Scheduling: The 2017 Australian Grand Prix / Qatar MotoGP

A changing of the guard has occurred in Formula 1 over the winter. A champion retired on top of the world. A mass-media corporation ousted an elder statesman, who grappled with the sport for a lifetime. The machinery has become faster, louder and maybe even sexier.

The Formula 1 roadshow that greets us next weekend for the Australian Grand Prix is a significantly different one to the one that left us last November in Abu Dhabi. Nevertheless, for everything that changes, some aspects remain the same.

Channel 4 and Sky Sports have retained broadly the same line-up as last season. Steve Jones will continue to lead Channel 4’s line-up, with the likes of David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Karun Chandhok providing analysis. Over on Sky, Simon Lazenby begins their sixth season of covering Formula 1 as presenter, Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill are nearby as always in the wings.

The major change for Sky this season is that former Williams technical director Pat Symonds will provide commentary on a number of races alongside Brundle and David Croft. It will be interesting to see how Sky uses Symonds during the race itself, whether they will use him throughout the race or in the quieter phases only.

Over on the BBC, Jack Nicholls returns as 5 Live lead commentator with Allan McNish, Tom Clarkson, Jennie Gow and Mark Gallagher again completing their line-up. Nicholls will miss the Hungarian round this season due to his Formula E commitments. On the scheduling front, note that Friday’s timings are half an hour earlier than previous years, so practice one starts at 01:00 UK time, whilst Sky’s weekend coverage is simulcast on Sky Sports 1. For those with ultra HD, F1 will be available in 4K for the first time through Sky Q.

MotoGP also makes its return next weekend, with Channel 5 providing highlights on Monday evenings, replacing ITV4 in this respect. BT Sport will continue to cover the championship live, with Suzi Perry presenting live for 11 of the 18 races including the opening race of the season in Qatar. Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder will again be covering commentary this season, whilst the likes of Gavin Emmett and Neil Hodgson will be down in pit lane.

NOTE: Clocks go forward one hour on Sunday 26th March, with the change from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time. The times listed are for GMT on Saturday and before; BST for Sunday and afterwards…

Channel 4
Sessions
25/03 – 13:00 to 14:50 – Qualifying Highlights
26/03 – 14:00 to 16:40 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
24/03 – 00:30 to 02:45 – Practice 1
24/03 – 04:45 to 06:55 – Practice 2
25/03 – 02:45 to 04:10 – Practice 3
25/03 – 05:00 to 07:40 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
26/03 – 04:30 to 09:10 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 04:30 – Track Parade
=> 05:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 05:30 – Race
=> 08:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
22/03 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Report: Australia Preview
23/03 – 04:00 to 04:30 – Driver Press Conference
23/03 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut: Australia
24/03 – 07:00 to 07:30 – Team Press Conference
24/03 – 07:30 to 08:00 – The F1 Show
29/03 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Report: Australia Review

BBC F1
Sessions
21/03 – 20:30 to 21:30 – Preview, Part 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview, Part 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
24/03 – 00:55 to 02:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/03 – 04:55 to 06:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/03 – 02:55 to 04:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/03 – 05:55 to 07:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
26/03 – 05:00 to 08:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Supplementary Programming
20/03 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Crash and Burn: The Story of Tommy Byrne (BBC One Northern Ireland)
=> also 27/03 at 21:00 on BBC Four

MotoGP – Qatar (BT Sport 2)
23/03 – 14:00 to 19:45
=> 14:00 – Preview
=> 15:00 – Practice
24/03 – 14:45 to 18:45 – Practice
25/03 – 14:30 to 18:30 – Qualifying
26/03 – 13:45 to 21:00 – Races
=> 13:45 – Warm Ups
=> 15:30 – Moto3
=> 17:15 – Moto2
=> 18:45 – MotoGP
=> 20:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Qatar (Channel 5)
27/03 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

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

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Channel 5 secures MotoGP highlights package

Channel 5 will broadcast highlights of the MotoGP championship this year, Dorna have confirmed. The broadcaster will air the package in a Monday evening slot.

Mark Sharman, Channel 5, said: “We are thrilled to bring viewers the very best of MotoGP and add another headline act to our motor racing portfolio with the world’s fastest motorcycle racing Championship. It will be a mind-blowing season – one for the books. Complementing our live coverage of Formula E and the World Rally Championship highlights, this further demonstrates our commitment to offer top class sport to our viewers”.

Manel Arroyo, Managing Director at Dorna Sports, commented: “With so much emphasis on British talent this year, we are delighted that highlights of every MotoGP round this coming season will be available for British audiences on Channel 5. Our British riders in every category are in top form so it should be an exciting season for our British fans. We are looking forward to getting the 2017 FIM MotoGP World Championship underway in a couple of weeks time in Qatar”.

The move bolsters Channel 5’s existing motor sport portfolio alongside Formula E and the World Rally Championship. It is great to see that MotoGP will have an increased presence, moving from ITV4 to Channel 5, rather than the opposite way down the pecking order. For Channel 5, it marks a return to covering the championship having previously done so in the early 2000s. The overnight audience for the highlights package should increase. ITV4’s coverage in 2016 averaged 285k (1.4%); a barometer Channel 5 should be able to double.

North One Television will continue to produce the highlights package. North One also produces BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage, so do not expect any fundamental change to the style (or timings) used.

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.

ITV and MotoGP part company ahead of 2017 season

ITV have confirmed this evening that they will not be showing MotoGP highlights this season, leaving MotoGP without a free-to-air home. Motorcycle News first reported this news on Monday.

In a statement to this site, the broadcaster said, “Unfortunately, ITV4 do not have the rights to the MotoGP this season.” As with Formula E, which ITV stopped showing at the end of the 2015-16 season, the broadcaster was understood to be paying very little to broadcast MotoGP highlights. The MotoGP highlights deal was struck just weeks before the start of the 2014 season.

One possibility is that Dorna have attempted to increase the asking price, with ITV instead choosing not to renew the contract. There is currently no word on who will show free-to-air highlights in 2017, but Channel 4 and Channel 5 are likely to be the leading contenders, having both increased their motor sport portfolios recently.

According to overnight audience figures supplied by Overnights.tv, MotoGP’s Monday night highlights programme on ITV4 averaged 285k (1.4%) across the 2016 season, compared with 306k (1.5%) in 2015 and 344k (1.7%) in 2014.

In related news, this site has also learnt that BT Sport and Dorna were close to signing a new MotoGP contract last November. At the last minute, Dorna did not sign the contract, and left the negotiating table. The assumption is that talks have since resumed, but I cannot confirm this.

You might be wondering why both parties have gone to the negotiating table early. BT Sport’s current deal expires at the end of 2018; however, there would have been an appetite from the broadcaster to renew before the UEFA Champions League rights tender started, so that an extended deal could be locked in place.

The result of the Champions League tender, which is currently ongoing and should be revealed early next month, could influence MotoGP’s future rights deal. A bigger pot of money going to UEFA from BT means less money for MotoGP. Similarly, should BT lose the Champions League (or pay less), MotoGP could end up with a bigger slice of the money pie.

Formula E best of the rest as MotoGP season comes to an end

The 2016 MotoGP season ended on Sunday live on BT Sport, but was beaten by Formula E’s second round of its new season in Morocco, overnight viewing figures show.

Formula E continues solid start on Channel 5
Live coverage of the Marrakesh ePrix aired on Channel 5 from 15:30 on Saturday (12th November). The two-hour programme averaged 281k (2.1%), peaking with 443k (3.3%) at 16:40. Bearing in mind that Formula E was resoundingly beaten on ITV4 whenever it clashed with Formula 1, this is a solid number.

The Marrakesh event also holds the feat of being one of the most watched races so far in Formula E’s history, only behind the London ePrix and the inaugural Beijing ePrix. This shows that their deal with Channel 5 is already paying off, and helping the championship reach a larger audience than it could on ITV4. Formula E at the moment needs to take baby steps on Channel 5, to try to increase the audience.

However, Formula E’s numbers were lower than Channel 5’s slot average which might be concerning for the network. Formula E’s deal with Channel 5 is two years long, so there is time to improve numbers. The large calendar gaps won’t help, but hopefully Formula E can maintain a positive trajectory when it returns in February.

MotoGP bows out lower than 2015, but up on 2014
The 2016 MotoGP season has done as well as you would probably expect, given the way Marc Marquez wrapped up the championship several races early. Live coverage of the Valencian MotoGP averaged 107k (1.2%) from 09:30 to 14:15 on BT Sport 2. The MotoGP segment itself from 12:30 to 14:00 averaged 176k (1.8%), peaking with 234k. Unsurprisingly, overnight viewing figures are down around 45 percent on last year’s record high audiences for Valencia.

Across the season as a whole, the pattern is repeated year-on-year. BT Sport’s MotoGP race day programmes in 2016 averaged 114k (1.9%), compared with 132k (2.3%) in 2015 and 90k (1.4%) in 2014. The MotoGP portion of BT’s programming from 12:30 to 14:00 or equivalent averaged 181k (3.1%), compared with 212k (3.6%) in 2015 and 139k (2.0%) in 2014. Cal Crutchlow’s maiden victory in the Czech Republic peaked with a strong 282k, up 13.5 percent on 2015. The highest peak audience of 2016 went to Austin, which peaked with 325k.

It should not be a surprise to see 2015 with higher viewing figures: the season went down to the wire and would have hooked the attention of a broader range of viewers. On the other hand, 2016 was much more exciting than 2014 for MotoGP with nine different winners. I think the viewing figures are about where I would expect for BT. Not amazing, but not poor by any stretch of the imagination. As always, viewing figures do not include BT Sport’s app, nor MotoGP’s Video Pass which will make up a small portion of the difference year-on-year.

ITV4’s highlights programme continued to drop compared with 2014 and 2015. Their highlights programme, which aired on Monday nights, averaged 285k (1.4%) according to overnight viewing figures, compared with 306k (1.5%) in 2015 and 344k (1.7%) in 2014. A drop of 7 percent is smaller than the 11 percent drop experienced between 2014 and 2015. I don’t have the numbers to hand, but I believe ITV4’s viewing share is down as a whole, which may explain why MotoGP has followed that trend.

The combined UK audience for MotoGP is made up of BT’s MotoGP portion (90 minutes or equivalent) plus ITV4’s highlights. The total of 466k is a record low, down on both 2014 and 2015, which is slightly disappointing. I do think audiences would improve if ITV4’s highlights programme was better placed, or aired on the Sunday evening for European races, but I doubt BT would allow that. The same goes for BT with MotoGP as it does for Sky with Formula 1: both need to find ways to make their channels more accessible to the wider public, as pay TV audiences have stagnated. TV does make up a smaller piece of the pie than in previous years, but it is still an incredibly important piece of the jigsaw.

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