Predicting the 2015 calendar pick order

A yearly tradition on The F1 Broadcasting Blog is to predict how the BBC and Sky may play their cards where the Formula One calendar is concerned. The good news, for me, is that a first version of that calendar has been released. The main change is that Mexico returns to the calendar, at least for the moment, India was meant to return but that hasn’t happened. 2015 is a significant year, as it marks the halfway point in the current BBC and Sky broadcasting contract that was announced back in 2011, the deal running from 2012 to, and including, 2018. So, the calendar, provisionally, is therefore as follows:

March 15th – Australia (Melbourne)
March 29th – Malaysia (Sepang)
April 5th – Bahrain (Sakhir)
April 19th – China (Shanghai)
May 10th – Spain (Barcelona)
May 24th – Monaco (Monaco)
June 7th – Canada (Montreal)
June 21st – Austria (Red Bull Ring)
July 5th – Britain (Silverstone)
July 19th – Germany (Hockenheim)
July 26th – Hungary (Budapest)
August 23rd – Belgium (Spa)
September 6th – Italy (Monza)
September 20th – Singapore (Marina Bay)
September 27th – Japan (Suzuka)
October 11th – Russia (Sochi)
October 25th – USA (Circuit of the Americas)
November 1st – Mexico (Mexico City)
November 15th – Brazil (Interlagos)
November 29th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)

Because of the way the BBC and Sky deal works, both sides have to ‘pick’ races. The races that BBC pick will be shown live on BBC One and Sky Sports F1, while the races that Sky pick will be shown exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, with highlights on BBC One. The picks go as follows:

– BBC pick three races (pick 1, 2 and 3)
– Sky pick three races (pick 4, 5 and 6)
– BBC pick one race (pick 7)
– Sky pick one race (pick 8)

This continues until every race has been picked. As there’s twenty races on the calendar, it is a 50/50 split, with BBC screening ten races live, and Sky screening the other ten races exclusively live. It goes without saying that both sides will want the high profile races (exclusively in Sky’s case), and may not want any ‘duds’, but it doesn’t work like that. I imagine Sky will go into the process looking for as many primetime races as possible towards the back end of the year, whilst BBC will want a more even distribution of races across the entire year. As always, this post is only a bit of fun, and good for discussion too as the calendar moves forward. Disappointingly, I only got nine out of 19 correct for 2014, compared with the real thing. Must try harder!

BBC pick Britain, Abu Dhabi and Brazil – Brilliant news for the BBC, as the British Grand Prix will not clash with the Wimbledon final! From 2015, the tennis competition will be held a week later, which is good news all around for Silverstone. Abu Dhabi is again the last race, so that will be picked. I was really confused to see that BBC did not pick Brazil as a live race this season, which could well turn out to be a very costly decision if either Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton gain some momentum in the next few races. Either way, whichever one of the American timezone races that the BBC chooses, Sky will immediately go for the other three, it is a no brainer in my eyes. Therefore Sky pick USA, Mexico and Canada. I don’t think Mexico would be as set in stone as the other two, but we will know more as things unfold in the next few months as to whether 2015 is a definite, it looks that way at the moment.

Surprisingly, thanks to there being four American timezone races, Monaco is still on the table after six picks. The only thing that may prevent BBC picking Monaco is that it will clash with the final day of the Premier League season, the top-tier flight finishing unusually late this season. I think the positives outweigh the negatives here though, Monaco traditionally can bring big numbers and it is too good to turn down when you consider what has already been picked. Bahrain I think will be further up Sky’s agenda than perhaps previously, due to its new mid-afternoon timeslot, meaning that it is able to pick up a higher audience than before. Therefore BBC pick Monaco and Sky pick Bahrain.

Which leaves us in this position:

March 15th – Australia (Melbourne)
March 29th – Malaysia (Sepang)
April 5th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Sky
April 19th – China (Shanghai)
May 10th – Spain (Barcelona)
May 24th – Monaco (Monaco) – BBC
June 7th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky
June 21st – Austria (Red Bull Ring)
July 5th – Britain (Silverstone) – BBC
July 19th – Germany (Hockenheim)
July 26th – Hungary (Budapest)
August 23rd – Belgium (Spa)
September 6th – Italy (Monza)
September 20th – Singapore (Marina Bay)
September 27th – Japan (Suzuka)
October 11th – Russia (Sochi)
October 25th – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky
November 1st – Mexico (Mexico City) – Sky
November 15th – Brazil (Interlagos) – BBC
November 29th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – BBC

If we are to continue looking at the early races, I think we will see BBC pick Malaysia and Sky pick Australia. In reality, I do feel that BBC need to pick the opening round next season, because it seems to be a trend now that, since the new deal, the opening round has struggled as a result of it being exclusively live on Sky. If BBC had the opening race, they’re more likely to promote that fact more, resulting in higher viewing figures all around, but I don’t see it happening. Following that, BBC pick Belgium, Sky pick Italy, BBC pick Singapore and Sky pick Austria. Closing off the European rounds, we have BBC pick Hungary and Sky pick Germany. Germany would again be a no-go for the BBC as it clashes with The Open Golf championship.

Which means we are left with this:

March 15th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky
March 29th – Malaysia (Sepang) – BBC
April 5th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Sky
April 19th – China (Shanghai)
May 10th – Spain (Barcelona)
May 24th – Monaco (Monaco) – BBC
June 7th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky
June 21st – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Sky
July 5th – Britain (Silverstone) – BBC
July 19th – Germany (Hockenheim) – Sky
July 26th – Hungary (Budapest) – BBC
August 23rd – Belgium (Spa) – BBC
September 6th – Italy (Monza) – Sky
September 20th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – BBC
September 27th – Japan (Suzuka)
October 11th – Russia (Sochi)
October 25th – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky
November 1st – Mexico (Mexico City) – Sky
November 15th – Brazil (Interlagos) – BBC
November 29th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – BBC

For those wondering, why Spain has been left until nearer the end as it falls on the weekend after the General Election (which did result in some slight schedule changes for the F1 in 2010) and the 5 Live team might be depleted that weekend due to Formula E. We also have China, Japan and Russia. The issue for BBC too is that China falls on The FA Cup semi-final weekend. Again, at a time when BBC’s live sport portfolio is not the largest, it makes no sense to make one weekend ‘top heavy’ with another weekend featuring no content at all. With that in mind, BBC pick Russia and Sky pick Japan. General election or not, Spain is much more attractive than China, so BBC pick Spain and Sky pick China. Which leaves the final calendar as follows:

March 15th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky
March 29th – Malaysia (Sepang) – BBC
April 5th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Sky
April 19th – China (Shanghai) – Sky
May 10th – Spain (Barcelona) – BBC
May 24th – Monaco (Monaco) – BBC
June 7th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky
June 21st – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Sky
July 5th – Britain (Silverstone) – BBC
July 19th – Germany (Hockenheim) – Sky
July 26th – Hungary (Budapest) – BBC
August 23rd – Belgium (Spa) – BBC
September 6th – Italy (Monza) – Sky
September 20th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – BBC
September 27th – Japan (Suzuka) – Sky
October 11th – Russia (Sochi) – BBC
October 25th – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky
November 1st – Mexico (Mexico City) – Sky
November 15th – Brazil (Interlagos) – BBC
November 29th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – BBC

I will update this post periodically like I did last year as the calendar changes. But this is how I imagine the pick order progressing.

Updated on September 18th, 2014.

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Formula E debut peaks with 0.7m in UK

A peak audience of 713k across live and highlights on ITV4 watched the inaugural Formula E race from Beijing, overnight viewing figures show.

The live airing, from 08:00 to 10:55, averaged 266k (4.0%). The audience grew throughout the build-up, hitting 367k (5.4%) for the race start at 09:10 and then 446k (6.4%) at 09:30. The peak came at 10:00 as Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld collided, with an audience of 477k (6.8%) watching at that point. Later in the day, highlights of the race at 18:00 averaged 161k (1.1%), peaking with 237k (1.7%). The combined number, if you wish to use that measure, is therefore an average of 425k, with a peak of 713k.

If I’m to be honest, the viewing figures are a little lower than what I was hoping for, it would have been nice if a one million peak was breached. However, when you consider that it is the start of a new series, in an unfamiliar slot (motor sport races do not happen on Saturday mornings at 09:00), then the number is solid. If you’re to compare to other motor sport series, Formula E’s figure would fall in line with the current MotoGP numbers, except that the split is different there between live and highlights. The numbers are very slightly ahead of BTCC as well, whenever that series does not clash with the F1.

For anyone wondering, according to BARB, back in 2005, A1 Grand Prix’s series launch averaged 247k on Sky Sports 1 on Sunday 25th September, on a lower profile channel but in a friendlier timeslot of 13:00. Whilst on the subject of ratings, I noticed this yesterday on the official FIA website:

Some 40 million are believed to have watched the race worldwide on television with 75,000 attending on site and one billion social interactions recorded around the race.

Both figures are reach figures. There is no way that an average of 40 million people watched Formula E yesterday. The highest F1 race of the year normally averages between 50 and 80 million worldwide depending on varying circumstances, so to expect Formula E to be slightly below that is frankly codswallop. An average of 10 to 15 million is perhaps more likely. Looking ahead, round two in Malaysia will dip as it clashes with the Formula 1 season finale in Abu Dhabi. But, from round three onwards, numbers should rise as you have five races in a row taking place in a European friendly primetime slot.

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Looking back at Formula E’s inaugural race

The first Formula E race is officially in the books! Taking place in Beijing, the race was won by Lucas di Grassi after a horrifying last lap shunt between Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld, which will surely make the news bulletins around the world in the next day or two. But overall, in my opinion it was a good start to the series and it definitely has the building blocks for something bigger, assuming it doesn’t fall over within the next year or two.

Over here in the UK, the coverage given by ITV4 this morning was very good. Jennie Gow presented the programme with Jann Mardenborough and engineer Kyle Wilson-Clarke as guests. Wilson-Clarke was fine as a guest, Mardenborough looked a bit stilted in front of the camera, but nothing embarrassing. It may well have been the first high profile studio role for all three, I know Gow’s motor sport presenting has largely been trackside, so for the first go, with a new formula, it was a good build-up. I did read one or two people commenting that the build-up was too long. On the other hand, I’d argue that it is a wonderful change seeing something other than Formula 1 getting hours of air-time on free-to-air television.

ITV4 didn’t have to ‘go the extra mile’, but they chose to and in my opinion they should be applauded for that. There’s also nothing telling viewers that they must tune in for the entire hour of build-up, the purpose of it is to build viewership as the race approaches and catch a few more viewers channel hopping as well (okay, that technique may not work for a race starting at 09:00, but it will for later races). They might have chosen to have an hour build-up as well so they could fit in the ad-breaks, notably the race ran advert free which I was very relived to see! No live qualifying or practice, I suspect viewing figures will dictate the approach going forward on that front, it should be noted that some broadcasters did air qualifying live. Let’s not forget that from Uruguay onwards, qualifying will be at a much more friendly time in the UK, so viewership would be significantly higher than at 05:00.

The speedometer on display during the inaugural Formula E race.
The speedometer on display during the inaugural Formula E race.

The revelation for me was the commentary. Jack Nicholls is a gem. Alongside Dario Franchitti, you have a great commentary pairing. Again, a few hiccups along the way, but I don’t envy them commentating on the first race of a brand new series, with unusual liveries and a few driver names that viewers may not recognise. I really enjoyed listening to Nicholls, as I did earlier this year on BBC Radio 5 Live. Let’s not forget Nicholls is only in his mid 20s, should Formula E take off, then Nicholls could become the ‘signature voice’ for the series, but that is an ‘if’ rather than ‘when’.

One of the many things talked about before the start of the series was the sound track. I was sceptical about it, but for the most part it worked well. It was kept to being used at the start, replays and during the Safety Car phase. I didn’t feel it was overused, the only part I did not like was hearing music in the closing laps (or at least, it sounded like I could). If used well in future races, as in Beijing, then again it could become a signature for the series. Formula E has to stand out. It will not succeed being ‘another series’, it doesn’t work like that. It had to try different things. Obviously these are all initial thoughts from myself after one viewing, but the music did not detract from the race anywhere near as much as I expected. Another talking point was Fanboost. I’m avoiding commenting on that though, because I didn’t notice it. It didn’t affect the outcome of the race, so there is nothing to say about it, in my view.

Onboard with Nelson Piquet, Jnr. during the 2014 Beijing ePrix.
Onboard with Nelson Piquet, Jnr. during the 2014 Beijing ePrix.

I have to admit that the strangest part was the car changes, and I actually thought this looked odd on the broadcast. It should have felt exciting, but it instead came off as a damp squib, it looked slow and cumbersome. Obviously there are safety issues here, as the change has to be done safely, but it needs to be conveyed better on the broadcast in future races. I think it may have helped if Nicholls cut to Nicki Shields and Mark Priestley, I don’t think we heard Shields or Priestley during the race itself, which was a bit disappointing. Onto the graphical side of things, and in standard definition, the graphics looked poor, especially where the battery use was concerned, at one point the writing was too small as well. I suspect it looked good in high definition, but for people like myself who don’t have access to ITV4 HD, the graphics were not great. This might have been an ITV4 fault with them running a low bit-rate, but I don’t know that for fact.

Talking of high definition, I’ve read many comments who said that the on-boards looked stunning in high definition. Even though I was watching in standard definition, I agree that there were some fantastic on-boards and camera angles throughout the race. Aurora Media did a great job capturing the speed and chose their angles wisely, especially at the chicanes with the cars looking super aggressive over the kerbs. Admittedly, the cars did look a little slow in the latter stages, but for the first half of the race, I was left feeling ‘wow’. The lack of speed should not be a problem as the series evolves. Unlike A1 Grand Prix, this series has a road map.

Was the broadcast perfect? No. But, it is a very good base for what is to come. For those that thought the race was too slow, Formula E will only get faster, we could be in Beijing this time next year with lap times several seconds faster. The technology at the moment is immature, but over time it will only get more mature, which will allow it to be exploited more in the next few years. Once that happens, hopefully the series will grow its fan base. The potential is there for growth, this is only the beginning of that. For Beijing, I’d give it 7 out of 10 or a B+. It didn’t blow me away, but such an expectation would be unrealistic. It was a good start. The crash between Heidfeld and Prost will go viral, and no doubt will help Formula E going forward, like it or not. I enjoyed Beijing, the only sad thing is that Putrajaya is ten weeks away…

Scheduling: The 2014 Singapore Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads into the dark for its second night race of the year with the Singapore Grand Prix. The race will continue the duel between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the championship heads into the final third. Sky Sports F1 will be screening this race exclusively live, with highlights on the edge of primetime on BBC One. With the race normally lasting near to two hours though, it means that it will be another ‘chopped up’ package, there will be about an hour to 70 minutes of action.

On the line-up side of things, Bruno Senna is back with Sky for his third appearance of the year. Someone who won’t be there is Natalie Pinkham, it was noted on The F1 Show that she cannot fly long distances, which presumably rules her out of the latter stages of the year, Russia and Abu Dhabi aside.

A surprising and somewhat disappointing omission from proceedings is the GP2 Series, the series presumably having chosen Russia over Singapore. I enjoyed seeing GP2 as the night drew in at Singapore, and it does mean that the Sky schedule is a bit sparse over the race weekend. One piece of new content worth mentioning is a new edition of F1 Legends with Niki Lauda as guest, that should be worth a watch following the race on Sunday. The race has an extra 15 minutes of air-time on Sky Sports F1 to accommodate for the longer length.

Thursday 18th September
11:00 to 11:45 – F1: Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
20:45 to 21:00 – Gear Up for Italy (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 to 22:00 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Friday 19th September
10:45 to 12:50 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
10:55 to 12:35 – F1: Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14:15 to 16:15 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
14:25 to 16:05 – F1: Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16:15 to 17:00 – F1: Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
18:30 to 19:30 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Saturday 20th September
10:45 to 12:15 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
10:55 to 12:05 – F1: Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13:00 to 15:45 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
13:55 to 15:05 – F1: Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17:10 to 18:20 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (BBC One)
18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)
22:30 to 05:35 – WEC: Austin (Motors TV)
23:00 to 05:00 – WEC: Austin (Eurosport)

Sunday 21st September
11:30 to 16:30 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Race
=> 15:45 – Paddock Live
12:55 to 15:00 – F1: Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
16:30 to 17:30 – Legends: Niki Lauda (Sky Sports F1)
17:00 to 18:30 – F1: Race Highlights (BBC One)

Wednesday 24th September
20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report (Sky Sports F1)

Classic F1 on Sky Sports F1
13/09 – 21:45 to 00:00 – 2007 Canadian Grand Prix
14/09 – 21:00 to 21:40 – 1982 Austrian Grand Prix Highlights
15/09 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 1998 Hungarian Grand Prix
16/09 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
17/09 – 21:00 to 22:00 – 1991 British Grand Prix Highlights
18/09 – 21:00 to 23:45 – 2008 Singapore Grand Prix
20/09 – 00:40 to 03:40 – 2011 Singapore Grand Prix
20/09 – 15:45 to 18:45 – 2012 Singapore Grand Prix
21/09 – 17:30 to 18:30 – 1974 Season Review
22/09 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
23/09 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1981 British Grand Prix Highlights
24/09 – 21:00 to 23:30 – 2007 Chinese Grand Prix
25/09 – 21:00 to 23:00 – 1989 San Marino Grand Prix
26/09 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1988 British Grand Prix Highlights

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

Update on September 18th – Two very slight BBC schedule changes, due to the Scotland independence referendum, both of the highlights shows have had five minutes shaved off the end.

Looking back at the Marquez edition of MotoGP Tonight

If I’m going to be honest, I am not a MotoGP ‘super fan’. Whilst I do watch the MotoGP race each race weekend, I do not commit myself to watching of the other action. Sometimes I do watch MotoGP qualifying along with the accompanying BT Sport coverage, depending on what else is happening that particular weekend and dip in and out of Moto2 and Moto3 throughout the year.

The announcement that Marc Marquez was going to be on MotoGP Tonight was one that surprised me, in a pleasing way. Considering The F1 Show over on Sky Sports has never managed to get a current, or recent past, World Champion on their show (for example a Vettel or Button) in the past two and a half years, the fact that BT Sport managed to get the 2013 MotoGP champion on within their first year on air covering MotoGP I thought was quite a coup and reflects well on them. It left some wondering how Lewis Hamilton would fare as a guest on a live edition of The F1 Show. I personally would like to see this, the fact that Sky have not done this yet is surprising. If he wins the championship, then Sky should try and pull out all the stops to get him on the first F1 Show after Abu Dhabi.

Admittedly watching MotoGP Tonight with a high profile star compared to your run-of-the-mill studio episode of The F1 Show may leave me with a slightly biased opinion here, however from a presentation point of view, I did find several differences between the two shows. Starting with the similarities, and clearly both exist to do similar things. Previewing or reviewing a particular race, albeit to varying degrees, and getting the fans closer to the action. Both shows have a studio audience. Sometimes, this works well, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not going to regurgitate a piece from Daniel Puddicombe earlier this year, but he painted a clear picture of the positives that a studio audience brings back in April.

The first difference between the two shows, obviously is the studio. Which sounds stupid to say, but it is interesting to see how both are used. BT Sport have their expansive studio, yet cleverly make the crowd ‘huddle’ around almost, creating an intimate atmosphere, which worked well. Compare that (which you can see in the above video) to The F1 Show where the audience is spread around with the entire floor left to the presenters. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes. MotoGP Tonight looks colourful and inviting whereas The F1 Show could be in a spare studio in Sky’s headquarters for all we know (answer: it isn’t).

Without wanting to do a blow-by-blow account of the show, I’ll do a brief summary for those who did not watch. Craig Doyle and Iwan Thomas presented the show, with Marquez and Ross Noble as guests. Gavin Emmett and Abi Griffiths were also on hand. The great thing here was seeing Marquez in his own clothes, which might sound weird, but for me outlined that it was not Marc Marquez the rider coming to say things to please sponsors. It was Marc Marquez the person. It felt more personal as a result, as a viewer that is important to me and draws me in to a particular show or segment. It is more spontaneous this way, and it feels different too. Later in the first part of the show, Marquez leaped into Thomas’ arms which was mildly amusing to see!

The audience was clearly having fun and getting involved in the show, cheering, clapping, laughing whenever they see fit, which was in my view a complete 180 from The F1 Show where you rarely hear the audience when someone is talking, even if they try and make a joke. Whether the Sky audience are told beforehand to “be quiet”, or the MotoGP audience was more rowdier because of the guest I do not know, but it does not come across well to the viewers. We did get a bizarre moment later on as Thomas and Noble tried to demonstrate ‘bike leaning’ with limited success, it was interesting to say the least! The only slightly cheesy bit was James Toseland promoting his new single, although in the context of the show being genuinely light-hearted, I was fine with this. The tone of the show meant that it fitted in well. There was also the lean machine, which it was great to see Marquez on. Abi Griffiths worked the social media aspect, asking Marquez questions from fans.

Overall, I really enjoyed the hour. It was not designed to be a analytical look at the next race or previous race, it instead was designed to bring the viewers closer to the rider, and in my opinion BT Sport did that perfectly. I had someone say to me that the show was “everything [that] The F1 Show could, and should, be”. I wholeheartedly agree. Whilst I haven’t sampled any of the other MotoGP Tonight episodes on BT (surprisingly this wasn’t capitalised on the following week instead they had a hybrid Highlights show), I felt that they got this episode bang on the money.