??It?s crucial F1 coverage remains free-to-air?? ?ǣ Whitmarsh

2011 F1 season

McLaren Whitmarsh, McLaren, 2011

McLaren Whitmarsh, McLaren, 2011

McLaren team principal and Formula 1 Teams’ Association president Martin Whitmarsh has said F1 coverage must remain on free-to-air television channels.

Yesterday The Sunday Times claimed the BBC will drop its F1 coverage after 2013.

Whitmarsh said: “Formula 1 insiders have been surprised by the recent newspaper reports, since they contain significant statistical inaccuracies.

“The reality is that the Formula 1 viewing figures in the UK are high and getting higher.

“In terms of average viewership, peak viewership and average share of viewership – the three key indices for TV executives – more people are watching Formula 1 this year than last year or indeed than in recent previous years.

“For example, the average share of viewership for the BBC’s coverage of the recent Chinese Grand Prix, which Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won, was more than 50%.

“In other words, as many people were watching Formula 1 in the UK that Sunday morning as were watching every other channel combined – including all terrestrial channels and all satellite channels – a staggeringly impressive statistic. And the TV viewing figures for other recent Grands Prix have been massively impressive too.

“It’s crucial to the commercial model of Formula 1 that TV coverage should remain free-to-air, and therefore universally accessible, and therefore widely consumed and enjoyed by large numbers of viewers – and the BBC delivers that in the UK”.

Whitmarsh praised the BBC’s coverage of F1, saying:

“Moreover, besides the quantity of viewership, the quality of the BBC’s coverage is consistently high too – which is just as important. Also important is the demographic data – which shows that F1 is now attracting an increasing number of younger and female viewers, which is also very positive.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport – always has been, always will be. As such, it’s appropriate that the BBC should continue to cover it.

“I think it would be very sad, and most unwise, if the BBC were to disappoint so many millions of British sports fans by axing it, and that’s why I don’t believe for a moment that they’d seriously consider doing such a thing.”

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115 comments on ??It?s crucial F1 coverage remains free-to-air?? ?ǣ Whitmarsh

  1. Hairs (@hairs) said on 20th June 2011, 7:56

    He’s only saying that because the BBC have secretly hired him and Christian Horner as pundits.

  2. David A said on 20th June 2011, 8:28

    I agree with his viewpoint that F1 should stay free-to air in the UK, and think that it would be nice for more countries to have free F1 access. F1 needs exposure. Whitmarsh still finds time to drop a clanger though:

    For example, the average share of viewership for the BBC’s coverage of the recent Chinese Grand Prix, was more than 50%.

    “In other words, as many people were watching Formula 1 in the UK that Sunday morning as were watching every other channel combined – including all terrestrial channels and all satellite channels – a staggeringly impressive statistic.

    Is that not because not many other people were up at 6am on a Sunday morning?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 20th June 2011, 8:35

      Is that not because not many other people were up at 6am on a Sunday morning?

      Well the race started at eight so it would have been still running approaching 10am.

      • bosyber said on 20th June 2011, 9:02

        So does that mean the other half is kids watching their weekend morning cartoons/shows, plus some parents who feel they should be responsible and not let them watch alone?

      • Fixy (@fixy) said on 20th June 2011, 11:37

        That means an even greater share could have been reached with races starting at 1pm.

    • Gold Leaf said on 20th June 2011, 9:03

      Over the race broadcast average was 3.27million and a 44% share. The 15min peak was at 9:30am with 4.9m and a 46% share.

      Neither of these numbers really can be said to be “more than 50%”, so I guess all sides are playing fast and loose with “inaccuracies” these days.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2011, 10:06

        Compare some numbers for here (Czech Republic) 2010 – the GP in Monza was the 5th most viewed sport event (0.97 Million of a 10 Million population)
        Only behind the finals of the Hockey world championship (2.9 m – CZ vs. Russia), Ice skating 5km (1.6 m – Ms. Sablikova), Football WC final (1.4 m) and cross country skiing 50 km (1.25m – having a Czech medal contestant).

        So getting in 5% of the population to get up at 8 on Sunday to watch F1, peaking at almost 8% seems a hell of a feat to me!

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2011, 9:29

      Wouldn’t it be even more impressive, if the BBC can get that many people to get up early just because of the race?

    • spankythewondermonkey (@spankythewondermonkey) said on 20th June 2011, 13:05

      Whitmarsh still finds time to drop a clanger though

      that’s not dropping a clanger, that’s cherry picking* (presumably) verified results data. ;-)

      * i’ve spent too much time reading ben goldacre’s bad science.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 20th June 2011, 8:40

    It’s simple:

    Without the teams, there can be no Concorde Agreement.

    Without the Concorde Agreement, there can be no Formula 1.

    Without Formula 1, the commercial rights are worthless.

    The teams have the power here. Even if Rupert Murdoch somehow manages to purchase the rights from Bernie, he will not be able to move the sport to Pay TV (assuming that’s the plan) without the agreement of the teams. And since several teams have made it quite clear that the sport must remain on free-to-air television, Murdoch (or anyone else, for that matter) would be unable to move the sport to Pay TV.

  4. Tango said on 20th June 2011, 8:42

    In France, keeping in mind the fact that there is no French F1 driver, hardly any French team connection and no French GP (and no, Monaco is not really France), viewing figures are free falling. TF1, the main channel does an awful job and there are adverts cuts every 20 min or so. When I lived in the north of France, I used to watch F1 on th eBelgian channels.

    This year for the first time, the qualifying sessions joined the practice sessions on the pay per view TF1 owned channel : Eurosport. And TF1 said it is more profitable and that the alternative program on TF1 on Saturday grossed better than the qualifyers.
    For the Canadian GP, TF1 cut the program for the 8 o’clock news and chose to air a big grossing French movie instead of resuming airing of the Canadian GP, which was transferred to Eurosport. The uproar was minor (and I only heard of it because I was part of it) and, worst of all, the movie got the biggest viewing figures of the month. If I were a TF1 producer, I would think twice before signing a new TV contract. And if the tv rights don’t go down, and public tv (FR2 and FR3) can’t afford it, I really don’t see how F1 can reasonnably stay on free to air in France, which is sad.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 20th June 2011, 8:52

      TF1, the main channel does an awful job and there are adverts cuts every 20 min or so.

      We get the same in Australia – even on the dedicated sports channel. Although it was nice to see they cut the commercial breaks out entirely after the restart in Canada.

      • fordsrule (@fordsrule) said on 20th June 2011, 9:35

        Thats if you had the sports channel, I waited all the time for the restart only for them to cut to the morning news just as they restarted, after that I called it quits and turned the TV off and watched the bbc footage elsewhere after the race had finished, and after that looking at that coverage, ours in Australia is just sad.

        • Theoddkiwi said on 20th June 2011, 14:14

          Welcome to 1986, perhaps its time to get a set top box or digital TV and or upgrade your aerial. They are already starting to turn off analogue in rural Australia.

          I can watch OneHD in rural Victoria no worries

          • fordsrule (@fordsrule) said on 21st June 2011, 0:36

            Yes thats in Victoria, in South Australia you have to be in the city to have OneHD, they dont broadcast it out to the rural areas, and we have even tried to pick up the Victorian channel but on most days it drops out and is not watchable. And the OneHD commentary is just horrible, I would rather silence then them being there, I find them uninformative and useless.

        • MattW said on 20th June 2011, 14:38

          When you compare the BBC coverage to the clowns on OneHD, it does put OneHD in a pretty bad light eh… they take the good BBC coverage and smear some crap on it.

          If F1 went to pay TV here I’d have to resort to getting my hands on the BBC coverage or stop watching. Body corporate for my building won’t allow satellite dishes on the roof and I’m not moving from a sweet spot near the beach just for that

      • SundarF1 (@sundarf1) said on 20th June 2011, 10:55

        No kidding? 20 minutes of broadcast between commercial breaks? Wow, that sounds great, we get around 10 minutes max here in India. And 5 minutes of irritating commercials. Trust me, the quality of coverage here is so pathetic that if my country had better internet speeds I’d chuck the TV out and watch live streaming on the PC.

        • Burnout (@burnout) said on 20th June 2011, 11:42

          Not to nitpick, but ad breaks on Star Sports are usually only 3 minutes long. You lose about 2 to 3 laps at each break. Of course, with about 8 breaks per race on an average, that works out to losing around 1/3rd of the race. That’s terrible.

      • Mike said on 21st June 2011, 6:00

        Yeah that was nice.

        ONEHD do quite a good job, yeah sure, I’d prefer just to see the entire BBC coverage.
        But I suspect that’s not within there rights. And the ONHD are getting slowly (very slowly) better.

        But I get to see the F1. And live for the most part.

        That’ll do me.

        • Chops said on 22nd June 2011, 4:37

          Yeah, every time they go to Jake and Eddie they cut it, so I suspect they don’t have the rights unfortunately. I also agree that they do a quite good job. We get to see the race live (qualy sometimes in SA) and get the BBC commentators. It would be much improved though if we got to see more BBC and less Greg Rust, who does a reasonable job considering he’s in a studio in Sydney, but really doesn’t add a huge amount to the show.

    • hohum said on 20th June 2011, 15:03

      In the Usa speed TV cut to the race every 20 mins or so.

  5. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 20th June 2011, 8:48

    “Remain on free-to-air channels”? Clearly Mr. Whitmarsh hasn’t been following the trend for the past five years. I think free-to-air is a minority these days, most countries have F1 on pay-channels.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 20th June 2011, 8:57

      I’d be interested to see the data on that – where’ve you got that from?

    • bosyber said on 20th June 2011, 9:09

      Well, I can see F1 here (NL) in several ways: RTL 7 (with commercials, but the commentator has input into when), BBC 1, RTL Germany, and the Dutch language Belgian TV. Of those, I think apart from the German one, I think all of them are in the basic TV license (although maybe BBC aren’t anymore, my parents only have BBC world).

      It’s a bit more varied nowadays because we have cable, satellite, “telephone” companies, and the like providing TV channels, with different deals, but a basic package that is also still on analog TV, but I have at least two free-to-air ways to see F1. But neither is HD, true.

      • Xanathos said on 20th June 2011, 12:00

        RTL Germany is also free-to-air. F1 is also broadcast on Sky in Germany, but obviously the majority of viewers watch it on RTL, albeit they have ad breaks.

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 20th June 2011, 14:14

          I know, in Germany, but in NL, it isn’t usually part of the standard package broadcasters have to show.

          Anyway, as I said, increasingly, people here don’t (won’t) have a traditional TV subscription, but instead an internet+TV package, where it is arguable what is “free”, but it remains the case that most people will not see pay-per-view only shows.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2011, 9:44

      I know its Free to air in the Czech Republic, in Germany, Poland and Slovakia as well. Its on private, commercial networks, but not pay per view or subscribtion only.

      You do need a digital box/tv in the Czech Republic, but that’s because the analog signal was switched off completely.

    • Brett said on 20th June 2011, 10:13

      In Australia we have free to air only.

      Our coverage is “decent” at times, just filled with bad timed ads. I would pay for pay tv if it guaranteed live HD coverage with no ads

      I dont know why F1.com isnt more involved, MotoGP/NBA/MLB both offer fantastic online streaming.. wish F1 would do that.

      • Zadak said on 20th June 2011, 12:34

        Sky sports, a subscription based channel still has commercials in all it’s coverage of all sports.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 20th June 2011, 12:42

      F1 was also on Sky here in Italy until last year IIRC, or 2009, but now it’s exclusively on free-to-air Rai.

  6. Coxy said on 20th June 2011, 9:35

    If you look on the f1 fanatic live feed on a race day the amount of non uk people requesting links to BBC coverage should say it all!

    The BBC coverage is undoubtedly on the money the preshow is interesting and informative and piched so beginners and old geeks to the sport are equally entertained. Commentry is also grade a and always entertaining and I personally believe it would be a massive loss to the sport and the general public should the BBC no longer broadcast f1

      • SundarF1 (@sundarf1) said on 20th June 2011, 11:03

        +1 and thunderous applause.

        All the sports channels in India are only interested in cricket anyway, all three major sports networks have a dedicated cricket channel and they still can’t find space for F1 sometimes. Of course half the F1 coverage is taken up by annoying commercial breaks every 10 minutes. And the presenters are awful too.

        Hence I prefer a stuttering live streaming BBC feed anyday to Star Sports/ESPN, thank you.

        • SundarF1 (@sundarf1) said on 20th June 2011, 11:07

          Oh and lest I forget, these channels are the most expensive in all the satellite TV packages too. Taking advantage of the cricket madness in my country. Sigh. I hope the Indian GP shifts the balance a little bit atleast.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 20th June 2011, 12:45

      I think Italy’s broadcasting is fine, but I admit the BBC does a great job, with good commentary and many in-depth analyses.

    • hohum said on 20th June 2011, 15:10

      Sadly when you try to listen to 5 live when watching in a non english speaking country, or you try to watch online the BBC blocks you for copyright reasons.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 20th June 2011, 9:39

    I still think some broadcasters are missing a trick by not offering an ad-free feed for those who want to watch it.

    Obviously a charge would be involved, but I doubt it would need to be very high in order to cover the cost of not showing ads to a group of viewers, and make a little extra on top.

    Even if it were only offered by a geolocked internet feed I still think it would do well. I’d be interested to hear from viewers outside the UK on this one.

    • Rob Haswell said on 20th June 2011, 9:45

      I go through great lengths to make our UK broadcast available to my expat friends, some of them pay £15/m to help with the server costs.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th June 2011, 9:48

      I would seriously consider getting that!

      The Nova network (CZ) does their best here with their coverage, but they are not top notch and ads are a nuisance.

      Its hard to get foreign stations without paying extra for cable packages, satelite or TV over internet here. And no package offers something like that.

      So I would love to be able to get a digital signal without the ad breaks. Getting BBC officially would be even better and probably worth a premium as well.

    • verstappen (@verstappen) said on 20th June 2011, 10:18

      Although I’m from NL too, just as bosyber, my cheap satellite package only offers me the dutch RTL, maybe somewhere also the German, but no BBC.
      In commercial breaks, who are slotted in by the commenter (‘Oh wait, Alonso is pitting, so we wait with the break’) they have the F1 feed in the top left corner, so you can keep track of what happens. It helps to put the sound off. For me, that’s sufficient. I even watch this little feed when I recorded the race. Oh, and they rerun big events after the break.

      So, I wouldn’t pay for having an ad free race – it would also difficult to keep the comment flowing, of you’re catering to both regular and add free viewers.

      Last thing: Dutch RTL offers an online pay per view after the race, I do pay when my dvr failed, but then they cut the adds out entirely and don’t slot in the missed part.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 20th June 2011, 14:27

        I hadn’t realized they show them w/o adds, that makes me think about getting those more often, for example, when I am not there in the weekend/race day, and the race for some reason is delayed or stopped and restarted (Monaco, I missed parts of qualifying for that reason), thanks.

        I think I have BBC in my package by default, but what’s annoying is when they switched Top Gear to BBC3, and even once Doctor Who (wife is a big fan of that, I like it too) – which isn’t part of the package. They don’t have pay-per-view streams of that, because BBC have iPlayer (ie. UK only).

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 20th June 2011, 14:30

          And I would not mind paying for a weekend of Red Button F1, including the free practices. Maybe not every weekend, but at least several of them.

          I can’t be the only one, judging by the amount of people looking for feeds on the F1fanatic live forum.

    • Burnout (@burnout) said on 20th June 2011, 10:21

      I’d pay to have syndicated BBC commentary available as an option in India. I’ve had just about enough of Star Sports mistaking Toro Rossos for RBRs (usually Alguersuari for Webber) Mercedeses being called Petronas Mercedes and generally getting rid of Steve Slater.

      Yes, Gary Anderson and Alex Yoong are interesting, but it doesn’t redeem the rest of the coverage.

      Returning to your original point, I think that might work. It’ll be a good way to try out ad-free broadcasts before the next big cricket tournament comes around.

      • SundarF1 (@sundarf1) said on 20th June 2011, 11:14

        My thoughts exactly, Burnout.

        And the pre and post race coverage is so amateurish, with Paula Malai Ali and Sanjeev Palar, and as you said, the mountain of mistakes in commentary is embarrassing.

        Wimbledon is starting, and so will T20 Cricket in a while, I bet we wont get the qualifying session for the European GP, like the last two years. It’s a sorry state of affairs for an F1 fan.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 20th June 2011, 12:48

      In Italy there are two ads per race, each taking up 7-9 seconds, and most times they don’t come during action.
      On the other hand the MotoGP ads are more frequent and last longer as in the lower-left corner there is the race going on in a small box, where you can’t see anything. I strongly prefer the first way of doing publicity.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 20th June 2011, 14:19

      I would be interested in that, would have loved to have a good quality LeMans feed, for example, for the week leading up to it.

      If I could make it easy to stream it to my HD tv, I would be able to watch several more motorsports events, and drop part of the digital package, with uninteresting (to me) things such as Football, MTV (music? where), etc..

      But I do think that for the commercial channels, the problem is that they would have to drop their prices for ads, as they don’t show to everyone (but then again, we might not have seen the whole channnel otherwise); it’s probably a change that for the channels could be viable, but a scary step.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 20th June 2011, 14:22

        I will add that I actually could do more with the “interactive” bit of my package, where get a pay-per-view stream of something I missed; since I usually use the DVR to record things, I tend to forget about that a bit. But with streams that don’t have the ads, it might be worth it.

    • hohum said on 20th June 2011, 15:21

      Not so long ago, but last century, when digital TV was coming up Bernie was promoting a ppv package with views from all cameras no ads and lots of bells and whistles,great idea except it being Bernie it was priced like a grandstand seat.God you all make me feel old or am I the only one without Alzheimers?

    • Solo (@solo) said on 22nd June 2011, 17:42

      Yes, adds is the biggest problem in my book. Even if the guy talking is an idiοt you can ignore him a little but those adds are a big pain in our behind.
      And if you are on a pay channel then it’s completely outrageous that you will have to tolerate adds. There is no excuse for not being add free.
      Others sports don’t have the action interrupted by adds, why should we tolerate it in motorsport?

  8. Tom Chiverton said on 20th June 2011, 9:49

    Free to air ?
    So a Sky channel (Sky F1 ?) on FreeSat would be OK then ? What about advert breaks ?

    Please gods, no. I’d probably stop paying the licence fee and do without the rest of the BBC… not like I watch much live TV on it anyway.

  9. stevey said on 20th June 2011, 9:55

    Free to air… only in the UK

  10. Clara said on 20th June 2011, 10:04

    I would hate for F1 to move to a Sky Sports channel. If that happened we would not only see a terrible drop in viewing figures but Sky have a tendency to hire brown noses and really bad commentators who are bias to one particular team/player etc. The BBC set up is brilliant, the only thing that matters to them is the sport. No adverts, no gimmicks, just full on coverage with light humour in all the right places. I for one think F1 needs to stay on the BBC.

  11. Picasso 1.9D FTW (@picasso-19d-ftw) said on 20th June 2011, 10:10

    I would love to take a moral stance on this coz I love my high horse, and it would be amusing to claim we have a human right to watch the circus we love but that’s not really gonna fly, is it?
    All I can say is, if it’s not free to air I won’t be watching it as I have other things to spend my money on than more channels to add to the dozens I get for free. Of course, that money could be spent on the things F1’s sponsors want to flog, but that’s less likely if I’m not watching.

  12. Gavyn said on 20th June 2011, 10:12

    Quite a few countries take the BBC feed (with commentary) for the race. Does anyone have any idea how many and how much the BBC makes from this on-selling? Perhaps the BBC should make more attempts to market their pre and post-show coverage as well for additional money and try and achieve a self-sustaining product?


  13. djdaveyp87 said on 20th June 2011, 10:31

    If the BBC stop doing F1 I’ll stop paying my TV licence! F1 is the only thing I watch on BBC apart from the occasional other sporting event.

  14. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 20th June 2011, 10:53

    Autosport are now running this story. I found one very interesting note in there:

    As well as every race enjoying higher audiences than last year’s races, the recent Monaco Grand Prix recorded a 15-minute peak of 6.1 million viewers – which was the highest figure witnessed for 10 years.

    In America, viewing figures like that for a show in a prime-time slot would lead to that show being cancelled within a few episodes. Funnily enough, the network with the highest turnover of programs is FOX – they cancel more shows than any other newtwork. Ironically, FOX is owned by Murdoch.

  15. HounslowBusGarage said on 20th June 2011, 10:53

    To no small extent, Whoitmarsh must be presenting the concerns of the sponsors. It is crucial for team sponsors to get their logos presented in front of the widest possible audience of non-hardcore fans, and if F1 goes to pay-channel or pay-to-view-each-race, only the hard-core fans will follow.
    If only the hardcore fans view, then the sponsorship money will collapse and the teams will become impecunious.
    Does anyone know what the FIA’s position is on free/commercial/pay-to-view coberage is?

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