Scheduling: The 2016 Buenos Aires ePrix

In the past six weeks, we’ve learnt that Formula 1 will be shown on Channel 4 from 2016. We’ve also learnt that World Rally Championship highlights will be shown on Channel 5. Whilst we have had a lot of action recently in broadcasting land, one thing we haven’t had is a race from the winter Formula E series.

It is time to right that wrong with the Buenos Aires ePrix. The fourth round of the championship takes place in the first weekend of February with Sebastien Buemi dominating proceedings at the moment. Before the fourth round gets underway, you should whet your appetite with replays of the first three rounds, available for anyone to watch, on Formula E’s YouTube channel.

> FREE Full Race Replay – 2015 Beijing ePrix
> FREE Full Race Replay – 2015 Putrajaya ePrix
> FREE Full Race Replay – 2015 Punta del Este ePrix

One note for ITV’s schedule. I’m a little surprised they did not try to capitalise on the Six Nations rugby by airing highlights from 13:00 to 14:00 on Sunday, immediately before their Six Nations live game. It would have been a good chance to hook on a new viewer or two. An opportunity missed there, I feel. Below are all the scheduling details you need…

Formula E – Buenos Aires (online via FIAFormulaE.com)
06/02 – 11:10 to 12:10 – Practice 1
06/02 – 13:25 to 14:10 – Practice 2
06/02 – 14:45 to 16:10 – Qualifying

Formula E – Buenos Aires
06/02 – 18:00 to 20:30 – Race (ITV4)
07/02 – 09:25 to 10:25 – Highlights (ITV)

As always I will update the schedule if anything changes.

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Whittling down the contenders to host Channel 4’s F1 coverage

The past week has been quiet with no news on Channel 4’s on-air Formula 1 team, meaning that the earliest we will know news is Monday 1st February.

To recap what we know so far:

– Whisper Films and David Coulthard confirmed.
– Ben Edwards and Eddie Jordan rumoured by Daily Mail.
– Suzi Perry and Martin Whitmarsh are not part of Channel 4’s team

In my last piece on the subject, I made the following comment: “Are Channel 4 and Whisper Films planning on doing something different with the lead presenter role?” The answer appears to be a resounding yes. Whilst I do not know who Channel 4 have chosen, this blog understands that there are four names on the broadcaster’s list and there is enough information in the public domain to draw conclusions about which of the four is most likely to front their coverage.

The first person in the running is Steve Jones. Jones has previously presented The X Factor USA along with BBC One entertainment shows such as 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow and Let’s Dance for Sport Relief. This year, Jones is set to present My Kitchen Rules: UK and the Sex Box series. Both of those will air on Channel 4. On one hand you could say that this makes Jones less likely to present Formula 1, but both shows are pre-recorded so can be filmed around Jones’ schedule. On Twitter, Jones has started following Jake Humphrey. More intriguingly, Jones is now following Marc Priestley. Priestley and Humphrey are now following Jones back. Does this mean that both Jones and Priestley are part of Channel 4’s team?

A separate train of thought is that Channel 4 want one of their Paralympics presenters to lead the channel’s Formula 1 coverage in order to develop on-air talent with physical disabilities, as has been mooted over on Digital Spy. The most likely person in my opinion is Jordan Jarrett-Bryan. Jarrett-Bryan is currently sports reporter for Channel 4 News, which makes him an ideal candidate and probably high on Channel 4’s list. Unfortunately, no ‘Twitter evidence’, as I like to call it. One possibility is that Channel 4 could send him their Formula 1 reporter for the news team.

When the BBC and ITV released their Six Nations talent line-ups, one name was missing from ITV’s portfolio. That name is Craig Doyle. Doyle has presented BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage from the middle of 2014 following the swift departure of Melanie Sykes. Assuming Doyle was Channel 4’s number one choice, they would need to get him out of his BT contract first and need to find a replacement for their MotoGP and rugby coverage: it would seem unfeasible, but not impossible, for Doyle to present Channel 4’s F1 coverage and MotoGP on BT Sport.

Lastly, we have Rick Edwards, who in the past few days has started following both Whisper Films and David Coulthard on Twitter. Edwards, like Jarrett-Bryan, is part of Channel 4’s Paralympics coverage, meaning that Channel 4 should not need to do much negotiation to get Edwards on board. There was also Andy Jaye, but I am not as convinced that Jaye will get the role as I once was. Edwards primarily works for Channel 4, whereas Jaye works for other broadcasters as well which makes Edwards a more likely person to get the lead presenter role.

It appears that Channel 4’s Formula 1 presenter will be one of the five names above. It certainly will not be a familiar face to Formula 1 viewers. Given that it is February on Monday, we will know the identity sooner rather than later…

Update on January 30th – Rick Edwards on Twitter: “I would love to have done it but won’t be!” All signs appear to point towards Jones becoming Channel 4’s F1 presenter. I’ll update as and when I hear more.

Update on February 3rd – As reported above, it looks like Steve Jones has been chosen to lead Channel 4’s coverage. At 11:49, Murray in the comments noted that Jones had followed a lot of Formula 1 related accounts. I had a look and could see that Jones had followed every team and driver on the grid – including Red Bull Racing, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Within two hours of me then tweeting it, Jones had unfollowed the F1 people he had followed. The exceptions were David Coulthard and Lee McKenzie… unsurprisingly a Channel 4 spokesperson declined to comment when asked by Digital Spy.

Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2016

One of the more popular posts on The F1 Broadcasting Blog is back for a fourth year, as this writer tries to save readers money by listing a variety of options to view Sky’s coverage of Formula 1 and BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage. It is easy to get confused with many different choices out there.

In 2014 and 2015, I analysed Formula 1 and MotoGP in the same piece. This year, I have chosen to analyse them separately, as BT Sport is a whole different ball game. This piece will focus on Sky Sports F1, and the MotoGP analysis will follow in the coming days. The end of the MotoGP piece will bring everything together for those that are fans of both Formula 1 and MotoGP.

As always, prices below do not include broadband, phone or any activation fees. Broadband and phone deals may be available, but I have tried to exclude them where possible so not to muddy the waters even more.

Sky
We start off with Sky, who this season will be broadcasting eleven Formula 1 races exclusively live. To watch Formula 1 in standard definition, you need the Sky Sports Bundle, which is an amalgamation of Sky’s Original Bundle, with the Sports channels on top of it. At a cost of £45.50 a month, it works out at £546.00 a year. The price over the year is down £6.00 compared to January 2015. The trick here is that Sky are hooking people into their cheaper packages by freezing the prices (the Original Bundle has actually dropped). As we are about to see, the same rule does not apply the higher the price goes.

If you want to watch Formula 1 in high definition, you need the Family Bundle, the Sky Sports top-up and then the Sports HD top-up as well. Yes, you still need to pay an extra £5.25 to watch Sky Sports in HD compared with SD. Overall, it is a whopping £66.75 a month, which equates to £801.00 a year. Yes, £801.00 a year to watch every Formula 1 session in high definition, a number that is up £48.00 compared with January 2015. The main attributor for the increase is the Family Bundle, which is now £36.00 a month compared with £33.00 one year ago.

For both options, and in something I don’t think I have seen while doing these pieces, Sky are also throwing in a free LG 32″ television. If you don’t want a new TV, then you can have £100.00 worth of vouchers instead.

Now TV from Sky
In previous years, readers have had the possibility of purchasing a Sky Go Monthly Ticket, which the customer could then renew or terminate as and when necessary. Unfortunately, that option is no longer available to new customers, however it has been superseded by the Now TV Monthly Pass which is available at a similar price to its predecessor. Now TV, available from Sky, allows viewers to watch content as soon as a pass is purchased or through the Now TV Box which is available for a one-off price of £15.99.

There are three Now TV passes. The Sky Sports day pass is £6.99, the week pass is £10.99 and the monthly pass is £31.99. At this point, depending on the variety of Formula 1 content that you want, you’re looking at a total cost of between £76.89 to £230.67. The 2016 Formula One calendar is as follows:

– March 20th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky
– April 3rd – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Channel 4 and Sky
– April 17th – China (Shanghai) – Sky
– May 1st – Russia (Sochi) – Sky
– May 15th – Spain (Barcelona) – Channel 4 and Sky
– May 29th – Monaco (Monaco) – Sky
– June 12th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky
– June 19th – Europe (Baku) – Channel 4 and Sky
– July 3rd – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Sky
– July 10th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 and Sky
– July 24th – Hungary (Budapest) – Channel 4 and Sky
– July 31st – Germany (Hockenheim) – Sky
– August 28th – Belgium (Spa) – Channel 4 and Sky
– September 4th – Italy (Monza) – Channel 4 and Sky
– September 18th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky
– October 2nd – Malaysia (Sepang) – Channel 4 and Sky
– October 9th – Japan (Suzuka) – Sky
– October 23rd – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky
– October 30th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Channel 4 and Sky
– November 13th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky
– November 27th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 and Sky

You can watch every race live by purchasing six passes through the year:

– pass 1 can be used from March 17th to April 17th (Australia and China)
– pass 2 can be used from April 29th to May 29th (Russia and Monaco)
– pass 3 can be used from June 6th to July 6th (Canada and Austria)
– pass 4 can be used from July 6th to August 6th (Germany)
– pass 5 can be used from September 15th to October 15th (Singapore and Japan)
– pass 6 can be used from October 15th to November 15th (USA and Brazil)

At a cost of £31.99 a month, the six passes work out at a total of £191.94 across the season, which would give you access to every session exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. However, there is a cheaper option. Purchasing eleven Now TV weekly passes works out at £120.89 across the season, which again would give you every session that is exclusive to Sky. Of course, Now TV is not in high definition. But we have quickly whittled down the price from Sky’s TV packages to something that would suit those who are not interested in all the extra Sky channels and simply want to watch a Formula 1. We could whittle it down further: if you just want the races, eleven day passes would cost you £76.89 across the season. But, in my opinion the weekly pass is the best option that Now TV provide for those who are looking for a cost effective option.

An even cheaper option is Sky Sports Mobile TV, which is £9.99 a month. Available for Android and iOS, it is a rolling contract, so you can terminate and re-enter as and when you want. Six months/passes as above works out at a total of £59.95 across the season. I should preface Sky Sports Mobile TV with a warning though. Looking on the Play Store, it appears there are some major issues with the app at the moment. I would not be surprised if Sky Sports Mobile TV is phased out as Sky continue to look towards Now TV as a cheap alternative going forward.

Virgin Media
Away from Sky, we have Virgin Media who are the biggest cable television provider in the UK. Before I review the prices, I want to state that the usability of the website was not good. It was pretty much impossible to find the price of the Sky Sports package within their main website, which meant I had to build a bundle to find out the price. Maybe that is their intention, to ‘hook’ people with low prices on their website, only to find that the prices are actually higher when they build the bundle.

To watch Sky’s coverage of Formula 1 in standard definition, you need the More TV package, which is £20.00 a month. Add the Sky Sports package and V HD box onto that brings you to £49.25 a month or £591.00 across the year. Virgin Media’s prices appear to have increased significantly: that price is over £100.00 up compared to January 2015. As alluded to above, finding the price of the Sky Sports package (including F1) is incredibly difficult. The price through the ‘build a bundle’ is £29.25 a month. The V HD box is free, but it does not come with all the features you expect out of a modern day box such as pause, rewind and download. To get that, you need one of Virgin’s TiVo boxes for an extra £5.00 a month.

To watch Formula 1 in high definition, you need all of the above plus an extra £7.00 a month for Sky’s premium channels. The price therefore increases to £675.00 across the year. If you do not care about your definitions, then Sky is the place to go for Formula 1 in standard definition. But if you want Formula 1 in high definition, then Virgin Media is the clear winner. Given that we are focussing primarily on television only and not broadband here, TalkTalk are not really an option, but it is worth noting that you can get Sky Sports F1 through them as well.

In summary, if you are a Formula 1 fan, here are the key numbers:

£801.00 a year – Sky (HD) – up £53.00
£675.00 a year – Virgin Media (HD) – up £108.00
– £591.00 a year – Virgin Media (SD) – up £108.00
£546.00 a year – Sky (SD) – down £6.00
– £191.94 – Now TV (Monthly Pass x 6)
– £120.89 – Now TV (Weekly Pass x 11)
– £76.89 – Now TV (Day Pass x 11)
– £59.95 – Sky Sports Mobile TV

With television packages continuing to rise, and Virgin Media looking like a less of an alternative, there really are three options for Formula 1 fans. One: look to other sources for inspiration, such as Now TV and Sky Sports Mobile TV. Two: bring in broadband and TV and hope for some triple play ‘divide and conquer’ method of bringing down costs. Or, three: watch Channel 4’s highlights programming and forget about Sky’s Formula 1 programming.

A piece looking at BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage, and the variety of options that you have to access that, will follow in the coming days.

Found something cheaper? Is there a figure that does not look right? Leave a comment and I will investigate… last updated on January 28th, 2015.

Update on March 18th – Readers may have noticed that I have not published a MotoGP piece. There’s a few reasons, but the main reason is the complicated nature of BT’s pricing alongside the other news stories that have been developing over the past month. Given Sky’s anticipated price rise coming in June, I’m going to republish this article nearer then, and publish an additional MotoGP piece.

World Rally Championship highlights begin solidly on Channel 5

Highlights of the first round of this year’s World Rally Championship performed well on Channel 5 yesterday, overnight viewing figures show. The series, which was shown in highlights form on ITV4 from 2013 to 2015, moved to Channel 5 in a surprise move for the start of this season. The broadcaster has placed the series in a primetime slot, with highlights airing each Monday evening at 19:00.

The first programme of the year aired yesterday focussing on the Monte Carlo rally, averaging a solid 446k (2.1%) across the hour long broadcast. The programme recorded a one-minute peak audience of 533k (2.4%) at 19:53 as Sébastien Ogier fought off early competition from Kris Meeke before the British driver retired. Astoundingly, the last time a World Rally Championship round achieved a figure like that was at the back end of 2006. In other words, last night’s rating was the best for rallying in the UK for nearly a decade.

The viewing figures show how much rallying has fell out of the public spotlight: not necessarily the deals in the late 2000s with the move to ITV4 and then Dave, but after that with pay-TV deals exclusive to ESPN and BT Sport. Only in recent years has rallying got back in the spotlight with highlights airing on ITV4 and now Channel 5. The programme was slightly down on Channel 5’s slot average in 2015 (Mondays, 19:00-20:00) of 478k (2.4%), but the numbers above are a good starting base when you consider the low publicity surrounding it.

In comparison, BT Sport’s live coverage did not bring in many viewers. The highest average was 15k (0.3%) for the 08:00 segment on Sunday morning (24th January) on BT Sport 2. The low numbers should not be a surprise, but it demonstrates why series such as the World Rally Championship need a mainstream presence on free-to-air television in order to sustain a viable audience in this country, as channels such as BT Sport treat sports such as rallying as ‘schedule fillers’ and nothing more.

I applaud the series organisers for bringing the series back to the wider audience, and I hope Channel 5’s audiences increase as the year progresses.

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Whitmarsh rejects approaches from Channel 4 and Sky

A few weeks ago, I announced the results of the survey covering Channel 4’s Formula 1 team. Behind the usual suspects for the punditry roles, we had three names. They were Graeme Lowdon, Martin Whitmarsh and Susie Wolff. It looks like one of those three has indeed been approached by Channel 4, and rejected their offer.

That person is Martin Whitmarsh. Members of the media, including James Allen and Craig Scarborough were invited to a dinner hosted by Ben Ainslie Racing on Thursday evening. Allen has since blogged about the event. In the piece, Allen notes that Whitmarsh “is in no hurry to step back into F1 to offer comment on the current situation in the sport, particularly the problems for his old team [McLaren], despite offers from both SKY and Channel 4.”

For those who read my series of predictions over the Christmas period, I said that Whitmarsh should be one of the first people on Channel 4’s list. It looks like that assumption was indeed correct, although as I noted later, the chances of Whitmarsh actually returning to the paddock were incredibly slim. I always thought Whitmarsh was a possibility, but not a realistic one, although readers rated him highly in the survey.

What this tells us is that Channel 4 want a new name on board, hence the approach to Whitmarsh. Who else they have since approached, we don’t know. But you can probably deduce that Mark Webber, Lowdon and Wolff may also have been on Channel 4’s list (although if Eddie Jordan is staying, as mooted last weekend, you would presumably not need Lowdon). Interesting also to see that Sky is mentioned by Allen in relation to Whitmarsh. I’m not sure if we can read anything into it – we don’t know when the approach was made, whether they were hoping to replace someone or use him in a full time/rotation role. I’d assume Channel 4 were hoping to use him for the live races, plus a few highlights, similar to the Jordan role.

The most mysterious aspect so far though is the role of lead presenter. It is over a month since the Channel 4 deal was announced. Is there much to read into the lack of announcement and the lack of speculation in the press? Are Channel 4 and Whisper Films planning on doing something different with the lead presenter role? By ‘different’, I mean someone you would not expect. Channel 4 had NFL fan and entertainment presenter Vernon Kay (All Star Family Fortunes, amongst others) present highlights of their American Football coverage. Could we expect someone similar for Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage? Just a thought…