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. mrvco said on 6th May 2014, 16:18

    Our coverage here in the US has gone from mediocre to unwatchable.

    It started with Fox/Speed, but has only gotten worse with NBCSN and their F1-101 (aka F1 for Idiots) coverage trying to lure in channel-surfing soccer moms with low/no motorsports IQ (or worse, casual NASCAR fans). The gimmicks don’t help either (e.g. tire compounds and DRS namely) since the commentators seem to be forced to explain them multiple times during each broadcast in the most simplistic terms, while not going off-script and ignoring many compelling aspects of the race.

    My Tivo is still set to record the NBCSN broadcasts, but I typically go into media blackout mode until I can grab the SKY / BBC coverage off the interwebs instead.

  2. sidecar_jon said on 6th May 2014, 16:22

    I watch the BBC coverage and thats it, as a “sport” that is based on sponsorship (advertising) i don’t understand why they are not moving heaven and earth to get F1 in front of as many eyes as possible, instead hiding it in pay to view packages of crippling cost. I recognize the cars by their advertising liver fer cri’sake …why do u want to pay to be advertised at more!

  3. mantresx (@mantresx) said on 6th May 2014, 16:42

    @keithcollantine You used the wrong link for the telmex website, That’s what you see when you visit from another region.
    Try this one, is better as is it gives more info on live streams, coming races, etc:
    http://www.escuderiatelmex.com/

  4. Alan Torres (@alan1oo1) said on 6th May 2014, 17:09

    oh yeah for my its dificult to see F1 in Mexico because im not a Telmex internet user, anyways where i live there is a Italian Restaurant that opens at any time the race starts, almost every time is from 3am to 7am, theres some others ways to follow F1 if yo have a basic TV package (20 dollars/month) you have Fox Sports that is a pretty nice, the host ( ‘comentador’ i dont know the word in english ) of the race in Fox Sports know about F1, there is another channel called TDN… if you cross with TDN as a casual watcher you change the channel in 5 minutes because they dont know what is happening they dont know the rules they confuses names of the drivers much more than normal, at the end ther are like seeing another race, is annoying. The funny thing is that when the race is on TV the guys of the italian Restaurant always say to me !!! the race is in the tv !!! , while im in the live timing like crazy looking at numbres. Yeah they should put some other people in the TDN channel…. hahaha.
    So well my point is that in order to have new people watching F1 you also need good transmisions with the guys of the TV explaining some things DRS, TYRES, ERS etc… during the race in case that somebody is new and not to have football people narrating F1 with no knowledge.

    • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 6th May 2014, 21:35

      @alan1oo1 oops, I didn’t know that you have to be a telmex customer to watch the races (I didn’t notice because I am one hehe).

      Good to know about TDN but the way you describe it I think is the same televisa broadcast and commentators they’ve used for years now on ForoTV and yes it’s pretty bad, even so, you should add it to the list as well.

  5. andy m said on 6th May 2014, 17:09

    £500 in the UK? That’s a little misleading because it’s actually the price of a full Sky Sports sub, and therefore offers a lot more besides f1. I use Now TV for the ten grands prix not live on the BBC, at £10 a time. All perfectly legal, for a hundred quid a year. That said, putting it behind a pay wall is the reason for falling viewer figures in the UK, so I agree with the points being made.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th May 2014, 19:26

      It is not misleading, that is the minimum price if you want to subscribe to Sky’s F1 channel. I’m sure your point about other channels being included in that price applies to other broadcasters on the list.

      And the Now TV pricing option is also mentioned in the table.

  6. Rooney (@rojov123) said on 6th May 2014, 18:10

    Formula 1 is not “free to air” in India. It needs a cable subscription as F1 is broadcast on Star Sports. But television subscription in India just happens to be ridiculously cheap. A complete subscription package with movies/sports/music/reality/Regional stuff…etc cost about 4500INR ( 40 GBP) per year.
    People usually say it is free to air because even the cheapest subscription(15 GBP per year) includes plenty of sports channels among which F1 also happens to be broadcast.
    Sorry if the subscription rates makes people jealous. :p

  7. Chu said on 6th May 2014, 18:11

    Here in Argentina, we have great F1 coverage (commentators do not enter this category).
    It’s for free with the ‘standard’ package in DirecTV for aprox u$s 30.

  8. Finlay (@fintard96) said on 6th May 2014, 18:18

    FOM really need to relax their copyright rules on Youtube. I can’t watch Indycar for free in the UK but I watch Youtube uploads of the races. Unfortunately, one of the channels on Youtube that I used posted a video of this one Indy car race from nineteen eighty something, which happened to have a 30 second update from the F1 race that had been on that weekend. The channel was blocked from Youtube. It wasn’t even an F1 race!

    “I am a viewer of Indycar from a country where I cannot easily access the races. I found videos of last years races and enjoyed them. I would now consider myself to be a big fan and I like to keep updated on Indycar news via their website …..”

    Just for a moment, take the time to replace ‘Indycar’ with ‘F1′ in that last paragraph.

    The modern, young audience that F1 would like to attract don’t often sit on the sofa to watch TV. They have mobile phones and tablets that they can do that on. Why do FOM think that double points will attract more viewers (everybody can see that that is just not fair or sporting and this in a sport started by gentlemen racers!), when it is accessibility that will do that.

    Clearly FOM are out of touch with their targeted audience. Maybe F1 could try the Indycar approach: allow some race videos on youtube (or at least extended highlights) = more fans.

  9. Shrekeh said on 6th May 2014, 18:29

    I tend to torrent race weekends. I have a Sky sub, and Sky Go, but its still an incredibly limited service. The whole point of such a system is to allow anytime viewing, but Sky Go still works on a daily TV schedule, so I have organise my time around that, which is utterly pointless. I’m much happier when BBC does the coverage for the weekend for the single reason that I am able to watch full race and quali anytime afterwards (or whatever arbitrary length of time they deem fit to keep it on their servers for). So if its a Sky weekend, I’m torrenting the day after; BBC, I’m watching some time later that day. I’m also currently downloading the entire 2008 season, something I’d happily pay 50 quid a year for the privilege of. 2/3 disc blu ray set anyone?

    But I dont believe this is at all the problem. Almost every part of the sport is warped in some way, and all anyone wants to see is people racing. We can all have a good time and laugh at these side stories, the political issues, the culture of the sport, but those are the things that make the sport seem murky, elitist, and unfashionable. DRS, double points, points on licenses, expensive tickets, red tape, spygate, fixed races, team orders, pay to drive, crooks and crybabies, and a seeming disregard for the future of any team that isn’t red bull, ferrari or mercedes. It’s no wonder that people feel disillusioned about the sport, and none of it, none of it at all has anything to do with what happens on track. The most immediate remedy is for Bernie to step down, just for the sake of his dignity and that of the sport, and maybe get someone in there that isn’t an egomaniacal halfwit and appreciates the other side of what makes any sport great: the fans.

  10. Andre Urquiza (@dre01ss) said on 6th May 2014, 18:41

    I don’t know what MotoGP has in regards to cable provider contracts, but their online package is as thorough and accessible as it can be – F1 should adopt a similar model to gain even more widespread reach.

    Not only do you get all races/practices/qualifying live with the MotoGP subscription, but they also let you go back and watch races from 1992 onwards. The new material gives you multiple camera angles, and you can even mute the commentator track and listen to just the engine/track sounds.

    They did it right – F1 needs to catch up to the times and the digital age.

  11. DaveW (@dmw) said on 6th May 2014, 18:54

    Metro DC, USA. We pay about 188/month for the FIOS package with phone, high speed internet, and TV with a high enough channels package to get NBCSports. Also we rent DVRs from Verizon at a ridiculous rate (essential for scooping up the practices and 2am races where I just can’t stay up.). It’s hard to disaggregate the costs so it’s hard to say what the F1 access is really costing me. I once tried to see what I could chuck, while paying less and still getting F1, and ended up with a migraine and only paying a bit less for jetissoning HBO. I could probably shave maybe $50 by going to a lower channel package, but then I maybe lose some college football and basketball games, so it’s hard to price F1 here.

    As far as the content and quality, Varsha, Hobbs, and Matchett and Buxton do OK. Buxton is getting at little bit full of himself but he only pipes up every so often. NBCSports also does a “debrief,” which is boring, as it’s really 3 old dudes sitting around reviewing race clips. NBCSports shows FP1, FP2, Q, and the races. All usually live, but occaisionally not.

  12. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 6th May 2014, 18:55

    I’ll never understand why FOM don’t do something similar to what WWE have created recently. WWE Universe allows subscribers to not only watch pay-per-views, but also to watch any past event online, and all it costs if £5 a month.

    If F1 were to do that as well, then it would be far cheaper than having to pay the extortionate fees to be able to watch SKY F1, and would allow new fans across the world to re-visit old, classic F1 races. This alone would help new F1 fans get into the sport better, by being able to witness some of the greatest F1 races of all time.

    I, for one, would definitely be more than willing to pay £5 a month for a service like that, and a few of my friends who aren’t as into the sport as I am said they would too.

  13. andrewf1 (@andrewf1) said on 6th May 2014, 19:32

    Just goes to show how much of a dinosaur Bernie really is, completely out-of-touch with what’s economically sustainable and attractive for the sport.

    I don’t know why people still call him the best at his job, take a look:

    - viewing figures have been declining for years
    - attendance figures at circuits have been declining for years
    - European circuits have been abandoned and are always in a struggle
    - Internet content is not efficiently made use of
    - Archived content is not exploited at all
    - Teams are unfairly treated at the end of the season
    - Stupid rule proposals (I’m talking about sprinklers, medals, double points gimmicks, not the new engine rules)

    The sport is losing viewers because of the way it’s being managed, run and made available, not because of the technical rules.

    I really hope once the court case is closed, that Bernie will be replaced by a new, much younger and way more competent manager, who can undo his mistakes and run the sport properly, so that it actually grows and no longer diminishes.
    Bernie doesn’t care about growth, he cares about short-term profits. That’s who he is and as long as he’s ruling FOM, it won’t change – people don’t change their views at his age.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 7th May 2014, 2:07

      @andrewf1, Here,here, Bernie manages F1 terribly, but he manages the profit for himself and the investors he sold to very well, that is what Bernie cares about.

    • KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 7th May 2014, 7:43

      Well, actually Bernie was well ahead of his time when FOM launched the digital F1 coverage in 1996/1997. But it didn’t take off, so it is somewhat understandable that he does not want to get burned twice.

  14. PeterG said on 6th May 2014, 19:46

    May not be the popular view but I love F1 been on Sky because they are doing so much more with it than ITV/BBC ever did.

    We get everything live & interactive across multiple platforms (TV, Online & ipad), We get an archive race every day at 9pm, A dedicated F1 show every Friday & we just ended Senna week which featured some brilliant programs & classic races.

    I love been able to select from several different on-car cameras each session, I like been able to listen to the team radio & other bits of data on the pit channel. And having access to the official timing & driver tracker systems are also brilliant.

    The sky f1 coverage of f1 is so much better & far more in-depth than what we had on the bbc & itv over the past 20 years & I am loving it & would be dissapointed if f1 moved away from sky & we lost all this wonderful coverage.

  15. Cipriano Mauricio said on 6th May 2014, 20:27

    I do not have a television nor cable. I am able to see most of the sports I want over the web.
    I really enjoy BBC’s (iPlayer) non-commercial coverage for replaying races for I am not able to see the them live. Because I live in America, I have to go through the hoops of “pirating” BBC’s coverage by using UK IP proxies. It would be great to not have to go through this mess when I want to watch the races.

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