Both London E-Prixs at the ExCeL Arena this weekend will be shown live on British terrestrial TV after a deal between Formula E and Channel 4 was completed in recent days.
The programmes will be fronted by Vernon Kay, who has presented for the championship’s main feed since 2017. The races will also be available via its on-demand streaming platform All4.
Formula E has confirmed ‘extensive build-up and post-race analysis’ as part of the package which will see coverage in mid-afternoon slots with a 3pm BST race start on Saturday, July 24, and a 2pm lights out on Sunday, July 25.
Kay, who presented his first race at the 2017 Hong Kong E-Prix, said that “there’s nothing that quite beats the atmosphere of your home race and with seven British drivers to cheer on, the UK fans are going to love tuning in for this amazing weekend of racing”.
Sam Bird, winner of the last race in New York City and himself already a London E-Prix winner after his success at Battersea Park in 2015, told The Race that he believes the deal would be “massive” for the series to be on mainstream British television.
“If we could create a deal that is season long and be on mainstream TV it absolutely projects the championship to a whole new level,” he said.
“Hopefully, that’ll take off massively as more exposure creates superstars of the drivers, which means more sponsorship deals, personally individually for drivers and teams, more exposure for everybody and everything within the championship.
“It’s would just be a snowball effect really and it will only do the championship a massive positive really.
The deal will see the first main-channel terrestrial coverage in the UK since April’s Rome E-Prix and prior to that BBC2 had also shown the Marrakesh E-Prix in February 2020.
Formula E’s deal with the BBC was signed in 2018 but it has mostly been aired live on the Red Button as well as BBC’s website and iPlayer.
Formula E first began its UK TV coverage on ITV4, which showed the first two seasons of the championship before Channel 5 picked up the rights until the end of the Gen1 era in the summer of 2018.
That was when the renewed TV production deal saw Aurora Media Worldwide become part of the All3media group together with North One, and a sister company within the group was formed called FETV.
Formula E’s chief media officer Aarti Dabas said of the deal that the UK is a “key market for Formula E’s ecosystem of teams, manufacturers, partners and drivers”.
“More importantly we wanted to provide our growing UK fanbase and potential new fans with easy access to watch and engage with the live coverage of their home races,” Dabas added.
“Channel 4 is one of UK’s most progressive free-to-air channels and this partnership for the London races provides both Formula E and Channel 4 to engage with progressive motorsports fans and new audiences .”
Dabas joined Formula E last year after a long stint with the International Cricket Council, which she left after what was widely reported to be an acrimonious split in 2019.
She recently told Motorsport Broadcasting that Formula E was “aiming to be a Tier 1 sport, and channel consistency is going to drive the numbers”.
“Ware looking to see how we can have consistent channels whether it’s with BBC, or with any other channel that we go with,” said Dabas.
Formula E also announced that Heineken would be the title partner of the London E-Prixs. The Dutch company has been affiliated with the championship since 2018.
The Race Says….
Formula E has generally struggled to break through to a consistent mass audience since its inception in 2014.
But even for an initial two races, the Channel 4 deal is a major boost because although the overall TV performance in terms of figures has been positive in some key markets, it is known to have been less so in others, notably the UK.
Formula E currently has some significant deals in place with broadcasters such as SAT-1 in Germany and CBS in the US, although it is unclear what deals have been agreed on rights fees between Formula E and these broadcasters.
Recently, Formula E has released data reports to teams that state it has reached a cumulative audience of 159.8m – it claims is a +5% per race increase over last season.
It also suggests that it is +54% up on its live audience per race and has 31.3m viewing hours, which it says is 7% up on last season’s average so far.
Comparisons though with the truncated 2020 season are largely futile because that campaign is known to have yielded a significant minus on the 2018-19 season.
The carefully selected data, while completely genuine, suggests Formula E is shining up its figures in readiness for the bigger picture strategy of attempting to gain new TV broadcasters for its crucial third rules iteration (Gen3), which begins at the end of 2022.
With a racing product that will see an as yet to be determined element of fast-charging and lighter, faster cars, Formula E needs to start breaking through to the mainstream as once future consumers of electric vehicles become present customers.