Monaco Grand Prix remains above 4 million

The Monaco Grand Prix performed solidly during the Bank Holiday weekend, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

Race
With warm weather damaging ratings across the board on Saturday and Sunday, Formula 1 escaped relatively unscathed thanks to a good figure for BBC’s highlights show, although Sky Sports F1’s live coverage was hit badly. Live coverage of the race on Sky Sports F1 averaged 797k (8.5%) from 12:00 to 15:30, which compares with 1.10m (12.1%) for the equivalent slot last year. That’s a drop of around 30 percent across both viewer and share measures. The total TV audience for the slot was marginally up yesterday for the slot, so for whatever reason, the race just didn’t perform well, unsurprisingly perhaps given that very little happened in the first 60 laps. There’s a pattern emerging that Sky’s coverage is struggling ratings wise year-on-year, which needs to be tracked as the season progresses.

BBC’s highlights programme was up year-on-year. The show averaged 3.44m (23.3%) from 17:05 to 18:05, up on last year’s highlights number of 3.33m (23.3%). That’s a good number, when you consider that last year’s highlights programme was boosted by Nico Rosberg’s qualifying incident. Overall, the combined audience of 4.23m is down 4.7 percent on last year’s audience of 4.44m. It is, however, up on 2013’s number of 4.00m. Overall, it is a good number, although I suspect one side will be a lot more pleased than the other.

Formula E and Indianapolis 500
Over the weekend, viewers failed to turn up for ITV4’s Formula E coverage from Berlin, which dropped to its lowest number since the Putrajaya ePrix last November. Live coverage on ITV4 from 14:00 to 16:30 averaged 112k (1.6%), peaking with 154k (2.2%) at 15:05. What’s unusual here is that the pre-race portion was above 100k for the majority, which is unusual, except that the programme failed to gain viewers after 15:00, and remained stagnant around 140k. It’s not a good number, being on the same weekend as the Monaco Grand Prix won’t help matters. Hopefully under the “lessons learnt” category for season one, the organisers add “don’t clash with F1.” As a general rule of thumb, having a race at the end of May won’t help anyone as all the attention from motor sport media is elsewhere.

Speaking of elsewhere, the Indianapolis 500 averaged 19k (0.1%) from 16:00 to 21:00 on ESPN. The race itself, from around 17:30 to 20:50 averaged 22k (0.1%), peaking with 46k (0.3%) at 18:15. One point I’d like to add, especially in the case of the 500, is that the numbers don’t include online viewing. Anyone (including myself) who watched via the BT Sport app will not be included in the above number, and the same applies for anyone who watched via any other sources.

The 2014 Monaco Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

overnights.tv-bannersF1

News round-up: Jacques begins feeder series commentary; NBC F1 ratings rise

In the third and final catch-up, news on the identity of the GP2 Series lead commentator and a look at NBC’s continuing Formula 1 ratings rise.

Jacques becomes new GP2 and GP3 commentator
The news towards the end of 2013 that Will Buxton would no longer be lead commentator for the GP2 and GP3 Series caught many by surprise, with Buxton choosing to prioritise his duties with NBC Sports over commentating on the feeder series’ for Formula One Management (FOM). There were not many stand-out candidates for Buxton’s replacement, I noted last November that the replacement depended upon whether FOM wanted to “breed new talent or rely on a veteran figure”. In the end, the corporation went for the former approach.

Alex Jacques was officially announced as lead feeder series commentator for GP2 and GP3 on Thursday 16th April, prior to the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. You probably are, like I was at the time, wondering who Jacques is. And, to a degree, I am still wondering who Jacques is. Google brings back very little about his past commentating exploits, whilst Jacques has no profile on social media. The nearest information we have about Jacques is that he may have done BBC local radio commentary covering football in the past few years, but apart from that, there is nothing concrete in the public domain.

The reaction on social media has been positive towards Jacques. From the action that I’ve watched, Jacques does sound a bit stilted from time to time, but on the other hand I haven’t heard any howlers from him, yet. What is apparent though is that Jacques is trying to be the first Alex Jacques and not the second Will Buxton. That’s more than good, there is nothing worse than trying to act and be like another commentator or presenter and fail at the first hurdle, so it is good to see Jacques bringing his own style to proceedings.

Sticking with GP2 and GP3, the graphics set for the feeder series’ have stayed the same, unlike its bigger brother, which means that they have been using the same graphics set for a decade now. There have been a few tweaks, such as the timing bar at the bottom of the screen, which has been present in the F1 coverage since at least 2008. Behind the scenes, it was confirmed earlier this month that Tata Communications would be supplying the live broadcast signal for GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup via fibre optic and satellite. James Allen said that the move “is clearly a trial run for both F1 Management and Tata with a view to one day transmitting F1 Grands Prix this way.”

NBC’s F1 ratings continue to rise
In an ongoing story, Formula 1’s television ratings in the United States are continuing their upward curve with coverage on NBC Sports. Following a brilliant number for Malaysia in late March, the Bahrain Grand Prix benefited hugely from a mid morning start time in the US. An average audience of 630k watched Lewis Hamilton win, making it the most watched race ever for NBC Sports Network, and the most watched non-domestic F1 race on cable in eight years.

As I’ve said before, it is unbelievable that the numbers are increasing further in the States when you consider that figures have largely stagnated and even dropped worldwide. The unfortunate thing for Formula 1 is that it is coming from such a low base, meaning that there is still a ton of work to do to get viewing figures over a million, if possible, for mid morning races such as Bahrain.

How WEC can grow, if it wants to
With two rounds of the 2015 World Endurance Championship completed, the series has been receiving more plaudits, comparisons are again being made between it and Formula 1. As Edd Straw said in an editorial on the AUTOSPORT website (£) a few weeks ago, pundits should not use the series as a battering ram to attack Formula 1 with given that the two are distinctly different.

WEC races are typically six or 24 hours long, whereas a Formula 1 race lasts just under two hours, meaning the latter is much more likely to attract a bigger audience. Also, Formula 1 has the luxury of free-to-air output on BBC and Sky. The endurance series however is on Motors TV with a much lower reach than the remainder of the Sports portfolio, including Sky Sports and BT Sport. The Silverstone round peaked with 24k according to unofficial overnight viewing figures.

The buzz at the moment for WEC is just within the motor sport circles, at the hardcore level. How can that be changed to bring in a casual audience, whilst not alienating the hardcore audience, if possible? I think it is important to point out that, in the mid to late 2000’s, the last few hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans were screened live on ITV4, which should happen again. Why the series also doesn’t have a highlights package either is confusing to me. Both of these are easy method of increasing audiences, demand and reach. Yes, it is great to stream live online and the like, but you need to have a good reach on traditional platforms as well, which WEC does not have.

It could be argued that it would be difficult to package together a six hour race, plus practice and qualifying into a 45 or 90 minute highlights programme (excluding commercials) without completely losing the flow and story of the race, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be attempted. Elsewhere, in a big story from a broadcasting perspective, all TV cameras will be active for the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to Graham Goodwin, the editor of DailySportsCar.com. In previous years, the majority of TV cameras were switched off overnight, with a limited number of cameras running alongside CCTV cameras to pick up any incidents. A lot of action was missed as a result, with incidents and crashes occurring off camera, but it looks like that won’t be the case for this year’s race.

Surveys, surveys and surveys

Aside from this blog’s own yearly survey, you will have been lucky to miss the two Formula 1 surveys currently making the rounds.

The first survey was launched on Wednesday 20th May by Haymarket Media, through their AUTOSPORT, Motorsport News and F1 Racing brands. The survey, touted by Haymarket as the Global Fan Survey, is open until Thursday 28th May and can be found here. Haymarket’s motor sport group editor Anthony Rowlinson says that the survey gives Formula 1’s “hardcore fans [the opportunity] to express their views on the technical, sporting and political aspects of Formula 1 and to help shape its future.” The results of the survey will be “presented to senior paddock figures over the weeks that follow.”

Less than 24 hours later, a second survey appeared. But, unlike Haymarket’s survey, this one had a much stronger backing. The Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) account on Twitter popped up just before the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. On Friday 8th May, Romain Grosjean tweeted: “Great @GPDA_ meeting today! At the #MonacoGP we will announce big plans on how to properly connect with you, the fans #RacingUnited #r8main” Daniel Ricciardo followed that up with a similar tweet five days later. The survey, in partnership with Motorsport.com, was launched on Thursday 21st May and can be found here. The GPDA hope that it is “the sport’s biggest survey ever.”

So, what’s happened here? Why have two surveys surrounding Formula 1 appeared in consecutive days? From the outside, it is impossible to say which survey had been in the planning for longer. One could join the dots and say that the Haymarket survey was released a day earlier than the GPDA survey to ‘undercut’ the other and reduce the impact that the GPDA survey had. Why? Well your guess is as good as mine. But this, again is part of a battle that is getting increasingly bigger between the two, as I blogged about earlier this week. That battle is now being played out clear as day in front of our eyes, it is not a coincidence that two surveys with similar intentions turned up one after the other.

In my eyes, this is a huge victory for Motorsport.com, by getting hands on the GPDA survey, and putting the official touch on it. It means that other motor racing websites will be linking to the survey, in turn driving traffic towards not only the survey, but also Motorsport.com as a whole. I don’t know who initiated the whole GPDA survey idea in the first place, but either way, Motorsport.com have played a blinder here…

News round-up: Sky explore YouTube; online battle for readership continues

In the second round-up catching up on the stories of the past month, this blog looks at the ongoing battle for readers across various websites and the advances over on YouTube.

Sky explore YouTube, but did anyone notice?
Sky Sports conducted an interesting experiment with the Friday 24th April episode of The F1 Show. Under the #AskCrofty banner, the episode was streamed live on YouTube. I believe this was the first time that Sky have ever streamed F1 content on the video sharing website, traditionally it had only been available to pay-TV subscribers via the usual ways. Personally, I think that such an occasion would have been good to ‘big up’ with some extra advertising or hype via social media, maybe try and reach out to a few new subscribers. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

The episode was streamed live on YouTube to around a few hundred people, a number which can only be described as shockingly low. Yes, it is only an F1 talk show on a Friday night, but you can’t defend numbers as low as that. I’d have expected at least a few thousand people to watch it live via YouTube, given the amount of people that the Sky Sports brand reaches on Facebook, Twitter and their own website on a daily basis. This experiment failed before it even started, to be honest. The low number also in its own way confirms the low TV viewing figures that The F1 Show receives, never hitting 100k and very rarely hitting 50k.

Sticking with YouTube, and the news that the official F1 channel appears to be forming some sort of partnership with NBC. Eagle eyed viewers will have noticed that the F1 website tends to take NBC’s interviews conducted from the broadcast pen, as of course Formula One Management (FOM) own all the content that is filmed inside a race track. That relationship appears to be evolving, with NBC features possibly appearing on F1’s YouTube channel, according to NBC’s pit lane reporter Will Buxton who commented on it during a recent AMA on reddit. Obviously such a development, should it come to fruition, is positive news as it means more people will be able to experience the content that NBC’s F1 team produce.

F1 2016 schedule and the implications
The provisional 2016 Formula One schedule presents some interesting decisions for both BBC and Sky should the schedule not change. The good news is that the season would start after the conclusion of the Six Nations and after the Boat Race. The Australian Grand Prix, scheduled currently for April 3rd, would not clash with any of the big standalone events. The Chinese Grand Prix would be held on the same weekend as the Grand National, but not a direct clash. It is the Bahrain Grand Prix that would suffer, clashing with the London Marathon and the FA Cup semi finals, but on the other hand it could provide BBC with a bumper Sunday if they showed the Grand Prix live after the marathon.

However, with both the football European Championship and the Olympic Games taking place next year, it means a congested Summer of sport. Provisionally, the Canadian, Austrian and British rounds of the championship will take place during Euro 2016, whilst the Hungarian Grand Prix clashes with the opening weekend of the Olympic Games. And that hasn’t even taken into account Wimbledon…. of course, it is impossible to avoid everything. But, the promoters and governing body of the sport must ensure that F1 is given the best scheduling opportunities where possible, minimising the chance of direct clashes.

AUTOSPORT widen their horizons
The online battle for readers has increased over the past year, with multiple talent changes across AUTOSPORT and Motorsport.com. The talent changes are now in place, which should result in stronger competition across the board, as Motorsport.com tries to take a slice of the action from AUTOSPORT and other related websites. In theory, the changes can only mean good things for the consumer. The quality should increase as both sites strive to make their portfolio of content as strong as possible, irrespective of whether it is two wheels, four wheels, tarmac or gravel.

AUTOSPORT are further bolstering their line-up with a new website currently in beta, so that will only help things for them in the online department. Their commitment to all things two and four wheels was demonstrated a few weeks ago, with Kris Meeke’s victory at the Rally Argentina their lead story on the cover of AUTOSPORT Magazine, despite rallying traditionally not a strong selling point in comparison to Formula 1. Edd Straw, AUTOSPORT’s editor, justified the decision noting that he hoped that AUTOSPORT’s readership would respond to a different cover “better than expected”, whilst it was simply “the right thing to do” due to the story behind Meeke’s victory. It should be noted that some mainstream media covered Meeke’s victory, both the BBC and Sky covered the victory on their respective websites.

Elsewhere, the recent general election alongside Floyd Mayweather’s victory against Manny Pacquiao in the boxing meant that the BBC smashed their own online records, with 12.3 million browsers accessing the BBC Sport website in total on Sunday 3rd May. 8.7 million browsers were from within then UK, with the remaining 3.6 million browsers from outside the UK. In comparison, as the aftermath of the general election was felt, a whopping 28.3 million browsers accessed the BBC News website, of which 20.6 million were from within the UK. The numbers are simply staggering.

Scheduling: The 2015 Monaco Grand Prix / Berlin ePrix

Next weekend sees two of the three blue riband events take place in the form of the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500! The Monaco Grand Prix is exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, with the Indianapolis 500 exclusively live on ESPN. For those without the F1 channel, qualifying for Monaco is also live on Sky Sports 1.

Over on the BBC, their radio output is depleted due to Test Match cricket on 5 Live Sport Extra meaning that practice commentary will be via the website only. I know it is the luck of the draw sometimes, but I’m mildly amused that BBC’s qualifying highlights show is longer than their race highlights show, which is certainly a first since their current deal came into effect at the beginning of 2012. In terms of supplementary programming, Sky are airing their first Tales from the Vault programme of 2015 looking back at past Monaco races.

The Indianapolis 500 is being broadcast live on ESPN from 16:00 next Sunday. As noted earlier, it appears that BT’s output has been reduced with less studio coverage. If that changes, I will update the schedule, but it doesn’t appear that way at the moment. Over at Formula E’s Berlin ePrix, Mike Conway will again be alongside Jack Nicholls in the commentary box with Andy Jaye presenting the coverage for ITV.

Below are all the details you need for the blue riband events, plus much more…

BBC F1
BBC One
23/05 – 17:10 to 18:45 – Qualifying Highlights
24/05 – 17:05 to 18:35 – Race Highlights

BBC Radio
21/05 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23/05 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
24/05 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Supplementary Programming
22/05 – 18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)
23/05 – 16:10 to 17:10 – F1 Rewind (BBC Two)
23/05 – 18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
21/05 – 08:45 to 11:00 – Practice 1
21/05 – 12:45 to 15:00 – Practice 2
23/05 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
23/05 – 12:00 to 14:15 – Qualifying (Sky Sports 1)
23/05 – 12:00 to 14:45 – Qualifying (Sky Sports F1)
24/05 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
20/05 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Driver Press Conference
20/05 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut: Monaco
21/05 – 16:00 to 16:45 – Team Press Conference
21/05 – 17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show
22/05 – 17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show
22/05 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Tales from the Vault: Monaco Special
27/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report

GP2 Series – Monaco (Sky Sports F1)
21/05 – 11:00 to 11:50 – Practice
21/05 – 15:10 to 15:50 – Qualifying
22/05 – 10:10 to 11:40 – Race 1
23/05 – 15:05 to 16:20 – Race 2

World Series by Renault – Monaco (BT Sport 2)
24/05 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Race

Formula E – Berlin (online via FIAFormulaE.com)
23/05 – 07:10 to 08:10 – Practice 1
23/05 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Berlin (ITV4)
23/05 – 11:00 to 12:15 – Qualifying
23/05 – 14:00 to 16:30 – Race
24/05 – 08:30 to 09:30 – Highlights

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 (ESPN UK)
24/05 – 16:00 to 21:00 – Race

Speedway Grand Prix – Czech Republic (British Eurosport 2)
23/05 – 18:00 to 21:00 – Race

World Superbikes – Donington Park (British Eurosport 2)
23/05 – 11:45 to 13:00 – Superpole
24/05 – 11:15 to 16:30 – Races

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

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