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. we have to pay for it n NZ, it’ on sky sports, but its the BBC’s coverage. Im used to it and don’t even think about it. But it would be a bitter pill to swallow if you are used to it being free.

    2. I’m South African. Years ago a friend suggested to me that I should watch a F1 race, because I would probably enjoy it. The next day, having nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, I did, and was hooked.

      If it had been on DSTV or even MNET, I simply would not have watched.

      Putting F1 on pay-per-view only will not only result in losing many casual (and even a few hardcore) fans, it’ll also result in greatly diminishing the numbers of new fans.

      Here, it’s only on DSTV. I thought of getting DSTV but then realised that paying huge monthly fees so that I can watch a race every fortnight for 6 months of the year was simply not worth it.

      As for watching it in pubs, I’ve tried that. It’s impossible if there’s rugby/cricket on. Even when you do manage to get them to put it on, often they’ll have the sound down.

      I watch by downloading the races (which takes a day or so) and then watch it (avoiding all news in the meantime). If I lost that option, then I simply would stop watching, much as I love F1.

    3. So far in Spain it’s free, but if / when we are charged for it I will take my leave and either watch it online or be done with my unhealthy obsession.

    4. The end of free coverage would destroy F1 in the UK.

      If F1 wasn’t on a free channel, a vast majority of viewers would simply forget about F1 and watch a different sport.

      People talk about F1 as “the pinnacle of motorsport”. But what is the most obvious symptom of that? It’s live on the BBC! On Sky, it would be no more of a “pinnacle” than touring cars or rallying or GP2.

      If F1 switched to pay a channel, it wouldn’t get half its current audience. It would get less than a third. Look what happened to the cricket. Channel 4 averaged 3m viewers for the Ashes in 2005, while Sky averaged 800,000 for the Ashes this year.

      When sports go to pay channels, their fanbase shrinks to a core of die-hards. Sports never acquire any new fans this way.

    5. im an f1 fan and i cant afford sky, and it really annoys me that these fat cats or money creatures couldnt care about the satisfaction of their f1 fans. i am actually really worried now that they will move it that i wont be able to watch it. sorry FOA if i cant afford pay tv!!!!

    6. FOA wants mo’ money from PPV? Well, then the best solution would be to copy the German model, which sees the rights for F1 coverage with both a free and a PPV channel. Of course, this would, at first, lead to the question of why would anyone pay for F1, if he could get it for free? But seeing as PPV has a few advantages, it would work. In favor of PPV would speak a theoretical lack of in-race-advertising and the option to hire better announcers. And for FOA, that would even be better, as they could take money from both companies which may even be more than you could get from the Pay-TV company if it would get exclusive rights.

    7. I totally agree that moving F1 to Pay TV would be a big big mistake. I do not have, and would not even consider paying for cable or satellite TV while I already pay a a TV licence. I think the TV licence should be scrapped and then more people might consider subscribing to pay TV. Also there are numerous “Freeview” channels which most people can receive and so why would you want to subsctibe to Sky or one of the others when all you get is all the “freeview” channels and then loads of other channels which show either rubbish or repeats ad nausium. IO say kept F1 on the “Free” (and I use Free advisedly here) TV.

    8. It never ceases to amaze me just how many different strategies Bernie can come up with for alienating F1’s fanbase.

    9. You got to love Bernie,he can con Gov. around the world

    10. Fine, I just wont bother watching…. Clearly the powers that be dont give a toss about us, the fans, so why should i bother.

    11. Cricket! Remember that?

    12. A1 did well didn’t it….not!

    13. Remember the Champions F1/Football nonsense…… apparently its happening except no one watches!

    14. Oh yes and does anyone remember that thing called Rallying – do you remember the whole Sunday watching the RAC rally – all I saw of it this year was a sign saying “City Centre Road Closures due to Rally” as I drove into Cardiff to work.

    15. great
      paying for adverts!

    16. First of all, thanks for showing my comment, love your blog!

      Secondly, you are right about one thing: paid TV provides better servicen than the free one. I’m speeking about Portugal, of course!

      In the last few years of F1 coverage by RTP, only on two occasions they showed the Press Conference after the Race (Tiago Monteiro’s podium in USA 2005 and Schumacher’s retirement on the Italian GP 2006).

      And they never showed the Practice Sessions!

    17. Really, arguments like this…. the only thing that will solve them is the passage of time and the implementation of new technology. We’ll probably all be watching this and everything else on a giant (tidal?) Google Wave in a few year’s time :-)


    18. john stewart
      10th May 2011, 15:38

      I really hope they try PAY AND GO for a race to see what back feed they have 000 I would NEVER EVER pay to watch F1 as there is more team rules under passing and all the rest I think free viewing is the best option for this sport same as the rest of the sports as they are all bent in some way to much to loose be it a driver or what ever there will always be a way round the rules

    Jump to comment page: 1 2 3 4

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