News round-up: Sky linked with MotoGP; F1 App updates for 2017

In the news round-up, more speculation on where MotoGP could be going next, whilst the official F1 app is given an early Spring clean ready for the 2017 season.

Sky set to take MotoGP off BT Sport?
A report from Bikesport News has linked Sky Sports with MotoGP’s UK rights, which BT Sport currently holds until the end of 2018. In response to their report, Sky’s Euan Fordyce said, “I’m afraid we don’t comment on rights we don’t currently have, so we are unable to help on this occasion.”

I do not know what prompted the report, however given the amount of money BT Sport have splashed out to retain the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, it is not surprising to see Bikesport News’ piece.

Their piece does corroborate with what was reported on this site last month. It looks like the relationship between BT and Dorna is not as rosy as it could be, but I do not want to emphasise that point simply because media outlets reported the same on the BT/UEFA front, and we know what happened there…

Sky Sports were previously involved in MotoGP in the early 1990s under its previous mantra, with Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder providing commentary. The rights soon moved over to British Eurosport as Sky focussed on the Superbike World Championship

As of writing, there is no official news about who will be broadcasting MotoGP highlights in the UK, but expect some news on that front imminently.

Superbike action resumes
The World Superbike Championship was the first major international series to get back underway at the end of February live on Eurosport, and with it, there was a personnel change. Gregory Haines, who was lead World Superbikes commentator for Dorna in 2016, has moved over to Eurosport, succeeding Jack Burnicle as their World Superbikes commentator.

In the overnight viewing figures, the first round of the season from Philip Island peaked with 55k (6.2%) at 04:30 on Sunday morning (including VOSDAL) as the second Superbikes race of the weekend concluded. As a comparison, last year’s MotoGP race from the same track on BT Sport 2 averaged 126k (10.7%), peaking with 176k according to numbers supplied by Overnights.tv.

Elsewhere in the superbike world, ITV have extended their contract to cover the British Superbike series in highlights form until the end of the 2020 season.

F1 App updates for 2017
The official Formula 1 app has received an update ready for the 2017 season. Aside from an update to the user interface, there is no major change for readers. There was some confusion around whether the content will be different depending on location, however this site can confirm that users will receive the same content regardless of location.

On a related note, I mentioned last October that users in the Netherlands were testing a new version of an app featuring in-car footage during live sessions. This site understands that live in-car footage is still on the cards to feature, but at what stage during the season is unclear due to hurdles that need to be cleared. The delivery method also needs to be agreed with each broadcaster.

ITV F1 – twenty years on
ITV’s F1 coverage launched twenty years ago this week, with the 1997 Australian Grand Prix. As readers may have noticed, there has been a running theme so far throughout the year so far looking at various aspects of ITV’s coverage, including flashback pieces looking at past races (thanks to all who said that they would like to see these continue).

There is a lot of reading over here for those of you that fancy a trip down memory lane and want to relieve some more ITV F1 goodness.

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Discovery channels to remain on Sky platform

Discovery Communications’ channels are to remain on the Sky platform, the broadcaster has confirmed tonight.

The broadcaster released the following statement through their social media channels.

This means that Sky’s customers in the UK can continue to enjoy Eurosport’s portfolio of content, including the British Superbikes and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

From Discovery’s perspective, the move to release information into the public domain about potential issues with Sky worked wonders. It increased publicity about their channels over the week long period, which some may not have already been aware of as well as maybe even bringing new viewers towards their portfolio.

We do not know where exactly Sky and Discovery have met in the middle. If Sky have had to pay more than what they wanted to Discovery, it is possible that they will pass the additional cost back onto the viewer.

However, Sky’s CEO in the UK and Ireland Stephen van Rooyen said: “The deal has been concluded on the right terms after Discovery accepted the proposal we gave them over a week ago. This is a good outcome for Sky customers.” With that in mind, it is unclear who actually won in the past week from a financial point of view.

Sky: Discovery “asked the Sky Group to pay close to £1bn for their portfolio of channels”

Discovery Communications asked that Sky paid close to £1 billion pounds for their channels, Sky have revealed tonight.

In a statement on their website, Sky defended the move to reject Discovery’s request, which hit the public spotlight on Wednesday evening. As it stands right now, Discovery’s channels, including Eurosport and Quest TV will be pulled by Discovery from Sky’s platforms in the UK and Germany on February 1st. The move means that Sky’s viewers in the UK will be without live coverage of series such as the World Touring Car Championship and the British Superbikes championship.

The dispute between Discovery and Sky has played out over social media since Wednesday. Discovery have launched a major social media campaign through the #KeepDiscovery hash tag. Stars from the world of snooker, cycling and motor bikes have been using the hash tag to drive media attention to the issue.

Following a social media onslaught, Sky have retaliated this evening (Friday 27th February). Sky say that they have “offered hundreds of millions of pounds to Discovery, a $12bn American business, but that wasn’t enough. [Discovery] asked the Sky Group to pay close to £1bn for their portfolio of channels, many of which are in decline.” Sky says that they have never left the negotiating table, also noting that negotiations have been ongoing for over a year until this point. No scale of time is mentioned in Sky’s statement.

Sky’s statement continued: “Sky doesn’t boot channels off our platform. If Discovery don’t want their channels to disappear, as their public campaign suggests, they could have made arrangement to stay on Sky, including free to air with advertising funding or with their own subscription, but they’ve chosen not to do so.”

Both Sky and Discovery are known for paying significant sums of money for sporting contracts: Sky for the Premier League and Discovery for the Olympics moving forward. The portrayal so far makes out that Discovery is the underdog. Sky is part of the Murdoch empire, whilst Discovery is part of John Malone’s empire. Both pay big bucks.

Discovery Communications recorded a turnover of $6.394 billion (£5 billion) for the 12 months to the end of December 2015, which compares with Sky’s £9.9 billion revenue for the 12 months to the end of June 2016. Therefore, Discovery gets half the revenue around half the turnover of Sky. I would question whether every penny that Sky gives to Discovery would go back into programming (my suspicion is that it would not).

I do hope Discovery’s channels stay on Sky. As a motor racing fan, I want to continue to enjoying the likes of touring cars, superbikes and of course the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is easy to throw Sky under the bus for this, but as with every story, I get the impression that there are two sides to the story. If Discovery’s channels leave Sky, I certainly do not see people’s TV bills decreasing. On the other hand, if the channels stay on Sky there is a good chance of prices increasing further, which is not good news for the consumer.

The fact that we have reached this stage suggests that no one party is at fault and that, instead, both sides have equal blame to take…

Update on January 27th at 21:40 – Discovery have denied Sky’s £1 billion pound statement, claiming that the broadcaster is relying on ‘alternative facts’.

Discovery threatens to pull channels, including Eurosport, from Sky’s platform

Original Article – January 25th at 20:00 – Discovery Networks portfolio of channels, including the Eurosport arm, is set to disappear from Sky’s UK platform next week if a new carriage deal is not reached. As the current agreement only runs until January 31st, Discovery are free to pull their channels from Sky any time from February 1st onwards.

In a press release issued tonight, Discovery said that Sky’s strategy is “limiting customer choice and hurting independent broadcasters.” The dispute for Discovery is that Sky are paying Discovery less than what they were ten years ago, despite Sky’s customers paying progressively more for watching their content, as this website has demonstrated.

Susanna Dinnage, the Managing Director for Discovery Networks UK and Ireland, said: “We are proud to be an independent network of channels that works hard to bring real-world first class channels and programmes to viewers in the UK for nearly 30 years, offering quality and variety to pay television. We believe Sky is using what we consider to be its dominant market position to further its own commercial interest over those of viewers and independent broadcasters. The vitality of independent broadcasters like Discovery and plurality in TV is under threat.”

If the Eurosport channels are pulled from Sky, it means that Sky viewers in the UK will not have access to the British and World Superbikes, as well as the World Touring Car Championship. Longer term, it means that a large proportion of viewers may not have access to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Quest TV is also affected. As noted earlier this month, Discovery Communications has a working relationship with John Malone’s Liberty Global. Malone’s portfolio includes Liberty Media, which of course will soon be renamed the Formula One Group.

This will be one to watch closely in the forthcoming days. My suspicion is that this will be resolved quickly, but there is a possibility that will not happen. This scenario has happened before; readers may remember when Sky1 and a host of other Sky channels were removed from the Virgin Media platform for 18 months is a similar carriage dispute.

Update on January 25th at 20:35 – ITV News’ Consumer Editor Chris Choi says that Sky will be dropping Discovery’s portfolio from next Tuesday.

Update on January 25th at 21:30 – Sky’s statement, via the Telegraph website: “Despite our best efforts to reach a sensible agreement, we, like many other platforms and broadcasters across Europe, have found the price expectations for the Discovery portfolio to be completely unrealistic. Discovery’s portfolio of channels includes many which are linear-only where viewing is falling.”

The statement continued, “Sky has a strong track record of understanding the value of the content we acquire on behalf of our customers, and as a result we’ve taken the decision not to renew this contract on the terms offered. We have been overpaying Discovery for years and are not going to anymore. We will now move to redeploy the same amount of money into content we know our customers value.”

Update on January 26th at 20:30 – No further update beyond what was reported yesterday, with a “wait and see” approach being taken by stakeholders in the British Superbikes series. A #KeepDiscovery campaign is in full flow on social media, bike stars and pundits such as former MotoGP commentator for Eurosport Toby Moody and current British Superbikes presenter Matt Roberts getting behind the cause.

I should note that the issue does not just affect the UK: Discovery’s deal with Sky affects Germany as well, so there are wider ramifications for both corporations if the issue is not resolved.

Update on January 27th at 21:15 – Follow-up story now online here.

Scheduling: The 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

The Malaysian Grand Prix switches back to the latter stages of the season, this year playing host to round 16 of the 2016 Formula One season. It is the third time that the Sepang circuit has been at this end of the calendar, having previously played host to the penultimate round in 1999 and the season finale in 2000.

Channel 4 will be showing live coverage of this round, with Lee McKenzie returning to the fold after her second stint in Rio for the Paralympics and Mark Webber too with the team. Elsewhere in Channel 4’s portfolio, the channel will be airing a full replay of both qualifying and the race, this being their first live morning race. There will also be a special programme after qualifying, with David Coulthard interviewing Christian Horner.

Over on Sky, GP2 and GP3 return to action. It is the first time that GP2 has been in action at Sepang since 2013. For GP3, it is the first race ever at Sepang next weekend. Both take place in the early hours, but are repeated on Sky Sports F1 straight after the F1 action.

Elsewhere, there is a huge amount of motor sport, as the British Touring Car Championship comes to a close, whilst other championships such as the British Superbikes hurdles towards its conclusion.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
30/09 – 02:55 to 04:40 – Practice 1
30/09 – 06:55 to 08:40 – Practice 2
01/10 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Practice 3
01/10 – 09:00 to 11:30 – Qualifying
01/10 – 16:30 to 18:30 – Qualifying Replay
02/10 – 07:00 to 10:45 – Race
02/10 – 16:50 to 19:30 – Race Replay

Supplementary Programming
01/10 – 11:30 to 12:00 – David Coulthard meets Christian Horner

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
30/09 – 02:45 to 04:50 – Practice 1
30/09 – 06:45 to 08:55 – Practice 2
01/10 – 06:45 to 08:15 – Practice 3
01/10 – 09:00 to 11:45 – Qualifying
02/10 – 06:30 to 11:15 – Race
=> 06:30 – Track Parade (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 07:00 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 07:30 – Race (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 10:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
28/09 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
29/09 – 08:00 to 08:30 – Driver Press Conference
29/09 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
30/09 – 09:30 to 10:00 – Team Press Conference
30/09 – 10:00 to 10:30 – The F1 Show
05/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
29/09 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/09 – 02:55 to 04:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/09 – 06:55 to 08:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/10 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/10 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
02/10 – 07:30 to 10:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Blancpain Sprint Series – Barcelona (BT Sport 2)
02/10 – 08:00 to 09:30 – Qualifying
02/10 – 12:45 to 14:30 – Race

British Superbikes – Assen
01/10 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
02/10 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
02/10 – 13:00 to 17:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
13/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
02/10 – 10:15 to 18:30 – Races

Euroformula – Monza
01/10 – Race 1
=> 14:05 to 15:00 (Motors TV)
=> 14:15 to 15:15 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – Race 2
=> 12:00 to 13:00 (BT Sport//ESPN)

FIM CEV Repsol – Jerez
02/10 – Races
=> 09:45 to 11:45 (BT Sport 2)
=> 11:45 to 14:45 (BT Sport X4)

Formula 3 Europe – Imola
01/10 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – 14:45 to 16:00 – Race 3 (BT Sport X4)

Formula V8 3.5 – Monza
01/10 – 13:00 to 14:15 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – 14:30 to 16:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport//ESPN)

GP2 Series – Malaysia (Sky Sports F1)
29/09 – 09:05 to 09:40 – Practice
30/09 – 08:55 to 09:30 – Qualifying
01/10 – 04:45 to 06:15 – Race 1
02/10 – 04:15 to 05:30 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Malaysia (Sky Sports F1)
30/09 – 10:30 to 11:05 – Qualifying
* note: this appears to be airing on a 40-minute tape-delay
01/10 – 03:25 to 04:25 – Race 1
02/10 – 03:00 to 04:00 – Race 2

International GT Open – Monza
01/10 – Race 1
=> 15:00 to 16:50 (Motors TV)
=> 15:15 to 17:00 (BT Sport 3)
02/10 – Race 2
=> 13:00 to 14:30 (BT Sport//ESPN)

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland (BT Sport 1)
01/10 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

TCR International Series – Malaysia (Motors TV)
01/10 – 10:45 to 12:05 – Race

World Rally Championship – France
30/09 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
01/10 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:45 to 22:15 (BT Sport 3)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
02/10 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Power Stage (BT Sport 2)
02/10 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 22:15 to 22:45 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motors TV)
03/10 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Superbikes – France (British Eurosport 2)
01/10 – 09:15 to 13:00 – Qualifying and Race 1
02/10 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Support Race
02/10 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

As always, if anything changes, I’ll update the schedule.