Scheduling: The 2018 Marrakesh E-Prix

After a break for Christmas, the Formula E series returns with race three of the 2017-18 season taking place in Marrakesh.

Channel 5 are airing live coverage of the race, having broadcast the double-header from Hong Kong on tape-delay. The broadcaster appears to complimenting their coverage with an hour-long build-up, the longest since ITV covered the championship. I did wonder if the first half hour was an episode of Formula E’s Street Racers magazine show, but there is no indication that this is the case.

In further good news, Channel 5’s sister channel 5Spike (previously Spike) are airing qualifying live. As in Hong Kong, Vernon Kay will be on hand to present their output, including qualifying, with Jack Nicholls, Dario Franchitti and Bob Varsha providing World Feed commentary.

Eurosport will also air the race live, with qualifying on tape-delay. Expect to see them add their own flavour over the World Feed broadcast, with Tom Gaymor and Mike Conway at the helm.

Formula E – Marrakesh (online via YouTube)
13/01 – 07:55 to 08:55 – Practice 1
13/01 – 10:25 to 11:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Marrakesh
13/01 – 10:30 to 11:25 – Preview (Channel 5)
13/01 – 11:45 to 13:10 – Qualifying (5Spike)
13/01 – 15:00 to 17:15 (Eurosport)
=> 15:00 – Preview
=> 15:15 – Qualifying [tape delay]
=> 16:00 – Race
13/01 – 15:30 to 17:15 – Race (Channel 5)

If the schedule changes, I will update the above.

Update on January 13th at 11:40 – It looks like Channel 5’s schedule changed late in the day, as the Preview show was actually a Season Preview, and moved to 10:30, extended to an hour in length. So, their live Marrakesh show actually starts at 15:30 UK time.


Formula E season opener peaks with 329,000 viewers

The Formula E season started in Hong Kong last weekend, with the UK television audience peaking with 329,000 viewers, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of both races aired exclusively on Eurosport across the weekend. Race one aired in an extended time slot from 06:45 to 08:45 due to the red flag on lap 1, and averaged 14k (0.40%). Eurosport’s broadcast peaked with 24k (0.72%) as the race restarted at 07:40. It is the lowest audience for a Formula E race that has broadcast live on television, just behind the 20,000 viewers who watched BT Sport Europe’s coverage of the 2016 Mexico City ePrix.

As anticipated, Channel 5’s as-live coverage comfortably outstripped Eurosport’s audience. Their programme, also extended from 09:00 to 11:10, averaged 176k (2.5%). The audience is Channel 5’s second lowest for a Formula E race, only ahead of the second Montreal ePrix race from July which aired live on Spike and in highlights form on Channel 5. The free-to-air broadcaster’s coverage peaked with 207k (3.1%) before the race coverage started.

Viewing figures perked up for Sunday’s action. Eurosport’s coverage of race two aired from 06:45 to 08:10 on Sunday morning, averaging 17k (0.61%). A peak audience of 33k (1.19%) watched their coverage at 07:30 as Daniel Abt headed to victory prior to his post-race disqualification.

Channel 5’s highlights programme aired from 08:55 to 10:40, averaging 228k (3.4%), beating ITV in the time slot. Their coverage dipped before the race started to under 200,000 viewers but encouragingly climbed to a peak of 297k (4.2%), both metrics marginally higher than their live Hong Kong programme last year.

The combined Formula E audiences across the weekend of 190,000 viewers on Saturday and 245,000 viewers on Sunday paints an interesting picture. Sunday’s combined audience is up year-on-year on the 2016 Hong Kong race, which also took place on a Sunday.

There is a fair difference between the Saturday peak of 231,000 viewers and the Sunday figure of 329,000 viewers, suggesting that Sunday’s race may have attracted extra viewers to Channel 5 who were not aware that the Formula E season was starting last weekend.

Saturday’s numbers are poor, but Sunday is a vast improvement. If Channel 5 make the effort for the remainder of the year scheduling wise, with the on-site effort that they showed in Hong Kong, the viewers will hopefully come.

Elsewhere, Sunday afternoon hosted Sky Sports’ and Channel 4’s Formula 1 season reviews. Sky’s show played out at 12:00 and attracted an audience of 12k (0.2%), with 439k (5.4%) tuning into Channel 4’s review an hour later.

Scheduling: The 2017 Hong Kong E-Prix

“When the moment comes, let’s stand together!” Formula E is back for its fourth season! The championship heads to Hong Kong for their first two E-Prix (note the new stylisation) of the 2017-18 season.

Live coverage of the race in the United Kingdom will air on Eurosport, following a wider deal between Eurosport’s international arm and Formula E. However, despite also having live rights, free-to-air broadcaster Channel 5 are airing both Hong Kong races on a two-hour tape-delay. To a degree, the tape-delay does not matter much given the races start at 07:00 UK time each day, and Channel 5 would argue that the audience demand to watch Formula E at that time is very small.

When Channel 5 committed to Formula E in 2016, they did so on the basis that every race would be live on television, but as fans saw Channel 5 broke that promise towards the end of season three. Channel 5 say that “some” races will air live on their station this season; just how many remains unclear. Vernon Kay replaces Andy Jaye as Channel 5’s lead presenter, steering the ship on-site from Hong Kong, although it feels rather moot to be on-site with tape-delayed coverage, but that is the situation Channel 5 have decided to proceed with.

Elsewhere, both Channel 4 and Sky are airing their Formula 1 season reviews this weekend, meaning that neither channel will be airing original F1 content over the festive period. Channel 4’s review will be voiced by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. The AUTOSPORT Awards return on Sunday with a new look. Under the ownership of Motorsport Network, out goes Steve Rider and in come Lee McKenzie and David Coulthard as presenters. Motorsport Network have collaborated with Velocity, part owned by Coulthard, on the revamp.

Formula E – Hong Kong (online via YouTube)
01/12 (Friday night)– 22:55 to 23:55 – Race 1, Practice 1
02/12 – 01:25 to 02:10 – Race 1, Practice 2
02/12 – 02:45 to 04:10 – Race 1, Qualifying
03/12 – 00:25 to 01:25 – Race 2, Practice
03/12 – 02:45 to 04:10 – Race 2, Qualifying

Formula E – Hong Kong
02/12 – 06:00 to 08:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport)
=> 06:00 to 06:45 – Qualifying [tape delay]
=> 06:45 to 08:00 – Race [live]
02/12 – 09:00 to 10:45 – Race 1 (Channel 5)
03/12 – 06:00 to 08:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport)
=> 06:00 to 06:45 – Qualifying [tape delay]
=> 06:45 to 08:00 – Race [live]
03/12 – 08:55 to 10:40 – Race 2 (Channel 5)

03/12 – 20:30 to 23:35
=> 20:30 – A Night of Stars: 30 Years of the AUTOSPORT Awards
=> 21:30 – Live Ceremony

Formula 1
03/12 – 00:30 to 01:00 – Nico Rosberg: My Life after F1 (BBC News)
=> repeated throughout the weekend
03/12 – 12:00 to 13:00 – 2017 Season Review (Sky Sports F1)
03/12 – 13:00 to 14:00 – 2017 Season Review (Channel 4)

World Touring Car Championship – Qatar (Eurosport 2)
01/12 – 11:30 to 13:00
=> 11:30 – Qualifying
=> 12:30 – MAC3 race
01/12 – 18:15 to 20:15
=> 18:15 – Race 1
=> 19:15 – Race 2

As always, the schedule will be updated if anything changes.

Vernon Kay announced as Channel 5’s new Formula E presenter

Vernon Kay will present live coverage of the upcoming Formula E season for Channel 5, the broadcaster has confirmed.

Press details for the upcoming Hong Kong E-Prix also note that the broadcaster will be on-site for season four, as suggested last month. Kay has previous for hosting sport, having hosted American football for Channel 4 previously. He is probably most famous for presenting the likes of All Star Family Fortunes and Splash! for ITV in recent years.

Channel 5 says that Kay will present “all the action live from the paddock as round one and two of the 2017/18 Formula E Championship spark into life at the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix on December 2-3 around the Victoria Harbour front.” It marks a significant shift for the broadcaster from the low-budget studio that was used during their first season covering the sport.

In the official press release, Kay says “Formula E remains an incredible spectacle within the world of motorsport. I can’t wait to get track-side and present all the electric action, right from the heart of these amazing cities.” The announcement means that Andy Jaye no longer appears to be involved in Channel 5’s output, having hosted coverage last year.

The remainder of the punditry line-up is unknown as of writing. Also unconfirmed is the schedule for Hong Kong. Provisional schedules for Hong Kong suggest that Channel 5 will be airing both races on tape-delay from 09:00 to 10:45 on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd December respectively. The press release from Formula E also states that Channel 5 will broadcast live coverage from selected races, which cannot be seen as good news and a downgrade on previous years.

Initial reaction to Kay’s involvement is mixed, and very much reminiscent of the reaction when Melanie Sykes became BT Sport’s MotoGP presenter and when Steve Jones became Channel 4’s F1 presenter. The outcome was different for both: Sykes’ gig lasted three months, whilst Jones is coming to the end of his second season as Formula 1 presenter, a role he has settled into very well.

Whilst Kay does come from a similar background to Sykes, he has the advantage of having presented sport before. I suspect that, even though the Formula E race is live, the build-up segments might be pre-recorded in advance, allowing a certain degree of preparation beforehand for Kay and his co-presenters to prepare their lines. The post-race part is always the trickier element to master and requires a significant amount of research in advance. Kay is enough of a veteran for me to feel that he will be just fine in the role.

The important thing which we should not forget is that, for the first time, a UK broadcaster will be on-site at every round, which is a massive step in the right direction if the series is to grow and flourish in this country. I suspect North One Television, who are producing Formula E content from this season onwards alongside Aurora, have helped put Channel 5’s package together.

Updated on November 15th.

Eurosport to broadcast Formula E live in the UK

Eurosport are to broadcast Formula E live in the UK alongside Channel 5, the broadcaster confirmed this morning.

The press release left room for interpretation, but speaking to this site, Eurosport say that they “will be broadcasting Formula E in the UK live on a non-exclusive basis.” The contract is part of a wider Eurosport deal with Formula E across Europe, where the channel will broadcast the series in 54 markets. The deals vary from exclusively live coverage to sub-licencing to a free-to-air broadcaster.

The 2017-18 Formula E season will be the second and currently final year of Channel 5’s contract, and the first of three seasons with Eurosport. I have heard suggestions that Channel 5 may have a greater on-air presence for some rounds this season, implying that they see Formula E as a medium to long-term investment. Channel 5’s coverage of season three averaged 280,000 viewers according to overnight viewing figures.

For readers unaware, Liberty Global and Discovery Communications are minority investors in Formula E. And Eurosport is part of the Discovery family, meaning that it is no major surprise to see Formula E’s presence on Eurosport expanded across their various outlets. The UK situation beyond season four with regards free-to-air television remains to be seen…

Based on their track record with other motor racing series’, I would expect Eurosport to use their own commentary line-up. Eurosport’s resident lead commentator Martin Haven did stand-in for Jack Nicholls as lead commentator for Formula E’s World Feed last season, and would be prime contender to lead Eurosport’s coverage of the electric series.