Scheduling: The 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The 2015 Formula One season comes to an end with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as the events off the circuit dominate the agenda. At this stage, whether the Abu Dhabi race next weekend will signify the end of anything, remains up in the air.

What we do know is that the BBC and Sky will be broadcasting this race live, with both sides fielding their full line-up. There’s a special Formula 1 edition of BBC One game show Pointless Celebrities airing on Saturday evening. The four teams consist of current BBC F1 pundit David Coulthard and new World Endurance Champion Mark Webber. BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Allan McNish and Claire Williams make up team two. 1992 champion Nigel Mansell and Murray Walker are next up, with Christian Horner and BBC F1 presenter Suzi Perry rounding off the line-up.

The two review shows will air before Christmas meaning that, alongside the absence of Sky Sports F1 over the festive period, there will be very little new F1 programming over the off-season until testing in February kicks into gear. Elsewhere, Channel 4 are airing highlights of the Race of Champions, presented by Charlie Webster.

As always, the full schedule is below…

BBC TV – Sessions
27/11 – 08:55 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (BBC Two)
27/11 – 13:00 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Red Button)
28/11 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Two)
28/11 – 12:10 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC One)
29/11 – 12:10 to 15:15 – Race (BBC One)
29/11 – 15:15 to 16:00 – Forum (BBC Red Button)

BBC Radio – Sessions
29/11 – 12:45 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

Supplementary Programming
26/11 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
27/11 – 18:45 to 19:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)
28/11 – 11:05 to 12:05 – F1 Rewind: Amazing Races (BBC Two)
28/11 – 18:00 to 18:50 – Pointless Celebrities (BBC One)
28/11 – 19:45 to 20:00 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Sky Sports F1
27/11 – 08:45 to 10:50 – Practice 1
27/11 – 12:45 to 14:50 – Practice 2
28/11 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
28/11 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying
29/11 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
26/11 – 11:00 to 11:30 – Driver Press Conference
26/11 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut: Abu Dhabi
27/11 – 16:00 to 16:45 – Team Press Conference
27/11 – 17:00 to 18:00 – The F1 Show
02/12 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Midweek Report

GP2 Series – Abu Dhabi (Sky Sports F1)
27/11 – 07:15 to 08:05 – Practice
27/11 – 15:05 to 15:45 – Qualifying
28/11 – 14:35 to 16:05 – Race 1
29/11 – 10:15 to 11:30 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Abu Dhabi (Sky Sports F1)
27/11 – 11:10 to 11:45 – Qualifying
28/11 – 08:20 to 09:20 – Race 1
29/11 – 08:55 to 09:55 – Race 2

Race of Champions Highlights (Channel 4)
28/11 – 07:05 to 08:00 – Day 1
29/11 – 06:45 to 07:40 – Day 2

If anything changes, I will update the schedule above.

The negotiations have begun between BBC and FOM…

…but for the BBC, it didn’t end well.

Multiple outlets are reporting this morning that the BBC are attempting to renegotiate their television contract to broadcast Formula 1. – Bernie Ecclestone turns down BBC plea to renegotiate F1 contract
Daily Mail – BBC set to pull plug on live F1 with Abu Dhabi Grand Prix set to be swansong race
The Times – BBC rebuffed in bid to revise F1 deal

As the three headlines show, the news is bleak.

The articles say that the BBC met with Formula One Management and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone in his Kensington office yesterday afternoon, following the announcement minutes earlier that the BBC were making further cuts to various budgets, including BBC Sport. Simply put, the offer by the BBC to renegotiate the financial aspect of the contract was refused by Ecclestone. The current cost of the contract is between £15 million to £20 million per year for the BBC.

Various quotes from Ecclestone are making the rounds in the broadsheet papers listed above, which can be summarised as follows, this from The Telegraph: “We had a chat with them [BBC] today. What they would like to do is not spend as much money. They want to know if they can schedule it different ways or pay a bit less now. They don’t have a lot of choice because they’ve got a contract with us. They’re there for another three years. Beyond then [2018], I’ve no idea. I don’t know what’s going to happening tomorrow morning. I can’t tell you what I’m going to do in two years’ time. Definitely, we want them to carry on [with the BBC]. Of course.”

Ecclestone claims that he has not had contact off any other broadcasters concerning future Formula 1 rights. On the BBC side of things, Daily Mail have reported that an e-mail from BBC’s Director of Sport Barbara Slater, circulated to BBC Sport staff, does not list Formula 1 as part of their crown jewels. Most startlingly perhaps is the suggestion from Charles Sale and Jonathan McEvoy of the aforementioned Mail that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the last live Grand Prix on the BBC. Yes, that is Abu Dhabi, which takes place in just ten days time, with the BBC either screening highlights only from 2016 or the rights transferring to another free-to-air broadcaster.

ITV is the broadcaster suggested by the Daily Mail. Sale is either hitting the mark, or extremely wide of it. Suggesting that ITV could formulate a team, and put aside the relevant money by Melbourne in four months time seems far-fetched to me. Some of Sale’s track record has been hit and miss, notably claiming earlier this year that BT Sport would broadcast La Liga exclusively live, only for Sky Sports to officially claim the rights a few hours later.

Clearly, this is going to be a fast moving story over the next few weeks and months. If BBC want to get out of live Formula 1 at the end of this season, an announcement would surely come within the next week, it would be ludicrous if there are no on-air references to their coverage ending in Abu Dhabi. However, if we hear nothing before Christmas, we can assume that BBC will broadcast Formula 1 with the same deal as now in 2016.

Update on November 25th – Enter Channel 4. Per yesterday’s edition of The Chris Evans Show (thanks madmusician on DS for the tip), and I quote from Evans: “This is what I heard yesterday, that Channel 4 may sweep in and take the rights to Formula 1 away from the BBC next year.” Given that Evans has involvement with both the BBC and Channel 4, namely through his own show, Top Gear and TFI Friday, I would say that rumour has legs. I have noted on these pages before about their previous efforts when BBC’s rights were under threat in 2011. Will it be second time lucky for the broadcaster?

Quick thoughts on the latest BBC F1 speculation

It is that time of the year where the BBC announce their latest round of cuts, and it is therefore unsurprising to see what could be first on the chopping block: – “…it could throw doubt on the corporation’s coverage of sports such as F1 racing.”
The Guardian – “could hit athletics and Formula One”
The Telegraph – “faces losing Formula 1”

The amount of money that BBC Sport will have to save is £35 million annually. I have estimated before that Formula 1 costs the BBC between £15 million and £20 million. My opinion is that BBC will axe F1 this time around, and regular blog readers should not be surprised to read that, given the climate that the latest licence fee settlement was negotiated within.

We have been predicting BBC F1’s demise since 2012, you could argue that it is miraculous that nothing has changed on the rights front since then. Bernie Ecclestone’s latest plea to BBC came in August, in anticipation of today’s BBC cuts. Ecclestone said “I hope [BBC] continue. We’re not interested in the money, we’re interested in entertaining the public and doing a service. That’s what we’re there for. I think it would be good [to continue as we have at the moment]. It’s works at the moment, so there’s no reason why it should change. Sky have done a super job. They’ve lifted the level and lifted the BBC up.”

If BBC were to continue, it would be in highlights only form, with the first, last and British Grand Prix live, in my opinion. 45 percent of blog readers think BBC will try and renegotiate their contract before 2018. As I’ve said before, I think 2016 will be a very interesting year on the F1 rights front. My gut instinct tells me that the rights will be different for 2017. In what way? Your guess is as good as mine. A combination of BBC, ITV, Channel 4, BT Sport and Sky Sports would appear to be the most likely way forward as of 2017 onwards.

When live Formula 1 does disappear from free-to-air television in the UK, it will be an extremely sad day for motor sport fans as it will essentially reduce Formula 1 to a minority sport in this country. It looks like that day is getting closer to reality…

Brazilian Grand Prix hits three year high

An average audience of 4.57 million watched the Brazilian Grand Prix, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast live on BBC One from 15:25 to 18:00, averaged 4.02m (24.9%), up significantly on 2013’s number of 3.45m (19.9%). It should be noted that 2013’s broadcast was 185 minutes long, whereas yesterday’s was 155 minutes long and yesterday would have benefited also from a strong lead-out with the BBC News at Six focussing on events in Paris. Sky Sports F1’s coverage from 15:00 to 18:30 added a further 548k (3.3%), an increase on 2013’s number of 473k (2.7%) across the same timeslot.

The combined average of 4.57 million is the highest for Interlagos since 2012, when Sebastian Vettel clinched his third championship in the final race of the year. Last year, an audience of 4.27 million watched as BBC showed highlights of the race, whilst 3.93 million watched in 2013.

Whilst yesterday’s Grand Prix was not the greatest in the world, it would have benefited from little sporting competition on pay-TV channels with no domestic top-flight football being played. Considering the championship has already been resolved, it is a good number.

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

Scheduling: The 2015 Race of Champions / Macau Grand Prix

Next weekend is a fairly big weekend of motor sport, with two annual events taking place. The Race of Champions will take place at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and is being broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. It looks like they have taken the live rights from Motors TV, I suspect that is a ‘one year only’ thing given that the event is in London.

Given the number of Formula 1 stars competing, such as Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa, the channel are presumably hoping that the event will do better than usual non-race weekend coverage, which should be do-able. Sky are providing their own studio coverage, hence a 30-minute edition of The F1 Show live from the Olympic Park. They are taking the World Feed commentary, which is being provided by Martin Haven and Jennie Gow, the first time I believe that either voice has been heard on the channel.

Elsewhere on Sky Sports F1, there is live GP2 and GP3 action from Bahrain, the two series supporting the World Endurance Championship this weekend, itself airing on Motors TV. What this means is that Sky Sports F1 has six and a half hours of live action on Friday, none of which actually contains F1! This is a good thing though, it is about time Sky airs non-F1 content on non-F1 weekends, a case of all things falling at once here.

The other big annual event is the Macau Grand Prix, which will air exclusively live on BT Sport. The channel will be airing just over eight hours of coverage next Saturday and Sunday including the 33rd running of the Formula 3 race.

Race of Champions – London (Sky Sports F1)
20/11 – 19:00 to 23:00
=> 19:00 – The F1 Show
=> 19:30 – Nations Cup
21/11 – 15:00 to 18:00

GP2 Series – Bahrain (Sky Sports F1)
19/11 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Practice
19/11 – 11:15 to 11:55 – Qualifying
20/11 – 12:25 to 13:55 – Race 1
21/11 – 07:40 to 08:55 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Bahrain (Sky Sports F1)
19/11 – 09:40 to 10:15 – Qualifying
20/11 – 10:15 to 11:15 – Race 1
21/11 – 05:55 to 06:55 – Race 2

Macau Grand Prix (BT Sport 1)
21/11 – 04:15 to 08:15
=> 04:15 – FIA GT World Cup Qualifying and F3 Grand Prix
=> 07:00 – Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix
22/11 – 04:45 to 09:00
=> 04:45 – FIA GT World Cup
=> 07:00 – F3 Grand Prix

V8 Supercars – Philip Island
21/11 – 03:45 to 04:45 – Race 31 (BT Sport 2)
21/11 – 05:45 to 06:45 – Race 32 (BT Sport 2)
22/11 – 02:45 to 04:45 – Race 33 (BT Sport 1)

World Endurance Championship – Bahrain
21/11 – 11:30 to 18:35 – Race (Motors TV)
21/11 – 17:00 to 18:15 – Race (British Eurosport)
25/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

If anything changes, I will update the above.

Update on November 19th at 09:15 – Per GP2’s official Twitter page, it looks like no World Feed is being provided for practice or qualifying (same applies for GP3), meaning that the scheduled programmes on Sky Sports F1 will no longer air.


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