Happy 2nd Birthday!

On April 24th, 2012, I launched The F1 Broadcasting Blog. As you’d expect, things began with a standard ‘Welcome‘ piece. Two years later, this site stands at 555 posts and counting. Below are some of the statistics so far surrounding the blog…

- Total of 460,000 hits
- 44,000 unique visitors in March
- Over 3,500 followers on Twitter
- Amassed over 1,900 comments since inception
- Average of 800 views per day
- Visitors from 174 countries
- Connections with members of the F1 paddock and beyond

I’ve said it before, but it needs to be said again. Thank you to everyone who has read, commented, shared and helped the growth of this site, without you, the site would not be what it is today. It has also in some ways, been an experiment for me. When I started two years ago, I didn’t know how popular the site would become. Which was some of the fun of it, not knowing where it would end up. I think its probably one of the best decisions I’ve made launching the site, it definitely has been enjoyable along the way. So, what has been the most popular content since the launch? Below are the most viewed articles from the past two years.

10. Are Sky going to withdraw F1 channel from old ‘HD Pack’ subscribers this month? – September 1st, 2013
Trying to update readers on the status of Sky’s legacy ‘HD Pack’ wasn’t easy. This is not the only entry on the subject inside the top ten…

9. Dissecting Georgie Thompson’s decision to leave Sky F1 – February 25th, 2013
I attempted to look at Georgie Thompson’s decision to leave the Sky Sports F1 team. No official comment was ever made on this matter, but Thompson turned up as presenter on new American talk show Crowd Goes Wild on Fox Sports 1.

8. Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 this year – January 31st, 2013
Unsurprisingly, a popular article last year involved people looking for the cheapest way to view Sky Sports F1 legally. The popularity of that article spawned a 2014 version focussing on both Formula 1 and MotoGP, the latter no longer live on terrestrial television.

7. A few thoughts on Jake Humphrey leaving the BBC – September 18th, 2012
In September 2012, it was announced that Jake Humphrey would be leaving the BBC. In typical style, I published my reaction to his departure and speculated about who would replace him as F1 presenter. In all cases here, I was wide of the mark with my guesses.

6. Predicting BT Sport’s MotoGP team – October 24th, 2013
I should have learnt my lesson with number seven to not bother predicting things, sadly I didn’t learn and decided to predict BT’s MotoGP team. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone predicted who the presenter would turn out to be!

5. Italian Grand Prix records highest rating since 1998 – September 10th, 2012
I can thank Jake Humphrey for this one. Another ratings related article, except in this case Humphrey decided to share it via Twitter. To date, September 10th, 2012 remains the most viewed day in the blog’s history, which shows how much power Twitter has.

4. Are current Sky ‘HD Pack only’ customers with Sky Sports F1 set for a shock? – June 1st, 2013
Any money related articles are popular. This, the first ‘HD Pack’ rumour falls into that category. I don’t envisage any future articles on this particular train of thought, the consensus for Sky subscribers is “switch from the legacy HD Pack, and you will lose Sky Sports F1″.

3. ITV4 win rights to screen MotoGP highlights – March 8th, 2014
The big news from last month was that ITV4 were going to screen MotoGP highlights on Monday evenings, following BT Sport winning the rights to screen the series exclusively from this season onwards.

2. Georgie Thompson leaves Sky’s F1 team – February 15th, 2013
In a surprising move, Georgie Thompson left the Sky Sports F1 team after only a year in the role, with Natalie Pinkham taking over her duties. The news was broken exclusively on this blog, with mainstream newspapers picking the story up a week later.

1. Gary Anderson to leave BBC’s Formula 1 team – January 13th, 2014
Another person leaving, one year after Thompson. This time it was Gary Anderson, as he parted company with the BBC team.

So, what lies ahead? One thing I do want to do, where possible, is more behind the scenes pieces, and hopefully that has been noticeable in the past few months, with a look at The F1 Show, a trip of my own to Silverstone, and also an interview with former FOTA secretary general Oliver Weingarten. Alongside that, there will be the usual ratings pieces, scheduling pieces and all the latest news snippets from the world of motor sport broadcasting. It needs to be noted that from October the joys of a dissertation to complete will be heading my way, but as I have done in previous years, the blog should continue rolling along.

Thanks for reading!
Dave,
Owner of The F1 Broadcasting Blog

Watching F1 in highlights form amongst other observations

My trip to Silverstone to see round one of the FIA World Endurance Championship meant that I would not be watching the Chinese Grand Prix live. Its the first time I have missed a Formula 1 race since the 2008 Australian Grand Prix, back when the season opener took place in the early hours of the morning, and when I was slightly younger! But, as I said in my piece linked above, I didn’t mind. Having never been to a race beforehand, watching motor sport in the flesh beat anything motor sport related on the TV, including Formula 1. The decision was clearly the right one.

Going to Silverstone allowed me to sample Formula 1 in a different way and also allowed me to open my eyes a bit more. Normally, it would be a matter of watching Sky or BBC live and watching the BBC re-run for the highlights races. Instead, this past Sunday consisted of me listening to BBC Radio 5 Live’s coverage and watching the BBC highlights later on. I watched the Sky build-up at home whilst getting ready, leaving at 07:45 in time for BBC’s radio coverage. Jack Nicholls, Jennie Gow and Giedo van der Garde assumed control. I don’t think I heard Eric Silbermann, but I may be wrong. If I said that I was listening to it 100 percent I would be lying, too busy concentrating on the road in front and chatting meant that I was dipping in and out. But from what I heard, Nicholls sounded confident and assured on the microphone, and pointed out the key things at the start quickly without getting in a muddle.

More importantly, it was nice hearing a new, younger voice commentating on Formula 1, Nicholls becoming the youngest lead commentator for Formula 1 in this country ever. With no traffic at all on the M1 motorway, we arrived at Silverstone about half way through the F1 race, meaning that I didn’t hear the latter half of the 5 Live commentary, but what I heard from the early laps sounded good. In a shocking and surprising development, aside from a few message checking, I managed to avoid social media for the entire day, meaning that when I got home at 19:30, BBC iPlayer was waiting for me with Formula 1 highlights already on there ready for me to watch! Well… not quite.

The highlights did not appear on iPlayer until exactly 21:00. I admit to being a bit confused by this. BBC don’t air the highlights live, it is a recorded broadcast, so surely the broadcast should have been on iPlayer soon after the BBC One broadcast finished at 16:30? A four and a half hour gap between the end of the show and it appearing on iPlayer, especially for a highlights show, is strange, and not the first time the F1 shows have appeared on iPlayer late. It makes me wonder if BBC can only make the highlights shows available on iPlayer X hours after the race has finished, depending on time zone of the race. A bit frustrating but at least I didn’t need to wait until Monday morning.

I chose to record Sky Sports F1′s live coverage in the morning, allowing me to watch it on Monday morning (Sunday night not an option there with the TV being watched by others!). Other Sky related methods, including Sky On Demand via Sky Go were unavailable, their rights don’t allow them to broadcast full races On Demand for some reason. Anyway, BBC’s highlights show was okay, the race coverage itself was good. The edit, about 85 minutes in a 120 minute slot seemed a bit lopsided, unless there were very slight edits, it appeared to me that they showed the entirety of the first 35 or so laps, and then they started taking chunks out of the last quarter of the race. But, from their edit I didn’t feel like I had missed anything. I know that BBC’s schedules do not allow this, but I think that there needs to be some flexibility in the length that BBC can have for a highlights programme, the fact that China had a longer edit than Bahrain is criminal, but its luck of the draw, I guess.

One thing that I did think in comparison to previous years, and again I may be wrong but these are just my thoughts, it appeared to me that the race edit was actually longer than usual, with less analysis. I remember before 2012 we were promised a forum for even highlights races, yet they rarely appeared, and then disappeared completely. In China’s case, there was no chance of a forum happening, given that the race was mundane, but for Bahrain? You could easily make an argument for sticking a half an hour forum online on Monday morning. Why they no longer do that for highlights races, I don’t know. I always point to the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix forum, again a highlights race, as one of the best half an hour segments of F1 television that there is. Despite the fact that highlights programming is never a substitute for a live programming, I didn’t feel any incentive to watch Sky’s programme on Monday. I guess the point I’m making is that, had the race been live on the BBC, that would have been my first point call, but as it wasn’t, and Sky do not have full races On Demand, I opted for BBC’s highlights.

On Sunday, for the Chinese Grand Prix at least, F1 lost a ‘live programme’ viewer and gained a ‘highlights propgramme’ viewer. Is that good? I don’t think it is. But the fact is, as Formula 1′s viewing figures are slipping, in this country at least, live viewers are slowly being sipped into the highlights category. You can rinse and repeat that situation across the country, and replace ‘going to WEC’ with ‘going to BTCC’ or many other things. If Formula 1 is losing fans, what has to happen is that those fans must transition to other forms of motor sport, two wheels or four. For some people in this country Formula 1 is motor sport. That couldn’t be any more further from the truth, as I think my experience at Silverstone last weekend highlighted. You can attribute the blame game for that statement at many different doors, but that’s outside the realms of this blog piece, although I have mentioned some parts on this subject before. I’d argue that WEC, BTCC, even MotoGP should capitalise on Formula 1 slipping in this country. Sadly, at the moment I don’t see that happening.

I’ll be posting year-on-year viewing figure comparisons on this blog later this week where Formula 1 is concerned, and the picture does not look good.

A day at Silverstone

So, yesterday was interesting! Fantastic, brilliant, a downright scary drive home, and many other emotions can be pitched in to yesterday’s day. But what a great day it was, and one that I won’t forget for a while. So, what happened? Firstly, a little revelation. Before yesterday, I had, despite being a fan of motor sport for 15 years, never been to a motor race. Considering I run a motor sport related blog, that might come across as surprising! The reasoning behind that is because no one I’m related to is really a motor sport ‘nut’ like myself, and I’d never really found the opportunity to ask any friends (partially because I’d have no clue as to whether they’d be interested – there are a few motor sport nuts, but I’d never pluck up the courage to ask, or vice versa – anyway).

I was planning another usual weekend, watch the F1 and stay in, no doubt following the football in the afternoon. That changed on Saturday when a friend asked if I wanted to go along with him to Silverstone the next day for round one of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Hell yes! A no brainer for me, and clearly for the 43,000 others that went to Silverstone too on Sunday. At £40.00 a ticket, I work that out at about £1.7 million worth of ticket sales that Silverstone made for race day. You can’t complain about the ticket price: six and a half hours of racing, paddock access, a pit lane walk, free roaming around the track, what more could you want? The only thing that saddens me is that Silverstone can have the F1 race day prices in excess of £100, yet sell over 100,000 tickets. But we should take the 43,000 figure as a positive, and hopefully that goes up in years’ to come, it deserves to.

The closest I had come to watching a motor race before yesterday would be an F1 test session, on a cold murky day in February 2001. Memories include standing on the outside of Luffield watching the Arrows and Jordan testing. But apart from that, nothing else. After successfully navigating the M45 and M1 for the first time ever (I passed my test four months ago), we arrived just before the start of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship race, won by Antonio Fuoco. We seated ourselves in the main straight grandstand, moving ourselves around the circuit as the day went on. The gap between that race and the start of the 6 Hours of Silverstone went surprisingly quick. We headed over to the pit lane (which, it is worth noting, the Silverstone Wing looks amazing in person), and took a stroll down it, swerving in and out of people. It was fairly packed! Back in paddock we caught a glimpse of Karun Chandhok, although admittedly jealously levels went up a few notches when a few other people we were with informed us that they had seen Mark Webber, Allan McNish and Anthony Davidson! Yeah, slightly jealous…

A shot of the Toyota motor home in the Silverstone paddock - Round 1 of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship.

A shot of the Toyota motor home in the Silverstone paddock – Round 1 of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship.

We positioned ourselves in the Becketts complex for the start of the main showpiece race, which was great for many different reasons, notably the fact that we could see the majority of the circuit: Copse through to Stowe almost, and the new first section. We stayed there for the first hour and beyond, as the heavens opened it made for interesting reading as the Toyota and Audi’s duelled it out, along with a minor annoyance. The tarmac run off areas. As the drizzle began, many drivers’ took the liberty of going straight on at the second part of Becketts, without an attempt of turning in. Just a minor bugbear worth mentioning.

Being a ‘newbie’ in going to races, the main point of interest to me was the sound. From the grandstand, most of the cars, from LMP1 down to the GTE-A class sounded fairly similar, however the difference was clear from track side between Becketts and Copse. I’d been reliably informed to keep an eye sound of the Audi’s. Boy was it different! Distinct, and stood out a mile when down at track side. Each lap, as one by one the cars went by, the Audi was noticeable. I liked it, personally. Overall, in the ‘how loud is loud’ argument, the sound yesterday was very, very loud! As this was my first motor race, there was no comparison for me, but in any case, it definitely felt loud.

Schumacher and Hill colliding, and many more moments have taken place over the years here, no longer in use and untouched.

Schumacher and Hill colliding, and many more moments have taken place over the years here, no longer in use and untouched.

After lunch, we moved round to Luffield. One of the brilliant things about yesterday was being able to position myself wherever I wanted, which, as it is a motor race, I wanted to experience. I don’t want to go to a motor race and sit in one position, I want to go and experience it from many different angles, different corners. I think it also makes you appreciate more the amount of effort that goes into preparing race weekends up and down the country, week in and week out, that makes race day what it is. It was the little things like that which made the day for me, being able to stand at Luffield, stand at Copse, both in the wet and dry, the same corners that I have seen legends race through year in, year out on TV. That’s what I found great. Then, we came across Bridge. A piece of history, but no longer in use, which saddened me. I’m surprised it hasn’t been utilised in some way, at least yesterday, the grass in that section looked long and untouched in quite a while.

The day ended back on the start finish straight as the 6 Hours of Silverstone prematurely came to an end. It was the right decision to call off the race. To be honest, the Safety Car decision confused me, however the weather in the twenty minutes following rapidly got worse. I’ve criticised some decisions concerning red flags in the past, however, actually having an attended a motor race as a fan now, I understand definitely the decisions from a ‘fan in attendance’ perspective. Getting out of Silverstone was a nightmare, but beyond their control. Had the weather been nice, no doubt some would have stayed for the podium presentation, thus, a more controlled traffic flow. Had the race continued until 18:00, the journey home would have been even more worse yesterday. I avoided the M1 as I was worried about the spray at 70mph, but the A5 was just as bad: multiple rivers, and many, many scary moments! In any case, a Toyota 1-2 and Porsche in third meant that we went home happy.

But, what a day. What an experience. From start to finish, it was full of great memories and moments that will last a while! I think it is fair to say it had everything a fan could wish for with great racing, great access and even typical British weather so that fans can experience the cars in all weather! If you’re ever asked to make a decision in the future: watch F1 on TV, or watch racing in the flesh at your local circuit. Choose the latter. It’s a decision you won’t regret.

Who is Eric Silbermann?

Those of you listening BBC Radio 5 Live’s coverage this weekend at the Chinese Grand Prix will have been listening to Jack Nicholls and Eric Silbermann. As explained previously, Nicholls will be commentating for 5 Live for four races this season: China, Hungary, Japan and Russia.

However, who is Eric Silbermann? I’ve heard of the name before, but never really knew who he is, or what his background was, and Google doesn’t bring back many results. This piece is brief, but mainly just intended as a ‘jigsaw’ for anyone wondering who Silbermann is. The first point of contention is whether his surname as one “n” or two “n’s”, on the basis that his name is listed as author on several books as two “n’s”, I am leaning towards that. You have to go back to the late 1980s for your first bit, as Silbermann was the Honda press officer during the Senna and Prost days (he might actually appear next week during Sky’s ‘Senna Week‘ come to think of it, but can’t confirm either way).

I can’t find a lot on him through the 1990s, although this article says that he was Eddie Irvine’s spokesman during his Ferrari days. At the same time, he was translate for the Formula 1 Yearbook‘s, and also 5 Live’s pit lane reporter, which I think was from 1997 through to 2005, although I may be wrong. More recently, Silbermann was Red Bull Racing’s head of communications, before leaving that position at the end of 2008. A switch to sister team Toro Rosso followed, before leaving that role at the beginning of this year.

As vague pieces go, this definitely falls into that category, but, given how little Google brings back, I thought I should try and piece things together for anyone who has never heard of the name. I’m sure there is more on Silbermann, but that is what I can find out there on the internet.

A look behind the scenes of ‘The F1 Show’

Last Friday I was in the audience for The F1 Show, and having been behind-the scenes at the Sky F1 Media Day a month or so earlier I had a vague idea of what to expect. While the media day consisted of an afternoon watching the team fling paint around for a thirty-second feature, The F1 Show is an hour-long live show, and knowing Johnny Herbert, quite a lot of unpredictability! Before I start, sorry if I spoil any of the magic and thanks also to Dave for letting me write this for his blog.

I digress. The email from the production team told me to be at the studio for 6.15; I arrived a few minutes earlier than that to a queue of people already waiting outside. Name ticked off the list and complaints made about the Sky shuttle bus driver (next time when I ask to be taken to the studio, I don’t mean “can I be dropped off outside a Shell petrol station half a mile away, please?”) I waited around for further instructions and met the fellow audience-goes – a hardy bunch, some had travelled from Scotland to be in the audience and most (if not everybody) had never met any of the team, or indeed been in a television studio before.

After a few minutes of waiting around outside a producer appeared and asked for a few volunteers to do some filming for the pre-title sequence. Since it was (a) cold, (b) I wanted to get my face on TV as much as possible and (c) needed things to write about, I said yes and was led inside to the reception area, was told that I should say a thing or two about the race in Bahrain and led over to a man with a camera.

“Don’t look at the camera” the producer said, “look at me instead” as he held out a microphone in my general direction, ready for me to make my television debut. Thirty seconds and no “ers” or “ums” later my filming is complete. “Ace” I thought, “I’ll be on telly before the show even begins” as I watched the others do their filming.

Filming complete our small group were led outside and around a corner to a “Welcome Centre” where we would spend the next hour or so waiting around. After the world’s worst security check (“Oh, you have overnight stuff in your bag? I don’t want to see your pants, carry on” with a smile) I had to give in my disclaimer saying I’m happy to be filmed (durh) and was given a fetching pink wristband to wear. Thankfully, there were tea and coffee making facilities as well as a large-screen TV showing what was on the channel at the time. Being by myself and not having any 3G internet I watched what was on the TV and looked at the late arrivals. By this time, we were pretty close to the latest arrival time of 7pm and the room was filling up quite a bit.

At about 7.30 or so we were all told that were now going to be transferred to the studio. Figuring that there would be a queue of some sort to get in I walked a bit quicker than the majority of the people (who mostly, were pretty happy to have been picked to go in the audience in the first place) and leapfrogged about 20 people between the Welcome Centre and the reception area (where we did our filming earlier). Bag checked in and secure, I joined the two people in front of me to queue outside of the studio. By this point the tension was building; David Croft appeared every couple of minutes or so doing something or other but always stopped to either (a) rib the audience (pulling out the chap behind me with a very flowery shirt and asking if he was wearing it for a bet was a particular highlight) or (b) tell us one of many pirate jokes. For those who are planning on attending future F1 Shows I’ll leave them out so I don’t spoil the surprise.

Incidentally, the studio used is the same one that Saturday Night Football is filmed in. I’m guessing other sports-related programming takes place inside those walls too, but the fact that “Saturday Night Football” was written on the wall in the corridor alongside pictures of various footballers is a bit of a giveaway. The set itself is a lot bigger than you’d imagine it to be and the wooden bit is so easy to trip over when you’re not looking at where you’re walking.

Entering the studio, we were told to first of all line up on the raised wooden bit next to the (flimsy-looking desk), and also told to make more than one row if we could. It was awfully relaxed; not like a school photo where you’re placed against your will. I was in the second row, and although my view was slightly obstructed by the man in front of me I still had a pretty good view.

The F1 Show studio, screen grabbed from the launch episode this year (March 7th, 2014).

The F1 Show studio, screen grabbed from the launch episode this year (March 7th, 2014).

Audience in, the producer appeared with a clipboard containing the script and asked for someone to come out. “Well done” he said, “you’ve won the star prize of being selected to ask a question” not only getting a round of applause but a prime position.

“Daniel Puddicombe, could you put up your hand, please?” the producer said with a smile. I raised my hand, “you’ve been selected as the other person to ask a question” he continued as he led from my mediocre space and placed me right at the front slightly to the left of the Sky Pad. I genuinely wasn’t expecting any of my questions to be picked so was a little surprised to say the least. After looking at the script to see which question was selected (I submitted quite a few) I was left alone. The team then asked us all to switch our phones off and Crofty told yet more pirate-related jokes to warm us up.

With about five minutes to go (I think, my phone was off and I couldn’t see a clock) Natalie practiced a few lines, David asked Johnny what his favourite Lewis Hamilton race is and was met with silence. “You’ve got four minutes to come with an answer!” he says to roars of laughter. We’re then told to practice cheering (while being filmed each time), and at the third dummy run through the producer is satisfied.

“Titles! Clap!” and we were away. While VTs were playing and adverts being shown a clock appeared on the one TV screen showing what the viewers at home could see showing how long the team had before it was back to them. When the cameras weren’t focused, scripts were checked, water was consumed and the audience was interacted with. It felt like a well-oiled machine, like it was rehearsed several times over in the afternoon, but one thing that couldn’t be rehearsed was the audience bit – hence picking on the guy with the Rihanna t-shirt, and oiking the chap with the Ted Appreciation Society t-shirt out, as well as jokes about the Boat Race and many more besides.

In the studio, we didn’t have any sound aside from the team’s own voices so from where I was stood it was actually quite hard to hear what was being said other than when people were at the Sky Pad or indeed when I had my bit of airtime. Also what was slightly annoying was that there was only one TV screen showing what the viewers at home were seeing; if you saw me crane my neck to the right a bit, that’s why!

I noticed a few people on Twitter complain that although tech expert Craig Scarborough was in the audience, he wasn’t picked out. We were asked to submit questions to the production team by the Wednesday before the show, so it allowed the team to write up a script and come up with a plan. I have no idea whether not Scarbs submitted any questions or not, but it wasn’t as simple as going up to someone and sticking a microphone in their face – even pulling the chap with the Ted t-shirt was pre-planned, as David noticed this while doing a corridor walk and must’ve said something to someone.

Speaking personally, during one of the breaks Crofty shouted over to me:

“You’re 16 in three days’ time aren’t you, Daniel?”

“No, 19 three days ago, Crofty”

“Right, gotcha”

Hence the line that I was all grown up and wasn’t a 16 year old anymore, although he did still get the days wrong when we did it for real, and while we’re on this subject, I had no idea what David was going to say other than that I had a question to ask the panel, if you can call two people a panel. The same applies for his little joke about switching off mobile phones to Karun when he pretended to call Mr Haas, they stemmed from earlier comments, and that worked really well, however I’m can understand if people at home were saying “eh?” at that point.

At the end of the show, we were given a round of applause by the team, thanked for coming along and for being a great audience and were told that there would be photo chances and the like outside in the reception (why that was done I do not know – there’s a lot more room in the studio itself). Crofty being the joker he is walked over to a corner, shouted “Who wants a photo then? I’m guessing Natalie will be more popular than me, though”. For about half a minute, a crowd gathered around Natalie, Johnny and Karun (who dashed off quickly) and nobody was around Croft.

I’ve noted it in the past, and I’ll note it again, but the team are so friendly and down to earth. They didn’t have to spend 45 minutes hanging around talking to whoever came up to them and happily having many photos taken. Hanging back for a while, having walked out of the studio with Natalie and Karun, I looked around the reception area and couldn’t see one unhappy face – all in all, it was a well-executed evening.

Sure, having an audience in the studio can look a bit cheesy when you’re watching on TV, but when you’re in there; it makes sense, and brings a whole new element to the show that we haven’t seen until the start of this year, and for that, Sky should be given a pat on the back.

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