Start, Monaco, 2011

Why Sky’s deal will damage F1’s popularity

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Start, Monaco, 2011
BBC will continue to show the Monaco Grand Prix live

Let’s get one thing clear up front: I am a Sky Sports subscriber.

Does that mean I’m happy with the deal announced on Friday which will split live F1 coverage in the UK between the BBC and Sky? Far from it.

The worst time to leave the BBC

For the second time in three years, Britain’s host F1 broadcaster decided to abandon its existing F1 deal two years before it was set to expire. First ITV in 2008, now the BBC.

While ITV wanted out of their deal to spend money elsewhere, the BBC has been forced to make cuts since the government ordered it to freeze the licence fee for six years at the end of 2010.

The upshot of this is a new deal which will see half the races broadcast live on the BBC, the other half on Sky Sports. Exactly how much money the BBC has saved isn’t clear.

Could a deal have been struck to keep F1 on the BBC at a lower price? Or did Bernie Ecclestone seize the opportunity to seal a more lucrative deal with Sky?

Whichever is the case, it couldn’t be a worse time for F1 to leave the BBC. Viewing figures grown in recent years, aided by the better quality racing seen this year, BBC’s excellent standard of coverage, and the success of Britain’s drivers and teams.

Almost five million people watch the British Grand Prix. Over 6.2m saw the rain-hit Canadian Grand Prix – even more viewers than the 2010 season finale attracted.

The Monaco Grand Prix saw a 15-minute peak of 6.1m viewers – a ten-year high. Just this weekend the Hungarian Grand Prix was the most-watched programme on any channel.

But with half of next year’s races on a subscription sports channel, this growth will not be sustained across an entire season’s racing.

F1’s core audience at risk

Looking at the figures in detail, F1 in Britain enjoys a core of three to four million regular viewers, with audiences numbers fluctuating between the most significant races and those which are shown early in the morning.

The Sky deal risks compromising the core of F1’s popularity. Live football matches only attract around 1.4m viewers on Sky.

F1 fans complained in huge numbers online – over 8,000 on one BBC article. Many in the media closed their ears to the criticism, some branding it “hysteria”.

But there is much reasonable objection from fans to the potential damage it will do to F1’s popularity. And, naturally, to the extortionate cost of watching the ten missing live races in 2012.

??61 per race

To see those ten races live and in HD, as all F1 races have been broadcast on the BBC this year, viewers will have to fork out a staggering ??610* – that’s ??61 per race.

(It would be interesting to know from F1 Fanatic readers outside the UK how much they pay to see F1 races live.)

The deal will split F1 fans between those who will pay the extra to watch live, those who will be content to watch delayed, edited highlights – and those who will just stop watching.

But with real-time coverage increasingly popular in all forms of media, the prospect of watching postponed coverage will not be appealing for many. Especially given the difficulty of not discovering the result beforehand.

“For sure there are going to be a lot more people viewing,” reckons Ecclestone. Perhaps, but I suspect many will be watching illegal online video feeds.

I’m not going to jump to positive or negative conclusions about what Sky’s coverage will be like. They certainly have the budget and resources to do a good job, and the news that they will show the races without adverts is an encouraging sign.

But that is almost besides the point when so few fans will be able to afford it in the first place.

Update: Since this article was published further details of Sky’s subscription service and how it affects F1 viewers have been announced. See here for more.

*Based on a minimum 12-month contract Sky Sports HD subscription. ??48.70 per race for standard definition.


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452 comments on “Why Sky’s deal will damage F1’s popularity”

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  1. Keith,

    Great summation of this appalling situation.

    Do we know yet which ten races the BBC will retain ?

    1. Tom Chiverton
      3rd August 2011, 13:30

      Idealy, they’d like everything in a lunchtime-ish timezone, but that would leave Sky with all the boring fly away concrete races, which I doubt they’ll go for…

      1. I’m hoping they go for all the early morning, late evening ones… because I can’t go and watch Sky at someone elses house when it’s too early!

        Yes I am being sly!

        1. They will have to take all the evening ones- otherwise they won’t properly have time to show their ‘deferred extended highlights.’ Unless when they say deferred they mean at a ridiculous hour on a sundae night when everybody is in bed or until the following week…

        2. Elliot Horwood
          4th August 2011, 23:28

          Its not £61 a race though!? i can get SkySports 1+2 for £27 a month through freeview on TopUptv, so that about £15-£27 a race Keith.

      2. Although it would leave Sky with Canada, which was so terribly boring this year ;)

      3. According the Guardian, they will take turns picking races. The BBC get the first three picks (Silverstone, Monaco, season finale), then Sky pick three, then the BBC pick three and so on.

    2. We know three of the races to be kept – Monaco, Silverstone and whichever race is the last of the season – but the other seven are yet to be announced.

      1. I feel sorry for UK people, honestly. 610 pounds a year, translated into my own currency is about 1342 leva, in a country, where the average monthly wage is fluctuating between 500 and 1000 leva. This is Bulgaria.

        Locally, we used to get F1 races (all, including Q)from a national free-to-air-provider, which has changed, to another provider, TV7 –

        We can watch live here – all for free. Frankly, I can’t imagine someone asking for money here …

        The FP are broadcasted via cable channel, available for the users of certain cable operator. This is how the things are over here. I can understand the frustration.

        1. There is also a TV licence fee of £145.50 to consider, making it £755.50 per year.

          £145.50 for 10 races plus £610 for the rest.

          That’s 1,696 leva or $1,231 USD or €867.30

          1. I pay more for my internet…

            Title should read “Why Sky’s deal will damage F1′s popularity only in the UK”.

          2. Do you have your own internet infy? If so the price you’re paying is rather cheap…

          3. Obviously he’s not a native-speaker of English, don’t be an ass about it.

            As far as the British fans’ fate goes, you were sold and screwed over, yet you’re probably most loyal and committed fans on the planet. What times do we live in?!

          4. Do you really think the only country to suffer from sky moving into F1 coverage is going to be the UK… Sky’s owners have their fingers in satellite coverage all over the planet…

          5. Can you subscribe to Sky on monthly basis? Most likely you don’t need to subscribe for at least 3months (Dec-Feb) where there will not be any races (Probably august also if BBC covers spa). Moreover in many countries HD coverage is not available, so the cost comparison with other countries may not be on same level basis.

            Overall i don’t think viewership will be down by massive numbers as most people resort to internet feeds which are good enough.

          6. Except that internet feeds do do not count towards viewing figures, so the sport will appear to be in decline with reduced figures.

            As Keith stated, it is a minimum 12-month contract.

          7. Thats assuming you want the HD version, I’m not sure how much the SD version of Sky Sports is in the UK but I imagine it would be significantly cheaper than the HD package which is a luxury not a requirment really

          8. Title should read “Why Sky’s deal will damage F1′s popularity only in the UK”.

            Actually it did originally (without “only”) – you can see it in the URL.

            But obviously either headline is correct – it will harm F1’s popularity in one region, therefore it will harm it overall.

            To be honest, I prefer it the way it is now, it sounds less parochial.

          9. Keith its misleading and makes the problem sound larger than it really is.

            Global viewing figurs probably wont change that much. If anything, it will probably level out if you consider the sports growing global presence in countries like the US and Africa (which is developing at a rapid rate).

            You lose a few people from the UK, but gain tens of millions elsewhere. All while making even more money.

          10. You lose a few people from the UK, but gain tens of millions elsewhere. All while making even more money.

            Over the year those 20 races would draw in around 120 million viewers here in the UK. That alone is almost 1/4 of the 527 million GLOBAL audience from last year.

          11. It’s not misleading at all.
            The Sky deal will absolutely damage F1’s popularity, and damage the sport as an entity.

            I don’t understand how the Sky deal will influence the number of people outside the UK (barring commentary issues). And judging by Sky’s probable aim of taking over F1 elsewhere it’s only probable to do what it will do in the UK. Slash viewing figures and therefor, hit F1’s popularity hard.

        2. in asturias, spain, we have two choices. la sexta, a national channel, or tele asturias a local channel Both are free, and teleasturias is even free of commercials!!!
          They are both bias, but la sexta has de la rosa and marc gene commentating, what makes it a more professional bunch.
          What i do is, i start with the one without commercials, and when i get upset for their biased comments, or i see they make some big mistake, mostly translating from the car radio broadcast, i just switch. Not bad for a country without racing heritage, as someone said on this site before.

          1. There is the small matter of a chain reaction situation – Bernie will assume from this deal he can pretty much disregard Concorde with regars to the media, leading to price hikes elsewhere and possibly resulting in other places having their coverage switched to more obscure/pricier/difficult-to-access channels.

            If the Sky deal eventually collapses as I believe it will, the reverse effect will happen because the UK is one of F1’s four biggest markets. A third successive failure of contract involving all three different kinds of broadcaster will send the signal across the world that Bernie charges too much money and will harden negotiation stances.

          2. kowalsky, does la sexta also show F1 live on the internet, or is it just on TV?

        3. You lose a few people from the UK, but gain tens of millions elsewhere.

          How does the BBC/Sky deal increase the number of F1 viewers outside the UK?

          1. This is complete sillyness.

            and not a fact in the slightest. I am so miffed that we are losing half of the F1 season.

    3. If some F1 Fanatic in the UK knows a nearby F1 Fanatic, they can share the cost of the Sky subscription, buying only one, and meeting on weekends to watch the race.

      1. That sounds like a nice Idea. The saved cost could be lower than travel cost and it would have added fun.

      2. It would be a nice idea. Wouldn’t work for me as I live nearly an hour away from the nearest place I know to have such a box (and it’s a pub so there’s a good chance it’ll be on football), but “F1 Fanatic clubs” would be a cool idea – whether you live somewhere that has this as an issue or not.

        1. Feeling rather desparate about the thought of not being able to see the whole season live – sick to the stomach actually when you think we are always being told that we are the best fans in the world but it seems to be ok, for finacial reasons, to take F1 away from us. Would like to know what Martin, Eddie & Jake think in private rather then the ‘brave face’ they may be putting on on TV, telling us that 10 is better then none (true to a certain extent but still not excusing the fact that certain things should be ‘free to air’.)
          As a single working Mum who doesn’t stand a hope in hell of having enough money to pay for SKY (especially when I would really resent having to do so)I like the idea of ‘F1 Fanatic Clubs’ At least its a little bit subversive and a way of getting around Sky’s extortionate charges (Couldn’t believe how much Sky Sports was when I checked it out for myself)The Sky fee shared would become affordable but also not register as a big take up on their coverage.

          1. You state very eloquently the feelings I suspect that a great many share, it was announced that the live F1 races in Italy were sold to Sky Italia, owned by GUESS WHO ? Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. There are many TV moguls who think the days of free terestial coverage of Formula One in Europe are numbered. For many ordianry viewers 2012 was the first of part time broadcast of F1 live events FTA TV, due to the BBC out bid of ITV then agreed to share broadcasting with Sky, owned by Murdoch. Meanwhile the ecclestone wealth grows by telephone numbers while SKY bless them dedicate a whole channel showing all practice, qualifying and race llive on Sky Sports F1 channel, Ordinary fans who live on planet earth meanwhile have to put up with half the races live, delayed highlights of the others and commentry by a gaggle of guys verbally hiccuped at every turn by the yellow peril Jordan. Mere mortals on teh other hand have to weigh up the prospect of parting with £500 a year to get Sky Sports package or forsake teh family holliday to ourgardengate. Eccles old man, you must have been blinded by the size of Murdochs wonga.

    4. As long as the BBc run full length race re-runs on BBC 1, I’m happy

      1. Doubt it….

        1. I could live with full length re-runs and according to Bernie BBC can do that if they want but he doesn’t want them to for some reason probably other than to even more so irritate every British F1 fan.

          It looked like the only reason Martin Whitmarsh never objected to the changes was that Bernie assured him them there would be full delayed races shown.

        2. it’ll be like the rubbish BBC3 highlight show

          1. The irony is they will probably put the highlights on BBC3… the channel they saved by cutting £25m in costs. Personally I think scrapping the channel and putting F1 on BBC1 is a more sensible option.

      2. They’ve already said there’ll be 75-minute highlights, meaning it will be a slightly longer version of the highlights show already on BBC3. The main difference is it might make it onto BBC1 or BBC2 instead of being stuck on a channel with a relatively weak signal.

  2. Tom Chiverton
    3rd August 2011, 13:30

    “For sure there are going to be a lot more people viewing,” reckons Ecclestone.

    Where as everyone else thinks much less people will be watching, as by definition there are less homes with Sky. But there will be more people watching on Sky than at present (zero)… he’s a lawyer remember, that’s how he got out of the FTA requirement.

    1. I’m surprised not one person has asked him how more people are going to be watching when you go from 29m homes to 3m?

      The saddest thing is F1 will NEVER be back free to air – once the BBC sees the viewing figures drop – and they will – it will be a excuse to drop it completely and then it will be job done Barbara Slater.

      1. Sky has 10m subs.

        1. Sky Sports only has 2m according to a report I read. And of that manages around 250k viewers per show usually, apart from the footie.

          1. colin clarke
            5th August 2011, 13:33

            Sky has 10m subscribers,but only 1.3m Sky Sport subs.

        2. sure Ecclestone said as recently as May “They[Sky] have been trying to buy the TV rights from us for a long time, but we won’t because they are not free-to-air television broadcasters. They are a subscription service.

          “Sky is doing an incredible job but if you look at their audience they are nowhere. With these figures it would be almost impossible for teams to find sponsors. That would be suicidal.”

          This guy would tell anybody anything, can’t trust a word he says.

          £60 a race! thats crazy! imagine how ****** off u would be if paid that to watch Bahrain 2010!

          Nice sum up Keith, but you forgot the upside in all this, We still have BBC4. By we I mean the about 4 people who actually watch it.

          1. I think you’re onto a losing argument if you say “BBC show X, therefore they should show Y”. Besides which, I love Only Connect on BBC4 :-)

          2. Twice as many people watch BBC4’s most popular shows than Sky Sport’s most popular offerings. They’re aimed at different audiences though, and that’s one of the BBC’s problems; unlike Sky, it has to work to try to please as many people as possible, even if that means nobody is completely happy and some people are not happy at all.

          3. Just to say here, I love BBC4.

          4. BBC4 does show some great stuff. All the interesting topics that I should have cared more about at school, but didn’t. There are some very good science and nature docs on there. Although thats something else I’ll have to sacrifice next year.

            BBC3 is what should get the can. 90% chav “comedy” and 10% Seth MacFarlaine animations, 5% of which I own on DVD already.

          5. BBC4 is very good; it’s where you find the documentaries and intelligent stuff. It’s also where they showed Wallander. But I do agree with your inference that there are too many BBC channels. The BBC could condense much of what it broadcast onto two channels – hey, that would be a good idea ;-). They could then reduce the amount of dross (“snog, marry , avoid”, etc) and repeats of everything they broadcast, and go back to being the corporation they once were – setting the standard in programme making as opposed to following the trends. Unfortunately pigs will fly when that happens. For me it’s time to pull the plug on the TV license.

          6. Wasn’t it BBC4 where charlie brooker started screenwipe? One of them ost entertaining shows I’ve seen and it lead to newswipe and his TV career in gerneral.

          7. Here’s a few interesting stats –
            This year, races have peaked at over 6 million viewers, a figure which is only going to increase.
            Throughout an average day, BBC 3 has 4.3 million, BBC 4 has 1.9 million, BBC News 24 has 4.3 million and BBC Parliament has 290,000. BBC Parliament has only 1.3 million throughout an average year. These are just a selection of channels the BBC should put before F1 on the “lets get rid of this” list. They also have dozens of different radio stations they could cut costs on. If they must keep some programmes (like Only Connect!) they could merge the channels together.
            Also, F1 creates more viewers than any of the many Sky channels over an average day, and more than a lot of them in an average week.

            One last interesting point – Dave also has more viewers than any Sky channel(!)

          8. I don’t have a problem funding stuff that goes on BBC4, only that there is a BBC4. It should be on BBC2 instead.

          9. @Matt90, Yeah Screenwipe was on there I think, although it was probably the only BBC4 show I ever watched to be honest. His ‘How TV Ruined Your Life’ series is class btw.

          10. So Say Anything isn’t the only thing we agree on. I didn’t even see it on BBC4, I saw it repeated on BBC2 at about midnight after working an evening shift. So BBC4 produced that great programme and it isn’t even where I saw it.

          11. BBC 4 may have some good programs but do we need a for this. Many of the good programs on BBC 4 used to be on BBC2 so why not put them back there and do away with BBC4?

            One more thing I have complained to the BBC and they say they have told everyone everything they need to know and that they can’t give a personal response as they are too busy…. What is the point in a complaints service that can’t answer your complaint! I also wonder how they would act if we all said we were too busy to pay our licence fee!

          12. Looking in from the outside, I get the feeling BBC would do a better job keeping F1 and other benchmark setting quality shows, then investing in buying something to counter X-Factor.
            Why put this kind of drivel show, only aimed at getting viewing figures up on a public station that has no advertising? Shouldn’t that fall under distorting competition with state funding.

            They could even sell the Top Gear concept to be broadcast commercially, that would bring in some solid finances.

          13. @BasCB: TopGear is already been commercially exploited. It’s shown here in the Netherlands on a “free” channel (adverts on it) and also in Germany. Probably also in other countries.

          14. BBC4 is great…but BBC3!??!! just don’t understand the point of it – you get the kind of stuff they show all over Freeview…sorry if I’ve offended any BBC3 watchers but I WANT F1 ‘free to air’ (Stamps foot)….. :)

      2. I’m still waiting to see how Sky expects to make a profit on this when it needs between 0.5 million and 0.88 million people to subscribe to Sky Sports each year, from scratch, purely for F1, just to break even (assuming selling pre- and post-race ads covers precisely the cost of producing the show, marketing etc). That is based on certain estimates, but if my calculations are correct, Sky won’t touch F1 with a 10-foot bargepole when renewal time comes up (and may drop the contract before).

        Once that happens, Bernie is forced to reduce his rates if he wants his precious series to be broadcast in one of its 4 main markets. At that point, free-to-air broadcasters will be interested again.

        1. What a great analysis ALC !

          All of that makes you wonder whether the professional bean counters in both the Beeb and News Int. had all gone up the Amazon for a months vacation ! Surely, if an intelligent contributor to this blog can do the sums in the way you have, then, with all
          the number-crunching power they have at their disposal they should have been able to tell their execs in clear terms…. ‘don’t touch this deal with that 10 foot bargepole’.

          OK, so if the BBC had done their sums properly they could have slimmed down their expensive presentation teams and set up to the bare essentials and just given us bare bones races and qualy’s.

          So, is there actually much more to this deal than meets the eye ? Could it be that the stories we hear about F1 have very powerful enemies very high up in the BBC heirarchy are perhaps at least as much to blame as the need to save some money ?


          1. yes with that analysis hopefuly we will have 3 broadcasters in a row breaking their contract early :)

          2. exactly if they trimmed down the team, present it from a studio in UK (like wsb) only send martin and DC. and perhaps a half decent pit guy.

            thats it.

          3. My guess is that the BBC’s cuts are time-sensitive. The problem with the fixed licence fee was going to get worse with time, but a lot of things can’t be substantially cut until some point in the future without causing mass disruption for the broadcaster. It was probably a question of “what can we cut first without losing too many hours of broadcasting or getting into trouble with the government?” The F1 contract proved easy to re-negotiate, so it got done first (bear in mind that the Bernie fee is much, much more expensive than the cost of getting those programming hours presented and distributed).

            They’re good-value hours for the audience received, which is probably why it’s committing to having 10 live races (rather than 20 on “extended highlights”), but for a broadcaster needing to make big savings quickly, beggars cannot be choosers.

        2. My guess is, this is only the first step for Sky to get full live broadcast exclusively in 1-2 years (with the BBC having only highlights and maybe one or two races where they use SKYs feed).
          So it should be considered as an investment.

        3. Another thought there. Might Sky be counting on saving a bit by using this coverage for a lot of their other english language stations (except Speed?) to be able to show F1 as well.

          Instead of making a separate show each, or buying BBC coverage.

        4. Form what I can tell Sky will do very well from this! Say it cost Sky £50m for the rights for a year then they only need 80 thousand new people subscribing to HD at £610 a year or 100 thousand to normal def at $480. That’s only about 2-3% of the average audience on BBC which i reckon they’ll easily get. I won’t be able to afford it but next year I might yet sign up for it anyway depending how it all pans out.

    2. No laywer. Max Mosley is laywer.
      Used car sales man… (Bernie)

    3. yep. it’s called cherry picking. as you’ve pointed out, what he says is totally true when a specific isn’t mentioned.

      bernie presented with data:
      ‘on bbc, we’ll lose 3m viewers
      on sky, we’ll gain 200k viewers’

      bernie: “let’s go with the sky data, just leave out the ‘sky’ bit!”

  3. Williams chairman Parr tells fans to support cost-cutting ideas in Formula 1

    What is Adam Parr smoking? F1 can reduce it’s costs all it wants, but expecting the fans to subsidise that reduction shows how out of touch with reality he and F1 is.

    Believe it or not we the public are not a crutch always around to support the excesses of the irresponisble.

    Expecting British fans to pay £755.50 per year and be happy about it is ridiculous and insulting.


    This post has been revised from one I posted in another article.

    1. Tom Chiverton
      3rd August 2011, 13:40

      Re: that article

      Why isn’t he pushing for the 40mill budget cap they all agreed to actually be implemented then ?

      1. Because a) there was no stage when everyone agreed to it, b) it would have compelled everyone to quietly cheat to be competitive c) different accounting methods and legal obstacles would have made the system impossible to enforce anyway.

    2. I think some of these team bosses need a reality check. It is all the ones that are most stuck for money that are making these type of statements like Eric Boulier and Colin Koles.

      They are biting the hand that feeds them in desperation cause their companies or them directly have done a bad job in raising sponsorship.

    3. Adam Parr is a business man, and his company is getting an extra million from the deal. So it’s no surprise that he’s keen to whitewash the deal.

      1. They get more short term but longer term they all suffer through less coverage and that is why it said in the concorde agreement F1 was to be only on free-to-air in major viewer zones.

      2. Also, they suffer when Sky fails to break even and refuses to renew because all teams will suddenly have a big loss of TV money in the resulting chain reaction, but the small teams will be most vulnerable to it.

  4. I won’t be hit by this directly, but this year I started watching the races on the BBC and it’s incredible how good their coverage is. It’s like watching a totally different series comparing to the FOX Sports Latin America coverage…

    I feel for you, Brits. I’d not like to pay for F1 either.

    1. I agree. In Brazil race coverage is free to air via TV Globo, with practice sessions and edited highlights shown on a subsidiary cable and satellite channel. However qualifying and race day at least frankly suck: virtually no race build up, annoyingly repetitive and often ridiculous and hopelessly uninformed commentary by the main presenter, Galvão Bueno (think: a nagging great aunt) and no respect at all if the race runs over. Watching BBC coverage via ‘alternative’ live feeds, the difference is staggering.

      The new deal makes absolutely no sense beyond a very short term profit for Ecclestone, who is maybe now past caring for even the medium term future of Formula 1? Seems so.

      1. Oh and no HD, though Globo’s sports channels, SporTV, do include an HD channel, just for football apparently.

      2. David is right about some of Globo’s shortcomings, but we can’t forget they have a good – if not spetacular – commentary by Reginaldo Leme, that is a hugely experienced journalist – who told first-hand “Crashgate” news to the world – and some good in-field coverage with reporters like Mariana Becker.

        We have a fantastic difference, in the positive side, from the British coverage. We don’t have ad breaks. They insert ads during the transmission but keep showing the action, only cutting the sound for 10 secs, and also used to show no smoking disclaimers required by our legislation. I think they don’t show it anymore because there’s no more explicit tobbacco advert…

        When you compare quality and depth of information provided by blogs like F1fanatic, obviously the commentary by free-to-air TV is ridiculous and uninformed, but I think it pleases the average “non-fanatic” F1 viewer.

        So, as he said, Qualifying and Race are transmited live and free-to-air, with almost no build-up (5 minutes) or post-race analysis (5 minutes, mostly showing the slowing lap and the podium ceremony)

        The cable channel (Sportv), that shows the practice sessions, used to show post-race interviews, but I didn’t folow it in 2011.

        This channel is included in the basic cable TV package and you don’t need to pay any extra to see it.

        1. Daniel, totally agree with you, Reginaldo Leme and Mariana Becker are fine reporters, I did mean to mention them but forgot. If only we heard more of them both before and during the race! Often, though, they’re cut off mid-sentence by another Galvão rant about nothing in particular (well usually about Hamilton being very naughty yet again). The lack of mid race ads is also good – though cutting to the ads immediately after the race often means losing sight of the drivers as they get out of the cars and remove their helmets – and so stops us seeing their expressions, disappointed, elated, angry, congratulating the winner or not, etc. For me one of the best bits of the race.

  5. As someone who has Sky Sports, I agree with all of this. I’m not sure what makes Bernie think that ratings will increase. I doubt those who have Sky Sports, but have no interest in F1 are going to start watching.

    1. People who have Sky Sports have it for 1 main reason, Football. Football in the UK is always on at the weekend (aside from offseason) Saturday games start at 12:45pm & 17:30pm (e.g when races have qualifying)
      Sunday times, 13:00 & 16:30 … which, you guessed it, is when a race is on.

      Sure, the option of recording the race (or football) is on, but the time 1 has finished and you start watching the other, the BBC will be showing highlights anyway!

      We know that the Beeb are getting Monaco & the British GP, Both are when Football season is on its summer break. So its fair to say that theres no large ‘block’ of races (e.g. 10 consecutive) races on 1 channel and 10 on the other, it looks to be a mix of 1 week sky, 1 week bbc. Surely the Football is going to be a big puller, even when F1s on?

      1. Don’t put it past sky to change the start times of F1 races to fit in with ‘Super Sunday’ football.

        It hurts just to write these kinds of words.

        1. McLarenFanJamm
          3rd August 2011, 16:41

          Don’t be ridiculous John H.

          The reason sky change the kick-off of football matches is because it is illegal to broadcast Saturday 3pm football matches in the UK. They have also been with the premier league since it was created and have pumped hundreds of millions of pounds in to the sport over the past 20 years. This is why they have the power to move games to 12:30pm, 17:30pm and to Sundays.

          They do not have this influence over F1 and never will.

          Also, all these comments to the tune of ‘it will never compete with the football’ that’s why there are 4 sports channels… So they can show more than one sport at a time. The only time they show multiple football matches is midweek for champions league or internationals. F1 isn’t on then.

          1. Good point McLarenFanJamm, you’re probably right. The UK audience isn’t too significant globally to shift start times.

            However, to think that they will not have any influence on how the ‘F1 show’ (as it now is) or “Super F1 Sunday, all the F1, all the time” is delivered is naive IMHO.

          2. No, it’s naive to speculate or what could or could not happen before any real details about the deal have been announced.

            £60m a year is nothing compared to what they pump into football. They will have no influence over the bearing of the sport whatsoever. Sky Germany don’t and neither do any other satellite broadcasters in any other country.

          3. sky havent been with the premier league since it started. they are one of the same.

            they effectively created it (well right place, right time) and roped in the teams in first division to leave by throwing £££ at them.

            all the other teams resigned from 1st division and created a breakaway league. and there the premier league was born.

            it worked for a while. id guess and say it peaked viewer wise just before sky went digital. ever since then (as prices have got out of control) even football viewers have dropped.

            and Boxing is dead. Well done sky!

            their biggest success was World Superbikes. it flourished in the 90s. brands hatch round was far bigger event than F1 or moto gp british rounds. But it went to Eurosport and has been up and down as a series ever since. one thing that has stayed consistent since it went to eurosport is that the coverage is appalling.

      2. Saturday games start at 12:45pm & 17:30pm (e.g when races have qualifying)
        Sunday times, 13:00 & 16:30 … which, you guessed it, is when a race is on.

        There is another side to this…

        For football, if people can’t afford to get Sky they go to the pub and watch it.

        But Which landlord in their right mind is going to put F1 on over football? Which means this avenue is closed to the rest of us.

        In a way I am lucky: Although I have been pushing my girlfriend to get rid of it since I moved in (waste of money, nearly everything we watch is on Freeview), we have Sky. We don’t have sports, though, which will cost about £15/mo extra. As this is probably for a minimum of 12 months, that puts the cost to us at £180/year, or £18/race, or £9 each per race. This is moving towards acceptable, but I am still planning to stop watching F1 next year. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s worth it, and I can just start watching another motorsport to get my fix (MotoGP is something I’ve been planning to get into for a while)

        1. McLarenFanJamm
          3rd August 2011, 16:43

          The complete sports package is actually £20.25 a month. I don’t believe there is a minimum contract.

          1. There are two packs of Sky Sorts channels, each are £12/mth.

            Believe that with Sports and Movies, there is a 12 month minimum subscription, same as when you first take out Sky.

            I have Sky, but do not have Sky Sports, and will not pay out (because I cannot afford any more) £144/yr + the £10.25/mth to view in HD, which I can currently on both FreeviewHD and FreeSat HD for BBC1

            F1 only just got HD this year, and I got my HD tuners just in time for Hungary.

            Not going to pay out even more for the privilege of watching something I’ve been following since I was 12 (over twenty years ago).

          2. McLarenFanJamm
            3rd August 2011, 17:49

            Both channels are bundled together for £20.25 a month and you then get sky sports 3 and 4 free. You can choose to pay for just sky sports one, or sky sports 2 but as you say, these are £12 each. And then you don’t get 3 and 4.

          3. there is.. and its 3 months…. and the £20.25 is just for sky sports… if you don’t have sky, then you have to add a basic package at £20…. not to forget if you want Sky+ or Sky HD + then its extra….

      3. 100% agree with you there. I love both football and F1, but if both is on at the same time football is going to win every time. No way are Sky Sports going to match the viewing figures of F1 the BBC pulled off.

        1. It has always been on the same time !

  6. F1 live and in HD is currently free-to-air in Australia. We use BBC commentary so I’m not sure how (if) this new deal will affect us.

    1. Tom Chiverton
      3rd August 2011, 13:38

      Sky and BBC will be sharing the main commentary team, which I expect to be retained.

      1. Really…?

        Is that right TC ?

        So Brundle and co will work across both networks ?

      2. First ive heard of this. Brundles contract runs out this year too

        1. Wait so when the BBC have a race it goes up against the sky coverage with the exact same commentary team?

          Hoe’s that going to work with see you next week/month?

          1. A simple “See you next time” might work, with the presenting teams defining what that means for their respective networks. I expect BBC to be promting their radio option bigstyle for the races not on live TV.

          2. They’ll have the same commentary, but different presenters. Brundle never says goodbye to the viewers, and even then, it’s always generic.

          3. Setanta sports currently use the BBC commentary team occasionally, but not the presenters. Its always generic.

          4. what a cop out it would be if it was the same commentary team.

            you would be paying a fortune for it yet would be getting exactly the same show. It would be like sky doing it on the cheap.

            sky must be rubbing their hands together. at this rate they dont even have to do any work! BBC would of done it all for them!

            the more you hear, the worse it all sounds!

  7. A good summary. I do think it’s important to not jump to conclusions regarding the questions over the deal but like you say, it’s irrelevant. I do think Bernie is taking the mick when he says that viewing figures will rise, he must surely know himself that simply won’t happen.

  8. It’s just madness! If they are short on cash then why not cut all the production – the pre/post race features (which I do love, but wouldn’t miss much…) and simply join the GP when it begins with some commentary. Admittedly it probably isn’t that simple, but it would cut a lot of costs.

    The presenting team do a great job but I would rather cut them than Formula 1 live on the BBC altogether!

    A real shame – I think I will paying a visit to my friends house everytime it isn’t available on the BBC. I really can’t afford £61 a time! Even without the extra cost HD brings it wouldn’t be worth it… even if I had the cash!

    1. The main costs in F1 broadcasting for the BBC are for the rights to show the race itself. The presenting team is relatively cheap.

      1. Indeed, I do realise that – but they could cut a lot of cash there too…

        1. Not the 50% which, by the sounds of it, the BBC managed with this deal.

      2. What I haven’t seen is how much the BBC recoup from, I presume, selling the comemtary to other countries TV channels.

        I know it is used in Aus, Canada, SA and Indonesia. But have seen or heard that it might go to about 50 countries in total. Even if it was sold at $0.01 per head of population to those countries, it would bring in approx £2M

        1. This sounds crazy so I could defo be wrong but I’m near sure I read somewhere they don’t charge anything for it.

  9. Excellent summary. I have refused to subscribe to Sky for many years as I do not like the corporation, despite my desire to watch the cricket. Now I can add F1 to the list. I will endeavour to maintain my following through your site and watching the BBC coverage but I fear that my interest will wane simply because the sense of involvement will no longer exist. Reading reports & analysis on here supplements the enjoyment of watching practise, qualy & of course the whole race. Without the main features available it will be tough to keep up the interest. Friends and I were considering travelling to an European GP next year after 2 years at Silverstone. We are even now questioning whether we bother at all.

    1. Matt,

      So great to read of another cricket loving F1 fan who will not, under any circumstances, subscribe to Murdoch’s ( evil ) circus !

      Here is the great tragedy for me. I love F1 and cricket in equal measure and though I’m quite aware that local cricket in UK has gained immeasurably from the billions commercial TV has poured into the sport, I still can’t watch it on TV because I will not support Murdoch. Ever.

      And now he’s swiped my other love, F1.

      Murray Walker has elsewhere claimed that all sport will eventually only be commercially available.

      What a dismal, miserable prospect that is.

    2. I could +1 a lot of other comments but your sentiment/rationale is especially like mine (aside from the cricket bit…) For me, much as I love the sport and follow its every in and out, session and intrigue, I will not spend hundreds of pounds per year on indulging hobby of mine when I have 3 children more worthy of the money.
      As for whether I’ll watch the emasculated BBC coverage, well, whilst highlights might be perfect for some (not reading this site, most likely), they’re meaningless if you are accustomed to analysing the ongoing track action lap-by-lap, trying to figure out who’s going to pit when or whether so-and-so will keep making up half a second a lap to the next guy. Overtakes and crashes are only the peaks of the action, the underlying details are all that give it meaning and unless you see every lap you lose this.So I expect that initially I’ll watch the live races and perhaps some of the highlights, but suspect that since it’s about a season and not just individual races, I’ll gradually detach from it and find something else. Maybe some other FTA channel will show a more democratic racing series in its entirety. Hey, I can watch IndyCar for free online and they get nothing from me! Frankly, even if it was truck racing but was shown in all its detail I’d be more likely to watch it than a half-season of F1 (especially if Brundle was commentating)

      1. Exactly right Picasso !

        For most of the people who contribute to this site, I would reckon that it’s the complicating ( and complicated ! )detail of strategy and tactics, the relative skills of engineers and drivers that all add up to nail-biting situations. And if you do not understand the conplexities of our sport you
        really aren’t in deep enough !

        So Ecclestone really believes that millions of people with only superficial interest in F1 are going to fill the coffers for CVC does he ?

        Think again Bernie boy !

    3. I’m another one who objects and so far hasn’t subscribed to Sky. Also quite like cricket, well I have to, used to sit next to Bumble at school.

  10. I think we need a Poll!

    Something along the lines of: “in 2012, how will you watch Formula 1?

    A. Sky Sports (I already have it)
    B. Sky Sports (I plan to subscribe to watch F1)
    C. BBC live races only
    D. BBC live races + highlights
    E. Not at all – I am abandoning the sport

    1. I would suggest that you add illegal online video feeds.

      1. ‘I suspect many will be watching illegal online video feeds.’

        +1 :D

        1. To get F1 in Canada, you need to pay for a package that has TSN channal $1680 per year and thats with Ads in the Tele cast (they go to small screen) Speed TV is blacked out!!! ISP are blocking all English online feeds (BBC,SpeedTV,etc)so ya I’m watching it in Spanish online,there is a work around if your isp offers a VPN,but that will cost you.

      2. make that +2

      3. I already do.

    2. Good idea, what do you think Keith?

    3. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m considering something for a future article but not in this form. Remember most of the site’s readers aren’t in Britain.

      1. Sush Meerkat
        3rd August 2011, 14:13

        Thanks for reminding me Keith, I’m in the UK but I’ve got a special box for French tele, I can watch F1 live on my French TV.

        *maniacal laughter*

        Still I’m pretty angry at this myself, I really like the BBC, its pretty much the best Channel in the World, knowing that Sky has managed to get hold of the rights you know they are going to tighten their grip on it like they do with everything else.

        1. I’m thinking about getting a dish to get German FTA as my wife is from that part of the world and I could probably justify it at home ;)

          One off cost is around £150 (excluding fitting).

      2. if you do, i already plan to watch the bbc coverage when they come up against each other as their pundit team does a fantastic job. And as a sky subscriber already for the indycar and nil coverage i will watch their live races when the bbc isn’t.

    4. F. BBC live race + illegally streamed sky

    5. Similar polls are running on other sites.

      Most people say they’ll watch the live races, or live races + highlights – as will I.

      But at the moment I make the effort to watch as many races as possible: frankly, next year I won’t.

    6. G. Not at all – I have Sky Sports and am cancelling the wedge I pay to Murdoch every month in protest.

      1. i’m NOT doing this btw, just throwing another option into the poll ;-)

  11. In Mexico our pay tv rates are from 20 us dlss to 70 dlls depending on the package, but I think the “prom” is between 35 to 45 us dlls a month and includes the F1 races on Fox Sports; if you want to add HD put another 10 dlls…I pay 55 us a month for a HD package with NHL, NFL, MLB, GOLF, NASCAR tons of football (wich I hate), and of course F1; is not that bad with plenty of audio and video channels, but we only got qualifying and race, not practices and not after race coverage!!

    Cheers from Mexico!!

    1. Do you get the rubbish comments from Tornello and company :P?

  12. (It would be interesting to know from F1 Fanatic readers outside the UK how much they pay to see F1 races live.)

    FOX Sports isn’t free air TV, of course. So I pay around 150 pesos (around 21 pounds) for the full service (which includes among others ESPN, many movies channels, Warner, Sony, channels form around the world (TV5, BBC1, RAI…) and so on).

    61 quid for the race alone seems excesive.

    1. is that 150 peos per month?

      I think the cost is the issue here, if it was somewhere near £20 p/m, id wager that a large amount of people could/would be happy to pay. But +£50 p/m AND a annual mandatory license fee (to the BBC) its too much.

      1. yeah, 150 pesos per month, and I get like 80 channels.

    2. The £61 does include the cheapest base Sky package (Variety pack) which does contain a bunch of other channels that are available free-to-air elsewhere. The point is though, that for people like myself who hardly watch any other TV apart from the F1, it’s essentially £61 per F1 race. And this is on top of the (mandatory) TV license fee which works out at ~£12 per month.

      1. other channels that are available free-to-air elsewhere.

        Oops, that should be aren’t.

    3. Technically for that £61, UK viewers would get anything on Sky Sports 1 (mostly cricket and football with a few other things thrown in), 2 “variety” packs and whatever free channels are on the Sky satellite (there are quite a few but they’re different to the ones on Freesat and I don’t think they’re as numerous).

      ESPN costs a small amount extra, as do movie channels and the music pack. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to get all those international channels on Sky that you mentioned you get, or how much it would be to get them.

      But if you’re only going onto Sky to get F1 (and for people who used other cheaper methods to convert to digital, that’s effectively the case), it’s effectively £61 per race.

  13. I’m a viewer from Australia, we get live qualifying and races from One HD, which is a commercial free to air channel. They use the BBC’s commentary feed. Thankfully One’s license is with FOM and not the BBC, so we’ll still get the races here on free to air TV. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the commentary though.

    I’m just worried that it’s the beginning of a slippery slope of F1 races moving to pay TV. I don’t want to see F1 move to Foxtel, which is the pay network in Australia partially owned by News Corporation. I *definitely* don’t want to see the News Corp takeover of F1’s commercial side succeed, because this would almost guarantee we’d lose free to air coverage in Australia.

    1. What’s happening with regards all those ad’s that kept running during sporting events with Nicole Livingstone and other commentators I can’t think of wanting us to make sure sport stayed free-to-air. Was that in preparation for legislation or something? I hope F1 was included in that.

    2. F1’s been moving to pay TV in smaller markets for years. It is just that I would have hoped that Bernie would have learned from their (usual) failure that this was a bad path to take.

    3. I’m pretty sure F1 is still on the anti-siphoning list for Aussie sports.

      Or at least it better be….

      1. I think the Australian Grand Prix is, I’m not sure about the rest of the Championship.

    4. Yeah, In Aus. We have it good. ONEHD coverage only costs you in terms of a power bill.

    5. The Aus GP must be free to air by federal legislation, so that will make it unlikely that f1 would go to pay in Australia. I would pay for AUSTAR if i could get practice and commercial free races.

      1. Same here. Unfortunately Ten has the TV and online rights to Formula 1.

        Also, it wasn’t mentioned that we don’t get all the races live. Some races are delayed by about an hour, but the majority are live.

        And the ads really mess up the flow of the race. My BBC VPN comes in handy for practice and ad free coverage, so I’m sad to see BBC coverage coming to an end, but at least we get FTA coverage.

  14. I usually go to most of the races. I actually get to see bugger all!

  15. “the prospect of watching postponed coverage will not be appealing for many. Especially given the difficulty of not discovering the result beforehand.”

    Back in the day (a decade ago), German RTL would do both live and postponed coverage of the race in Japan (when it was the season’s final round. I can’t remember if the did the same for Australia).
    They did it in 1998, when the Japan GP was the championship decider. RTL was doing a full studio show in those days, with live audience, Florian König was the host and Niki Lauda the co-host/guest analyst.

    So they did the whole race live early in the morning, and then they did a copy (an immitation) of the same coverage at 10AM or so (late enough so everyone could watch it, yet early enough so people didn’t find it hard not to learn the race result) with the same pre race build-up and everybody in the studio – that including the audience – pretending they didn’t know the race/championship result.

    It was great, because I didn’t wake up early enough to watch the race live from the beginning, so I decided not to watch it yet and wait till noon to watch the entire spectacle.

    Good old times :)

    1. We get that here. The usual time for F1 races is 9 am, but for races in Malaysia, China, etc, we get both the live coverage and the full repeat at 9 am.

      1. BBC do that for early races, showing them at the ‘normal’ time of 1pm as well as live.

  16. In Sweden I pay 249 swedish krona (around 23 GBP) per month for the VIASAT package. With that I get 6 movie channels I dont care much for and the channels VIASAT Sport, Fotboll, Hockey.

    The channel I am after though is VIASAT Motor which shows all practice sessions, qualifying and race in F1 and Moto GP. They also show GP2, NASCAR Sprint Cup, STCC, Swedish Carrera Cup, Powerboat F1, WRC and Speedway GP. Most of those things live.

    1. I meant that the Motor channel is also part of that package. Seems I wrote it like it sounds it isn’t. :)

  17. With this move to sky, I won’t watch it there. In doing so, I won’t watch the highlights, why? cause I’ll already nkow the results.

    It’ll be more like I will stop watching F1 :( as I did when ITV took over (couldn’t stand the interuptions).

    Its a shame cause I love the sport, but don’t have the cash soplurge out!

  18. Let’s get one thing clear up front: I am a Sky Sports subscriber.

    Does that mean I’m happy with the deal announced on Friday which will split live F1 coverage in the UK between the BBC and Sky? Far from it.

    Introduction nails it. I’m sure I would also be able to watch the racing on Sky Sports through my relatives and friends who do subscribe to it, but that’s not the point. I’m so passionately against this deal because I know this needlessly makes live F1 an impossibility for many of the sport’s die-hard fans around this country.

    I want to continue watching every race live while reading the reaction of fans and fellow F1Fanatics from all over the world through the internet, Twitter, live-blogs etc. Formula 1 isn’t like football or other sports, watching races is usually not a very social activity. Yeah, you’ll be able to go down the pub and watch races live on Sky, but I don’t want to do that. I want to be able to watch a move or a dramatic incident occur on the TV and then see how everyone else watching all over the world reacts to it. I love that. Next year, we’ll only be able to do that for half of the races. That’s a shame, and I’m honestly going to miss that from next season.

    Could a deal have been struck to keep F1 on the BBC at a lower price? Or did Bernie Ecclestone seize the opportunity to seal a more lucrative deal with Sky?

    I think it should. For all of the reasons you’ve outlined here Keith, it’s surely in Bernie’s best interests to keep his product as available to the widest possible audience he can. Moving full live exclusivity to Sky is one of the single worst things he could’ve done in relation to this. Did he really honestly think he was making a good deal for the fans? Has he not heard the deafening chorus of complaints and anger from both the sport’s apparently hated hardcore fanbase as well as his precious casual fanbase?

    Perhaps, but I suspect many will be watching illegal online video feeds.

    Pretty much. While I was in Australia, I constantly used illegal streams to watch F1 practice sessions because I didn’t have a single legal option that allowed me to do it. Now I’m in the UK, I will not condone the use of illegal streams when I can now access F1 coverage legally, but I will not be surprised at all when it happens. This is yet another reason why FOM NEED to set up an official online streaming/on-demand video service. Bernie could charge a yearly season-pass to use it and it would solve a lot of problems for F1’s die-hard fans while earning FOM more money. It’s worked brilliantly for NASCAR, IRL and MotoGP and yet, once again, FOM have completely ignored the possibilities that the modern media age offer. Yes, TV companies will complain, but Bernie needs to figure out how to make that work. He’s proven his capabilities as a negotiator, so consider this as his new challenge.

    1. Quite honestly, Bernie’s too old to bother. I’m sure it’ll be something his eventual successor figures out, but Bernie’s main concern now is to get as much cash as quickly as possible.

      1. Exactly why he must step down and pass control over to someone who understands and appreciates the modern media world more than he does.

        1. I couldn’t agree more, that’s been one of my biggest gripes with F1 for a while now.

      2. Preferably without him losing all that extra money before he dies (which with this deal is worryingly likely to happen, unless he knows something about his health that I don’t).

    2. Formula 1 isn’t like football or other sports, watching races is usually not a very social activity. Yeah, you’ll be able to go down the pub and watch races live on Sky, but I don’t want to do that. I want to be able to watch a move or a dramatic incident occur on the TV and then see how everyone else watching all over the world reacts to it.

      I know what you mean. Can you imagine turning up at your local with 2 laptops and asking the landlord if you could piggyback onto his wi-fi so you could have the live timing and driver tracker running while you watch the race on the big screen…

      …assuming the pub isn’t showing Football or Rugby instead..!!

      1. Also, dear Barkeep, could you please get those ten burly, rowdy people with dubious reputations to shut up blathering about how the local football/cricket/gang fight went while you watch the race?

      2. I can Imagine there being maybe 4-8 specialist clubs or bars out there in the UK doing just that :-(

    3. Why didn’t they go for an online subscription service like Motogp(except a good service that streams properly).

      Keeps the subscription costs down cause the profits don’t have to be shared with NewsCorp. Also if reasonably priced reduce the number of people accessing the dodgy online streams.

  19. I live in Holland and always watch the BBC coverage of Formula 1. In Holland RTL7 is responsable for the live coverage of each event against no additional cost whatsoever. But RTL7 being a commercial station they do interrupt the live coverage for commercials and that is a very annoying fact because you do miss out on certain on track action. Also pre and post commentary is not half the quality of the guys with the BBC like Jake, Martin, David, Eddie and co. Great to watch and adding value to the show. So it’s going to be a great loss to the viewers and I do believe it will have a negative effect to the F1 audience. Not only in the UK but also abroad.

    1. More or less the same for me too. I even recently stopped recording the races from RTL 7. I do like the commentator Olav Mol, he has an eye for things, but with him sitting in a studio in NL (a matter of money), he just doesn’t have the access a local team can have.

      1. “local” -> at the track. By the way, my digital TV subscription also has RTL Germany. They have some interesting bits, but also ads, and too much Vettel hype colouring their amount of attention and the tone of comments, so watching there on the whole is worse than RTL 7.

  20. Hi Keith,

    In answer to your question:
    South African F1 fans have to be subscribers to DStv in order to watch; FTA broadcasts ended about 7-8 years ago here. You have to subscibe to DStv’s premium package which costs ZAR560 per month (about 50 quid.) We get the FOM feed with the BBC commentary and all races, quali and practice sessions – as well as the support series races such as GP2 – are live and advert-free.


    Cape Town

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