On the subject of money…

Two comments in the past few days have raised my eye-brows and got me thinking a bit when you think about the current UK F1 television landscape in relation to the current situation we find ourselves in. The first is a comment from Ben Anderson on the AUTOSPORT website:

“It also doesn’t seem fair to try to squeeze more money out of TV companies and race promoters at a time of falling audiences and race attendance.”

The second is a comment from David Emmett, a MotoGP journalist, in a conversation I was having with him and a few others on Twitter last night:

“Not sure there’s as much room for Bernie to try to push TV revenue.”

The UK rights were negotiated in Summer 2011 as BBC renegotiated their existing deal, to bring Sky Sports into the picture to what we have now. As discussed earlier this year, the F1 rights currently are in the region of £55 million per year. Since 2011, BT Sport have entered the picture, and the cost of some rights has frankly entered the ‘silly’ territory. BT Sport paid £299 million per season to screen the Champions League from 2015-16. That’s absolute insanity. On a smaller level, MotoGP’s value multiplied several times over when it went from the BBC to BT Sport.

My point being that, with Formula 1 rights on lockdown until at least the 2019 season, FOM are losing a ton of money at the moment. If you renegotiated the rights today, or sent them to the market, in my opinion the rights value would easily head skyward of £100 million per year, probably near £200 million. And when you consider that it costs £75 million a year (based on current conversion rates) to run an F1 team, the £100 million difference between the current rights fee and what it could be in a hypothetical situation, FOM is missing out on a huge amount of money.

Of course, with any such increase, you can kiss goodbye to any terrestrial television coverage. What we have now is the best of both worlds, even if FOM are being short-changed…

F1 2014 DVD and Blu-ray to be released in early December

Good news for Formula 1 fans this year as it looks like both the DVD and Blu-ray will be released with plenty of time between it and Christmas. The DVD version will be released on December 8th, just fifteen days after the season concludes. The Blu-ray version will be released a week later. Both will again be produced by FOM and distributed by Duke.

Subject to change of course, but the length for both is listed as 240 minutes. No word on extras at this stage, I’ll update this post if/when details are announced.

Let’s hope the Blu-ray version is not pushed back into the New Year like last year

Scheduling: The 2014 United States Grand Prix

The United States Grand Prix is the seventeenth of nineteen stops on this season’s Formula One calendar. Now in its third year, the Circuit of the Americas plays host to the ongoing battle between Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the Brit currently with the upper hand. Sky Sports have this race, and Brazil, exclusively live with BBC screening highlights. On the personnel front, Bruno Senna is with Sky for his sixth race of the year and James Allen is back in the 5 Live saddle for the final three races this year.

In a move likely to anger some people, the BBC highlights show has shrunk from two hours to an hour and a half, all previous American timezone races were two hours. This also applies for Brazil next weekend. I should note that BBC One in the 21:00 slot currently has a Death in Paradise repeat. They may well be planning a late swap, moving the F1 highlights to 21:00, with the news at 22:30. Of course, that would mean the highlights starting whilst the race is still ongoing which, whilst good for the viewers, could be something that Sky would object to as they would not benefit in any way. Hence, a compromise could be scheduling the highlights at 22:30, but actually airing them at 21:00 and announcing it at the latest possible opportunity, so that Sky do not lose out as a result. But we will see what happens.

Thursday 30th October
16:00 to 16:45 – F1: Driver Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 to 22:00 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Friday 31st October
10:00 to 10:15 – Gear Up for USA (Sky Sports F1)
14:45 to 16:50 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
14:55 to 16:35 – F1: Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18:45 to 21:00 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)
18:55 to 20:35 – F1: Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
21:00 to 21:45 – F1: Team Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)
23:00 to 00:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1)

Saturday 1st November
14:45 to 16:15 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
14:55 to 16:05 – F1: Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17:00 to 19:45 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
17:55 to 19:05 – F1: Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
22:00 to 23:15 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (BBC Two)

Sunday 2nd November
02:30 to 09:35 – WEC: Shanghai (Motors TV)
07:30 to 09:00 – WEC: Shanghai (Eurosport)
18:30 to 23:15 – F1: Race (Sky Sports F1)
=> 18:30 – Track Parade
=> 19:00 – Race (simulcast on Sky Sports 1)
=> 22:30 – Paddock Live
19:30 to 22:00 – F1: Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23:15 to 00:15 – GP Heroes: Emerson Fittipaldi (Sky Sports F1)
22:30 to 00:00 – F1: Race Highlights (BBC One)

Wednesday 5th November
20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report (Sky Sports F1)

Classic F1 on Sky Sports F1
25/10 – 21:00 to 22:00 – 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix Highlights
26/10 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1982 German Grand Prix Highlights
27/10 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 2012 Canadian Grand Prix (Sky commentary)
28/10 – 21:00 to 21:45 – 1996 German Grand Prix Highlights
29/10 – 21:00 to 23:15 – 1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix
30/10 – 21:00 to 22:45 – 2007 United States Grand Prix
31/10 – 16:50 to 17:35 – 1987 Detroit Grand Prix Highlights
31/10 – 21:45 to 22:45 – 1977 Season Review
01/11 – 16:15 to 17:00 – 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix Highlights
02/11 – 14:15 to 15:15 – 1977 Season Review
02/11 – 00:15 to 00:45 – 1990 United States Grand Prix Highlights

This is the schedule as it stands, but as always I will update the above if anything changes.

Update on October 26th – I notice Sky are simulcasting next Sunday’s race on Sky Sports 1, the first time that has happened. They have simulcast the qualifying session on Sky1 before, but this is the first time the race will be simulcast on a different channel. No word yet on if Brazil could follow suit.

A brief look at BBC F1 scheduling in the mid 1990s

This past week, the BBC have made their Radio Time archive project public. Entitled ‘Genome‘, the facility allows users to search BBC schedules from between 1923 and 2009. Any date, any BBC channel, any time. Obviously the archive is full of goldmine material, the majority of which (including this piece!) is before my time, but definitely worth writing about as it is absolutely fascinating.

I also want to do some myth busting as it were, and with the help of the archive paint some facts. The first subject I want to tackle is the demise of BBC’s Formula 1 coverage in the 1990s. In December 1995, it was announced that ITV would be broadcasting Formula 1 from 1997 onwards, at a cost six times higher than what the BBC were paying. Of course, we all know Bernie Ecclestone’s tactics, and in this instance it is unsurprising that he decided to take the money instead of familiarity. Now, I was not an F1 fan in 1995 (I was three) so I can’t put my feet in someone else’s shoes as to their feelings at hearing that deal. Was the idea of advert breaks interrupting Formula 1 outrageous in 1995? Or did the audience just take it for granted, as they did with BBC’s lacklustre coverage in the years previously?

Ah, lacklustre. Of course, I can look back in hindsight and say that, but in reality Formula 1 during the mid 1990s had similar coverage to any other sport during Grandstand as it was back then. But what did BBC screen? Genome for the first time gives us the complete picture. Firstly, two amusing anecdotes. In the Radio Times listings, qualifying was regularly billed as the final practice session. This is the case in particular for 1994 and 1995. Take this from the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix: “A report by Murray Walker from the final practice session for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix from Suzuka, which can be seen at 3.45am on Sunday on BBC2.” The next tidbit is that not every race back then started at 14:00 local time. The 1995 Italian Grand Prix began at 15:00 local time, whilst the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix began at 15:30 local time. It was not until several years later that a standard start-time of 13:00 UK time / 14:00 for the rest of Western Europe came into effect.

Broadly, BBC’s coverage did increase from 1994 to 1996. These are the statistics:

- 1994: 14 of 16 races live + last half of Britain, Germany qualifying live
– 1995: 17 of 17 races live + Britain, Europe qualifying live
– 1996: 16 of 16 races live + every qualifying live (except Japan)

Weirdly, in 1996, BBC showed every qualifying session live, with the exception of Japan. This might be a Geonome oversight, but seems odd how they chose not to broadcast their final ever qualifying session, as it was at the time, live. It is fascinating to see how much their output increased for 1996, however it should be remembered that the qualifying format changed for 1996 which perhaps gave greater impetus for the likes of BBC to screen it live. It is also a reason why a two-day qualifying format will never happen again, as many broadcasters would simply opt-out of screening the Friday session. Stating a total amount of hours per year is perhaps misleading given that BBC did screen highlights on Sunday night and then again in a Monday or Tuesday afternoon. Excluding those, however, and the 1994 average is around 2.5 hours per weekend, this increasing to 3.5 hours per weekend for 1996.

Your typical European race between 1994 and 1996 had roughly 15 to 25 minutes of build-up on BBC Two (this at a time when sport was on BBC One on Saturdays and Two on Sundays), with Steve Rider on location the majority of the time. Post-race, the BBC showed the post-race press conference but beyond, that, not very much. An interesting point was that the broadcaster gave the British Grand Prix race weekend significantly more coverage than any other race. In 1994, the British round had a whopping 90 minutes of build-up, according to FORIX, the Porsche Supercup was at Silverstone during that weekend so presumably that was included in the build-up. In 1995, the race programme was a similar length, whilst BBC Two covered both qualifying sessions live, the Friday session billed as a ‘Grand Prix Special

If you were hoping for extensive coverage of any non-European race, you would probably be better of venturing towards another broadcaster. Live coverage of the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix had a 15 minute build-up with little analysis afterwards, this being Michael Schumacher’s championship winning race. Because of BBC’s varied output, did people care at the time? Or was this during an era where people appreciated every little bit of coverage that they were given? I don’t know the answer to that, but we can be certain that the amount of coverage Formula 1 has increased massively in the past twenty years. The picture is similar for other sports, albeit some have moved to pay-TV as a result (no doubt I’ll look at those motor sport series which have defected to pay-TV since 1995).

So when ITV went to Ecclestone at the end of 1995 saying that they would give Formula 1 all this ‘new’ exposure, with new programming at the centrepiece of the schedule, it is no surprise that Ecclestone said yes, irrespective of how much more ITV were willing to pay.

BTCC is best of the rest on Sunday

Away from the Formula 1 last Sunday, which peaked with 5.55m (46.3%), there was a lot of motor sport action on Sunday, albeit most of it occurred in the early hours. Nevertheless, as expected, the figures are once again a reminder that, in the UK at least, the F1 stands head and shoulders above anything else. And sadly, where BTCC and MotoGP are concerned, viewers appear to be tuning out…

The factors associated with both though are different. The British Touring Car Championship finale aired on ITV4 across a whopping eight hours, from 10:15 to 18:30. The entire programme averaged 186k (1.6%) according to overnight viewing figures, peaking with 360k (3.6%) at 15:00 at the conclusion of race two. The first of three races peaked with 99k (1.1%) at 11:40, whilst the final race peaked with 357k (2.0%) at 17:45, the huge difference in number can be put down to the fact that race one clashed with the build-up and early laps of the Russian Grand Prix, clearly taking a bite out of the audience.

I haven’t looked at all the numbers in detail, but there does appear to have been a fairly big fall in comparison to 2012 and 2013. Last year’s season finale averaged 328k (2.6%), peaking with 697k (3.8%) for the final race of the day, although that was with no F1 clash. Even so, that doesn’t account for the peak figure, outside of the F1 timeslot, dropping by almost half. I’m not sure why the figures have dropped year-on-year, but something has changed to make people turn off.

Meanwhile, over in Motegi, BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage peaked with 108k (10.1%) at 06:05. Their live programme from 02:45 to 07:15 averaged 42k (3.8%), with the MotoGP portion from 05:30 averaging 74k (6.4%). As always at this point, it is worth me pointing out that the figures include anyone who timeshifted that programme before 02:00 on Monday morning, it does not mean that 108k were up watching MotoGP at 06:05 in the morning, it just means that an average of 108k watched that five-minute ‘segment’ before 02:00 on Monday, which is the cut off for overnight ratings. BT’s repeat averaged 34k (0.3%) from 12:00 to 13:30, peaking with 79k (0.7%). ITV4’s highlights programme on Monday evening brought 283k (1.3%), which I believe is their lowest MotoGP rating of the year so far.

What that means is that the MotoGP year-on-year comparisons with the BBC are worse than usual. 204k (18.4%) watched BBC Two’s live airing last year, with 900k (8.1%) catching the repeat. A combined audience of 1.10m last year compares with about 391k for this year, which is a 64 percent drop. BBC’s peak was 1.33m, with 281k (24.1%) for the live airing and 1.05m (9.2%) for the re-run. The ITV4 rating surprises me the most, given that Motegi was the title winning race for Marc Marquez, I would have expected that to pick up one or two casual viewers, but clearly that wasn’t the case.

The weekend also seen both the Bathurst 1000 and the latest round of the World Touring Car Championship take place, again in the early morning. The latter peaked with 29k (0.4%), whilst the Bathurst 1000 peaked with under 20,000 viewers.

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