On the subject of #BBCpay

The BBC yesterday revealed pay details for the 2016/17 financial year for all of their stars that they pay over £150,000. Unsurprisingly, this has generated a lot of discussion in the media about the gender pay gap amongst other issues. The corporation receives unnecessary criticism from time to time and yesterday felt like one of those occasions.

It is an issue across society, and the criticism should reflect that fact. The BBC are not alone in the pay gap. I agree in principle that we need to close the pay gap, not just on a gender level, but also with minority groups in society. However, the BBC needs to pay a competitive rate so they can secure the best talent, otherwise other broadcasters, such as ITV, Sky, and Channel 4, will poach them.

The equivalent pay packets are higher at commercial television stations, and were the BBC to be ‘capped’ in some way, it would significantly affect the quality of the programming that they produce. Household names, such as Graham Norton, bring viewers with them that other presenters further down the pay scale may not.

Of note on the sporting front were Gary Lineker (£1.75m), Sue Barker (£300,000) and Jason Mohammad (£250,000) who are the BBC’s highest paid sports presenters. Lineker’s pay packet was criticised for being too high, although it does include fronting the BBC’s Euro 2016 coverage. Of course, we do not know whether Lineker’s figure is significantly above the market average.

I suspect several of Sky’s and Channel 4’s Formula 1 talent are above the £150,000 threshold that the BBC has revealed in line with their Charter, but that information is not currently available in the public domain and commercial broadcasters are not obliged to reveal it. It is fair to assume that the respective talent salaries have increased over time, partially due to the various switches between broadcasters. Several personnel have switched from ITV to the BBC and onto Sky (or Channel 4) and it is unlikely that their individual salaries will have remained identical during that period.

Across all genres, TV and radio, sport, entertainment and news, the on-air crew do not appear for air and then head off home, although there are some who may be naive enough to believe that this is indeed the case. There is a huge amount of research involved for any journalist or presenter. In the case of a Formula 1 presenter or MotoGP commentator for example, the research goes beyond a race weekend and into keeping up to date on the sport throughout the off-season, re-watching historical races and attending production meetings ready for the next weekend.

Just because you do not see it, or hear it through Twitter, it does not mean that it has not happened. Whilst I am not defending the pay amount of some in the industry, the idea that stars only work their on-air hours is absurd. There was a tweet from the BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan which illustrated this point nicely. Viewers probably saw around two hours of Rajan’s day on-air yesterday covering the #BBCpay story, but the reality is that he was working from 06:00 until at least 22:30, from BBC Breakfast through to BBC News at Ten.

However, as Rajan noted, the unsung heroes of broadcasting are not those that work in front of the camera, but instead those working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the show on the road, sometimes weeks at a time. Many working for Formula One Management (FOM) will have worked from the set-up for the Austrian Grand Prix through to the de-rigging process following the British Grand Prix in one stretch, also accounting for F1 Live London. This is common place in the television and media industry.

As I have said previously, every programme irrespective of genre will require editors, producers, vision mixers, camera operators and so on and so forth. The people behind the camera are often paid less than on-air personnel, because the on-air team is what viewers tune in for on most occasions. And that applies in principle to sport as well: for Sky to acquire the services of Martin Brundle from 2012 meant a lot more to them than acquiring the best vision mixer. Some shows will make sacrifices behind the scenes to capture the best on air team, it is the nature of the beast.

Back to the pay itself: in my opinion, a proper debate requires full transparency, and in this instance, I do not think that is possible without the whole industry working towards the same goals and looking at the whole picture. Currently, the pay debate is, yet another, point to bash the BBC with.

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Scheduling: The 2017 Chinese Grand Prix / Argentine MotoGP

The 2017 Formula One season moves onto Shanghai for round two of the championship in China, as fans hope for the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel to continue.

The Chinese round of the season switches with Bahrain, which follows the next weekend. Coverage from China will be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports, with highlights on Channel 4 later in the day. Readers may have noticed that, compared to last year, Channel 4’s highlights are slightly longer in length but are also being broadcast in a later time slot than 2016.

Over on BT Sport, their MotoGP coverage from Argentina is headed up by Craig Doyle for his first round of the 2017 season. In terms of returning championships, the World Touring Car Championship is back this weekend, live on Eurosport 2 from Morocco. Eurosport are also broadcasting the MAC3 time trial this season, which I do not believe was broadcast last year. Eurosport have split qualifying and the MAC3 time trial into two separate slots on the EPG (thanks Alex in the comments for the correction).

A noticeable omission in the schedule below is the Virgin Australia Supercars series. The series was broadcast live on BT Sport last season, but the arrangement appears to have stopped with Motorsport.tv taking over from the start of 2017. Unfortunately, it looks like that Motorsport.tv will not be airing the series live for the next few rounds at least, hence why it does not feature below.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
08/04 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying Highlights
09/04 – 14:30 to 16:45 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
07/04 – 02:45 to 05:05 – Practice 1 (also on Sky Sports 1)
07/04 – 06:45 to 08:55 – Practice 2 (also on Sky Sports 1)
08/04 – 04:45 to 06:10 – Practice 3 (also on Sky Sports 1)
08/04 – 07:00 to 09:40 – Qualifying
09/04 – 05:30 to 10:10 – Race
=> 05:30 – Track Parade
=> 06:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 06:30 – Race
=> 09:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
05/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
06/04 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Driver Press Conference
06/04 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
07/04 – 09:00 to 09:30 – Team Press Conference (also on Sky Sports 1)
07/04 – 09:30 to 10:00 – The F1 Show (also on Sky Sports 1)

BBC Radio F1
06/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
07/04 – 02:55 to 04:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
07/04 – 06:55 to 08:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/04 – 04:55 to 06:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/04 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
09/04 – 06:30 to 09:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

IndyCar Series – Long Beach (BT Sport//ESPN)
09/04 – 21:30 to 00:00 – Race

MotoGP – Argentina (BT Sport 2)
07/04 – 13:00 to 20:00
=> 13:00 – Practice 1
=> 15:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 17:00 – Practice 2
08/04 – 13:00 to 20:15
=> 13:00 – Practice 3
=> 16:00 – Qualifying
09/04 – 13:30 to 15:15 – Warm Up
09/04 – 16:30 to 22:00
=> 16:30 – Moto3 race
=> 18:15 – Moto2 race
=> 19:45 – MotoGP race
=> 21:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Argentina (Channel 5)
10/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

World Rally Championship – France
07/04 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
08/04 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport//ESPN)
08/04 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 3)
=> 23:05 to 23:35 (Motorsport.tv)
09/04 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Power Stage (BT Sport 1)
09/04 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
11/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Touring Car Championship – Morocco (British Eurosport 2)
08/04 – 15:15 to 17:30
=> 15:15 – Qualifying
=> 16:30 – MAC3 time trial
09/04 – 16:30 to 18:30
=> 16:30 – Race 1
=> 17:30 – Race 2

As always, I will update the above schedule if anything changes.

News round-up: Sky explore YouTube; online battle for readership continues

In the second round-up catching up on the stories of the past month, this blog looks at the ongoing battle for readers across various websites and the advances over on YouTube.

Sky explore YouTube, but did anyone notice?
Sky Sports conducted an interesting experiment with the Friday 24th April episode of The F1 Show. Under the #AskCrofty banner, the episode was streamed live on YouTube. I believe this was the first time that Sky have ever streamed F1 content on the video sharing website, traditionally it had only been available to pay-TV subscribers via the usual ways. Personally, I think that such an occasion would have been good to ‘big up’ with some extra advertising or hype via social media, maybe try and reach out to a few new subscribers. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

The episode was streamed live on YouTube to around a few hundred people, a number which can only be described as shockingly low. Yes, it is only an F1 talk show on a Friday night, but you can’t defend numbers as low as that. I’d have expected at least a few thousand people to watch it live via YouTube, given the amount of people that the Sky Sports brand reaches on Facebook, Twitter and their own website on a daily basis. This experiment failed before it even started, to be honest. The low number also in its own way confirms the low TV viewing figures that The F1 Show receives, never hitting 100k and very rarely hitting 50k.

Sticking with YouTube, and the news that the official F1 channel appears to be forming some sort of partnership with NBC. Eagle eyed viewers will have noticed that the F1 website tends to take NBC’s interviews conducted from the broadcast pen, as of course Formula One Management (FOM) own all the content that is filmed inside a race track. That relationship appears to be evolving, with NBC features possibly appearing on F1’s YouTube channel, according to NBC’s pit lane reporter Will Buxton who commented on it during a recent AMA on reddit. Obviously such a development, should it come to fruition, is positive news as it means more people will be able to experience the content that NBC’s F1 team produce.

F1 2016 schedule and the implications
The provisional 2016 Formula One schedule presents some interesting decisions for both BBC and Sky should the schedule not change. The good news is that the season would start after the conclusion of the Six Nations and after the Boat Race. The Australian Grand Prix, scheduled currently for April 3rd, would not clash with any of the big standalone events. The Chinese Grand Prix would be held on the same weekend as the Grand National, but not a direct clash. It is the Bahrain Grand Prix that would suffer, clashing with the London Marathon and the FA Cup semi finals, but on the other hand it could provide BBC with a bumper Sunday if they showed the Grand Prix live after the marathon.

However, with both the football European Championship and the Olympic Games taking place next year, it means a congested Summer of sport. Provisionally, the Canadian, Austrian and British rounds of the championship will take place during Euro 2016, whilst the Hungarian Grand Prix clashes with the opening weekend of the Olympic Games. And that hasn’t even taken into account Wimbledon…. of course, it is impossible to avoid everything. But, the promoters and governing body of the sport must ensure that F1 is given the best scheduling opportunities where possible, minimising the chance of direct clashes.

AUTOSPORT widen their horizons
The online battle for readers has increased over the past year, with multiple talent changes across AUTOSPORT and Motorsport.com. The talent changes are now in place, which should result in stronger competition across the board, as Motorsport.com tries to take a slice of the action from AUTOSPORT and other related websites. In theory, the changes can only mean good things for the consumer. The quality should increase as both sites strive to make their portfolio of content as strong as possible, irrespective of whether it is two wheels, four wheels, tarmac or gravel.

AUTOSPORT are further bolstering their line-up with a new website currently in beta, so that will only help things for them in the online department. Their commitment to all things two and four wheels was demonstrated a few weeks ago, with Kris Meeke’s victory at the Rally Argentina their lead story on the cover of AUTOSPORT Magazine, despite rallying traditionally not a strong selling point in comparison to Formula 1. Edd Straw, AUTOSPORT’s editor, justified the decision noting that he hoped that AUTOSPORT’s readership would respond to a different cover “better than expected”, whilst it was simply “the right thing to do” due to the story behind Meeke’s victory. It should be noted that some mainstream media covered Meeke’s victory, both the BBC and Sky covered the victory on their respective websites.

Elsewhere, the recent general election alongside Floyd Mayweather’s victory against Manny Pacquiao in the boxing meant that the BBC smashed their own online records, with 12.3 million browsers accessing the BBC Sport website in total on Sunday 3rd May. 8.7 million browsers were from within then UK, with the remaining 3.6 million browsers from outside the UK. In comparison, as the aftermath of the general election was felt, a whopping 28.3 million browsers accessed the BBC News website, of which 20.6 million were from within the UK. The numbers are simply staggering.

MotoGP’s UK viewing figures halve year on year

Halfway through the 2014 MotoGP season, and the move to pay TV for live coverage is having a profound effect on the UK ratings, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

> Half a million viewers across BT and ITV
> BT Sport “expect numbers to grow with time”
> ITV decline to comment

For the best part of fifteen years, BBC had screened every race live, with further more extensive coverage on British Eurosport. With an average of one million viewers every race, BBC’s coverage was motorcycling’s gateway to a new generation of fans, should a British rider rise to the top. In May 2013, it was announced that BT Sport would be taking over exclusive coverage of the championship from 2014 onwards, unsurprisingly provoking a backlash from fans. The exclusivity aspect failed to make it to the first race, just two weeks before the start of the 2014 season, it was announced that ITV4 would be screening highlights of the championship, a move aimed at appeasing a larger portion of the MotoGP fan base. And the viewing figures, in my opinion, back that up.

All the viewing figures below exclude BBC iPlayer for 2013, and similarly BT Sport’s app and ITV Player for this season. So far in 2014, BT Sport’s live race day coverage for the MotoGP portion of proceedings – from 12:30 to approximately 14:00 – have averaged 155k, peaking at just over 200k the majority of the time. ITV4’s highlights programming on Monday evenings have averaged 366k, this number including their +1 timeshift channel. The combined audience of 521k is significantly down on figures in previous years, when MotoGP was live on terrestrial television.

In comparison, BBC Two’s MotoGP coverage for the first half of the 2013 season, excluding Austin and Assen, which were not covered live by the channel, averaged exactly 1.00m, regularly peaking around 1.3m. In addition to that, an additional audience in the region of 150k watched on British Eurosport an hour later, bringing the combined audience is 1.15m. Traditionally, UK’s audiences have remained around that level for many years, with slight fluctuations about 100k either way depending on that season’s circumstances and other sporting competition in that calendar year. As mentioned above, audiences this year have more than halved in comparison to last year.

Looking into the figures, I maintain that ITV were brought on board to save face. BT Sport exclusivity would have been a catastrophic disaster for all concerned. Yes, they may be providing more in-depth coverage than BBC (albeit, with the use of a studio at every race weekend), but that in my opinion is meaningless if audiences are 10 percent of what BBC were getting. BT Sport’s coverage is not going to bring in new fans. If it does, it’ll be tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands as BBC’s coverage could have done if the likes of Bradley Smith get to the front of the field in the years to come.

I would be surprised if Dorna are happy with BT’s viewing figures, however it was them that made the decision to go with BT Sport’s money rather than BBC’s viewers. Whether ITV4’s highlights programming was a nice compromise, the jury is out. In any case, I’m not at all surprised about the drop. There is a valid point about the dominance of Marc Marquez having a detrimental effect on viewing figures. From BT’s perspective, viewing figures have stayed consistent (in fact, their Qatar programme only peaked with 230k), whilst ITV4’s highlights have dropped to around the 350k mark. Because of the football in the past month, there is no direct yes or no answer where the Marquez theory is concerned.

A BT Sport spokesperson said: “BT Sport is a brand new channel and less than a year old and MotoGP launched on the channel in March of this year. BT Sport show some of the most extensive coverage of MotoGP seen in the UK across Friday, Saturday and Sunday on a race weekend. We are pleased with the number of people watching MotoGP as well as MotoGP Tonight so far and feedback on our coverage has also been extremely positive. We expect numbers to grow with time.” ITV declined to comment.

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Marquez MotoGP title victory peaks with 1.6 million

Marc Marquez’s title victory in yesterday’s MotoGP from Valencia was seen by 1.6 million viewers across BBC Two and British Eurosport, overnight viewing figures show.

As noted by @TVRatingsUK on Twitter, BBC’s programme from 12:30 averaged 1.21 million viewers (11.9 percent share), peaking with 1.49 million viewers (14 percent share) as Marquez clinched the crown.

Eurosport added 152,000 viewers at its peak for their delayed transmission, bringing a combined peak of 1.64 million viewers.

BBC’s figures increased slightly on the usual 1 million to 1.1 million average. Their figures have been broadly flat across the past six or seven years, so anyone expecting them to put it a bid double the previous amount to match BT Sport is in fantasy land. They probably would have increased the bid by 10 percent to cover themselves, but not much more.