Scheduling: The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The second Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit takes place this weekend, but on this occasion under the Azerbaijan Grand Prix banner. Last year’s race was the first to in Baku, but under the perhaps slightly dubious European Grand Prix banner.

With the Baku race starting at 14:00 UK time, MotoGP organisers over in Assen have moved their main attraction to 12:00 UK time, avoiding any potential overlap that may occur. Nevertheless, it will be a clash that Dorna and Liberty Media will be looking to avoid next year, as difficult as it is with many key motor sport events around this time of the year.

Channel 4 will again be broadcasting Baku live. If, like last year, the race turns into a ‘dud’, it will be their third live ‘dud’ in a row, following poor on-track showings in Russia and Monaco. Sky’s F1 action will be simulcast on Sky Sports 1, except for the final practice session.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
23/06 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1
23/06 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2
24/06 – 10:55 to 12:25 – Practice 3
24/06 – 12:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying
25/06 – 13:00 to 17:00 – Race
=> 13:00 – Build–Up
=> 13:35 – Race
=> 16:10 – Reaction

Supplementary Programming
24/06 – 12:25 to 12:55 – F1 Meets… Toto Wolff

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
23/06 – 09:45 to 11:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
23/06 – 13:45 to 15:55 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports 1)
24/06 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
24/06 – 13:00 to 15:40 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
25/06 – 12:30 to 17:10 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 12:30 – Track Parade
=> 13:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 13:30 – Race
=> 16:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
21/06 – 20:50 to 21:20 – F1 Report: Preview
22/06 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Driver Press Conference
22/06 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
23/06 – 16:00 to 16:45 – Team Press Conference
23/06 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The F1 Show
28/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
22/06 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23/06 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
23/06 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
24/06 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
25/06 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – Assen (BT Sport 2)
23/06 – 08:00 to 15:00
=> 08:00 – Practice 1
=> 10:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 12:00 – Practice 2
24/06 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
25/06 – 07:30 to 09:15 – Warm Up
25/06 – 09:30 to 15:30
=> 09:30 – Moto3 race
=> 11:15 – MotoGP race
=> 13:15 – Moto2 race
=> 14:30 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Assen (Channel 5)
26/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

Formula Two – Europe (Sky Sports F1)
23/06 – 08:00 to 08:45 – Practice
23/06 – 12:00 to 12:45 – Qualifying
24/06 – 08:55 to 10:25 – Race 1
25/06 – 10:55 to 12:15 – Race 2

IndyCar – Road America (BT Sport/ESPN)
25/06 – 17:30 to 20:30 – Race

The above schedule will be updated if anything changes.

Update on June 23rd – There will be a further live show following Channel 4’s broadcast at 17:00 on the Channel 4 website, as confirmed on their Twitter.

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Scheduling: The 2017 Canadian Grand Prix

The 2017 Formula One season heads to North America, for the Canadian Grand Prix!

It is a busy week coming up: a UK general election, an international football weekend, whilst the British and Irish Lions rugby tour continues. All this means that Formula 1 is down the list in terms of headlines domestically, which will more than likely result in lower ratings for the Grand Prix year-on-year.

Channel 4’s highlights programme on Sunday starts at 22:30. The time is not unusual for an American-based round, but what is unusual is the 15-minute programme before it, billed as ‘Hamilton vs Vettel’ looking at their rivalry. It suggests that Channel 4 are contractually obliged to air highlights on or after 22:30, otherwise the show would have started at 22:15. Sky is simulcasting their race coverage on Sky Sports 2.

Karun Chandhok will not be a part of Channel 4’s team in Canada due to his Le Mans commitments. As of writing, it is unknown who, if anyone, is replacing him. Last year, Holly Samos replaced Lee McKenzie when McKenzie was covering events for the BBC so it is possible that Samos may step in again.

Over on Sky, Rachel Brookes is back in for Natalie Pinkham, who returned in Spain. Brookes will be covering the flyaway races for Sky with Pinkham covering the European based races, the exception being Silverstone where both will be on-site.

As if to compound matters for Formula 1, there is also a Formula E double header and MotoGP this weekend. I know you cannot always avoid clashes but this is a particularly heavy weekend on the sporting front. On the Formula E front, Martin Haven is back in the box alongside Bob Varsha and Dario Franchitti.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
10/06 – 22:30 to 00:00 – Qualifying Highlights
11/06 – 22:30 to 00:35 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
09/06 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
09/06 – 18:45 to 20:55 – Practice 2
10/06 – 14:45 to 16:10 – Practice 3
10/06 – 17:00 to 19:40 – Qualifying
11/06 – 17:30 to 22:10 – Race
=> 17:30 – Track Parade
=> 18:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 18:30 – Race (also Sky Sports 2)
=> 21:30 – Paddock Live (also Sky Sports 2)

Supplementary Programming
07/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
08/06 – 16:00 to 17:00 – Driver Press Conference
08/06 – 19:45 to 20:00 – Paddock Uncut
09/06 – 21:00 to 21:40 – Team Press Conference
09/06 – 21:40 to 22:10 – The F1 Show
14/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
08/06 – 21:00 to 21:55 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
10/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Qualifying Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)
11/06 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – Barcelona (BT Sport 2)
09/06 – 08:00 to 15:00
=> 08:00 – Practice 1
=> 10:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 12:00 – Practice 2
10/06 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
11/06 – 07:30 to 09:15 – Warm Up
11/06 – 09:30 to 15:00
=> 09:30 – Moto3 race
=> 11:15 – Moto2 race
=> 12:45 – MotoGP race
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Barcelona (Channel 5)
12/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

British Touring Car Championship – Croft (ITV4)
11/06 – 11:15 to 18:00 – Races

Euroformula – Paul Ricard (BT Sport 3)
10/06 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1
11/06 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2

Formula E – Berlin (online via Channel 5’s social media channels and YouTube)
10/06 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Race 1, Practice 1
10/06 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Race 1, Practice 2
11/06 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Race 2, Practice 1
11/06 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Race 2, Practice 2

Formula E – Berlin
10/06 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Race 1, Qualifying (Spike)
10/06 – 14:30 to 14:15 – Race 1 (Channel 5)
11/06 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Race 2, Qualifying (Spike)
11/06 – 14:30 to 14:15 – Race 2 (Channel 5)

IndyCar Series  Texas 600 (BT Sport 1)
10/06 (Sunday morning) – 01:00 to 04:00 – Race

International GT Open – Paul Ricard (BT Sport 3)
10/06 – 15:00 to 16:45 – Race 1
11/06 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2

Speedway Grand Prix – Czech Republic (BT Sport 2)
10/06 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

World Rally Championship – Italy
09/06 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
10/06 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport/ESPN)
10/06 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
11/06 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Stage 2 (BT Sport 1)
11/06 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Power Stage (BT Sport 1)
11/06 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (BT Sport 3)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
13/06 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Rallycross Championship – Norway (Motorsport.tv)
11/06 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race

If anything changes, the above schedule will be updated.

Update on June 10th – The Hamilton vs Vettel filler on Channel 4 has now been replaced with a 15-minute Gogglebox filler.

A catalyst for change?

Fernando Alonso’s testing and rookie orientation day in preparation for the Indianapolis 500 later this month has drawn attention from far and wide. His orientation day has also reignited the debate about whether there is value in covering testing live.

From the outset, the circumstances around Alonso’s IndyCar appearance are unique, in a situation unlikely to be repeated. A peak of around 72,000 devices watched Alonso’s orientation via YouTube, with the stream provided by the IndyCar Series consistently above 40,000 devices.

Furthermore, IndyCar streamed the event via Facebook to a reach of 800,000 users. Other forms of motor racing, such as Formula E, have struggled to break through live streaming barriers on YouTube. The numbers recorded for Alonso’s orientation are staggering, especially considering that this was a weekday event.

There is a great deal motor racing can learn from this, not just Formula 1 but also other forms of the sport. Watching cars drive around a track, essentially collecting data, for hours at a time may seem like a useless activity for much of the population to watch.

The actual process of testing doesn’t have the intensity. It is much more difficult to understand because different people are doing different things. Testing highlights are really interesting, live coverage of testing is really, really boring. – MotoGP journalist David Emmett speaking to me last year.

Dorna broadcasts MotoGP testing live from Valencia post-season and Sepang pre-season via their app, combining ‘as live’ footage with studio discussion. Sky Sports F1 aired Formula 1 testing live in 2013, although this was shoe-horned around the 3D gimmick that never went any further.

The argument against live testing is that the cost is too high and the expected audience is too low. Setting up a full camera crew at say Barcelona requires a lot more people than the Indianapolis oval. For Dorna, cameras are already in Valencia following their season finale a few days earlier, so it makes logistical sense to cover the post-season test in an in-depth format.

Alonso’s Indy 500 test is the first time that testing, in any form, has aired live via outlets such as YouTube and Facebook in this live and raw form. Firstly, I absolutely applaud IndyCar and those involved from McLaren through to NBC for making this happen. The stream today allowed new fans to appreciate the demands of oval racing.

Discussions between Alonso and his mechanics were broadcast, with an openness displayed throughout. In comparison, during Formula 1 testing, the prying media have no access to drivers’ conversations with mechanics. To broadcast F1 testing in the same way as Alonso’s IndyCar test would require a significant culture change for teams up and down the pit lane.

Imagine Lewis Hamilton testing new parts on his Mercedes, and then openly giving feedback on camera in front of his mechanics instead of behind closed doors, with microphones picking up his every word. Whilst fascinating to those watching, the information provided would also be golden to his rivals.

Broadcasting testing live via social media would help viewers and fans of the sport appreciate the intrinsic nature of testing. It may bring new fans to the sport, if they stumble across live testing and become captivated by the nature of it, in the same way fans were captivated by the stream today.

Whilst I do not want to see every minute of testing live (a few hours at most each afternoon would suffice), the extremely positive reaction to IndyCar’s live stream ahead of the Indianapolis 500 may serve as a catalyst for change. How Liberty Media can implement that into Formula 1 might need a little bit of persuading from a variety of parties…

Scheduling: The 2017 Chinese Grand Prix / Argentine MotoGP

The 2017 Formula One season moves onto Shanghai for round two of the championship in China, as fans hope for the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel to continue.

The Chinese round of the season switches with Bahrain, which follows the next weekend. Coverage from China will be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports, with highlights on Channel 4 later in the day. Readers may have noticed that, compared to last year, Channel 4’s highlights are slightly longer in length but are also being broadcast in a later time slot than 2016.

Over on BT Sport, their MotoGP coverage from Argentina is headed up by Craig Doyle for his first round of the 2017 season. In terms of returning championships, the World Touring Car Championship is back this weekend, live on Eurosport 2 from Morocco. Eurosport are also broadcasting the MAC3 time trial this season, which I do not believe was broadcast last year. Eurosport have split qualifying and the MAC3 time trial into two separate slots on the EPG (thanks Alex in the comments for the correction).

A noticeable omission in the schedule below is the Virgin Australia Supercars series. The series was broadcast live on BT Sport last season, but the arrangement appears to have stopped with Motorsport.tv taking over from the start of 2017. Unfortunately, it looks like that Motorsport.tv will not be airing the series live for the next few rounds at least, hence why it does not feature below.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
08/04 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying Highlights
09/04 – 14:30 to 16:45 – Race Highlights

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

Supplementary Programming
05/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
06/04 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Driver Press Conference
06/04 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
07/04 – 09:00 to 09:30 – Team Press Conference (also on Sky Sports 1)
07/04 – 09:30 to 10:00 – The F1 Show (also on Sky Sports 1)

BBC Radio F1
06/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
07/04 – 02:55 to 04:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
07/04 – 06:55 to 08:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/04 – 04:55 to 06:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/04 – 06:55 to 08:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
09/04 – 06:30 to 09:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

IndyCar Series – Long Beach (BT Sport//ESPN)
09/04 – 21:30 to 00:00 – Race

MotoGP – Argentina (BT Sport 2)
07/04 – 13:00 to 20:00
=> 13:00 – Practice 1
=> 15:45 – Reaction and Build-Up
=> 17:00 – Practice 2
08/04 – 13:00 to 20:15
=> 13:00 – Practice 3
=> 16:00 – Qualifying
09/04 – 13:30 to 15:15 – Warm Up
09/04 – 16:30 to 22:00
=> 16:30 – Moto3 race
=> 18:15 – Moto2 race
=> 19:45 – MotoGP race
=> 21:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Argentina (Channel 5)
10/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

World Rally Championship – France
07/04 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
08/04 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport//ESPN)
08/04 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 3)
=> 23:05 to 23:35 (Motorsport.tv)
09/04 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Power Stage (BT Sport 1)
09/04 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
11/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Touring Car Championship – Morocco (British Eurosport 2)
08/04 – 15:15 to 17:30
=> 15:15 – Qualifying
=> 16:30 – MAC3 time trial
09/04 – 16:30 to 18:30
=> 16:30 – Race 1
=> 17:30 – Race 2

As always, I will update the above schedule if anything changes.

MotoGP jumps to highest audience since 2015

The 2017 MotoGP season started in fine fashion this past weekend according to unofficial overnight viewing figures, thanks to a strong number for Channel 5’s highlights programme.

BT Sport decreases…
As usual, BT Sport 2 aired live coverage of the MotoGP weekend. Their coverage overran by 45 minutes due to the delayed MotoGP race, running from 15:30 to 20:45. The whole programme averaged 120k (0.8%), down marginally in audience and share on 2016’s average of 132k (0.9%). It is BT Sport’s lowest audience for a season opener. Like Formula 1 earlier in the day, warm weather and Mother’s Day hit MotoGP’s viewing figures. In addition, a factor for MotoGP will have been the England football game, which aired on ITV from 16:25 to 19:30.

The MotoGP race itself, which aired from 18:30 to 20:45, averaged 175k (0.9%), down around 13 percent on the equivalent 2016 figure of 201k (1.2%). The red flag periods will not have helped the race segment; also, BT’s lowest for the first round of the year. There is some solace in the peak figure. BT’s coverage on Sunday peaked with 247k (1.3%) at 19:50, a marginal drop on 270k (1.5%) on 2016, down also on 2015 but up on the 2014 peak audience.

The slightly lower than expected numbers follow on from the trend that we saw with BT Sport’s coverage in the latter stages of 2016, but should not be seen as a major concern at this stage in proceedings.

…but Channel 5 benefits
In 2016, ITV4’s highlights programme on Monday evenings from 20:00 to 21:00 averaged 285k (1.4%) across the whole season. Channel 5’s Qatar programme averaged 486k (2.7%) in an earlier time slot from 19:00 to 20:00. Although slightly below Channel 5’s slot average, this is a good number for MotoGP on their return to the channel. Demographically, the championship lost viewers amongst the younger audience against Channel 5’s slot average, but this is a problem that all of motor racing has right now.

It is the highest highlights number since the 2014 Qatar MotoGP, ironic almost in some ways given that was when the pay TV deal started. The strong numbers at the beginning of the 2014 season came off the back of publicity surrounding the BT Sport deal. I think, even taking into account the relative profile of Channel 5 versus ITV4, Dorna will be pleased to see a good Channel 5 average. Channel 5’s audience built consistently throughout the hour, peaking with 645k (3.5%) at 19:50.

The combined audience of 662,000 viewers is the highest for MotoGP since the 2015 season finale and the highest for a season opener since 2014.

Top 5 – MotoGP audiences since the move to BT Sport (source: Overnights.tv)
01 – 679,000 – 2014 Qatar (BT Sport + ITV4)
02 – 676,000 – 2015 Valencia (BT Sport + ITV4)
03 – 662,000 – 2017 Qatar (BT Sport + Channel 5)
04 – 603,000 – 2015 Italy (BT Sport + ITV4)
05 – 601,000 – 2014 Italy (BT Sport + ITV4)

I am hopeful that Channel 5’s audience may improve from here, especially considering that the channel is starting to build up its motor racing portfolio. Some cross promotion with Formula E and the World Rally Championship will boost all three series and help increase the viewing figures further.

The 2016 Qatar MotoGP ratings report can be found here.

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