Scheduling: The 2018 Ad Diriyah E-Prix / Christmas reviews

A bass riff may not accompany Formula E, nor may it be airing on one of the BBC’s traditional television outlets, but nevertheless, the electric series takes a major step into the future as season five begins, with live coverage across the BBC’s digital platforms.

The start of the 2018-19 season takes the championship to a new, perhaps controversial, location as the series descends on Saudi Arabia for the Ad Diriyah E-Prix.

For UK fans, as well as the BBC and incumbents Eurosport, the actions airs live on BT Sport and YouTube for the first time. The BBC’s coverage is of the race itself, from the five-minute sting to after the chequered flag, excluding the pre-race festivities.

In a departure from last season, Eurosport are taking the World Feed commentary with Bob Varsha, Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti, a surprise considering Eurosport usually provide their own commentary feed for motor racing events.

However, BT Sport is the only UK television station that will air every Formula E session live, including the Shakedown on Friday afternoons, as well as practice on Saturday mornings. For non-BT Sport fans, the good news is that every session airs live via YouTube. Additionally, highlights air on Discovery-owned channel Quest following their Football League highlights show on Saturday, with a repeat on Sunday morning.

Vernon Kay and Nicki Shields complete the World Feed line-up. Kay stays in the Formula E paddock after impressing as Channel 5’s presenter last season. Last year, North One Television produced Channel 5 output, North One also forming part of Formula E’s worldwide output alongside Aurora.

Laurence McKenna hosts the tailored YouTube race programme, called ‘Voltage’, with Becky Evans alongside him. Neither are names regular readers will recognise, but both are young and active in the car scene on social media, and are exactly the right people to grow Formula E’s presence amongst the younger generation.

Red Bull profiled Evans here, whilst McKenna has presented a variety of social media output and podcasts in the past few years. KSI and Zerkaa, who form part of the Sidemen (a group of YouTube personalities), join McKenna and Evans in the YouTube London hub.

Elsewhere, December is packed with season reviews. BT Sport are going the extra mile with their MotoGP review show airing live from The Bike Shed in London. Suzi Perry presents as usual, with special guests including Bradley Smith, Sam Lowes, and triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Sky’s F1 review show premieres on Christmas Eve, whilst Channel 4 are not airing a formal Christmas show following their short review during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

Formula E – Ad Diriyah
All sessions air live via YouTube and the following UK channels…
14/12 – 11:45 to 12:30 – Shakedown (BT Sport 1)
15/12 – 04:00 to 04:45 – Practice 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 06:00 to 06:45 – Practice 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 07:30 to 09:00 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN and Eurosport 2)
15/12 – 11:00 to 13:30 – Race: World Feed
=> live on BBC’s digital platforms from 12:00
=> live on BT Sport/ESPN
=> live on Eurosport 2
15/12 – 11:30 to 13:10 – Race: Voltage (YouTube)
15/12 – 22:30 to 23:30 – Highlights (Quest)

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series – Ad Diriyah (BT Sport/ESPN)
15/12 – 04:45 to 05:30 – Qualifying
15/12 – 09:30 to 10:30 – Race

MotoGP (BT Sport 2)
09/12 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Season Review

BBC Radio F1
TBC – Season Review

Sky Sports F1
24/12 – 19:00 to 21:00
=> 19:00 – Fernando Alonso: What’s Next?
=> 20:00 – Season Review

In the run-up to Christmas, keep an eye on this post in the event of any changes to the review programming over the festive period.

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BBC to broadcast 2018-19 Formula E season across digital platforms

The BBC are to broadcast live coverage of the 2018-19 Formula E season across its digital platforms, both parties have today confirmed.

The electric series started life on ITV4, with coverage moving to Channel 5 from season three onwards. Now, at the start of Formula E’s second generation, the championship is again on the move, this time to the BBC. It is the first time that the BBC have aired live motor racing in visual form since their television coverage of Formula 1 ended in 2015.

However, the BBC’s Formula E coverage will be primarily absent from BBC’s television outlets. Instead, live coverage will air via the Red Button and via the BBC Sport website, with on-demand coverage via BBC iPlayer. Formula E says that one race this season will air on either BBC One or BBC Two.

“It’s great news that live motorsport is returning to our screens at the BBC,” said Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport. “I’ve no doubt the upcoming season will bring with it some exciting wheel-to-wheel moments and we can’t wait for it to begin.”

“The ABB FIA Formula E Championship will continue to be broadcast to the masses and across a variety of platforms in the UK,” said Ali Russell, Media & Business Development Director at Formula E. “It’s imperative that Formula E remained on a free-to-air network in such an important territory and key market for motorsport.”

“What better place to showcase some of the best and most competitive racing than on the BBC. We’re fully-charged and ready for the new season on the streets of the most recognisable cities – and this year promises to be more intense and unpredictable than ever.”

Formula E’s contract with the BBC is in addition to their agreement with YouTube, meaning that the championship will be available live, and free, via two of the biggest platforms in the United Kingdom.

Reflecting on their two-year deal with Formula E which expired at the end of season four, a Channel 5 spokesperson told this site “We have enjoyed working with Formula E over the last few years. We wish them every success with their new broadcast deal with the BBC.”

Potential for significant exposure with BBC deal
As I alluded to in my analysis around Formula E’s YouTube deal, there are many reasons why Formula E has struggled to gain traction in the United Kingdom. Little marketing from organisers, a lack of promotion, poor scheduling, and apathy towards the series from the wider public are just a few of the reasons.

During the past two seasons, Channel 5’s scheduling of Formula E has been haphazard, with the championship airing live across Channel 5 and their sister channel 5Spike to little fanfare. Half the races in season four aired live on 5Spike, with audience figures suffering as a result.

Collectively, a weighted average of 177k (1.8%) watched Channel 5’s coverage according to overnight audience figures supplied by Overnights.tv, the series regularly rating below slot averages and failing to pick up traction. The broadcaster treated the series as a slot filler, but when you look at the broader picture, the audience figures did not justify giving the series a bigger profile.

In addition, Eurosport, which has a separate pan-European deal with Formula E encompassing the UK, made little difference to the overall total figures. Unfortunately for Formula E, it was a catch 22 situation, and it is easy to see both their perspective and the Channel 5’s perspective.

So, what were the alternatives?

The clear alternative from the outset was Channel 4, but their new Formula 1 deal dashed Formula E’s hopes, for 2019 at least. With Channel 4 out of the equation, going back to ITV was another possibility, but Formula E’s vicious circle would continue.

A trip down the EPG to a lower-ranked channel in the small hope that it may boost their profile was highly unlikely. Pay-TV was a possibility, but such a deal would kill Formula E’s profile in the UK. As someone within the Formula E circles told me, “what if the alternative is BT Sport?” Such an announcement would have gone down like a lead balloon…

Outside of Formula 1, MotoGP and the TT races, the BBC has had little interest in motor racing since at least the early 2000s. As a one-off experiment, Formula E highlights appeared on the BBC website in March, which would have only helped Formula E’s cause if metrics were good.

The backdrop to the deal came in the form of a meeting between Formula E’s supremo Alejandro Agag and the Head of BBC Sport Barbara Slater.

Clearly discussions between the two parties were fruitful, with a positive outcome for all involved, and better than some of the potential alternatives. With live Formula 1 behind a pay wall for all but one race from 2019, now is the time for Formula E to strike while the iron is hot.

Some clarity still to emerge
The cost to the BBC is likely minimal, if not close to zero.

Channel 5’s coverage in season four was produced by North One Television, with production costs halved between Channel 5 and Formula E. What we do not know at this stage is whether the BBC will produce any bespoke wrap-around coverage for their UK audience.

It is unclear whether the BBC’s deal covers practice and qualifying, I have requested comment from the corporation on this front.

The BBC deal allows Formula E to reach different segments of the UK audience. YouTube gives them access to the non-sport audience, whilst the BBC Sport website opens the door to watchers of many different sports.

However, anyone expecting Formula E to receive “the BBC treatment” needs to reduce their expectations significantly. Yes, being on the BBC’s platform is great, but there is a reason the series is not on BBC One or BBC Two, and that’s because audience figures so far do not suggest that the championship could draw a wider audience, even on BBC One.

Whether Formula E were happy to take the Red Button option, or whether the BBC presented them with a ‘take it or leave it’ option is again unclear. Formula E’s deal likely fits in with the BBC’s ambition to “stream 1,000 extra hours of live sport a year,” although I hope the Formula E deal is not a ‘quota filling’ exercise.

Most of the sports broadcast on the Red Button are domestic competitions, such as the football Women’s Super League, grass-roots athletics events and the British Basketball League. For these events, the corporation takes the feed that the host broadcaster provides with no wrap-around, at minimal cost, and is therefore considered inappropriate for BBC One or BBC Two.

Earlier this year, the BBC streamed the Goodwood Festival of Speed live on their website, a move that went unnoticed within the motor sport community. If the BBC promotes Formula E well, with supplementary website articles and content from their existing talent (such as current Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls), this could be a very good deal for the championship.

Is the BBC deal better than the previous Channel 5 contract? You win massively with the BBC, you lose the traditional television facing slot. However, the latter was increasingly becoming irrelevant, due to a low audience base in the first place.

For me, the deal is fantastic news, as it gives the championship a consistent, high-profile outlet, instead of in previous seasons, where broadcasters threw the series from pillar to post.

The BBC website is one of the biggest in the UK, and this deal gets Formula E in the door. If the metrics are strong, I am hopeful that the championship could transition onto one of the BBC’s main television channels, which must be the main aim for everyone involved in this deal.

In 2019, Formula E will be live, free-to-air on the BBC, whilst Formula 1 will be live, behind a pay-wall on Sky Sports. For the times, they are a-changin’…

Scheduling: The 2018 Rally Australia / Valencian MotoGP

Ogier. Neuville. Tanak. Three contenders, but only one can be World Rally Champion in 2018. The rallying year comes to a climax down under in Australia, as Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak look to dethrone Sebastien Ogier from the top of the mountain.

All the action unfolds through the night live via WRC’s over-the-top All Live platform, with selected stages and daily highlights airing on BT Sport. If you miss the live action, fear not, you can watch again on All Live via their on-demand playback. Free-to-air highlights follow later in the week as usual on Channel 5.

Also concluding this weekend are MotoGP and the World Touring Car Cup. The latter forms part of the blue riband Macau weekend which, along with the Formula Three and GT races, airs live on Eurosport. The only thing from Macau not live on Eurosport is the Macau motorcycle race, that presumably airing via Motorsport.tv’s over-the-top service.

Into the virtual world, Sky Sports F1 plays host to the final of the 2018 F1 ESports series, which is also airing live on Formula 1’s Facebook page.

Elsewhere, a special Billy Monger documentary, produced by Oxford Scientific Films, airs on BBC Two on Monday evening, the documentary looking at his ongoing road to recovery.

There is plenty of offer to whet the appetite as the motor sport season draws to a close.

World Rally Championship – Australia
Every stage live via WRCPlus.com
15/11 – 20:30 (Thursday) to 07:15 (Friday) – Day 1 (All Live)
16/11 – 12:15 to 12:45 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
16/11 – 20:00 (Friday) to 07:15 (Saturday) – Day 2 (All Live)
16/11 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Stage 9 (BT Sport 2)
17/11 – 01:00 to 02:00 – Stage 13 (BT Sport 1)
17/11 – 12:30 to 13:00 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
17/11 – 19:00 (Friday) to 03:30 (Sunday) – Day 3 (All Live)
17/11 – 21:30 to 22:30 – Stage 21 (BT Sport 2)
18/11 – 02:00 to 03:30 – Stage 24 (BT Sport 1)
18/11 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
21/11 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

MotoGP – Valencia (BT Sport 2)
16/11 – 07:45 to 15:15 – Practice 1 and 2
17/11 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
18/11 – 07:30 to 15:00
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Valencia (Channel 5)
20/11 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

FIA GT World Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
18/11 – 04:00 to 05:30 – Race

Formula Three World Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
18/11 – 07:30 to 08:30 – Race

World Touring Car Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
17/11 – 06:00 to 07:30 – Race 1
18/11 – 00:00 to 01:15 – Race 2
18/11 – 03:00 to 04:00 – Race 3

World Endurance Championship – 8 Hours of Shanghai
18/11 – 02:30 to 09:30 – Race (BT Sport 3)
18/11 – 05:30 to 07:30 (Eurosport)
18/11 – 08:30 to 09:15 (Eurosport)

F1 ESports Series (Sky Sports F1)
17/11 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Final

Driven: The Billy Monger Story
19/11 – 21:00 to 22:00 (BBC Two)

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.

News round-up: Perry goes full season for BT; BBC commissions Monger/Zanardi special

As the first half of 2018 concludes following a frantic period on and off the track, here are some of the broadcasting stories you may have missed over the past few weeks…

Perry expands BT Sport’s MotoGP commitments for 2019
Suzi Perry will present every round of BT Sport’s MotoGP in 2019, she has confirmed. In response to a fan question on Twitter, Perry confirmed that she will be in the hot-seat for all of the expected 19 rounds next season.

Perry has shared presenting duties with Craig Doyle since 2016, although Doyle has been part of BT’s MotoGP coverage since its inception in 2014. However, as first reported by Motorcycle News, Doyle is ending his commitments at the end of this season to focus on his ever-expanding rugby commitments with BT.

At the half way stage of 2018, BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage has averaged 117k (1.45%) for its race day programme from 09:30 to 14:15, or equivalent according to overnight viewing figures, identical to last year’s audience figure of 117k (1.29%).

In comparison, an average audience of 403k (2.2%) have watched Channel 5’s highlights programme, a decrease on last year’s equivalent figure of 446k (2.5%). The World Cup has hit Channel 5’s MotoGP overnight viewing figures. Their audience for the Catalan round dropped by 38 percent year-on-year, thanks to a clash with England’s opening World Cup fixture against Tunisia.

Meanwhile over in Italy, MotoGP will be remaining on Sky for the next three seasons.

Formula E’s destination hinges on Channel 4’s Formula 1 future
As of writing, there is no official confirmation or additional information as to whether Channel 4 will continue to air Formula 1 in 2019, beyond what was reported during the British Grand Prix weekend last month.

If you are Formula E, the sooner Channel 4’s Formula 1 deal is finalised the better. I understand that, whilst Channel 4 has shown interest in Formula E, the series may well remain on Channel 5 should Channel 4 retain F1.

A separate obstacle between Channel 4 and Formula E concerns the finances of the contract. During season four, Channel 5 and Formula E agreed to split the production cost, something that is proving trickier to negotiate with Channel 4.

Formula E’s fifth season starts in Saudi Arabia in December, so there is no immediate rush to confirm the UK contract. In 2016, when Formula E moved to Channel 5, the announcement was made just one month before the season began.

BBC commissions motor sport special
The BBC’s World Service has commissioned a motor sport documentary to air across their networks later this year. The one-off special sees Billy Monger meet Alex Zanardi, both of whom had their lives changed following high-speed motor racing accidents.

Following his crash in 2001, Zanardi has gone on to win gold medals at the Paralympics, whilst Monger returned to racing this year after his own accident last year. Jennie Gow went with Monger to visit Zanardi in Italy, and will present the special programme.

The special will air across BBC Radio 5 Live, online and television later this year. Normally BBC World television documentaries also air on the BBC News Channel, so expect the documentary to turn up there, as opposed to one of their general entertainment outlets.

Elsewhere in the BBC spectrum, the broadcaster aired a special technology feature filmed during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend. Their weekly Click programme went behind the scenes, with presenter Spencer Kelly interviewing people from Mercedes and Formula One Management, focusing on the latest developments in F1. If you have 15 minutes spare time, this is worth a watch.

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Formula E highlights on BBC’s platforms “a one-off” – for now

Eagle eyed readers and followers of this site will have spotted that highlights from the Mexico City E-Prix appeared across the BBC’s platforms after the Formula E race last weekend.

The short-form content appeared on the BBC Sport website, as well as their social media channels, prompting speculation that the two sides had agreed some sort of deal. However, this site can confirm that there is no formal agreement yet between the BBC and Formula E, yet.

Speaking to this site, a BBC spokesperson said “The video was used as a one-off, rather than as part of a longer-term rights deal.”

The one-off video appearance was likely brokered by marketing firm CSM, whose partnership with Formula E has resulted in Formula E content appearing on a variety of UK-based news websites, including The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror.

On the television front, Channel 5’s free-to-air contract with Formula E expires at the end of the current season in July, with no word yet on the series’ destination from season five.

Mexico City E-Prix shows why Formula E needs free-to-air
The E-Prix itself, won by Daniel Abt, peaked with just under 150,000 viewers on Saturday evening according to overnight viewing figures.

Live coverage of the race aired on 5Spike from 21:30 to 23:20, averaging 63k (0.4%). Eurosport 2’s coverage added a further 26k (0.16%), bringing the combined audience for the live race showing to 89,000 viewers.

At its peak, 103k (0.7%) watched the race on 5Spike, with 45k (0.3%) on Eurosport 2. Both 5Spike and Eurosport 2’s viewing shares were in the same ballpark to 1.d.p. between Santiago and Mexico City, even though the latter E-Prix was aired in highlights form on Channel 5 the following morning.

For Santiago, Channel 5 did not air a highlights show on its main channel, whereas for Mexico they opted to do so. Channel 5’s Mexico City E-Prix highlights programme averaged 202k (2.6%) on Sunday morning from 10:45 to 11:50, peaking with 254k (3.2%), marginally above the slot average.

The numbers suggest that the highlights programme attracted ‘new’ viewers, who were unaware that the race aired live on 5Spike the previous evening, showing why Formula E needs prominence on free-to-air television, otherwise races fly under the radar. Three races have aired on 5Spike, and all have peaked with fewer than 200,000 viewers.

If Formula E wants to become mainstream in the UK, it needs to look closely at turning deals with the likes of the BBC permanent, even if it is not necessarily a television deal with the broadcaster. By giving Formula E a ‘shop window’, the exposure of the series increases, hopefully boosting television viewing figures in the medium to long term.

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