Channel 5 acquires Formula E broadcast rights after ITV step away

Formula E

Channel 5 has acquired the UK broadcast rights to Formula E after ITV decided not to renew current deal.

The two year deal will run until the end of the 2017/18 season and will see Channel 5 air live races from the series with qualifying sessions being shown on its sister channel Spike.

The broadcaster is also understood to be focusing its efforts in creating an 'immersive broadcast experience' through its social media and online platforms.

Channel 5 decision to take over the broadcasting duties from ITV will keep the racing series on free to view broadcast television in the UK, help Channel 5 to draw in Formula E’s 18-34 year-old age category.

It will also allow it to capitalise on Formula E’s ties to the hugely popular esports sector. Formula E has been quick to embrace the esports audience and earlier this year it announced a new virtual championship, called ‘Race Off Pro Series’, which will run alongside its real life electric-powered races. The gaming championship is intended to serve as a preview to the on-track action ahead of the Formula E races in Long Beach, Paris, Berlin and London.

The news of the new broadcast deal will be welcomed by Discovery Communications who have an equity stake in the sport. Given that Formula E is still very much in a growth phase, Discovery’s focus remains rooted in developing a broader interest in it.

When Eurosport’s chief executive Peter Hutton spoke to The Drum earlier this summer about Formula E he said:“There's no use putting sport behind a paywall and hoping people will get there, you've got to curate it a bit.”

“When you have an equity involvement you can take a real long term view on an event and plan on how you'll grow the popularity of it and that's one of the things that's an interesting experiment with Formula E.

Prior to Channel 5 stepping in the broadcasting of the sport had been carried by ITV’s secondary channel ITV4 for its first two seasons. The races received strong figures when the London rounds were aired live on ITV, however the overall viewing figures were less promising. Average viewing figures dropped from 216,000 per race in 2014/15 to 138,000 in 2015/16.

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