Scheduling: The 2015 United States Grand Prix / Malaysian MotoGP

Alongside the start of the 2015-16 Formula E season, next weekend could be the biggest weekend of the entire year. They call 2015 the year of the goat for a reason.

Next weekend, Valentino Rossi could become a eight-time MotoGP champion, his tenth covering all three classes. Over in America, Lewis Hamilton is on course to become a triple Formula One World Champion. It really could be huge, the former more than the latter. As usual, MotoGP will be exclusively live on BT Sport, with all the action live from Sepang. The crucial MotoGP race starts at 07:00 UK time. Assuming I have not jinxed it by writing the above text, if Rossi holds any sort of lead following the Australian Grand Prix at Philip Island, then it is possible that he could be crowned champion next weekend. BT Sport have extended their post MotoGP programme to 08:30, presumably pre-empting a potential Rossi championship victory.

Over in America, coverage of the United States Grand Prix will be exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, although the race is being simulcast on Sky Sports 1. If Hamilton does clinch the championship either in America or at the Mexican Grand Prix, it will be the first time that Sky have screened the title clinching race since the current deal started in 2012. I discussed this last year, but obviously there will be a substantial dent in viewing figures as a result. It should be Sky Sports F1’s highest ever ratings given the circumstances. Understandably, if Hamilton does win the championship next weekend, it is also a controversial moment from a broadcasting perspective given that there will be no live free-to-air coverage of that happening. BBC are repeating their highlights programme on Monday afternoon on BBC Two, which they have not done since the mid 1990s, in response to Hamilton potentially winning the championship.

Another beneficiary of no live BBC television coverage will be BBC Radio 5 Live, who should record some good numbers both online and DAB. One note about their coverage is that Jennie Gow will be joining them later in the weekend due to the aforementioned Formula E coverage on ITV on Saturday morning, so she will presumably be flying over to America later on Saturday.

Below are all the details you need…

NOTE: Clocks go back one hour on Sunday 25th October, with the change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. The times listed are for BST on Saturday and before; GMT for Sunday and afterwards…

BBC F1
BBC TV
24/10 – 21:45 to 23:00 – Qualifying Highlights (BBC Two England and Wales)
=> BBC Two Scotland: 22:00 to 23:15
=> BBC Two Northern Ireland: 22:15 to 23:30
25/10 – 22:30 to 00:00 – Race Highlights (BBC One)
26/10 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race Highlights (BBC Two)

BBC Radio
22/10 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23/10 – 15:55 to 17:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/10 – 19:55 to 21:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/10 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/10 – 18:55 to 20:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/10 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
23/10 – 15:45 to 17:50 – Practice 1
23/10 – 19:45 to 22:00 – Practice 2
24/10 – 15:45 to 17:15 – Practice 3
24/10 – 18:00 to 20:45 – Qualifying
25/10 – 17:30 to 22:15 – Race
=> 17:30 – Track Parade
=> 18:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 18:30 – Race
=> 21:30 – Paddock Live
=> simulcast on Sky Sports 1 from 18:55 to 21:30

Supplementary Programming
22/10 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Driver Press Conference
22/10 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut: United States
23/10 – 22:00 to 22:45 – Team Press Conference
24/10 – 00:00 to 01:00 – The F1 Show
24/10 – 20:45 to 21:45 – Tales from the Vault: Amazing Achievements
28/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report

MotoGP – Malaysia (BT Sport 2)
23/10 – 02:00 to 04:45 – Practice 1
23/10 – 06:00 to 09:00 – Practice 2
24/10 – 02:00 to 09:15
=> 02:00 – Practice 3
=> 05:00 – Qualifying
25/10 – 01:30 to 03:15 – Warm Up
25/10 – 03:45 to 08:30
=> 03:45 – Moto3 race
=> 05:15 – Moto2 race
=> 06:45 – MotoGP race

MotoGP – Malaysia (ITV4)
26/10 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights

V8 Supercars – Gold Coast 600
24/10 – 05:15 to 08:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport 1)
25/10 – 04:00 to 07:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport ESPN)

I’m not anticipating any changes, but if there are, I will update the above schedule.

Update on October 21st – A very late addition to Sky Sports F1’s schedule for Austin. A new episode of Tales from the Vault will air, called ‘Amazing Achievements’. The show will be presented by Peter Windsor with Johnny Herbert and John Surtees joining him in the studio.

Update on October 23rd – A new BBC F1 show has turned up! Called F1 Focus and presented by Tom Clarkson, it is essentially a longer version of Inside F1 but at 25 minutes in length and more in-depth. Austin’s edition was filmed on Thursday. Whether this is a one off, a new thing, or a replacement to Inside F1, who knows. It could be a one off for Austin and Mexico – but Tom Clarkson’s tweet says “new preview show“, which certainly suggests it will be regular going forward.

Update on October 24th – Following the cancellation of Saturday’s qualifying session, please refer to this updated schedule for Sunday’s Grand Prix timings.

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Scheduling: The 2015 Beijing ePrix

As Lewis Hamilton heads towards his third Formula One championship in Austin, over the other side of the world in Beijing, preparations for season two of the Formula E championship are well under way! The season, as it currently stands, will comprise of eleven rounds in ten cities, but if rumours are to be believed, we could see eleven turn to twelve or thirteen any time soon. Already, early announcements are being made for season three, which shows how far the series has come in a short space of time.

The good news for viewers of the series is that the World Feed team remains exactly the same as season one. Jack Nicholls returns as the lead commentator, with Dario Franchitti joining him to provide expert analysis. Nicki Shields remains pit lane reporter. Things remain static for ITV too, as Jennie Gow is back as presenter with Mark Priestley joining her in the studio. Gow will be presenting coverage of Beijing, despite the clash with the Formula 1. Alongside Gow and Priestley for Beijing will be ex Mahindra Racing driver Karun Chandhok. It is important for Formula E to retain personnel for season two, which is why I’m incredibly glad to see the duo of Nicholls and Franchitti continuing (not that it was ever in doubt).

In terms of scheduling, the only change for ITV is that highlights are now being broadcast on their main channel. Even if that is only say 250k more than what the highlights were delivering on ITV4, that is 250k extra new faces and any new face that gets their eyes on the championship at this stage is great news. As for Formula E, I assume the live streaming will continue on their website, but they have been conducting some live stream testing on YouTube recently, which may be an indicator of what is going to happen for Beijing (although this may be for countries without TV deals). Elsewhere, Formula E Holdings have teamed up with Grabyo to deliver clips faster and quicker to social media platforms which will only boost their following.

Whilst this blog is predominantly UK based, it should be mentioned that Formula E have announced a whole host of TV deals recently (such as the Eurosport deal), these deals helping to increase their reach across Europe and the remainder of the world. The overall calendar for season two looks similar to season one, and has been criticised for spacing – but actually the spacing is better than last season. The average gap between races is 28 days compared with 31.9 days for the inaugural season. In season one, two races had a gap of over 50 days between that and the previous race, whereas this season has no races with a gap that big. Some of the gaps are still too big for my liking to be honest, but overall the calendar distribution is more evenly spread out than last season.

If Donington testing is anything to go by, season two should be as good, if not better, than season one. And here, are all the scheduling details for Beijing…

NOTE: Clocks go back one hour on Sunday 25th October, with the change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. The times listed are for BST on Saturday and before; GMT for Sunday and afterwards…

Formula E – Beijing (online via FIAFormulaE.com)
24/10 – 02:10 to 03:10 – Practice 1
24/10 – 03:25 to 04:10 – Practice 2
24/10 – 04:45 to 06:10 – Qualifying

Formula E – Beijing
24/10 – 08:00 to 10:30 – Race (ITV4)
25/10 – 09:25 to 10:25 – Highlights (ITV)

As always, if anything changes, or if there are any media appearances on the run up to Beijing worth noting, I will update the schedule.

Shedden’s BTCC title victory peaks with 384k

A peak audience just shy of 400,000 viewers watched Gordon Shedden clinch his second British Touring Car Championship on Sunday afternoon, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the final round of the series from Brands Hatch aired on ITV4 from 10:15 to 18:30, averaging 166k (1.5%), a number slightly below ITV4’s average for that timeslot. The first race of the day peaked with 181k (2.2%) at 11:40. Numbers for race one remained above 100k until 12:03, at which point they dropped to as low as 96k (1.0%) as the Russian Grand Prix started. Race two peaked with 216k (2.4%) at 14:39, but it was race three where all the drama occurred. Featuring no less than three Safety Cars, the race averaged 349k (2.2%) from 17:27 to 17:58, peaking with 384k (2.3%) at 17:47 as Gordon Shedden climbed through the pack to take the championship away from Jason Plato.

The 5-minute peak of 380k (2.3%) at 17:45 is slightly up on the peak audience recorded last year of 357k (2.0%), although the average audience is marginally down year-on-year. The figures year-on-year are good for the championship, but the problem is that the further back you go, the figures are not actually as good. 2013’s season finale peaked with 697k (3.8%). Clashing with the Grand Prix is having a negative impact on the final day of the BTCC championship, and that is evident again this year. BTCC still brings in great numbers for ITV4, but it has lost a little bit of its edge in the past year and a half.

Over in Motegi, BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage performed fantastically well on Sunday morning. No doubt boosted by a lot of same-day recording activity, BT’s MotoGP segment from 05:30 to 07:00 averaged 175k (14.4%), peaking with 244k (20.8%) at 06:06. VODSAL activity or not, that is a brilliant number for the coverage, and would give quite a few races from both this season and last season a run for their money. In comparison, BT Sport 2’s coverage in the same time slot last season averaged 70k (6.2%). I imagine BT will be chuffed to double that number, and a bit more on top of that, especially when you consider Marc Marquez won the championship at Motegi this time last year.

It is fair to say that BT have been incredibly lucky to have Valentino Rossi back on top form and fighting near the front. If anyone is capable of boosting BT’s viewing figures, it is Rossi. BT Sport’s full programme from 02:45 to 07:15 averaged a respectable 98k (8.4%), compared with 42k (3.8%) from 2014. Although BT’s viewing figures are a far cry from the combined BBC numbers, they should take solace from the fact that their average of 175k (14.4%) is not too far behind BBC Two’s live Motegi number of 204k (18.4%), albeit that was broadcast from 04:30 to 06:00. BT Sport’s MotoGP repeat added a further 50k (0.5%) at 14:00 on Sunday afternoon.

Note: As of this post, The F1 Broadcasting Blog will be reporting one-minute peak audience figures as well as five-minute peak figures. All figures in this post are Live + VODSAL. Where a raw ‘live’ figure has been posted, this will be stated in the main body.

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Hamilton fails to prevent F1 ratings slide

The outlook may look rosy for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, but viewing figures in the UK continue to slide, overnight numbers show.

Race
Heading into Russia, Formula 1 had recorded year-on-year declines for Singapore and Japan, both of which you can attribute to increased competition thanks to the Rugby World Cup. However, Argentina vs Namibia was never going to be tough opposition against the Russian Grand Prix, which turned out to be accurate as only 550k (5.6%) watched the game on ITV, only just above their own slot average.

BBC’s live coverage of the Grand Prix, which aired on BBC One from 11:00 to 14:15, averaged 2.79m (29.3%), down 13 percent on last year’s figure of 3.22m (30.7%). The drop in share is relatively small in comparison, a 5 percent drop year-on-year. Live coverage on Sky Sports F1 from 11:00 to 14:30 averaged 497k (5.1%), which compares with 665k (6.3%) last year. In other words, Sky’s coverage lost 25 percent of their viewership year-on-year, or 19 percent of their share. It does look like there were less viewers around, but in my opinion against minimal opposition, yesterday’s figure can only be considered as very poor.

Analysis – Does it matter who is dominating?
The morale of the story here is that domination is a bad thing for motor sport in general irrespective of whether it is Sebastian Vettel or Hamilton who is dominating. I’ve felt the need to explicitly state motor sport here. Dominance can be a good thing. See: Usain Bolt as one example. In some sports, dominance is good as it can raise the profile of said event, sometimes it can be bad (I think that’s a whole debate in itself, perhaps outside the remit of this site!). Back to Formula 1, home dominance is good – to a point. The problem with Hamilton dominating is not necessarily the fact that he is dominating, it is what is happening around that point that is the problem. The negativity surrounding the sport at the moment will only do more harm than good and drive down the ratings.

In 2011, Vettel dominated the season. Yet it was, and remains, the most watched season of Formula 1 in the past decade. Why? Of course TV coverage plays a part – I think we can agree that BBC F1 was at its pinnacle. But there was one thing that 2011 had that 2015 struggles with: sub-plots. Story lines. Something to draw casual viewers in. 2011 saw Jenson Button’s fantastic victory in Montreal, it also saw many fights between Hamilton and Felipe Massa, on and off the circuit. It was the latter that, in my opinion, was the main factor in driving up viewing figures that year. Both men were big stars in 2011 coming off the title battle three years earlier and viewers were waiting for the next big clash. What does 2015 have in comparison? Who is going to win the next instalment between Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso. The decline of McLaren (sadly). My point is that at the moment, Formula 1 on the circuit does not have a draw to the casual viewer in comparison to what viewers witnessed a few years ago.

The issue of sliding ratings is not something isolated to Formula 1. Viewing figures are generally dropping across the board as viewers ‘pick and choose’, ‘mix and match’ what they want to consume, although sport does tend to hold up a lot better because of the nature of the beast. Sport is still a big television event, and will remain that way for many years to come. The combined average across BBC and Sky shows a year-on-year drop from 3.89 million to 3.29 million, around a 15 percent decrease. The numbers do not look pretty. The frustrating, and sad, part about the television deal between BBC and Sky could play out in two weeks time in America. Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of winning his third championship. As the schedule current stands, the race be played out to terrestrial viewers on BBC Two at nearly midnight.

I blogged about this situation last year. Barring a miracle, Hamilton will clinch the championship in America or Mexico, both of which are Sky exclusive races. As a fan, it is frustrating to see this unfold (especially if you do not have access to Sky), but the BBC entered the deal knowing that this situation could unfold. If the title is clinched in America, I suspect the ratings trajectory will continue downwards as the 2015 season bows out with a whimper.

For those wondering, viewing figures for MotoGP and the British Touring Car Championship finale will follow later this week in a separate post.

The 2014 Russian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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Sky Sports F1 to broadcast Race of Champions 2015 live

Sky Sports F1 are to broadcast this year’s Race of Champions event live, it has been confirmed.

The event, which is being held at London’s Olympic Stadium, will be shown on the channel across the weekend of Friday 20th November, covering both the Nations Cup and the actual Race of Champions event itself. The website says that Friday’s coverage will begin at 19:30 with Saturday’s coverage beginning at 15:00.

I assume Motors TV will show the event as well, Sky’s coverage is probably a one-off simply because the event is being held in London, like in 2007 and 2008. 2007’s coverage was predominantly on Sky Sports 2, with 2008 being broadcast live on Sky Sports Xtra.

I’ll update this post in the coming weeks with more coverage details and the confirmed scheduling details.

Thanks to James Rowe for the tip.

Update on November 15th – The full schedule, including the Macau Grand Prix, can be found here.

Update on November 20th – Live streaming is also available on the Race of Champions website, here.