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.

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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.

Scheduling: The 2013 Valencian MotoGP

All good things, come to end. The 2013 MotoGP World Championship comes to a close next weekend with Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo fighting for the crown. But so too does BBC Sport’s and Eurosport’s coverage of the championship. From next year, the series (along with Moto2 and Moto3) will be broadcast exclusively live on BT Sport. Whatever you, or I, think of BBC’s current coverage, the fact of the matter is that as of 2014, MotoGP will no longer be attracting the masses across the airwaves. I’m definitely looking forward to see BT Sport’s coverage of MotoGP, but at the moment, the previous sentence remains true.

Nevertheless, the show must go on, and with that in mind, here is a special schedule piece for Valencia, as the curtain comes down on MotoGP’s current coverage, as BT Sport ushers in a new era, from 2014.

Friday 8th November 2013
12:05 to 15:00 – Practice (British Eurosport 2)

Saturday 9th November 2013
11:20 to 13:00 – Moto2 and Moto3: Qualifying (BBC Red Button)
11:30 to 15:00 – Qualifying (British Eurosport 2)
13:00 to 14:00 – MotoGP: Qualifying (BBC Two)

Sunday 10th November 2013
09:15 to 09:45 – MotoGP: Warm Up (British Eurosport 2)
09:45 to 12:25 – Moto2 and Moto3: Race (British Eurosport 2)
09:45 to 12:30 – Moto2 and Moto3: Race (BBC Red Button)
12:30 to 14:00 – MotoGP: Race (BBC Two)
14:00 to 14:30 – MotoGP: Extra (BBC Red Button)
14:00 to 15:30 – MotoGP: Race (British Eurosport 2)

I will update this blog post if any of the scheduling details change.

Motor sport ratings (week ending 13th October, 2013)

The British Touring Car Championship was the highlight on BARB this weekend as the series came to a conclusion. The final race day of the season, from 10:45 averaged 364,000 viewers across nearly eight hours on ITV4, a fantastic figure. Last year, the broadcast averaged 318,000 viewers, although the show was 15 minutes longer (in an eight hour broadcast this would have made very little difference to the overall average).

Sadly, not all of the Sky Sports F1 data has been processed properly, meaning not everything is available, but here is what is on the site:

212,000 – Live Qualifying (Saturday, 05:00)
=> 117,000 – 05:00 to 06:00
=> 267,000 – 06:00 to 07:45
120,000 – First 30 minutes of Race Build-Up (Sunday, 05:30)
100,000 – Race Replay (Sunday, 11:30)
68,000 – Qualifying Replay (Saturday, 11:00)
46,000 – Race Notebook (Sunday, 19:00)
44,000 – Qualifying Notebook (Sunday, 19:00)

What is interesting there is that live coverage of Qualifying did better for Japan than Korea, despite the latter being a Sky exclusive weekend which is a bit strange.

No BBC data, with both MotoGP and Formula 1 on the fly-aways, it means that individual airings do not make either BBC One’s or BBC Two’s top 30. Last weeks Broadcast magazine however did overnight ratings of 550,000 (7.6%) for the MotoGP live airing, with 630,000 (5.7%) watching the repeat later on. F1’s Japan overnights can be found here.