News round-up: Buxton ending GP2 and GP3 commitments; MotoGP numbers

In between the lull of the Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, there have been some interesting bits of news worth reporting in one post.

Buxton says “a very warm goodbye”
The biggest piece of news is that the Abu Dhabi weekend will be the last for Will Buxton as lead commentator of the GP2 and GP3 Series. Writing on his blog, Buxton said “My work in America has increased over the years to the point where I feel I am no longer able to divide my time effectively between three championships. By concentrating solely on Formula 1, I hope that I will be able to improve the quality of the content I bring to the burgeoning American audience, and help to grow the sport Stateside”. I’ve sampled a bit of ‘Off the Grid’ (a 30-minute show for NBC Sports) with Buxton and Jason Swales, and it is safe to say that the American audience is incredibly lucky to have two talented and dedicated people producing content for them.

I will miss hearing Will commentate on GP2. Not many people come across as passionate and articulate on the microphone, but he is always willing to give his opinion, which I think viewers appreciate. As for his replacement, Jack Nicholls and Ben Evans are surely two contenders high on the list. Nicholls is currently lead commentator on the Formula E World Feed, whilst Evans has been commentating on a lot of things for BT Sport alongside Keith Collantine. I guess we could always see someone like David Croft or Ben Edwards hoisted into the seat, but it depends whether FOM want to breed new talent or rely on a veteran figure such as those mentioned.

I’m a former MotoGP presenter
…Get Me Out of Here? Apparently so. Former MotoGP presenter for BT Sport, Melanie Sykes, is heading into the jungle. Sykes is not the only motor cycling alumni heading down under though, as Carl Fogarty is joining her on the ITV show. I didn’t mention this at the time, but Sykes did very briefly mention leaving BT’s MotoGP coverage on her Twitter feed at the end of August, albeit did not go into any further detail. Let’s see if her time in the jungle lasts longer than her time as MotoGP presenter…

MotoGP season ends with 669k
The 2014 MotoGP season ended with a combined peak audience of 669k, unofficial overnight viewing figures reveal. It was a tale of two halves however, as ITV4 figures were up compared to usual, and BT Sport ended the season on a low. The respective peaks were 518k (2.3%) for ITV4’s highlights programme and 151k (1.5%) at 13:45 for BT Sport’s live coverage from Sunday afternoon. ITV4’s highlights on Monday evening seen a boost compared to recent numbers, averaging 407k (1.8%).

No such boost for BT Sport’s coverage, which averaged 71k (0.7%) to 09:30 to 14:30. From 12:30 to 14:00, the channel averaged 110k (1.1%). Both of those numbers are poor, and I believe that is actually their lowest overnight figures for a European round of the entire season. BT’s audiences have not grown throughout the year, although they haven’t been helped by having a championship that was decided many months ago. Last year’s championship finale averaged 1.21m (11.9%) over on BBC Two. Unusually, the MotoGP finale was held on the same weekend as an F1 race, which could well have had a side-effect even though there was no direct clash.

ITV were non-committal when this blog asked about MotoGP highlights for next season. When the highlights deal was announced earlier this year, no details were released about how long the contract was for. I hope it will be multiple seasons, but we shall see. Personally, it would be a catastrophic mistake from Dorna to ignore its free to air audience. I don’t see any evidence that axing ITV4’s highlights programme would increase BT Sport’s MotoGP audience, either.

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