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.

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

  1. Franton said on 3rd December 2009, 15:43

    It’s simple. I just don’t have the finances to pay for PPV TV ergo I won’t be watching it, but not out of any choice i’ll be making. I think Bernie and those vultures at CVC have forgotten that the world economy went to hell not too long ago, and that luxury items such as PPV TV are normally the first to go.

    Obviously not much business sense going on at FOM then. They didn’t learn squat from the failure of the F1 channel on Sky.

  2. Martin said on 3rd December 2009, 15:44

    We are watching the slow death of the sport.
    1st Honda, then BMW, next Toyota and now it looks as if Renault is looking hard for someone to buy them Sauber probably wont get in as a privateer team and now they want it on pay tv.
    Another sad say.

  3. David said on 3rd December 2009, 15:52

    In Italy we’ve always had Formula 1 for free. And the coverage is quite good.
    I know that Sky offers GPs on pay tv, also, and my friends tell me it is a very good coverage (they also show morning free practices), but I think our old RAI service is good enough.
    If they put on pay-tv I think I’d look for broadcasting on internet.
    Some years ago we had similar situation with tennis. 15 years ago all the Grand Slam moved to pay-tv…nowadays nobody watch it, too expensive. This should teach something…

  4. Andres Menacho said on 3rd December 2009, 15:55

    I live over in the Americas, therefore every race is extremely early or extremely late at night (in exception to Brazil, Canada, and Indi when it was part of the calendar). Clearly I would not be at the pub at 6-30 or 7-30 in the morning and neither would i be able to achieve these at 2 or 4 in the morning. More over since I move a lot (im a student) i tend to only buy a basic cable package. anything including speed tv, or fox sports latin america (which i would argue is our version of the bbc, they are that good at the coverage) is expensive to say the least. I have however been able to follow motoGP easier thanks to their online tv subscription service. I have also seen a couple of american lemans on Speed’s online service and i was amazed at how you could follow normal coverage, or choose to follow your favorite driver. the technology is there to enable fans access to their sport. i would argue this is the only reasonable way to charge fans, as it could clearly be a premium service. yet i find it reasonably priced as a yearly subscription is usually far less expensive than buying the monthly TV packages.
    oh, and yeah its been so difficult to track f1 in the US that i have resorted to web streaming as well.

  5. Brian said on 3rd December 2009, 16:01

    Here in Canada we have to pay for TSN and we don’t even get any pre race coverage or post race coverage. Plus when we pay for TSN we have to pay for an entite package of other channels that we don’t watch. It is ridiculous. And we don’t even have a Canadian driver right now, and we should have Robert Wickens to cheer for.

    • Hammad said on 3rd December 2009, 22:17

      Yeah… totally sucks. Rogers used to have Speed TV on their basic cable package but that’s gone too. I’m not ready to pay $75 just to watch a channel broadcast the race, and nothing else… Heh, thank god for streaming.

  6. no!!!, more PPV no!!!. In Chile races are live on cable (with interrumptions) from 2001 and it’s a shame.

  7. Jason said on 3rd December 2009, 16:21

    It is funny people saying, “I do not mind paying to see a programme, but….” Why are they writing on this page then if this is the case.
    I mind paying for F1, I have never missed a race since 1998 (except this year’s Japanese and Brazilian – anyone got?), but if it does go to PPV, that is me done. I pay my TV licence and I subscribe to SKY, and now they want me to pay to watch a programme on the TV I am already paying for twice? No way! Schumacher has retired (hope he comes back with Mercedes, though), it is now boring, so they can do whatever they like with it. The less things are free, the less people want it anyway.

  8. I can only hope that F1 remains free-to-air in the UK and preferably on the BBC. If anything would be likely to make me stop watching F1, it wouldn’t be splits, drivers leaving or boring races on new soulless circuits it would be F1 only being on pay-TV, I just couldn’t justify subscribing to Sky on my current budget, even for F1.

    With some of the comments on this website from around the world I realise how lucky us F1 fans in the UK have it, with F1 on free-to-air and the quality of the BBC coverage.

    I know Ecclestone has said in the past that he would keep F1 on free-to-air as the Chief Executive of Sky is quoted as saying in the article, but with FOM and CVC looking to squeeze every last penny possible out of F1 I wonder how long this will last.

    When they genuinely think that they will make more money overall from pay-TV regardless of the quality of the coverage or the audience figures I think that will be it, teams and sponsors may not like it but then they wanted F1 to stay in North America and especially the USA but that didn’t happen did it.

  9. Here in India F1 is already being forecasted on Star sports which is Pay TV.

  10. HounslowBusGarage said on 3rd December 2009, 16:25

    I think Invoke and Andres Menacho have made two important points.
    Firstly, there is another four years to run on the BBC coverage contract. Secondly, web coverage could be totally different in four year’s time. In 2005, BBC i-Player wasn’t available and broadband was still a bit of a novelty for many. By the time we get to 2013, broadband speeds will be universally enabled to provide good quality (if not Hi-Def) on lie access, and CVC will (if they are clever) be packaging an FIA licenced (that pays money to FIA and FOM/CVC) product that provides coverage via the phone line/satellite broadband.
    All that apart, I think the original intention of FOM’s submission is to raise the price of its coverage packages to terrestrial broadcasters. BBC renewal might still be four years away, but what about the contract renewal for German, French, Italian, Spanish TV coverage? I expect one of them will be renegotiated soon and this is Bernie raising the bar just a bit.

  11. In the US we watch F1 via cable, (pay for package),on Speed TV. Frankly, after watching the Indy 500 each year on free TV, I can’t imagine how bad it would be if it were on free TV. Having said that, a few F1 races actually are on free TV each year. (Fox channel) Fortionately they broadcast the Speed broadcast on Fox channel. The free networks in America in earlier years have done a really bad job of broadcasting F1. The announcing crew is totally not up on their F1 knowledge to do a credible broadcast. Really embarrasing. Speed on cable does a very good job. Excellent announcing crew. It is done with adverts throughout, but really not that bad. A chance to get more coffee ’cause the majority of the races are on pretty early. The cable broadcast has a good pre-race show, (1/2 hour), as well. As I saw in comments above, free TV in the US is pretty lame. Good football, baseball etc. and of course huge NASCAR caverage, but thats it. So…I guess, we in America are used to the pay for view thing.

  12. Adrian said on 3rd December 2009, 17:02

    If it was on Sky Sports I wouldn’t watch it any more. Simply because I have no interest in the other sports on there so would be paying out too much for something I wouldn’t use that often.

    If however, we get to 2013 and they offer an online service so that I only have to pay for F1 coverage, then I would consider it.

    Also, here’s a thought, if it did go PPV and it was a race by race payment, it would be interesting to see what happened with viewing figures for the races that are panned as being boring…would it trigger a move back to more exciting circuits if people simply stopped watching the boring ones???

  13. Most people I know have either Virgin Media or Sky anyway, even as students we have Virgin Media. I don’t think it’s a massive problem, more of an annoyance. If it was only on Sky I’d just change provider.

    It’d be very very annoying though as I’d have to pay for the sports package as well, and I only really watch motorsport, I hate football and gold and stuff. But I’d pay it, guess it just means one less night out a month.

    • steph said on 3rd December 2009, 17:22

      It’d be very very annoying though as I’d have to pay for the sports package as well, and I only really watch motorsport

      I know what you mean I think a lot of people have that problem but the sports are just all lumped together in one big package. I would much rather pay less and only get motorsport channels.

  14. FOA should redirect there energy to helping improve the website but without any hidden or other costs to fans. With reports of up to 500m viewers of F1, and it being the official site, I’m sure a sponsor could be found to pay for the very necessary and well overdue enhancements…

  15. WyF1Fan said on 3rd December 2009, 17:34

    F1 is covered by Speed Channel, which costs extra to get be it cable or satellite, here in the United States. The do a great job with the coverage and give great commentary. It will be a shame to see Peter Windsor go, but hey a US F1 team in exchange, I can live with that.

    In years past a few races were shown on “free” stations, all tape delayed, and very poor quality. Over that last two years or so Fox, parent company of Speed, has held the coverage. Its been better then the likes of CBS, but it’s still tape delayed.
    By it being on Speed, though, I have a hard time getting to watch all the races live. I have to have friends tape it many times and watch it later, or go over to a fellow fans and watch it, which is fine. But in a way I guess the quality is well worth it.

    As for watching it at a pub. Well thats right out. One, the races are to late here, and there is no way of getting the station change for any race that isn’t Nascar.

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