FOA want more F1 on pay-TV

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

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”

    Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 4
    1. It won’t be so bad if works like actually in Brasil.

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

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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..

    6. Most people here have short memorys. SKY had F1 a few years back and charged people to watch it. They asked you buy a season ticket, which actually got more expensive as the season went on.

      It was a crap service and BERINE pulled it from sky. If F1 goes back to SKY or pay tv, they can count me out. It is idiots who say that they’ll pay who ultimately make it go PAY TV. If everyone hung on to their money it would stay as it is. People have the power, but are brainless. If all of the UK stopped subscribing to SKY, the sub price would go down instead of up EVERY year.

    7. Perfect time to bring this up again:

      a petition to number ten to make F1 a protected sport within the UK.

    8. Pathetic money-spinner. Glad to see Bernie for once on the side of the fans.

    9. A surefire way of killing the sport, methinks.

      Obsessives like me might be prepared to watch it on pay-tv (though as I don’t have Sky or Vermin TV I’d really rather subscribe to watch on the net, assuming the technology is sorted out for this in the next few years) but the sport would lose its casual fan base (there are an awful lot of people who are F1 fans but not in the way that football or cricket fans are – they enjoy watching the racing, but wouldn’t really miss it if it went) and still worse, through that, it could lose the next generation of hardcore fans, because how will the kids ever see the races if their parents aren’t interested? Football might be able to get away with this because it is so deep-rooted in UK culture, but I think F1 would die a death. Unless, of course, all TV coverage starts moving towards PPV. As a big fan of the BBC/licence fee system myself (far better value than Sky) I hope that’s not the way we’re going

      1. totally agree most of the people i talk to about f1 only watch it cos its on.There is no way they would watch on ptv.I have watched f1 since early 80’s and to be honest the new tracks are boring and would not make me pay extra.

    10. In the USA, I have to pay about 60 dollars a month to get a package that includes F1 coverage on Speed. So this would be nothing new for me. That being said, Speed TV’s F1 coverage is surprisingly good. 4 races per year are broadcast on Fox (which is free-to-air), with the Speed TV commentators, but they arent live, and they shorten the broadcast to 2 hours for each race(with commercials), so you miss a lot.

      1. From California here, and I hate to say it but I loathe Speed TVs coverage compared to BBC. PreRace coverage is really much better. I did like Peter Windsors coverage, however, but the race cometary was too much. Anytime there was a bump between cars or a DNQ, they “Oooohhh!” and “Whoaaaa!” every time like three old guys on a roller-coaster. I wish they would do the race coverage commentary on site at least.

    11. F1 is a bit like google!

      They bring quit some nice things for free for everbody!
      But sneaky as they are they of course get the money from showing us ads! and those bring in the big bucks.

      Like some mentioned, Bernie knows this and protects this.
      Free for all TV broadcast is what the sponsors want!

    12. get ready for an explosion in illegal downloads of f1 races FOA. Big big big mistake. i just hope it stays on free to air in australia. i bought my tv recorder pretty well just for f1.

      1. …And you’re already supporting F1 if that tv recorder is a Panasonic, Phillips, Kenwood, or anything with Intel or HP chips =)

    13. I think bernie is only doing this because he is greedy and can make more money out of it, I think it would be a sad day when it moves to the likes of Sky Sports/Sky Box Office…

      I know when that happens I will be watching the streams off the internet, due to the price we will have to pay and that fact that I am a student means no money and moving around every 10 months or so…

    14. If they want to expand the money earned from F1 viewing I think they should make the PPV more of a viewer’s choice and leave the standard programing the way it is.

      I would definitely pay to watch some races not only in HD, but why not have the ability to switch camera views. Personally I’d rather view an entire race on TV through the on board cameras. Why not make that an option where the viewer can choose the driver/camera angle to watch.

      I’d pay extra for that opportunity, but also understand it’s not realistic to expect every viewer to pay up. So leaving the free to view coverage is a must.

      1. Here in Portugal we already have that choice on some football matches, though in truth a) most people never bother to change cameras and b) the reggie work is already very good. Still, in F1, it’d be a huge plus. I’m planning on subscribing a PTV package for this season, so I’d definitely go for something that gave me HD and the ability to alternate between the WAGs and the onboard cameras.

    15. Jonesracing82
      4th December 2009, 1:07

      going to Pay-TV will be a massive error, whats wrong with going to pay as well as keeping free to air!
      tho free to air is thw major thing they should look at improving!

    16. We have Virgin Media, so I’m already paying twice (Licence fee) and if Formula One was to be on PPV only, I wouldn’t watch it.

      And if everybody in Britain did the same it would soon be back on FTV (Free to View)

    17. Another Bernie joke.

    18. Pathetic money-spinner. Glad to see Bernie for once on the side of the fans.

      Bernie is NEVER on the side of the fans, unless we can make him money, that’s all he is, that’s why he’s the commercial rights holder, he’s simply a businessman. He doesn’t care about the fan being able to watch for free, he just sees it in ££’s and $$’s.

      PPV, would be rather silly, the whole show needs to get SO muvch better before I would even consider it, never without HD, too. Bernie needs to wake up and realise F1 is in a hole.

      The BBC is ‘forced to pay to view’, so we already pay per view.

    19. Horray! More good news from FOM.

      Well, capitalism is alive and well it seems. Nice one Bernie. You are an amazing person there can be no doubt. Can I have your autograph please?

      Bernie and CVC… you are my heroes!

    20. What’s the problem? FOA has a need for a government bailout we don’t know about? FOA not getting enough money from the promotors?
      Here in Canada we get it over the air on TSN un-edited at the time it occurs or sometimes a later heavily edited version in which 9 times out of 10 some critical event in the race is lost. We used to have a local pre race show including Gerry Donaldson a well know writer on F1 who was at the tracks but that got cut and we do not get the BBC feed.
      If there is a major golf or tennis event we may get the race at midnight but it gets bumped.
      Speed TV has it in the states but we get blocked out from their telecast except occassionally and it is rife with extra commercials and is on a delay basis.
      So how much more are we supposed to absorb here FOA and BE? You put F1 on pay per view and you can count on losing a huge fan base here that even an F1 in Montreal will not recover.
      It’s all about money. Always has been once FOA got the rights. For my money I would like to see Ferarri, Mercedes and Renault out of F1. The privateers can form their own series and leave BE et al with an empty shell of F1.
      I am fed up with this crap!
      So it is bad enough the TSN trea

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