News round-up: Verstappen shines on Pauw, 3D graphics from FOM make appearance

Alongside the pieces I posted a few weeks ago, there are a fair few smaller things that I want to mention, which I will do over the course of the next two round-up’s. First up, analysis looking at Sky’s “35 million” digital reach and ESPN’s movement in the Formula 1 online world.

Verstappen continues to shine in his homeland
The rise of Max Verstappen continued in the Netherlands following his win at the Spanish Grand Prix. Verstappen appeared on late-night chat show Pauw on Friday night on NPO1. To put the appearance into context for UK readers, it is the equivalent to Lewis Hamilton appearing on The Graham Norton Show on BBC One.

Verstappen’s appearance on Pauw averaged a strong 1.18m (27.1%) from 23:02 to 23:57 according to ratings bureau Kijkonderzoek. Pauw has typically averaged around 750,000 viewers over the past few weeks, so Verstappen’s appearance boosted numbers by over 50 percent. I’m surprised no one has started a rumour about the Dutch Grand Prix yet…

ESPN increases Formula 1 coverage
One website that has increased its Formula 1 presence this year is ESPN. The website now features video round-ups fronted by Jennie Gow and Maurice Hamilton alongside written content from a variety of writers. Given that ESPN have no Formula 1 rights, it is a strong website and worth a visit if you have not done so already.

On the subject of website reporting, the BBC F1 website has adapted. Despite not being able to publish content with Formula One Management (FOM) video material, the team has still uploaded content featuring Jack Nicholls, Allan McNish and Tom Clarkson. Eagle eyed viewers will have noticed that the recent videos from Russia and Spain were filmed with the relevant back drops in sight, but outside of the FOM perimeter zone. The BBC cannot film inside a circuit during a Formula 1 race weekend, but there is nothing stopping them from filming 50 meters outside of the circuit, as they are doing so at the moment.

Producing a good supplementary magazine show
Now that we are five races into the 2016 Formula One season, it is a good chance to talk about Sky’s revamped programming line-up. Axed is the studio editions of The F1 Show, with all other episodes reduced to 30 minutes in length. As a result, the F1 Report airs every week instead of bi-weekly. The changes to The F1 Show during race weekends have been a welcome change, making it easier to catch up on practice coverage with a shorter, snappier show.

The F1 Report has not changed from a content perspective meaning that the viewer is short-changed year-on-year. The show is clearly produced on a shoe-string budget and that is one of the issues I have with the show. It is odd that Sky have for years produced brilliant supplementary shows to their football coverage such as Sunday Supplement and Goals on Sunday yet have failed to produce one good, stable supplementary magazine show for their Formula 1 coverage that hasn’t required multiple changes. We’re in season five and the supplementary magazine show is now in iteration three or four.

Yes, their football coverage covers multiple layers across multiple leagues on a much larger scale than F1. But F1 has: on and off track across multiple series (GP2 and GP3) which Sky should be driving people towards. The opinions and voices on The F1 Report so far in 2016 have not been strong enough to persuade me to watch every week. Besides, if I want to get general opinions, I can read AUTOSPORT or Motorsport.com. You do get the occasional good guests who are worth listening to, such as Will Buxton, but these are far and few between. Sky’s failure though came far, far earlier in the chain by repeatedly failing to exploit the studio episodes of The F1 Show.

FOM share 3D graphics with Sky
Viewers who watched the horrifying accident between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez at the Australian Grand Prix via any of Sky’s outlets would have probably also watched 3D graphics of the incident. The footage, provided by FOM and based on GPS data, was used by Sky in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom to analyse the accident. The traces showed that Gutierrez crucially braked earlier than Alonso, contributing to the accident. Channel 4 did not air the 3D footage during their highlights show, either because of time constraints or because they did not have access to the footage.

To date, I believe this is the first and last time we have seen 3D footage from FOM based on GPS. I was expecting FOM to produce something in Spain as a result of the Mercedes crash on lap one, but alas, nothing was aired. With or without 3D footage, it should be noted that the Sky Pad analysis we saw from Anthony Davidson was fantastic on both occasions. Davidson is comfortably one of Sky F1’s best assets, and is someone who Sky should try to keep for as long as possible going forward.

Counting viewers and readers
Every time I see a statistic, my first thought is to wonder how it is calculated, especially when it comes to audience figures. Sky Sports recently celebrated their 25th anniversary and mentioned this statistic: “35 million+ unique users of SkySports.com and Sky Sports apps.” How accurate is that figure?  Being a data junkie, a few questions come to mind.

Is that a worldwide figure or UK only figure? If it is the former, then the UK figure will be lower by a fair amount. Although the statement says ‘unique’, is that strictly true in that one person may use Sky Sports services in various different ways (iPad, Android, desktop, laptop, work phone to name just a few). So can a figure across multiple devices truly be classified as unique? Just because 20 million people use iPad and 15 million use Android, that does not mean 35 million people use iPad or Android, as there will be overlap in people who use iPad and Android.

I’m intrigued to know what unique means in this instance, I suspect the reality is that there is a significant amount of double counting involved to arrive at that figure. Beware if you see that figure used in public in future to defend the Sky UK’s exclusive Formula 1 deal from 2019…

No further discussion about Sky’s 2019 deal
Surprisingly since the announcement about the aforementioned deal, we have had little comment from those in the business (I exclude journalists here). No one, to my knowledge, has publicly commented on it from the teams’ perspective. We have had a brief comment from FIA president Jean Todt who, speaking at a presser during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend said that he is “not happy that F1 is disappearing from free-to-air TV in key markets.” Apart from that, no public comment.

On the back drop of Sky’s 2019 deal, but not linked, the digital team at Sky pulled an article offline about the GPDA statement concerning the governance of Formula 1. I requested comment from Sky, unfortunately an official line from them was not forthcoming, despite the best efforts of this writer to press on the issue.

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Over one million viewers watch Verstappen’s debut win in the Netherlands

An audience of over one million viewers in the Netherlands watched their countryman Max Verstappen claim his first Formula 1 win, viewing figures show.

According to the ratings bureau Kijkonderzoek the Spanish Grand Prix, which aired live on Ziggo Sport, averaged a massive 1.01m (35.5%) from 13:55 to 15:48 local time. The post-race section rated even higher than the race itself as word of mouth spread, averaging 1.13m (34.3%) from 15:48 to 16:37. The race and post race segments were the 6th and 9th most watched programmes of the day respectively and comfortably Ziggo Sport’s most watched programmes as well.

It is worth noting that Ziggo Sport is a pay-TV station, which makes the figures even more impressive. Given that the Netherlands has historically not been a big market, I have not kept tabs on their figures throughout the years, but have found something worth mentioning. The 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix averaged 674k (15.1%) on RTL7 whilst the Canadian Grand Prix in the same year averaged 537k (7.7%), albeit against football opposition. And both of those were on free-to-air television!

I’ll try and track the Netherlands figures in more depth as the year progresses. If the signs are anything to go by, the viewing figures are only going to increase if Verstappen continues his rise in Formula 1…

Spain and Poland’s F1 reach continues to decrease

As anticipation ramps up towards the start of the 2016 Formula One season, if you live in either Spain or Poland, there is unfortunately some very bad news.

Starting with Spain, the website Mundo Deportivo is reporting that pay-TV station Movistar+ will be broadcasting Formula 1 exclusively, with neither Antenna 3 or TV3 renewing their contracts. Both Antenna 3 and TV3’s contracts expired at the end of 2015. At the last rights renewal in January 2014, it was reported that TV3’s rights contract decreased by 30 percent. I won’t be surprised if TV3 (and Antenna 3) tried to drop the contract value again, only for Formula One Management (FOM) to walk towards pay-TV. There’s only so far you can drop the value before the rights holder walks away.

Meanwhile in Poland, Eleven Sports Network have acquired the exclusive rights to every Formula 1 session across the whole season. The company acquired the rights from MP and Silva who, according to SportsPro Media, won the rights to distribute Formula 1 content in multiple territories in December 2013. The important piece of information here is that Polsat will no longer be showing Formula 1 having aired the championship from 2007 to 2015 – first on their free-to-air channel until the end of 2013 then on their pay-TV sports channel for the past two seasons. Polsat were partially responsible for the rise in viewing figures, alongside the surge of Robert Kubica until his accident at the beginning of 2011. As noted in the comments below, Eleven Sports Network is not available on the largest satellite network, meaning F1 will now have an even smaller audience base in Poland.

It means that the following rights deal have taken effect within the past four years:

– UK (from 2012 – shared)
=> BBC TV out, Channel 4 in from 2016
Netherlands (from 2013)
Italy (from 2013 – shared)
– Poland (from 2014 – full pay-TV)
Czech Republic (from 2015 – full pay-TV)
Slovakia (from 2015 – full pay-TV)
South America (from 2015)
Australia (from 2015)
– Spain (from 2016 – full pay-TV)

In my opinion, shared deals are the way forward. It allows Formula 1 to have a shop window and access to millions of viewers on free-to-air television, whilst also catering to the dedicated fan on pay-TV. Of course, in a perfect world every race would be live free-to-air, but the economics are against that at the moment. I really don’t think a full pay-TV deal achieves anything. It certainly does not get a new generation of fans invested in Formula 1, and I fear for Formula 1 in Spain going forward. Whilst the attendances at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya have been good historically, it will be interesting to monitor them going forward. I won’t be surprised if there is a knock on effect as a result of this deal.

Thanks to Karol296 on Twitter for the heads up regarding the Poland deal.

Update on March 2nd – It looks like there is more to the Spanish story. SportBusiness are reporting that TV3 has agreed a deal with Telelefonica Movistar+ to air the Spanish Grand Prix live, with the remaining 20 races airing on a one-hour tape delay. That does not sound too bad and could have been a lot, lot worse.

Update on March 16th – Sports Pro Media says that TV3’s package is actually for a one-hour highlights package as opposed to airing races on a one-hour tape delay.

News round-up: Formula E expands European reach; Questing not coasting

There have not been too many major news stories in the broadcasting landscape to report on recently, but there have been a few intriguing issues bubbling under the surface worth mentioning on the blog.

Formula E expands European reach, but UK deal remains a mystery
It was confirmed today that Eurosport would be broadcasting seasons two and three exclusively of Formula E in Germany, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, with the channel also broadcasting non-exclusive content in Iceland. The announcement is significant, as it allows Formula E to reach far more people than what it currently does in those territories, thanks to the Germany deal being a free-to-air one. Ali Russell, Formula E’s Director of Media and Strategic Partnership said that the deal “reinforces our outreach across key target markets in Europe alongside other existing deals.”

Whilst significant, the news is not necessarily surprising. As noted previously, Eurosport are owned by Discovery Communications who have a minority investment in Formula E. It is important to state that Eurosport’s Formula E deal does not cover the UK as, to quote Ben Constanduros, there are other deals in place which prevent it. As of writing, nothing has been publicly announced regarding where Formula E’s second season will be broadcast in the UK. 60 percent of you think ITV will broadcast season two live. We continue to wait for an official announcement on the situation.

WEC and WTCC gain UK free-to-air coverage
Good news for UK fans of the World Endurance Championship and the World Touring Car Championship, free to air highlights of both series are coming. Continuing the same theme as above, Quest TV, who are under the same umbrella as Eurosport and therefore Discovery, will begin airing a one-hour show with immediate effect.

The WEC programme will be presented by Toby Moody, airing on the Tuesday after each race weekend. The first WTCC highlights show aired last night and is currently available to watch on Quest On Demand, presented by Neil Cole. The development follows Quest TV’s successful coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier this year. This is only good news for both championships, as it allows them to increase their foothold and bring in a bigger audience. I won’t be surprised if Formula E highlights turn up on Quest for season two, even if the live action is covered elsewhere. Anything that increases a motor sport series audience is good news in my view.

BT’s MotoGP ratings bounce back
A thrilling two rounds of MotoGP from Silverstone and Misano resulted in mixed viewing figures on BT Sport, overnight viewing figures showed. Silverstone peaked with 209k (2.3%), only marginally up on last year’s number of 205k (2.4%). Bank Holiday was the main reason for that number, however it was still a slight surprise when you consider that the trend so far this year has been of increases on a significant scale.

Misano fared much better than Silverstone, averaging 242k (2.8%) from 12:30 to 14:00, peaking with 317k (3.6%) at 13:40. A sign of how well Misano did is that this year’s MotoGP average is higher than last year’s peak number of 211k (2.6%). I would have expected Scott Redding and Bradley Smith’s podium finishes, along with the inclement weather, to boost ITV4’s highlights number. What we actually saw was a year-on-year drop. An average audience of 335k (1.5%) watched ITV4’s programme this past Monday, compared with 357k (1.6%) for last year’s Misano highlights programme.

Elsewhere…
Formula 1 celebrates one year of having a proper Twitter account this weekend with the Singapore Grand Prix. Technically, the F1 account on Twitter has been live since August 2009, but the proper interaction that you would actually expect from an account began last September. In the past year, their reach on Twitter has increased 62 percent from 937k to 1.52m, a fairly hefty jump, overtaking MotoGP in the process.

Over in America, great news for the IndyCar Series which witnessed a 70 percent jump in NBC Sports Network’s numbers between 2014 and 2015. Some of that has to be natural growth, but there is another part which is no doubt a result of piggybacking off Formula 1’s recent success over there. It’ll be interesting to see how much influence Alexander Rossi has on viewing figures. Okay, he is unlikely to trouble the points scores given the car he is in, but it may move NBC’s F1 numbers up further a notch or two.

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News round-up: Jacques begins feeder series commentary; NBC F1 ratings rise

In the third and final catch-up, news on the identity of the GP2 Series lead commentator and a look at NBC’s continuing Formula 1 ratings rise.

Jacques becomes new GP2 and GP3 commentator
The news towards the end of 2013 that Will Buxton would no longer be lead commentator for the GP2 and GP3 Series caught many by surprise, with Buxton choosing to prioritise his duties with NBC Sports over commentating on the feeder series’ for Formula One Management (FOM). There were not many stand-out candidates for Buxton’s replacement, I noted last November that the replacement depended upon whether FOM wanted to “breed new talent or rely on a veteran figure”. In the end, the corporation went for the former approach.

Alex Jacques was officially announced as lead feeder series commentator for GP2 and GP3 on Thursday 16th April, prior to the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. You probably are, like I was at the time, wondering who Jacques is. And, to a degree, I am still wondering who Jacques is. Google brings back very little about his past commentating exploits, whilst Jacques has no profile on social media. The nearest information we have about Jacques is that he may have done BBC local radio commentary covering football in the past few years, but apart from that, there is nothing concrete in the public domain.

The reaction on social media has been positive towards Jacques. From the action that I’ve watched, Jacques does sound a bit stilted from time to time, but on the other hand I haven’t heard any howlers from him, yet. What is apparent though is that Jacques is trying to be the first Alex Jacques and not the second Will Buxton. That’s more than good, there is nothing worse than trying to act and be like another commentator or presenter and fail at the first hurdle, so it is good to see Jacques bringing his own style to proceedings.

Sticking with GP2 and GP3, the graphics set for the feeder series’ have stayed the same, unlike its bigger brother, which means that they have been using the same graphics set for a decade now. There have been a few tweaks, such as the timing bar at the bottom of the screen, which has been present in the F1 coverage since at least 2008. Behind the scenes, it was confirmed earlier this month that Tata Communications would be supplying the live broadcast signal for GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup via fibre optic and satellite. James Allen said that the move “is clearly a trial run for both F1 Management and Tata with a view to one day transmitting F1 Grands Prix this way.”

NBC’s F1 ratings continue to rise
In an ongoing story, Formula 1’s television ratings in the United States are continuing their upward curve with coverage on NBC Sports. Following a brilliant number for Malaysia in late March, the Bahrain Grand Prix benefited hugely from a mid morning start time in the US. An average audience of 630k watched Lewis Hamilton win, making it the most watched race ever for NBC Sports Network, and the most watched non-domestic F1 race on cable in eight years.

As I’ve said before, it is unbelievable that the numbers are increasing further in the States when you consider that figures have largely stagnated and even dropped worldwide. The unfortunate thing for Formula 1 is that it is coming from such a low base, meaning that there is still a ton of work to do to get viewing figures over a million, if possible, for mid morning races such as Bahrain.

How WEC can grow, if it wants to
With two rounds of the 2015 World Endurance Championship completed, the series has been receiving more plaudits, comparisons are again being made between it and Formula 1. As Edd Straw said in an editorial on the AUTOSPORT website (£) a few weeks ago, pundits should not use the series as a battering ram to attack Formula 1 with given that the two are distinctly different.

WEC races are typically six or 24 hours long, whereas a Formula 1 race lasts just under two hours, meaning the latter is much more likely to attract a bigger audience. Also, Formula 1 has the luxury of free-to-air output on BBC and Sky. The endurance series however is on Motors TV with a much lower reach than the remainder of the Sports portfolio, including Sky Sports and BT Sport. The Silverstone round peaked with 24k according to unofficial overnight viewing figures.

The buzz at the moment for WEC is just within the motor sport circles, at the hardcore level. How can that be changed to bring in a casual audience, whilst not alienating the hardcore audience, if possible? I think it is important to point out that, in the mid to late 2000’s, the last few hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans were screened live on ITV4, which should happen again. Why the series also doesn’t have a highlights package either is confusing to me. Both of these are easy method of increasing audiences, demand and reach. Yes, it is great to stream live online and the like, but you need to have a good reach on traditional platforms as well, which WEC does not have.

It could be argued that it would be difficult to package together a six hour race, plus practice and qualifying into a 45 or 90 minute highlights programme (excluding commercials) without completely losing the flow and story of the race, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be attempted. Elsewhere, in a big story from a broadcasting perspective, all TV cameras will be active for the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to Graham Goodwin, the editor of DailySportsCar.com. In previous years, the majority of TV cameras were switched off overnight, with a limited number of cameras running alongside CCTV cameras to pick up any incidents. A lot of action was missed as a result, with incidents and crashes occurring off camera, but it looks like that won’t be the case for this year’s race.