Knowing when to stop

I was aware of the Formula 1 world when I was perhaps eight or nine. I remember pushing plastic racing cars around imagined circuits on carpets, and knowing names like Clark, Hill, Stewart, Surtees and Amon. But that was it. I wasn’t that interested until I was about 15 and F1 arrived on our funny black and white television screens. I was fascinated that dashing young heroes would risk their lives to win motor races. It was as glorious and as crazy as medieval tournaments. At that point I didn’t even know that there were specialist magazines that covered the sport. I stumbled on them by accident and then, during my student years, I scraped and borrowed money each week to buy Autosport and Motoring News. I was excited when I discovered a kiosk at Baker Street station where one could get Autosport on a Wednesday afternoon.

The point of this story is two-fold: it shows the power of the television in bringing in fans; and the fact that not everyone is as rich as the people in racing.

Sport is all about emotion and aspiration. It brings joy and excitement to mundane lives. It is that little bit of sunshine for people who have a TGIF approach to life. It is the thrill of a weekend, the five minutes when one escapes the real world over a morning coffee. Some choose other means of diversion: art, theatre, literature, religion… Sport is in competition with all of these activities.

But people are fickle. They want bread and circuses and if a sport fails to deliver what they want, they give up on it. I used to love watching athletics until I realised that one cannot trust the result because of drug use. The world is creating alternative interests all the time: who knows what will be the next big thing: drone racing, virtual sports? There are a million niches: polo, fencing, caber-tossing, pétanque and so on. With good TV coverage these can all be interesting, but you have to find them and the coverage has to grab your attention. And you don’t put down money to watch anything until you’re pretty sure you want to see it. The more you have to pay, the less likely you are to do it. The critics may write that the three-hour Japanese version of Macbeth is a tour de force, but do you buy a ticket?

F1’s greatest asset is its huge number of  fans around the world. These people – you – have given the sport muscles in the sports marketing world and inevitably, as in every gold rush, the snake oil salesmen have rushed in to sell dummies to dummies. As the sport has grown bigger, the entrepreneurs have gained suits, fancy shoes and fame and it’s been a ball, cinderellas and all.

But greed is a blinding thing and gradually these people have lost touch with the real world. They think that $1000 is pocket change. Out there in the real world, it is not like that.

Fans resent having to look through wire fences at the stars, they resent being forced to pay huge sums for tickets, and now they resent being forced to pay to watch the sport they love on television. The audience that F1 has is now crumbling. The most recent TV report from the Formula One group resorted to vagueness when it came to figures: “around 400 million” viewers is fluffier than cumulus and probably means that the real number is now 375 million…

The older folks, who make up most of the audience, are unhappy because they have grown up with free-to-air television and they don’t want that to change. Younger folk cannot afford it, don’t want to afford it, or have no interest in a sport that chugs along in its old-fashioned ways: the canal system in an age of motorways; the horse prancing around Cape Canaveral, the eagle that doesn’t know how to tweet.

“Sky’s commitment to the sport and standard of coverage is second to none,” said Bernie Ecclestone in a statement announcing that the pay-TV company will be “the home of Formula 1 in the UK and Ireland from 2019 to 2024”.
So we have a few years left in the UK before the gates slam shut.

The reason that this deal has been done is to load value onto balance sheets, to try to sell the shares in this sport to schmucks who will not see that the trajectory has to change.

What is the point of good coverage when it is hidden behind a pay-wall that people don’t want to climb? 

F1 has lost the plot. Sky’s figures are sufficient to drive better revenues for the greedy old men who run the channel and the Formula One business, but they are tiny compared to the remaining free-to-air channels. Unless they change the pricing and social media policies, it will become a wall that will keep the world out. In time, the Bernie, Donald and Rupert Show will turn into a fading mansion on Sunset Boulevard, where the former stars will end up with fan letters written by the butler. What good is a home in which the corridors are piled high with stacks of cash, but only a few old folks and their deluded retainers haunt the corridors?

Shutting out the fans will, I fear,  drive people away and they will never return. New generations will never discover the passion that the sport gave us. And it is all down to one thing: short-sighted greed. One day people like me will have our revenge, writing the obituaries that these characters heartily deserve, but they don’t care. They have their money and their games and they see the public as being sheep who exist only to be fleeced.

I find the whole concept vaguely disgusting. They have kidnapped the sport, stolen the passion from its rightful owners – the people – and it is all so utterly pointless. The thing about wealth is that beyond a certain point, it is worthless. You can pack your coffin with rolls of banknotes and only the worms appreciate the gesture. You can give your money to your children and watch them go off the rails. Few can handle it. What’s the point? It is better to go away and dig in the garden, grow some carrots and do something useful…

We can stand before the gates and scream about what is wrong, but it changes nothing. Fans can vote with their feet – and will, but these people don’t care. It won’t be their problem.

The drivers are now beginning to rumble, but can they ever be united? They tend to be blown away like chaff from wheat.

Those who are supposed to protect the sport have sold out, so they can use the money to paint zebra crossings in Uganda, hoping to win Nobel Prizes for road safety.

So who can fight? The answer can only be the players. They stand to lose the most and so they must be the ones to lead the way. They must take this great sport and kick the money changers out of the temple.

Mr Marchionne, Mr Zetsche, Mr Ghosn and the rest of you, the time has come for revolution.

394 thoughts on “Knowing when to stop

  1. Spot on, Joe. I posted this on FB this morning, and now you’ve eloquently written about what I’m feeling. “F1 has finally done enough to lose me, a passionate, lifelong fan since the late 50s. The news about Sky’s exclusive deal, topped by Jean Todt still trying to tinker with qualifying has shown me that it’s not that they don’t care about me, but they really, really don’t give a toss about me or the sport I once loved. Even the drivers are worried. Until there is a big shake up at the top and they stop just tinkering, I’m gone, finished.” I actually feel physically sick, I feel I’ve beeb betrayed. And worst of all, there’s no way I can communicate this to the people that are doing this to me.

    1. Yes Joe is spot-on, but I consider myself more lucky than him because although I started off at the same age like him at my time there was no television at all but I had access to a portable radio and a black and white silent 8 mm projector and any 8 mm silent black and white film reels courtesy of BP at the time, the one which I will never forget and of which sets me on my lifetime of following F1 was the greatest drive of them all, the German GP that Fangio won. The difference with me is, no matter what is said and done, I will not quite watching/following F1, hoping that theonehalfthecancer left in F1 will one day be gone, taking with him his divide to rule tactics.

    2. Joe is not wrong, and through his blog, in a similar manner I’ve yapped on about its changing (in a bad way) face from a slightly different angle.

      “people who have a TGIF approach to life.” Absolutely… and no more so than the larger % of us team employees; it’s all about clock-watching and pay day these days

        1. I’ve been privileged to witness first-hand more than one WC, but the rose-tints of many soon disappear… usually within about 1-2 years of getting their “dream” job in F1.

  2. I so wish this would happen… wise and honourable words. But aside from us fans, who is listening? Claire Williams said that the qualifying format change was proof that the sport is listening. But listening to whom? And why??

    1. Joe where do the teams and their sponsors stand on this? Seems they would be pissed. Less value for being a sponser. Surely Bernie is on the hook to make up the difference?

  3. Well said. I discovered the sport because at the age of 6, my Dad stuck Grandstand (as was then) on the television and I started watching this thing called the Portuguese Grand Prix – Senna’s first race win as it happens. And it just got me hooked.

    But if it had all been hidden away on a Sky subscription channel, I very much doubt I would ever have seen it. Come 2019, I *might* take out a subscription, or I might not (I have something of an objection to all things Murdoch), but the kids who stumble on the sport on free-to-air television? They’re not going to find it.

    I can’t help thinking that in the long term, football is about the only sport that can survive behind a pay-wall. Cricket audiences are way down since the switch, and I’ve heard mutterings that the same is happening with golf…

    1. I can’t agree about cricket just look back to the 80s and see how empty the stadiums were. Sky has took cricket forwards in the same way Football has.

      The issue with F1 is NOT pay TV it is the fact that the product is all wrong.

      1. Look at the Ashes viewing figures for ’05. Then look at the figures for ’09 ’13 ’15. Harder to find because Sky dont want the world knowing their viewing figures. That’s the point Patrick is making. Yes Sky have invested good money into cricket – but no-one’s watching. TMS listening figures on the other hand are better than ever.

        1. Yes the physical TV figures will have declined. However that hasn’t affected the overall popularity of cricket. I don’t think moving to Sky has affected Cricket popularity at all. Why are all the test grounds building bigger stands?

          Again the issue with F1 is that the product is currently rubbish. If the racing was good then the crowds both on TV and in the physical stands would return.

          The sport is broken and Pay TV is the least of it’s problems.

      2. The difference between cricket, football and F1 is that former two are sports we are all exposed to as children through every day games and so acquire a following by default.

        F1 doesn’t have that luxury, once it disappears behind Sky’s paywall awareness and interest levels will inevitably drop off.

      3. Jimbo
        Do you work for Sky ?
        Seems you are all Bells & Whistles for Sky.
        Sky has single handedly alienated 95% of the public behind a Pay Per View platform. Whatever sport they’ve touched has declined in viewers.
        Football Cricket are hard wired into us British, so we are happy to watch highlights on terrestrial TV. F1 is a whole new phase in Sky monopolising & segregating a big chunk of fans.
        Motorsports are important F1 is a classic Summer crowd puller at Silverstone on TV & at the circuit. These circuits globally will slowly empty & the so called 1.5 million (I do not believe that figure more like 0.5 million will watch F1 on Sky).
        For me Sky Murdoch Todt Bernie can swivel on a pike.
        Sky boasted on their website site about how great they are but we’re afraid to not let none leave a comment.
        Sad bunch of twonks (to use a word from science fiction comedy Red Dwarf). F1 is on a downward ride to obscurity & Tumbleweed wilderness.

        1. Yes I am all bells and whistles for sky!!

          Shall I explain why? I love sport and I am old enough to remember how terrible sport coverage was in the 1980s then along came sky.

          I am then old enough to remember how when sky bought the rights to pretty much all sports the world was going to end. Sadly this has not happened. In fact for most sports the opposite has happened. Why? If you love sport you will find a way to watch it (as a student I went to the pub or round to mates) if the show is good enough. This is F1s problem the show is poor. That is why the numbers are poor.

    2. As a nine-year-old I stumbled across the TV listing for the 1987 San Marino grand prix in my grandma’s Daily Mirror newspaper. It was on BBC2 that Sunday afternoon. I watched Nigel Mansell race to victory and was soon transfixed as I followed it up with the French and British GPs.

      Mansell’s pursuit of Piquet at Silverstone from nearly 30 seconds back has stayed with me to this day.

      My dad had never been a fan, but began taking an interest when Lewis Hamilton set the championship alight in 2007. Despite him being much more of a casual watcher, we’ve been to Silverstone three times since then and I’ve also been lucky enough to visit Suzuka for the 2011 Japanese GP.

      I would never have chanced upon the sport had it not been for free-to-air.

      Today, I grudgingly pay for Sky Sports so I can watch all the races live, but it’s a huge loss to free-to-air and the next generation of kids – denied those moments that can bring people together and inspire a lifelong interest.

      As has been said, cricket and golf have suffered the same fate. Sadly, with the nature of broadcasting today it seems inevitable as sports are one of the few things that people care enough about to pay £25 or more per month for subscriptions.

      I wonder how much longer Wimbledon will stay free-to-air on the BBC. To this point, the tennis chiefs are happy with the greater exposure it provides. I sincerely hope big bucks from the likes of Sky and BT can’t change their minds anytime soon.

  4. Thank you Joe, I’m not kidding, I’m a bit tearful. I have been a committed and passionate fan for 25 years, have even spent many hundreds of £s going to GPs in Britain and Italy. I simply cannot afford Sky so feel this sport is being ripped from me by the very people that should be embracing me. I’m lost to F1 now.

          1. thank you for using blame effectively in my experience so far…, …, meanwhile back in the natural environment that is outside this ” electric medium which devours the user…” please seriously consider that this is my feeble attempt at making you aware that after all, it doesn’t really matter in any way shape or form what one does until they have radically accepted to respect the will of others and blessed be in my way of dealing with the loss of a young adult dream. so be it.

        1. I was just about to say exactly the same. I feel this sport I’ve followed almost religiously for the last 35 years is being stolen away from me, and there seems nothing I can do about it.

          1. Agreed. I’ve posted before though, that without the fans, the sport has no value. Once they have stolen it all they will have is an empty husk.

            No-one wins.

  5. Toto Wolff was extolling the virtues of their spend vs the money they receive from exposure.

    I’d love to see his face when asked to explain how the move to pay TV affects this.

    Will the 2020 budget for his team be so large given the market is due to contract by nearly 80%?

  6. WOW. Seems these desicions made you feel as miserable about the way things are going as it did me yesterday. Ruined the great feeling of having F1 back on track I had after the race on Sunday.

  7. Joe, I love Formula 1. I want to watch it all the time, I want it to be a huge part of my life, I want to show it to my friends, my family, my colleagues, I want be involved and I want to have access.

    But I can’t afford to any more, not from 2019 anyway.

    Am I no longer some marketeer’s target market? Does my interest no longer matter?

    I guess passion has to be nurtured. Under this arrangement, it wont be.

    I know I’m trying to preach to the preacher here, but it feels good to vent (for free) about something I love.

  8. Yep, that’ll be it for me and F1 in a couple of years. As a family we don’t watch enough TV as it is to justify the outlay of signing up for SKY and it’s multiple subscriptions. I am disappointed but I knew this day was coming.

    Funnily enough as well as missing enjoying the races I’m going to miss visiting sites like this, reading the gossip from Joe (although I’m sure he won’t like it described as that) and interacting with other fans online.

    Finally, I find my annoyance at this manifesting itself in a lack of appetite for the remaining races I have. Where you’d expect me to want to watch every minute I can while I can I’m feeling a bit tired of F1 now.

  9. And, of course, sponsors will lose any incentive to sponsor anything. If your logo isn’t been seen by a big enough audience, you’ll move to another business which has a bigger audience. F1 budgets will drop and it will wither away and die – like many think it should have done a few years ago when they started tinkering with it to make it “greener” and “more exciting”.

    I can see Formula E doing well out of this, but nobody else.

  10. “I want to hear some revolution out there Brothers! I want to hear a little revolution! Brothers and Sisters, the time has come for each and every one of you to decide whether you are going to be the problem or whether you are going to be the solution! You must choose Brothers, you must choose!”
    MC5 – 1969

  11. Perfectly said Joe, as someone who really only got into F1 in 2010 (I learnt to drive a few weeks before I accidentally stumbled over Monza on the BBC, something I’d always been aware of but until then never had an interest in) I was hooked, I’ve been to several FOTA events, travelled to Singapore to see a race, bought my share of merchandise and read all the news and tech breakdowns I can get my hands on and now I feel something I love is being taken away from me. It’s sad and as you say somewhat sickening. F1 risks being eclipsed by other series which become more accessible FE for example in 3 years will be much bigger. WEC is growing.

    I find it hard to believe the current owners think the next owners are stupid enough to only look at the current plumped up balance sheet and not the long term future. Why do people in business always think their smarter than everyone, competitors or future buyers alike?

  12. Agree with everything except the comment about Japanese Macbeth. Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood is an excellent film! Admittedly it wouldn’t be improved if it was stretched to 3 hours

  13. Absolutely, completely, utterly 100% right.

    It won’t change anything, but it’s good to see someone saying what *everyone* is thinking.

  14. This Australian fan will not be spending Aust. $600 + per annum to watch F1 in future. The TV coverage is bad enough now. I don’t know why people even go to a meeting such as the Australian F1 Race when they have to view it through all the chicken wire fences.

  15. Well said. I’ve been watching this declining trend of relevance for years and with F1 coverage disappearing behind a paywall in Australia it finally came true here last year. The sport’s dead here, it just doesn’t know it yet.

    I’m one of those old timers. Until 12 months ago I had watched (almost) every televised GP since about 1984, when I was 13. I bought magazines, debated endlessly on boards and forums, read everything I could get my hands on about the sport, and even got up at 4am (event single time) to watch the races in the Americas.

    Now, I illegally stream most of the qualifying and a few of the races. I will not buy pay tv, due to Murdochs obscene influence on modern public opinion, and I will not contribute my viewship to F1’s numbers anymore. So I still watch, sometimes, but none of the teams are able to point to my viewship when they try to sell advertising space.

    F1 let me down, a passionate viewer of 30 years, in a country where the majority don’t care about F1 at all. I will quietly smile when the whole house of cards collapses. Good riddance to it.

  16. Fairwell my F1, you were fun and exciting in the 80’s and 90’s, but it’s all gone now, RIP.

    Until the term RIP is used in tandem with Mr B Ecclestone and CVC then have to work out what to do, it will remain dead to me.

  17. Picture it in the past, a 16 year old me, and a 40 something year old dad, every other Sunday during F1 season watching the GP avidly. I even did this when I was 26 and he was 50 something. Throw in 3-4 Silverstone visits and that was my F1 experience.

    Picture it now, an almost 40 something year old me, and my two boys, every other Sunday during F1 season doing anything else (movies, youtube, xbox, gardening, scooting about, swimming), but rarely watching 5 mins of a GP.

    I am an avid follower of this blog, some of the other F1 sites, I see clips of actual F1 now and again, but rarely watch races. I got this passion from my early years and I think I will always follow the sport. I don’t think the same thing will happen for my kids.

    1. I know exactly how you feel, I am in the same boat although a few years down the track on you….. 😦

  18. well said, exactly how I feel.
    I have watched F1, like you since the 60’s. I watched Stirling Moss race the Ferguson 4 wheel drive in black and white on tv and was thrilled at the technology even though I didnt understand it.
    then I found Colin Chapman and Lotus and became fascinated by the engineering genius and, IMHO the best driver ever JC.
    I used to drive all over the country to watch GP, and later watched every race on tv, getting up in middle of night to watch races live.
    Recently all that has changed, I no longer bother to watch, If its on, and I have nothing else to do, I will watch, but I dont go out of my way anymore to watch my beloved sport, and will certainly not be paying Sky to watch

  19. Bernie will never listen to ” reason” but I’m sure he will be able to blame this situation on others. I agree that it MUST be for the teams to decide to leave this game and create a new series. That way, CVC loose their shirts.

    1. Oh, be sure BCE ( aka ‘Bernie’) knows all about ‘reason’. In the early days his ‘reason’ led him from back street car dealing to realising the massive potential of a sport ( Motor Racing ) as a big money earner. He’s always been a smart, highly adaptable, wheeler-dealer. And it’s also true he was
      deeply involved in growing the sport. The trouble was, F1 had as many
      opinions about how the sport should be run as there were people involved in it. And he saw an opening…… Oh boy did he see an opening !

      He realised that by some very clever double talk you could sell a concept
      that appeared to be democratic but was, in reality, anything but ! And by
      bribing conflicting forces he gradually came to rule them all.

      Ecclestone is one smart operator, but even he cannot control market effects
      and market forces. Nor can he control growing old. He knows the writing is on the wall. He knows the world economic situation is slowly but surely shutting down his options. He knows the Emperor ( CVC Capital Partners )
      is an emperor without any clothes, the dupes that he persuaded and convinced were wearing a priceless, diamond encrusted cloak, when in reality they were stark naked. And now they know just how draughty life can be when you are stark naked. That F1, the consistent layer of millions of golden eggs is dying. It is dying because BCE cannot change the world as he convinced them all those years ago that he could. Starved of the right mass markets ( U.S. East and West coasts, France, Germany ( soon) Italy ( soon)
      BCE sold them a monumental lie.

      And the evil truth of all this is that F1, one of the worlds greatest sporting spectacles, starved of funds and at the mercy of people who do not give a damn for all it’s history and splendour will be allowed to die while Bernard Charles Ecclestone also slowly dies on his very large, very, very expensive
      yacht. Untouched, unrestrained, seemingy immune.

      Oh there is a very great deal to dislike about Mr Bernard Charles Ecclestone.

  20. Joe, I’m so glad that you’ve addressed this. I’ve been an F1 addict for nearly 30 years, like you buying Autosport and watching coverage on free-to-air telly. Sadly, I cannot see myself continuing to follow the sport after the 2018 season as I won’t be joining Sky. Sure, I’ve got some disposable income, but I’ve also got other interests and a family and they are where I prioritise my spending.

    1. This is what Joe captured well – that many of us who can afford to pay to watch F1, will not pay. It’s just not that important.

      I’ve enjoyed F1 since the 1970s. I have fond memories of watching with my father. It’s one of the few things we had in common. I watch every race now with my wife. But my life will not be significantly damaged without F1 in the future.

      I will shrug and maybe sigh for a moment, then move on with my life and think of it rarely. F1 is great fun, but will be no great loss to me.

  21. Thanks Joe. I read the Sky announcement and just sighed – what a way to deflate the new (limited) C4 coverage before it’s even begun. I really can’t see me making the £35 per month jump to upgrade my TV coverage just for F1, especially when IMSA, WEC and BTCC are all in various ways trying to meet the motorsport audience half way – even Indycar (lights) is offering a free live stream. The only thing Bernie deserves any credit for is not being all that subtle about what he is doing; it seems to me to be an open dare to the shared power structure to do better if they can. Sadly they keep producing camels. I do however think Bernie and the CVC crowd are culturally bankrupt and have puked all over what could have been a rather good legacy, and I think that matters. Perhaps he really doesn’t care at all.

  22. Nice one, some excellent and amusing metaphors in there.

    When I read about this earlier on I came to the same conclusion. This is the Bolt trying to scupper the car makers.

    I wonder who will win.

    Maybe we could dump F1 and follow a new sport. “The Bolt versus All Comers”.

    Of course there can only be one winner………………..Time!

    1. > This is the Bolt trying to scupper the car makers.

      I doubt it – I think he’s just trying to help CVC exit on an (over-) inflated multiple.

      But if you’re right, one would have thought that after being bitten in the arse by his own success in breaking the team’s unity on the last commercial contract, he’d have checked out the definition of ‘pyrrhic victory’ by now.

  23. I agree with you and have said something similar elsewhere. I ask where are the next generation of fans going to come from if they never see or hear about F1. FE might soon be heading for an open goal.
    One aspect of the new UK TV deal is there does not appear to be any FTA component save the British GP that is an order from HM Government and I don’t know how that will work.
    As for the teams the only team left who’s business is F1, Williams and maybe McLaren the rest are owned by people for who F1 is a play thing or a marketing exercise.

    1. Williams!! Joke right?

      Frank lost his racer’s way long time back. Well before he tossed Adam Parr in favour of Bernie’s bribe money even.

      Then to see the daughter continuing the mealy-mouth….it’s all become too hard for any respect, especially when we have that Pat fellow, one of the rorters from that Singapore race, back in the paddock singing praises to Bernie.

        1. Is or were?

          Not picking an argument here, but IF the teams were to severely jack up (sponsorship is hard to fine even now,right? plus goalposts keep moving…) against the dictates of FOM/FIA, I couldn’t see Team Willy joining them.

          And there becomes the teams’ disunity that we keep bemoaning – why can’t they stick together……

        2. Williams is a great team Joe, but as with all the other teams, with respect you only see a small “public” percentage of it 20 times a year Joe, not from inside the factories 24/7, 300+ days year. The few racer team owners are merely figureheads these days and get involved little in the day to day continuous clashing of infated egos

          1. After 33 years in the business I still only look at race weekends… Your comment is utter tosh. I have had more access to F1 factories than most people who work in the business…

  24. An excellent article Joe. To steal a quote from “Field of Dreams”. If you build it they will come. If, however, if you build a wall around it they won’t come in, no matter how many dancing bears that you have.

    I have been an avid fan for many years. Far enough back to have seen Niki Lauda retire from the 1976 Japanese GP and James Hunt become champion. Early mornings on a Sunday. No problem. At a recent job interview I was asked “Any problem working weekends?” “Not any more.” was my reply.

    This is all down to the greed of FOM and the CVC. I can’t afford it so I’ll find something else that is cheaper.

  25. F1 has been and gone. Its time is over. The future is electric cars, autonomous, safe and clean.

    To be honest I’m relieved. I got up at 5am to watch the Australian GP this year (on a free-to-air German satellite channel) with even more reluctance than usual – the season is too long, too plastic, too predictable, the break and the anticipation too short.

    I will never watch Sky, even the ‘free’ races need a Sky box and I will never give Murdoch my custom. I feel much the same about Bernie and the rest.

  26. To quote one N Roebuck from one of his columns

    “Do I hear the the beginning of a thunderous round of applause from the grandstands?”

    Most of whats on tv these days is complete tosh. The number of programs that my wife and I would choose to watch together is about 4 per week.

    Even if it were affordable, which it certainly is not, I have absolutely no intention of forking out that amount of money per month to watch F1, although I have not missed any televised race since 1979.

    I will just become one of the nameless many who get shafted in the pursuit of Gelt.

    I hope that the people who write the cheques to have their company name on board stand up and say “Enough”……not holding my breath though.

    Its just sad really.

  27. I dont have a sky subscription and nor am I willing to pay near on £500-600 a year for the privilege of having 7000 channels that I wont watch. I have enjoyed sitting on the sofa watching F1, however from 2019, it looks like the gardening will actually get done!

  28. I’m sure I won’t be the first person to yell “BRAVO” from the rooftops at this piece, Joe. It makes the declaration that the reversion to the old qualifying procedure was “for the fans” sound just a little hollow.

  29. In many respects I have to disagree.

    I am in Australia, we have been promised coverage that would be free and live for all sessions, practice, qualify and the race It has never happened on any network, even during a race weekend the racing is bounced about different channels and woohoo! this year was even HD!!! well not on Friday…
    It has been so bad that they delayed the race where Michael Schumacher won his first title for Ferrari for 6 hours, because the race started at 4pm local time and they didn’t want to delay the news because the race may go into the 6pm news. Hell race starts have been delayed because they where playing a repeated movie..

    We now have the option to watch all sessions all the races LIVE, we have never had that before here in Australia. It is 50 bucks a month, I understand that can make or break a budget, however with that you get some amazing coverage and other sports (it’s starting to sound like an infomercial but I promise I’m not being paid).

    My view is not at all popular, but I’m stoked with this arrangement. I get to watch everything and as long as the race isn’t being shown on free to air it is ad free too (due to the Anti-siphoning laws in Australia regarding sport, if the sport is shown on free to air the pay tv network has to show ad’s at the same time as the free to air network).

    I understand if you have always had access to everything live and free you would be upset, but we have never had access to that so I am reveling in it.

    p.s. I did get a giggle that all during the coverage there was ad’s for the F1 app. I don’t know that I have ever seen ad’s for an app before in such great numbers.

    1. What a myopic attitude. The move behind a paywall globally will ultimately kill off the sport in the long term, and the move to Foxtel in Australua will kill off having an Australian GP in the medium term, and you’re harping on about HD? Pfft.

      You watch the Australian GP numbers plummet in the next 5 years as F1’s relevance in Australia disappears due to no-one watching the international races. Once the Victorian Govt. realises that no one cares about the Australian GP anymore they won’t fund it and Bernie will send it off to Qatar faster than you can say “but HD!!!!”

  30. I honestly can’t believe this is happening. I’m currently a Sky subscriber who’s subscription ends in April. I’m seriously considering not renewing, not because the coverage isn’t excellent – it is – but because I have other things I need to spend my money on (food, bills, taxes). I’ve already found myself recording a few races in the last year or two, probably because the event isn’t as enthralling as it once was. Time was that everything else would get put on hold every other weekend to watch & digest every moment I could of a race weekend. Not any more.

    If I don’t re-sign to Sky. it looks like I’ve got another three years of F1 & then the only way I can keep up is via the internet & GP+. Mind you, by that time Formula E will have polished it’s content & will actually have a pretty good product. It’s already vastly improved from last year, so I can’t see why it won’t. Hopefully the FIA won’t sell out in the way they have with F1.

  31. Wonderful – I couldn’t agree more. Does Bernie or any of these characters ever give you the time of day?

  32. I’m not the biggest follower of motogp, but just browsing their videopass webpage it seems they have things sorted out much better. F1 should be the same.
    Produce and sell a live and on demand F1 channel (at Sky level) right from formula1.com. Looking at Motogp pricing, people will pay good money for a multi screen experience. I’d suggest making some key events during the year ‘free’ or available on trail, maybe make content free a week after it’s been shown first. Then, sell the regular world feed to fta channels at reasonable prices so everyone has acces to the sport and has the option to pay to immerse further. T
    Easier said then done probably but this recent announcement seems like a step in the wrong direction, likely delaying any such thing to at least 2025. By that time F1 would be nearly 15 years behind the times and viewership would be much harder to win back.

    1. The new graphics for for the MotoGP feed are REALLY well thought out. Very intuitive and helps the viewer understand so much more than previously was the case. The commentators during the race at Qatar couldn’t stop raving about them.

  33. Thank you Joe.

    At times, it feels like no-one on the inside cares about the fans. Not even a large proportion of the media who may report on it but with their buttocks firmly placed on the fence. It’s good to know that you care and you hear our voice and stand up for us.

    I think that many publications and websites will be negatively affected long term by a loss of readership, something that probably wasn’t even thought about when their sweaty hands were exchanging money. It will affect the wider industry, not just the fans, teams, drivers and TV producers.

    Notable that SKY did not report on the GPDA letter on their website and other Murdoch owned sites haven’t yet reported on the TV deal, perhaps to spare the inevitable influx of negative comments.

    Now to the teams: get on with it! I can’t take any more before I simply stop caring.

  34. Well they’ll lose me, and I’ve been a fan for over 20 years now. There’s no way I’m paying nearly £50 a month to watch F1 though.

    Ten years ago I’d have been gutted at this, but F1 has been dying on it’s arse for years now. It’s far easier to lose something completely when you lost half of it a few years ago, to the point where, although saddened by this, it actually doesn’t bother me that much. I suspect by 2019 I will be even less bothered – I’ll just find other stuff to do with my newly-free Sunday afternoons.

    I suspect I won’t be the only one. RIP F1.

  35. Brilliant, Joe. I feel your despair. Something must happen. Who will make it happen? That F1 is so disfunctional is akin to having a dream, waking up… and realising that dreams are frequently impossible, bizarre beyond description. But this is no dream…

  36. Hear hear!! I also feel that the rest of the F1 press will have their part to play in this revolution, why are you practically the lone voice in this fight Mr Saward? Is it a case of you being the island of reality, in a sea of bullshit? Seems that way!

  37. So now we know the date F1 will stop for us in the UK.
    You mentioned that young folks cannot afford F1, well I am of the baby boomer generation and now a pensioner who can just afford to live pay my tv licence and run a car. But not go to races and not subscribe to Sky. We are the majority and we will see F1 die maybe before we do.

    Sponsorship will dwindle to nothing, Bernie has just ensured that.

    The only hope is that the blazer brigade will find themselves awoken by the drivers’ open letter, shake off their sloth, finally flex their muscles and change things.

    Bernie never listens to anyone who cannot make him money but the drivers certainly have a voice which the media can amplify.

  38. Hear hear Joe. I agree, I am refusing to pay to watch cars laden with advertising race around circuits laden with advertising driven by drivers laden with advertising.. asking me for some coin on top of all of that revenue seems a bit rich. Alas, I do love my Formula One though 😦

  39. Watched just about every race since 1976 but will not move to pay per view as what we have now is not worth paying for.

    I currently watch the non live shows via a dish on RTL with 5live commentary but I am sure this will be taken away soon. Sniffpetrol released their take on it this morning, same sentiment also spot on.

    Soon the only entertainment value will be watching them destroy it like a youtube crash compilation. We can all then go carrot gardening.

  40. Hi Joe,

    over the last few years I have despaired at the way the business model for F1 has been run and the short term view that both the teams and the “owners” of the sport have used. The way I see this sport should be run is that it needs the competitors or teams, without them there is no sport. The teams need income, from sponsors and from the Commercial Rights Holder, but they also need people to watch the sport and if the sponsors are not reaching us, the audience because the viewing figures are dropping, then the sponsors are not going to pay the same rate as they were previously. Advertising rates are calculated on the reach of medium you are advertising on, which is why, for instance, it costs more to advertise in an ad break during Coronation Street than any other programme.

    What we have happening here with the TV coverage in the UK going behind the paywall of Sky is the sport shooting itself in the foot for short-term gain. As a business owner I get approached on a regular basis to advertise in various media, and my first response is always “how many people am I going to reach and who are they?” If that can’t be answered to my satisfaction then I don’t advertise. The people selling F1 coverage don’t seem able to supply that information and so businesses won’t want to have their name on the cars or drivers if they aren’t going to reach the paying public. With Bernie constantly restricting the reach of F1, then the attraction of being associated with F1 is reducing. Is that why McLaren are finding it so hard to find sponsors?

    For the long term good of the sport and the business, then they have to increase the reach of F1. All I can see is that it is getting more expensive to see the cars and drivers in action, whether it is on TV, the web or in real life. Silverstone has got the right idea by reducing the costs. But is is still cheaper in some cases to travel to continental races from the UK than going to the “Home of motorsport” at Silverstone.

    Formula 1 is going into a death spiral, unfortunately. And that makes me very sad as I have followed it for nearly 50 years.

    RIP F1.

    1. The second question you ask about advertising is and has consistently been the key to this issue : who are the people we’re reaching?

      FOM only seem interested in the rich, the people who can afford a Ferrari or a Mercedes Benz or a Rolex watch. Maybe they’ve done their number-crunching and the equations work out, that the revenue brought in by TV deals which limit their reach outweigh the lost revenue from the lost reach.

      Lots of people say they won’t subscribe to Sky and in fairness I suspect these same people are not driving Ferraris or Mercs.

      So, for the sake of discussion, let’s say that the FOM bean-counters might be right and they might be wrong and very few of us will have good access to information which will prove one side or another of the argument.

      The issue which interests me is F1 as an industry. I’d be fascinated to see a breakdown of F1 engineers and mechanics based on those who did or didn’t grow up with pay TV in the home. Because I very much doubt that many team personnel first heard of Formula 1 at a careers fair somewhere.

      I suspect that most of the staff in the huge structure of F1 picked up their passion for it as kids who, much like Joe (and various other here), grew up watching it on TV – at first as an occasional diversion and then increasingly seeking out coverage and organising other engagements around it.

      I am curious to know who the various teams are expecting to recruit in 2040.

  41. Joe. I had to stop myself from standing up in the office and cheering.

    Well said. I hope that those who have the power somehow listen to this and take note.

  42. I’ve been waiting for your comments since the announcement and I’m not disappointed Joe.

    There now has to be a revolution in the way that F1 is promoted and run and , as you say,the manufacturers are the only ones with enough clout to do it. Please God they will!

    I’ve watched the live stream of both Daytona and Sebring this year and although very American in style the coverage was superb. F1 has to seriously think of doing the same.

    Sadly, I’m not holding my breath.

    Thanks for the passionate stance Joe.

    Glyn.

  43. The price this year of the cheapest grandstand ticket for the British GP got me and the wife a hospitality box above the pitlane 10 years ago. i won’t be going to the race this year as i just can’t justify the expense. (admittedly it’s the wife i needed to convince!!) Even with the ‘kids go free’ incentive, the price equals a week at centre parcs for the whole family. I am hitting the same issues with the cost of a Sky subscription i’m only holding onto for access to F1. Using KODI to stream the sky F1 footage for free is slowly becoming a viable option as the cost of being an F1 fan continues grow, even with its pixelated viewing quality.
    From visiting numerous F1 news sites and reading the comments, this is becoming a growing issue for most F1 fans. Many of whom have already resorted to free streaming services. F1 can waste it’s time with qually revamps and the like, but sooner (rather than later) there will be no one who cares. My kids, who have had to put up with me force-feeding them F1, have showed some interest, but F1 shoots itself in the foot with the lack of licensing and online presence. Why no official F1 lego sets? Why is Argos not full of F1 toys? Where are the classic races on youtube? There is so much that F1 leaves on the table. That F1, an engineering and technical sport, has fallen behind the technological revolution that is the internet is embarrassing.
    Free track side Wifi, with access to the live-feed and timing screens would make up for some of the ticket costs. A dedicated subscription-based online service with access to multi-camera feeds, telemetry and live race broadcasts at a reasonable price would be good. A comprehensive youtube channel with an archive of classic races, interviews and analysis.
    There are so many ideas out there coming from fans who want to stay with their sport of choice and keep it healthy, but no ones listening.

    1. Just to clarify Kodi isn’t providing the streaming, third party add-ons do that. I’m only pointing this out because the two are becoming synonymous, and the XMBC Foundation are trying to remove this conception.

    2. Interestingly it’s not just Bernie who is screwing his Customers. Has anyone else noticed the outrageous increases that Silverstone has been applying to the Silverstone Classic in the past couple of years? I am not paying £70 for something that was under £40 only a few years ago. Sod you Silverstone.

  44. Absolutely true. As a youngster of 10 I stumbled on F1 because it was on free TV on a Sunday lunchtime. Unfortunately the cost of Sky is prohibitively expensive just to watch F1 for me, so I guess from 2019 I’ll just have to find other activities to fill my time 😦

    1. Same here. My earliest memory of F1 (besides Colin Chapman on Blue Peter) is of stumbling across the impossible spectacle of racing cars bombing round the streets of a sunny Mediterranian principality one wet Sunday afternoon. It took another few years before I really started following F1 properly, but from that moment I was hooked.

      I was about so say that after 2018 nobody else will get to have that experience, but if Formula E can sort itself out by then, who knows? It won’t be F1 though, that’s for sure.

  45. Hear hear.

    I’m 38, so probably just about at the “younger” end of the spectrum you refer to Joe. I’ve loved F1 since I was a child. I’m a Sky customer, but not for premium packages and will not be paying £27.50 a month or more for 5+ sports channels I’m not interested in, just to watch a couple of F1 races a month – when I’m in and not out doing something family related at a weekend.

    As a a fan, the BBC / C4 highlights and 10 live races package is barely acceptable, albeit I think the coverage is of a good standard. Looks like I’ll have to find another (probably illegal) way to watch F1 from 2019 onwards or we need the revolution Joe mentions.

    I’m sick to death of Bernie and CVC slowly killing the sport we love, for money. Even his wife says money is Bernie’s only interest, according to his biography I’m reading.

    Change at the top please!

  46. Never a truer world spoken! I whole heartedly agree!! The love of money is a powerful thing & blinds people to reality & causes corruption. Cue a brand new F1 war where teams revolt & head off to form a new championship with Free to air TV coverage, I HOPE!

    1. I agree, too bad FOTA couldn’t stick together those few years ago.
      New championship please,
      Dear Bernie, please @#$%off.

  47. You’ve said it all, with regards to the disgust I feel at the sport falling victim to another body blow from its own commercial rights holder.

    But let’s look at this another way: right now, even aristocratic teams like McLaren have next to no sponsors. The Williams is essentially a white, empty space. Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Mercedes, Force India and Haas are essentially self-funding. Manor can put cars on the grid thanks to the largesse of the Indonesian government which has foisted a mediocre driver, who should really be in a mid-grid LMP3 car into the world’s ‘premier’ racing series. That leaves Sauber, whose staff can’t be sure if they’ll be paid at the end of the month.

    Even with an audience of 400 million, corporations should be beating down doors to get their names on F1 cars. English Premier League football teams are fighting sponsors off and NASCAR teams look like downtown Tokyo, so there’s no unwillingness to invest in sport. The marketing departments of F1 teams can’t – presumably – be so collectively bad as to all fail to sell the idea of getting a company brand before 400 million viewers, so something else must be deeply, deeply wrong.

    Why on Earth do the teams put up with this crap? Are they commercial morons? It’s all very well making a profit, but do they have any idea or vision of where they *should* be? Or are they really so supine, they can be steamrollered by CVC and Ecclestone? If so, they deserve all they get.

    VW-Audi will happily spend F1-level budgets – on two teams, no less – to compete at Le Mans for a fraction of the commercial return, yet won’t even consider the prospect of F1 because of the CVC/|Ecclestone axis. The world hasn’t only passed them by, it’s swallowed them whole and spat them out, but their ego is such, they refuse to budge from their 1990s business model, I suppose because they don’t have to. So long as the money keeps rolling in, their job is done. It doesn’t matter who or what gets destroyed, what goodwill or future may be casually tossed away like a £30,000 watch that’s slightly out of date.

    By the time this ridiculous TV deal is done, Ecclestone will be 94. More probably, dead. He has no stake whatsoever, other than hiding the sport away from the casual and the curious, and occasionally humiliating anyone with a desire to change things. He’s a troll who should have been put out to pasture when he let Brabham go to the wall. His only legacy is in the sidebar of the Daily Mail, where his daughter’s attempts to become a ‘celebrity’ from the security of the £250m home daddy bought her, is displayed for all to see, while a pursuit of any substance proves frustratingly elusive.

    The myth of Ecclestone’s business acumen is carefully nurtured by not only himself, but his acolytes in the press. To that I say this: 34 years after the FISA/FOCA wars, and decades of having exclusive rights to one of the most widely viewed events on Earth, he’s collected, what? $3 billion? Is that really the best he could do? Sports rights everywhere have gone through the roof. He’s just ridden the wave; a passenger. The owner of a launderette in a small town could have performed just as lucrative a job, given the chance.

    We’ve all had to watch, as F1 courted dictators and human rights abusers, the creepy and vile image of misogyny embodied by those bored models who applaud drivers as they climb the steps to the podium, witnessed spivs like Mallya scour its reputation further, read transcripts of bribery and corruption trials then watched as heritage crumbled : no French GP, no German GP, no USA GP. Countries which love the sport, such as Argentina and Mexico, are denied races for decades while glorified theme parks like Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and now Azerbaijan get to play host. Let’s not even discuss disasters like Korea and India.

    I love this sport. I love its history, its stories, its characters and the sheer, mind-bending determination and brilliance of those involved. No matter how continually appalled I am by its governors, when the red lights go off and the cars scramble to the first corner, I fall in love with it again and again. That love has been stretched, especially since the barrow-boys of CVC arrived. In days past, they’d have done a more noble thing and worn a mask to hold up a bank at gunpoint.

    I may still watch, but I’ll do it indifferently, like a TV show that’s gone on a season or two too long, and which I watch through habit without caring if it gets cancelled or not. And if that’s happening with me, it’s happening with lots of people.

    1. Great response, read it 3 times, passionate addition to Joe`s superb piece.
      It may seem sad but even in these dark times, when the lights went out at Melbourne my left foot still dropped the clutch, is it just me ! I`m going to miss it.

    2. Bravo. Excellent response to an excellent blog.
      My seven year old has just got into F1 over the last twelve months. I haven’t had the heart yet to tell him that, in a few years, we going to have to break the law if we want to see live races…

  48. Great article Joe. I’ve watched every race since 1994 – the sport I love is disintegrating fast, but is it too late to stop the rot?

  49. Excellent article. It says it all… Lack of hope to see things returning to good sense is a bit depressing though… At least the rich will be richer, leaving the poors to their miserable lives as it should. Kind people die whilst greedy b@sterds stay alive, pocketing money without knowing why… Sad times…

  50. Joe,

    Your writing style is exemplary and your analysis generally quite good. That said, I think you would help yourself by doing away with repeated reference to phrases such as: “…kick the money changers out of the temple”. This is a phrase with a quite unhappy history.

    Regards,

      1. please do! you had me at this, completely:

        “Fans resent having to look through wire fences at the stars, they resent being forced to pay huge sums for tickets, and now they resent being forced to pay to watch the sport they love on television”

        Joe your story about pushing cars on the carpet then scrambling around for Autosport pennies also resonates massively. I remember stumbling on your blog for the first time and being so grateful…similar possibly to you finding Autosport. Fans continually scramble around for anything that brings them closer to their loved sport(s)…in that, free to air TV coverage is the largest positive force by far. I cannot stand happily in love from behind a wire fence. And I cannot think of any other sport where the fans are treated like such proles as in F1. This is too much.

    1. I also used to use this phrase quite a lot until a vicar friend of mine suggested I should consider what happened to the ‘kicker’ and how quickly afterwards the ‘changers’ where back in the temple, business as usual!

  51. You are so right. I’ve been following the sport for 20 years so I guess that makes me an old duffer, not that I’m very old, supposedly with plenty of disposable income. When it comes to making a choice between paying for my daughters education and doing things in the real world with her and lining the pockets of the greedy, then the choice doesn’t take very long to make. To be able to watch for free one has to expect to put up with a little marketing/adverts etc but even when you pay you still have to put up with adverts. Channel 4’s coverage of the qualifying really annoyed me when several times, mid way through a sentence they cut to adverts. Appalling treatment. It’s a shame the way things are going, I hope some common sense will make a miraculous entry. Thanks for all your efforts, Joe

  52. Impassioned speech, mind you quite a few sports would appear to be doing very well and you can only watch them on sky or pay TV. Premier league football, cricket, golf, tennis and most rugby. All of those sports appear to be in rude health.

    Outside of the F1 argument the traditional TV models are dead, stone cold dead and they have been for a while. Free to air advertising revenues no longer support quality content. Turn on the TV on any given day at 730pm and have a look at what “prime time” viewing passes for these days. Yes, you could argue if the feed was given away for peanuts free to air could run it but that’s not going to happen, ever. It doesn’t happen in any other sport why should F1 be different. And let’s be honest, if it did there would be no F1 as there would be no money, even if that money isn’t shared fairly.

    In fact if all the TV revenues went to the teams I doubt there would be any argument about pay per view at all.

    All quality content is now pay per view or subscription based and this isn’t a bad thing. The quality of content playing on HBO and Sky Atlantic etc… is second to none. Many A list actors are now looking to do this style of TV as its simply better. They have the budget and they don’t have the restrictions of free to air or big budget movies. The production quality of sports presentations on pay for TV is also amazing.

    I doubt free to air channels will even exist in 20 years.

    Fair distribution of revenues and the owners stripping the sport are major issues no doubt, but people have to get used to the fact they need to pay for quality content and if the product is good, they will pay. Harking back to some golden age where we sat around the 14″ black & white and waited for autosport to arrive at the news agents, romantic, but isn’t going to happen.

    1. But everything you quote there is ala carte programming. HBO, Netflex Amazon prime or all items that you purchase and pay for directly, not as part of a very expensive bundle deal.

      Sadly Sky doesn’t offer me the option of just paying £100-150 a year for F1… Instead its business model is still based on the 1980’s model of bundling a pile of rubbish I don’t want to watch and insisting that you pay for that at £50+ a month before you can access the one sport you want to watch…

      1. They do. We bought a Now TV streamer for £10. Sky currently charge £6.99 for a sports day pass which includes their F1 channel. That’s how we watched last Sunday. (Just need a modern TV and broadband and it works fine.)

    2. Firstly, a sports popularity is an on-going thing. It’s driven by giving fans access and the next-generation ‘finding’ the sport, either via viewing or participation.

      The barriers of entry for viewing and participation are much lower for pretty much every sport – there are hundreds of local teams for most sports you can name, but because of how the system works, motor racing is funnelled into small disparate silos wherever there are racetracks. In most cases, it’s just lower-league stuff with the odd touring car or rally event in the local area if you’re lucky.

      Sports such as football work on the pay-TV model because there are multiple games – the EPL has (for example) 380 individual games, 38 per team, per season – that make the subscription more worthwhile for the average viewer, even more so if multiple people can contribute to the sub as more games will be watched. There are also further enshrined rights deals that require a minimum amount of free coverage, plus highlights deals like Match of the Day (in the UK).

      F1, by comparison, has clattered into saturation point at a half of the number of events due to a mix of financial mismanagement and incompetence, yet customers are still required to furnish the pockets of a corrupt business empire to the tune of £1000/equivalent per calendar year for about 8 hours of content every 2 weeks.

  53. Very well said, Joe.

    In principle, F1 should make sure some sort of coverage is available for free – even if it’s only a delayed highlights package on the paywall service’s website [for many, the web’s how they watch tv anyway]

    But F1 doesn’t seem to be that smart.
    Maybe Sky are, and might use it as a tease to sell other services?
    [One can dream]

    The other thing I can dream of is not having to pay for the soccer to see the F1 – when Sky F1 was a standalone channel it cost £10 a month [if I recall rightly] . I’d think many F1 fans would pay that, 9 or 10 months a year, for 2 races a month.

    But asking F1 fans to pay for soccer, which they may never watch…

    1. 20 x 1 week Now TV passes at £10.99 total cost <£220
      (Half that until 2019 as you get 50% of races live on C4).
      Less than the price of a grandstand seat at Silverstone. Just saying…

      1. The problem with NowTV is Sky have silo’d it.

        It lacks the interactive & catch-up functionality of a full sub, so you’re forced to watch a lower quality, compromised and often inconvenient steam of the race.

  54. Fight the power Joe! All this seems a bit unreal, like a slow-motion train crash occurring before our eyes (the fans) and the sport is slowly being assigned to the history books. I love F1, alas, after reading about the Sky deal my brain instantly went to – ‘I wonder if Formula E will be up to speed by then’. My only hope is that this is part of the ‘controlled chaos’ strategy as part of that ultimate hollow pursuit (£$!).

    PS. Love the futility of the zebra crossing suggestion, dynamite! More seriously, very large speed bumps in sometimes random places are quite effective in parts of Uganda, helps with vigilance I guess.

  55. I personally don’t have a problem with paying (we pay now via the licence fee for the BBC and via taxes for Channel 4 to a lesser extent) but I do object to having to pay £47 for a package that includes F1 but also includes a load of dross that I won’t ever watch (including all the other sport channels).

    Sky has an opportunity to have me as a customer if they offer me an F1 only package for, say, a tenner a month. They would make plenty of money out of this and keep an audience. However, I won’t be signing up at £47 a month and therefore I won’t be able to watch the sport I love for the first time since the last 70’s. Very sad.

  56. As with many of the other comments above, I’ve watched F1 since childhood with a passion shared with my Dad. I’ve never felt so utterly powerless and frustrated as i do now. How can this decimation of the sport we love be happening with no one calling foul? Just disgusted.

  57. I could not agree more with your comments. Since 1958, I have followed F1 even though it was not even available on TV. Even finding the results of a race meant trawling through newspapers for a snippet or waiting till Autocar came out to read a report.The only way to see a race was to be a member of a motor club and attend a film night at the end of the season. Presumably that means I am a hard core follower and I still follow the sport avidly even when approaching 74 years of age. However, on reading the news that there will be no free to air coverage, I must confess it has triggered a feeling of disinterest and also sadness that greed seems to be taking over and can only harm the sport. The same greed will probably be the end of humanity eventually, but that is another story. Also, there is no way that I could attend a GP nowadays as the cost is astronomical. I went to Aintree in 1961 and Brands in, I think 1972 and at that time the cost was within the reach of the ordinary guy or gal.
    Maybe the pay to view system will be put forward as ‘progress’. Definitely not the way to promote the sport, I feel, but maybe I am just one old dinosaur who will stop being a fan so who cares!

  58. Good and sound thoughts as ever.

    I think my path to F1 was very similar to Joe’s – though by then the telly was in colour. I think a huge part of the draw was also Murray Walker’s captivating commentary (Murray could probably make draughts a spectator sport). Then I also discovered Autosport, and Nigel Roebuck’s lyrical prose. Thursdays and Sundays were eagerly anticipated.

    The likes of Murray and Nigel are key to drawing anyone into a new sport or activity. Potential audiences need cheerleaders to follow. I suspect that in today’s internet world Joe is one such conduit for many new fans, and in my own world (art history) I try to do the same. Some might call us obsessives, others, more charitably, evangelists.

    But when the Joes of this world are compelled to write such pessimistic blog posts, when even the evangelists wonder whether they can be bothered to spread the message any more, it’s inevitably a sign of decline for any sport. F1 must change more or less everything about its approach, urgently. Taking away free to air coverage in the UK, the birthplace and home of F1, is a cruel punishment to generations of British fans, without whom F1 would not be what it is today, and without whom the rich billionaires who control the sport would have nothing.

    It is a disgusting act, and I feel saddened and ashamed.

  59. Two years ago, I went to my first GP, in Malaysia. My plan was to do at least one race a year. Last year was Canada, this year I was planning Barcelona. Now, I’m not sure. I seriously am considering whether my time, money and passion are warranted from the people running the sport. Clearly they don’t care.

  60. This week Autosport introduced MotoGP to the printed mag (it had been covered on the website for a while)
    A sign of AS broadening its appeal as F1 fan numbers decline?

    1. Ha! That’s massively interesting. I remember when I lived in England a couple of years ago and was a regular reader of Autosport. I kept calling it “F1 Racing Weekly” due to the massive overabundance of F1 news.

      Britain is flooded with motorsports but it was made for a global audience, thus 25% of the magazine was made up of F1 even when there wasn’t a race.

      I remember a column piece that dealt with Lewis Hamilton’s change of image during his final year at McLaren when he started his now well-documented antics on Twitter the first time. A whole page was devoted to trying to come up with some funny lines he would come back with to Ron Dennis and his engineers in said style. I couldn’t believe someone thought this would be funny. It was mostly embarrassing because the writer couldn’t pull it off and the whole matter shouldn’t have deserved more than a single tweet.

      I got so upset that I stopped watching F1 for the rest of the year and just tuned into Brazil again.

      1. My first copy of Autosport was bought for me by my brother in 1978. It was the German GP and has a picture of Mario’s Lotus 79 on the cover (full page)

        Effectively I’ve been a subscriber since 1982. I read (avidly) reports and opinion by Nigel Roebuck and (later) some “Globetrotter” fellow.

        My subscription was cancelled in late 2015.

  61. I’ve been watching every Sky-only race on (illegal) streaming sites for years and will continue to do so from 2019. No way I’ll pay!

  62. You’re spot on. I’m Portuguese and an avid F1 fan since 92/93. My Mum was a Senna fan and I’m Dad was always into anything with at least two wheels and an engine. These were the 90’s-early 00’s so Internet (in Portugal at least) was yet to become ubiquitous and information was scarce. Suffice to say I devoured everything it would come across me: die-cast cars, F1 yearbooks, magazines.

    This all lasted until 2006, when the F1 transmission rights were bought by a cable premium sports channel, alike Sky. No more public tv then. To watch F1 one would have now to pay 25 eur over the normal cable subscription, about 35 eur. Petty money one would think, but Portuguese minimum income was by then well below 500 eurs, and even today in a time of crisis it’s still a hefty sum.

    Suffice to say I haven’t watched a full race ever since, and that after a couple of years I stopped buying yearbooks. Why if I wasn’t even watching the bloody races? Of course I could have done so before with the advent of streaming and so on, and to an extent internet (and blogs like this) helped filling the gap. But life moves on, I’ve always liked football as much as F1, and even the Champions League’s best matches can be watched in public tv.

    Good news are that Eurosport bought the F1 transmission rights for the next years, and Eurosport comes included in any regular cable tv package. So I’m giving F1 a second chance, let’s hope it lasts for a while.

    1. I too live in Portugal, and am very glad that Eurosport will be showing the live races and qualifying until 2019.

  63. Problem with this is the Joe’s of this world will loose out as well, due to the personal and cooperate greed of all the major players, including the teams.

  64. Well said, I totally agree and I suspect you going to get a huge response to your post.

    SKY F1 do a good job with the coverage but it is very expensive and I am sure they will never get the viewing numbers unless they reduce their prices which is unlikely.

    It would be nice to see SKY offer to broadcast some of the races on free to air channels that they own and not behind the pay wall of SKYF1. I not holding my breath on that though…..

    As you mention youngsters (under 40) will never pay SKYF1 prices, so the sport which is (in my opinion) was already slowly dying in the UK, will die that little bit quicker. I predict it will only be a few years time when the race winners are not announced or shown on the evening National news broadcasts.

  65. As others have said, unless come 2019 I won’t be watching F1 unless I can do it without being forced to pay for other sports (Premiership football) I do not watch. Mind you given that sky has paid £6m a match for the rights to the premiership that seems very unlikely

    The first thing I thought as I heard the news was the following from the end of TS Elliot’s Hollow Man

    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

    Change world to be whatever you want but subscription only F1 will kill it very quickly..

    1. Turns out I was wrong its £10m a premiership match not £6m (that is the current price Sky pays per match),

      Shows how cheap F1 really is for Sky doesn’t it….

  66. If they don’t want me as a free to air viewer, then that’s fine, I will stop following the sport completely.

    I’m not adding sports to my current sky package, I’m already paying more than I am willing to justify and will be cutting my current package down soon, certainly not adding to it.

    Some may go looking for dodgy streams and downloads, but not me, I will just drop it completely.

    I certainly don’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t think I will be the only one with the same opinion either.

  67. Well said, unless things change, it is not over dramatic to say this is another nail in the F1 coffin.
    You have made reference in the past to the falling TV viewing figures and how the UK audience has shrunk. I wonder how they can justify that audience reduction to sponsors?
    I see this move as an attempt to increase the perceived value, in the short term. Are the current “owners” of F1 lining up for a sale, hoping to wash their hands of the basket case F1 has become and make it the problem of the next “schmuck”?
    I, like so many others, don’t watch enough TV to justify getting sky. If we did, and we had the money to pay for it (which I don’t), I’m loathe to give that money to Mr Murdoch’s empire!

  68. So F1 for me until the end of the a C4 contract then.

    I can not afford the Sky F1 HD package at £67 per month.

    I suspect I am not alone with this restriction.

    I wonder what the sponsors think?

  69. Nail on the head, again, Joe. Such a shame that watching races with my dad, the thing that got me into F1 is something my sons won’t be able to enjoy.

    One thing that gets me in this debacle is people keep comparing F1 to the premier league football and pointing out that the audience has grown for this since it went to Sky and how the sport has never been better. What they miss in this argument is, Sky brought something new to football. Prior to Sky there weren’t live games (or hardly any). Sky created a new proposition which created a new audience. With F1, they are taking something that already exists and making it harder and more expensive to access. There is only ever one way the audience figures will go here, no matter how shiny the package is.

    People may pay for something new and better, but they won’t pay for something they used to get free, even with a shiny cover.

  70. I am 50 this year and a lifelong F1 fan. I have been to many races, but as family came along and the prices rose inexorably for tickets I became more of an armchair fan, it has now been 2 years since I was track-side (although I may treat myself to Spa this year for my landmark birthday). The same inexorable rise in price is now happening with Sky coverage.

    Today I cancelled my sky TV package (gave my 31 days notice) – I could afford it, but I no longer feel it is value for money.

    I will not miss a race, but I will no longer pay the Murdoch family for the right.

    I expect I will still be a fan at the end of the season if the racing is good and the politics are tolerable, but I don’t love the sport the way I once did . . it has turned its back on me and that’s not something that is easily forgiveable.

  71. When I first started watching F1 it was rarely shown live on tv, we would occasionally get a live race during Grandstand, but mostly it was 30 minutes of highlights, if you were lucky, and some races simply didn’t get shown at all.

    Did that put me off F1 as a young boy? No, it made me search the tv listings to find the next programme that would let me see the heroes in their racing cars.

    We’ve been spoiled over the last 30 years with free live race coverage from every round.

    In the UK we already have to make do with highlights of cricket, football, tennis and golf on terrestrial tv, and now F1 will be added to the list.

    50% of the season is already behind the pay wall.
    There’s quite a lot of bluster from fans who say they’ll don’t want or can’t afford to pay for Sky, and yet somehow they’ve not missed a live race for decades…

  72. I think this is one of your best ever pieces of writing, Joe. My friend and I used to play cars on the carpet too, and we were so pleased to finally get TV coverage; my grandchildren play with toy cars but there seems to be a disconnect between their games and their perception of F1.

    (I recently played Reed 1 in the Sunset Boulevard band, so got that reference big time – it’s so true!)

  73. Wow – fighting talk, but as you say, before rallying the troops you have to have the Generals all singing from the same hymn sheet. That will take a long time, but perhaps, as with their reaction to doping in athletic sports, the sponsors may warn F1 that they will not continue paying for less and less coverage?

  74. I don’t need to repeat the comments of everyone else, you have captioned my reality more eloquently than I could.

    Been watching since a child in the 80’s, “racing” my die-cast models of F1 cars in front of the TV while the GP was on. The spectacle isn’t worth the cost anymore, I guess I’ll watch more sports cars, I’ve always wanted to go to Le Mans.

  75. Great article Joe.
    I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that from F1’s perspective this is akin to suicide.
    Since F1 has been moving away from FTA TV strangely enough viewing figures have been dropping. They try to spice up the show and dance in a circle all in order to avoid looking at the truth..the subscription model is why they have less fans.
    I have been watching F1 for over 30 years…it’s my favourite sport..my wife will be very pleased to hear that, as of 2019 she’ll be seeing a lot more of me. 😦

  76. Ive been following,been involved in,& am now following again,since I’m retired, & have always made provision in our budget for pay tv, even though we’re on the pension.You can do it,if you love the sport as much as I do.Watched my 1st motor race at Oreti beach in Invercargill, NZ in 1952,at the age of 12,might give you some idea of my age! As for F1 it’s never been more interesting.

  77. Love this. My passion for F1 died when it finally vanished up its own fundament, sadly trashing much of the rest of motorsport in the process. The one area that has resisted, and has fought back with great success, is sports cars – LMP and GT. It has thrived despite the F1 oligarchs, and demonstrates that the real drivers of high-level motorsport – the OEMs – can disregard the self-serving clique who think they control it. As you say, Joe, the time has come…

  78. Quite upsetting and depressing.

    Like a terminal diagnosis that you have no option but take.

    The worst of it is.. you could be saved but the drugs required to save you are too expensive to prescribe!!

  79. And all it needed was for the circuit owners and television companies to form respective cartels and tell Ecclestone that they simply weren’t prepared to pay for his circus to have its day in the sun but they would be happy to accommodate F1 for no exchange of money. Without circuits or television Ecclestone has a valueless product. But – greed rules all parties in F1 except for the likes of us, the former fans.

  80. I “got into” F1 in the first place because I was offered a chance to go to the Hungaroring in 2007 and thought “why not?” .

    I loved the whole experience, and bought in fully. I spent the next 7 years going to one or two races a year, buying merchandise, watching religiously.

    Last year, even though I had Sky, I never felt engaged, partly due to a changing circumstance, but partly because of things like this.

    In my opinion, A sport should be a level playing field for competition, the business of sport should be to increase revenue for all concerned, and a governing body should uphold the integrity of the sport, ensuring the rules are fair, and that short term iterests of the business side are balanced with a long term view of the health of the sport. (ensuring free TV access, capping TV deals, funneling the revenue, encouraging grass roots participation, etc).

    I do not watch sport purely to make millionaires become billionaires and billionaires even richer. If that is a byproduct, then fine, but when the “sport” is almost reduced to as window dressing to overtly extracting as much money as possible out of you, the customer, it leaves a sour taste. When the chief exec says openly that you as a customer, and a demographic do not matter, because you don’t wear a Rolex and drink Moet and Chandon, it leaves a sour taste.
    Sky Sports paywall coverage consisting of overselling, “Sky is the best” backslapping and over the top hype does not help the proverbial medicene go down.

    I came into this season, looking forward to re-engaging my interest, and making the time to watch the races, rather than highlights and catch up but there is just such a constant stream of negative news coming out the sport, and lack of direction for the future, it’s getting harder to care.

    I still like racing, whether on a car, a bike or whatever. I like speed, I like people pushing to the limits and then a bit more, I am desperate for F1 to become engaging and they have a fan sat here wanting to be engaged to spend his spare time and disposable money on the “product”, but I feel the powers that be are almost going out their way to kill the sport under a ton of nonsense, and treat the fans, and potential future fans as nothing worth considering much.

    Sorry for the diatrabe, just a frustrated fan here on the edge, wanting to come back into the fold .

  81. Excellent piece as ever Joe. My 9 year old son had a conversation with me last week about a item he’d watched on you tube regarding formula E. The level of detail he’d taken from that item and the genuine interest it had generated him really drove home how for me much of a wrong turn F1 has taken in getting new fans interested. Today’s news from Sky that F1 was going into hiding in terms of coverage is an another example of that. My son is only 9 but in 2024 he will be coming up on 18. Will he be following F1’FE, or as you say drone racing.

    1. I have the gut feeling that quite a few people within F1 read Joe’s blog or have someone read it for them….

  82. ‘I’m ready for my close up now Mr DeMille’.
    Just when you thought that it could not get any worse with the Pay TV announcements. I learn that the FIA want to stick with the qualifying fiasco. It’s all a bit like a sick dog returning to its vomit!

  83. Joe,

    As an old F1 fan (I was there in the rain at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Senna’s first win as well as in all the other Portuguese GP), I think you managed to describe exactly what many of us feel.
    This way of conducting the sport is self-destructive and is alienating the people that love F1, but as you mentioned, they simply don’t care.
    For example, here in Portugal, we pay to watch F1 since 2007…

  84. I feel like i’ve been watching (and continue to watch) the sport i love slowly destroy itself, and its heartbreaking. It feels like the inevitable destruction in a short period of time of what took years to achieve. It takes a lifetime to build a sport to the level F1 had achieved in terms of viewers and commercial value to sponsors, and will be undone in just a handful of years. 2019 will see F1 slip from the mainstream to a niche sport. Crap management and a costly split did this to Indycar in the US (and i love Indycar as much as F1), and we’ve all seen how long the road is to get back to mainstream relevence – its getting there but very slowly. I could probably afford the sky subscription, but i dont want to, simply because i wouldnt get the full “benefits” it supposedly brings. I watch very little live TV these days, and the shows on Sky channels that i do watch i dont mind just waiting until they are on amazon or netflix, so no real incentive in that arena. Sad times. UNless this is all part of a masterplan to devalue F1 and kill CVC from within… ah screw it i cant be arsed

  85. As somebody who used to forgo school dinners and spend my ” dinner money” on Autosport and Motoring news I couldn’t agree more F1 is heading the same way as WRC , Snooker and Dart who all ad great TV days before fading from view Trouble is the Old w€£$kers running F1 just don’t get the moden real world….

  86. Great post Joe. I wholeheartedly agree.

    I’ve watch almost every race for twenty nine years, but I will not pay Murdoch and unless something else, online maybe, emerges, 2018 will be my last season as a fan.

    AQ

  87. well this all a bit pants isn’t it…..

    I watch Rugby league and my son watches football so I can just about justify the cost, but if financial push comes to shove Sky will be at the top of list for culling.

    They talk about improving the offering with ultra HD. Yeah really. If I want HD I have to pay extra, to Ultra HD is going to be more again. The show is coming to the point where its not worth the outlay and I have been an avid fan since Toleman started in F1.

    I’m all for change, my TV has a built in Netflix button on the remote and streaming for box sets and the like works really well. We need to look to a future where TV dies totally, there is already a convergence between Internet broadcasting and TV broadcasting, the whole industry needs to work with this.
    Chaining yourself to a Satellite dish of terrestrial aerial isn’t going to work in the medium (maybe even short term).

    The model they are building is archaic and the next generation of fans wont engage with the history of the sport if they are locked in, its just not how folks will consume content.

    if F1 keeps dropping the classic races and chasing Korea, Russia etc then I can see a real niche for another single seat race series. What is unique to F1 anyway ? The name………

  88. Welcome to the rest of the World. Here in the States we Formula One fans have been viewing our racing from behind a ” pay wall” for decades. In the end we have to pay for what we really want in life. Once this kicks in the “fans” over there will have the opportunity to prove they really are fans instead of just receiving Formula One for nothing. Big boy pants folks . Try ’em. 😉

      1. Hahahahaha……….free of advertising breaks!!! More like occasional bits of racing. It really sucks, which is why I stream Sky broadcasts.

        Joe’s right, this cannot continue.

    1. In the US we pay a minimal fee (about $10.00/month) which is added on with a sports package, not hundreds of $ like they pay in the UK and most of Europe. Mind you the coverage is very limited in the US. If we had to pay what they do in Europe in the US, there would be no viewership of F1 at all.
      I think that if FOM had any idea how much streaming goes on to watch F1 they would be shocked.
      Reality is cable and satilite TV are for “old folks” as are home phones.
      Yes I am old, but I gave up my home phone many years ago and have started streaming my TV watching. I don’t what took me so long.

    2. On another blog forum I’d have said more to you than that we in the UK have never received F! for nothing.

  89. 1968 : I was a marshal at a grand prix when John Love won in Brabham BT20.
    2018 : Will be the last time I watch a grand prix.

    Fifty years ain’t bad : So long, Bernie, and thanks for the fish.

  90. What a sad way to start an Easter Break, especially after I really enjoyed the start to the season with the sort of race that made me watch F1 all these years.

    My Mum used to watch it with her Uncle Colin and was a big Hawthorn fan. She bought be up watching it in the early 80s on Grandstand. One of my first memories is Zolder 81 with poor Dave Luckett being hit on the start grid. We watched throughout the years, I even used to carry my portable TV to different rooms so my Mum & I could watch the race while she did the ironing. My Dad was always a rugby man which I could never get the hang of.

    Even on holidays we watched, Monaco 97 we were in Rome and watched Schumacher dance round the wet streets with Live coverage on free-to-air Rai. Over the years we always made a thing of GP Sundays. Wine & foods from the region and lunch on our laps.

    I still watch every race now but fit it into my life. Late night viewing with one eye open when my kids have gone to bed. My son’s middle name is Ayrton but I’m not sure he’ll get the significance when he’s older.

    In much the same way I refuse to purchase Sky to watch my football team I doubt I will pay to watch a sport that has also lost it’s touch with reality. Digital streams may be the future but they do not create a generation of fans. I always here the word engagement with digital. When you spend your world flitting from one thing to the other I feel this word is meaningless, much like F1 will be.

  91. Spot on Joe.

    I have been watching F1 avidly since 1985. It has been disappointing not to be able to watch all the races live for the last couple of years, but at least the highlights package on the BBC and now CH4 is fairly decent. I only tend to watch the races these days as family time takes precedence. So, I really don’t see me paying Sky to watch F1 from 2019 onwards as it just won’t be good value for money for me, unless their prices come down drastically, just to watch 1.5 hours of racing every two or three weeks. I wish those in power in F1 could understand what it is like for ‘normal people’ who have ‘normal income’ and ‘normal lives’ outside of the sport. Oh well, goodbye F1.

  92. When I first read this news I immediately thought that a large part of this has been done to weaken the manufacturers and maybe even make some of them pull out. Knowing that viewing numbers will drop hugely will any of the manufactures be able to justify the expenditure? If a few of them pull out then suddenly Bernie has regained control. I don’t even think this is about money but more just a game of chess over control between a bunch of sociopaths.

  93. Some good points. I had to subscribe to the full Sky package (which is not cheap) to be able to get the F1 channel. I’m not short of cash but even I had to consider whether it was really worth it. I do know however that had I not subscribed I would not have bothered watching many of the watered-down highlights later on the free channels, if only because by then the result would have been known and half the excitement and interest gone. This would inevitably lead to a lessening of even my own interest in the sport over time.

  94. I think many race fans are already abandoning F1 for other formulae. Look at how the crowds attending WEC rounds are increasing. F1 is damned lucky that the WEC hasn’t done itself a package deal with ITV or I think it would be worse already.

    The rather pompous and condescending manner in which Bernie and his chums tied this up to a channel which is just about to increase it’s £27pm sports channel costs on the assumption that people will pay… some will but many more like me will not. And I know you can get a now TV box and do it cheaper but that is not the point.

    Bernie & his chums really have to hope that the sponsors who pay to see their brands in F1 (including the manufacturers) will keep opening their wallets to fund something with such tiny audience figures globally.

    What a shame these people have just ruined such a good, historic sport.

  95. What gets me is that Sky’s coverage isn’t even that great. It’s just a bunch of increasingly aging old men rattling on about their days, commentators who seem to resort to the same hackneyed old cliches every race, an arrogant pit lane reporter who seems to revel in pissing people off and a token blond who although frequently demonstrating more insight than grey and greyer, is barely given any air time.

    Sky and F1 need to work a hell of a lot harder to attract the hearts and minds of young people who have far more interesting things to watch and do today and if the sport is to survive they need to make it a priority.

  96. Well said.

    In Australia we no longer get full free to air race coverage. Foxtel Pay tv show it, but they don’t offer *just* F1. You’ve gotta pay $25 pm for foxtel plus $25 pm for the sports pack. Then another $10 pm for HD. Plus $150 for installation.

    So that’s $750 for the first year of Foxtel. And you get four bazillion lifestyle/reality channels, a bunch of kids programming and other utter unwatchable repeated garbage that you don’t want.

    Or you could stream the season online and spend the $750 on a grandstand ticket and a team jacket and cap.

  97. This article is in stark contrast to the one posted a month ago:

    https://joesaward.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/so-answer-me-this/

    In partcular this quote:

    “The biggest asset F1 has is its fans. Most of them are part of the silent majority. They are not out there tweeting negativity every two minutes. They are not always asking negative questions and thinking it makes them look smart.”

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, however based on the comments to this article it appears the negativity is most definitely present among the fans. This negativity has now (finally) pervaded across to those ‘inside the bubble’; the team owners, drivers…and journalists. Thank you Joe for depicting the state of play and what is required in a lucid and forthright fashion. I doubt many of your colleagues will take such a bold stance until it is ‘safe’ for them to follow suit.

    While never a good situation, it is encouraging that reality has eventually bitten those who can influence things, even if it is probably a case of too little too late to save F1 from terminal decline.

    Bring on Formula E, WEC and MotoGP.

  98. I have a lot of sympathy for the comments here, but I think that the problem is not really that you’ll have to pay £35/month to watch races on Sky but that you either cannot or will not pay that amount. Many people are loudly beating their chest about how much passion they have for the sport – but how passionate can you be if you won’t pay even that trivial sum? Granted, if you are a pensioner on a fixed income then you probably legitimately can’t afford it, but everyone else? Come on! If you cared, you’d find the money…

    And that’s the point – you don’t really care any more, I know that I don’t. Like a lot of people who read Joe’s writing, I came up in the “golden era” of F1 (which I think of as roughly 1965-1995). My interest waned considerably in the Schumacher years, came back a bit 5 or so years ago but is now flat-lining once again. The harsh truth is that the business & politics side of the sport (which this blog does such a good job of covering) is much more interesting than the racing. I doubt I am the only one that feels this way, which is a crisis for the sport.

    Or is it?

    One of the problems with internet forums like this one is that, in general, the people commenting have very little experience of money and power. The management of Sky are not stupid and neither are Bernie Ecclestone and CVC – greedy and venal perhaps, but not stupid. You do not just walk into Sky’s offices and ask them for a cheque – there will have been discussions about CVCs plans for the sport, and about how Sky can fit into those plans. Sky would have had to get comfortable that their investment makes sense – and there are not many people in the world who know how to make money from sports broadcasting better than the execs at Sky – that is the central plank of their business model. I would wager real money that removing people who can’t/won’t pay from the audience is part of the longer term strategy to re-position F1 as an elite level entertainment franchise.

    You can give up your fantasies of Bernie & co crying at all of the lost audience figures – you leaving the sport is exactly what they want. Another commenter wrote from his own business experience that when he is offered an advertising opportunity, his first questions are: “how many and who are they?” If you are trying to sell Rolexes and Aston Martins and so on, there is no point having people in the audience who can’t even afford £35/month. From a business point of view you are consuming the product without paying – you are taking up time, space and energy and giving nothing back (at least not what they want back).

    Reading this may make you angry, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Some others have written that they feel that the sport has been hijacked – and in a real sense it has been. But the sport about which you were so passionate ended long ago (maybe as long ago as 20 years back) and since then we have all been hanging around hoping for a miracle, but it is time to accept that the miracle is not going to happen, the patient is dead and it is time to move on.

      1. I think the objection is having to pay for a whole bundled package of stuff that is of no interest to just watch 21 races a year…
        In Canada, I have to buy a basic package, then a sport package, then an HD package… that costs me in the region of $900 per year…
        I would gladly pay something like $400 per year directly to FOM/FIA or whoever to be able to stream all the practice, qualification and race action without having to get all the additional stuff I will never, ever watch…
        It is not only the sport which is greedy… the TV networks are greedy too and operate in a monopolistic manner…

      2. I understand that these things are relative – but not everyone complaining on here about being unable to afford £35/month is disabled or a pensioner or in some other way unable to rustle up the money.

        I guarantee that most of these people have enough stuff just lying around their house to be able to raise the money by selling it on eBay. My point was that being willing to do something extra to keep following a sport that you claim to be passionate about is a good way to tell whether you really are passionate about it or not.

        1. That’s possibly a valid argument in relation to existing fans, but where are the new ones going to come from? That’s the real tragedy here…

        2. James my friend, you have to realise the ordinary “peasants” of UK are being deprived of a top class single seater Grand Prix to watch and be intrigued by. Of course Bernie and his cronies are only interested in the rich, but in this disgraceful day and age of banks and dictators ruling the world with an iron fist, we want something back for being enslaved in this corrupt system. We reserve the right to whinge and criticise their despots to the bitter end because we deserve better. Stop acting like you’re so clever, of course we all know Bernie and his cronies don’t give a fig about us.

    1. “I would wager real money that removing people who can’t/won’t pay from the audience is part of the longer term strategy to re-position F1 as an elite level entertainment franchise”

      This is exactly the point. Sky has an existing sports fan base all with sports mad people who are all willing to pay. This is what the average older person on this blog cannot understand because they have been used to free to air for so long.

      The model has changed and the youth of today is happy to pay. The problem is that the quality on show is currently poor. Trust me if the racing/product was good then the viewers would be higher and the sponsors would be pouring in. That is where the real issue is.

      1. jimbo said “This is what the average older person on this blog cannot understand because they have been used to free to air for so long. THE MODEL HAS CHANGED AND THE YOUTH OF TODAY IS HAPPY TO PAY”

        So wrong in so many ways! Music, TV, and Film piracy is the dominion of youth. The ‘average older person’ is subsidising that which the youth pirates for free on their illegal streams. Youth thinks that because the Internet is free, then all content should be free. The backlash that you perceive is coming from ‘older persons’, is a complaint that the pay TV deal being offered for their sport(F1), is substantially inferior to that of Soccer fans who make up the bulk of SKY Sports subscribers. Comparing F1 to Soccer is comparing apples to flatworms. Consider how many games one can watch in a month, and the cost per event.

        A number of newspaper web sites who went behind a paywall, are now moving back to open access, or free with registration. For instance the Sun, a Murdoch/SKY/News International product is just one who found that YOUTH wouldn’t pay. Neither would anybody else. If you want a European model of how free to air can work commercially for a motor sport championship, google – BTCC brochure 2015 pdf. F1 shouldn’t need to be on pay TV. Of course Joe has explained the financial motivations of FOM/CVC in great detail.

        1. Sorry let me explain by youths I was referring to under 45s!

          Yes, I agree absolutely that the kids as I call them will not pay. Yes I also agree that it will be difficult to attract them if it is behind a TV paywall. However then I stop and still come back to the original point I have made and that is that it’s about the product. If the product is bad then no one will pay and no one will watch illegally too. If the product is good people will pay and try to watch illegally. You need good promotion and ways at getting to them using the internet etc.

          Now you can argue that pay TV is not one but then I think that it’s also naive to ask any business to give up the main source of it’s income stream. Also, sky has a vast amount of subscribers and I would argue that these people are the most likely to be converted into F1 fans. If you love sport then you will have a subscription (or find a way to watch illegally) and then if the racing is exciting then the viewers will watch and maybe not watch football because as you say there is rather a lot of it!

          As for using the Sun as an example I would suggest if the Times had done similar then maybe I could have agreed – it hasn’t.

          Pay TV is a red herring and the problem is more the quality of the racing – they really need to sort out the aero as the cars are awful since the new front wing in 2015 (remember Bahrain 2014 – couldn’t happen now). I think the latest cars sound horrible and thus are not appealing. I also would advocate a more balanced distribution of the income from the sport and have argued on here many times in favor of a cost cap – thus bringing all the teams closer. Finally, they need to look at the format of the race weekend. You mentioned BTCC and it’s great. F1 needs to look at more races and definitely needs to introduce a sprint race on a Saturday. Qualifying then can replace FP3 in the morning. This is ironic for me in light of the current qualifying debacle going on!

    2. Dear James,

      I used to be a working man and would have easily been able to find £35, but now I am a disabled man, living on benefits and awaiting a spinal operation that should sort things out… I can assure you that, in my world as it currently is, £35 is NOT a trivial sum, it’s pretty much my food budget for a week. Yes, I am passionate about F1 and have been since I was tiny, but not to the exclusion of EATING. How DARE you define my passion based on what I can afford to pay?

      The rest of your post appears to make a certain amount of sense, and it’s pretty clear where all this is heading now. But to say I’m not passionate because I am poor? You sort of lost me right there and made me not really care about the rest of your opinion. But thanks for sharing, I haven’t had a good rant for a few days.

      Nedyr

      1. Nedyr

        I am sorry about your situation and hope that you get the operation you need and that your health improves.

        My point was not that people are not passionate if they are poor, but that people who could (are fit, able etc) raise the additional money but won’t, probably don’t care about F1 as much as they think they do. This is why I specifically mentioned a pensioner on a fixed income in the first paragraph.

    3. “Granted, if you are a pensioner on a fixed income then you probably legitimately can’t afford it, but everyone else? Come on! If you cared, you’d find the money…”

      You sound like a fool.

      1. Which part made me sound foolish? That a pensioner can’t automatically afford an additional £35/month expense or that if someone really cares about something they will find a way to pay for it?

        1. This bit: ‘ Many people are loudly beating their chest about how much passion they have for the sport – but how passionate can you be if you won’t pay even that trivial sum?’. And then to suggest that they can sell their belongings on ebay to pay for it, if they care enough. Yours is not the poorest Quality post I’ve read on Joe’s blog recently but it’s still pretty poor. To make judgements about what you consider to be an appropriate level of passion, based on someone’s financial status, is pretty much indefensible. And what about those that don’t have enough stuff to sell to pay for their subscription? Or indeed, those that have already sold it?

          As I said earlier, much of your original post makes a certain amount of sense, it is your assertion that ‘if they care, they will pay’ that sticks in my craw. I care but I can’t pay what Sky demand, where does that leave me? Watching the highlights I expect, although I am told that it’s possible to get the live feeds by dubious means… I suspect there will be a lot more of that sort of thing in future, and maybe not so much paying the £35, which (as far as I understand) would be on top of all the other money one already has to pay for a Sky TV service. In reality, I don’t believe the viewer figures are declining significantly, rather it is those paying for it that are decreasing in number. I see links posted on several forums telling folks where to find these feeds… I’m sure it can’t be legal, but I haven’t looked into it in any depth. And where does THAT leave everyone?

          I’m not really into TV on the whole, so paying for a whole bunch of programming that I’ll never watch, just so I can watch F1, seems a bit dumb, frankly. Maybe a ‘just F1’ and bugger all else package, I’d go for that, for sensible money… But that won’t happen, it’s all got to be in a bundle of some kind. That, so far as I can tell, is how the paywall model works.

          Luckily for me, I have a mate with Sky telly and he’s happy with what he’s paying for, so me and a couple of friends go round there and take pizza and a couple of beers. In this way, my ‘passion’ costs me around £5 a month and I don’t have to buy a load of shizzle I don’t want. So in a way, you are correct – I get what I want at a price I can pay (although he’s not keen on me coming round for ALL the practice sessions), my passion is undimmed, and I can still afford to eat throughout the rest of the month. Passion finds a way, and it’s not necessarily about putting money in rich men’s pockets.

          Finally, I would like to thank you for your apology for my situation, but it’s ok, you’ve got nothing to say sorry for. I broke my own neck. In fact, I’m pretty sure you weren’t even anywhere nearby when it happened. But thanks anyway…

          Nedyr

    4. “If you cared, you’d find the money…”

      I could probably find the money but I’d rather use it to light the gas stove than give it to Rupert f****** Murdoch.

    5. I think this is the most arrogant and ill informed comment I have ever read about F1.
      So Shell, Total, Petronas only want to sell their products to the wealthy???
      Honda, Renault, Perelli, only want the rich to buy their products??
      Martini, Clear, Red Bull only want to sell their products to the wealthy,I can go on and on.
      If F1 was trying to sell just Rolex’s and Astin Martin’s their viewership would have peaked at a 3-5 million not 600 million.
      Wake up James and get in the real world of business or at least get out of your bubble.

  99. Well said, my only hope is that the contract is written to allow a streaming sub available globally direct from F1 like MotoGP does at the moment. I would pay for that however I will never pay for a Sky subscription no matter what they offer.

  100. We must not forget that along with this potential drop in viewing figures, I expect there to be a reduction in the number of people who work in F1 media who won’t have a market for their work.
    It’s a naughty suggestion, but where would F1 be if the huge army of unpaid marshalls needed to run Silverstone were to walk out when Sky takes over?

  101. Joe this has to be one of your best articles to appear for a long time thank you
    Sadly the greed is good attitude will kill the sport very soon
    I have a 12 year old boy – about the same age I was when I first saw a Formula 1 race – who asked me why did I bother watching as its boring!! A 12 year old with no axe to grind no it was better in the good old days brainwashing just purely disappointed with the shambles that is F1
    Says it all really
    Thanks again Joe

  102. Excellent article, I quite agree.

    Five or six years ago I said unless F1 is careful it will end up like the America’s Cup – a few hugely wealthy people competing in something the rest of the planet is oblivious too. Here it comes.

    I get F1 coverage with my US TV package. For a change I sometimes grab the Sky broadcast off the net and dump it on a DVR. The races are readily available online and I for one have no qualms about taking them – I see it as no different than a neighbour handing me a VHS tape of a race back in the day.

  103. Having been involved in the sport as a fan and my job it makes me sad to say that I didnt even see the first race. By the time CH4 showed the highlights I already knew who had won. No Interest after that Im afraid!!

    The whole lot can implode as far as I am concerned.

    Still look on the bright side, I will no longer be sitting in front of the tv on a sunny Sunday afternoon any more, I will be outside, tending to my Carrots!!

  104. Well said Joe! Spot-on, as ever! Please consider standing (somehow) for office within one of the various powers that effect the management of “our” sport. As I write 68 ahead of me have agreed wholly with your views and I surmise 10 fold have read & fully support the content of your article. Come on Joe – this sport needs (and deserves) an impassioned champion working from within!

  105. 3 years and counting, stop the planned changes for next year, get some long term stability to the cars and rules, (allow the cars to follow each other). this will attract new manufacturers, make all races available in 30 min highlight package online (Sky could host this…. For free… and then get the calendar back to 18 races.

    Have you seen the Drone racing Grand Prix

    won by a 15yo young lad! (There is your next generation not watching TV on PPV… )

  106. Wholeheartedly agree Joe! The time has come for change…
    I have been a fan for 40 years now and really resent that the coverage is so very limited.
    I would happily pay a reasonable amount to watch a race weekend being streamed over iTunes or some such thing. But I really abhor the fact that I have to buy a cable package just to see 2 hours of racing twenty times a year.
    As for ticket prices: well, the $500 or so dollars I have to pay for a weekend pass at Montreal, excluding somewhere to stay or travel costs, is too much for my household income to bear in light of family alternatives.
    So yes, I wholeheartedly agree with your call for revolution: but I think the teams need to get the sport back in conjunction with circuit owners… They’re the ones who commit their careers to the sport.
    Drivers, in the main, are not committed for life… Once they finish driving they go off and do other things, even though their combined wealth is appreciable.
    Perhaps a collective would work, rather than a $ focused consortium???

  107. When I was a teenager I could afford (with some small effort) to attend the British Grand Prixs. Now the price has gone up so far that I cannot justify the huge cost to attend. I have watched every broadcast GP since 1970, bought Autosport and Motoring News (until they began ignoring club racing) and been subject to thousands of hours of opportunities for sponsors to set out their stalls. At the end of 2018 goodbye Formula One. You will have lost me completely. It has always been both a sport and a business from the very first days. Witness Charles Jarrot’s diatribe against commercialism in motor racing in Edwardian days. But removing it from terrestrial television shows the final stage. Formula One will have ceased to be a sport and become a combination of pure money making and motor industry testing. It appears, from my research on t’internet, that I will, by judicious use of the technology, be able to watch the WEC rounds and attend Le Mans. I will be off to there. After nearly 50 years Formula One is telling me it doesn’t want me. I will no longer want them. Let them, in the classic reference, run their events behind closed doors on a Wednesday. No one will care.

  108. As a filthy American I have to say I understand your views. F1 has been behind a “paywall” since I can remember. The only races they show on free tv are Silverstone, Monoco and the USGP. Even then it’s only the actual race, all quali, practice, pre/post race is all on pay tv. I dropped cable and now have to download my race coverage the next day, it’s not hard to go on a media black out for 24 hours while I wait for the race to download, at least I get to see it still.

  109. Joe as usual you tell it as it is, sadly the powers that be appear to suffer from a very selective forms of auditory and visual impairment and their respective epidermis is a little thicker than most. The costs that are spoken of here are a serious issue here in South Africa as the current exchange rate means at R22-00 to the British Pound. Having followed F1 since the age of 7, back in 1955 I have graduated from an avid fan to a motor sport columnist specializing in F1 for a national newspaper reaching over 500,000 readers. Your comments are a mirror of my own and like you I have voiced my opinion on this very subject on a regular basis. One can only hope that Ecclestone and CVC will reach a realization that the current direction they are taking with the F1 cash cow will surely result in that bovine wealth provider visiting the abattoir.

  110. The timing of this announcement is interesting given that Channel 4 has only just begun its three year contract.

  111. What are the chances of Sky owning F1 come 2019 and CVC moving on to greener pastures (full of other cash cows)? I believe this was mooted as a possibility last year.

    You’d have to think that would change the way Sky manage access to the sport because if they lock it away, they won’t be able to maximise their profits.

      1. So it seems… I’ve just read this:
        http://pretendracecars.net/2016/03/23/formula-one-declares-war/

        I’m still trying to find the ‘greed’ here… All I can see is an attack on dedicated fans who are still committed enough to generate fan work. It’s the digital equiv. of going into galleries and demanding they pull down photos/paintings depicting F1 cars or drivers.

        The only people that miss out are people who are trying to engage with F1 beyond being a set of eyes on the TV. And all they want is the chance to pretend to be a driver for their favourite team…

        (Feel free to leave this comment unpublished due to the link… Wasn’t sure if you were aware of this action occurring).

        1. Samething happened with the Free to Play BatRacer online game – they had to rename entire carsets (seasons) so that Ferrari became ‘Team Wales’, Williams morphed into ‘Wallace’ and Caterham replaced with Rotherham..

  112. Ditto all of the above comments for me too.

    One of my earliest memories of F1 is seeing those turbo charged Renaults screaming thru the TV on a Sunday afternoon with my Dad, and been pretty much hooked on it since then.
    The last few years not so much, I sit down and watch the start, then get on with something else while the TV drones on in the background, occassionally looking up when it sounds like something might happen.

    What happened to the good old days when Schumacher and Hakkinen used to blast thru the forest at Hockenheim on different strategies, knowing one could actually catch the other and could even overtake.

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at Bernie’s comments earlier this year about the state F1 is in.. just who the hell is in charge ? And then his comments about how bad the new qualifying was.. again, who pushed for it in the first place?
    Time for him to step down and let that albino guinea pig on his head to take over.

    Don’t get me started on Mr.Todt. The only time I’m reminded he’s still head of the FIA is when I read Joe’s blog. I never thought I’d say this, but bring back Moseley!

  113. For a sport which is reliant to a degree on sponsors putting their logos on to cars, you would think that theses sponsors would want to maximise their exposure via ‘free to air’ TV. Why are the teams not up in arms about the transition of the sport from FTA to pay TV.
    I had a look last night on the Sky website and I think that the minimum I would have to fork out to Sky to enable me to watch live F1 is £47.50 per month. There is no way I will be paying this just to watch F1 as I have absolutely no interest in any other Sky product. Shame.

  114. Pretty bad news for most FTA watchers, I, like many others have watched F1 since the 60’s/70’s and have effectively been weaned off the sport by the gradual reduction in coverage. TV these days is pretty poor, and F1 coverage on the internet is even worse.

    It is nice to see Joe championing the cause as it were, but it needs more action by the teams to get anything done.

    Ecclestone has come out today and said that he agrees with the F1 drivers, but perhaps that is just a response to the reaction in the press.

  115. No one can say best what I think about F1 than you, Joe. I love this sports for over 40 years but I hate the way it is being treated by Mr E et sa clique (en français)
    Merci et good bye

  116. Thank you Joe.

    As of 2019 (or possibly earlier) I will be following WEC (more).

    I will probably continue to read blogs and the technical race car mags but I won’t fret about F1, the business that once paid my wages.

    If you can hack dead kid’s phones (allegedly) or subvert UK governments of different hues through money or influence then the fate of F1 is not of great concern.

    F1 on UK terrestrial tv has been caught up in a much bigger game.

  117. For a brief, sad moment I thought I was about to read about your retirement, Joe. It was the title of the post, when it came out on Facebook. Don’t you ever pull that one on us, Mr. Saward.

    That being said, spot on. F1 must be rescued, Bernie must go. Sometimes it feels like CVC and Bernie run F1 like they are milking hard the last trully good years before the unavoidable end. That motor racing as we know will die alongside the internal combustion engine, five or six years from now. Sometimes it feels that Bernie, as a contemporary pharao of sorts, wants to take F1 to his mausoleum once he dies.

    Indeed it is time for revolution.

  118. Amen Joe. But what chance of anyone escaping Bernie’s clinging tendrils to set up a series of top level racing that fans can actually watch and engage in? I feel that he’s got some sort of hold over each and every one of them, and they know that crossing him would end badly for them. They’re rabbits in the headlights, with the truck getting closer…

  119. “Mr Marchionne, Mr Zetsche, Mr Ghosn and the rest of you, the time has come for revolution.”

    Have you learned nothing?

    —from the judgment of Mr. Justice Newey:

    “On balance, accordingly, I consider that the Payments represented a bribe. More specifically, I find that:
    i) Mr Ecclestone entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky in May 2005 under which Dr Gribkowsky was to be rewarded for facilitating the sale of BLB’s shares in the Formula One group to a buyer acceptable to Mr Ecclestone;

    I can summarise my conclusions as follows:

    The Payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky in May 2005 under which Dr Gribkowsky was to be rewarded for facilitating the sale of BLB’s shares in the Formula One group to a buyer acceptable to Mr Ecclestone;”

    —in the legal finding of a sitting UK jurist, the CEO of Delta Topco/FOM bribed a German State official.

    And Mr Marchionne, Mr Zetsche, Mr Ghosn did exactly what? And now you expect them to storm the castle over a qualifying debacle?

      1. You don’t get it; it doesn’t matter if it’s quali rules, the move to pay tv, or the brand of champagne served in the Paddock Club. Your call to arms to Mr Marchionne, Mr Zetsche, Mr Ghosn falls on deaf ears because : they work for large,multinational industrial firms who employ sophisticated lawyers that brief them on what they can and cannot say/do without committing tortious interference. In the scheme of things, F1 just isn’t that important to them.

        BTW, what was Blatter CONVICTED of? Yet he was effectively removed by virtue of the FIFA Ethics Committee voting him out of office.

        Try typing “Formula 1 Ethics Committee” without wetting yourself laughing.

        The only thing that changes anything in F1 is pain; and who is currently in pain? The FIA, FOM, CVC ? Nope.

            1. If you had any idea about anything you round know that I’m not a grumpy bear. I just think you’re not very smart…

              1. I get why you’re grumpy. You’ve committed your adulthood to schlepping around the globe covering this boutique sport, probably at considerable opportunity cost, and you look around and see it’s present state and ask yourself…

                Then you remind yourself of all the denizens of the demi-monde who have come & gone from the paddock, often with significant cash rewards, and you get angry. Maybe you should have taken the title of this thread to heart, some time ago.

                As far as my being “not very smart” This is old news. My twin daughters have told me this for over a decade. Now I only hear this when they visit over the holidays.

                1. I am not a grumpy person. If you asked around the paddock you would not find engine who would use such a description. You can slab yes all you like but you’re wrong. Pure and simple.

        1. Notwithstanding whether cvrt’s post is on point or not, I have to agree with the notion that pain is the prime motivator of change, particularly when ROI is the endgame. It’s easy to agree that we need a change with how things are run, but if the powers that be are happy with the $ they make, then they have no motivation to change. Fan sentiment, what’s best for F1 and ultimately right vs wrong does not enter the equation for these folks. The only thing that seemingly counts is if they’re fulfilling or exceeding their fiduciary responsibilities. So if hurting their ROI is the best way to affect change, how do we go about doing that? As far as I can tell the avg F1 fan simply can’t. Joe rightly points to the teams as the agents of change. But I’ve heard no overt calls for serious changes at the top from the teams. So how do we cajole the teams into forcing changes at the top? Again, I don’t see how the avg fan can push the teams into a revolution. I’d hate to say the situation is hopeless, but given the current circumstances I can’t see how things get better. So my bottom line question is how do we get the teams to force changes at the top? No one likes feeling powerless to help the sport they love, but I just don’\t see how fans can push the teams into revolution.

          1. It can only be done by the EU Commission voiding the 100 year contract and declaring the FIA unfit for purpose. Unfortunately I doubt if the EU are fit for purpose either and they may soon have more important stuff to worry about!

  120. I too am out, will read but not pay to watch F1. Paying to watch adverts and advertising plastered cars, drivers and circuits is just a joke. Is Lewis Hamilton the last F1 driver to be Sports Personality of the Year??

  121. I am so angry that it is difficult to comment without being barred for foul language. Stupid, greedy ……..

  122. Fantastic writing Joe – end echoes back to so many of the issues you have so eloquently described over the last few seasons

    Greed wins, we, the fans, lose

  123. Any chance that the people you mention know what they are doing, and know motorsport is a dying thing, so are getting the most they can, while they can? I mean, kids today have no interest, self driving cars are reality and many say they don’t even want a car. Virtual reality and AI are the touted technologies of the future generations.

    If I think about the issue in that matter, FOM’s actions seem rational, as does the FIA’s pivot away from being a motorsport regulation authority, and towards a pseudo governmental road safety regulatory agency.
    At least in my feeble mind, looking at the actions with that mindset, their actions make sense. And with that mindset, whoever is left holding the F1 commercial rights last, loses. Big.

    1. Kids have no interest? What is the Cars movie? $12 billion in merchandising means no interest. Poppycock.

      1. So Parents have spent some money buying their children some toys and such from a comedy cartoon movie. I guess I don’t see how a popular cartoon about cars would lead future generations to have more interest in them, any more than I could see how Woody Woodpecker or Roadrunner cartoons would lead to more interest in bird watching.

        The movie Cars came out 10 years ago. So assuming the loads of 10 year old cartoon fans of 2006 grew up to be 20 year old car fanatics and thus, F1 fans in 2016, shouldn’t the demo show that to be the case? Do the Demos show that to be true? While I don’t know, because I don’t have access to them, I can fish plenty of headlines from the web like this: Millennials Don’t Care About Owning Cars, And Car Makers Can’t Figure Out Why (my own guess is because they can still text and surf the web safely while riding the bus/train) 😆

        But I’ve been wrong before, but so has everyone else for that matter. 😉
        .

      2. This reference to Cars is a misnomer. Kids have an interest in cars but not Formula 1. Just look at the biggest grossing racing games/series in the video games market:

        1. Need for Speed
        2. Mario Kart
        3. Gran Turismo
        4. Forza Motorsport
        5. Motorstorm
        6. Wipeout
        7. Driver

        None of those titles have a focus or particularly strong connection with Formula 1 which is seen as an “old person’s” form of racing.

        Even lookng at the latest releases, the likes of Ride and Project CARS have captured the headlines and imagination, whereas F1 2015 was met with luke warm reception and seen as a ‘bit too serious and boring’ – hardly something to appeal to ‘the fast and the furious’ generation of younger audiences.

        1. You miss the point. Kids are interested in cars. Cars is about racing. The failure is F1 failing to grab the kids. But obviously failure to be involved in Cars. That was a NASCAR initiative. They are way smarter than F1 when it coed to the movies

          1. Sorry but you’re missing the point – if F1 were to even attempt to appeal to the kids, at present, it would fail. The current image of F1 in the minds of those same youngsters is not an appealing one. They’re interested in ROAD cars that they see as ‘real’ and cool – i.e. Lamborghinis, Bugattis, Nobles, Aerial Atoms and NSXs. F1 is most definitely uncool – it would be akin to trying to sell some Asics or Brooks professional running shoes to a teenager that only wants the latest Nike Airs or Adidas trainers (they both are classed as ‘sports shoes’ however the image and brand of the latter have far geater cachet to the younger generation).

            F1 first needs to readdress its image and brand in terms of attracting younger attendees/viewers to the actual grand prix before it tries associating itself with paraphernalia such as films, games and other such stuff. MotoGP is a great example of how the demographics of the attendees mean that it doesn’t even have to try to ‘be cool’, it just is…hence why brands such as Monster, GoPro and Oakley feature prominently across the series. The only similar brand that springs to mind that one sees significant branding of in F1 is Red Bull…gone are the days when you had Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog’s foot depicted as pushing the accelerator of the Williams, those companies and their brands see F1 as irrelevant to youngsters because they aren’t the ones attending or watching the races.

            Get youngsters attending/watching F1 as a competition, then worry about leveraging that appeal in terms of merchandising opportunities (as opposed to the reverse).

  124. I do love your writing when the passion and anger bubble through to this extent.

    That said I almost covered my desk in coffee at the sentence on revenge!

    We’ll see what is left of F1 when the current generation of execs move on, the rebuilding job for someone with a long-term vision is getting more and more difficult by the day.

  125. Joe, I have only followed F1 since the 70s and attended races since 1976 (British GP was the first one – no controversy there!). I have been fascinated by the racing and technology and watched the politics and power struggles. Whilst we always look back to our first exposure as the golden days, I have always found something to enjoy but it getting much harder

    Your comments are very prescient, the F1 business model is unbalanced. It gives the appearance of being business student marketing game that is coming fifth and they are trying to catch up with increasingly bizarre solutions to the wrong problems. It is actually very simple, it is a racing sport with a strong heritage and large audience (which is dwindling through abuse) and most people know what is needed but control has been passed to polarised short term, vested interest.

    At the end of the day the FIA are accountable, and usually responsible, for the problems whether it garagiste arguments, breakaways series or current abdication for cash.

    I have a Sky subscription for Sport and although they have extended the deal for F1 and will finally secure F1 behind the pay wall, they are reducing their expenditure on coverage. Sky however continually increases their monthly fees and we are questioning whether it is worth it. Sadly for F1, rugby is a bigger factor in that decision than F1 used to be.

    I can see F1 withering on the vine and being something we relive through the historic events. I think you are right that recent events have shown it has probably reached the tipping point.

  126. Thanks Joe, I couldn’t possibly articulate all my feelings on this into words other than to say that I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve written. It’s good to know that there are still people inside F1 that care about the fans and the sporting value. Absolutely gutted about this.

  127. Eccleston and CVC have no concern about the future of Formula One. The only interest they have is to get out of it with as much cash as possible. They are asset strippers and this move is the equivalent of digging out and selling the foundations of a house. No doubt there will be some metaphorical fresh paint splashed around, but the whole thing is going to collapse.

  128. The Pay-Tv contracts are totally counter productive in the end. With short term gain in revenue, and then the realization that the audience is vastly smaller and continually getting smaller because no new fans are being created, sponsorship value, and future Pay TV contracts will be of ever diminished value. You’d think that a 60% decline in audience would prompt an attempt to expose more people, instead of less. But, that’s the problem, as you wrote. It’s all about the short term gain at the expense of the long term. As a fan of more than 40 years, I’m disgusted and sickened by what the leaders/owners are doing.

  129. Great to see you in Les Spécialistes F1 yesterday. Hope it will be a bit more often than last year !

    Regarding the paid TV, I think today’s figures could be even worse should F1 be covered by specific sport channel.

    In France, when you want to Watch F1, you need to pay for Canal+, which also offers a wide range of sports, movies, documentaries and so on. I was basically already a subscriber before F1 switched to paid TV. So no effort required to keep watching my beloved sport.

    But should I had to pay an additionnal fee by subscribing to a new channel just for F1, I’m not 100% sure I would still have my subscription today considering the show offered by the sport in general.

    What would be meaningful is to check how we Watch F1 today : the whole race ? Only the start ? Surfing on the web and giving a look only when the guy on TV starts to scream ?

    I’m still on option 1 most of the time, but might confess I’m sometimes on option 3 which is a pity I think.

    Anyway, thanks for your blog and opinions. So precious in our copy/paste era.

    Best regards

  130. Bravo, Joe. Very well put.

    The thing is – and I’ve been saying this since long before pay TV was ever even threatened – F1 isn’t like other sports. For many of us, it’s the only sport we’re interested in. Football or cricket fans will pay for a Sky sub because it’s sport. If they also get cycling and athletics, that’s a bonus to most of them. And there are several games per week, across multiple tournaments.

    But even if I could afford to, I’m not about to shell out several hundred quid for 20 races and nothing else (the point being that no matter how many gewgaws Sky bolts on to the package, it’s still going to be “nothing else” to me). It’s just not going to happen.

    F1’s audience is broad, but it’s shallow. Very, very few of us have a local team that we’ll support whether we can afford to watch them every week or not. People watch, to coin a phrase, because it’s there. Sure, we become interested and passionate, but if it ceases to be there, few of us will make an effort to seek it out.

    As I said at another site, promoters of other series should see this as a huge opportunity. Britain is one of the world’s biggest motorsport markets (if not the biggest) and a massive gap is about to open up. Live Indycar on Channel 4? WEC on ITV? NASCAR on Dave, even. I’d watch.

  131. The Pay-to-view TV companies better have read their contracts carefully when Bernie turns the live feed over to the internet to up the audience numbers and reach in order to keep all those sponsors on board….

  132. I see Sky as a racket, nothing more, nothing less. A few years ago they bought the rights to all of the Bond films, so people not paying could not see them as it was an exclusive deal. They created a James Bond channel, this serves no benefit to anyone, the people who get it are having to pay for something which was previously free so they have lost out in terms of ££, the people who didn’t pay have lost out on some entertainment. The only winner is Sky who make money out of something. I don’t have a problem with people making money but not when they aren’t providing anything new or extra, Sky didn’t make Bond films so nothing extra (nothing even in the way of extra documentaries etc either).

    Looking at F1 it’s the same, I watched it when I was very young on TV, it got me hooked on cars and racing. Because I watched it my parents had to watch with me, and they became hooked. They now they pay for Sky just to get the F1 and I watch via them (fortunately I have an Xbox so can watch via their account).

    Two things from this, firstly like the Bond channel, we get little extra, yeah there are more F1 programmes on Sky, F1 show etc which are good but it’s not worth the Sky subscription so you either sacrifice your hard earned money and watch F1 or you sacrifice watching F1, no one gains apart from Sky.

    The second point is, how on earth do people get into F1 when it is paywalled? People tend to get into sports by chance, they see it on TV or they go along with a friend to a match or event and get hooked. People don’t think, hmmm F1 might be interesting, I’ll sign up to Sky for 18 months and find out. With high ticket prices for the races as well you are putting off a potential new audience. If all of those years ago when I got hooked it was pay per view only I would never have seen it and never became a fan.

    I know it’s all about money but from a long term point of view it’s not going to make money, because I saw F1 for free I’ve been to many races, bought many t shirts, bought many magazine etc etc so I’ve spent money on the sport. The sport will not get new people like me if it is hidden away behind a paywall, it will have to rely on an aging audience who are frankly getting disillusioned anyway!

    1. Good summary, and I think your comparison with the Bond Channel is very apposite. The exclusive-pay-TV model works for major sports like football, where there’s a lot of “content” over the course of the year and a loyal fanbase for whom TV isn’t the sole “shop window”, but it’s not universal. For some things, it’s just wrong and counterproductive.

      It’s notable, by the way, that the Bond movies are back on ITV now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see F1 return to some kind of free availability after this deal has run its course in 2024 (whether that’s FTA broadcast TV or something else by then). I wonder if how many will still care, though. Public taste moves quickly these days.

  133. Now, I like the sky coverage and have Preferred it over the terrestrial output recently, but I’m only willing to pay because there’s enough other stuff on sky that I really want (cricket mainly) – if it was the only thing I wanted then I wouldn’t pay for it, I’d be gone. It’ll go the same way as cricket has – barely any interest among the general population. In fact it will be worse – at least people can at least play cricket at the weekend if they want – when are you or I going to participate in a motor race?

    Is there anything, anything that can be done to get rid of Ecclestone. It wouldn’t be enough on its own, but it would be a start. At this rate, When he eventually goes to his grave he’ll have taken the sport with him.

  134. crazy decision and crazy (non) strategy. How they can consider going to cable/satellite only but not doing online pay per wiew is so stupid it beggars belief. I’ve been watching F1 for 40+ years and will I pay for Sky (I already have cable through Virgin)? Nope I will not! Why? because its too expensive the way that it is packaged, I don’t want all the other sport channels and it is already too expensive paying for internet, phone and TV. I recently looked at upgrading my package and it would cost around £20 per month extra (after a cheap introductory period) meaning I would be paying nigh on £70 pcm for a load of TV I don’t watch, fast broadband and a phone I don’t use. Not going to happen.
    Do they supply online coverage for £3 or £4 per race? Nope, I use the internet a lot and use it for work as well as pleasure, so yes I could see myself paying individually for maybe 10 or 12 events per year (not the early morning flyaways) but the european races and the north/south american ones, sure .. be great to watch the race on an ipad down the pub after sunday lunch or hook up the PC to the TV and watch it that way. The price would have to be right though, anyway it’s a moot point because the FIA and CVC are so far behind the times it’ll take until the 22nd century for them to catch up. In the meantime it will drive loads of people to P2P sites which are paid for by loads of advertising!! someone is making a mint and it isnt the sport.
    I look forward to F1s imminent demise so that it may rise phoenix like from the ashes. I do wonder though whether this is just the stupid strategy to run the sport down in order to get CVC to do a runner, maybe I’m giving Bernie too much credit?

  135. Joe, there is an upside to this, I think. Your reminiscing on how you found racing reminds me of my own and how i have enjoyed ( since 1961) reading a well written article about a race and enjoyed looking at a few photos from that event.
    I have never lost that enjoyment although now i most often view it online.
    Once the house of greed that is F1 today falls into ruin there will still be a few people that what to see if their car can beat the other guys car. And there will be someone like you who really cares to write about it and i will be interested to read about it.

    1. I’m guessing Ecclestone has long given up hope of dying anything but disgraced. Or maybe, in his dotage, he just thinks Carnegie was wrong.

  136. And so the “disconnect” begins. CVC will burn F1 to the ground and walk away laughing. How you can claim Bernie still loves this sport is beyond me, Joe.

  137. Dear Joe,

    I have to say that your piece is the best and most satisfying motor racing journalism I’ve ever read. I am sure that it reflects the thoughts and feelings of so many fans worldwide. I have to say that I started switching off from watching F1 towards the latter stages of last season, fed up with the processional and predictable racing and the F1 title having already been settled. But following the [huge] hiccup of qualifying at the season opening Australian GP, I fell back in love with F1 all over again watching what was a stunning race (I admit I never fell out of love with it; I was just hugely frustrated).

    It was no surprise that FOM sold the exclusive rights to F1 to Sky. Another nail in the coffin of F1. Everything is unfortunately heading that way. We fans are so passionate about the sport and I don’t think I’ve followed an F1 journalist who is so overtly passionate as you. What confuses me is why Mercedes and Renault don’t do something about this (Ferrari probably won’t because of their especially cushy contract with FOM). If ever there was a genuine threat of a breakaway series then it is now. That should focus CVC’s minds. I liked your Biblical quote by the way. Here’s another: its easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Its an achievement some consider we should all be working towards – some are closer than others.

    With best regards,

    Red5 (you know which driver I was a fan of!)

  138. I can only add my displeasure to the chorus on here. As there seems to be no other forum for fans, and lets face it we are the sport, to vent I figure best to add to the cacophony here and hope the esteemed Joe can make our sentiments known. The worst thing, for me, is the new TV deal. It stinks, no free to air coverage is ridiculous. How will new viewers be enticed? Who has hundreds of pounds spare for every other weekend? Certainly not me! Tickets are extortionate and the services and facilities available over a GP weekend are often quite awful. When will the powers that be realise that the fans are being forced out? I think it is time for the ‘old’ circuits to breakaway and create their own series, with reasonable pricing, free to air coverage, and sensible regulations.

    I’m sure this is not the most concise or erudite scribbling on the matter but it is my two pence worth as a life long fan of a sport that can only offer in return ever more expensive bills and ever less engagement. I am at a loss as to what I will do come 2019. Certainly not paying any money to Sky for their below par and hideously expensive coverage.

  139. For the life of me I can’t understand CVC’s strategy here. The “business” they own is in a state of chaos, with ludicrous contracts, decision making structures, an omnipotent CEO who slags it off and is totally out of touch with the 21st century, threats of EU intervention etc etc. What buyer would give them a good price for that, when they know they have an almighty mess to sort out as soon as they gain control ? Every decision is expedient and short sighted. Buyers would look at the long term when thinking about investing billions, and nobody seems to have done that for years, so CVC are not maximising the value of their investment at all. Are they just waiting for BCE to die, or are they scared of upsetting him, or are they waiting for that EU investigation to allow them to tear up all the contracts and governance structures and start again from scratch? For private equity people they seem to be remarkably passive, which makes me think they don’t really know what to do.

  140. Spot on 100%. And, as a consequence, our only hope, as fans, to change this intolerable situation is for either Sergio M. et al. to realize that the time has come to cross the Rubicon River, or for the EU to decide that it is time to step in.

  141. Meanwhile, here in the states, Indycar is trying everything they can to get ON broadcast TV as that is it’s only long term means of survival.

  142. Why should F1 be different? All major live sport is behind a pay-wall these days, be it football, rugby, cricket etc.

    I got into F1 in the 60’s when there was virtually no coverage (unless you call Blue Peter’s scalextric reconstruction of a GP coverage). Football has been behind a pay-wall for what 25 years – it is still the most popular sport. People who can’t afford the live coverage will watch the highlights (which will be shown on free-to-air channels) if they are interested – just as they watch Match of the Day today.

    I don’t believe it’s the end of the earth or indeed F1.

  143. This statement could be viewed as sarcasm when one reads the text, however it’s totally serious and that’s the reason for this preface. My opinion is that Joe Saward should run F1. Joe’s someone who not only wants the best for F1, he also has the answers on how to do it. Additionally, Joe has something that seems to be a grate that few have, common sense. His insight into the sport is uncanny. Some may argue that he sometimes has a temper, or perhaps is opinionated. Perhaps, however after reading the blog for a few years, I’ve seen that happens when he’s confronted with ignorance. Mr. Saward is truly the best candidate to captain the ship. His feet are secured on terra firma.

  144. Joe, now when the people become dissatisfied with the Government or Leaders then they generally protest (Football crowds are extremely vocal concerning poorly performing Managers) I would so like to see more Public placards protesting Mr Ecclestone and CVC hung at GP’s – whilst Mr Ecclestone may control the television there are many, many ways to publicly humiliate the man. Even if it’s just booing him on the grid.

  145. I must admit I’ve been out of love with F1 for some considerable time, but even I find this level of contempt for the fans, who unltimately do pay for the sport, appalling beyond belief.

    One assumes that the point of advertising in F1 is to get the fans to buy product X, Y or Z although perhaps there is some other more obscure motive at work. That being the case, if the fans don’t see the adverts, they are even less likely to buy the product than they may be if they do see the adverts, and thus one assumes the whole point of sponsorship is gone. On the other hand, perhaps sponsorship is just done to enable the sponsors to entertain their guests at the races, in which case presumably everyone’s happy (for a value of everyone where everyone=people with lots of money).

  146. Just as an aside. Maybe we should be thinking of Gil Scot Heron. The revolution might be coming but it won’t be (free-to-air) Televised!

  147. So this is F1’s jumping the shark moment, where you know the sport’s past is now greater than its future. It’s a sad day. We’ll all be hoping to find a new home for our collective hunger for a competition amongst the world’s elite drivers that caters to all. Let’s hope the Phoenix rises soon.

  148. Joe I wholeheartedly agree with you.
    I will be 70 in a few weeks and have followed F1 avidly seemingly for ever but I will follow it no more when the (very brave and enjoyable) Channel 4 coverage ends.
    F1 will have lost a lifelong fan living in Oxfordshire, the ‘silicon valley’ of Motorsport.
    Vernon Wheeler

  149. Bravo Joe. Your post eloquently sums up my reaction when I read the announcement. I do subscribe to Sky Sports so in a way it won’t affect my ability to enjoy it but that’s not the point. It saddens me that sheer, dumb avarice is causing what has given me so much pleasure over the years to eat itself. It’s maddeningly stupid and avoidable.

  150. Joe, I know you’ll make good use of what is happening here (I mean in this blog, on this post): I have never seen such a passionate string of responses/comments going in the same direction (the one you started) from people who are normally very quiet.
    It MUST mean something to those who are in charge.

  151. I’ve watched F1 since I was four in 91. I remember in 92 being literally (I do mean that word as it is meant to mean) on the edge of my seat watching Mansell crawl all over the back of Senna in the final laps of the Monaco Grand Prix. I love this sport dearly, and yet I have never been to an F1 race. Never. I simply cannot justify spending hundreds of pounds for a decent seat, or the thousands of pounds it costs to get inside the paddock. There is no justification in my mind for spending such ludicrous sums of money which is far better spent on a holiday in another country for two weeks, and now they’re forcing pay to watch tv upon us. Last week we had the debacle of qualifying, in 2014 we had the horrendous double points idea, and each time it’s always said “we make this decision for the fans” and yet if you look at any poll, the vast majority of fans never want what they force upon us.

    The sport seems to hate it’s fans for all the value they put in our collective voice. I feel like I’m a masochist every time I tune in, knowing the powers that be are doing something to protect their own interests while not giving a damn about those who love the sport unconditionally, but I guess that won’t be a problem in a few years when I’m forced not to. I’ll just have to look up results online and perhaps catch the odd replay on youtube before FOM removes it.

  152. I suppose I’m the target market. Middle aged with no kids and could comfortably afford Sky. But I resent the monetization of joy in a way that excludes those without £££. I also resent being ripped-off by owners who contribute less than nothing to a sport. I therefore will not be giving my money to RM. Bye!

    1. +1 – I’d also add that the ‘product’ of F1 is hardly worth the £££ being demanded by Sky.

  153. I am lucky enough to be able to afford a Rolex, but seriously who would want to buy a product that the commercial rights holder can use as an example of why he is happy to exclude so many fans from the sport they love because they couldn’t afford their damned products? What exactly ARE you paying for ROLEX???. As for anything owned by Rupprecht, well sorry but I still don’t have a barge pole long enough. Loved F1 my whole life, always will, but I hate the parasites that are currently feeding off it.

  154. Well… I bought a Fox sport pay view subscription here in Oz last season.. Due to a previous passion for F1, to be honest the least races I’ve watched in a long long time.. Though I liked that it had no adverts…,
    Roll on season 2016.. Pay TV but bloody adverts all through the race… Infuriating… Way to put me off that little more.. Trickle of annoyance torture till I can bare no more

  155. Joe, you’ve said exactly what I’ve been thinking. I too first became a fan as a child when I saw a toy racing car. I love devoting a weekend to watching Formula 1 — all the practice sessions, qualifying, and the race. I’ve gritted my teeth and put up with only being able to do that for less than half the races. But I will never pay Sky to watch Formula 1. I am resigned to losing a sport I love, just as I have lost the only other sport I love — cricket (but at least I can still enjoy Test Match Special on the radio). And, as you say, where is the next generation of fans to come from?

  156. I’d love to know how BlackRock and the other investors who a few years ago bought shares in FOM from CVC in the expectation of an imminent flotation on the Singapore exchange now value their shares CURRENTLY. I’d also love to see the ‘risks’ register for those investments……

    Until Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda, Renault and yes even Red Bull ALL turn around and say that they’re not prepared to even negotiate a new commercial rights deal with the current promotors FOM then I fear that the trajectory of the sport will remain.

  157. Thanks Joe, what a post.

    When I saw the title, I had this awful feeling that you were going to announce the end of your F1 blog or coverage. My first thought was that whatever you decide to write about, hopefully you will do it here, and I will still get to enjoy your particular perspective on the world. Among the incredible static that the 21st C presents us you are one of a handful of people worth reading/listening to. You aren’t preaching to me, you aren’t really trying to sell me anything – you are a voice that I trust, one of the few. I know that you don’t have to blog, but I enjoy that you do. Likewise, you don’t have to publish my comments, as inane as they generally are, but you do, even when I sound cranky because I can’t articulate as well as you.

    Thankfully I find a call to arms.

    You have a dedicated readership.
    Far greater than the few of us who comment.
    We represent a wide variety of views, but all of us want a healthy and vibrant F1 now, and for the future.

    I realise that internet activism gets a bad rap, but perhaps we should we all be writing to team managers now. For the sake of 1 email, addressed to all teams, a call for change, it is a small ask with potential ramifications.

    A completely outfield and perhaps stupid suggestion – but couldn’t the F1 teams, perhaps with the interest of other manufacturers who would enter under the appropriate circumstances, buy F1 back, including the 100 year deal, and put a real future, whatever that means in regard to current and emerging technology, into the pre-eminent World Motor Sport Series. I assume if anyone, or consortium of anyone were to buy out CVC, then they would get the tv rights as well.

    Or perhaps it would be cheaper for the relevant manufacturers to start from scratch, designing the series that they want, without the interference of the current owners?

    Either way, for all of us with internet access, and an email app, it might be the best time to write to people and let them know that you want F1 if you can access it.

  158. Wow, Joe. Powerful writing, and great passion. Bravo. But I fear that your call to arms will be lost in the quiet noise of ten million people turning their backs & shuffling away, and nothing at all will change until it’s too late for F1 to be saved. I no longer follow F1, I merely follow this blog. It is far more interesting to me. Please get working on that biography. It can’t be many more years (surely?) before you’ll be able to publish, and I’ll be first in the queue for a copy.

  159. Couldn’t have said it better. We’ve had F1 on pay TV in France for some years. Coverage is quite good actually, but as a result F1 has become a niche product barely mentioned in free to air radio or TV, and I’m not sure manufacturers invest so heavily for a niche product. As you rightly say, it’s their turn to do something to make the whole sport popular and attractive again.

  160. I first saw a live grand prix on bbc2 in 1987. That was the san marino gp, with Senna on pole for Lotus and Mansell winning for Williams. I was hooked, until the cretinous tyre formula of 2005 saw the beginning of the mickey-mouseisation which today dominates. I still watched until Hamilton was robbed of his win in Belgium 2008 for daring to actually race. Even after that I would have watched what has become a devalued sport but there was no way I would pay to watch the best drivers in the world driving meekly at 78%. Since Belgium ’08 its impossible to see anything like Dijon 1979, and if F1 is to be both tame, lame and pay per view, then there isnt much point.

  161. I have been a fan for 40+ years, and I know that the world has changed. However, I am not going to put my money in a product whose owner says it’s no good…

  162. I thought Bernie Eccelstone’s response to the driver’s “rumblings” was amusing. Basically, it was “yes, I know things need to change”, but “I know better” and bizarrely, “mind your grammar”.

  163. A late millennial here, a big fan of car racing and F1. Problem is, I haven’t had cable for the past 6 years (by choice and it’s final). Getting to good quality F1 race videos is cumbersome. After following the sport closely for 2 decades, last year was the first year when I didn’t even bother trying to watch a race. I truly have better things to do than to hunt for an online source.

    I’ll sum it up briefly: I’ll happily pay premium price for being able to watch online and on-demand the best F1 transmission over the internet (currently Sky’s) regardless if I’m in the US or traveling abroad. Until that happens, I’ll happily pay premium just for grandprixplus and for the F1 games.

  164. Another excellent piece Joe. As I’ve stated before on this site, I’m finished with F1 and will be reserving my hard-earned for WEC and MotoGP. Motorcycle racing isn’t perfect in terms of its organisation and media output, but it is immeasurably better than F1. Valentino Rossi has just committed to another 2 years with Yamaha and that alone will ensure that a huge international audience continues to follow a sport where there is real racing completion, and the outcome of any race cannot easily be predicted. Unlike F1.

  165. Yet again another excellent article…

    Sky also just announced a price increase too the other day (I believe a figure of £72 per mth for the basic package and F1 will be a payable extra – Note I don’t have nor intend to ever have Sky, but this is from a current subscriber) so the timing coupled with the slightly downbeat (according to some press) start of the season and Bernie’s talking F1 down again suggests maybe trying to hide something..?
    ,
    The F1 drivers have also started to voice concerns and this hopefully will aid their cause for change as it’s needed now…..but it just shows that fan’s don’t figure anywhere in F1 managements thoughts all they think about is the $$$$$$$$$$…..

  166. Haven’t read all the comments but what’s the fuss? F1 is and has been behind a “pay wall” here in the US for decades. These days 2 or 3 races are on over the air but that’s it.

  167. All you complainers will undoubtedly be coughing up your cash in 2019, just like the rest of us have been doing for the last 25 years or so, in North America.
    You say you won’t watch, but you will. And you will pay.
    By the way, am going to have my Rolex serviced, today.

    1. I have not said I won’t follow F1. I will fight for it, but will you? You just snipe at everyone.

      1. Sorry Adam you are wrong.
        The best thing I ever did was give up Sky as their model is basically wrecking sport. I am £600 a year better off and I only quit when they started to infiltrate the sport I love, F1.
        I could see that without the sponsorship that comes with the massive viewing figures of FTA TV F1 would start to fail..I think the evidence proves that I was right.
        I can afford Sky but will not pay to kill the sport I love.

  168. Hi Joe, as usual a brilliant piece of writing summing it all up perfectly. I think a key passage here is: F1 has lost the plot. Sky’s figures are sufficient to drive better revenues for the greedy old men who run the channel and the Formula One business, but they are tiny compared to the remaining free-to-air channels. Unless they change the pricing and social media policies, it will become a wall that will keep the world out.

    As Joe quite rightly mentioned, it is the public that makes the sport the commercial success that it is (or has been). It is the viewing public that whets the appetite of the marketeers seeking ever more eyeballs to be funneled into glossy reports that the teams, the circuits and the CRH use to justify their sponsorship demands and in turn their commercial existence. The formula has been very simple: more eyeballs = more sponsorship = more money.

    That formula is now officially broken. There is a massive disconnect between the CRH and their economic interests and those of the teams, typically they should be mutually beneficial, however this is now no longer the case as the move to pay walls increases. The reason? Unless the teams get a slice of the pay TV revenue (Yeah Right!) as a trade off for the loss of eyeballs, then they are simply being swindled by the CRH and the sport thus begins the downward slide from being part of a mainstream FTA sport to becoming an over priced niche activity that no body can afford and increasing cares or knows of. This will dramatically decrease eyeballs into the future.

    This is the second great swindle of F1 undertaken by CRH – the first was assuming control decades ago and then being granted the 100 year contract by the completely disgraced Mr. Mosley at the FIA. The second is taking the ‘product that the CRH wouldn’t pay to watch’ to Pay TV and asking the public to pay for the privilege to watch heavy subsidized cars on tracks with massive amounts of sponsorship banners, by drivers plastered in logos on Pay TV with Ad Breaks, you must honestly be joking. This is pure greed and as Joe mentioned in the title of the post – knowing when to stop – seems they don’t. It is nothing short of disgusting and I know by the tone of hundreds of comments across multiple sites that I speak for many when I say the fans are sick of it.

    Ultimately, the public reaction to this speaks volumes, so many stories of passion and love for F1 on this thread alone but all to no avail. As usual, the powers that be ignore and disenfranchise their very bread and butter in the never ending search for power and money, money and power and thus it ever was.

    It has become absolutely and completely obvious now that the FIA and CRH are utterly disconnected from what the public wants to see, the rules for 2017 look far from ideal, the Halo is awful and a total PC over reaction, the cost to attend events way too high and now the cost to even watch on TV through the roof. As a result for myself and many others It makes no sense to participate any further. We are passionate fans of an amazing sport that is slowly but surely being destroyed not sheep to be swindled and taxed by the wealthy, seems the revolution will not be televised…..

  169. My parents followed F1, as have I since being introduced/indoctrinated as a nipper in the late ’70s. The next generation of the family have no interest at all though as F1 is no way real, accessible or relevant to their existence. I try gently to illuminate but it is a lost cause ad I’m not one for force feeding.

    No doubt there wil be some exceptions but I suspect that the pattern in my household is being played out multiply around the world. So the young are lost to F1, how about the not so young?

    I am in my 40s, so neither young nor old(!). As suggested above, I am not a newcomer to the sport and have spent time and money attending races, meeting people, consuming books/magazines/blogs/websites/DVDs/VHS etc over many years in order to become and stay passably well informed. I am not wealthy but I could probably stretch to a Rolex if my taste was that way inclined. In short, I would think that I am in the ballpark of the ideal target market for F1.

    And yet, I find myself increasingly repulsed by F1 over recent years. From the abhorrent choices of countries hosting races to Bernie’s sordid bungs to the antediluvian attitude towards women to the iniquitous financial arrangements for lesser teams to the blind short sighted greed of the current owners to the tedious and damaging machinations between power blocs over regulations and commercial arrangements to the wrong-headed move towards pay-per-view to the unsustainable bleeding of race promoters and circuits to the utter lack of vision, cohesion or leadership from any of those supposedly at the helm… pause for breath… there is too much to list. As a UK resident, the announcement of the SKY only TV coverage is the final nail in the coffin. I won’t give Murdoch any money but I suspect I’ll have had my fill before 2019 anyway and will just walk away. I won’t be alone. No audience = no income.

    Well done Bernie et al, you have killed F1.

  170. Do you think Red Bull might yet get a Merc engine in exchange for supporting the manufacturers when the Concorde agreement is up for renewal ?

  171. I must disagree with your conclusion. Mr. Marchionne, et.al. are a part of the problem. They could care less about F1 except as it affects the bottom line of their companies. When the winds change they’ll be gone without a second thought for what is left. By hitching F1’s wagon to the manufacturer’s horses the sport risks being dragged over a cliff when they get spooked. Remember the IMSA GTP championship? The manufacturers have far too much power as is.

    The answer is with us, the fans. Perhaps it’s time to play Samson to their Temple of Dagon. Instead of splashing out to pad the bank accounts of people who time and again show how little they think of us, their customers, perhaps we should take the money that will be required to watch F1 on television and instead use it to support our local race tracks and club championships. The racing is generally better, the people involved are there for the love of the sport, and they could certainly use the support. When enough fans vote with their feet, maybe then something will change in F1.

    We have become junkies who have disappeared into our drug. The pushers don’t care if we live or die as long as we keep getting our fix from them. Our free taste is over, now we’re well hooked it’s time to make us pay. Personally, I think it’s time to kick the habit and crush the pusherman.

  172. Hard to disagree Joe. I’ve been an F1 fan since I was 12 but recent years have really tested my patience severely. I want to like it, but it seems determined to do everything it can to drive me away. It has just signed its death certificate, I’m afraid. I’ll likely continue to have a casual interest, but once live coverage all but disappears from free-t0-view television, I won’t be hunting it out. These days my passion lies pretty firmly with sportscars, touring cars and other forms of motorsport that are accessible and seem to genuinely want to covet my interest. Heck, even Formula E (which I derided vocally at first) seems a far more sensible and entertaining proposition these days, despite its flaws.

  173. I first watched Formula 1 in 2007 when I was 10 years old and since then I have become addicted to the sport, since it had become my life. The rest of my family have become addicted as well. My support has remained strong even in recent years when criticism has been rife because I was never interested in the political side of the sport and I didn’t buy into the theory that the racing was getting worse. I still thought it was as good as it had ever been. Even after last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix when the new qualifying format failed badly I was optimistic, because the actual race turned out to be a success and I was under the impression that they were going to drop the changes to qualifying. I also believed that Channel 4’s UK coverage of F1 was here to stay – although I also have Sky, whose coverage is just as good – and would give me hope that free-to-air coverage had a future in F1, and that it was in a better position than many other sports. Sadly, today I have been proved wrong as the qualifying format will not change in Bahrain and Sky have been given exclusive rights to broadcasting Formula 1 from 2019. So I fear the time has come where I am forced to walk away from the sport I have been in love with for half my life. I’m sad because I didn’t want it to end like this and it also means I have broken a vow I made a few years ago.
    Jules Bianchi’s fatal accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix was, and probably always will be, the darkest part of my life. I know I wasn’t alone in being deeply affected by it, but I feel as if I have been affected more than others. The last fatality before him was in 1994, three years before I was born. Although I am highly aware of the history of F1 and knew of it’s dangers, I hadn’t yet understood the personal loss that many had felt for the likes of Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Ronnie Peterson, Gilles Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna amongst others. Until that fateful day at Suzuka I thought (admittedly naively) that there would never be another fatal accident in F1, and I believed that the drivers were indestructible. Until today, it was the closest I had ever been to walking away from F1, but since the next race would be only a week away I didn’t have much time to make my mind up. As soon as I decided to continue, I swore that I would never turn my back on Formula 1, and that I would never join in criticism of the sport. Even if the cynics were right I would stand by F1 and defend it. And this was because F1 was my life and I didn’t like to hear people talking rubbish about it. I’ve now broken that promise, and I’n ashamed of myself, because even the current saga is not as bad as a death in the sport.
    The other reason why I was never critical of F1’s faults was because I understood the history of F1, and I knew that most of the problems it faced, for example dominant teams, processional races, political turmoil, losing classic races from the calendar and financial struggles for both teams and circuits were nothing new. And I often wondered why people were only worrying about them now, because we don’t watch Formula 1 to depress ourselves. I even went as far as thinking that F1 had redeemed itself on the Sunday of the Australian Grand Prix but, as always, I was wrong.
    Ahead of the season, I had been getting angry with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg making derogatory remarks about F1, and I was determined to keep people in the sport optimistic, but now I feel as if it is a battle I have lost. Therefore, I have decided that the pessimism has become too much for me and I can’t go on any longer with it. It is not the problems themselves that have driven me away, but the depressing nature of the news articles and opinions (I won’t say whether or not this includes you, Joe, because I do not wish to offend you). As a result, my life has now become very much like many people’s opinion of the sport: broken. I will now be forced to take up something different altogether, maybe even becoming a monk. I don’t want to, but then it serves me right for dealing with something I should never have dealt with in the first place.
    I do not want anyone to interpret this as a sob story. I am not clinically depressed or suicidal, and I am not just looking for sympathy and sorrow. I just want to make my feelings known. It won’t matter if you feel bad about me, because I feel bad about myself. Today has made me realise why I never made any friends at school or college, and why I am now without a job or a place at university. All I wish is that I could turn the clock back to February, when I wasn’t wishing I’d never been an F1 fan. There had been so much to look forward to this year, such as Ferrari taking the fight to Mercedes, Haas establishing themselves in F1, the return of the German Grand Prix, Azerbaijan’s F1 debut, Jolyon Palmer and Pascal Wehrlein’s intriguing debut season, Red Bull and McLaren’s return to form, the exciting new tyre rules and Channel 4 picking up where the BBC’s highly acclaimed coverage left off. When we look at these things, it makes you realise that there’s a lot of reasons to like F1, but it takes just one negative issue and suddenly, nobody cares. I don’t see why even the smallest of negative aspects should make the positive aspects irrelevant, but that is just how it has turned out.
    I feel pathetic about giving up on the new season after just one race, but I was under the strong impression that this year would be much better than last year. In terms of attitudes, it’s worse. Much worse. If there is anyone still watching, let me know when qualifying becomes a success again, but for now, I can’t go on with the endless criticism.
    By the way Joe, if you are wondering about my name, it really is that, it just happens to be a coincidence.

  174. Alas the near future of broadcasting F1 has been decided, but the consumer, the 23 to 35 year olds just don’t watch any TV. As a 47 year old with some knowledge of technology I find myself watching less and less TV, although I do watch sports. Sponsors will not be coming in to F1, just look at the issues facing teams today and the lack of really high class corporate names on the cars. Free to air TV will die but so will live TV. people today wish to see what they want when they want how they want. Mobile, wireless, tablet, 80 inch OLED and from the angle they want. Alas F1 isn’t delivering an immersive experience, the fans are kept away when at the tracks and Sky in the UK has priced itself out of the market due to the massive overpayment in soccer. The future shareholders will not be buying into whatever CVC is selling and I am sure the teams and manufacturers will not be looking amused when they find out their target audience is just unaware of what is happening tracked because they don’t watch the sport on pay TV. oddly in the US it is ‘free to air’ but you still need a cable contract, but you do not need to pay for a dedicated channel. Many of the old school broadcasters are looking closely at Netflix and Amazon Prime and are delivering broadcasts that consumes want when they want it and how they want it. CVC and Bernie just do not understand the youth of today who will become the customer of tomorrow. It isn’t about the cost of the programme it is all about content, access, interaction and connection with those involved. Sky and PPV just do not offer the immersive experience that the youth of today will consume in 2020.

  175. My son started watching F1 with me when he was 3, in 2006. F1 was free-to-air in France at that time. He became an avid fan of F1 in general and of Fernando Alonso in particular. When F1 moved to Canal+ I decided that I wasn’t going to spend 40 euros per month to watch moving billboards although I had been a fan for more than 30 years. I still read AutoHebdo and I read Joe’s blog because I’m still addicted. But with no live races to watch for the last 4 years, my son’s interest is now gone, as you could expect. He doesn’t ask for Fernando Alonso merchandise like he did. He doesn’t buy models of F1 cars like I did. He doesn’t buy F1 video games like I did. He doesn’t talk F1 with his friends like we did. No exposure = no interest = no new fans = no additional revenue for F1 through merchandising. This vicious circle is crazy.
    Hopefully someone from the FIA or FOM or CVC or whoever is in charge reads your wonderful article Joe, and those hundreds of passionate responses from real fans !

  176. I am fortunate that I have sky and can afford it but do fear what this will mean mid term for the sport, Already we have a number of cars that have a lot of space for sponsors and one famous team unable to attract a tittle sponsor. How soon will they all be without any ?

    I have been fortunate enough to have worked in the sport and supplied a number of teams with composite parts for a few teams and over the years we have had to look else where for work as the teams are struggling to pay and the payments are always late sometimes by months.

    The sport has been falling apart for a few years now, the glory days of the 80`s and 90`s are over. The owners have bled the money out of it, there are no sponsors as the promotion of the sport is run by someone that is corrupt and the governance is a joke. The teams must take some responsibility as they too got a little to greedy and failed to act for the common good and put there own interests first.

    It wont be long before the grid will be filled with wealthy pay drivers as there will be no money coming on to pay the talent that the real fans want to see.

    I shall continue with my sky subscription as I haven`t missed a race in 30 odd years may be more but fear that quality time spent with my children and future grandchildren will be spent elsewhere in not too long.

  177. An incredibly powerful and thought-provoking piece of writing, Joe.

    I first started watching the sport when I was 5 years old, way back in 2001. I remember being encapsulated by the speed, the sound of the V10s, the bravery and the glamour of Formula 1 and I’ve been hooked ever since. It was something completely different to anything I’d ever seen before. Even back then the racing wasn’t what you’d call ‘vintage’, but I was one of many who, rightly or wrongly, fell in love with Ferrari and a certain M. Schumacher.

    Watching the Grand Prix became a ritual, whether it was on a Sunday afternoon or at ‘Crazy O’Clock’ on a Sunday morning. I simply couldn’t miss it, and I knew I wouldn’t because it was always available on ITV or, in later years, the BBC. Sky wasn’t part of my world back then. If F1 had been locked behind a paywall, I would have ever been as attracted to it in the way I was.

    As you say Joe, motorsport is “all about the passion” and once you develop that passion, the sport sucks you in and you can’t let go. Formula 1 a championship for a small minority which is adored by the masses. It certainly isn’t football, and to maintain and develop a fanbase you need to expose it to the masses on a regular basis. Like when I was 5 years old, today’s kids need heroes that they can watch and look up to. Sadly, F1 is denying this with the new TV deal.

  178. This sport has turned into an Ego competition instead of an F1 competition.
    Stop the car companies developing cost prohibitive technologies for their own future use resulting in the teams to rightfully complain about the cost, complexity and lack of fan appeal. Let the car companies form a consortium to develop those in industry if they want.
    Obviously the people that run F1 have never learned the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle.
    If they really FIA cared about the environment they would have got involved long ago to promote electric vehicle technology issues with Universities and centers of expertise, ex battery energy density, more efficient electric motor design etc. If this technology issue is not in the mandate of the FIA why are they on ICE F1 cars?

  179. I threw my tv out and didn’t renew my licence when the BBC lost the live race contract and switched to highlights only for the majority of races. I’d got used to the limited coverage, losing all but 10 of the races practice sessions over the year and having to wait an hour or so after the race for the stream to become live on the iplayer.
    The qualifying session last week took 5 hours before it was available on Channel 4 streaming, that wasn’t too easy to cope with, trying to avoid all news and social media spoilers throughout the day.
    What next ? All but zero free available coverage? Are Sky going to give away full 2 hour plus internet streamed highlights shows of races and qualy to anyone that doesn’t already pay them money ? I can’t imagine that being part of their plan..
    Oh well, looks like I have maybe 3 years to watch as much F1 as can before it all disappears behind an exorbitant pay wall….So here’s my question :when does the BTCC season start, anyone ?

  180. Well said Joe.

    I stumbled onto F1 via free to air TV in the mid 1990s. If it was behind a paywall I’d never have seen it. And when it’s behind a paywall in 3 years time I won’t see it any more. Not unless they do a deal with Netflix.

  181. I can’t believe it – Bernie’s managed to get them to stick with that disaster of a qualifying system now …

    Is there anything we can do to force Ecclestone out? Get the teams and drivers threatening to strike or a breakaway series unless he’s removed? There is no possible way for this sport to rescue itself until Bernie is gone. He is not the only problem, but he is the source of the cancer.

    I despair.

  182. It’s over, finito, kaput.

    It takes a remarkable product to last many decades and most of those are utilities such as the telephone and the television. Everything else will go the way of Yellow Pages, Woolworths and Ceefax. All great ideas at the time but not relevant anymore.

    One can be saddened by the forthcoming demise but not shocked.

    In my lifetime I will see Formula One become a niche shadow of its former self. With increasing gimmicks to prop up the show, tackier sponsor deals and scruffier tracks,

    I agree with all of Joe’s points about how it has come to this but don’t share his optimism that it can be fixed.

    I will still tune in to the races as long as I can but I’m certain that at some point in the not too distant future F1 as I’ve known it for decades will no longer be there.

  183. I think those in charge would be well-served to read the replies to your post. I wasn’t able to read them all, but I did read quite a few. The overwhelming majority agree with you and are expressing their exasperation, disgust, etc. with F1. This is coming from many many long-term fans. I include myself.

    We have a soft pay wall (cable, satellite TV) in the U.S. I can deal with that, because F1 coverage comes with other things I want in the package. If, however, F1 moves to strictly PPV in the U.S….I would not subscribe. I can move on and find other things to take up my time. But, if F1 loses fans like me and others posting here, do they really think they have a future?

    The canary in the coalmine is gasping for breath. I fear it is already beyond too late to do anything substantive that will fundamentally change anything.

    But, hey, let’s move those deck chairs over to that side.

  184. Since my first GP at Zandvoort in 1967 with Jim Clark winning I was hooked for life on F1, I was 13 years old with my little but fixed on the Gerlach annex grandstand & I was the last one to leave the premises.
    Back to our time. I agree with you on this post & very substantially I’am not alone (a record?).
    Ecclestone is scheduled for a marble shoe fit soon, he will than invite his CVC friends to a “tomb party” for all to vanish & dug up or not dug up in about 3 thousand years. Maybe Todt should go on permanent garden leave as well.
    Real racers (nor the greedy ones) will overcome F1 shortages (not many) & within a few years I believe all will be sorted out.
    I still love F1 even if I have to live stream all GP action thru Movistar & not comprehending chorizo language.

  185. Add me to the list.

    I started watching at around 8 years old … unfortunately that was 50 years ago.

    Apart from the occassional race, I’ve only really missed races when my son was 2 to 4 years old and understood how to turn the tv off. (I suppose he had good judgement at an early age?)

    There is no way I’m paying Sky.

    Nice one Bernie.

  186. “A little revolution is good for the soul”
    “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

    After the revolution and pay TV is eliminated as the only viewing source for F1 fans in GB, please kick the US broadcasters and Bernie in the ass and have F1 moved to over the air on NBC in lieu of NBCSN. (Yes, I know, 4 races are on free TV).

    If they truly want to “grow” the sport here, broadcasting races on an obscure cable only channel ain’t the way to go about it.

    When these comments are finally ended, you should print your post and all the comments, and nail them to the cathedral door of the FIA, ala Martin Luther.

  187. Kind of ironic that Bernie said he wouldn’t pay for the product, but he expects everyone else to!

  188. I recently had to cancel our Sky subscription as it had simply become too expensive if all you are interested in is watching F1 and not the tacked-on wall-to-wall football coverage. You could buy a small hatchback for the money Sky costs every month nowadays and as money is tight for most “normal” people that is simply too expensive…

    F1 could have embraced the 21st century and created its own sensibly-priced online channel with live streaming after the current generation of pay TV deals ran out but instead appear to have opted for the “easy money” route (quelle surprise) and let fans pick up the tab (or not) and worry about the future at some point in the, well, future.

    I looked forward to Channel 4’s coverage whilst recalling that at one time it was also the UK broadcaster for the WRC (where is that now?), maybe it’s the channel where free-to-air motorsport goes to die. The Australian GP coverage was OK but frankly pretty basic compared to the BBC’s previous offerings but as I have watched and loved F1 since the 1970s I still want to watch. What will happen for me and F1 in 2019? I just don’t know – highlights never capture the true feel of a race and why would anyone follow it online if they are prevented from watching any races proper by excessive costs (both in the “flesh” and on TV).

    If I was Channel 4 then I’d be pretty hacked off; what is the point in investing money to build up an audience that they are guaranteed to lose after only a couple of years, at a time especially when the future of Channel 4 itself is also “up for discussion”.

    The reality for the sponsorship model of teams is that they need exposure which can only be offered by appearing regularly on mainstream terrestrial TV for the UK that means the BBC or ITV. If the BBC could not afford to continue its contract then the powers-that-be should have recognised the value simply being on the BBC deal offered to F1. Few multi-national marketing departments would be prepared to invest the millions required to sponsor an F1 team for their message to appear in front of a mere few hundred thousand, it would represent a terrible return-on-investment so the number of sparse-looking F1 liveries can hardly be a surprise..

    Yes, one can argue that football has largely migrated to pay-TV but it is so ubiquitous that most people can attend a game in some form or another and truly major events like cup finals, the European and World Cups still appear on terrestrial TV. F1 simply does not possess this “commonplace” nature, in short it needs mainstream terrestrial TV to recruit a new audience – who might just tune in on (one of the many) British rainy days and be converted for life.

    I just despair with where F1 is going: the constant rubbishing of the forward-looking new hybrid formula, the bizarre qualifying changes no-one asked for, the jump to pay TV when even established teams apparently cannot attract sponsors, the repeated veiled threats to long-established venues, the teams that tell us the new qualifying is rubbish and will get dumped then a few days later, well, it might not get dumped after all. It all just seems to have become a big childish game of trying to wind each other up for financial or balance of power reasons or perhaps even just for the hell of it. Who knows? It certainly seems no-one really cares but the powers-that-be and the teams should ask themselves exactly how and why F1 has come to this and perhaps even more importantly who brought it to this state and what they are prepared to do about it.

    In sports and even motorsports broadcasting F1 is not the only game in town, if I was in marketing for the WEC then I’d be making a call to the BBC and seeing how I could get my series some prime mainstream coverage and make the effort to promote ground-breaking, road-relevant technology and build and nurture an existing and a whole new generation of fans.It can’t (and shouldn’t) always be just about “the bottom line”.

    1. F1 always has been about the bottom line. As is any other professional sport.

      However the BBC could have, years ago, introduced a pay per view option and done bloody well out it. £3 a race? I would pay that, or an annual subscription for £25?

      Or even just £1 per event would have meant the 6 Nations wasn’t under threat or the Ryder Cup didn’t disappear down Murdoch’s maw.

      Perhaps even double the licence fee for those wanting to watch sport of any type. Instead of paying £100 per month to SKY I would rather pay another £150 a year to the BBC, or even divide it between them and ITV. It’s extraordinarily good value. (I don’t pay Murdoch anything, and never will)

      Unfortunately, like the NHS, education and law enforcement, the BBC is just another political pawn. It should also be remembered that it operates under competition restrictions to allow free enterprise to flourish. I don’t suppose those restrictions appear anywhere in Murdoch’s organisation, required or otherwise.

      More to the point though, F1 would not have existed, at least in the UK, were it not for the BBC. It was consigned to a Sunday backwater in the 70’s as Saturday sport was utterly dominated by football, horse racing and wrestling and there was nothing else to watch on Sunday.

      Interestingly, I asked the question of an avid football friend of mine why goal-line technology has taken so long to arrive in football despite being largely successfully adopted by Rugby.

      His reply enlightened me as to the fundamental flaw with F1. “Football fans love controversy, the more we argue about it, the more exciting it remains”.

      There is no arguing about F1 left, the bureaucrats have eliminated it. In car camera’s, rigid regulations, 1,000’s second timings, standardised engines, radio comms, offshore strategies, daft tyre manipulation etc. etc.

      Nothing is left to chance, indeed, it would be more entertaining to have a ‘Superstars’ competition resurrected and have drivers compete in athletic competitions to determine pole than it is to watch a pole competition now, of any description.

      Now there’s a thought!

  189. Imagine how we feel here in the U.S. F1 is only available on NBCSports via pay cable (except for Monaco and Montreal races, which are broadcast over the air on NBC). But the real pain is that the races are interrupted with so many commercials that it is virtually unwatchable. Even when they return from a commercial break, they frequently cut to a 1-2 minute interview before returning to the track action. Overall, at least 1/4 of the race is not on the screen. Plus the NBC race commentators are watching from a TV studio in the U.S.. Only the pit lane reporter is at the track. And the quality of the commentating is second rate compared to Sky, BBC (R.I.P.) and Channel 4.

    So while I sympathize with the UK fans that will lose the over-the-air options in 2019, at least Sky has a high quality, commercial free, uninterrupted race broadcast.

    Full disclosure: like MANY F1 fans in the U.S., I find pirate streaming sites to watch the races live, or use BitTorrent to download recordings of the Sky broadcasts after the race. Without that, U.S. F1’s are forever partially in the dark about their favorite sport.

    It shows what lunk heads FOM are: Every U.S. F1 fan I know would gladly pay $5-$10 to legally stream the Sky broadcasts.

  190. Indifferent. Such a good word.

    I’m an intermediate fan. I’ll watch, be interested, but not quite avidly. I’ll read, check, research somewhat. I’ll understand the technical side, the commercial side, and roll my eyes at the political side.

    Once the Beeb transitioned to showing only a few races live, I lost some of the impetus to check exactly when they were. The other things surrounding my life, especially my family, filled the void … to the point where even live races would get recorded, and I’d not factor “live F1” into plans. I’d watch if timing was lucky.

    I was turning indifferent to watching live races.

    At the same time, watching recorded races is not especially attractive. Broadcasters take no care to hide results from you. Gradually, I’ve dropped to around a 50:50 chance that a recorded race will be deleted, unwatched.

    Or perhaps I’d deliberately watch the shorter highlights show, so I didn’t eat as much of my valuable time now.

    I was becoming indifferent to watching recorded races.

    My habit for TV watching has thrown adverts into the bin: commercial TV holds no appeal live: I will PVR-record those programmes, and skip every advert.

    F1 is now relegated to being watched if the wife has gone out, or deleted if she stays in. Even if I am watching, I’ll have the tablet in my hand, reading online, second-screening.

    Over time, I’ve started to spend less and less time on F1 news and articles. I watch F1 shoot itself in the foot, and have learnt not to care.

    Eventually, when I no longer care about the technology, or any of the new pay-drivers, or the slow, quiet cars, I’ll not notice that a season starts. Or finishes. Or who won.

    I am becoming indifferent to F1. My interest, attention, emotion, and money are heading in other directions.

    This Sky deal seems destined to complete the job.

    We dropped our access to Sky TV over 15 years ago. We just couldn’t justify the cost for the amount we watched – and bitterly dislike handing over money to the sports channels for them to fritter away on football rights (which we have no interest in). We have no desire to renew our relationship with the Murdoch empire.

  191. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for another great article.

    I was fascinated by your previous article ‘Rational Irrationality’ https://joesaward.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/rational-irrationality-in-f1/

    And I wonder how you feel this awful Murdoch deal relates to the previous article? If BE is trying to run the value of the sport down as suggested in the other article, why sign the deal? If it’s a longer view about running it down through lack of viewers post 2019… At 85 that would seem a flawed plan!

    So what’s going on?

  192. For what’s worth, F1 gets here with NBCSN (and affiliates) on DirecTV. It’s part of the premium package, and with taxes, fees, etc, the monthly bill comes to $170, or $2,000 per annum. Now, it’d be disingenuous to say F1 is the sole reason to pay $2,000 per annum. We actually enjoy many other shows. And the DVR makes it very convenient. But it’s 2 grand not going towards savings and other stuff.

    F1 and the overall TV package is asking to go bye-bye.

  193. Living in Canada, the market for F1 is tiny. Very few fans here overall agaisnt the population base. I can tell you that if I had to pay to watch F1 it would be good bye. I like the show now, except for the stupid new qualifying. But the politics and mismanagement are ruining the show.

  194. It’s the way the whole world seems to be heading. “If you can afford it then you’re in, if you can’t then tough – we have no interest in you anyway.” This present government is busy engineering structures to put much of what we have taken for granted behind one form of pay-wall or another. Look at how it has cowed the BBC, frozen their budget and forced them to make huge cuts in some areas (eg live sport), all in the interests – they claim – of the hard pressed licence fee payer, but actually driving Joe Public to feather the pockets of folk such as their sponsor, Murdoch. Understand how they are also busy dismantling the current NHS and state education systems, and begin to imagine the end game…

  195. This is horribly like watching an old friend die. Very sad. Like many others I’m not sure I will want to watch the final act.

  196. Great writing Joe! I always enjoy your state of the union addresses though this one seems to have been delivered with more pessimism than usual and towards the end with some vehemence! Urging the team owners to mutiny is certainly poking the old grizzly bears with a sharp stick. The bears are unpredictable these days and it might be best to not poke too hard! I’m not saying don’t criticise but please don’t compromise your own position. I know you are likely to say that you’ll write what you like, but most of us would like you to be able to go on writing it!

  197. As ever Mr Saward, you hit the nail on the head with perfect eloquence. F1 shall become another of the sports that I hear about from others, listen to on the radio and read the odd article about on the net.

    I have been an enthusiast since the late 80’s, I have spent untold thousands of pounds buying books, team clothing, model cars and visiting races. My camera of choice, a hobby I have spent many thousands of pounds over the years, came about because they were the sponsor of a winning team. F1 was accessible via the television, once a fortnight the races were on, I too bought all of the magazines to feed the passion.

    From 2019 I shall probably listen to the races if I can be bothered, I may even check the results on the net but I will not be watching. I cannot afford to pay Sky’s ransom on sport, I haven’t watched a football match in years, I happened to see the end of an England cricket match whilst I was at my parents the other day and F1 will join the ranks of lost sports.

    My concern is not for me but for my 13 year old son. We have watched F1 together for years, we sit and discuss the race and the cars but without regular available coverage his interest will wither and die, a fan lost. He already watches gaming live on the net, it’s free, highly accessible and speaks his language, that’s where he’ll go for his thrills, not high octane sports. His money will go elsewhere…

  198. Fantastic piece Joe. I feel I need to add something but I don’t think I really can add much! I’ve watched F1 ever since I can remember. Probably 1995 is the first season I can really remember. I didn’t miss a race from 1996 until about 2007 when I was a student and out of the country, miles from TV and radio! Makes me wonder why I bothered now.

    I’ve watched gradually less and less F1 since the Sky/FTA share deal came about a few years ago. Given we will soon lose all the races my desire to keep watching is fading fast. I won’t pay for Sky, I’m often not in for races and when you are paying thousands just to watch the races you have to be pretty sure you will be around to watch them. I do enjoy F1 on BBC 5 Live, for as long as Bernie lets that stay FTA.

    I’ve always really enjoyed Sports car/endurance racing, Le Mans has been a particular obsession for me. Given it looks like I can watch the entire WECC series for about €20 online, they are well ahead in technology, and have close racing with manufacturer interest, I think I know which I will start to watch more.

    I have tickets for the Austrian Grand Prix this year. I’m driving all the way across Europe for it. I’m not really sure why now.

  199. Well said Joe (and many of the commentators here). My earliest F1 memory – 1984 Monaco GP aged 10. My first big impression GP – 1990 Monaco aged 16 – Senna’s pole lap from Saturday replied at the start of BBC’s Grandstand on Sunday afternoon had me transfixed and been a close follower of the sport ever since, Never would have happened if it was pay-to-view as my father is not a sufficient fan of sports, nor of Murdoch, to fork out for a subscription.

    I wonder whether the mismanagement and short-term decisions being taken right now make a case for a breakdown of the current agreements and a breakaway formula? Or whether that will just happen anyway in 2020?

  200. Food for thought – a quarter century ago (1991) a top F1 team operated on an annual budget of around US$40m. This equates to $70m at today’s prices which would be about the level of the bottom of the grid now. The teams managed to go testing far more often, to use far more engines per season and please sponsors who provided most of the money as TV revenues were far less of a factor than today and TV viewing figures were high thanks to being free-to-air.

    This allowed for a wide variety of weird and wonderful characters becoming part of the paddock and barriers to new entrants were relatively low. This brought colour (such as Jordan) and kept things interesting.

    Now the money, or power, is so concentrated in the hands of the rights holders via the distribution of TV revenues that the whole thing has become dangerously unbalanced. The sponsorship (or partnership to use McLaren phraseology) opportunities are less attractive than other sports with viewing figures facing the prospect of being decimated by the pay TV moves. Other than the rights holders I doubt anyone really wants to see F1 relegated to being solely an elitist Rolex-wearing sport. Might as well call it polo.

    At least the rash behaviour right now might actually lead to action and other players such as VW/Audi et al might find the sport appealing enough to enter. Who knows, maybe the now almost inevitable new or breakaway F1 will end up with 30 entrants fighting for grid spots?

  201. Joe, I posted (below) yesterday on my FB, to my few friends, I was so upset that they were taking the sport away from me. Thank you for putting all of my thoughts in to words I could never have written.

    RANT WARNING
    If ever The people who run F1 ever wanted to loose even more viewers, well they have done it again, from 2019, F1 will only be on Pay To View Sky, (No Bbc, no Ch4 etc etc) I will be saying goodbye to viewing the sport I’ve loved since 1976, (Radio only for me) I just don’t understand why the governing body of F1 are doing this, Sponsors are pulling out of F1 because there Logos are not being seen on free to air tv, tv viewer Nos are going lower and lower each year because this pay to view is happening all over, and the fans are just walking away because it’s too expensive to pay to view. I know it’s a few years away before this happens, but I fear for F1 😥😥

  202. I feel for all of the UK fans who are going through exactly what we Aussies went through 12 months ago. It is frustrating and disappointing. Like a lot here, I’ve watched the sport for my entire teenage and adult life and I swore black and blue I wouldn’t give Bernie and his mates a red cent. He’s already made his wealth off the back of the power afforded to him by the eyes of his audience. Why then should the fans pay on top of that?

    Guess what though? After 30 years of watching the sport and irrespective of the state of competition, I’m like Pavlov’s dog. I couldn’t be without the sport I love and so here I am a year and a bit down the track and I’ve coughed up after having talked tough at the start. Not just for Foxtel, but also for the live timing. I hate myself for doing it, but I can’t be without the sport.

    Having said that, the question of whether it’s worth the money is constantly on my mind – I regularly think about cancelling my subscription. It’s not that I can’t afford it – it’s just that it sticks in my craw to have this situation forced down my throat.

    The moment the area I live in has good enough internet connection speeds, I’ll kick Foxtel to the curb and watch F1 via streams. I’ve never pirated movies or games or such like, but I refuse to accept that the new model for watching F1 is ethical or fair to the fans and the catchcry of our time that “it’s a business and has to answer to the shareholders” holds no water with me. It’s used in this day and age to justify all manner of unethical and money grubbing behaviour by corporations. How much money is enough!?

    Bernie is the Martin Shkreli of F1 and as well liked by the fans.

  203. I don’t normally post to simply to commend an article, perhaps because I come from a generation where I expect quality from those I choose to read and I view that choice as commendation enough, but I really think Joe has surpassed even himself with this one. For what it’s worth, my initial response was the pluralization of a seven-letter English word but, lacking in eloquence as that may be, I still believe it to be correct as the current governance of F1 is anything but legitimate.

    As a Sky subscriber (reluctantly but years of passion overruled sense) I feel like a traitor right now, as I fear for the sport, the next generation and for Silverstone. How long can the circuit sell enough tickets to pay the ransom without the advertising that is free-to-air coverage of the whole championship?

  204. The sport I love . no longer wants me as a fan. It’s so sad.

    I will have to get my motor sport from another source maybe WEC with the guidance of Radio le Man . Button seamed to enjoy his old mans sport perhaps that’s a goer .WRC ?

    I was introduced to F1 by my late father. Watching it with him was a Sunday ritually. It feels like losing a connection to him.

    But I can’t justify spending that much my kids come first .

    Bathurst 12 h was great
    Faultlessly live pics streamed to my tablet with RLM commentary.

    Leaving a life long passion is very sad
    But if I’m too poor for them to want me in there tribe.

    I once scraped together enough to go once. Silverstone for qualifying i think it was the last year before the chicane’s went in . Mansell went past on the pole lap . it was breathtaking. The 2 btcc drivers standing next to me looked at each other and breathed bl##dy h#ll.

    Goodbye F1
    I love you but you don’t seam to want me any more.

  205. They really are out of touch. There are multiple generations who can’t afford to get on the housing ladder, let alone afford sky. Leave uni, £k’s in debt, forced to rent because business expects you to be mobile so you cannot stay at home. Work 55+ hours a week, get married, get a promotion or a bonus and pay 40% tax (still with large student debt), save every penny for the dream of homeownership. I don’t see where paying £1k a year for sky is even an option in my life! Kissed F1 goodbye several years ago. From die hard fan to missing almost all races, what will I teach my kids when I can finally afford to have them? That’s a rich mans sport your father used to like when it was free for everyone to see. Dying sport, started by rich men, killed by rich men. RIP

  206. I can only concur with everything you have written, and like so many other fans will, come 2019, no longer be watching or bothering with formula one, I am so sorry a few very greedy people have control of a sport I used to love

  207. Just a follow up on my last post. I hadn’t read the news about F1 deciding to keep the new qualifying format.

    I honestly cannot believe the sheer stupidity of people who hold themselves up as being the best of the best.

    I mentioned that paying for Foxtel to watch F1 is often on my mind. Well this is the straw that broke the back. I’ve just cancelled.

    I finally feel disengaged enough with the sport to call it quits. I see people are saying this is all a power play behind the scenes. That’s all well and good, but as fan I’m not interested in whatever Machiavellian manoueveres are going on behind the scenes. And I’m certainly not interested in paying to watch people play games with the sport.

    Enough is enough.

  208. Very well said Joe.
    I’m in NZ so I have to have a Sky subscription to watch F1. It costs me NZ$90 per month. I am incredibly impressed by their coverage, including the F1 show & other specials they do.
    It’s F1 that’s leaving me cold.
    I’ve gone to a race every year since 1987, but after my experiences of recent years, I’ve decided i’m no longer going to spend my hard earned money on attending the races.
    The main reasons being, I get so pissed off that after all these years, I still can’t afford a grandstand seat. And these days most people going are only there for the big musical acts. Just shows you the state of the sport, when only Taylor Swift or Bon Jovi can get people through the gates.
    I call F1 my heroin. Because I hate what it’s doing to me and how much it costs me, but I just have to keep going to get my fix…
    I do hope the revolution starts, i’d be happy to be a part of it.

  209. It takes less than a minute to google And find a streaming site to watch sky f1 live and for free. Nobody wins but me, I’m not advocating this and I miss BBC coverage but I’m not losing any sleep thinking these multi milliionaires might lose out on tv revenue.

  210. Thinking out loud here…..Wonder how David Coulthard took the news of Sky exclusive?

    On another thought – all the passionate people walking away from viewing the sport they were passionate about, I suspect from Bernie’s/CVC’s POV it would be like someone taking their arm out of a bucket of water then looking for the hole they’d created……..

  211. Fabulous piece. I’ve loved F1 since I was a wee boy, back in the Hunt/Lauda days. I’ve watched it pale over the last few years – the appeal to fans seeming to wane in direct proportion to the attempts to appeal to big companies and big money.
    When I was small I’d wished I had the money to go to races – now I do, I don’t want to go any more. And today’s announcement was the absolute tin lid – it forced me to consider is the sport appealing enough, that fundamentally I want to pay to watch huge companies like Mercedes, Renault etc. market their cars to me, through a ‘sport’ that’s no longer actually even exciting to watch. Frankly no.
    I never thought I would stop wanting to go to races, but I did a few years ago. I couldn’t conceive that I wouldn’t want to watch it on TV anymore – but yesterday’s announcement pushed that, and actually found I was quite relieved.
    I dislike paying to watch what is fundamentally now advertising for huge corporations, but what kills it is the lack of spectacle. Tepid racing, with driving to fuel consumption, driving to tire wear pace…yawn. Who is actually quicker? Are we actually racing, or is it an audax?
    Hope someone sees the light soon, and turns off the greed switch.

  212. I wasn’t surprised by this post, as i’d seen it coming, although it took you a while, which i put down to either that you have an eternally optimistic outlook, or as i may have unfairly suggested in the past, that you may have been too immersed in the “bubble” to see what most fans have known and recognized for several years.
    Anyway i’m glad you have surfaced, put the periscope down and opened the hatch so that you can properly survey the mess that essentially, Max & Bernie created.
    One can blame CVC, but frankly can one really blame Sharks for eating swimmers and surfers? CVC has only done what it does as that is what its function is! Todt has just been a pen pusher, and really that was what he did at teams in the past, of all the FIA/FISA/CSI leaders since i first viewed motorsport around 7-8 years of age, only Mosley has been effective on any level, even though he also helped bring the sport down to this low.
    I’ve followed your blog ( and now bought the mag ) for a couple of years since i first found it by accident….much as i found Motoring News and then Autosport by accident when i was child. I’ve had some stick off you over my dinosaur outlook on F1 ( which was never just a criticism of F1, but of how motorsport is mostly these days ), but now, it seems that you are shouting most of my thoughts from the rooftops yourself, which is a little gratifying as i never liked the fact that we disagreed that F1 needed major surgery.
    However, i’m sure there’s still scope for disagreement but at least you can now see clearly that the series is way way too expensive ( i know you have said for a while that a cost cap should be in place although i thought your cap was still ludicrously expensive ), that it goes to too many wrong countries and circuits, that the rules are too complex and in many cases absurd, that the spectators are not getting a good deal and that it needs free to air tv…..so we are now on the same page if not quite on the same hymn!
    So i’ll only add this and that is that for me, F1 as a section of the sport, needs to actually crash and become completely irrelevant before it can be rebuilt and be the spectacle and fan favorite that it ought to be and was for most of my life.This will happen when the Boardrooms in Germany and France and Japan feel that they are wasting money for showing something that less and less people are really interested in or are watching. You note a significant spectator drop in Oz, this has been happening for at least 2 years at most circuits, watching on tv it is plain that the cameras try hard not to show empty sections of spectator grandstands and viewing areas, but without success. F1 is now like the Parrot in Monty Python.

    1. Whilst I agree with most of what you say, I fundamentally disagree with cost capping. It’s a bit like DRS, artificial and cosmetic.

      A great deal of the cost within F1 is aero development, so eliminate it altogether, have the cars run neutral aero. Following through corners is possible and slipstreaming therefore natural. Corner speeds are reduced therefore safety is improved and run off areas are smaller so spectating becomes a reasonable prospect again.

      Then, with other changes I have mentioned elsewhere on this thread (namely format changes, time trials, sprint events, team competition etc.) the smaller teams have the opportunity to pick up points because they aren’t endlessly droning round billiard smooth tracks in far-flung lands, with empty grandstands.

      Allow unlimited engine formats, if someone wants to run a V12, let them. If they want to turbocharge it, then it’s going to be a 1.2 litre V12, that would be interesting. Minimum sized cockpits so fat and tall blokes can compete and we’re not consigning the sporting world to jockey sized drivers.

      Ban ship to shore and no communication with anyone outside the pits, so no strategic teams at HQ. Only, say, 12 active personnel per team allowed to participate and only 2 of those allowed in pit lane to change all 4 tyres, improving safety as well as reducing costs.

      Reducing costs is easy, that’s not the problem, it’s reducing the numbers wanting a share of the divvy that’s the issue.

      And I note one of the earliest comments on here was from a disgruntled team member, I daresay he would be a lot happier to be working in a team rather than be just another number on an HR manifest.

  213. LOL well… Unfortunately, Joe – I am slowly making the switch to WEC & historic racing car racing – and that’s an easy sell to my kids. Why? They can get near the drivers – autographs, photos – walk to the pit box to see them celebrate after a race, drivers even react to their tweets – you name it. Can even afford to fly or drive all over, because the tickets and campings are so reasonably priced. Hearing similar things from other race crazy dads.

    Spa and Le Mans on the calendar next – they can’t wait!

  214. Joe Saward: “I was excited when I discovered a kiosk at Baker Street station where one could get Autosport on a Wednesday afternoon.”

    In Lancashire, we were amazed when the magazine arrived on Friday noon.

  215. Heard this news and felt sick to my stomach. Like you I discovered F1 on a grainy b/w TV in my mid teenage years and have followed it ever since. Despite my love I am not going to be forced into getting pay TV because that is something I do not like and agree with and it transcends even my love of F1. So I have just a few years left and to be quite honest I almost feel like stopping now such is my loathing for this decision by Bernie. I feel really sorry for the C4 team – what horrendous timing to announce their death knell before they have even got 2 GP’s under their belt.

    I am so utterly sad about this and want to finish by saying your piece above is the best bit of journalism I have read in a very long time – if not ever. I will never desert you here.

  216. A wonderful post. It echoes similar sentiments to previous posts but that’s positive because this very serious stuff for those of us who have grown up loving this sport. I’m no different from many others who visit this site in that for many years, F1 was a huge part of my life. Not any more and it saddens me to have to say it. It seems that the sport is being subjected to a very slow death and we’re just bystanders, watching it unfold. In the 80s and 90s I was definitely one of the TGIF brigade. I’ll be honest; it was my whole life! Now, I don’t even watch the races, even the ‘condensed’ bits on iPlayer. Back in the 1970s there was a wonderful BBC comedy called Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads’. There’s a line in the signature song of the series that sums up how I now feel about F1; …..’it’s the only thing to look forward to; the past’……… The memories of Vileneuve, Senna, Prost, Mansell, Schumacher, Bellof etc. What a shame Max Verstappen wasn’t around in the 1980s…..

  217. Joe,

    They are not interested in numbers unless they have a $ sign in front.

    Regarding the great FIA, I live in a country that is currently having loads of white lines and pretty yellow gridded boxes at junctions too, unfortunately little or no thought seems to have been given as to explaining what they are for as the locals now treat them as parking spots. Nice one FIA!

    1. What a great point. As usual, lip service paid by the likes of the FIA to safety with no regard whatsoever to the realities of road safety – education. Not only of the drivers but pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders etc. as well.

      PS The next time you see a mounted cyclist on a zebra or light controlled crossing you can run him down with impunity. Unless he/she’s dismounted and walking they aren’t pedestrians and therefore don’t retain the usual royal status of a cyclist.

      I am kidding, only about the running down though.

  218. I truly feel sadness for the sport, and for those like you, Joe, whose devotion to F1 is a career.
    The biggest problem the sport faces is not a descending paywall, but that when the paywall is pierced, there is a vacuous and gimmicky sport behind it.

  219. I, like my parents before me, have had to pay for a licence fee every year. Therefore I’ve never had free to air coverage on the BBC. The only time F1 was fta was on ITV and now on Channel 4. You choose to pay for Sky, you’re forced to ‘subscribe’ to the BBC. The arguement people won’t pay is therefore not as straightforward as some suggest. The question is more to the effect of ‘how much are you prepared to pay?’.

  220. First of I come clean and say I have SKYF1 and I think “so far” have done a good job. I am also lucky in as much I am in a position to afford the current sports package and I readily watch football and cricket so my costs are split over the 3 sports.

    However, I find myself sad at the thought that the sport will leave terrestrial TV in the UK and be found only behind the pay wall of SKY or on illegal internet sites. To me this spells the beginning of the end for F1 as a sport in the UK. Other sports will simply replace it….

    I also ask myself how much is a fair price to pay to watch a Grand Prix, Practice and Qualifying?

    I feel as it is £10 so £210 for the whole season and no more. So will SKY offer a stand alone package for F1?

    Will SKY now start putting adverts in races? If they do I am out, never again for me…. I remember when ITV showed the races with adverts in the middle of the races and that never did worked!

    I hope there is a change in the sport ownership and direction but I not holding my breath….

  221. I haven’t read every post on this thread so forgive me if this just regurgitates some comments.

    F1 is failing, not because it’s going behind a paywall but because it’s grindingly tedious. Whilst almost every other motorsport has changed, usually for the better, F1 has been trotting out the same format for as long as I can remember, and I’m old.

    MotoGP has several hours of entertainment across three categories, and bless his heart, Danny Kent is world champion of probably the most entertaining of them all, Moto3.

    World and British Superbikes have their two and three race weekends although I don’t agree with WSB splitting the two races over two days.

    Rallycross has come a long way since Lydden and Murray Walkers amusing inability to keep up with an unbelievably quick and eventful sport, but then he couldn’t keep up with F1.

    I pay Eurosport for Superbikes, £4 a month for a huge amount of entertainment, MotoGP is consigned to dodgy streams, as is F1 these days, if I can be bothered. But I’ll consider BT sport when my current broadband deal expires. I still haven’t watched Melbourne, but when the highlight is Alonso crashing, I don’t think I’ll bother.

    F1 has lots of possibilities to both incite viewing, engaging new cash strapped teams and disrupt the status quo. They have either ignored or haven’t thought about different formats; if Superbikes can circulate the IOM TT at 130mph+, why can’t F1 cars? Safety concerns? That’s down to the drivers isn’t it? They have a choice as do the bikers and every year they flock to the competition because it’s the most challenging event of the year. There are deaths, but the traditional F1 excuse is that viewers won’t like that and will stop watching is arrant nonsense. The TT and NW 2000 alone comprehensively debunk that idiotic excuse.

    Other formats that might help F1? Perhaps team trials for example. Two teams at the opposite ends of the track compete over, say, 4 laps to beat the others time, a bit like cycling. Perhaps make that for qualifying times.

    Slalom events over a short course, OK it’s a bit Micky Mouse driving between cones but I’m sure with all the resources at hand F1 could come up with a solution. The giant slalom in skiing is awesome, not that I’m suggesting F1 does it on snow.

    There are innumerable other options simply ignored by F1, that’s why the sport is dying.

    Of course, Bernie knows it’s dying better than anyone else so he’s just flogged it off to SKY who will pay for its demise as viewers stay away in droves. Laughably, they have ignored the fact that most F1 fans are very tech savvy so will be using illegal streams. And they will get better for that reason. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot, except Bernie has shot SKY in the foot!

    What’s the betting Bernie will retire soon, not before 2019 but shortly thereafter.

    Nor do I blame Bernie that much either, he’s only playing the game. If the FIA, team owners, drivers and sponsors can’t see F1 has to change beyond tinkering, Bernie can hardly be blamed.

  222. All of this issue reminds me of how the Premier League’s growth in the US has been caused by Saturday 5:30 PM matches, of which up to 20 air free on over-the-air television, for which Haas F1’s Kannapolis office is WCNC 36 (NBC affiliate). The five highest-rated matches in United States for the EPL have been free television matches where it has become appointment viewing at 12:30 PM local time (when the matches start), as it’s lunchtime if the workers are working and pubs are showing the matches.

    The first live free EPL match was an experiment in 2013 by Fox as part of an “appetiser” for the NFL coverage at 6:30 PM that night, in the final year of their EPL deal. The 4 PM (BST) Manchester Derby, airing at 11 AM, was the highest-rated match in history Stateside. When NBC took over, the contract was written for 20 free matches, most Saturday 5:30 PM kickoffs with one of the ten games on the final day being over the air free. The Premier League’s growth has led to more free matches, culminating the recent Boxing Day over-the-air lunchtime doubleheader (Newcastle/Everton and Southampton/Arsenal). More free matches are expected in the 2016-22 NBC television package.

    Meanwhile, the R&A smarted over their poor seven-year paywall only deal for The Open Championship for US television, ending it a year early to allow, as is the case for every other regular US PGA Tour and WGC tournament that airs between the last week of January until the end of the season in mid-September, free coverage of the final three hours of both the third and fourth rounds (with extra free coverage of majors). Golf, like the NFL, has invested hardest in their free television coverage, and it has worked.

    Free’s dominance in the ratings war over pay in various sports is easily found. In college gridiron, the Southeastern Conference domination is primarily because of its guaranteed free game at 3:30 PM ET (and one primetime game) on the same broadcast network, while the other major conferences are at random on the other networks, and often it isn’t known which conference will have which time slot until roughly two weeks before game time.

    Even NASCAR smarted itself from five bad years of paywall championship races by pushing for an over-the-air championship broadcast, with the pay channel broadcasting a “second screen” experience with in-car communications featuring specialised coverage of the four championship contenders, taken from NBC’s golf coverage where the pay channel will air specialised coverage of high-profile holes, such as the 17th at Sawgrass, the Bear Trap at the Honda Classic, among others.

    1. Bobby, completely agree with your observations, especially about the developments in Golf. Can you believe the response to the Waste Management Phoenix Open? And the average age of the spectators? If you told me Golf could be re-positioned that way,that effectively, 10 yrs ago I wouldn’t have believed it.

        1. 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open Sets Single-Day Attendance Record – 201,003 ;total tournament attendance was a record 618,365.

          Yeah, golf is not popular.

  223. I also used to avidly buy Autosport too, but I suppose it has suffered from the availability of information on the web. I do remember Peter Windsor saying once that the casual TV audience mattered more than race-goers because that was a much bigger target for advertisers, but us race-goers are (or rather were) the type that would actually buy books by people such as himself. Own goal there Peter! Keep up the excellent articles Joe.

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