Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012

Will F1’s UK audience recover from its 2012 slump?

2013 F1 seasonPosted on | Author David Nelson

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012F1 viewing figures in the UK grew for five consecutive seasons until last year, when they slumped back to their pre-2009 level. @DavidNelson, who writes the F1 Broadcasting blog, takes a look at what the data says about the success of F1’s move towards pay TV.

Last year’s abrupt reversal of F1’s recent growth in popularity in the UK came as half the live races vanished from free-to-air television. For the first time, the whole season was only available to watch live on Sky’s subscription service.

This is part of a Europe-wide trend which has seen Formula One move from primarily a free-to-air model to one which has half of the races exclusively live on a pay TV station.

Evidence from the first year of the plan in the UK shows that the move has turned viewers off. UK television audiences dropped to their lowest level since 2008. Furthermore, audience levels decreased an average of 12.7 percent compared with 2011, the last season broadcast live only on BBC:

1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Millions of viewers 4.51 4.87 4.55 4.07 3.93 3.59 3.5 3.07 3.08 2.75 3.61 4.01 4.38 4.41 4.62 4.1

As the graph shows, audiences for Formula 1 hit a low in the mid-2000s in the UK before recovering. Audience levels continued to rise as BBC became the Formula One broadcaster.

The 2012 season marked the first fall in viewership since 2006. Even so, average audiences remained above 4 million viewers for every race, showing that the appetite for Formula One is still healthy.

But a repeat of this drop in 2013 – and a similar trend in figures in other markets where the pay TV model is appearing – would set alarm bells ringing.

2012 versus 2011

Here’s how the UK’s viewership figures (in millions) for 2011 and 2012 compare race by race.

Australia Malaysia Bahrain China Spain Monaco Canada Turkey Europe Great Britain Germany Hungary Belgium Italy Singapore Japan South Korea India United States Abu Dhabi Brazil
2011 4.093 4.4738 4.8337 4.7496 5.1473 6.2063 3.8534 3.9289 4.9398 4.4119 4.7599 3.9025 4.2322 4.46 4.3763 4.1619 5.6084 4.6898 4.9435
2012 3.2492 3.9997 4.81925 5.1841 4.27595 3.96765 3.7863 4.63275 3.75451 3.5277 4.6741 3.2935 4.64145 4.09445 2.88145 3.25341 3.6714 3.5737 4.68095 6.0319

An interesting pattern emerges from the figures. When BBC have the race live, the average audience for both channels is 4.38 million, only 240,000 lower than in 2011, or a 5.5 percent drop. That number in isolation is a very good number, when you consider other factors, such as last year’s Olympic Games and Euro 2012 football torunament.

However, when you look at the races that Sky broadcast exclusively live and BBC show in highlights form, the average television audience is 3.88 million, nearly one million down on the 2011 average figure, or a mammoth 19.1 percent drop.

To put it simply – nearly one in five people are not tuning in when the race is covered exclusively live on Sky Sports. In addition, only one of the ten exclusive live races that Sky covered increased compared with on 2011 (Italy), the rest dropped significantly.

Unsurprisingly, the race that fell the most was Canada. In 2011, it recorded an average of 6.21 million viewers across BBC One and then BBC Two, compared with 3.79 million on Sky Sports F1 live and BBC One for their highlights show.

The figures for Canada and USA show that Formula One needs a terrestrial television presence, and more importantly, for those races need to be live on both BBC and Sky, as they bring in the casual audiences. It is the casual audience that they need to exploit, as they will be the ones that could turn to dedicated fans in the future, bringing in the big numbers to Formula One.

Elsewhere, Japan, India and Australia recorded significant drops, as the graph above shows. The 3.25 million viewers recorded for Australia was the lowest for a season opener since 2006.

Other circumstances

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Melbourne, 2012Whilst the new broadcasting model goes some way to explain the drop, it must be noted that the decrease in viewing figures was also affected by external events. In 2012 competition for sports’ fans eyeballs in the UK came from the Olympics, Euro 2012 and Andy Murray making it to the Wimbledon final.

All of those events peaked at some point over 15 million, the Olympics bringing together nearly half of the country. Even if Formula One remained on BBC for every live race in 2012, in my opinion, figures would have still dropped.

How much they would have dropped by is impossible to say for certain. Looking at the evidence presented, the average would have been nearer 4.4 million than the 4.1 million it was in reality.

The first seven races of 2012 began arguably one of the most exciting seasons in recent times. Despite this, the average for those seven races was 4.18 million, compared with 4.77 million when Sebastian Vettel was dominating in 2011. Those races took place before the ‘Summer of Sport’, and their poor ratings cannot be attributed to competition from other big events.

Moving away from the traditional model

While the facility for viewers in the UK to time-shift F1 broadcasts and watch them on computers, phones and other devices has been around for several years, those in F1 claim last year’s television ratings drop was due to an increase in these other forms of viewing:

“I think we’re recognising that the world has changed,” said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. “The viewership of all conventional, live television is declining because people select it, record it, view it through different media. And we’ve got to be alive and alert to that.”

“The traditional sport was based on terrestrial TV but I think if you just focus on that then I think you’re missing lots and lots of opportunities,” he added. “We’ve still got a sport that on a fortnightly basis, March to November, has more than 100 million people watching it on TV in 140 countries around the world.”

“So those numbers are still large, we’d like them to be larger, but I think nowadays people watch television, they watch their computers, they watch their phones, in all sorts of different applications.”

Whitmarsh admitted that the move to pay television was “a threat to our conventional viewing audience” but believes F1 needs “to reach out through all different media outlets and make sure that it continues to make a very substantial impact as the third-largest sporting spectacle in the world.”

2013: Fewer free-to-air races, higher price

More downward pressure will be applied on UK audience figures for Formula One races this year as the number of free-to-air races shown on the BBC falls from ten to nine.

The BBC will broadcast the Chinese, Spanish, Canadian, British, Belgian, Italian, Japanese, Indian and Brazilian Grands Prix live.

Meanwhile the cost of a subscription to Sky’s F1 channel is set to rise by over ??160 to ??510 per year.

Over to you

Why do you think F1 television audiences fell in the UK last year, and what do you expect to happen this year?

And how will you be watching F1 in 2013? Have your say in the comments.

Share your thoughts on the BBC and Sky’s coverage throughout the season in these threads:

If you can’t watch all the races live and would like to find somewhere you can, join the F1 in Pubs group:

Notes on the data

All figures are official from BARB. Figures have been adjusted to take into account the longer airtime of Sky Sports’ F1 programmes in 2012 versus BBC F1’s coverage in 2011.

A look at the viewing figures show that Sky’s average programme figures from 11:30 to 16:15 for a typical race were 35% lower than their 12:10 to 15:15 average, which was the normal slot duration for BBC’s programmes. The non-adjusted average is 3.89 million viewers, lower than 2008 but higher than 2007.

This has been done to give a fair and representative comparison between the 2012 figures and those of previous seasons.

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

150 comments on “Will F1’s UK audience recover from its 2012 slump?”

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  1. Hope so for those who pay it, hope not for those unable to see it because of the price.

  2. I hope the viewing numbers will increase. Fans are the lifeblood of the sport!

    Kinda curious if this trend will duplicate here in the Netherlands, where 2013 is the frst year that there are no free-to-air broadcasts …

    Me and my F1 minded friends will not cause a dip, 4 out of 5 have taken out subsciptions to Sport 1, so we’ll still watch all the races together.

    1. Same here in France: no F1 on TF1 anymore, only on Canal+.
      That’s the end of live F12 for me…

      1. Well, in South Africa it’s been on pay-tv for a number of years and a number of people i know personally don’t watch anymore since it went off free-to-air. I, myself cannot afford the pay-tv subscription but have a very generous family who allow me to visit and watch at their house every race (although I am beginning to think I’m wearing out my welcome).

  3. So 1 in 5 people stream it online when its not on BBC.

    1. Pretty much.

      1. Shhhhhhhh !!!!

  4. vuelve kowalsky
    13th March 2013, 9:43

    I think the sensible thing for cvc to do in the future should be, pay channels giving races live, and free channels giving full races delayed. Everybody wins. Cvc gets money from two networks at diferent prices, and all fans can watch the races. The hardcore fans live, and the regular fans same day taped.

    1. Except that CVC doesn’t get so much as a cent from broadcasting deals. All of the money that networks spend acquiring the rights to broadcast Formula 1 is paid out to the teams at the end of the year as prize money.

      1. This is not factually acurate. Although highly secret, the concensus of informed observers have suggested around the 53% mark of TV monies going to the teams in one form or another. (I particularly relate this to the fact that, as needed, Bernie Ecclestone plays teams false against one another in their individual “bonuses”) Although prize money is set, different weightings apply to different teams, and they have different initial down payments (for viewing rights, etc. such as Marrussia are still!! arguaing about for the 2013 season). I found this equally amusing and annoying during the last round of negotiations, for the reasons of it’s unfairness, and it’s unfailing repition…Teams say they want more money, Bernie says no. Teams say yes. Ferrari go with bernie and sign up for increased monies. Other teams say you can’t race without us. Bernie goes “meh!”. A couple of teams cave in: (I’m looking at you Williams!!!.) and get some extra benefits, before you know it everyone has signed. I’m laughing thinking about it again.

        Anyway, I’ve drifted off topic again. The upshot of this, of course, is that there is a large pot left over for things other than team money.

      2. @prisoner-monkeys, it’s about time you stopped making these blatantly untrue propaganda statements for CVC/Bernie. Anyone wanting to know the real facts as @damleda writes only have to research CVC and B.Ecclestone using Google and Wikipedia.

      3. Is it only me that think @prisoner-monkeys works as Bernies assistant?

      4. vuelve kowalsky
        13th March 2013, 19:47

        you are the man that knew too much. Like in the movie. Can you email us a copy of the concorde agreement. You must have it somewhere around your apartment.

    2. I think that’s a sensible suggestion. Much of the problem people has with Sky is paying for just 10 races. If all 20 were exclusively live, it would still be unpopular, but the price would be easier to justify.

      To be honest, I think will happen sooner or later, with the BBC maybe keeping the Monaco and British GPs. Let’s see what the viewing figures are after that.

    3. You equate hardcore fans with fans who can afford an expensive Sky subscription, vuelve. They are definitely not the same thing. It irks me when people claim that hardcore fans will automatically pay whatever it takes to follow the sport.

      1. I agree, being a hardore F1 fan doesn’t equate to being a mug, they’ll milk this particular cash cow beyond its sustainability.

    4. Not sure I agree. From an audience perspective, are you likely to watch a full race re-run if you already know the winner, and it isn’t a Brit? If anything, doing that would lead to viewing figures dropping further, in my opinion.

      I know it is not quite the same kettle of fish, but you only need to look at the Ashes’ drop in audience to see what happens when a sport moves fully to pay-TV live. In 2005, it was broadcast on Channel 4, with 7 million viewers at its peak. 4 years later, and only 1.5 million watched the victory on Sky.

  5. In the Netherlands, Formula 1 has moved to a channel that we have to pay for as well, much like the situation in England. It’s a lot cheaper though, partially because we can cancel our subscription any month we’d like to. That means we only have to pay from march until november, which is 9 months. It’s 15 euros a month, except for the first 3, they’re 5 euros a month. So that makes 105 euros for the entire season. I made a thread about it in the forums so Dutch fans can discuss the issue. It’s right here.

    It’s still a lot of money, but I was really blown away when I saw the amount of money British fans have to pay for Sky from now on! If it was that much over here, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it, it’s that simple. According to Sport1, a lot of Dutch fans have signed up because of their temporary deal which gets you the first 3 months for 5 euros each though, they do not have definitive numbers yet but according to them a lot of people understand that higher quality of Formula 1 coverage is worth spending money on. I kind of agree, of course I’d wish it was for free, but hobbies cost money and from now on so does ours. RTL aired the races for free but the races were constantly interrupted by commercials and the podium ceremonies were cut off by default because there wasn’t enough time left. They didn’t even send their commentators to the race, they were commenting on live streams in front of a tv. So all in all, I hope it’s worth the money!

    And like I said, Dutch fans are free to come and join the thread in the forums!

    1. …So that makes 105 euros for the entire season…

      It’s still a lot of money…

      Right, I don’t know what you would consider ‘not a lot of money’ and what other costs/taxes are involved, but that sounds like an absolute steal!

      1. @optimaximal I’m a college student so I don’t have huge amounts of money to spend. From free to 105 euros is quite a noticable difference!

        1. For a student in the UK, it’s a jump from free to ~€582 for the entire season.

          Perspective :)

    2. Is this a price of HD broadcast?

      1. @maroonjack Sport1 subscription gets you 8 different sports channels and according to Sport1 they’ll be using multiple channels during Formula 1 races so you can pick whether you’d like to watch the regular feed, onboards or the pitlane for instance.

        1. @maroonjack forgot to mention, I think only a few of the 8 channels are HD.

  6. In answer to the question, eh no. It’s going to get worse.
    My Nana (Grandmother) and Granda (Grandfather), three uncles and two aunt’s used to watch F1 religiously, and in fact it was the family time that brought me into the sport. The whole family used to watch. Up until last year, aside from the old folks, who have passed on, ‘god love ’em’, I am now the only remaining family member who watches F1 consistently. My uncles and aunt who used to watch it, now only occasionally watch it on BBC, as I suspect for them, it was the drama of the season that made for a return on the comittment to watch every race. One uncle is a big motorsport fan, and he has switched to BTCC which he can watch free to air. Not a single one of my friends who enjoy motorsports either has, or intends to get a Sky subscription, and they also missed free to air races last year.
    This is all a crying shame, as I am very impressed with Sky’s ability to bring innovation to the broadcast.
    In respect to the original question though, who give’s a monkeys in the sport really. Ferrari? No. Maybe if they were branded FIAT. McLaren? No. Red Bull? No. In fact, outside of a few core manufacturers who would use F1 as a mechanism to sell/promote cars, then I think every single team is after one thing only: Money. If pay tv increases revenue at the expense of viewer numbers, then who really cares? Sky are only interested in subs count against cost. If they can make the figures work on a limited audience of a million subs who are there just for F1, then at £501 per year per person, theres 501 million pounds thank you very much. I undertand that Sky paid 45 million pounds for exclusivity and deeper access than anyone else in the world. That’s chicken feed if it guarantee’s that subs money. (Or pay per view money, if that model sticks this/next year).
    The teams don’t really need a massive audience if they are getting paid well, and advertisers actually respect a paying audience more than a free to air one, so the reduced figures might not be as much of a turn off to advertisers as they initially appear to be. Imagine you wanted to sponsor a team in return for increased sales of say, your new smart phones? Who would you want to target? four million unknown quantities, or 1 million paying Sky subscribers, who you immediately know are going to pay for luxury goods if they want/need them?

    On a related note, it is almost impossible to believe that this country (UK) is not headed toward big, big changes in the TV market toward increased commercialisation and I don’t think anyone sees the BBC existing as they do in twenty years time, although I hope I am wrong, as I love the beeb.

    1. Matt Wiggins
      13th March 2013, 12:19

      A very thoughtful and well written piece. I agree with virtually everything you said. I have also had a similar experience with friends and family. In previous F1 seasons I have encountered heathly conversation and debate around how a season develops and how people absorb the sport. Unfortunately I found last season that many of these conversations ended very quickly due to this group largely “floating viewers” who have been so vital in previous years (maybe not so now as you mentioned) had large gaps in their 2012 season. To the point of having very little interest by the end of the season. I’m not wholely sold on “f1 on the go” particularly as the technology and infrastructure is not at a level where viewers can sit down and watch a 2 hour race. I am intrigued to see how this F1 broadcasting blog is taken and what happens in the near future.

  7. That summer slump has a huge effect – didn’t realise how big. This year’s calendar makes more sense looking at that. Frustrating though for race fans, with some long waits in July & August.

    This year the US Grand Prix live on BBC should produce a nice spike in viewing figures late in the season. I remember how many people commented there that they didn’t want to watch highlights that late in the evening, they had work or school in the morning… same applied to the Canadian GP, so I hope BBC bags as many live races in the USA, Mexico etc as it can in the coming years.

    Keep us posted how pay-TV gets on in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy too (I hope it’s a disaster…)

    1. @bullfrog

      This year the US Grand Prix live on BBC should produce a nice spike in viewing figures late in the season.

      But that race isn’t live on the BBC this year (as noted in the article).

      1. Wishful thinking! Sorry for not reading it properly…I knew BBC had one of the US/Canada races live again but got the wrong one.

        Should still boost the ratings for Montreal.

      2. Further to that, Bernies delay of the Australia GP to provide a European evening viewing time results in a 2am viewing time in E.Coast USA. I’ll stay up for a 2am FINISH but not a 2am start. Great way to get interest going in the USA, not.

        1. David not Coulthard (@)
          13th March 2013, 13:53

          Try having an alarm clock wake you up at 2 AM. The US and Canadian GPs here starts past midnight, but I still got to watch that Monaco 1970esque lap at Montreal, and go to school 2 or 3 hours later.

          1. Thank you but I will do what I do for the other early am races, record it and watch at 8am with my morning coffee.

          2. Midnight races are a regular occurrence for us viewers in New Zealand. Most races start at midnight on Sunday night, with work on Monday morning, so we don’t get much sleep. And most of the races are in our Winter, too.

  8. I will be watching all the races live, as I have done for over 10 years. But I don’t have Sky Sports and I can’t afford it. So I will be watching those Sky races thru the internet I’m afraid to say!

    1. Don’t be affraid to admit it, I will too! It would be interesting to know the traffic those kind of sites experience for a Sky race.

      1. Same here. It would interesting to find out and I hope these sites continue to work. I find it frustrating but I have to admit that that’s how I do it too. Not a dime to sky…

        1. Same here.

    2. Its quite difficult to draw conclusions about overall interest and trends – other than the raw total figures went down when it was on pay TV – given that the entire viewing model changed so much from one year to the next.

      What will be of great interest is how 2013 compares with 2012. I’m expecting that viewing figures will pick up in 2013:
      – more F1 fans will “give in” and get Sky so they can watch
      – more people will be getting Sky HD anyway because people are gradually switching to HD and they’ll watch F1 on Sky as a side effect of having Sky HD
      – there is less sport competing for people’s attention this year.

      The bigger unknown is what will happen to viewing amongst those who already have Sky F1 available (Sky Sports and Sky HD subsribers) will they know be more intersted in F1 and start watching – or will people who watched F1 last year switch off this year.

      Viewing figures for football on Sky Sports steadily increased after the initial launch…. I expect the same to happen with F1.

      BTW the £510 cost of F1 only applies to those who have NO sky subscription already – the cost can be anything from as little as ZERO for people who already have a Sky subscription already. F1 on Sky adds value to an existing Sky Sports or Sky HD subscription without additional cost. [Note: I have no connection with Sky – just speaking as someone who enjoyed F1 on Sky last year without it costing me anything more than I was already paying for Sky HD].

  9. Come to Australia and watch it then, we stay up to all hours of the night to watch some totally stripped broadcast of what could be a good event. We don’t even get a choice! Shame on FIA/CVC, whoever is responsible for not moving forward and allowing streaming whether by subscription or free to air. The issue is not who broadcasts it, it’s who wants to watch it??
    Be part of it or don’t, your choice. I know I’ll be having another few sleepless night this year to follow my passion

    1. Good point – streaming or pay-per-view is the way forward; there’s no way in hell I am subscribing to Sky just for F1.

  10. I think a better picture will be seen after this season because we will see how many of the incensed BBC users that refused on principal to switch to Sky have melted in the 12 months since simply because they can’t go without their F1.

    I am one such person having endured last season with only 10 full races and 10 highlighted via the BBC and having called the Murdoch’s every name under the sun on this website and in every pub in my home town I will take delivery of my Sky HD this friday just in time for the first race weekend.

    Call me weak, I just can’t do another season like last year. I wonder how many people have gone the same way.

    1. You would pay all that money when internet streams are everywhere for free?

      1. If you sign up before the 9th April then you don’t have to have Sky Sports package to view F1 HD, and there is currently a half price HD offer on, which means you can get F1 in HD for £26 per month.

    2. Certainly not. I will put that £510 towards going to Silverstone (again) this year and other useful applications.
      I could easily afford Sky with the full works, but I have no need for it other than a single channel, and at both last years price and especially this years’, is completely extortionate.

      The BBC package, given the situation they got themselves into, was extremely well done. Yes, some of the highlights packages were lacking. Yes, the American races were on far too late (which I believe is why Canada and US had lower viewing figures). Yes, I avoid news and the internet until the delayed highlights are on (really, waiting a few hours doesnt hurt).
      But would I trade what are, frankly, some minor inconveniences….for half a grand? Not a chance.

    3. I watched all the races live last season and i Haven’t subscribed to Sky. There are plenty of good free streams out there

  11. The whole free to air/pay to view debate and live/highlights debate doesn’t bother me either way. As we have a toddler and a busy life we always Sky+ the live race when it was/is on the Beeb and watched it later, usually when the kid is in bed. This allows us to skip some of the inane segments and long cautions and replay the good bits. The current highlights show the BBC airs does this for us anyway so we don’t see any difference in our personal viewing experience now that only half the races are live.

    We ARE a Sky customer, but there is no way I’ll pay the extra for sports as I’m not a fan. Maybe if they offered the F1 channel by it’s self I’d be interested, but probably not. They get enough of my money!

  12. I subscribed to Sky last year, just the basic HD package, soley for the purpose of getting my F1 fix, Sky raised the price once already about 6 months ago, only a small increase, but still an increase, If u had not already subscribed then the latest hike would have priced it out of my reach, most people are having to tighten their belts and when all is said and done F1 is a hobby, its not an essential, If the price rises again it will be out of my reach and like others i will seek alternative ways to view.
    Being a Brit i paid my licence fee to assist in having F1 without commercial breaks, now we pay Sky and still have commercial breaks, though not yet throughout the race itself, Its hardly surprising the viewing figures have dipped, and i believe they’ll dip even further as more people make sacrifices between lifes luxuries and lifes essentials.

  13. Surely one of things that affects highlight packages for the casual viewer is that there is a high chance they will have found out who the winner was before watching it, this massively kills the excitement and buzz of it.

  14. It’s a shame this is motivated by money and not the fans – of course everyone needs to make money but my view is that this trend will do nothing but damage viewing figures and alienate fans even more.

    I would not mind, but there is a ton of money being made in advertising, sponsorship, collaborations and endorsements. I feel greed is the motivator and an exclusive, not inclusive, atmosphere pervades the entire F1 operation.

    Put simply, the powers that be actually do not give a toss about the fans.

  15. Alex (@alex-the-god)
    13th March 2013, 10:33

    I would never pay to watch F1 and if it’s not live why would I bother?

  16. I think the amount of viewers on Sky will grow and the amount of viewers on the BBC will stabilise.

    People just need to adjust that one will have to pay for live sport just like with football.
    In a few years time all races with perhaps the exception of the British GP will be behind a pay-wall and people will get adjusted to only highlights FTA just like football with MOTD

    Also a few million less viewers in Britain is nothing to F1 on a global scale.

  17. I think it’s time to stop looking at this kind of data as if it means something. Is it true that viewing figures are down because of the Sky deal? Probably yes. Will something be done about it? I doubt it.

    I don’t think Bernie or any of the sports shareholders would care if the viewing figures were down by 99% if it made them double the money it does now. So long as the business model is profitable it will continue regardless of its effects on people. The money men simply don’t care what we have to say, so long as they get their cash.

    1. @nick-uk

      I don’t think Bernie or any of the sports shareholders would care if the viewing figures were down by 99% if it made them double the money it does now.

      Yes they would. Of course they want to make the most money they can from the sport, but that does not make them greedy to the point of stupid.

      I see this question as whether F1 has sacrificed medium-to-long term audience growth (and hence greater future income) for a short-term pay-off. To suggest as you do that those in charge would accept a similar pay-off in exchange for sacrificing virtually the entire audience is a wild exaggeration of that.

      1. Sorry, yeah I was intending long term profits.

        My point was that they care nothing for their customers like the owner of an independant cafe would who is directly dependant on the customers money for revenue. So much of F1’s money comes from companies and sponsors who the average viewer has no idea what they even do.

        For example, generally the point of advertising is to get a consumer to buy your product. Tell me this, how many times have you thought: Hmm, I need to get some AT&T, Allianz commercial insurance, Telmex etc?

        1. This is a highly simplistic view of advertising and not really pertinent to F1. F1 advertising is about general brand awareness rather than selling a specific product and this does affect us all, whether we think it does or not. Numerous studies have show this otherwise companies would’ve stopped doing it. Faced with confusing or challenging decisions humans look for familiarity, brands which have enough exposure become familiar and people will choose them more often.

          As far as the whole pay-TV, reducing audiences damaging the sport debate goes, this is not a short term cycle. The cycle runs something like this:
          1. good product with small audiences due to difficult access
          2. access improved
          3. audience growth
          4. increased value of product due to increased audience
          5. product appeal wanes (either due to poor product or difficulty of access)
          6. audience decrease
          7. reduced value of product
          8. access worsens (noone wants to stock a product that noone wants)
          9. audience decrease

          This cycle is long. I would say decades long and can be manipulated to some degree by changing the product which leads to micro-versions of the same cycle within the larger cycle. An example of this is the drop in audience (stage 6) due to drop in product appeal when Schumacher was dominant (2001 – 2005ish). This led to a reduction in value (ITV negotiated an extension for around £30m a year till 2010, less than their original deal). A freshening of the product, more winners, better races picked things up again. and the value duly increased with the BBC paying an estimated £50m a year in 2009. The larger cycle began at stage 1 in the 80s when BBC’s Grand Prix programme really made the sport accessible to many people for the first time and the product was strong (many winners, many crashes, blown turbos etc.). I would say we are just at stage 5 now and have passed the peak of audience size and are now seeing reductions in audience due to more difficult access. The logical conclusion of this, probably in 10 or 15 years (though likely hastened in 2018 when the BBC share deal ends and it becomes Sky only) will be massively reduced audiences and therefore product value at which point Sky will drop the product as unprofitable and access will be rendered even harder reducing audiences even more until we’re back to the state of affairs in the 70s. F1 will go on (with much less money) because there will always be people who race but you’ll have to go to the tracks to see it.

          1. Forgot to say, the good news in all this is that these cycles also tend to be repetitive which means assuming the racing is good in X yrs time when all the big providers have dropped their coverage, some entrepeneurial sort will by the rights cheaply and start broadcasting it and the whole sordid process will start again.

          2. @keithcollantine and yourself Gavyn make some interesting comments. But I am fairly certain that some of them are flawed. Viewing figures are not necessary to generate revenue, except for advertising revenue, and even then it is debatable given the importance of targetting.
            Keith’s point first about the shareholders being worried about audience size: I just don’t buy it. In years (many, many, many) gone by, the FIA was struggling with motor racing as a going concern, and in many respects, outside of the core formulas, still is. Most formulas are money sinks where no one makes any money, there is no advertising, and it is a playground for rich individuals/companies who are passionate about the sport, (This is a good thing generally. I own a race car I am planning to race in the NSSCC next year, and it is the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition, but I’m not going to make any money out of it, but maybe I can can give some local drivers/mechanics some exposure at little cost to them) and it was in these circumstances that Mr Ecclestone operated in during the seventies when he worked his way into managing the teams organisation and purchasing the rights (commercial) from the FIA. From that point to this, all I see is Bernie wanting mo’ money, mo’ money. Yes, he has done a lot for the sport in some respects, but I would argue that Max Mosley did more, and if anyone has read any of my other comments would know, I think Bernie continuously plays the teams and the sport unfair.
            On the basis of all of the above, I think short term revenue over the five to ten year period is all Bernie (and now his partners) has ever shown.

            As for Gavyn, some replies to your points:
            6 to 7: Audience decrease does not automatically mean reduced value of product. Value is generated worth, and if a reduced audience can provide greater returns through smaller numbers, then that increases worth not lessens it. I do not deny that for any given product, more exposure gives the potential for more worth, but it is not guaranteed.
            Also, with regards to Sky dropping the product due to low audience numbers, you miss the ability of pay tv to operate with far fewer viewers due to it’s subscription model. If one million people keep their subscriptions up due to F1 coverage, then @ £501 this is £501 million pounds over a season, a HUGE increase over their commercial costs, and even given operating costs of £150 million which I think is unlikely given that there technology seems to be piggy-backing off their Premiership technology, then that is still a whopping £300 million pounds profit per year.
            Why on earth would they want to give up such a model, and why on earth would the teams/FIA, and FOM, who all make more money because of this deal want it to change??? (There is one reason, see below…)
            Bernie himself, as well as Murdoch and other media moguls all see the future in ‘pay tv’ and ‘pay per view’ dollars across a world wide audience, and that audience generally is growing.
            As far as I see it, there’s only going to be two correcting factors which could alter this trend:
            One: Continuous and unparelleled economic depression leading to the pay tv model going belly up. (Although sadly, in this scenario, F1 will be long gone as it is today)
            Two: The teams, whose external revenue is, at least to a degree, affected by audience share, actually take a stand against the commercial rights holder, as potentially they do have a reason to be against this model.
            Sadly, as the current model and Bernies negotiation tactics almost always aims to keep, relatively peaking, the status quo I do not see this happening, so i am left with the inevitable conclusion that audiences will dwindle…

          3. @damleda & Gavyn

            Thanks for your length replies. Always nice to see constructive and well thought out ideas and opinions shared. I’m gald my original comment inspired them, the replies were a pleasure to read :)

      2. The sport is extremely detached from the average individual who watches is.

      3. @keithcollantine That would imply Keith that the sport believes there is still audience growth to be had in Europe. All the new races being signed up are in wildly different timezones to Europe, as we are preached to by Bernie and the sport that is where growth lies. These figures only cover audience figures for the UK presumably, which means it would be very easy for Bernie to take total worldwide audience figures and use that as justification for the move to Sky.

        1. The problem with the system is the disconnect between the TV model and the worldwide model of F1. TV is not a distinctly global product – it’s localised because of costs, logistics and language.

          The internet, however…

        2. “These figures only cover audience figures for the UK presumably” – correct.

  18. No. The figures will steadily decline to point where FTA is no longer viable, and the terrestrial stations will drop it altogether. Viewing figures for pay to view will stay stagnant, just as premiership football as, and that has a fan base much, much larger than F1.

    1. I guess the one thing that *could* happen in the UK is that Ofcom/the Department for Culture, Media & Sport putting the British GP on the ‘listed events’ list (link) which would require the BBC to show it – they could then lobby for a portion of the license fee to go towards maintaining the rights.

      Quite why F1 isn’t on the protected list when it’s so UK-centric from an engineering PoV is mind-boggling and the irony of David Cameron using F1 as an example of the UK’s prowess mere days after the BBC/Sky announcement is just icing on the cake.

    2. Not sure I agree. I think a healthy audience will remain for F1 on FTA. I thought I had read somewhere that the BBC’s (per-race) figures had held up pretty well despite only having half of the races live in 2012.

      Myself I’m not too bothered by having to miss half of the races live – the BBC highlights package is pretty good. I do wish, though, that if F! insist on a pay TV solution then a decent pay per view system be worked out. That would allow us better to pick and choose the races we really want to see live. For example, I enjoy watching the races that are early morning in Europe, since it still allows me to get out in the afternoon, spend time with the family without being stuck in front of the TV.

      Sky’s old-fashioned business model means that it will always seek to bundle products together with a view to increasing its revenues per subscriber, that is why it will shortly only be possible to get its F1 channel by paying for the entire sports package. Nothing will persuade me ever to take out a subscription – F1 is the only thing among all the rubbish offered by Sky across all of its channels that remotely interests me. And I’m afraid Martin Whitmarsh is wide of the mark. Yes we all have smartphones, tablets and are consuming media in different ways. In a world where we have limited time to spend on all the sources of information availoable to us, this is precisely the reason why we need to get away from Sky’s business model and adopt a pay per view approach, e.g. on the internet, that allows us to pay a modest amount to see the things that really interest us.

  19. Numbers have gone down worldwide as well, especially in China so it can’t just be because its gone over to sky, because worldwide things didn’t change as much, we still get the same feed we got before it went over to sky in the UK. My guess is that formula 1 became less exciting, you notice from 2010 to 2011 numbers went up. In 2010 the championship was won in the last race and a few drivers still had the chance to win, so the season was more exciting. In 2011 however Vettel won with almost 6 races left, even some foreign media stopped attending the races. Its natural then that the numbers would drop from that season, pretty much what happen in during the Schumacher era. If one team keeps winning and its competitive and exciting then viewers will stay, if one team keeps dominating then viewers will probably not bother tuning in every race, especially since they’re other races out there that are more competitive. I know I watched all practices, qualifying and races from 2008/11 but in 2012 even though it was competitive I didn’t have the same motivation to watch everything. Following what happen later after the race was sufficient enough for me.

    1. Try living here in the US and watching F1 if you want to see how not to do it. The audience here is very small, approximately 1 million viewers/race. The coverage was just moved to the NBC sport channel that is only available on cable, at extra cost. There has been no publicity about races, no schedules posted, and in many cases fans don’t know about what is happening re coverage. I gave up on American TV years ago and watch BBC or Sky streaming. It’s certainly easy to find the broadcasts, and the quality is good. F1 has abandoned the US, even though Bernie claims it is a market they want to develop; you could certainly fool me about that. If a newspaper or TV sports show even mentions F1 it’s amazing. No one here knows or cares about F1. There is huge potential but FOM doesn’t spend any money developing the market. In my opinion F1 is, in the long term, doomed unless they change their ways from the pursuit of instant, short term profits (which have been enormous) to the development of new fan bases and easy access. Frankly, even though I have been following F1 and attended races in the US and Europe for more years than I like to remember, with the restrictive rules and lack of engineering innovation, I am becoming bored with the whole thing. Look, for example, at the 2014 engine rules; there was a chance to allow for innovative solutions but EVERYTHING about the engine is controlled, from V angle, cylinder bore and spacing, center of gravity, weight, rpm, materials, electronics, turbo location, etc. etc. until we might as well just have a spec engine. After the engines are running F1 will again homologate and freeze development, and allow adjustments in the engines to equalize them. Boring, and I certainly will not pay $600 or whatever to watch it.

  20. The whole situation is dispicable, The cost of sky seems to be increasing and a poultry 9 races on the BBC is pathetic. I can’t believe they are not showing the first race on BBC which seems bizarre after fans have endured a hard winter. Luckily I managed to twist my fathers arm into letting me add my xbox as a second device on his Sky subcription (Sky GO) which thank the lord will allow me to watch the whole season this time round. If you have a console or other device and know someone that already subscribes then this is a good option. The fact my Father lives up north and I’m in london doesn’t seem to be a problem….

    Even ITV was better than this crazy situation.

      1. Paltry perhaps :-) It’s a great word, but hardly used so kudos on the vocabulary, if not on the spelling…..

        1. I know it’s wrong but I think Poultry is better…

    1. The BBC have always said that when the races allotment is decided, they would specifically avoid events that would result in live broadcasts in the early hours of the morning.

      They took a punt on time-shifting Canada in 2012 and that didn’t work – it was broadcast at 10pm as-per the agreement, so wasn’t watched. They took that (and curiously, Japan) and let go of Monaco as a result, but then Monaco 2012 was dire.

      The fact they have 9 races is just bad luck because they took/were forced to take the TBC race as a live one on the understanding that it was happening. To be honest, I reckon they’ll be lobbying Bernie for a contract adjustment to deal with cancelled races.

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