TV viewing figures were one of the keys pillars of the Formula One company’s business model, giving everyone involved the opportunity to sell the sport to sponsors and to the general public, a percentage of which would then attend races and pay enough for the promoters to be able to pay the Formula One company substantial fees to host races. TV companies were also able to use the huge numbers to sell advertising and thus Formula One was able to push up the demands for the TV companies.

That is all changing. The Commercial Rights Holder decided some time ago that the best profits come from pay-TV, even if this destroys the viewing figures. The danger of this strategy is that the sport will struggle to reach the same kind of numbers as in the past and is thus becoming less and less attractive. There is also the danger of failing to attract new viewers as with pay-TV no-one is going to stumble across the sport and thus it will generate less interest in younger generations, particularly as it has had a Stone Age attitude towards social media. Obviously, a few rocks needed to be thrown at the F1 greenhouse to get the folks within to stop pottering with their roses and comprehend that they HAVE to engage with the fans outside.

The move to pay-TV is one that is probably essential at some point because all sport is gradually disappearing behind paywalls (admittedly of different kinds) and there will soon come a time when the next generation will see it as being quite natural to pay to watch things. This is actually logical, because we do not go to the theatre or cinema and expect to be let in for free, nor would one go to a professional sports stadium and expect free entrance.

The problem is the changeover between free-to-air and pay-TV. And, bear in mind, that pay-TV is probably only a step towards the ultimate business model, which is direct-to-consumer coverage. When that happens and the sport is big enough, the sponsors will return, unless there is something better on offer. There will also be untold possibilities for targeted advertising.

But, in the short term, the switch to pay-TV has been painful, particularly in the five core European markets (UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France), all of which currently have either split free-to-air/pay-TV or simple pay-TV. The numbers are stark. Free-to-air is attracting about seven times as many viewers as pay-TV.

However, the profit-loving Sherman McCoys at CVC Capital Partners don’t give a toss about this as long as the profits keep going up, although in the finest traditions of cowboys, they are going to eventually be “headed off at the Pass” by the competitors and will be lucky to survive with their boots, if they do not learn to accept more compromises. The sport was going to be sold by Christmas, in much the same way as the First World War was going to be won in the same timeframe, but the reality is that we are probably stuck with these people for a few more years because they cannot afford to sell the business for less than they want, because they have to satisfy other investors to whom promises were made.

Thus, the only way forward is to go on driving up the profit in order to pay the debt and by doing that they may eventually get the business to a place where someone will buy it at a price that will not embarrass the Shermans. The problem with that is that time is running out. There must be new commercial agreements in 2021 and the big teams, in league with the manufacturers, are not going to give up as once they used to do and there may come a time when the TV companies and the big teams will get together and we will see a sort of Premier League moment, at which point the FIA will have to decide to go with the show, in order to retain any realistic World Championship. In that scenario, the Shermans will be bazooka-ed and the 100-year rights deal will die, possibly after a failed attempt to turn GP2 into a World Championship. A sustained civil war, if it comes to this, would only do to the sport what CART and IRL did to American open-wheel racing, leaving the way open for NASCAR Europe, or whatever, to fill the void.

For now, however, we’re in a state of flux with more and more pay walls being erected in other markets, such as Australia, Latin America and Asia. For viewers in the UK, the exit of the BBC from its TV coverage of F1 has opened the way for Channel 4, which will hopefully bring new energy and new ideas to the show. Having said that I notice that the races that will be shown free-to-air only include some of the big races, notably the British GP, Spa, Monza and the finale in Abu Dhabi. It is sad to see that Australia, Monaco and Singapore are not on the list. I guess that Sky has a block on these races.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

129 thoughts on “Coverage…

  1. BBC only had Monaco highlights the last three years, I would imagine Sky have a veto on what races the lesser partner can show live.

    It is, however worth remembering that Sky Sports F1 is free to all Sky HD subscribers (not just Sky Sports subscribers) and Sky claim they have 12 million customers in the UK and Ireland.

        1. I agree but they really need to look at reducing their prices if viewing figures are important to them.

          I would suggest all they really interested in is getting the most money on there return as possible.

    1. Sean, Sky Sports F1 was only free to HD customers in 2012 and part of 2013. They grandfathered old subscribers in, but new subs need to be on the full Sports package to get it – the cost of F1 via Sky essentially went £100 further behind the paywall!

      1. You can watch Sky’s F1 coverage on a NowTV box either with a Day Pass or a Week pass. Expensive but not as much as a complete Sky package as you would only need to pay for the non-C4 weeks..

      2. yep, i buy sky sports for cricket and F1, but i suspect the majority of my fee pays for football I couldn’t give two hoots about.

      3. Exactly – I’m pleased I got in when I did, under the Grandfathering – paying probably half what I’d pay to have the full sports package.

    2. As I understand it there was a trading session between BBC Sport and Sky where they would pick a race each, Live for the Beeb, exclusive for Sky. The British GP and the closing round were the only protected races. I’m assuming channel 4 have just taken the last negotiated round on board.

      As for Sky F1 HD – yes I got it as part of the HD package but I understand that since 2014 you need to buy the Sports pack. I was lucky in that I was getting Sky HD for other channels – just to move to Sky for F1 now is a considerable investment. I enjoy the coverage for the most part but you still get lots of adverts (outside of the main events obviously) so you’d be paying for Sky, HD, Sports pack and getting ad breaks as well!

      1. As I understood it (I thought someone posted the whole thing here once) the rules were something like the Beeb picked three live, then Sky picked three to not be live and then the Beeb and so on – with some specific rules about no more than two consecutive races to be live/highlights.

        I think the BBC abandoned Monaco because it doesn’t tend to produce the best racing – I suspect viewer figures might be lower than people think.

        1. Sue and I have been fortunate enough to attend the last two Monaco Grands Prix and, although the racing can at times appear processional, Monaco on F1 race day is simply one mega motorsport experience.

          1. I have attended the last 27 races (and some before that) and I think it is magic. If you don’t go, you don’t know. Only a TV viewer could declare the race to be boring.

            1. For those who can’t afford the Monaco GP, the Historic GP, held every two years two weeks before the GP, is a wonderful experience. Seats for three days, which in a Swimming Pool grandstand cost about 1750 euros for race weekend, are free (Friday afternoon) then 20 euros on Saturday and 35 euros on Sunday. Seating as it comes, not assigned. The atmosphere is very relaxed, with almost continual practice (Friday) and racing (Sat. Sun). Commentary by the encyclopedic Ian Titchmarsh, and the wonderful sound of DFVs echoing around the harbour again. Highly recommended.

              This year, May 13-15, the (mouth-watering) programme is:

              • Event A : Pre-war Grand-Prix Cars
              • Race B : Pre-1961 front-engined F1 Grand Prix and F2 cars
              • Race C : Front engine Sports Racing cars raced from 1952 to 1955 (included)
              • Race D : Front-engined, drum brakes Formula Junior Cars from 1958 to 1960 (included)
              • Race E : 1500 F1 Grand Prix Cars from 1961 to 1965 (included)
              • Race F : F1 Grand Prix Cars from 1966 to 1972 (included)
              • Race G : F1 Grand Prix Cars from 1973 to 1976 (included)
              • Race H : « Solo Ferrari » – Sports and GT cars with front engine and drum brakes from January 1st, 1955 onward.

              Usual disclaimers (I wish I could get some deal with the ACM !)

            2. Even as a tv viewer I think it is a must see race every year. I’ve never understood the negativity toward it although that is partially due to seeing the virtual track so many times from a virtual cockpit. Nothing like the real thing of course but a good enough comparison to all the other virtual tracks to understand that every lap around Monaco is an amazing feat.

              Can only begin to imagine how sensational it must be to actually be there as cars thunder round.

  2. The thing with pay tv is you get the 3 day coverage you only get at your home race every race. Not to mention live coverage of every other series you can think of.

  3. I’m sure Monaco is a fantastic race to attend but it’s not normally particularly exciting to watch on TV. An extended highlights package is more than adequate. The first year of the BBC/Sky deal Monaco was free to air and there was minor outrage that the BBC had wasted one of their precious live races on such a dreary procession.

    I think the real shame is no live Canada and Brazil. Both normally very exciting races which start too late in the evening when shown as highlights.

    1. My guess is they made the decision based on the 2015 examples being very damp squibs.

      The BBC (and now C4) always seemed to base their decisions on how good the specific races were the previous year, which is never a good plan. Doesn’t help either that they’re always on the back foot in the decision process by promising to pick Silverstone (as their home race), Spa (first after summer break) and the finale as live races, meaning Sky get 3 free picks on ones to kick the FTA provider in the crotch.

      Canada being a highlight race has never worked – it airs so late on Sunday, nobody will watch it.

  4. The BBC hadn’t picked Monaco or Singapore as live since 2012 anyway, and Australia not since before the Sky deal.

  5. I would be interested to see how the BBC viewing figures for “selected” races compare with those for the same races when aired for free.
    I for one am considerably less bothered with the whole show now I am missing big chucks and losing the continuity.
    Also interested to muse over future viewers coming in, as there are possibly less fathers enjoying the show with their sons (assuming the genders here).
    Football often does “kids-for-a-quid”.
    F1 does “bleed-em-til-they’re-dry”.

    It seems an ever decreasing circle of less viewers = less sponsorship = less of a show = less viewers, etc.

      1. Not the Sky v BBC ratio, but the BBC (now) v BBC (before) figures.
        Am thinking that will be a better indicator of how the British interest has held up or dwindled.

      2. That’s huge. Would it help to reduce the pay-per-view price? Or is that a matter of principle (like: I refuse to pay for watching stuff on TV)? Is there any marketing done research on this that you know of?

      3. I think he meant: Have they come down on the BBC from when they had all of them? It would be interesting to pick one race figure from the full season coverage and the same race for when there’s only the half season’s coverage.

    1. Hi Knutty,

      Lee Mackenzie has gone on record in the past as saying that they BBC used to get more viewers on a Friday practice session than Sky on a race day….

      Hope this helps


    2. Hi Knutty,
      I had been educating my daughter to the magic of F1. Australian GP was a family event (home GP), she would watch select races through the year, mostly afternoon races, but we would make exceptions for some nights. As a special treat we started when she was 6 I would get her up at 2.45am (thereabouts) for a father/daughter Canadian GP session. I would point out the idyllic setting, some history about the late great Gilles, his championship winning son.

      She would go to school and tell her friends about the racing she had seen, potentially generating interest among the other kids. That has all gone now thanks to the paywall. This was a household putting in the effort to raise the next generation of F1 spectator (like many others), but it has become too expensive, the coverage too broken. It is not because I refuse to pay for my entertainment, it is simply not within our competing budget priorities. I will be buying online coverage for some of the WEC races this year as the price point is workable and I get what I pay for, not pay for a whole heap of stuff I don’t want.

      I don’t know if my daughter will pick up F1 again when she gets older. She is nearly 10 and already has 65 subscribers to her personal You Tube channel, her focus is on interaction, not passive spectating. She would have potentially been a good promoter of the sport though.

  6. I understand as an F1 fan why Monaco isn’t FTA, it’s a dull race. Not one I look forward to.

    However to non-race fans the showbiz glitz and the glamour of the weekend is what F1 should be/was all about. Not having that available to the masses is a mistake.

    I’m praying for that ‘Premier League’ moment – not holding my breath as it may be a while and dependent on the development rate of FE – a long way off threatening F1 at the moment but…

    And, top marks for mentioning Sherman McCoy – plenty of connotations from that reference.

  7. Free To Air TV is, of course, not really free, it is paid either by the licence fee (in the UK) or by advertising. I think that the trade off is for the various sponsors who feel that they are getting air time cheaper than they would through direct advertising. I wonder if the loss of sponsors is related to the sport increasingly going behind paywalls or just due to the downturn?

    Whatever the reason, going behind a paywall cannot good for the future of the sport. The question is can it survive while the public learns to accept paying for what has been seen as “free”?

      1. The licence is not a fee its a tax, you don’t pay it you could go to prison, where ironically you can watch it all day for free…..

        1. If you don’t want to pay a phone bill, get rid of your phone line.

          You can own a TV and deliberately detune it and thereby pay no license fee.

      2. The BBC receives £1.5bn in licence fees per year with an additional £1billion in commercial spin offs from titles such as Doctor Who, Top Gear, Sherlock, etc.

        The BBC have always delivered a quality product and have nurtured the sport since the days of broadcasting Grand Prix late Sunday nights on BBC2.

        Be interesting to see what Channel 4 come up with, they are an innovative broadcaster and rumour is, it will be a new tv format involving the cast from ‘Made in Chelsea’ and the ‘Kardashians’ to develop the US market… 😉

    1. Johnnie Walker and Santander are consumer brands. Other brands associated with F1 (SAP, many of the financial companies, PDVSA, Petronas etc) sell to companies. My guess is that the majority of F1 advertising is business to business. When the Lotus/Enstone team signed a deal with Microsoft, it was to sell enterprise software to big organisations. Even when Canon sponsored Williams, the “consumers” were distributors and big sellers of Canon products who got a nice weekend trip to a race.

  8. Unfortunately we (UK) didn’t have live free-to-air coverage of Monaco last year either. The set of top live races has diminished each year since the BBC sold their soul to Sky and I can’t imagine Sky will give ground to Channel 4 in the future. If anything I expect it to get worse.

    In some cases it’s now so bad that races which are live around 5pm UK time and only shown as highlights are on so late on a Sunday that with work on a Monday the only option is to record them and watch them Monday evening which is just insane. Given it’s impossible to avoid seeing newspapers while commuting this means you almost always know the result making it even less worth watching.

    If it keeps getting worse I can imagine the numbers dropping further very very fast. It’s a very sad time for F1 fans who are used to free-to-air, especially those of us who refuse to put any more money into Murdoch’s pocket.

  9. Joe

    Monaco has not been shown live on the Beeb since the agreement with Sky. I believe Silverstone was guaranteed to be shown but all the others were “negotiated “.

    1. The BBC promised to show Silverstone, the first race after the summer break (often Spa) and the final race of the year.

      No word on whether this is a contractual obligation with FOM or a BBC promise which won’t transfer to C4.

  10. surely the answer is for F1 to opt out of the whole FIA /bernie mess and become a stand alone series
    at this point the series could use a split strategy , sell individual races via the internet and TV , ‘big’ races costing more and probably being picked up by the richer TV channels , lesser races possibly by minor channels , individually priced races on the internet with a season ticket for the real enthusiasts

    permutations are endless !

  11. I think we are in a period of flux re pay to view. I don’t think it’s the way all sport will have to go because i don’t think it suits all sports. It works with football but that is a totally different animal. It is shown in pubs and bars. people go there just to watch the matches. If you subscribe to watch football on Sky or Bt or wherever you get multiple games every weekend plus a few in the week as well. Compare that to boxing which went pay to view around the same time. the money and general interest in that has dropped, though they continue to charge to watch big matches the smaller ones are not even televised any more. Snooker was another sport that attracted huge UK TV coverage and figures with big money for the players. Interest has dropped since the heady days of ‘Pot black’ but the promoters know that PPV would kill it stone dead.
    I consider myself a huge F1 fan. I used to get up at silly o’clock to watch the eastern flyaways but I probably saw 2 live televised races last year and watched all the rest on record. I’ll never pay to watch it on TV so if a die hard fan refuses how are they going to interest new fans. Simple, they won’t. F1, huge though it is is still too niche, in my opinion, to make a success of PPV.

  12. I remember when Channel Four took over from the BBC for Rallying and did a great job at the beginning (admittedly they took over when we had McRae and Burns racing).
    Then the ratings dropped and they lost interest and soon it transferred to Dave where UK rally coverage died.

    This should be a lesson to Formula One as I remember the highs of rallying in the 80’s and 90’s where it’s stars were as big as the single seaters and now only die hard fans can tell you who won last year’s championship.

    I don’t want F1 free to air coverage die but I see the parallels as it passes from channel to channel but I am a hypocrite as I do watch it on Sky. I know, I know but at least it’s on!

  13. I believe the system is they take turns in choosing races to show, in blocks of three, with the first choice alternating year on year between the two broadcasters. I presume the same system was used for this year with Channel 4

  14. Pay TV works where the sport is huge and established. Premier League football has thrived since it went behind the paywall in 1992, with record revenues from advertising despite the only coverage on free TV being a late-night highlights package. Premier League football teams are some of the biggest brands in world sport.

    The problem comes when the sport is more of a niche. Rugby League has withered since it went behind the paywall in the late 90s, cricket in the UK is the same, rugby union is heading the same way. The people watching MotoGP live on BT Sport could probably all fit in my living room.

    F1 likes to think it is Premier League, but the truth is that, well, it isn’t.

      1. It is still huge.. around the rest of the world. Of my group of mates, I am the only one who watches any motorsports, out of about ten, 30 something blokes.

      2. I love your site Joe but you’re delusional if you think F1 is huge. I’m sure you’ll magic up some bull**** figure about only the World Cup final and Olympic 100m drawing a bigger audience, but I work in an office of about 200, the majority of whom are guys. There are precisely two of us who give a toss about F1, and the other guy refuses to pay for Sky and I’ve just quit!

        1. You are mad if you think it is not. 450 million people. read Toto’s words in the the most recent post. F1 does things no other sport can. If you try to deny this you are simply delusional.

          1. Ha Ha, Toto’s words. He must have just had to present to the Daimler Board. So he went to the file drawers and pulled out the old “how many hours were my cars shown on TV and in which markets, and multiply those hours by a comparable advertising CPM” analysis. Believe me, I know. It’s a load of crap. And only the rhubarbs and lakeys on the Board can’t see through it.

    1. I’m not sure I agree. Cricket attendances are up for both county and Internationals. I would suggest Rugby is staus quo and then Darts (a definite niche sport) on the other extreme has become huge on the formation of the premier league and the promotion that Sky has given it.

  15. How many British fans didn’t get to see Lewis win the Championship last year because it was only shown very late on the Sunday evening highlights…

  16. I am pleased Channel 4 continued the FTA. It means i save money.

    I watch the FTA race weekends and then use nowtv to fill in the other 10, thats £100 per year for full live f1 coverage. A lot less than a skysports sub. If i know i can only catch the race i will save even more money as i will only pay for a day pass rather than a week.

    Last season there were some months (like august through to late september) where not a single race was behind the pay wall.

  17. I disagree that there is an inevitable move to paywalls. There should be plenty of money available through advertising to pay for the TV rights, it’s just CVC have got greedy and the advertising can no longer cover this. The move to the BBC was, with hindsight, a bad move as F1 is such a heavily commercialized sport that it really suits a broadcaster with advertising to pay for the deal rather than it coming from what some people consider (not me) as an unfair ‘tax’, thus leaving the whole deal open to criticism.

    “we do not go to the theatre or cinema and expect to be let in for free, nor would one go to a professional sports stadium and expect free entrance”

    True, but I go to the live events precisely because I’ve seen it on free-to-air TV and want to experience it first hand. I also think theatre and cinema are very different to sports.

  18. I think you will find without any shadow of a doubt that viewing fugues for this years championship will be at an all time low…many reasons for it.

    Paywalls, the cost doesn’t justify the value provided to the viewer in return.

    The Show – see above – compounded by typically boring races, lack of spectacle and reasonable chance of diverse winners backed up by poor coverage.

    Promotion – or complete lack thereof particularly through new social media channels.

    Economics – given the above people are not going to spend on this as they have in the past in a recession.

  19. Canada and Brazil are big misses, but I’m sad to see Japan isn’t being covered by C4. Always one of my favourite races, and given that it takes place at about 6am UK time, I can’t turn up at a friends house to watch it using their Sky subscription!

  20. a manufacturer backed breakaway series? such threats have never been credible… or so ive read somewhere….

    i might have been imagining it, but the teams and drivers always seemed happier on the bbc coverage.

  21. It is silly – because I would pay for F1.

    But I won’t pay for Pay TV. I don’t want the rest, Just the F1 thanks. And I’m not paying $500+ a year for it! Charge me something half reasonable, and you can have my money. Simple!

  22. I’ve been watching F1 since the early 90s. Now in my mid-30s, with wife, kids, and never-ending jobs around the house, I still watch every race and kill social media on my phone if I’m not watching live.

    “If” I’m not watching live? I hardly ever do. 2 year olds like the wizzing cars for 10 minutes but get bored of a typical race, so I tend to record the FTA coverage and watch it with a nice glass of something in the evenings.

    The highlights packages are ok…ish… There is nearly always a point where I notice a jump – a driver who was gaining on another by half a second is suddenly ahead and all the tension is gone.

    I normally pay £10 to NOWtv so I can watch Australia live – that’s early enough to get away with it. I would love to pay NOWtv £10 every GP weekend to watch the full race, but as they don’t allow timeshifting it’s not feasible.

    Message to FOM: I’ll pay you £10 per race to stream it from your website at a time convenient to me. That’s £200-odd a year I’m waving at you. Do you want it or not?

    1. Message to FOM: I’ll pay you £10 per race to stream it from your website at a time convenient to me. That’s £200-odd a year I’m waving at you. Do you want it or not?

      No, they couldn’t care less until the revenues drop significantly elsewhere. By that time a whole generation of viewers will have been lost.
      I’d be happy to pay £6-£8 for the whole weekend, streamed so I can watch it when I wanna watch it.

  23. Thanks for having the confidence in your readership, Joe, to reference Sherman McCoy. May I write though that when Sherman explained to his child what daddy did he likened his bond trading work to passing a piece of cake from one person to another, but keeping a small crumb for himself. CVC does not fit this pathetic description.

  24. I believe that what damages the sport is the product and not where it is shown. Lets be clear there have been a number of sports that are now on pay TV and I don’t see them struggling (Football, Cricket, Rugby) and these are the established sports. Darts in the UK for example has increased in popularity on the back of it’s success on Sky.

    The problem F1 faces is that it’s a sport that is watched by the older generation who have grown up on the basis of everything being given to them for free (I’m sure they say the same about my generation ;-)). Anyway, my generation will happily pay for something that is good. Most sports mad 30s and 40s individuals have sky sports. The problem F1 faces is that whilst sky has pushed F1 hard it has not attracted new viewers from their existing subscribers – this is what darts has done. Why is this? Well I think F1 is still stuck in the 1980s and doesn’t quite know what it wants. Does it want to attract new fans or does it want to continue with current fans who are generally old but will refuse to pay.

    This is why I suggested on here last week we need more races and shorter race weekends (sprint races and less practice). I don’t wish to destroy the current fan base so would keep lets say 10 races that are in the traditional format. I also would not rule out a playoff format to finish the championship.

    Maybe my solution above is wrong but what I don’t believe is wrong is that for F1 to survive things have to change. I don’t believe the solution lies in free TV times have moved on and remember the people with money who will pay to attend events already have sky.

  25. Joe, you may well be aware of this already but for the curious others: I’m sure I read somewhere that the arrangement between the free-to-air broadcaster and Sky is such that the FTA broadcaster picks three races to broadcast live, then Sky pick three races for which they they want exclusivity, then the FTA broadcaster picks another three, and so on.

    1. Three for FTA, then three for Sky, then they pick a race each if i remember correctly. Other restrictions apply, like FTA cant have more than 2 live races in a row.

  26. I tend to watch the BBC coverage when both channels are airing live races. I enjoy the coverage and do not feel like I am being taught a lesson every five minutes from the (what I feel sometimes), know-it-all presenters on SKY. Obviously my preference has no bearings on the future plans for airing races.

  27. I’m a lifelong F1 fan but its increasingly marginalising itself to the outside world as every year goes by. The product is poor so why would you want to fork out money to watch it on Pay TV? I am appalled by the suggestion that I’ve heard over the past couple of days that refuelling is back on the agenda. What environmental message does that send out? Honda only came back into F1 because of the green technology that they would be able to play with (the new 1.6 turbo hybrid engines). No other manufacturers are likely to come in if F1’s rules go back to the 20th century. I’m equally maddened by the reports that 2017’s much heralded rule changes are going to be diluted. The cars need to look wild and outlandish and it appears that all the rule-makers are going to do is change the wings a bit and widen the cars to 2 metres (they should never have been changed to narrow track in the first place as the current cars look like glorified F3 machines). I heard that Gerhard Berger once said that an F1 car on the grid should give the impression of you either been ultra brave or absolutely bonkers to get behind the wheel of one. F1, like much of the world, is so sanitised now. We want heroes, (perceived) danger, wild looking cars and jaw dropping racing. Only then will F1 be able to compete with an increasingly competitive world of sport. Amen!

  28. I don’t have a problem with Pay TV as such, I just resent the ridiculously high price you have to pay Sky for it.

    When Sky first stole the rights from BBC, I begrudgingly paid for Sky Sports so I could keep watching. I don’t watch other sports, so as an approximation F1 cost me around £250 (rounding it at £25 per month for 10 months).

    After a couple of years, I shopped around to see if there was a better option, and there was. Without wanting to be accused of advertisement, I found Now TV; a streaming service which allows me access to Sky Sports for £6 per day. With the 10 races I can watch on BBC/C4, that means F1 only costs me £60 per year. To me, that is acceptable (obviously others may have differing opinion, but however you look at it £60 is better value than £250).

    I would hope that would become the model of the future if FTA does disappear completely, Maybe eventually Sky Sports will realise that while its current model is a good option for general sports enthusiasts (and presumably Football fans?), it also needs to cater to the fan of each specific sport and offer it’s programming on a PPV basis.

    1. Far be it for me to defend Sky…. I resent having to pay for all their sports channels of which F1 is the only one I regularly watch, and just to add insult to injury an extra fiver to watch F1 in HD….

      Now TV is Sky’s product so it does offer PPV and Pay TV.

      Are the races shown in HD on Now TV?

      1. Got to admit, I hadn’t realised Sky owned Now TV.

        It is HD, but you can only watch live – given that most streaming services allow you to watch on demand, the lack of that service is still a disadvantage for F1.

  29. Does anyone know how the paywall pricing varies between countries? It always seems to me that in the UK Sky has such a monopoly on pay TV that it can pretty much charge what it likes.

  30. If the big teams/manufacturers decide to up sticks to set up a rival series, do you think that will really cause the same damage to the sport that the IndyCar split sadly did?

    The possible buyers I’ve seen mooted for CVC to offload the sport onto haven’t sounded like they were any more altruistic in nature, so I don’t see how this would improve the problems you’ve clearly highlighted on a number of occasions.

    I think it was someone from Merc proposing the idea of $5 a month or whatever for unlimited digital access to the live races. FOM appear much less in touch with reality of how people watch sport these dayas. It seems to me that a team/manufacturer-run series is a matter of when, not if??

  31. Speaking as an American race fan, you do not want to go through a political nightmare like the CART/IRL split. Thoroughly depressing.

  32. A combination of “free to air” (which it actually isn’t) and pay-to-view coverage would probably meet most fans’ needs, but of course the sport is driven as an income generating business for its owners more than as a service to fans. Some of F1’s senior participants have probably become wealthy beyond their dreams too. Good for them, but it doesn’t mean the whole system can’t be improved.

  33. I’d pay to watch sport on an event by basis – say £5 to watch a whole F1 race weekend – but I wouldn’t pay the £60 per month subscription that the likes of Sky are after. I’d do the same to watch my favourite football club on a match by match basis. With streaming the future of TV maybe it will happen one day.

    1. My thoughts exactly – a sensible fee per race is far more likely to get my money than an extortionate monthly contract for 1000+ channels that I have absolutely zero interest in. Delivered via a web feed it would be easy to achieve. It could easily be applied to other sports too, much like boxing matches, I guess?

  34. Radio is the way forward. I now listen to the 5 Live coverage and follow the live updates on the BBC. Any actual action will be on the web shortly after the finish.

  35. Didn’t Koltes say he saw little reason to sell their stake in F1 as it has good yearly returns? They have 12 year funds that F1 fits into nicely so until the revenue falls, I don’t see CVC wanting to leave anytime soon unless the LA street racing Ferrari fan from Qatar can convince his family to pony up with more cash. One would think that F1’s ability to generate even more profits is suspect now. You’d have to question the sanity of a sovereign wealth fund manager that believes that they can suck better returns than present out of F1 over what CVC has been able to do. CVC is trapped by their own success in harvesting cash from F1. Unless the revenue drops they won’t sell and the valuation remains high enough that other groups sit on the fence waiting for fire sale prices that may not come in the short term. No one wants a ‘piece’ of the pie – they want control and until CVC came along, no one other than Bambino could claim total voting power on the board. CVC changed the chess pieces and are reaping (raping?) the rewards. Success has a downside as no one can top their performance unless market conditions change such as Bambino Holdings exiting (death?) and only then may CVC want out and decide a lower price is advantageous as they are not day to day racing managers.

    History will show that the greatest mistake ever made in F1 was when the teams turned down Bernie’s offer of an equity stake in F1. They would be the NFL team owners of racing right now. Short term thinking gets you short term results.

    1. I think that he was offering to sell them something that they felt that they should already own. One day someone (like me) will write the story of how BE came to be the owner of the rights…

      1. How much more do you have left before the book is finished and ready for publishing? Or… is it in fact already finished and awaiting for Mr E to have his meeting with the man with the scythe?

        1. I am not writing any book about BCE and nor do I intend to*. Yes, I know a lot about him, probably more than most, but I honestly don’t think anyone can really tell the whole story, because it is so much bigger than just motor racing. BE’s fingers have been in many pies. The efforts thus far have not been very good, in my opinion.

          (* at this moment in time, to the best of my knowledge).

  36. The problem is, we *have* paid for it, even though we are on “free to air” TV. We have to pay a licence fee to the BBC for the right to watch any kind of television. In my view, this Pay TV is almost like paying for something twice.

  37. As one not lucky enough to attend each race. I find Sky’s coverage the closest to actually being there, even is the coverage can be a little too saturated. BBC’s free to air coverage became too gimmicky, focussing on the presenters, their stupid clothes or the little edited packages they prepared. I’m sure a lot of viewers will now depart, but those that decide to join SKY won’t be disappointed. And if they add BT Sport to the package they can enjoy the vastly superior MotoGP series too.

    1. People in the UK who can pay for Sky’s F1 coverage are very fortunate. In the States, we get NBCSN’s coverage which isn’t as good as Sky’s coverage. NBCSN is trying but it’s not as good as Sky’s yet.

  38. I worked for a market research company in the 1980s when Hanson Trust purchased Imperial Tobacco. One of the owners, Hanson or White, called an Imperial Tobacco employee into his office. Imperial Tobacco had dozens of brands which needed to be consolidated. The unfortunate employee admitted that some brands were retained for sentimental reasons and s/he didn’t know how to retain consumers of brands which were dropped. Having spent a lot of money on market research, s/he knew how to fix the problem. The boss told him/her that s/he was fired.

    When the thing that matters is money, business people don’t care about sentiment or marginal buyers.

    The appeal of F1 to Sky are consumers who buy subscriptions because they are F1 junkies. Free to air broadcasting of F1 is a commercial imperative for pay TV. If you want to sell a product consistently, you need fans looking for a consistent fix which can not be delivered by a restricted access channel.

    The BBC or your national broadcaster work out free to air broadcasting via their own methodologies.

    Sooner or later, Sky will determine that they are paying for sentiment and marginal buyers. My guess is that BT have buried, up to her/his ears, the exec who bought MotoGP.

  39. I’ll not bother with C4, it is that point in my watching life where I give it away and do something else.

    Sky was always going to be a no-no, the BBC’s limited coverage just about kept me interested but this latest move is really the end for me.

    Joe’s coverage does the job and I can catch highlights somewhere if I want to, but the days of watching practice sessions and race day are over.

    I’m 70 next month, time for a new interest before I get too old!

  40. F1 only needs to look at the state of boxing in the United States as a cautionary tale.

    Boxing was a major sport in the States until the early 80s because major bouts were televised often on free TV. Then the sport shifted all of its major bouts to premium pay TV channels, such as HBO and Showtime, and pay-per-view events. Interest from the American public plummeted.

    The lack of a quality American heavyweight contributed to The Sweet Science’s decline in the U.S. over the last 20 years. But the lack of a free TV presence was far more destructive. So was the rise of UFC, which has been available on basic cable and network TV for quite some time, saving only its mega-bouts for PPV.

    Bernie has said F1 doesn’t need young fans. He has said it doesn’t need to be televised on terrestrial networks. Remove those, and who’s left to watch? Old, rich dudes like Bernie. And everyone knows that’s a bottomless well of viewers and supporters (heavy sarcasm alert).

    1. Good point Paul. As a father of Millennials I know they use technology to solve problems and save money. Putting F1 behind more paywalls is not the answer.
      So its quite easy to:
      1. Watch live on the web, but seeing a lower quality video feed.
      2. Download the race (In HD) for free to watch at a later time.
      All without paying a penny. Only older folks who are time challenged but resource heavy would pay to view F1 on TV at the prices advertised.
      Hoping the younger generation will pay for things when there are technical workarounds sounds like a pipe dream.

  41. Take away the bling factor, that people enjoy if they attend, then Monaco and Singapore are boring follow the leader “races”. Sorry Joe, this is one case where the BBC has got it right.

    1. Whatever… if you go to these races your eyes will be opened and you will never look at them in the same way again. If you are just a TV fan then you will stick with your view and think you are right. But you are not…

      1. I’ve been to two Monaco races some time ago, and knew Singapore in the 80’s before F1 was there. I agree with you that Monaco is a good race to attend. And probably Singapore is a similar experience but stand by my opinion that the Monaco and Singapore race coverage on TV, and that is what this thread is about, is boring.

    1. that is a pretty funny assumption to make.

      Are you mau mauing the flak catchers whilst the rest of us take the Electric Kool Aid Acid test?

      1. Your post is full of The Right Stuff. Is this a sample of The New Journalism? Or just Hooking Up The Painted Word(s) — In Our Time?

  42. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong with what I’m about to write, but I suspect I’m more right than wrong.

    With free-to-air television being the sole outlet for F1 coverage, the teams were more in control of their own destinies; their marketing/commercial departments could demonstrably sell the huge numbers of viewers – a very large number of which were advertisers ‘holy grail’ ABC1s – and thus bring on board large international sponsors (forget about the fag companies and their obscene budgets – they were in it for a very specific reason) willing to pay for those ‘eyeballs’. This, I believe, was the business model all the teams (with the exceptions of Ferrari and, later, Red Bull) operated with.

    With the advent – and growth – of pay-TV in the last few years, that sponsorship money is far more difficult to find with potential sponsors far less willing to shell out comparable pots of cash for, it seems, one seventh of the FTA audience, however ‘enthusiastic’ those subscription viewers are (they’re also likely to be far more cynical and unwilling to buy the sponsors product (whatever that is)).

    The pay-TV model thus further inhibits the teams – with the notable exception of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Williams seem to have found a balance, but still have to watch the pennies. McLaren have been shedding sponsors with no obvious replacements for the last couple of years. The rest of the teams have really been struggling, far more so since the advent of pay-TV (Lotus’ fortunes have, hopefully, changed now that they are Renault – but it was touch and go that they would compete at a couple of races at the end of last season).

    The increased money from pay-TV is controlled by Bernie and CVC and going into CVC’s pockets – not the teams; my argument is that this pay-TV money – a far larger percentage than is currently allocated (I’ve no idea what that percentage is, but it’s clearly not enough for the majority of teams) – should be given to the teams to compensate for the inevitable consequent loss of sponsor income as a direct result of the move to pay-TV. Currently, it’s yet another pernicious ‘control’ mechanism for BCE and CVC.

    The teams have lost out, the fans-viewers have lost out. Only CVC will be happy with pay-TV. They appear not to care at all about they fans, seeing them as merely walking wallets to be squeezed dry, nor do they seem to care that much about the teams… hey ho.

  43. There is an underlying assumption that the overall “pot” can grow. I don’t believe it can. I believe that sponsorship + FTA rights were the sweet spot.

    PPV in F1 reduces viewers, reduces sponsorship. The overall “pot” shrinks. F1 is *not* football – there’s little or no peer pressure to be engaged. More of the (greater) PPV revenues have to be shared with the teams to offset sponsorship losses.

    The only difference between FTA + sponsorship and PPV is that CVC/Bernie don’t get to “tax” sponsorship, so the only way to grow CVC’s take is to pursue this line.

    F1 has no need of greater revenues; if it invested those it has, it could become huge. It doesn’t, and won’t.

    There is no inevitably to PPV; sorry Joe, but I believe those who think it is somehow inevitable have simply listened for too long to those whose short-term self interest lies that way.

    1. Silas, you and I seem to be saying much the same thing – you rather more pithily.

      However, without wishing to put words in Joe’s mouth, I do think that Pay-TV/PPV is an inevitability – so long as CVC hold the purse -strings.

      That’s certainly the way it is going at the moment. There may be some ‘tokenism’, in that a certain country’s race will be sold (given) to an FTA broadcaster in that country (for instance the British GP broadcast by BBC/ITV/C4) but everything else will require the viewer to put their hand in their pocket if they want to watch other races.

      Whether it is actually a good model for the long-term future of F1 is highly debatable (I think you and I agree that it isn’t); but CVC don’t – on current evidence – care a jot about the long-term future of the sport which is why they’re milking it as hard as they can right now.

  44. Sky Sports cost around £45 a month, on top of the basic package, making a total of around £65 – £70 a month. If that wasn’t enough, all of the programmed have adverts. Okay the races and matches are ad free, but Sky pack them at every opportunity.
    As to the actual races, as shown, they are all too often awful. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between tracks, because the camera positions are dreadful. They are seldom if ever changed from one year to the next. I’m also fed up to the back teeth with seeing the race start being replayed many times over on the 3rd lap of the race. This is when the race is still settling down, and I’ve lost count of the number of incidents that FOM have missed because they’re stuck in the rut of reshowing the start. Joe, have you actually watched any races on the telly in recent years? If not, get some tapes and watch a few. I’m convince it will open your eyes to the rubbish FOM is sending round the world.

  45. Didn’t some bloke say on live (free to air) TV a few years ago that “Formula One will always be free to air in western Europe”? Short chap, grey hair, what was his name again?

    1. Aug 1999: “[terrestrial TV] will continue forever as far as I am concerned. I have no problem with it [and] I will never stop free-to-air broadcasts of Formula One.”

      Jan 2001: At the FIA EGM to ratify the 100 year rights deal, SLEC and the Kirch Group confirmed that the Championship would continue to be shown on free-to-air television.

      Sep 2001: Ron Dennis: “No one’s wishing Bernie’s demise. But the manufacturers simply aren’t going to sit still and let this sport get sold to the highest bidder, who can then do whatever they want.”

      April 2011: Graham Lowden: “F1 is way bigger than pay-per-view and deserves its place on the global stage with the viewing figures it gets. We would be concerned if the sport was heading towards a pay-per-view only model.

      May 2011: “Sky is doing an incredible job but if you look at their audience figures they are nowhere. With these figures it would be almost impossible for teams to find sponsors. That would be suicidal.”

      Aug 2011: Sky deal signed

  46. “There will also be untold possibilities for targeted advertising.”

    If you want targeted advertising, that implies free viewing.
    No one is going to pay to be shown adverts.

  47. Hey Joe, I understand your position on pay TV. My experience here in Australia is entirely positive though. Previously F1 was covered by Channel 10 and the result was parlous. A panel of “ëxperts” droning on about the sport until about thirty seconds before the start and then a switch to live coverage with as many adds as they could squeeze in during the race and then a quick switch back to the studio immediately after the podium and more droning on.

    Now, on Fox, I get all the practice sessions, qualifying and the race together with all the comment and interviews plus I can record anything that takes place while I’m sleeping and watch it the following day. The support races are also shown.

    In addition I get Rugby and Cricket from all over the world. All this for A$50 per month. For me this is great value but I concede that it might not suit everybody.

    The problem with the fan base is a lack of marketing through social media and other forms of communication which appeal to the younger generation. I have an 18 year old son who has spent many days as my pit crew at race meetings here but he is pretty ho hum about F1.

    Cheers Leslie…………See you in March I hope.

  48. I think that if Formula 1 can get through the free to pay TV transition and there is still some free to air coverage for the F1 supporters not wanting to pay for the pay TV package that the sport will be able to hang on until Bernie is no longer around.

    Once the current agreements start to expire (if they’re not broken before they expire) and Bernie isn’t around, I think that F1 will transition to a direct to the customer model with on-demand coverage of GP, commentary shows, pre and post race shows, etc. that the F1 supporter can watch when there schedule allows instead of having to get up in the middle of the night or early morning for some races. The content would have to be new and exciting and not something that done all of the time.

    In the years to come, as Formula 1 maps out its strategy to regain and strengthen its presence on the global sports marketplace, the sport will need to keenly aware and gear its content and its delivery to what the sport’s fans, customers, etc. want and are willing to pay a reasonable fee for. The sport will need forward thinkers at its helm first who completely embrace the digital world and are customer/supporter oriented.

  49. I’m not convinced that the younger generation will accept they have to pay for everything. Nor that they’ll be able to afford it.

    It seems every industry these days wants to move from a one off payment or advertiser driven model to having their hand in your sky rocket each and every month.

    There’s only so many subscriptions you can afford and in my opinion F1 is making a mistake by putting itself behind a paywall. Sure in the short term they might make some good money, but as the number of people willing and able to pay for a pay TV subscription (ie the older generation) fall off the perch, how are the younger generation going to be exposed to it? My father wasn’t into F1. I came to it of my own accord by seeing it on TV.

    I paid for a subscription last year. I turned off the sport portion as soon as F1 finished (can’t cancel the lot unfortunately as Her Indoors loves her American trash) but I’m in two minds about turning it back on at the moment. That’s $600 I could put towards a holiday for the family.

  50. I live in UAE and watch every game of the AFL season live and in replay (at any time) for $153 USD, direct over the net. It is awesome. If only F1 would do something like it, I wouldn’t have to hunt down poor quality and illegal streams. People will pay for value TV, but I’m not paying for Pay TV pap.

    1. I wish that Sky could/would offer their programming over the internet for a fee to people outside of the UK. I could get to see cricket coverage, better F1 coverage, and Premier League coverage, etc. I think Sky shows Aussie Rules Football too and that I really miss from the days when I dated an Aussie.

  51. The US coverage on NBC-SN is so bad (will Leigh Diffey ever stop screaming?) I’ve given up on it. For most races, I read the coverage in GP+ a few hours after the fact and don’t bother with the TV broadcast.

    Also doesn’t help that so many tracks these days are Tilkedrome garbage. If it’s convenient, I’ll still make an effort to watch Silverstone, Spa, Suzuka, or Montreal…albeit with the sound off.

  52. I wish CVC would jump over pay TV and go straight to a streaming model through Apple TV or the like. Then I could just buy which element(s) of a race weekend I wanted and not have to pay considerable amounts of money to a TV company for services I don’t want and never use (cable).
    If the sport can lead the way on engine efficiency and other key elements, it is a shame they are still stuck in a late-twentieth century distribution model.

  53. The key here is ‘attracting a younger audience’. Unless you’re able to do that, the sport will die. Where are the next generation of F1 fans coming from? In my personal experience, F1 has failed/is failing to attract the younger generation in the same way as premiership football. My youngster loves his football, which is great – passionate about it in the same way that I’m passionate about F1. Despite my efforts, he has no interest in F1 nor do any of his friends. Many of them have Sky Sports however, but not to watch F1. Yep; you’ve guessed it, live Premiership Footie.

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