Scheduling: The 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix / Montreal ePrix

The 2017 Formula One season heads towards the last stop before the Summer break, the Hungarian Grand Prix. For one motor sport series though, the end of its current season is here…

This weekend marks the season three finale for the Formula E championship! Channel 5 and Spike will air the final two races, which take place in Montreal. For the second race in a row, scheduling is not great, with the series seemingly ‘demoted’ from Channel 5 to its sister channel Spike.

If it was not for a Spike Fight Night on the Saturday, the complete weekend would be airing on Spike, which suggests that Channel 5 is losing faith in the series, this coming off the back to the inaugural New York ePrix being shunted onto Channel 5’s Facebook page. The highlights of the season finale air on Channel 5 beyond midnight, the main channel taking a Dirty Dancing re-run.

Jack Nicholls is back to talk about the on track electric dancing, alongside Dario Franchitti in the Formula E commentary box. Back to the Formula 1 world, Lee McKenzie is back with Channel 4’s F1 team following her stints covering Wimbledon and the World Para Athletics Championship.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
29/07 – 18:00 to 19:30 – Qualifying Highlights
30/07 – 17:15 to 19:30 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
28/07 – 08:45 to 10:55 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
28/07 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2
29/07 – 09:45 to 11:10 – Practice 3 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/07 – 12:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/07 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
26/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
27/07 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Driver Press Conference
27/07 – 20:00 to 20:15 – Paddock Uncut
28/07 – 15:30 to 16:30 – Team Press Conference
28/07 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The F1 Show
02/08 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
29/07 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/07 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – Montreal (online via Channel 5’s social media channels and YouTube)
29/07 – 12:55 to 14:10 – Race 1, Practice 1
29/07 – 15:25 to 16:10 – Race 1, Practice 2
30/07 – 12:55 to 14:10 – Race 2, Practice 1
30/07 – 15:25 to 16:10 – Race 2, Practice 2

Formula E – Montreal
29/07 – 16:45 to 18:10 – Race 1, Qualifying (Spike)
29/07 – 20:30 to 22:10 – Race 2 (Channel 5)
30/07 – 16:45 to 18:15 – Race 2, Qualifying (Spike)
30/07 – 20:30 to 22:15 – Race 2 (Spike)
30/07 – 00:35 to 01:15 – Race 2, Highlights (Channel 5)

British Touring Car Championship – Snetterton (ITV4)
30/07 – 10:45 to 18:00 – Races

Formula Two – Hungary (Sky Sports F1)
28/07 – 10:55 to 11:40 – Practice
28/07 – 14:55 to 15:25 – Qualifying
29/07 – 14:55 to 16:25 – Race 1
30/07 – 09:15 to 10:30 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Hungary (Sky Sports F1)
29/07 – 08:25 to 08:55 – Qualifying
29/07 – 16:30 to 17:30 – Race 1
30/07 – 08:05 to 09:00 – Race 2

IndyCar Series  Mid-Ohio (BT Sport/ESPN)
30/07 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Hungary (Sky Sports F1)
30/07 – 10:30 to 11:25 – Race

World Rally Championship – Finland
27/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Harju (BT Sport 1)
28/07 – 18:30 to 19:30 – Harju II (BT Sport 2)
28/07 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
29/07 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Ouninopoha (BT Sport/ESPN)
29/07 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:30 to 22:00 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (BT Sport 3)
30/07 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Oittila (BT Sport 1)
30/07 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Power Stage (BT Sport 1)
30/07 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 22:00 to 22:30 (BT Sport 3)
=> 22:35 to 23:05 (Motorsport.tv)
01/08 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

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

Update on July 26th – One major update this afternoon. Martin Brundle will not be in the commentary box this weekend, as he is recovering from his Silverstone stomach bug. Expect Paul di Resta  or Anthony Davidson to be back in the co-commentator chair alongside David Croft. If it is Davidson, it will be their first live race commentary together since they were with the BBC from 2009 to 2011. Also, Jack Nicholls’ Formula E commentary means that John Hindhaugh fills his void for Sky Sports F1’s Porche Supercup coverage on Sunday.

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Hamilton’s Silverstone dominance peaks with 4.45 million viewers

Lewis Hamilton’s victory in British Grand Prix recorded solid audiences over the weekend, but was down slightly on 2016, overnight viewing figures for the United Kingdom show.

Race
As usual for the home round, the race was available live on terrestrial television, which makes it one of the races where we can make a proper comparison. However, the usual historical factors skew comparisons: Wimbledon, the weather or British fortunes in F1. All viewing figures exclude audiences who watched via other platforms, such as Now TV, All 4 or Sky Go.

Channel 4’s live race broadcast averaged 2.20m (20.4%) from 12:00 to 15:20, which compares with an average of 2.36m (17.9%) from 12:00 to 15:55 from 2016. I should note that Channel 4 did not split their shows last year, whereas the broadcaster split their programming into three chunks this year (quite clearly, the show this year recorded a decrease via both metrics). Fewer people chose to record Channel 4’s reaction to the race, which averaged just 543k (4.4%) from 15:20.

Live coverage on Sky Sports averaged 652k (6.0%) for the three and a half hours from 12:00, compared with an average last year of 736k (5.8%). Sky simulcast their coverage across Sky Sports F1 and, for the last time, Sky Sports 1. An audience of 373k (3.4%) watched on the dedicated F1 channel, with a further 279k (2.6%) watching via Sky Sports 1, a split of 57:43.

Both broadcasters recorded higher shares, but lower audiences compared with 2016. I suspect Andy Murray’s failure to get to the Wimbledon final caused this effect. Murray would have brought more viewers indoors to their television sets last year, inflating the F1 which preceded Wimbledon. This year, no Murray, resulting in no positive effect on audiences.

The combined average audience of 2.86 million viewers is down 8 percent on last year’s average of 3.10 million viewers. It means that, at the half way stage of the season and for the first time on record, not one race has reached a combined average of three million viewers. For the British Grand Prix, yesterday’s audience is the lowest since 2006. So, whilst attendances at the circuit are at their highest, the action on the circuit is not connecting to viewers at home. It does suggest though that the F1 is becoming more of a ‘may watch’ than a ‘must watch’ to the viewing public.

The Grand Prix started with 4.29m (41.0%) at 13:05, compared with 4.44m (38.6%) at the same point last year. However, the 2017 race only just hit that point at the very end, peaking with 4.45m (34.6%) at 14:25. At the time of the peak, 1.04m (8.1%) were watching on Sky, with 3.41m (26.5%) watching on Channel 4, a split of 77:23. The combined peak audience of 4.45 million viewers was the highest of 2017, but down 11 percent on last year’s peak of 4.99 million viewers.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast on Channel 4 from 11:55 to 14:30, averaged 1.37m (15.2%), a marginal drop on the equivalent number from 2016 of 1.43m (16.2%). Sky Sports F1’s programming added an additional 413k (4.0%) on top of Channel 4’s audience, again a very slight drop on the combined Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports 1 audience from 2016 of 421k (4.7%).

There is an amusing anecdote within the figures here: Sky Sports F1’s qualifying coverage beat their race day programme, 413,000 viewers for qualifying compared with 373,000 viewers for the race! Of course, there is a valid reason for this statistic. Sky simulcast their race day programme on Sky Sports 1 spreading the audience more thinly, whereas Sky kept their qualifying show exclusive to the dedicated F1 channel. It does not matter in the grand scheme of things, after all both channels show the same content on race day.

The combined average audience of 1.78 million viewers is, as you probably guessed by now, also down on the 2016 average audience of 1.85 million viewers. The combined peak audience followed an identical trend, with qualifying peaking with 2.64 million viewers (27.6 percent share) at 13:20, around 100,000 viewers lower than 2016.

I noticed a few comments over the weekend across social media platforms saying that the British Grand Prix, from a broadcasting perspective, felt like it was another race on the calendar. The race no longer feels like a special race that broadcasters give special treatment to, like the BBC and ITV did in yesteryear, and to be honest I agree with those sentiments. There are plenty of ways both broadcasters could make the Grand Prix feel more special.

In Sky’s case, simply treating Formula Two and GP3 as part of their Silverstone schedule instead of relying on World Feed only coverage and staying on air ‘round the clock’ like BT Sport currently do with MotoGP would suffice. Charles Leclerc is currently dominating Formula Two and will more than likely be in Formula 1 next year, yet viewers currently know little about him.

Over on Channel 4, their magazine programme called Sunday Brunch was the usual affair and not broadcast from Silverstone, under a ‘Grand Prix Sunday’ banner for example. If broadcasters are unprepared to give the Grand Prix a special feeling and spice up their programming, why should viewers treat the race any differently?

Coming up in the next few weeks on the site will be the annual mid-season viewing figures analysis as we dissect the audience patterns year-on-year and try to establish what has, and has not, been a rating draw this year.

The 2016 British Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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Brundle taken ill, will not take part in remainder of Sky’s British Grand Prix broadcast

Sky Sports F1’s lead analyst Martin Brundle has been taken ill and will not be part of the remainder of the channel’s British Grand Prix broadcast.

The news was announced by Simon Lazenby following a VT celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his grid walk, stating that Brundle has been taken to the medical centre. David Croft and Paul di Resta will now be commentating on the race.

Brundle revealed earlier this year that he suffered “a small heart attack” following the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix.

I hope Brundle is okay, sending best wishes his way. I will update this post when we hear further news.

Update on July 16th at 14:40 – From the Sky Sports F1 Twitter feed: “We’re pleased to report that Martin has left the circuit and gave the fans a thumbs-up as he walked out.” According to Lazenby, Brundle was suffering from a stomach virus and was feeling dizzy.

Update on July 26th at 17:20 – Brundle has confirmed this afternoon that he will not be part of Sky Sports F1’s Hungarian Grand Prix broadcast. Expect di Resta to take his place in the commentary box again.

Sky Sports unveils new look, but how much money could consumers save?

Sky Sports have formally unveiled a new look to their channels, which takes effect from Tuesday 18th July. The new look comprises of the following ten channels (channel numbers apply for the Sky platform):

  • 401 – Sky Sports Main Event
  • 402 – Sky Sports Premier League
  • 403 – Sky Sports Football
  • 404 – Sky Sports Cricket
  • 405 – Sky Sports Golf
  • 406 – Sky Sports F1
  • 407 – Sky Sports Action
  • 408 – Sky Sports Arena
  • 409 – Sky Sports News
  • 121 – Sky Sports Mix

After 23 years, the Sky Sports numbered branding of 1 and 2, expanding in more recent years to cover 3, 4 and 5, will disappear in the early hours of next Tuesday morning, with ‘themed’ channels replacing them.

The main change for Sky’s customers is the pricing structure, which allows consumers to pick the channels they want to view. One Sky Sports channel is available for £18.00, two channels for £22.00 and three channels for £26.00 a month. The complete Sky Sports pack continues to cost £27.50 per month with the HD Pack adding a further £6.00 per month.

Sky Sports Main Event, which highlights the best live action the pay-TV company has on offer, is only available as part of the full sports pack, whilst Action and Arena are part of one channel ‘set’.

Sky claims in their press release that Premier League football is available for “as little as 60p a day”, which is disingenuous at best. This figure conveniently fails to account for the compulsory Original Bundle which customers require to access the Sky Sports portfolio of channels, increasing the cost per day to at least £1.30 a day. Unfortunately, respected broadsheets have picked up and ran with the quoted lower figure.

Overall, if you are a sporty guy or girl who likes to watch a range of sport, chances are you are going to stick with your current offering. For example, if you like football, cricket and F1, you would ‘pick and choose’ channels, eventually ending back where you started. So, the reality is that the table I posted in my calculations piece in March is likely to stay the same:

Option SD
Sky Q 1TB Box
HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
UHD + SD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
UHD + HD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
Bundle – Original £22.00 £22.00
Bundle – Box Sets £38.00 £38.00
Bundle – Sky Sports £27.50 £27.50 £27.50 £27.50
Sky Sports HD Pack £6.00 £6.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £49.50 £71.50 £61.50 £83.50
Yearly Cost £594.00 £858.00 £738.00 £1,002.00
One-Off Installation Cost £15.00 £15.00 £60.00 £60.00
Yearly Cost £609.00 £873.00 £798.00 £1,062.00

The only real gain here is for readers that like Formula 1 and no other sport. For existing customers, this is simply an artificial change and nothing more. For new customers interested in a specific sport, there are some genuine choices here. A customer interested in just Formula 1 and no other sports will save £114.00 across the year.

Option SD
Sky Q 1TB Box
HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
UHD + SD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
UHD + HD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
Bundle – Original £22.00 £22.00
Bundle – Box Sets £38.00 £38.00
Sky Sports F1 only £18.00 £18.00 £18.00 £18.00
Sky Sports HD Pack £6.00 £6.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £40.00 £62.00 £52.00 £74.00
Yearly Cost £480.00 £744.00 £624.00 £888.00
One-Off Installation Cost £15.00 £15.00 £60.00 £60.00
Yearly Cost £495.00 £759.00 £684.00 £948.00

Across the year, it is a lot of money that you could save by going with just Sky Sports F1, although I suspect a lot of consumers will end up with either two channels or the whole pack. The risk for Sky is if subscribers who only have a casual interest in Formula 1 and love football choose to lower their subscription so it only the Premier League and Football channels.

From a viewing figures perspective, the move might turn out badly for F1 in that the number of hardcore Premier League football fans heavily outweighs the number of hardcore Formula 1 fans. I do not expect any major fluctuation in audiences, but it is something to monitor. Personally, £40.00 a month is still a high entry price and can consumers justify paying £18.00 for just the F1 channel?

In terms of competition between Sky, Virgin Media and BT, it looks like Virgin Media are offering (or being forced into) a ‘all or nothing’ approach with its customers, which means that the entry price on Sky is now significantly lower than Virgin Media – again this assumes that you are only interested in a limited range of sports. I calculated an entry price of £635.99 for Virgin Media in March, so Sky undercuts that by £140.99.

Overall, the move by Sky whilst good, will probably only influence the decision-making for a small proportion of their customer base. Had the entry price for Sky Sports been lower, I suspect the changes in customer habits might have been more drastic. I do not see people thinking that “£18 for one Sky Sports channel per month” is a bargain.

Also, if you are currently a cord cutter and choose to get your viewing via ‘other means’, then I do not think Sky’s latest pricing strategy will change your mindset. It is, however, a step in the right direction for the satellite pay-TV broadcaster.

Note from Dave – It is possible that there may be some minor adjustments to this once we see the small print, if so, I will update this post.

Austrian Grand Prix viewing figures tumble year-on-year

Just two weeks after a season high, the Austrian Grand Prix struggled to attract viewers compared with last year’s running, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Sky Sports’ exclusive live coverage of the race aired to an audience of 588k (7.2%) from 12:00 to 15:30. This is a poor number, lower than Monaco and Baku despite both events being non-exclusive. Sky Sports F1’s programme averaged just 390k (4.8%), with 197k (2.4%) watching the simulcast on Sky Sports 1.

Sky’s coverage dropped on a third compared to their 2016 average of 866k (9.9%). The total television audience was down slightly yesterday year-on-year, but the audience share from 2014 to 2016 has always been around 9 percent, so yesterday represents a drop of 2 percentage points.

Highlights on Channel 4 were not immune to the audience drop. Their programme, which aired from 17:45 to 20:00, averaged 1.75m (11.7%), a drop of half a million viewers compared with 2016. The figures are worrying considering that this is the stage of the season where momentum should be building before the Summer break.

The combined average audience of 2.33 million viewers is down 26 percent on last year’s combined audience of 3.15 million viewers. It is the first time the Spielberg round has dropped below three million viewers since its return to the calendar.

Qualifying
Live coverage of qualifying across Sky Sports 1 and F1 was also down year-on-year in both audience and share. Coverage from 12:00 to 14:30 averaged 298k (4.8%), down on last year’s figure of 422k (5.3%).

Channel 4’s highlights programme, which aired from 17:30 to 19:00, averaged 1.09m (9.2%), down on last year’s audience of 1.32m (9.2%), but level in share. The combined average audience of 1.38 million viewers is down 21 percent on last year’s combined audience of 1.74 million viewers.

From a ratings perspective, this was not a good news weekend for Formula 1, more disappointing coming off the controversy from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Of course, weather does play a factor, but to record lower audience shares year-on-year is not good news for either broadcaster. Earlier in the season, we had one or two occasions where the audience went down, but the audience share went up, whereas in Austria both metrics decreased.

The 2016 Austrian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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