Thoughts of TV numbers

TV viewing figures are all about methodology. I have a file in my computer listing the published viewer numbers from 1981 to 2000 and they reveal that in the first year 8.5 billion people saw something about F1 on the TV that year. In 1999 the claim had risen to 57,754,361,716. I kid you not. These days the methods have changed and are a little more realistic. Formula One Management’s 2013 Global Media Report reports that the sport was watched in 185 countries or territories and consisted of 27,000 hours of coverage, while resulted in 450 million viewers worldwide watching more than 15 non-consecutive minutes of the sport during the course of the season. This, therefore, cuts out the billions that used to be counted when they watched a new item. It is a good solid way of looking at the numbers. The bad news is that this is considerably down on last year’s numbers, and they were down on 2011. The drop went from 511 million in 2011, to 500 million (give or take) in 2012.

This does not take into account the fact that there were 20 races in 2012 and only 19 in 2013, the same number as in 2011. On that basis the drop-per-race between 2011 and 2012 was rather more than between 2012 and 2013. Having said that these losses and gains depend largely on the TV deals in place, rather than the levels of interest. Thus there was a big drop in 2013 in China because state broadcaster CCTV gave up its coverage and the 13 regional stations that took over did not have the same reach, so the 49 million figure in 2012 fell to 19 million. This clearly skews the figures somewhat. Bernie Ecclestone said that the “less-than-competitive nature of the final few rounds, culminating in the championship being decided ahead of the races in the USA and Brazil, events which often bring substantial audiences, had a predictable impact on reach”. Inevitably this was translated by some of the media into Sebastian Vettel being the problem. When one looks at the figures a little more closely one sees that there was definitely an impact with Sky in the UK providing a good example. There was a small increase in the channel’s overall average but a much more significant change between the averages of the first half and second halves of the year. That reveals a drop in the region of 27 percent, compared to just 4.5 percent in 2012. Having said that, another important element in the process is the switching from free-to-air to pay-per-view in some countries. This resulted in a big drop in Britain in 2012, when the BBC and Sky shared the coverage for the first time. This arrangement reduced the pain in the UK, but the decision to switch from TF1 to Canal+ in France in 2013 showed the level of destruction that such moves can create, even if the financial returns are better. France’s 27 million in 2012 fell to 10 million last year. This sort of thing is going to drive away sponsors, making it harder for the teams to generate revenues, although they will benefit from an increase in TV money, albeit shared between them. In the overall scheme of things this is not good for them but it suits the financial types who take the money that stays with the Formula One group.

The success stories came largely in markets that were ripe for expansion, such as the US where TV gave the sport a better run following the successful GP in Austin in 2012. There were increases in the UK but that market took a major hit between 2012 and 2013 when many of the races went behind a pay-wall. It was alarming to see a drop of 10 percent in Germany when the man winning everything was a German, but the Spanish market held up well despite Fernando Alonso struggling. Brazil had a drop of around five percent compared to 2012 which may have had something to do with the decreased interest because Felipe Massa was the only Brazilian driver left and he was struggling. It was similar but more acute problem in Russia after Vitaly Petrov dropped out of F1.

One hopes that a shake-up of the rules and a new pecking order should create some more exciting racing in 2014.

Migrating to pay-per-view deals is something that needs to be done with great care, or not at all. The problem is that while there is a quick buck to be made, such switches mean that getting new viewers is much harder than before because new people do not stumble on the sport as they would when it was free-to-air.

119 thoughts on “Thoughts of TV numbers

  1. I’ve given up on watching on TV as the fees aren’t justifiable. Would love to be watching it in HD on my enormous projector screen, but with two young kids, a salary that never grows, and the cost of living that always does, I guess it’s only the successful entrepreneurs amongst us who will soon be left to watch it on pay tv. And I am in the prime demographic.

    1. I agree. Joe’s last paragraph says it all. Sky’s coverage is quite good but not worth the extra over the BBC – which doesn’t look like it can be relied upon for more than a year or so to come (I was so annoyed not to be able to see Monaco last year free on the TV for the first time in 20 years). I know you (Bernie) could argue you should have to pay and that we have had something for nothing for many years but it’s the viewing figures the sponsors have wanted and it looks like they’re not going to get them if it goes totally pay.

      After all taken to it’s extreme (i.e. paying for a ticket to go and watch) it doesn’t seem that there’s an awful lot of people prepared/able to pay – it doesn’t seem like there are many sell-out Grand Prix any more

  2. Give the people what they need, and they will buy it. At any price.
    Give the people what they want, and they will buy it… With the money felt over.
    Simple marketing. Exploit the need to a want… Priceless.

    1. This is true. The word is very frequently misused, and I don’t know why – especially since, in most cases, the correct word is actually three syllables shorter. Or maybe that IS why it’s misused…

  3. Of course the introduction of DRS and those silly tyres may also have had an impact. Racing is racing no matter who is winning but contrived results puts off those who see this as a sport.

    1. I don’t see it. The hardcore fans are the only ones who will care about those kinds of things and while many diehard fans LOVE to talk about giving up on the sport that’s ruining its good name, they rarely follow through.

      1. Agree. My friends and i have been wathing f1 since the erly 80,s. We watch it free in spain. But we talked about when they bring the pay per view here, none of us are going to pay the fee. They are compensting with the new markets but loosing the old customers.
        Another thing thats shocking, its that the british media is trying not to throw to much trash into the sound thing, but i made the mistake of going to a gp in 2009, when there was a regulatión change, AMD i wont make that mistake again. The cars were a fiasco then AMD are going to be a fiasco now. F1 will bring the performance back, but its going to take five years at least. Thats what happened the last time.

  4. I dont get why people keep telling it is because of Vettel domination, if I remember correctly, in 2011 the championship was decided earlier than 2013 and was a more boring year championship-wise. Why then the drop in viewing figures is being related to Vettel this year?

    1. I guess the pay tv deals hadn’t happened or were just beginning then – as for Vettel 2011 was the year when the ‘Vettel qualifies on pole then wins out front’ trope was created. Then even though he had much slower starts in 2012 and 2013 by comparison the idea was in casual fans mindset then.

      1. Oh no, not again! (rolls eyes):
        ‘Vettel qualifies on pole then wins out front’

        If that’s the script for the 2014 races, I’ll find it even harder to stay awake on a Sunday afternoon.

        1. Vettel is the kid on the school playground who’s much more talented than those around him. It’s not fair to criticise him for it, but he does take the fun out of a kick about for the other players and for the fans.

      1. His domination followed a very strict pattern though which precluded actual wheel to wheel racing (and that’s not his job to entertain us but to find a way to win without problems) but the problem was even in races that didn’t follow the ‘script’ many casual fans (and even hardcore fans) found they reverted to ‘oh yeah I’ve seen this before.’

        I still watched 2011 intently even though it was obvious early on Vettel had it in the bag – but even though 2012/first half of 2013 was more varied anytime Vettel looked slightly ahead I found myself distracted and apt to dip in and out of even the Sky live coverage.

  5. I don’t know how the numbers of downloaders are determined, you do hear numbers stated for other torrented shows in news pieces, but I wonder how significant viewer numbers of pirated GP’s are. Downloading torrents a day or two after the live race. No pay-per-view revenue, but they still see the advertising in the race.

    1. Yes an interesting point. Not that I would ever condone pirating an F1 race, but my purely academic research suggests that there is a lot more torrent traffic for F1 races than their used to be. I imagine it would be well worth factoring in for any assessment of true audiences.

  6. “There was a small increase in the channel’s overall average but a much more significant change between the averages of the first half and second halves of the year”
    Follows my personal experience, and for me the problem was not that one person was doing all the winning – it was when the tires went from being designed to create interesting racing to being.. well… boring.

    The sky deal came in in 2012, and when the races were interesting, and results uncertain, I would ignore all news and media until I could catch up with the race on (bbc) iplayer.

    However when the races started becoming so predictable, I started to check out the results first, and only bothered watching if the race looked interesting. Such is life when you play with pay per view.

  7. Generally the average Joe given the choice to watch something they have to pay for doesn’t work particularly if it’s been free to read or watch for many years.

  8. Currently in a state of limbo here on Sky’s now no longer available to new customers free F1 with the HD package. I shall reluctantly switch to other media sources rather than line their pockets if they get greedy.

    Unfortunately Trillian (her indoors) has already stated that should the Tour de France switch to Sky Sports then we are subscribing. Here’s hoping the multi country Eurosport deal is more desirable to the organisers!

  9. Indeed.
    Anything to turn a quick buck, and to hell with the long range consequences.
    Also, it is becoming clear now, why the silly double points race was introduced. It’s to keep running the business the most profitable way, and boost the audience with gimmicks.
    And who knows, this may indeed work for a season or two, but then the built-in unsustainability will kick in again, and new gimmicks will be required.
    WWF, anyone?
    The sad thing is, there is no easy way out of it. If some US moneybag buys the sport, it is rather likely this short sighted approach with immediate returns as the only goal will be maintained.
    Time for a real coup, Mr. di Montezemolo!

  10. It would be interesting to compare the quality of the feed in each country

    On Channel 10 in Aus you get almost 25 minutes of ads in a 1.5 hour race, making it infuriating to watch, since you miss a third of what is happening. (I’d happily pay for a quality internet stream instead it it was an option)

    What country does get the best quality non stop (free) coverage, and what were their trends?

    1. Brazil: 2h transmission without stops. Great absolute numbers, but audience trending to decrease.

      Here, we try to understand the phenomena associating to the type of coverage we have, that focus in the brazilian drivers and not in F1 as sport.

      So, when you change Fittipaldi, Piquet and Senna for Barrichello and Massa…you will see some lack of interest.

    2. I live in Poland, and we have to pay for cable TV anyway.

      F1 coverage here is great: full HD coverage of all Free Practice sessions live, live qualifying in HD, and of course live races in HD – all of these without any advertising breaks.

      I’m not complaining…! 😀

  11. IF Red Bull are the Man U of F1, then it would be interesting to draw a similar study on the effects of their downfall on global EPL viewing figures. This of course would be slightly skewed as Man U enjoys a global popularity only matched in F1 by, say, Ferrari, so any gain due to Man U’s demise would be tempered by loss of Man U fans unused to living in the real world.

        1. McLaren must be Arsenal.
          Not short of money,
          Professionally run,
          But years of underachievement.
          Lets hope that McLaren can follow the same pattern as Arsenal this season.

      1. Calm down, you are all right on this one. F1 looks more and more like football. And i used to hate football a lot when i was growing up. Now motogp is like f1 was years back. Nobody threw trash at las seasons motogp. It was what f1 is suposed to be.

  12. I only know 1 person who topped up their Sky coverage to add F1 and they dropped Sky completed during the year.

    As for myself, financially Sky isn’t an option.

    I really question the Sky numbers for theUK

    1. Do the Sky figures include people watching on Sky Go, this is how I watch at home using my business account. I know of at least ten others who use other family member accounts.
      The sky coverage is excellent – I would subscribe if I couldn’t use Sky Go , but the ” petty coat ” government wouldn’t allow it!

  13. I’ve been watching F1 since I was 7 years old. I used to watch with my dad, who was interested, but not enough to watch if Jackie Stewart wasn’t winning (I’m a Scot).

    Now I’m 57 years old and I find that I’ve followed F1 for 50 years. Amazing. I rarely miss a race, although in the years when I had a young family, those occasions were more frequent.

    There is absolutely no way that I will pay Sky, or any other pay-per-view company to watch F1.

    If pay-per-view can turn off someone like me, then I fail to see how it can ever work. I am fairly certain, that at some stage this will move the sport back to free-to-view and of course, it will be heralded as some sort of brilliantly insightful strategic move. Sigh.

    1. I’m 58 but its the same story. I have had sky F1 for a month or so due to family circumstances and it is good particularly Ted Kravitz and Martin Brundle (missed on the BBC) but I doubt I’ll keep it going now that the family circumstances have changed back again

  14. Some of us just don’t have the option of watching f1 on pay tv. Well, not if we want to eat or stay warm! A basic state pension doesn’t let you.

  15. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m already paying $100/month for my cable TV package. So I’m not getting “free-to-air” coverage as the last I checked, NBC Sports isn’t available that way.

    And that double-points rule has really struck a nerve with me and I’ve followed F1 since the late 1960s. If that’s the way F1 is heading then there’s no way I’m going to ever pay extra for any kind of pay-per-view package…

  16. You don’t have to know much about another wonderful ‘ology’ to understand that whatever the figures ‘prove’, F1 as a spectator sport – either live or electronic media based – is in terminal decline.

    The world has moved on. Elite sports are no longer the draw they once were. Participatory sports – or at least sports where you can buy stuff to emulate your sporting hero such as cycling, triathlon, football, blah, blah, – are the growth areas.

    Lenovo could buy an entire TdF cycling team and run it for two seasons for the price of a small logo on Mr Buttons front wing. Not only that, but you’d find overweight 40 y-olds queuing to buy Team Lenovo cycling outfits as they bumble around the Cotswolds on their carbon bikes. That’s the sort of market reach advertisers and corporations want, not 3 mins 20 second each race where their logo may just be visible on a 40″ HD screen.

    The more F1 has moved away from the public, both physically and metaphorically, the more it’s become a distant, untouchable and increasingly less-understandable activity.

    When I was young I could walk around an F1 paddock and put my sticky fingers all over an F1 Lotus, Cooper or Ferrari. Yes, I’d be told to ‘bugger off kid’ but at least I could do it. Try getting access to the F1 paddock today. In fact, apart from Monaco or Singapore, try getting within 10m of a racetrack to even watch the things go past.

    Distance a sport from the people and people will distance themselves from the sport. Simples.

    1. Yes, bang on. The new generation of viewers are out creating their own sports instead of sitting in being awed by F1. Very bleak outlook for our sport.

  17. “Migrating to pay-per-view deals is something that needs to be done with great care, or not at all. The problem is that while there is a quick buck to be made, such switches mean that getting new viewers is much harder than before because new people do not stumble on the sport as they would when it was free-to-air.”

    A very fine and accurate review of why pay-per-view is damaging to the sport in the long-term because it inhibits any new fan uptake. Nobody is going to pay for something that they are new to and don’t know anything about. From a personal point of view, I don’t see why I should further line the pockets of already very rich people such as Rupert Murdoch. If all of F1 went to pay per view as some sports have done, then I would reluctantly have to give up following the sport. I will not pay through the nose for anything. Further in-roads to pay-per-view in F1 should be resisted at every turn.

  18. A Sky subscription is out of the question for me. At the beginning of the UK deal I was making the effort to find somewhere I could see the races live, but as the racing got more and more predictable last year I found myself just making do with the highlights (or even not bothering at all on more than one occasion when I accidentally saw a spoiler).

    I suspect the same thing is happening with many people – I’m someone who didn’t miss a race for 20-odd years, I’d imagine many less dedicated people have turned off completely. F1 really should tread carefully I think – people seem to stump up outrageous sums of money to watch/support football no matter what is demanded of them, but I’m not sure that F1 has that mass market appeal to get away with it.

    1. Yes, I’m one of those people. Once upon a time I used to get up in the middle of the night to make sure I watched every single qually and race live. But since the Sky deal… meh. Often I just end up tripping over a spoiler somewhere and then don’t even bother to watch the race at all.

      I actually take far more interest in Joe’s writings these days than the actual on-track action.

      Having said that, the new engine formula that Mr. E. hates so much will probably drag me back into watching (but not on Sky).

  19. I’ve got Sky, but wasn’t willing to pay the extra for the HD pack which gave me the F1 channel. Although I was eventually offered the HD pack for a couple of quid a month and accepted it and thus had access to the Sky F1 channel for the whole of last season. However I still watched the races on the BBC, as I just don’t like the Sky coverage.

  20. I go along with MattW. When Sky took over live showing, I thought of subscribing, but then decided that the value simply wasn’t there. My actual other main reason to buy, would have been that otherwise I would miss Martin Brundle’s excellent commentating. However I took the hit, stayed with the BBC and suddenly found that I had whole Sundays to do things with, that had previously been tied up with couch potato action instead….this then evolved to some Sundays when the BBC were live, that I ignored too, and just watched the highlights. Given how the racing has been for several years now, I don’t feel that I have missed out by not having Sky, and I have websites like the BBC , and Autosport, where I can watch some action or learn what happened at a race. On balance, it would now not bother me if all races were shown as highlights, which is something I never expected to be able to consider. As an aside, it has become pretty impossible to explain to others, my interest in F1, more and more people I meet say it is totally irrelevant to them, and going “green” with the 1.6 turbo engines, is not making any of them change their minds. Interestingly, most now say that they think it of less interest as the engines are so pathetically small and like the motors in their own cars! This when they, like most of us, lust after horsepower and cubic inches, but can’t afford the fuel prices. In short, I think F1 has reached a tipping point where it is pricing itself out of reach to the majority, and by definition, that will drive sponsors away, as it is the majority that their products are targeted at.I would also note that my interest in F1 dates back to 1963 as a 6 year old. I well remember when the coverage of F1 on TV amounted to just Monaco, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. And how it got to TV regularly as mostly a highlights show last thing on a Sunday night, for 30 minutes or so. Big money and greed is destroying the sport in my opinion.

  21. A friend of mine is a huge F1 fan, has watched (on TV) every race live for years, has laptops set up so he can follow lap times different race views etc. He has sky and yet still towards the end of the last season he missed watching a race live not because he couldn’t but because he didn’t feel the need to.

    These rule changes will hopefully bring some uncertainty back into the grid, as having a tyre that apparently gives one team the ability to win every race will do nothing for viewing figures.

  22. I would argue that the lay tv option is not as bad as feared. Whilst on the face of it you naturally lose numbers what happens to the core fan base? Taking the UK in isolation because everyone has been used to free to air then the hit will be big. However when I look at other sports they have all gone in an upward curve.

    The issue for me is whilst you may lose a casual observer you now gain the chance of gaining a fan who pays for sport and is more likely to actually get engrossed. Sky sports news feeds this and then the fan watches from there. These are the fans to attract as they will have the time and the disposable income to follow. The casual observer on the BBC is not going to be likely swung to a full on fan.

    In summary this explains to me how all sports when moved to Pay tv have not struggled.

  23. To me the spirit of Formula 1 – certainly since the late fifties – is of racers putting together a team and taking on the world. Now the thought of Sir Frank Williams having to rely on handouts, as it is so hard to tempt sponsors, is deeply unattractive. That and the power it gives those holding the purse strings. Yuk.

  24. Here I have to say something Joe. I’m from Brazil, probably the country with the largest F1 audience (in absolute numbers) and a huge automobile market.

    We still have free-to-air F1, but the lack of competitive F1 drivers from our country impacted the audience. Since Ayrton Senna’s death, the interest had dropped and dropped, and now with just one driver it tends to go more down.

    The F1 markets are so diferent that can’t be explained by just one factor, things that impact in China, do not affect Brazil – for example.

    But in one thing we should agree, ‘double points’ in last three race do not solve the main issue of F1: it is not attached to generation ‘Y’ and ‘Z’, the public is getting older and nobody is looking at that.

  25. What happened to viewing figure in Italy Joe? They went to half Sky half FTA , like the UK last year, or so I heard. I though it would provoke an uprising of the Tiffosi but I didn’t hear anything further.

  26. Hi Joe

    It looks like viewings will get worse in future years. I lost count of the times that I hear regular F1 attenders say that they would prefer to watch F1 on TV (they come because it is a day out). I know one well know TV personality and F1 fan, who said that she was so disappointed at their first F1 race, she left the track and listened to the race on her car radio in the car park, ie shortly the race started, cars stopped for fuel/tyres, the noise drowned out the loud speakers, and she lost the race order. Even when a race is viewed at home, the running order TV captions are tiny and erratic, which means on a race track it is worse still, ie I have never heard of a football fan say that they would prefer to watch an international match on TV, and can you imagine attending a match and being unsure of the score. If a fan is at the track, they are also stuck with the same tiny caption on the track’s TV screens. People wonder why attendances are dropping off in India, China, etc, ie people who build the tracks and TV monitors are using outdated business models that lack imagination. Years ago, the cars had big numbers and obelisks displayed the running order numbers for all to see at the track. The format for rugby and soccer has hardly ever changed. The motor sport industry needs to get back to basics and wake up.


  27. I’m a long time fan of Formula 1, and love to watch not only the race but also qualifying and all the practice sessions, when I can. However, I am being prevented from watching because Sky holds the rights in the UK. Even if I overcome my distaste for paying Sky, the way in which they structure things makes it prohibitively expensive. If I want to watch F1, I can’t simply buy an F1 package. No, I would have to buy an entertainment package first, even though I have no interest in any of the channels or shows. And then I would have to buy a package which includes other sports in which, again, I have no interest. This means that the price per race (even taking into account the coverage of practice and qualifying) is simply far too much. I bitterly resent this!

    And I also reject the idea that the dominance of Vettel has much to do with lower numbers. There’s an awful lot more to watch in a race than seeing who wins! If that’s your only interest you probably don’t watch anyway, and merely check the news.

    1. This my main gripe about SKY, there is nothing else in their output that I want to watch, other than F1. A service where I could pay, say £5, per race would be better for me. Hopefully, it can be Internet based and not geographically limited so I can watch every race, wherever I happen to be living.

      I am also happy to just watch a race with good commentary, the hours of talking heads either side of a race that both the BBC & SKY now deem necessary, is just too time consuming. The reduced time it not takes to watch the BBC highlights actually makes it more attractive.

  28. If one guy wins eight or nine races in a row, with totally predictable results, little or no competition, it can be hard for some people to watch, let alone pay for. It also makes it difficult to win casual viewers. (See MotoGP for thrilling racing at the front of the field)

    As for pay TV, I have always lamented the loss of coverage from the BBC to Sky as this would hurt the overall viewership and make gaining new fans harder. Sky dont care for viewing figures only subcriber numbers. The days of the Canadian Grand Prix pulling 5 million people on primetime TV are gone.

  29. If you need to bring down costs in your – lets say – successful clothes store, you could move onto the countryside and save a lot of money on rent. Every sensible person knows it is a wrong decision, because there’s no customers. This is exactly what Bernie’s doing, when he sells the tv-right to the highest bidder, which will always be the ones with the highest commercial ambitions. Never the ones with the most ambitions to broadcasting or entertainment. Not only will you need to jump the wall of payment, but also sit through endless hours of advertisement. It’s not only ruining the sport. It’s ruining the media.

    Money spend on doing the best deals for the sport, will eventually get “injected” back into the sport via broader public interest, followed by sponsors. Set it free and they will be lining up.

    Btw, do you have any idea as to how much each country’s paying for the national tv-rights?

  30. In regards to the US numbers, keep in mind that prior to NBCSN broadcasts, F1 was shown on SpeedTV (Murdoch), which was typically part of an add-on ‘Sport Package’ that included, for example the now re-branded Fox Soccer Channel. NBCSN from what I see, is generally part of a more standard cable package, thus more readily available, accounting surely for some of the bump in viewership?

  31. You may take this personally, Joe. I’m deciding now whether to subscribe to your magazine or re-subscribe to a viewing option. In your favor is that I think the track show will pale in comparison to the circus surrounding it. Decisions, decisions.

      1. Modesty aside, can you see any trends in your magazine take up in each country relative to when pay TV started there?

    1. There are plenty of places to securely download every F1 race in glorious HD to watch at your leisure. Just search. I started when the HD streams began and still have the epic finale of Brazil 2012 archived.

      With the money saved you can subscribe to GP+. SOLVED!

      I think those who stump up for pay-per-view are part of the problem. It all depends on your perspective, but it does annoy me when people complain about PPV then pay anyway. Formula 1’s rights holders are plenty wealthy. If people really want to donate extra they should send it to the marshals.

  32. Personally I am at the limit of my finances.I currently pay for Sky F1 coverage at the moment but any more dilution ( e.g. splitting with another pay tv channel) would see me regretfully finish with F1. despite following it for over 25 years. Attending a live grand prix is something I haven’t been able to justify for over 10 years – tight budget with growing family and all..

    On the other point – having successfully got one daughter interested in F1 to the point she is studying engineering at University – a couple more processional racing seasons will probably end her interest too – it cannot just be for purists if it is to survive.It is an entertainment business as well as a sport after all. Like you Joe I hope the changes this year bring in some exciting racing. The chaos and randomness which engine failures, weather and refuelling, different tyres (as well as points, rules, testing etc) used to bring have all but been ironed out by rule changes, supreme engineering and masterclass driving from the top drivers.I’m looking forward to seeing which teams and drivers adapt as Its all been a bit too predicable the last couple of years.


  33. It would be interesting to see the demographics. Advertisers want the 18-26 (or whatever) viewers. I get the impression most posters here are rather older. I am. No advertiser is really interested in my demographic, although I make a reasonably healthy income. F1 is going to have real issues attracting new young viewers and keeping the old ones.

    But, as Joe has explained, viewers don’t really matter in the FOM business plan.

  34. Vettel aside, F1 viewing figures will go down as, regardless of whether we are too tight to pay for pay-per-view or not, it is getting harder to watch a grand prix, or see quality F1 footage anywhere. It’s a ridiculous situation.

    There are passionate F1 fans on YouTube that make amazing videos of F1 snippets that stir the soul and remind one of why we love the sport. They are threatened to remove their efforts post haste. I understand the need for copyright control in these instances, but F1 needs to pump it’s historical footage through every available outlet, and if needs be, let people pay for the live races.

    Anything else is just a pointless, pathetic, inward-looking and ultimatley retrograde step.

    Without history, F1 is simply a lot of carbon going around in circles. It is the history of the sport that makes it special. Yet F1 insists on preventing new fans from learning about the sport visually. We know Bernie has masses of footage sat in a vault. Show it people for free! Turn them on to the F1 legend then charge them (directly from a website as well as through broadcasters) to see the teams and drivers write the current chapter.

  35. I am living in The Netherlands, where in 2013 it was pay-tv for live races and free tv for delayed coverage. I am lucky in that I could also access the BBC live coverage when it was available. In a panic at the start of last year I signed up with a season-long online subscription so that I could maintain my fix. But in the end, I probably watched only 1/2 the races live via my subscription, and 1/4 via BBC when it was on offer. Not a great ROI.

    The pay-tv audience is always going to be more demanding than the free-tv audience. When the season is exciting there is no problem, but for a season like last year it is a given that the pay-tv audience will tail off as people drop out and decide next season to settle for delayed coverage. I’ll be paying per race so I get what I pay for.

  36. I’ve been watching F1 since the early 70s and I wouldnt pay to watch it. I love it as a live experience, Sky do a good job but so much of the program is non essential extras, I usually watch the grid walk, race and maybe 30 minutes after and then I’m done. Maybe for Monaco and the Brit GP I might watch all the pre-show build up. I’m quite happy to wait 2 or 3 hours and watch the highlights on the Beeb although I acknowledge its not the same as watching the excitement of a live TV event. Maybe I’m spoilt and have been getting it for free most of my life or maybe in recent years I’ve been confronted with the fact that I might have to start paying for it and have realised that it just isnt that good that I’ll part with the cash. Conversly, I almost considered paying for MotoGP now that its gone from the beeb. (don’t even own a bike but in terms of pure, authentic on track action its a lot better than F1) Happily I now get Eurosport 1&2 as part of my cable package.
    There are ways of watching online for free anyway through P2P but the quality is sometimes a bit dodgy. I couldnt tell you exactly WHY I dont think its worth shelling out for, I definitely consider myself to be a passionate motorsports fan, especially F1 but perhaps it has become a lot less ‘real’ over the years and yes, definitely, all the drivers are corporate drones, which takes so much of the personal human interest out of it for me, also the stupidity of the politics and the teams inability to organise a ‘p*ss up in a brewery’ is laughable, not at all in keeping with the image F1 has of itself (see stupid nose situation .. which was flagged up by Ross Brawn I believe half way through last season and amendments where mooted but nothing happened and here we are with the FIA sending out missives about nose cone strength and threatening to change the regs before the season has even begun! not to mention how utterly stupid and cheap the cars look with them) same thing every year with one thing or another.

    Things like that just make F1 look farcical to people from the outside. The other thing is that F1 has singularly and utterly failed to get to grips with marketing the sport to its full potential especially via the internet, they spend an inordinate amount of time forcing people to take clips down off youtube but somehow havn’t managed to make the connection that they should probably be replacing them with their own clips thus generating much more publicity and revenue via advertising. The historical back catalogue of F1 is a gold mine, worth a fortune, i’d probably consider paying for access to that and so would many others but …! Just so badly handled and for a ‘technically cutting edge’ sport totally inexcusable.

  37. Reluctantly going to try Sky this year. The BBC coverage is becoming a bit tired. Mind you, it’s 6 weeks and waiting for Sky to come and install a dish…

  38. Take it away from pay TV is the only way to stop the viewing numbers dwindle with the casual watcher. Also F1 i(n my opinion) was terrible last year with the tyres and the RB domination the casual watcher won’t pay. Fans are bored with it.
    You watch this madness kill moto gp! Viewing in the UK with is exclusively on BT sport. What a set of numpty’s Dorna are!

    1. Firstly, a lot of people now have Virgin, BT or Sky and BTsport is free as part of.those packages, so quite a few people will be able to watch MotoGP.

      Additionally, I would sooner find money for PAY TV than have to suffer the painfully shit coverage from the beeb.

      In fact, if Jonathan Legard was still commentating for the beeb, most anti-pay tv commentators on here wouldn’t think twice about paying for SKY!!

      1. As you get a little older you’ll find nothing but nothing in this life is ‘for free’…..and furthermore your denigration of the ‘beeb’ coverage is totally unjustified their coverage has always been, not only excellent but great value for money.

        So good was it that their commentary stream was transmitted to countries worldwide and subsided UK F1 transmission. While the Murdock offering is and will always remain a mystery to me that will be on both principle and economic grounds, but it begs the question that while the BBC can offer all that they do for the miserly sum of £12/m and advert free, what is it that makes the Sky offering worth £50/m…?

        The worst you can say about the BBC is this context is that one could wish their coverage of F1 was complete and that they still covered MotoGP. However I don’t criticise the BBC for making the decision not to be ripped off by FOM, indeed had they not I’d have said they were being cavalier with public funds and castigated them for it.

        And although not ideal, I can still watch all the practice sessions and races the BBC don’t transmit (without recourse to Sky) through german RTL, ok it’s not in HD or in english but it is live and if I can stomach Nicky Lauder in the run up to the race then 5-live commentary is available for all the other transmissions barring P3 (which RTL delay).

        But when the time arrives where the option is Sky or nothing, then it’ll be the latter I’m afraid.

        1. I agree with everything except your last comment. If it was Sky or nothing then it would likely be nothing. I used to be a massive boxing fan yet since their almost complete switch to ppv I’m pretty much out of the loop.

          That said I was talking to a non F1 fan friend the other day, about the Cass event, and explaining that for me, and many others, the actual race is just the icing on the cake. The icing has been pretty rubbish of late but the cake is always tasty. This site, twitter, YouTube etc provide great cake and once I’m qualified and solvent I’ll add GP+ to the mix. I hope I’ll always have the option of free icing but interestingly whereas I’m open to paying for guaranteed quality ingredients I won’t subscribe to anything that is a bit hit and miss.

  39. Doesn’t anybody else think Skys coverage is actually much worse than the BBC’s was. Sky is mostly filler (did you know you can watch on an ipad, and now we will read the dates of every single race again,) poor attempts at humour and Kravits ‘acting’ more of a clown each week, this is interspersed with the poormans Jake Humphrey and Damon Hill attempting to bore you to death. Not to mention the theme tune.

  40. First point; ‘Malone’ – whoever heard of him?! But I guess there are always bigger fish…

    Second… I really hope F1 can provide a vintage season 2014… it needs one. Regardless of tech changes, the ‘buzz’ is lacking this year and energy seems low to the outside observer.

    Third – on the flip-side, if it stays ‘meh’ this may expedite the watershed of the current leech-based F1 world order. It seems this is hanging in the air anyway… who knows what will happen but unquestionably the survivors emerging from the other side have an opportunity to reset the whole thing back towards the fans. Fans provide the soul of F1, and the current lack of focus on fans is the root of every concern.

    Fourth – maybe that is unnecessarily sentimental crap in the face of what is now a major global R&D channel and multi-dimensional investment vehicle draped in an occasional chequered flag?


  41. Has the decision to continue racing in Bahrain had any impact?

    It didn’t stop me – but sky has…..
    And as a Result I have planned and booked far more days out seeing UK Motorsport and events that I wouldn’t have had they clashed with F1.

    Can I also think if Bernie actions reduce could sponsorship by selling F1to pay per view, that gives him a bigger purse to give hand outs to teams from the TV pay outs, then introduces a cost cap so he doesn’t – will give him far greater control over the teams? Or at least some meaningful bargaining or a cost cap?

    Does that make sense?

  42. As soon as I saw Joes post, I knew there would be lots of comments and much upset.
    From reading the comments, the overall theme seems to be:

    Don’t want/will never pay for sky.
    I can live better than I thought with highlights only.
    It’s way to expensive now.
    I no longer follow F1 like I used to.
    The tyres/DRS is to gimmicky.

    These comments can be found on every F1 related forum and website and I just find it sad how The F1 bigwigs cannot see what damage is being done.

    We had the entertainment pack before Sky got the coverage so I’ve never had to pay any extra but even so… I watch FAR less coverage now since the split.
    Prior to that, I never missed a race in over 20 years and would watch all free practise sessions and qually in full. Last season I missed 3 races by choice which would have never have happened a few years ago.

    I just don’t like Sky’s coverage and now don’t bother with any free practise, watch only the last half of qually and switch on only 5 mins before the race starts.

    Deep down, I still feel like a true F1 fan like I used to be but the powers that be have almost forced me away from F1 in order to line there own pockets.

    From all the posts over the last couple of years, it seems many many long term fans also feel the same way.
    F1 is very different to most other sports and it needs to keep it core fan base as it’s a very different spectator sport.

    Over complicated gimmicks + dull boring circuits + empty grandstands + easy DRS overtakes + coverage behind a paywall + lack of real internet presence from the promoter = a sport on the decline.

    1. @ Mattee. Good post, you’ve captured a lot of my thoughts and feelings. As you suggest, there are a lot of us who are on the wall about continuing as fans. I’m about done with F1 but will give the new regulations a chance; we’ll see.

      One of the key changes over the past years has been the dumbing down of the technical side of the sport, with engine freezes, overly restrictive chassis rules, the tire situation, DRS and etc. blunting the engineering side of the ‘sport’. I have a very large collection of F1 related technical books and love to reread them to recapture some of the amazing technical innovations of F1, such as the turbo era, gearbox development, ground effects, and the astounding advances in carbon fiber materials usage. But I haven’t purchased any new books in years, because the technical side has been so moribund. I know there are lots of detail things that have happened, like the double diffuser, but really, these are just little tweaks. As F1 drifts into becoming a spec series I am drifting out of being a fan.

    2. The people that run the sport live in a different world nowadays from the past, when they were all connected socially and culturally of grassroots motorsports aficionados.

      They can hardly be blamed as their social sphere reflects their success, but the lack of humility and empathy for true F1 fans is forcing a change in behaviour as evidenced by the comments on this article.

      They are really missing a trick to engage new fans, let alone keep the interest of real fans.

      I for one, find the highlights perfectly acceptable, particularly as the beeb’s coverage is a little stale now.

      DC has no balls, Suzi Perry has morphed from a.confident and savvy MotoGP presenter to an aged, flirtatious bimbo. Bem Edwards, Gary Anderson and the pitlane reporter are excellent.

      Radio5Live coverage is brilliant too by the way.

      1. Gary was so good they fired him for the year when so much technical innovation meant they desperately needed him.

        The pictures are better with the 5 Live coverage a gap sounds exciting, seeing the gap means he is not sat on the wing, is less so.

  43. Joe,
    The report shows that the USA saw the biggest TV audience increase for F1 anywhere in the world with 18% growth. But I think you’re wrong to point to the race coming to Austin as the reason.

    F1 coverage in 2013 changed from Speed TV to NBC Sports Network, which is available in significantly more markets (on cable and satellite). The coverage didn’t change at all – it was the same presenters and the same format. I think the viewing figures increased simply because the number of available eyeballs increased. NBC Sports Network also covers British Premier League football, so soccer fans will have seen promos for F1 and perhaps given it a watch. And NBC Sports Network gets into a lot more hispanic households, who tend to have more of a historic interest in F1.

    Quite honestly you would not know that F1 raced in the USA unless you were a dedicated fan. The sport gets no coverage whatsoever in the mainstream. You won’t hear the race results on national or local TV news and it rarely gets newspaper coverage other than a small listing of the race result along with all other scores. I read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle and it is as if the sport doesn’t exist here. During that Austin weekend last year, I scoured the papers for coverage… but nothing.

    As to me personally, I’m a die hard fan and have not missed watching a race since 1976! However, I confess to finding the 2013 season a struggle to stay interested. The domination of Red Bull made the races somewhat predictable and things like DRS just turned F1 into the wacky racers. I yearn for the F1 era where the rules were sufficiently interpretive that you could see teams do real innovative engineering and as a result, the cars all looked different.

    If Bernie switched F1 coverage to a dedicated pay-per-view channel here in the USA, he’d kill it completely.

    1. It’s unfortunate that US ratings were up because I found the NBC coverage terrible. I had hoped they would change some things up and actually spend more time with production but…no, if anything they spent less this year if you don’t count the new set. I gave it a shot for the first two races but the lack of any kind of pre or post-race breakdown is really pathetic. Throw in commercials every 3 or 4 laps and I’m searching for other options, paid or otherwise.
      And even NBCSports doesn’t feature any articles about F1 – just a handful of videos and a standings page. They aren’t even trying to advertise F1. Sad, really.

  44. Plus … the beeb have binned the geek that made it interesting when it was boring : Gary Anderson will be missed in this household.

    1. Are the BBC nuts? he is brilliant at explaining the technical issues and doesn’t seem frightened to speak his mind (McLaren last year) – maybe he’s got a better offer from Rupert?

  45. Joe,

    Is this a public report (i.e. can we read it) or is it only circulated to media and other F1 insiders?


  46. Ha, nobody mentioned the TV licence..!
    We had F1, MotoGP and other sports (e.g. Skiing) included, now we don’t.
    We still have to pay !

    It simply feels like Bernie, Dorna, BT TV, BBC and others have cheated us, to benefit themselves and the likes of Murdoch !

    I got fed up this year mainly because the BBC highlights are badly edited (apparently not by BBC), simply skipping dozen laps without explanation,
    so suddenly the order is all different, something has happened, but what ?

    BT says you ‘”will love our BT Sport “.
    NO BT ! You have deprived me of MotoGP, possibly for ever, so I HATE you.
    Got rid of my phone line too…

    1. Yep, but the BBC has been put through a freeze on the license fee at a time when running costs, particularly energy, have been on the rise. In real terms Auntie has had to slash budgets and has prioritised the stuff it can’t sell overseas. Hence sports coverage takes the hit while Doctor Who and Top Gear (amongst others) hold their budgets because they’re big profit makers.

  47. I have been getting F1 for years from Pay-TV. Espn, SpeedTv, and NBCSN.

    In Europe do you have to pay by race or subscribe to a package?

  48. The various television package permutations no doubt have had an impact, as too, I’m sure, has Vettel’s domination. In my experience, NBC Sports is no where near as universal as Speed – which was no where near universal! – so I managed to watch exactly one GP this year. But the bigger turn off for me, and many of my friends, is the gimmickry that has taken over the sport, the bland and soul-less tracks, and the ever growing sense that we, the fans, are being fleeced! I’ve followed the sport since the early 70’s and and would knock over little old ladies in the street to get to a TV to see a race, but now, if I miss a race – meh. I’ve stuck around for the past few years because Mark Webber is a friend, but now that he’s gone, so is a lot of what was left of my interest. It’s just not the sport that I loved anymore.

  49. Moving to pay tv might be ok in the short term to keep revenues up (and CVC’s pockets lined), but if you kill the audience because no one other than die hard fans are willing to pay the subscription, then you have to wonder what does to secure the long term interest in the sport and attract new viewers ….

    What’s that old tale about killing the golden goose?

  50. Frankly with the ever rising costs, the TV deals, the artificial nature of modern F1 and the fact that it would better be describes as a World Championship for Engineers I think they are driving the whole circus to destruction. I have been watching since the early 60 and will still do so if I have nothing better to do, I. personally always prefer to watch BBC than Sky even though I have the option of both. I should be the sort of person F1 should be able to rely on as I have competed in motor sport myself on and off since the 70’s my friends son has a senior job with an F1 team and another friends son came through the system with Lewis Hamilton and has been racing in Indy, but I am not. However I tend to find the modern incarnation rather a bore.

  51. I’m from Mexico, after reading all your comments I think we are spoiled. Fox Sports own the broadcasting rights in most of Latin America, but you get it in the most basic cable and Sky packages, so it doesn’t cost a lot. Since the Slim family took interest in F1, you can also watch a free live stream (qually and race) of every race if you have Internet service from Telmex. And we get delayed free air TV from Televisa. The Austin race also added a lot of interest to mexican fans of course.

    However, If F1 was in a very expensive cable package or PPV I’ll never buy it.

    Something very similar to what you described happened with boxing from the early 90’s to 2005. Also a hugely popular sport in Mexico, it was almost killed by going pay per view. It let the WWF and the Mixed Martial Arts took over the younger fans. Fortunately boxing is back to free TV, I guess the WBC learned from their own mistakes. I hope Bernie and CVC would do the same.

  52. I had Bernievision when it was in the UK and vowed to never again pay to watch sport on TV. Boxing used to be a massive TV draw here but pretty much died when it went PPV. Some sports suit PPV better than others I think. Football for instance. Fans seem to be able to watch 90 mins that ends 0-0 and think it was a great match.

  53. GP+ is by far the best coverage of a race weekend.Joe needs to find a way to give us that type of coverage as the weekend progresses and during the race then we wouldn’t need TV.

  54. You know F1’s in a mess when I’ve watched it for 17 years, barely missing a race, until the past two seasons. It’s nothing to do with Vettel etc, it’s just generally dull. The tyres, DRS etc to me have just devalued the sport, they’ve also made it boring to watch.

    I’m already a Sky subscriber so the pay wall is not an issue.

    Perhaps F1’s real problem is that the cars, politics, drivers, WAGs, engines, regulations etc etc are more exciting than the actual racing.

  55. Reading all the differing comments is almost depressing as people slag off the different providers. Like a number of viewers I would never use pay TV, and i think Bernie is very foolish to have done the deals he has in that quarter, just a short term gain.
    Perhaps you ought to give him a free membership Joe so he can see what true fans are feeling about the sport he controls? and of course your very honest opinions. Incidentally have you ever been asked to appear on any of the TV stations in a regular spot as I would love to see your honest opinions get a much larger airing?

  56. The biggest problem with F1 and the paywall is not just us ‘dinosaurs’ (although I’m only 40!) who are moving away, it’s the almost total lack of new, younger generation of fans getting into it.

    F1 should have had a huge online presence to get the kids and younger generation into it waaaay before even thinking about pay tv.
    Instead they pull everything off from youtube etc even if it’s a minute long!!

    And then we have the next problem. Why would any kid want to put a poster on there bedroom wall of the 2014 cars with those noses?

    Sky made darts more popular being behind a paywall and also created a whole new younger generation of fans… Although a fair percentage of them are somewhat beer drinking and chanting idiots.

    Getting that younger generation for F1 just isn’t going to happen unless something radical happens.

    If there weren’t such big changes in engines this year, I would have given up completely watching F1 – even though it costs me no extra to get full coverage in HD.

  57. I started following F1 in 1958. In these days it was hard enough to find the results and usually not possible to see a race other than being a member of a motor club and waiting for footage to do it’s rounds and arrive at the club for viewing. You had to be keen. Also commercial advertising was non-existant.Things have advanced since then of course. However, I find it difficult to come to terms with the vast sums paid by TV companies to show F1. As the main reason for exposure, is for the benefit of sponsors, it would seem to make more sense for the sponsors/advertisers to pay the TV companies to provide coverage rather than the other way round. The Beeb for instance has no financial gain from advertising and the kudos of screening the sport and justifying their being seem to be their main reasons for doing so.
    Advertising is expensive, but to have someone actually paying the advertiser to advertise does seem slightly odd.Perhaps I am missing something!

  58. Here in Spain Antena3 (free-to-air) F1 broadcast is a joke giving only importance to Alonso and abusing with the amount of cuts for advertising during the race.

    It has become so bad that half the race is just advertising which is utterly frustrating. I hear that Mediaset also bought the rights in Spain with the ppv setup.

    As a big fan of the sport, I will pay to have no advertising while watching a race

  59. I turned of dish this yr after learning here in Northern Calif. I can watch F-1 without ads on a Spanish channel. I agree with everyone pointing how boring most of the tracks are and those are the races I don’t watch anymore. Then with last race points award system I think of nascar.

  60. I may only speak for a few thousand fans here in the US but after the first few races last year I found any other way I could to watch that wasn’t NBCsports. I’ve said it often and will continue to point to that horrible coverage and presentation as a turn off for fans who know anything about the sport already. That people keep saying the US is a ripe, unharvested market for F1 is strange because nobody is doing anything to exploit our HD tvs and ‘broadband’ internet connections. Literally nothing, even NBCsports doesn’t list a dedicated F1 page. Truly baffling.

    In most other sports, there are people lined up for miles to take your money for extra coverage options. Extra college and pro channels, by the dozen…All we want is one decent coverage package for 20 events a year. How is this so complicated that FOM or whoever can’t get something sorted out?

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