again. The revamp will feature a completely new studio, presumably you can expect one similar to that last Summer. Audience figures for the past two years have been generally low, rarely hitting 100,000 viewers per week.

My first thought is that I hope that the Midweek Report will move into The F1 Show’s old studio, possibly a scaled down version, personally I’d be very happy if that happened and extended to an hour, basically taking its place in terms of format. With a studio audience it means that the entire format of the show could potentially change depending on how involved the audience are going to get. Sky have an audience for Saturday Night Football, and I’ll be honest, they clap when they want to clap and be silent when they’re meant to, and it doesn’t add to the show (unlike say, Top Gear). Audience members do ask questions after the football game finishes on Saturday nights, but these are pre-prepared and generally are cookie cutter in nature.

One fear is that the show could become too lightweight, but this hinges on their guests. If you had Christian Horner and another Formula 1 boss on the show, and the audience was able to throw questions at them (yes, double points, I’m looking at you) then it could be great. But if we have more ‘samey’ guests who don’t give us much, I’m not sure it will work too well. Let’s have people on the show who fans want to get up close to and ask key questions to. The guests I think will be the deal breaker here. For reference, these are the studio based dates for The F1 Show this season:

– March x2 (7th and 21st)
– April x2 (11th and 25th)
– May x3 (2nd, 16th and 30th)
– June x2 (13th and 27th)
– July x1 (11th)
– August x4 (1st, 8th, 15th and 29th)
– September x2 (12th and 26th)
– October x2 (17th and 24th)
– November x2 (14th and 28th)

Note that those are based on my calculations, quite possible of course that Sky may end up with a mix of audience vs no audience shows, whilst two of those August shows will be a mid-season review and a Journalist’s review I imagine. What is unclear from the article is whether the show will be live, reference is made to a live studio audience, but then mentions that the programmes will be recorded later on, but I imagine we will get the answer sooner rather than later.

Update on February 27th – Gaz in the comments says that he will be in the audience for the first episode, noting that the filming is taking place between 20:00 and 21:00, meaning that the show will indeed be live.

Update on March 1st – Sky say that Natalie Pinkham and Simon Lazenby are presenting Friday’s show, I strongly hope that is just for the launch and not for every live studio show going forward.

Update on March 2nd – Ted Kravitz noted in the final testing Notebook that the presenting duties for The F1 Show will be shared around in 2014 between himself, Pinkham, Lazenby and David Croft. I suspect it will be Pinkham and Kravitz for the paddock shows, with it being a mix of Pinkham/Kravitz, Pinkham/Croft and Pinkham/Lazenby for the studio shows.

Sky max out schedule with classic races

It appears that Sky Sports F1 have had a Winter clean, as today’s schedule updates for the channel following the Australian Grand Prix reveal some perhaps surprising developments.

Ted’s Notebook remains, continuing to be fifteen minutes in length.
– Sky are repeating the Classic F1 races that they originally shown last year. Conviently, Sky repeating those races last December meant that I made a full list of them on the aforementioned link. In between Australia and Malaysia, schedules already show Japan 1998, USA 1981, Abu Dhabi 2010, Japan 1988 and Brazil 2003. Interestingly, I don’t think that USA 1981 has been shown before on Sky Sports F1, so that race at least is new. If Sky have flexibility to do this, and if they plan to, I’d much prefer to see an entire season across two or three weeks as I have advocated on this blog before.
Midweek Report is back! A new timeslot, Wednesday’s at 20:30. I hope Anna Woolhouse is back presenting, and I hope the discussion and guests differs from the main Sky Sports F1 team, please don’t turn it into ‘another show’, Sky.
F1 Legends returns with Juan Pablo Montoya, an edition I’m definitely looking forward to.

Those four points are not surprising. However, Weekend in Stills, Fast Track, Inside Track are not in the schedule, nor are the Brundle and Pinkham fifteen minute segments that Sky created last season. If you were hoping for Sky to create new programming aside from their 2013 offerings between races you are going to be disappointed, however if you want to sit down and watch a classic race each night I think you’ll be pretty pleased. Regarding new programming, I am wondered what has happened to the Max Chilton series that they were meant to be filming with him last season, as talk on that front has gone quiet from all directions.

A final note is that Sky’s race day programme will continue to be split into three for 2014, Australia is down as three separate shows. Remember that, when it comes to PR reporting should viewing figures be down year-on-year, if you’re going to compare, do it fairly. As The F1 Broadcasting Blog intends to throughout the upcoming season…

Of course schedules are subject to change, so I’ll update this blog post if anything post-Australia scheduling wise changes.

Update on February 25th – Sky are indeed maxing out on classic races, one race a day from March 7th through to December 31st. In terms of content, I don’t think there will be more content, just that the scheduling will actually make sense in 2014. And hey, they are actually promoting it, which is good!

Update on March 3rd – Forgot to say that Sky’s schedules do indeed confirm Anna Woolhouse as host of the Midweek Report again.

Analysis: Heading into the unknown

The BT Sport announcement focussing on their MotoGP presentation line-up brings with good news, bad news and also a few questions.

Starting with the positives, and BT have assembled a very strong punditry team with Neil Hodgson and James Toseland. It was important for BT Sport to get well known motorcycle names to be a part of the coverage and, from a British perspective, they’ve done just that. As with any pairing, without seeing them on screen, it is difficult to say how it will play out on screen, but they have got the first step right with who they have managed to get. Another positive is the commentary line-up. The positive being in that it is not Charlie Cox and Steve Parrish. Whilst I am going to critical on some aspects of their coverage later on, I am happy that we don’t have to hear Cox struggling to commentate on what felt like far too many occasions last season.

Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder is an interesting one. I’ll be honest in saying that I have never heard proper commentary from them from back in their heyday in the mid 1990s, you can do the sums if I say that I’m currently 21! What disappoints me is the decision to omit Toby Moody. I accept that BT want to go in a different direction in some aspects, because inevitably they want to evolve the coverage. But I’m unsure how reverting to a commentary team from twenty years ago does that. I also didn’t hear anyone wanting Moody out of the coverage. Again, I’m from am era who has only really watched races with Moody and Ryder commentating, saying that I would be interested to hear where people rank Huewen and Ryder in comparison to Moody and Ryder.

> Analysis: A bitter pill to swallow?
> BT Sport vs BSkyB for live Formula E rights?
> Doing the sums: the cost of viewing F1 and MotoGP in 2014

The scheduling of MotoGP Tonight feels like a genius move. Tuesdays at 20:00 on terrestrial television is a ‘dead’ slot and mainly skewed towards female, so this makes perfect sense. One of my criticisms I have with Sky Sports F1 is their insistence to air The F1 Show live on a Friday night when their core, young audience is out. I’m happy BT have learnt a lesson from Sky here and have done some sensible scheduling. I’m looking forward to seeing how MotoGP Tonight plays out, if done correctly it has the potential to be a gem – like The F1 Show was in 2012 before it fell off the rails. The expansive studio should allow them to do some interesting stuff so it will be interesting to see if anything happens there.

With positives, there are negatives. If I made a list of the twenty people most likely to be in the running as potential MotoGP host on BT Sport, I don’t think Melanie Sykes would ever feature in that list. Possibly even top 100. Which makes her announcement even more of a surprise. I assume that Sykes was not BT’s first choice, I would have had Suzi Perry, Jennie Gow, Matt Roberts amongst others above Sykes. In other words, quite a few people must have rejected BT Sport before Sykes became a firm contender. It might be telling that the Sykes rumour only emerged in the last week, even though the commentary line-up has been common knowledge amongst the motorcycling circles for a while. What worries me here is that Sykes has never presented a live sporting event, and I don’t think has done an outside broadcast for years, most of her work has been inside television studios.

Yes, Sykes has bags of experience, but not the right experience. Jake Humphrey and Simon Lazenby both started their respective Formula 1 presenting roles with live sporting experience, the former most notably climbed through BBC’s ranks, made a good impression at the 2008 Olympics and the rest is history. I’m willing to give her a chance, but the ‘Georgie Thompson vibe’ comes to mind here. Thompson left Sky Sports F1 after a year to head to America. Thankfully for Sky, Thompson was a relatively small part of the puzzle and was easily replaced. If Sykes decided after a year that she didn’t want to do the gig any more I don’t think it would be as simple for BT. I hope BT have Sykes locked in for the long term otherwise we could well see the Thompson situation play out again. On a similar subject, having Iwan Thomas regularly on MotoGP Tonight suggests that they are trying to cater for the casual viewer, although in both cases, I do not imagine someone thinking “Melanie Sykes is presenting MotoGP, I must watch it!”.

Aside from Sykes and the omission of Moody, another interesting point is the scheduling. British Eurosport last year were already doing a few hours per day, meaning it is difficult for BT Sport for step up too much from that. Maybe its just me, but ‘five hours of coverage a day’ sounds vague, although it must be noted that the MotoGP weekend schedule is structured differently compared with Formula 1, more for the fan at track rather than strictly conforming to TV viewers at home. I think we will have to wait and see until the schedules come out to see how exactly the coverage forms out, thinking about presentation too at this point given that the press release gives no clue as to whether BT plan to take the World Feed for Moto2 and Moto3.

Overall, I do think the team is good. There’s some aspects I’ve missed out here, and that is deliberate because I don’t know much about them, Matt Birt and Gavin Emmett being those two. One thing I don’t know is how ‘technical’ either of them are in comparison to Neil Spalding and previously Randy Mamola, which is why I have not touched that above. The only mainly negative aspect is Sykes, and I hope I’m proven wrong where she is concerned. I think it is a risk BT taking someone on without a proven track record, but it won’t be long before we find out whether it was a risk worth taking.

BT Sport announces MotoGP line-up and programming

BT Sport have unveiled their MotoGP line-up that will cover the series for them throughout the 2014 season, in what it says will be the most extensive coverage of the sport that has ever been seen in the UK.

Melanie Sykes will present the coverage, with former World Superbike champions Neil Hodgson and James Toseland alongside her. Whilst Sykes comes to BT Sport having presented no live sports coverage, she has presented numerous live programmes on ITV such as Today with Des and Mel and Let’s do Lunch with Gino and Mel. The coverage will be presented on-site at each event, with additional analysis from BT Sport’s studios at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. Keith Huewen will be the lead commentator in a three man booth alongside Julian Ryder, the partnership reuniting after a fifteen year separation. Motorcycle News chief grand prix correspondent Matt Birt is the third man in that booth, whilst Gavin Emmett, who can also be heard on MotoGP’s World Feed commentating, will be BT Sport’s reporter.

Coverage will formally launch with a preview show on Tuesday 18th March as the channel reflects on pre-season testing and looks to the season ahead. From that point forward, BT Sport will broadcast an hour long programme on Tuesday nights at 20:00. Entitled MotoGP Tonight, it will be presented by Craig Doyle and former Olympian and biker, Iwan Thomas, with guests each week. Each weekend coverage will begin on Friday mornings with five hours of coverage each day. The exception to this is Qatar, where coverage will begin on Thursday 20th March at 15:00, from the first minute of Moto3 practice 1 to ten minutes after Moto2 practice 2 has concluded. Aside from the details announced today, it was revealed yesterday that BT have created a MotoGP film, to air in the build-up to Qatar.

Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: “It’s really exciting to be launching such a thrilling new sport on BT Sport, with a tremendous new team and what we believe will be a fresh approach to MotoGP and some fantastic new shows. MotoGP is the top, two-wheeled motorsport. It’s massive in the UK and we’re heading into it at full throttle and following every second of the action. We’re sure we’ll appeal to committed fans, but we also think we will win over and welcome new fans to the sport.”

Manel Arroyo, managing director, Dorna Sports, said: “I’m pleased that MotoGP is part of such a huge and exciting project as BT Sport. I’m sure that BT Sport will provide the in-depth coverage that MotoGP deserves so that British fans can follow the fortunes of British riders in the Championship.” As expected, there will be interactive options via the BT Sport app with eight views in total: the main coverage; helicopter; live timing; a tracking screen and 4 x onboard. Full races and highlights will also be available on the app.

The channel’s deal with Dorna Sports covers the period from 2014 through to the end of 2018 and will be produced by North One Television. As it stands, MotoGP will not have any terrestrial television coverage from this point going forward.