In the last round-up covering the smaller pieces of news from the past few months, BT Sport is the main player experimenting with their portfolio as we head into the Summer.
BT Sport take IndyCar commentary in-house
I have watched a fair bit of IndyCar this season thanks to its exciting, close racing. Whilst the racing has been good the ABC commentary, led by Allen Bestwick, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear, has not. Watching the Duel in Detroit last weekend, at times the trio ‘zapped’ the excitement out of races, almost as if they were dialling in from elsewhere. The broadcasting rights in America are shared between ABC and NBC and, because of the agreement in place, the remainder of the season is covered by NBC.
NBC’s commentary is superior to ABC’s offering, primarily thanks to Leigh Diffey commentary. Over in the UK, BT Sport take the American commentary feed, that is… until now. For IndyCar’s return to Road America on June 26th, commentary will be provided in-house by BT Sport, with Keith Collantine and Ben Evans leading the way. At the moment, this is just for Road America as a trial run, with the potential for the idea to turn full-time. I can see the logic behind it. At times the US commentary feels like an ‘info commercial’ in and out of the advert breaks, whereas the UK commentary will be without any interruptions.
To the outside world, the tweaks BT are making to their IndyCar coverage are very small but go a long, long way to the dedicated viewer, although the direction has been haphazard with yo-yoing in the past few years. Viewing figures for the Indianapolis 500 were slightly lower than previous years with an average of 12k (0.09%) from 15:30 to 21:00, peaking with 31k (0.16%) on BT Sport 1.
On the subject of BT Sport, for those wondering, Suzi Perry confirmed her exact commitments for the remainder of this season on her Instagram page. Perry said that she will (or has already) work on seven MotoGP races, two speedway events and Rally GB. Perry’s original commitment for the Indianapolis 500 fell through after a change of direction.
Sky’s F1 partnership with Brunswick Films continues
Sky Sports are continuing their partnership with Brunswick Films with a series of four films airing during the race day programming focussing on James Hunt. The first piece aired during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. The remaining pieces will air during the Silverstone, Monza and Texas weekends. Rohan Tully, Brunswick Films director, said “They used to film anti-clockwise moving slowly around the track so they would get every corner. They would also have to walk with the cameras most of the time because some of the tracks didn’t even have running tracks around back in the day. So to get the footage at the time, comprehensively, was a struggle in itself.”
It is brilliant to see footage like this. However, as is always the case, it would have been good to have this as well in a standalone programme. The amount of new documentary programming that has aired on Sky Sports F1 this year stands at zero, which is incredibly disappointing for a network that will be broadcasting Formula 1 into the next decade. It would be good to have some new programming turn up, but I do not see it happening.
Is Formula E endangered in the UK?
The absence of a London ePrix in the provisional Formula E calendar for the 2016-17 season will have raised alarm bells about the future of the series in the United Kingdom. With viewing figures dropping compared to the inaugural season, the question is whether ITV will renew for season three. The incentive of screening season three decreases if London remains absent. The highest peak audience for a live race in season two remains Buenos Aires, which peaked with 248k (1.2%) back in January.
In their current state, the numbers are simply not good enough for either ITV(1) or ITV4, whichever slot you place Formula E in, the programme loses viewers hand over fist compared to the slot average. Failure to find a free-to-air home means that Formula E is essentially dead in the UK. I’m certain BT Sport or Eurosport will pick it up, but any potential for growth will have evaporated. Their best hope for keeping ITV will be letting them have it for free.