Fans reveal state of F1 television coverage worldwide

2014 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014It’s a measure of how desperate Bernie Ecclestone is to stem F1′s falling TV audiences that he brooked no contradiction while demanding knee-jerk changes to the rules over the winter.

His initiative to award double points for the last race of the season was pilloried by F1 fans, yet remains in the rule book for this year at least.

All manner of gimmicks have been tried over the years as F1 tried to woo TV audiences. But the gross unfairness of double points – which even Ecclestone cannot deny – represented a new low.

Absent from the panic-stricken quest for ratings has been any suggestion that Formula One Management’s approach to F1 broadcasting might also be to blame for the fact that fewer people are watching. For obvious reasons, it’s a subject which won’t get much coverage in F1 television broadcasts.

And yet audiences have inevitably suffered most in countries where F1 had historically enjoyed strong viewing figures until free-to-air F1 broadcasts were replaced by pay-per-view.

In the UK, where an annual F1 subscription now costs over £500 per year, even Lewis Hamilton’s romp to victory in China couldn’t stop viewership falling to its lowest level in seven years.

F1 Fanatic readers from around the world compiled information on the availability and cost of watching Formula One. The data reveals significant variation in the quality and extent of F1 coverage:

While countries like Australia, Brazil and India still enjoy free-to-air F1 broadcasts, full-year subscriptions in other countries can run to hundreds, even thousands of pounds.

Is this the shape of things to come or a failed experiment? That depends on whether those running F1 believe the money offered by pay-per-view broadcasters is worth the trade-off of smaller audiences, and accept F1′s global reach will never be quite what it was.

The other aspect of F1′s broadcasting future is the readiness with which it accepts new media. While some sports have taken advantage of the opportunities presented by the sport to sell its coverage directly to fans, FOM has largely avoided doing so.

However some bespoke video content has been created for the current version of the official F1 app, and a new offering has been promised in the near future.

In the meantime many broadcasters have been slow to embrace the opportunities offered by new media. However some offer the means to watch online and via apps.

In countries where pay-per-view subscriptions are the only alternative, some broadcasters permit access to these online services at a reduced price. In Mexico free online broadcasts of every race are available courtesy of Telmex, who backed drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez.

Other countries are still yet to catch up with past innovations. Formula One took until 2011 to offer high definition race coverage, but three years later it remains unavailable in some regions. In others standard definition broadcasts are offered as a cheaper alternative.

The quality and value-for-money of F1 coverage worldwide varies enormously. While that is the case, it is unwise for the sport to change its rules so hastily in an attempt to win greater audiences.

Merely making coverage of its races available at a reasonable price in the first race would be sufficient for many fans.

Notes on the data

Channel data compiled with the assistance of @Mwyndo7, @Pezlo2013, @Plushpile, @Fitzroyalty, @Force-Maikel, @Ardenflo, @Backwards, @Pandanet, @Alonsomanso, @Thaischumi, @Palle, @RetardedF1sh, @Gonde, @Klon, @Sigman1998, @Hunocsi, @FabF1, @Akshay, @Fixy, @Girts, @Osvaldas31, @Mantresx, @Npf1, @Jarred-Walmsley, @OmarR-Pepper, @ArtAnonim, @Mcangueiro, @Olegryzhikov, @Milansson, @Enigma, @Karmen, @Rigi, @Tifoso1989, @GeeMac, @Lord-Stig, @US_Peter and @Grosjean0817.

To contribute, amend or correct the data please post a response via the link.

2014 F1 season


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146 comments on Fans reveal state of F1 television coverage worldwide

  1. Daniel (@tamburello) said on 6th May 2014, 14:05

    It is mostly down to the fact that the sport in general is less entertaining than let’s say 20 years ago. The fact that the FIA now restricts drivers in their driving through the new formula, sponsors limit drivers to express any type of emotion and the fact that FOM is so damn greedy in their source material, just proves that the sport itself is out of touch with the fans. Anyone from the States can confirm that the reason behind Nascar’s and Indycar’s success is the close contact with fans, the distribution of material through new media (full races on YouTube the same day) and the overall more relaxed attitude of drivers.

    It is truly shocking to see how relaxed the drivers were during interviews 2 decades ago, how more natural they looked. Just a room with a blanket in the background and three folding chairs was enough to hold the interview. F1 has always been a business, but as a fan you were confronted first with the characters and then the business side. Just like the racing, it is all about managing the whole show of F1, and like any big business, the top brass cannot care less about the demands of customer.

    I don’t mind the money I pay, since the coverage is pretty descent in the Netherlands (now that Olav Mol is back as a commentator at least) Also because the coverage on my laptop, is not quite there yet. But in a few years time there will be no reason to pay anymore. Just stream it in HD on our 4K screens and off we go.

    The ideal situation of course would be to invest into coverage, in stead of taking the profit for yourself. Something I am afraid will never happen:(

  2. Sujeeth (@sjct83) said on 6th May 2014, 14:15

    bein sport UAE £1,512??? i have that subscribtion and it is costing me AED 936 APPROX £156 may be typo.

  3. F1Joe said on 6th May 2014, 14:25

    Bernie should consider what happened to boxing, because pay-per-view killed it.
    In the days of free-to-air boxing, everybody knew some boxers and had seen some fights. Today, most people don’t know a single boxer unless he boxed in the free-to-air days. Boxing audiences grew until pay-per-view and have been shrinking since, turning a gold mine sport into a nugget.
    It will happen to F1 too.

  4. Can’t respond to the link for some reason (bars my account from replying.

    1. What country are you in (and state, if applicable)
    US, New York
    2. Which channels broadcast F1 near you?
    NBC Sports Network
    3. Do they show all the races live or only a limited number (if so, how many?)
    All live
    4. Do they also show qualifying live?
    Most live, sometimes is tape delayed
    5. Do they also show practice sessions live?
    On the app, but only practice 2 on TV
    6. If they are a subscription channel, what does a full year’s subscription cost (excluding limited time offers)?
    $960 for a base plan on DirecTV
    7. Do they broadcast coverage online? If so please post link/s
    Yes, NBCsports.com
    8. Please supply any other relevant information such as alternative viewing options

  5. Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 6th May 2014, 14:35

    I watch illegal streams. It’s a shame because I’ve got money ready and waiting to be handed over to F1 for an official stream. I’m simply not going to pay the guts of 600 – 700 euros a year for hundreds of channels that I’ll never watch just to get F1.

    They need to take a hard look at something like MLB.tv and get the ball rolling. I’d happily pay 100 euros to stream the whole season.

    Too many sports act like they are the only show in town, they need to understand that people have a range of interests and if you come at them with ultra premium pricing you might just end up being ignored.

    • Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 6th May 2014, 15:56

      I’m the same, although i make do with the limited BBC coverage rather than trying to find illegal streams. But there must be lots of people who would be willing to pay a reasonable sum for F1 streaming only. My objection is paying for a standard sky subscription and all three sky sports channels even if you only want the one channel (around £55/month plus £7 if you want HD + around £5 more for full sky plus functionality i think). It works out over £650 per year (minimum) unless you negotiate some deal. Even the sky pay as you go streaming option is not value for money imo at £10 per 24 hours… which won’t even cover the full race weekend.

  6. reiter (@reiter) said on 6th May 2014, 14:38

    Over here in Colombia, I don’t pay for F1 coverage in the same way I don’t pay for the Champions League or the World Cup (by way of Fox Sports, ESPN, etc). Everything is already covered by the channels in my standard cable package, even if you have to pay more for HD. For the amount of money an F1 subscription costs in some countries, I could literally fly all the way to a nearby GP (say, Brazil or USA or Canada), watch it live, and then come back.

    FOM seems to be begging to start losing numbers to online piracy and streaming as bandwidth costs and speeds become better.

  7. Sujeeth (@sjct83) said on 6th May 2014, 14:40

    Same With me

    1.What country are you in (and state, if applicable)
    UAE
    2. Which channels broadcast F1 near you?
    BeIn Sports
    3. Do they show all the races live or only a limited number (if so, how many?)
    All live
    4. Do they also show qualifying live?
    Yes
    5. Do they also show practice sessions live?
    Yes
    6. If they are a subscription channel, what does a full year’s subscription cost (excluding limited time offers)?
    AED 936/Year
    7. Do they broadcast coverage online? If so please post link/s
    Not sure
    8. Please supply any other relevant information such as alternative viewing options

  8. Neil Reid (@internetguy) said on 6th May 2014, 14:41

    I’ve been watching F1 continuously since 1984 and this is the first year that my interest has dropped so precipitously. My reasons include the following; (many of which have been stated by others prior in this thread);

    - V6 engines. F1 has, for me, become too effeminate. Racing means big power, not fuel economy. Bring back V10′s and V12s- better yet- let teams install whatever power plant they wish within fuel and weight rules. I get energy recovery- but V6′s have no place in big league racing.

    - The drivers are too sanitized. Long gone are the great characters of F1 like Senna, Mansel, and Prost. Driver interviews are to me, very boring. Nothing of real consequence is stated and not worth watching.

    - The rules have made the racing artificial. Tire conservation has been important for years, but it’s gone too far now for me. Double points at the last races is unacceptable to me.

    - The current U.S. TV broadcasters are nowhere near as good as Varsha, Hobb’s and Matchett were.

    - Expensive live events. I live not too far from the Austin track, and have attended Montreal, Indy, and Austin. Simply far too expensive for what you get. The average guy can’t get within 1,000 feet of the garages. If you attend an NHRA drag race, you can walk open pits and have your shirt nearly blown off when the nitro cars are test fired in the pits. You can routinely meet drivers and crew members. Pretty cool. And all that for a fraction of an F1 live experience.

    - MotoGP coverage by subscription is vastly more entertaining for me. For about $100 USD, you get every practice, excellent commentary, many interviews, the race is a two hour live stream, the video quality is excellent, and the racing is close and exciting among the top runners. Rossi, Marquez, Lorenzo, and others are interesting to listen to. Other video features are available as well such as tech reviews and etc. And, I can watch it any time I wish with DVR features.

    Many thanks for having this excellent forum. It’s my hope that F1 can return to the greatness it once had, but the longer term trajectory seems pretty clear to me. Every party ends at some point.

    • Nerrticus (@nerrticus) said on 6th May 2014, 16:09

      - The current U.S. TV broadcasters are nowhere near as good as Varsha, Hobb’s and Matchett were.

      I’m curious about this statement because Hobbs, Matchett and Buxton are still there even after the coverage switched channels last year (from Speed to NBCSN). Varsha moved on, which was a bummer, but I think Diffey has been perfectly fine in his place.

      I really like NBCSN’s presentation of F1 but I am very worried about how dedicated their coverage will be once NASCAR joins the channel in 2015. There’s only so much TV time available to cover NASCAR, F1, Indycar AND the Premier League on the same weekend…

    • matt90 said on 6th May 2014, 16:23

      But power has barely dropped, and did V6s not have a place in the ’80s? Or in current top-flight prototypes? Or Indy?

      • jdd said on 6th May 2014, 18:16

        It is not the amount of power, it is wat is done in F1 it self.
        It is now all FIA controlled artificial racing. Since Senna died they went in to panic mode, every thing had to be extremely save and speed had to be controlled. Result cars can not overtake without artificial things like DRS only place a team can innovate is the airo package and as soon as they find something it is banned the next race if not next season. And people think wonder why F1 is so expensive.

        I say set the basics of the car like dimensions, minimum or maximum fuel cell size, maximum amount of fuel (only way correct way to some environmental thinking, specify the safety parameters that a car must comply to, and then let the teams figure it out.

        If they think that they can make the fastest car with a V12 and some energy recovery stuff or an V8 without who cares ! It will give different concepts and probably lots of surprises instead of 24 basically the same cars with a slightly differently tweaked airo package.
        That is what made F1 great.
        - Senna stuck in an gravel trap and hey that darn williams turned into a terrain wagon and drove out of it. Active suspension surprise !
        - McLaren blew engine in Australia in a big plum of blue smoke. First time the cooling was highly pressurised so boiling point of the (special) cooling liquid was raised. Surprise !!
        - Alesi that suddenly in a b-rated car started to pass everyone. High nose introduced Supprise !!!
        -2001 Ferrari introduce the exhaust exit via the side pods for airo dynaminc efficiency used by all teams for many years Supprise !!

        Now everything is controlled.
        - fuel amount (okay) , fuel flow
        - mandatory different tyre types, designed to have certain drop of curve to “make” the race exiting.

        All resulting in that a team cannot do what they should in F1 class racing.
        Make a car drive as fast as possible only limited by:
        - what fast they can make the car
        - what the tyre manufacture can squeeze out of the tyre
        - what the track (conditions) allows you to <- safety car because it is to wet?? Nonsense !!
        - how fast a driver dares to go.

        • Dave (@raceprouk) said on 6th May 2014, 19:55

          I say set the basics of the car like dimensions, minimum or maximum fuel cell size, maximum amount of fuel (only way correct way to some environmental thinking, specify the safety parameters that a car must comply to, and then let the teams figure it out.

          And this would be just as expensive if not more so, widening the gap between the teams even further.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 7th May 2014, 1:46

            @raceprouk, and yet the disorganised rabble that was F1 before Bernie made it “profitable” managed almost exactly that scenario, you only need to substitute maximum engine size for max. fuel.

          • jdd said on 7th May 2014, 7:46

            No difference with what is happening now.
            Every rule change the little can not follow big teams in development times so they always be a back runner make no money what so ever.

            The sport is expensive it always was it always will be, if you want it cheap make standard cars and let them only modify little things as in indycar.
            But then you will loose ferrari mercedes etc very quickly.

        • matt90 (@matt90) said on 6th May 2014, 21:30

          Don’t get me wrong, artificial overtaking annoys me too, but DRS is hardly linked to safety after the death of Senna.

          And although there are probably too many controls these days, F1 would become even more of a spending war if too many were taken away. There is no easy answer that I see to that unfortunately (although selectively reducing the controls, as you said wit engines, might be possible in moderation).

          • jdd said on 7th May 2014, 17:39

            It is related.
            Due to safety the rules have changed that now nearly all down force is generated by airo, and no longer mechanical grip. Result they no longer can slip stream to overtake, solution artificial overtaking by DRS.

  9. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 6th May 2014, 14:45

    I have answered for the Philippines. :) As a sidenote, Fox Sports provides F1 coverage for the entire Southeast Asian region, but prices vary per country (and cable operator).

  10. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 6th May 2014, 14:48

    If Bernie does lose his job, I sincerely hope that these subscription packages that are ludicrously expensive are scrapped, or atleast let Free-to-air receive every race live in HD. F1 has really shot itself in the foot with this. They allow only paying viewers to see all the action, and then they wonder why their viewing figures drop, so they then try to implement cheap gimmicks in a bid to spruce up the ‘show’ only to actually ruin the sport.

    Here in Australia I count myself lucky that it’s remained on free-to-air tv, only because Lachlan Murdoch is majority owner of Channel 10, so we get the Sky Coverage (minus pre and post race stuff). However we do get ad breaks, which is just terrible because you often miss crucial moments.

  11. Mashiat (@mashiat) said on 6th May 2014, 14:59

    It’s expected because in the home of F1 (Britain), viewers need to pay to watch, while in every single country in Asia and the USA broadcast it for free, with FP1, FP2, FP3, Quali & of course race. And we get several channels here where I live and as a result, I get commentary from local channels, as well as Sky commentary. Not much of a surprise when you consider this!

  12. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 6th May 2014, 15:03

    As a Finn, I have been subscribing to MTV3′s pay-channel(s) ever since they moved away from FTA at the start of the 2007 season. However, while initially the PDTV package was priced at just 110€/year, this year I could not be bothered to pay almost twice that amount, so I decided to go for the online route (89€). So far, I have been pretty happy with the service, and I could definitely see something like that being much more common in the future. While some “exclusive” content what the F1 App offers is not really to my taste, I would be glad to pay a basic fee for a HD world feed stream, and I think many others would do so as well.

  13. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 6th May 2014, 15:54

    As the numbers fall, however, the powers that be continue to pinpoint the wrong places where they believe F1 is going wrong. Maybe the finale isn’t enough of a climax! Let’s double the points! Casual fans only care about overtakes, no matter how artificial it is! Let’s put even more DRS zones in!

    Whilst we’re at it, let’s charge people way above what they can afford to witness all of this… and still, I can’t quite figure out why no one is tuning in…

    • Superted666 (@superted666) said on 6th May 2014, 17:02

      “The race, which aired exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 from 07:00 to 10:30, averaged 681k (11.2%), which compares with 622k (8.4%) and 547k (7.4%) respectively in 2012 and 2013 for their shared coverage. BBC One’s highlights averaged 2.87m (21.1%) from 14:30, bringing a combined average of 3.55m.”

      You are of course correct, Sky’s viewing figures are in-fact up for the GP YOY despite being compared with shared viewing figures.

  14. mateuss (@mateuss) said on 6th May 2014, 16:01

    If F1 had gone to pay-per-view one year earlier in my country, I would not have discovered F1.

    I have no means to access F1 in an “official” way.

    If there was some reasonable HD online service at reasonable price from my preferred broadcaster, I might consider, but there isn’t even an unreasonable one to consider.

    If FOM don’t make a move to have F1 content easily and mostly freely available on the internet, F1 will continue falling behind. This humongous problem plus the recent track record of lagging behind seems quite ironic, if not sad, for a sport that advertises itself for the highest, newest and best…
    No, in terms of broadcasting, not even slightly.

    Another thing to mention, I have not watched any TV for over 6 years. And neither have most of my friends and the people I know, if you discount forced viewing at family gatherings such as Christmas and New year. Sure, many of these people have TVs, but they are not used in the “old way”, it would be more appropriate to call them large monitors. Each of them access media services daily and now the newest happenings, watch their favorite programs and sports, but never through regular or pay-per-view television services.

  15. VoiseyS (@voisey) said on 6th May 2014, 16:04

    Reading the article from F1 broadcasting above, Sky’s figures for the Chinese GP are UP 20% for 2014 and that figure for Sky alone is greater than the combined BBC/Sky figures for 2013? How does that represent a “panic stricken request for ratings” ? The fall of from BBC viewers of free-to-air coverage is being outweighed by higher figures from Sky, looking at the Chinese GP numbers.

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