FOA want more F1 on pay-TV

Moving F1 to pay-TV reduces the number of fans who can see it

Moving F1 to pay-TV reduces the number of fans who can see it

Formula One Administration plans to move more F1 coverage from free-to-air television to pay TV channels.

The details of FOA’s plans for international coverage of F1 are explained in a submission made to the British government in its review of which sports should be aired on free television.

The F1 rights-holder lays out several explanations for why it is moving more F1 broadcasts to pay-TV (see below for the full document):

With greater pay-TV penetration and digitisation, pay-TV operators are increasingly providing broader coverage available to a greater number of viewers [...] the uptake of pay-TV services by UK consumers has been steadily increasing year after year, with 49.5% of UK households subscribed to a pay-TV service.

In other words, moving British F1 broadcasts to pay-TV could mean cutting F1′s audience in Britain from over four million to just two.

And the 49.5% are not all subscribed to the same service: so if F1 was offered on Sky it might not be available on Virgin Media. The same applies in other countries, though pay-TV is generally more popular outside Britain.

In Britain at least, the pay-TV market is not as mature as FOA suggests it is. And it should know this from experience. It moved coverage of GP2 from one subscription service (Eurosport, on Sky) to another – Setanta – at the beginning of this year. Then Setanta went bust halfway through the season.

FOA also said:

Services such as pay-per-view have also become more widely available, which means that consumers do not need to subscribe to an entire package of pay-TV channels should they wish to view individual sporting events.

In Britain it is quite unusual to be able to pay for just the event you want to watch – ordinarily it’s a case of subscribing to a channels package to see the event you want.

It is an equally bad solution for broadcasters as it is fans. The popularity of boxing, for example, suffered after moving from free-to-air TV to pay-per-view.

FOA adds:

Finally, even those consumers not subscribed to access pay-TV services can still view major sporting events in local pubs.

Whoever wrote that never tried going into a pub and asking for a football game to be switched over to an F1 race…

FOA’s aim for F1 coverage

The most illuminating part of the document is the explanation of FOA’s goal for how F1 is broadcast:

Formula One?s overall aim is to ensure broad coverage of each of the individual races comprising the championship.

That’s it? Where’s the commitment to quality coverage? Where’s the commitment to uninterrupted coverage?

In short, FOA wants to get as many people to buy the rights as possible and it isn’t concerned about the quality of the end product.

There will probably come a point at which pay-TV saturation or the increased use of internet broadcasting makes a move away from free-to-air TV realistic. For the time being FOA seems to understand that is not the case in Britain yet and won’t be for some time. In a separate submission Sky’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch told the panel:

Bernie Eccleston [sic] has stated that so long as he is in charge he wants free-to-air coverage.

But viewers in other countries where F1 broadcasts have already been moved to pay-TV services are not so fortunate. Here’s two comments from F1 Fanatic readers in Portugal:

Here in Portugal it was on RTP1 (kind of a Portuguese BBC) for free, but since 2007 it is on SportTV, which you have too pay for. It isn?t cheep! I watch F1 on Justin TV ever since.
David Pedro

Here F1 used to be in the state TV (RTP) but since a years back its on a paid sports channel (As much as ??50 per month). And that has hurt the sport?s image here, even though we have drivers with a chance of entering F1 (like Alvaro Parente).

We still don?t hear that much about F1 on public TV. In the mid ’90s there was even programmes on it. The day after Senna?s accident the Portuguese parliament held a minute’s silence.

I followed F1 this year through FilmOn HDI which broadcasts BBC.
Rui

I have nothing against the idea of paying for an F1 broadcast – as long as it’s good enough to be worth paying for. FOA should add these criteria to their aims for F1 coverage:

  • It must be a quality production (e.g. HD coverage, which is years overdue)
  • It must be live
  • It must be uninterrupted

What do you think of the state of F1 coverage in your country? Do you have to pay to watch F1?

Read more: Why the government must protect live F1 broadcasts on free-to-air television

FOA response to free-to-air list review

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96 comments on FOA want more F1 on pay-TV

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  1. Woffin said on 3rd December 2009, 15:06

    Bad idea. Not content with pricing the fans out of the venue itself, the powers that be are trying to price us out of watching it on our own TVs as well.

    • Matthew H said on 3rd December 2009, 23:53

      where is the spirit of public sport gone? isn’t supposed to be for the people. The great public spectacle that we can all talk about, and remember the big events later on in our lives.

      People trying to eek out more and more money when f1 makes “enough” money already, saddens me.

      Having said that, it’s the way of the world: Marketing over Meaning?

      • Rob R. said on 4th December 2009, 5:54

        You’re so right. The lack of public spiritedness, and common sense, it just kills me. If you’re trying to make more money, why would you cut yourself off and make yourself even more of a niche? It’s really incredibly stupid to assume that every single one of your viewers is going to follow you over to your new platform…

        Keith’s point about going into a pub sums it up really.

        If this is a hint of the future after Bernie goes, it’s not good.

  2. Steve k said on 3rd December 2009, 15:14

    Pay per view or cable/sattilite??? If it’s pay per view I’d be ******. If it’s cable I’d laugh that it’s even considered a big deal. Come to the states. Nothing good is on “free” tv anymore.

  3. French frog said on 3rd December 2009, 15:15

    Nobody serious will pay for boring races like all the “new” tracks

  4. This is so bad! If it moves to PPV I don’t think I’ll watch! :0(

    Bring on Moto GP

    • Bring on Moto GP…

      You could say that about any number of things relating to both series, including the TV deals perhaps.

  5. Aren’t we technically already paying for it on the BBC?

    • megaman said on 3rd December 2009, 22:00

      well said k, i (have to) pay a tv license which is well over a hundred quid, and i pay for my sky pack which is around £40 a month, the only thing i watch on normal television is f1 and maybe eastenders for the missus, so going pay per view is actually a 3rd payment, if it will be per race, isnt the pricing in the region of £15.00 per event (wrestling, boxing etc.) so over the course of a year that would cost me nearly £1000!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • £15×19 does not equal £1000.

        Anyway if it went say paid TV on Sky it will most likely be included with the sports package, its not really an “event” like one off boxing matches are. Its a season of races.

        For those of us without Sky if it went to sky it would be £40 a month to get it … which is outrages but hopefully that is soon to change as Sky may be forced to sell Sports separately rather than requiring consumers to have the basic sky package, so many customers have no desire for any of the other channels you have to pay £30 for and then £10 extra for the sports.

  6. F1 on cable is how we have to watch it in the US, $50 a month for the pleasure of getting up before the sun to watch F1.

    • Right on Mike, I pay for it to watch speed. and thank God for DVR so I dont have to get up at 4am to watch qual and the race.

      • Joshy said on 4th December 2009, 15:43

        I could only get that paying around 130 dollars and having to wake up at around 7AM just to watch the race. It’s sad really, I can’t even regular cable anymore, so I am stuck watching it on this website through the internet when the video quality is not that great. But at least I get to watch the races.

  7. TimmyA said on 3rd December 2009, 15:27

    hence why I download the races to watch them. I am not paying an extra 30 dollars just to get the right channel.

  8. Paul Graham said on 3rd December 2009, 15:30

    Sounds like FOA have very short term thinking. They are looking for the quick buck now, rather than looking at the long term. If you alienate enough people you may not have much of an audience left. I love F1, but if it went to Sky or whoever, I would not be willing to subscribe. Keep it on the BBC, and give them an HD feed.
    Bernie is a perfect example of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  9. Roberto said on 3rd December 2009, 15:31

    I live in brazil and i can say we’re fortunate enought to have f1 broadcasted for free since early 70′s.

    Globo TV has been the monopoly of the broadcast since then, it’s been quit good coverage, despite from time to time we’re forced to watch a delayed qualifying session, or even a race (indy 2006, there were a footbal game in the same time).

    Nowdays with internet we’re able to download races broadcasted in another countries, and i think BBC done a excellent job this year (compared to brazilian’s coverage), but as Keith stated, not worth a subscription for all this money…

  10. I don’t mind paying for a product… I even paid for a season of F1 Digital on Sky back in the day.. but as far as I can see the only reason to move to Pay TV is to bring in more money for CVC.

    OK, if this was part of a long term plan to bring in more money from the TV companies, to offer circuit’s better deals and therefore cheaper deals then that would be great but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    Oh and fair point about getting pubs to change the channel from football to F1. I once tried to get the channel to the inagural A1GP race…. all I got was a totally blank stare from the other side of the bar.

  11. stjoslin said on 3rd December 2009, 15:31

    This is a bad idea – a potential Lose-Lose for everyone.

    If less people see the races, less sponsors will endorse the sport, meaning less money for the FOM and the teams.

    Part of me could understand paying for Football as they do a good job of providing excellent extra coverage, but seeing as F1 is yet to even address High Definition, FOM better provide a much better package for the TV viewer than it does at the moment.

    • Pengo said on 3rd December 2009, 21:17

      Exactly my thinking regarding sponsors. Imagine spending x amount of money to be a sponsor of an F1 team, having your brand shown on the car, and then told the number of people that you paid to have your brand exposed to just got cut in half.

      Do they have Pay-Per-View in the UK? At first I thought that this was what was being proposed.

  12. HounslowBusGarage said on 3rd December 2009, 15:34

    Keith,
    I think this is a fundamentally bad idea, but I take issue with this part of your article.

    “With greater pay-TV penetration and digitisation, pay-TV operators are increasingly providing broader coverage available to a greater number of viewers [...] the uptake of pay-TV services by UK consumers has been steadily increasing year after year, with 49.5% of UK households subscribed to a pay-TV service.”

    In other words, moving British F1 broadcasts to pay-TV could mean cutting F1’s audience in Britain from over four million to just two.

    This would only be true if the same percentage of FTV viewers were F1 audience as Pay-TV. And I think you have to accept that people who do not have Sky/Virgin/Setanta type Pay-TV access are probably less interested in sports coverage in general and F1 in particular than those peole who do have Pay-TV access.
    I suspect that if F1 was to switch from BBC to Sky tomorrow, viewing figure would only drop by 15% or so. Hovwever, I agree that viewer satisfaction would drop by 50% because of the blasted ads in the coverage.
    I’ve never bought coverage of a specific event from Sky (such as a boxing match), do they screen ads in the middle of those too?

    • Invoke said on 3rd December 2009, 15:39

      I have watched ppv boxing matches in pubs before and ad’s were present unfortunately

    • I think 15% is mega off the mark.

      I’d say 90% of my friends who watch races don’t pay to view any other sports on TV.
      They are either
      a) Primarily football fans who actually go to games or watch games live on terrestrial tv, Match of the Day or highlights.
      or
      b) People who don’t really watch other sports regularly. I think it is the uniqueness of F1 plus the race frequency compared to other sports that makes F1 watchable for them. Many of them are still semi-casual about F1 and some (especially the women) have only really got more interested in the last few years.

      Of the sports junkies I know who regularly pay or subscribe to watch stuff on TV, they are interested in Football, Cricket and Boxing. F1 comes quite down the pecking order for them and they are not devotees who watch every race.

      Most of the petrol heads I know are Moto GP nuts above anything else. They watch F1 but it is not their first love.

      None of the above would pay per view or pay for a subscription if they don’t already for another sport and even I wouldn’t and it is the only sport I seriously follow.

      Nationwide I would guess the audience would drop 40 – 60% in Britain. F1 just doesn’t have the mass passionate following here compared to football and F1 in other countries like Brazil. F1 nuts above everything else are just not as common here.

  13. Spiffy said on 3rd December 2009, 15:34

    Just wondering, why did F1 Digital fail? Was it just because it was still airing free on ITV, or was the coverage not up to scratch (or rather, not worth paying extra for)?

    I realize it was, technologically speaking, a long time ago and not the most relevant comparison, but with the relative ease you can watch F1 for free online now, they might well be in danger of repeating old mistakes.

    In Britain it is quite unusual to be able to pay for just the event you want to watch – ordinarily it’s a case of subscribing to a channels package to see the event you want.

    Yep – I’d love to follow Indycar and NASCAR on TV, but seeing as they’re the only four wheel motorsports Sky Sports cover, I’d be paying for channels I wouldn’t even watch during the winter months.

  14. Sushmon said on 3rd December 2009, 15:35

    It seems Bernie is fast becoming the most hate man in F1. This guy has no love for the sport but the money he can make from it. In India Star Sports is the rights holder and let me tell you the advertisements are sickening. Every 7-10 minutes there will be advertisements for about 3-5 mins.

    He’s gone mad I tell you. This guy does not want to keep the British GP and that too in Silverstone which I love, by the way. Bring back Magny course and A1 Ring and please remove Bahrain and Valencia. I’m not sure even if the Indian GP will be any good. If they have high speed corners and overtaking opportunites then okay, or else a strict no no.

  15. Invoke said on 3rd December 2009, 15:37

    From a British perspective, the BBC still has 4 years (I think) on it’s contract, so we will have at least that much more free coverage before they can switch right?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd December 2009, 22:13

      ITV still had a year on its deal before the coverage moved to the BBC. Which I’m not complaining about – we’re better off with the BBC in every way – my point is every contract has its price.

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