News round-up: Channel 4 commissions new F1 documentary; F1 launches official eSports Series

In the round-up, a new Formula 1 documentary is heading to Channel 4, whilst the over-the-top strategy for the championship is slowly coming into place…

Channel 4 to air Guy Martin F1 special
Channel 4 is to air a documentary looking behind the scenes of the Williams Formula 1 team. The 60-minute documentary, produced by North One Television, will feature Guy Martin working as part of the Williams pit crew during this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. The documentary, billed as Guy Martin’s Pit Stop, will cover the entirety of Martin’s weekend with Williams from preparation at the UK factory beforehand, all the way through to the post-race debrief and the transportation to the next race.

It is the second Formula 1 related documentary that North One Television have produced for Channel 4. The first documentary featured Martin as he raced against David Coulthard in a series of challenges. The programme, which aired prior to Channel 4’s first ever Formula 1 race, averaged a strong 2.80m (14.2%) in a primetime slot, according to overnight viewing figures.

Based on the quality of last year’s programme, this programme should live up to expectations. It is rare to get this level of insight into a Formula 1 team in the modern era. Okay, we have had plenty of behind the scenes features throughout the BBC, Channel 4, and Sky’s coverage, but we have not had a full, dedicated programme outside of the usual output in this area. Full credit to all parties for helping bring this programme together.

Elsewhere on the UK TV front, Sky Sports have added the weekly F1 show The Inside Line to their line-up on the F1 channel. For the first few weeks, it looks like the show is airing on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 19:30. The show airs on Sky’s and Fox’s stations overseas, so probably not a surprise to see it turn up on their UK station as well.

Hints of F1’s OTT strategy come to fruition
Discussion around Formula 1’s future over-the-top service was a key point of discussion at an industry event earlier this week, with some of the strategy also mooted. Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, Formula 1’s Global Head of Digital Frank Arthofer said that the over-the-top service is “likely to include original content from historic races, live feeds and additional race data for fans.”

The sentence alone does not tell us much, you would expect points two and three are a given for any new over-the-top service that Formula 1 launches. But, it is good to see that archive footage is likely to play a significant part in their offering. The indication from Arthofer’s comment is that we should expect some new documentaries and/or new footage centered around classic races, which should be the ambition in my opinion.

It is interesting to note that the WWE Network, which I have mentioned previously as something F1 should admire to be when it comes to over-the-top content, has struggled to build further past its initial peak. A range of documentaries or strands centred around superstars have struggled to get past their first series, because the cost outweighed the number of viewers the shows attracted. I should note that some of the axed WWE Network content did not feature archive footage, but was all stand-alone new material.

The question Liberty Media will need to ask, and this comes through a massive amount of user research, is whether original content from historical races is likely to bring more ‘hits’ than the raw classic race itself. If done correctly, I suspect the answer would be yes, if the documentaries genuinely offered something new and not rehashed.

Official F1 eSports Series launched
Following in the footsteps of Formula E and MotoGP, it is now Formula 1’s turn to launch its eSports Series. The series is a collaboration between Formula 1, Codemasters and Gfinity, allowing gamers from across the world to battle it out to become Formula 1 eSports Series Champion. The competition, which uses the F1 2017 video game, takes on three phases: qualification in September, live semi-final events in London on October 10th and 11th, before the top 20 head to the final on November 24th and 25th to coincide with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Although not mentioned in the press release, I would expect live streams of both the live semi-final events and the top 20 finals across Formula 1’s social media channels and television stations, in the same way that F1 Live London was. The launch of the series shows the “continued ambition to build a greater connection with wider audiences, especially younger fans.” The winner will attend a Formula 1 race in 2018, and become a character in the F1 2018 video game.

“This launch presents an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way, we engage fans,” said Sean Bratches, Formula 1’s Managing Director of Commercial Operations. “First, it’s a growing category with tremendous fan engagement that we’re entering in a big way; and we are proud to have Codemasters and Gfinity joining us on this ride. Of course, as we do in Formula 1, we’ll continue to evolve and innovate in the way we run this virtual counterpart to the F1 Championship to ensure we provide the most exciting and enjoyable experience we can for our fans.”

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2 thoughts on “News round-up: Channel 4 commissions new F1 documentary; F1 launches official eSports Series

  1. A problem the WWE Network has suffered from is that WWE in general has declined somewhat over the past few years as fans have been a bit down on the direction the product has taken.

    I also feel that the problem with a chunk of the Network exclusive shows is that they seem to have put the focus more on reality tv style shows. The stuff focused more on wrestling & the wrestlers tends to be well worth watching (The WWE 24 series for example), But there’s a lot of fluff like the prank show Swerved, A program looking at tattoo’s or following the wrestlers as they rid along in cars to each event.

    I also don’t think it helps that there 2 big weekly shows (Raw & Smackdown) which build/continue feuds & storylines are on a 30 day delay due to the arrangements with the US broadcasters & Hulu.

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