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. Sportsmanship of F1 is already weakened enough by commercialization. If they gonna milk it for more many I won’t enjoy watching it anymore.

  2. I’m from Portugal too and when in 2007 I tried to watch F1 on RTP I realised that it had passed to SportTV. Now I only can see it on It’s frustating

  3. I will not pay to get Sky just to watch F1. What other options are there really in the UK?

  4. Pay for what? If I want to watch processions like last year I can go stand on bridge over the Hollywood Freeway for free.
    (Speed’s just part of a package here.)

  5. I won’t watch. Just a money grab by greedy people.

  6. I will say let’s say NO!!! to those greedy XXX and watch F1 on internet streaming.

  7. SoLiD said on 3rd December 2009, 19:18

    They used to have a bigger PPV F1 package, when you could select your views.
    Now SKY has the cockpit channel and the main feed+ some extra’s (sky germany that is, don’t know about UK).

    The premium feeds of the old days weren’t succesfull because digital tv wasn’t around in most places.
    Now that many places do have it, it might be a good id to bring back the interactive views.

    Then they can do a Free to air broadcast and a Premium PPV broadcast. Where you can select wich driver to follow, or what camera angle to watch.
    Then the f1 addicts can get something extra and they will pay for it!

  8. I wonder how many of the 49.2% simply have a slot in their Freeview box (which would enable them to have pay content through that service)? Given that last I checked, the definition of a viewer was “watching F1 for 15 continuous minutes” (leading to a potential of being classed as six or seven viewers per race, let alone the other sessions), I can’t rule the possibility out. In which case someone should tell the FOA that a lot of people with such a slot don’t use it because it costs money.

    Personally, if F1 moved to pay-TV, I’d be stuck with following it on the internet only; my house doesn’t even get all five analogue channels at the moment!

  9. I already pay £11.63 per month to view F1 on the Pay To Watch BBC via my TV Licence !

    I hope Bernie doesn’t make the same mistake as Cricket have done where viewers of live test matches have plummeted on SKY

  10. rampante said on 3rd December 2009, 19:46

    It has been a few years since I watched in the UK but as David said here in Italy it is all on RAI and all free. They also have a weekly prog about F1 and all news. It is a sport for the masses and should be available to all.

  11. Edisonlsm said on 3rd December 2009, 19:58

    It won’t be so bad if works like actually in Brasil.

    We have only the qualifying and the race on free TV…

  12. Marrc said on 3rd December 2009, 19:59

    not paying to watch F1. Especially when a race will get red flagged (like malaysia 2009 or china )and it got stopped.

    If it does become pay tv i wont stop watching F1. Its a great sport and im sure its worth the money to watch it but some people are living on pennys from the ground. Ill probly just watch highlights on websites/youtube etc.

  13. I’m not surprised to see Bernie is against PTV. The man runs a hard bargain, but he knows where his bacon ultimately comes from: the tracks’ and teams’ sponsors. No audience, no sponsors. The current economic climate does not favour quick-buck tactics… FOA should be consolidating its audience rather than alienating it.

  14. Grabyrdy said on 3rd December 2009, 20:37

    Pedro, you’ve got it. It sounds to me as if they’re floating an idea for when Bernie goes. To his credit, he has always realised that if it’s not on free-to-air the sponsors will leave in droves. At a time when there aren’t many about, it would be lunacy.

  15. yelrom said on 3rd December 2009, 20:47

    omg, y the hell wld they go to pay-tv. Its gonna bring in less fans to watch it and its just a really stupid idea. Please i hpe this dsnt happen..

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