Hamilton’s win not as big as “multi 21” but remains solid

With no race drama in another “multi 21” controversy up front to draw in viewers, nor plumes of snow in the United Kingdom, the Malaysian Grand Prix dropped off year-on-year, but didn’t disgrace itself.

Race
Yesterday’s live coverage on BBC One from 08:00 to 11:15 averaged 2.45m (32.7%) with Sky Sports F1’s race show, also from 08:00 bringing 574k (7.7%) to the channel. Highlights on BBC One added 1.07m (12.5%), according to unofficial overnight viewing figures, bringing the combined average to 4.09m viewers. In 2013, the race averaged 4.01m (27.1%) for the highlights show on BBC One and 908k (13.0%) from 07:00 to 10:30 on Sky Sports F1. With a combined figure of 4.92m, it means a drop of over 20 percent. However, given the controversy that surrounded last years’ race, and the British weather doing what it does best, this shouldn’t be too surprising. Does that make it a bad rating? I don’t think so, as last year was clearly a set of freak circumstances all coming together.

In 2012, perhaps a better reflection, the race averaged 2.73m (27.9%) on BBC One from 14:45 to 16:40 and about 1.03m (14.0%) on Sky Sports F1. An exact slot comparison is difficult for 2012 as the race was red flagged and overran. This brings us to a combined average of 3.76m in 2012, so 2014 is up on that. It should be noted that yesterday’s figure is down on the BBC exclusive years: 2009, 2010 and 2011. So whilst, yes its a solid rating and not a disaster, it is definitely by no means great.

Elsewhere, live coverage of the opening round of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship averaged a disappointing 192k (2.1%) on ITV4 (including +1) from 10:30 to 18:00, peaking with 278k (3.4%) at 14:20. By the championship’s standards, that is an unusually low rating, and is the lowest season opener since at least 2010. I don’t know the reasoning behind it, but in the past, BTCC races have tended to peak upwards of half a million viewers so that strikes me as low. The F1 highlights could have knocked a few hundred thousand off it, however it is a seven and a half hour show where viewers traditionally dip ‘in’ for the main BTCC races, except that clearly didn’t happen yesterday. Over on ESPN, IndyCar averaged 5k (0.01%). BT Sport haven’t promoted IndyCar once this year, so this should come as no surprise. In their view, it is simply there to fill the hours.

Qualifying
Saturday’s Qualifying session brought in the second largest ever audience for a Malaysian Qualifying session, only behind 2013, unofficial overnight viewing figures show. Extended live coverage on BBC One from 07:00 to 10:10 averaged a respectable 1.41m (24.0%). I use the word ‘respectable’ as it is not that much better than BBC One’s usual Saturday morning line-up, but it is still good for what it is. Sky Sports F1’s coverage averaged approximately 282k (4.8%), with BBC One’s afternoon highlights from 13:15 to 15:30 adding a further 850k (11.0%).

This brings the combined figure to 2.55m viewers, a far cry from the 3.17m combined average in 2013 – split 336k for Sky and 2.83m for BBC, but above every other year. In the grand scheme of things, it has to be said that 2013 is an anomaly due to the weather: the preceding years from 2009 to 2012 were all in the ~2.2m region.

The 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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Scheduling: The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix

From one hot and humid country to another as Formula 1 quickly heads from Malaysia to Bahrain, which also marks the first of two night races in 2014. No matter, a night race won’t hide the fact that the race is in the desert and therefore still makes for a dull back drop. It remains to be seen whether on track activity or other political activity will be the main focus during the Grand Prix weekend, but we shall see.

If you want to jump to the schedule, click the links below:

Thursday 3rd April
Friday 4th April
Saturday 5th April
Sunday 6th April
Wednesday 9th April
Classic F1

BBC are screening highlights of this race, which is unsurprising considering it is near to the edge of prime time. Also, Qualifying clashes with the Grand National, which is a poor scheduling decision all around, and will definitely hurt Sky’s Qualifying rating. The side effect of Bahrain being a night race means that BBC’s programming is on BBC Two. The terms of the contract say that BBC’s highlights have to be on more than ‘X hours’ (which varies depending on timezone I think) after the live action, which is why Bahrain is on at 21:00 and 22:00 respectively, and not on BBC One as it would displace prime time programming. Due to various clashes, practice commentary on BBC Radio is consigned to online.

Returning this weekend is GP2 on Sky Sports F1, now into year three on the channel. For anyone wanting GP2’s profile to increase at all in the UK, Sky are taking the World Feed only again, so no pre and post-race coverage it seems. Will Buxton will be providing the commentary again, for 2014 he will be alongside Luca Filippi. It’s disappointing, as they should be looking at maximising what they have, especially considering the favourable timeslots this weekend. On the other hand, Sky may take the view that only one driver from GP2 or GP3 has graduated to Formula 1 for this season, so why give the series’ more air-time if it is not bringing any benefit in the long run? I’d argue that they should add Formula Renault 3.5 to the channel, but as long as the channel is named Sky Sports F1, that won’t happen, but it’s a discussion for another day.

Thursday 3rd April
13:00 to 13:45 – F1: Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
20:45 to 21:00 – F1: Gear Up for Bahrain (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 4th April
10:00 to 10:50 – GP2: Practice (Sky Sports F1)
11:45 to 13:50 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
15:45 to 17:55 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
17:55 to 18:35 – GP2: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)
19:00 to 19:45 – F1: Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
20:00 to 21:00 – The F1 Show: Force India Special (Sky Sports F1)

Saturday 5th April
11:05 to 12:20 – GP2: Race 1 (Sky Sports F1)
12:45 to 14:10 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
15:00 to 17:45 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
15:55 to 17:05 – F1: Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)
21:00 to 22:15 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (BBC Two)

Sunday 6th April
12:10 to 13:10 – GP2: Race 2 (Sky Sports F1)
14:30 to 19:15 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 14:30 – Track Parade
=> 15:00 – Race
=> 18:30 – Paddock Live
15:45 to 18:00 – F1: Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
22:00 to 23:30 – F1: Race Highlights (BBC Two)

Wednesday 9th April
20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report (Sky Sports F1)

Classic F1 on Sky Sports F1
Another minor moan is the classic F1 scheduling. I noted before that each race is getting three outings this season (so in reality it is the same output as last year, with a few races being added to the collection and a few removed). The issue I have is the randomness of it all. From 2008 to 1982 to 2011 and then to 1993 in the week after Bahrain. Why not have a story that viewers can follow over a two week period, a complete season? Again, it’s not what they are currently doing is bad (in fact, we should applaud them for showing classic races), it’s just that they are not maximising what they have in my opinion. I wrote a post nearly two years ago with an idea, and the basis of it I feel it is valid more than ever with Sky airing one F1 race a day.

03/04 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix (Sky commentary)
04/04 – 13:50 to 15:00 – 1972 Season Review
04/04 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix
05/04 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix
06/04 – 13:30 to 14:30 – 1973 Season Review
06/04 – 22:30 to 23:30 – 1994 Japanese Grand Prix Highlights
07/04 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix Highlights
08/04 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix
09/04 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2008 Italian Grand Prix
10/04 – 21:00 to 22:00 – 1982 Belgian Grand Prix Highlights
11/04 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
12/04 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1993 Monaco Grand Prix Highlights
13/04 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1984 Austrian Grand Prix Highlights
14/04 – 21:00 to 22:45 – 2003 British Grand Prix
15/04 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1990 Hungarian Grand Prix Highlights

If anything changes, I’ll add a note below.

The F1 App ramps up video content

Since launching a few weeks ago, the F1 App is already growing, and adding new content. For 2014, there are two versions of the app: a free (lite) version and a premium version for £7.49, the latter of which contains exclusive team radio, live timing amongst other things. The app also comes with BBC Radio 5 Live commentary for the entire race weekend. The app has been brought in house by Formula One Management (FOM) over the Winter break. Having been developed by Softpauer for 2013, this year, a company called ‘Formula One Digital Media Limited‘ (FODM), under the FOM umbrella has taken over the app.

So, what does this mean? To put it simply: FOM can do a lot more with the app, they have more control. And by creating a new company, it means that anything concerning the app can fall under this company. An aspect FOM also promoted was ‘video’, but they never specified what video. Why is this a point of interest? Because already one and a half race weekends into the year, FOM are already increasing what they are offering on the app. The first sign of video content popped up on the official Formula 1 website a few days prior to Australia, with an eleven minute insight into the regulation changes for 2014. That video is also notable for archive footage being featured, the first occurrence of that happening on the website. Video content continued into Australia: a pit lane insight with Gary Anderson, following him parting company with BBC and also an eight minute interview with Felipe Massa and his race engineer.

We’re not even half way through the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend and already there is more video content than Australia. There was a video with James Allen talking about the heat added, whilst a video was uploaded from Thursday with Caterham’s Alexander Rossi doing the track walk accompanied by Bob Constanduros, finishing off with Anderson interviewing a member of the Caterham team. At eleven minutes in length, the amount of detail it has to be said was more than your typical BBC or Sky feature which is normally snipped down to three or four minutes for TV, whereas an app doesn’t have any such restrictions. The best thing about the videos already mentioned is that FOM are utilising Anderson! If a technical row breaks out at all this year, you may find that the best analysis is not on BBC or Sky… but in fact on the official F1 App, which would be quite a turn around considering this is completely new territory for FOM.

The most interesting thing is that a round-up of practice two was uploaded, and not geo-blocked. I’m not sure whether that is surprising or not. At the end of the day though, it is FOM’s footage so they are free to do what they want with it. I don’t think the broadcasters will be too happy if FOM start throwing a lot of World Feed footage onto the app, however it is a very clever move by FOM where the app is concerned, start from the ground up, and then gradually add more videos each race weekend. Arguably this is better than doing everything all at once: see what the customer likes and work from that base point onwards and upwards. I don’t know whether this is the plan for the entire season, but it seems like smart marketing to me.

I’m going to be fascinated to see where we end up with the app come Abu Dhabi, whether they stick to a certain amount of videos per weekend, or whether it will be a constant work in progress. I’ve criticised FOM a lot for failing to see the digital age for what it really is. But this is a brilliant step in the right direction. Yes, social media, Twitter, Facebook needs to be worked on significantly (@F1 has only retweeted once, and it is clearly not fully human yet), as always though you need to start somewhere. And who knows, maybe live streaming via the official Formula 1 website and app could happen sooner than you might expect…

MotoGP viewership drops without FTA live coverage

A new era in the broadcasting scene began for MotoGP this past weekend on BT Sport and ITV4, with diminishing returns, as the sport found itself being watched by less people than the previous BBC and Eurosport deal, unofficial overnight viewing figures show. In 2013, the race was screened exclusively live on BBC Two from 19:30 to 21:00, the race starting an hour later in 2013 compared with this season. The programme averaged 1.67m (6.9%), peaking with 2.12m (8.4%) at 20:40.

Compare that to last weekend. BT Sport’s programme, from 15:00 to 20:30, averaged 126k (0.8%). When comparing with the equivalent BBC slot for the MotoGP race last year, from 18:30 to 20:00, that averaged 187k (0.8%), peaking with 230k (1.1%) at 19:05. ITV4’s hour long highlights show last night average 492k (2.2%), peaking with 603k (2.6%) according to unofficial overnight viewing figures, including +1. This brings us to a combined average of 679k, and a combined peak of 833k. For both years, viewing excludes anyone who viewed via the internet, so all viewing via the BT Sport app or their website is excluded, whilst the same also applies for anyone who viewed MotoGP in 2013 through BBC iPlayer. I would hazard a bet that the latter figures would be higher than the former, meaning that the overall effect is negligible.

So, are the figures any good? I said previously that if BT’s average, for the MotoGP part, was around 200k to 250k, then that would be acceptable (250k being their rumoured expectation), with ITV4’s highlights adding a further 400k. That would bring a combined figure in the 600k region, with a peak realistically near to 1 million. I’d say the figures are positive, but also a tale of two halves. Given the amount of promotion that they have done, BT’s figures are lower than I expected. On the other hand, ITV’s highlights deal came with little fan-fare and no promotion in comparison to BT. Yet, despite being on 24 hours after the original race, it brought nearly half a million viewers. BT Sport will claim to increase the sports popularity, except the viewing figures show completely the opposite. In many ways, the ITV4 viewership number has ‘saved face’. It is one of ITV4’s highest ratings of the year, only behind football and numerous repeats of Storage Wars.

I think you could run around this subject a lot, but the fact is that, thanks to Dorna taking the money and not the viewers, the viewership has halved. Julian Ryder said on Twitter last month that without BT Sport’s money, some teams would not have been on the MotoGP grid this year. I have no reason not to believe Ryder, and trust what he is saying. But instead of going to pay TV, surely MotoGP should have had a look at itself and say how do we make ourselves marketable to the wider public in the UK? If it wasn’t for the ITV4 deal (which Dorna themselves did not promote on the MotoGP website, with a press release, like they did twice for BT Sport), then MotoGP would have been turned into a niche sport.

So, will the declines continue? I think they will, be not to the extent we seen in Qatar. If ITV4’s highlights stays around half a million viewers, with BT Sport adding say 150k for the European races, then it won’t be a million miles away from BBC’s ratings. I think Dorna would have perhaps been hoping for a higher BT figure and a lower ITV4 figure. The gap, and how the viewing changes over the season will definitely be one to watch. If I’m a betting man, I’d say MotoGP will lose viewers this year, but thanks to the ITV4 deal, this has definitely been a better deal for Dorna than many people may have expected…

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Scheduling: The 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix

Whether it is noise, fuel or just, you know, the racing that gets you talking, there is plenty on the agenda as Formula 1 heads to Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Malaysian circuit is highly regarded by Formula 1 fans, this year is its 15th anniversary on the calendar having joined in 1999. The race will be the first of nine races to be screened live on both the BBC and Sky Sports F1 this season. Before getting into the main details, the most important point for all of those in the UK is that the clocks go forward one hour in the early hours of Sunday morning. So, just be wary of that if you plan to put your alarm on. If you want to jump to the schedule, click on the links below…

Thursday 27th March
Friday 28th March
Saturday 29th March
Sunday 30th March
Wednesday 2nd April
Classic F1

Based on comments in Australia, I don’t believe that Eddie Jordan will be with the BBC team in Malaysia, so expect to see Allan McNish alongside Suzi Perry and David Coulthard for the build-up and post-race reaction. Over on Sky Sports F1, ahead of ‘Senna Week’ at the end of April to mark the 20th anniversary of Ayrton’s death, Bruno Senna will be making his first appearance with the team in Malaysia. I did at the time say that Bruno would be a good addition to the Sky team, nothing more, nothing less. Whilst we don’t have concrete details, I think it is fair to assume that he will be playing a significant part in the Senna programming coming up, which was probably the main reason for Sky getting him on-board in the first place.

The F1 Show from Malaysia will be a Williams special, which should be good. I assume the entire show will be from location in Malaysia, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some of it was coming from the studio in London if they are going to showcase some of the old Williams cars. As I have done in the past, again in 2014 I will include non-F1 content of my choice, in other words, if I plan to watch said motor sport, I’ll add it below. This week, the IndyCar Series is back on BT Sport, albeit on ESPN, whilst the BTCC returns to ITV4, with Steve Rider fronting the coverage and David Addison and Tim Harvey in the commentary box.

Thursday 27th March
07:00 to 07:45 – F1: Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
20:30 to 21:00 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
20:45 to 21:00 – F1: Gear Up for Malaysia (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 28th March
01:45 to 03:50 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
01:55 to 03:35 – F1: Practice 1 (BBC Two)
05:45 to 08:00 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
05:55 to 07:35 – F1: Practice 2 (BBC Two)
08:00 to 08:45 – F1: Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
10:00 to 11:00 – The F1 Show: Williams Special (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Saturday 29th March
04:45 to 06:15 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
04:55 to 06:05 – F1: Practice 3 (BBC Two)
07:00 to 09:30 – F1: Qualifying (BBC One)
07:00 to 09:45 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
13:15 to 15:30 – F1: Qualifying Replay (BBC One)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

NOTE: Clocks go forward one hour, with the change from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time. The times below are BST…

Sunday 30th March
07:30 to 12:15 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 07:30 – Track Parade
=> 08:00 – Race
=> 11:30 – Paddock Live
08:00 to 11:15 – F1: Race (BBC One)
10:30 to 18:00 – BTCC: Brands Hatch (ITV4)
11:15 to 12:15 – F1: Forum (BBC Red Button)
13:45 to 15:45 – F1: Race Replay (BBC One)
20:00 to 23:00 – IndyCars: St Petersburg (ESPN)

Wednesday 2nd April
20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report (Sky Sports F1)

Classic F1 on Sky Sports F1
An addition to the Sky Sports F1 line-up starting this week is some classic season reviews from the 1970s coming out of the Brunswick Films archive, which is really good as Sky have not shown much content from that era, their ‘GP Uncovered’ strand has tended to focus on the 1950s and 1960s, whereas of course material owned by FOM is 1980s onwards. 2001 Malaysia was included in the provisional schedule, but again failed to make the final cut, which suggests that the copy FOM has is incomplete, or without UK commentary.

27/03 – 21:00 to 23:45 – 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix
28/03 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix
29/03 – 09:45 to 10:45 – 1970 Season Review
29/03 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix
30/03 – 12:15 to 13:15 – 1971 Season Review
30/03 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix
31/03 – 21:00 to 21:35 – 1982 Austrian Grand Prix Highlights
01/04 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 2012 Canadian Grand Prix (Sky commentary)
02/04 – 21:00 to 00:00 – 2012 Singapore Grand Prix (Sky commentary)

As always, if anything changes I shall update this blog if necessary.