Will F1’s UK audience recover from its 2012 slump?

2013 F1 season

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F1 viewing figures in the UK grew for five consecutive seasons until last year, when they slumped back to their pre-2009 level. @DavidNelson, who writes the F1 Broadcasting blog, takes a look at what the data says about the success of F1’s move towards pay TV.

Last year’s abrupt reversal of F1’s recent growth in popularity in the UK came as half the live races vanished from free-to-air television. For the first time, the whole season was only available to watch live on Sky’s subscription service.

This is part of a Europe-wide trend which has seen Formula One move from primarily a free-to-air model to one which has half of the races exclusively live on a pay TV station.

Evidence from the first year of the plan in the UK shows that the move has turned viewers off. UK television audiences dropped to their lowest level since 2008. Furthermore, audience levels decreased an average of 12.7 percent compared with 2011, the last season broadcast live only on BBC:


Millions of viewers4.514.874.554.073.933.593.

As the graph shows, audiences for Formula 1 hit a low in the mid-2000s in the UK before recovering. Audience levels continued to rise as BBC became the Formula One broadcaster.

The 2012 season marked the first fall in viewership since 2006. Even so, average audiences remained above 4 million viewers for every race, showing that the appetite for Formula One is still healthy.

But a repeat of this drop in 2013 – and a similar trend in figures in other markets where the pay TV model is appearing – would set alarm bells ringing.

2012 versus 2011

Here’s how the UK’s viewership figures (in millions) for 2011 and 2012 compare race by race.


AustraliaMalaysiaBahrainChinaSpainMonacoCanadaTurkeyEuropeGreat BritainGermanyHungaryBelgiumItalySingaporeJapanSouth KoreaIndiaUnited StatesAbu DhabiBrazil

An interesting pattern emerges from the figures. When BBC have the race live, the average audience for both channels is 4.38 million, only 240,000 lower than in 2011, or a 5.5 percent drop. That number in isolation is a very good number, when you consider other factors, such as last year’s Olympic Games and Euro 2012 football torunament.

However, when you look at the races that Sky broadcast exclusively live and BBC show in highlights form, the average television audience is 3.88 million, nearly one million down on the 2011 average figure, or a mammoth 19.1 percent drop.

To put it simply – nearly one in five people are not tuning in when the race is covered exclusively live on Sky Sports. In addition, only one of the ten exclusive live races that Sky covered increased compared with on 2011 (Italy), the rest dropped significantly.

Unsurprisingly, the race that fell the most was Canada. In 2011, it recorded an average of 6.21 million viewers across BBC One and then BBC Two, compared with 3.79 million on Sky Sports F1 live and BBC One for their highlights show.

The figures for Canada and USA show that Formula One needs a terrestrial television presence, and more importantly, for those races need to be live on both BBC and Sky, as they bring in the casual audiences. It is the casual audience that they need to exploit, as they will be the ones that could turn to dedicated fans in the future, bringing in the big numbers to Formula One.

Elsewhere, Japan, India and Australia recorded significant drops, as the graph above shows. The 3.25 million viewers recorded for Australia was the lowest for a season opener since 2006.

Other circumstances

Whilst the new broadcasting model goes some way to explain the drop, it must be noted that the decrease in viewing figures was also affected by external events. In 2012 competition for sports’ fans eyeballs in the UK came from the Olympics, Euro 2012 and Andy Murray making it to the Wimbledon final.

All of those events peaked at some point over 15 million, the Olympics bringing together nearly half of the country. Even if Formula One remained on BBC for every live race in 2012, in my opinion, figures would have still dropped.

How much they would have dropped by is impossible to say for certain. Looking at the evidence presented, the average would have been nearer 4.4 million than the 4.1 million it was in reality.

The first seven races of 2012 began arguably one of the most exciting seasons in recent times. Despite this, the average for those seven races was 4.18 million, compared with 4.77 million when Sebastian Vettel was dominating in 2011. Those races took place before the ‘Summer of Sport’, and their poor ratings cannot be attributed to competition from other big events.

Moving away from the traditional model

While the facility for viewers in the UK to time-shift F1 broadcasts and watch them on computers, phones and other devices has been around for several years, those in F1 claim last year’s television ratings drop was due to an increase in these other forms of viewing:

“I think we’re recognising that the world has changed,” said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. “The viewership of all conventional, live television is declining because people select it, record it, view it through different media. And we’ve got to be alive and alert to that.”

“The traditional sport was based on terrestrial TV but I think if you just focus on that then I think you’re missing lots and lots of opportunities,” he added. “We’ve still got a sport that on a fortnightly basis, March to November, has more than 100 million people watching it on TV in 140 countries around the world.”

“So those numbers are still large, we’d like them to be larger, but I think nowadays people watch television, they watch their computers, they watch their phones, in all sorts of different applications.”

Whitmarsh admitted that the move to pay television was “a threat to our conventional viewing audience” but believes F1 needs “to reach out through all different media outlets and make sure that it continues to make a very substantial impact as the third-largest sporting spectacle in the world.”

2013: Fewer free-to-air races, higher price

More downward pressure will be applied on UK audience figures for Formula One races this year as the number of free-to-air races shown on the BBC falls from ten to nine.

The BBC will broadcast the Chinese, Spanish, Canadian, British, Belgian, Italian, Japanese, Indian and Brazilian Grands Prix live.

Meanwhile the cost of a subscription to Sky’s F1 channel is set to rise by over ??160 to ??510 per year.

Over to you

Why do you think F1 television audiences fell in the UK last year, and what do you expect to happen this year?

And how will you be watching F1 in 2013? Have your say in the comments.

Share your thoughts on the BBC and Sky’s coverage throughout the season in these threads:

If you can’t watch all the races live and would like to find somewhere you can, join the F1 in Pubs group:

Notes on the data

All figures are official from BARB. Figures have been adjusted to take into account the longer airtime of Sky Sports’ F1 programmes in 2012 versus BBC F1’s coverage in 2011.

A look at the viewing figures show that Sky’s average programme figures from 11:30 to 16:15 for a typical race were 35% lower than their 12:10 to 15:15 average, which was the normal slot duration for BBC’s programmes. The non-adjusted average is 3.89 million viewers, lower than 2008 but higher than 2007.

This has been done to give a fair and representative comparison between the 2012 figures and those of previous seasons.

2013 F1 season

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Images © Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

150 comments on “Will F1’s UK audience recover from its 2012 slump?”

  1. Hope so for those who pay it, hope not for those unable to see it because of the price.

  2. I hope the viewing numbers will increase. Fans are the lifeblood of the sport!

    Kinda curious if this trend will duplicate here in the Netherlands, where 2013 is the frst year that there are no free-to-air broadcasts …

    Me and my F1 minded friends will not cause a dip, 4 out of 5 have taken out subsciptions to Sport 1, so we’ll still watch all the races together.

    1. Same here in France: no F1 on TF1 anymore, only on Canal+.
      That’s the end of live F12 for me…

      1. Well, in South Africa it’s been on pay-tv for a number of years and a number of people i know personally don’t watch anymore since it went off free-to-air. I, myself cannot afford the pay-tv subscription but have a very generous family who allow me to visit and watch at their house every race (although I am beginning to think I’m wearing out my welcome).

  3. So 1 in 5 people stream it online when its not on BBC.

    1. Pretty much.

      1. Shhhhhhhh !!!!

  4. vuelve kowalsky
    13th March 2013, 9:43

    I think the sensible thing for cvc to do in the future should be, pay channels giving races live, and free channels giving full races delayed. Everybody wins. Cvc gets money from two networks at diferent prices, and all fans can watch the races. The hardcore fans live, and the regular fans same day taped.

    1. Except that CVC doesn’t get so much as a cent from broadcasting deals. All of the money that networks spend acquiring the rights to broadcast Formula 1 is paid out to the teams at the end of the year as prize money.

      1. This is not factually acurate. Although highly secret, the concensus of informed observers have suggested around the 53% mark of TV monies going to the teams in one form or another. (I particularly relate this to the fact that, as needed, Bernie Ecclestone plays teams false against one another in their individual “bonuses”) Although prize money is set, different weightings apply to different teams, and they have different initial down payments (for viewing rights, etc. such as Marrussia are still!! arguaing about for the 2013 season). I found this equally amusing and annoying during the last round of negotiations, for the reasons of it’s unfairness, and it’s unfailing repition…Teams say they want more money, Bernie says no. Teams say yes. Ferrari go with bernie and sign up for increased monies. Other teams say you can’t race without us. Bernie goes “meh!”. A couple of teams cave in: (I’m looking at you Williams!!!.) and get some extra benefits, before you know it everyone has signed. I’m laughing thinking about it again.

        Anyway, I’ve drifted off topic again. The upshot of this, of course, is that there is a large pot left over for things other than team money.

      2. @prisoner-monkeys, it’s about time you stopped making these blatantly untrue propaganda statements for CVC/Bernie. Anyone wanting to know the real facts as @damleda writes only have to research CVC and B.Ecclestone using Google and Wikipedia.

      3. Is it only me that think @prisoner-monkeys works as Bernies assistant?

      4. vuelve kowalsky
        13th March 2013, 19:47

        you are the man that knew too much. Like in the movie. Can you email us a copy of the concorde agreement. You must have it somewhere around your apartment.

    2. I think that’s a sensible suggestion. Much of the problem people has with Sky is paying for just 10 races. If all 20 were exclusively live, it would still be unpopular, but the price would be easier to justify.

      To be honest, I think will happen sooner or later, with the BBC maybe keeping the Monaco and British GPs. Let’s see what the viewing figures are after that.

    3. You equate hardcore fans with fans who can afford an expensive Sky subscription, vuelve. They are definitely not the same thing. It irks me when people claim that hardcore fans will automatically pay whatever it takes to follow the sport.

      1. I agree, being a hardore F1 fan doesn’t equate to being a mug, they’ll milk this particular cash cow beyond its sustainability.

    4. Not sure I agree. From an audience perspective, are you likely to watch a full race re-run if you already know the winner, and it isn’t a Brit? If anything, doing that would lead to viewing figures dropping further, in my opinion.

      I know it is not quite the same kettle of fish, but you only need to look at the Ashes’ drop in audience to see what happens when a sport moves fully to pay-TV live. In 2005, it was broadcast on Channel 4, with 7 million viewers at its peak. 4 years later, and only 1.5 million watched the victory on Sky.

  5. In the Netherlands, Formula 1 has moved to a channel that we have to pay for as well, much like the situation in England. It’s a lot cheaper though, partially because we can cancel our subscription any month we’d like to. That means we only have to pay from march until november, which is 9 months. It’s 15 euros a month, except for the first 3, they’re 5 euros a month. So that makes 105 euros for the entire season. I made a thread about it in the forums so Dutch fans can discuss the issue. It’s right here.

    It’s still a lot of money, but I was really blown away when I saw the amount of money British fans have to pay for Sky from now on! If it was that much over here, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it, it’s that simple. According to Sport1, a lot of Dutch fans have signed up because of their temporary deal which gets you the first 3 months for 5 euros each though, they do not have definitive numbers yet but according to them a lot of people understand that higher quality of Formula 1 coverage is worth spending money on. I kind of agree, of course I’d wish it was for free, but hobbies cost money and from now on so does ours. RTL aired the races for free but the races were constantly interrupted by commercials and the podium ceremonies were cut off by default because there wasn’t enough time left. They didn’t even send their commentators to the race, they were commenting on live streams in front of a tv. So all in all, I hope it’s worth the money!

    And like I said, Dutch fans are free to come and join the thread in the forums!

    1. …So that makes 105 euros for the entire season…

      It’s still a lot of money…

      Right, I don’t know what you would consider ‘not a lot of money’ and what other costs/taxes are involved, but that sounds like an absolute steal!

      1. @optimaximal I’m a college student so I don’t have huge amounts of money to spend. From free to 105 euros is quite a noticable difference!

        1. For a student in the UK, it’s a jump from free to ~€582 for the entire season.

          Perspective :)

    2. Is this a price of HD broadcast?

      1. @maroonjack Sport1 subscription gets you 8 different sports channels and according to Sport1 they’ll be using multiple channels during Formula 1 races so you can pick whether you’d like to watch the regular feed, onboards or the pitlane for instance.

        1. @maroonjack forgot to mention, I think only a few of the 8 channels are HD.

  6. In answer to the question, eh no. It’s going to get worse.
    My Nana (Grandmother) and Granda (Grandfather), three uncles and two aunt’s used to watch F1 religiously, and in fact it was the family time that brought me into the sport. The whole family used to watch. Up until last year, aside from the old folks, who have passed on, ‘god love ’em’, I am now the only remaining family member who watches F1 consistently. My uncles and aunt who used to watch it, now only occasionally watch it on BBC, as I suspect for them, it was the drama of the season that made for a return on the comittment to watch every race. One uncle is a big motorsport fan, and he has switched to BTCC which he can watch free to air. Not a single one of my friends who enjoy motorsports either has, or intends to get a Sky subscription, and they also missed free to air races last year.
    This is all a crying shame, as I am very impressed with Sky’s ability to bring innovation to the broadcast.
    In respect to the original question though, who give’s a monkeys in the sport really. Ferrari? No. Maybe if they were branded FIAT. McLaren? No. Red Bull? No. In fact, outside of a few core manufacturers who would use F1 as a mechanism to sell/promote cars, then I think every single team is after one thing only: Money. If pay tv increases revenue at the expense of viewer numbers, then who really cares? Sky are only interested in subs count against cost. If they can make the figures work on a limited audience of a million subs who are there just for F1, then at £501 per year per person, theres 501 million pounds thank you very much. I undertand that Sky paid 45 million pounds for exclusivity and deeper access than anyone else in the world. That’s chicken feed if it guarantee’s that subs money. (Or pay per view money, if that model sticks this/next year).
    The teams don’t really need a massive audience if they are getting paid well, and advertisers actually respect a paying audience more than a free to air one, so the reduced figures might not be as much of a turn off to advertisers as they initially appear to be. Imagine you wanted to sponsor a team in return for increased sales of say, your new smart phones? Who would you want to target? four million unknown quantities, or 1 million paying Sky subscribers, who you immediately know are going to pay for luxury goods if they want/need them?

    On a related note, it is almost impossible to believe that this country (UK) is not headed toward big, big changes in the TV market toward increased commercialisation and I don’t think anyone sees the BBC existing as they do in twenty years time, although I hope I am wrong, as I love the beeb.

    1. A very thoughtful and well written piece. I agree with virtually everything you said. I have also had a similar experience with friends and family. In previous F1 seasons I have encountered heathly conversation and debate around how a season develops and how people absorb the sport. Unfortunately I found last season that many of these conversations ended very quickly due to this group largely “floating viewers” who have been so vital in previous years (maybe not so now as you mentioned) had large gaps in their 2012 season. To the point of having very little interest by the end of the season. I’m not wholely sold on “f1 on the go” particularly as the technology and infrastructure is not at a level where viewers can sit down and watch a 2 hour race. I am intrigued to see how this F1 broadcasting blog is taken and what happens in the near future.

  7. That summer slump has a huge effect – didn’t realise how big. This year’s calendar makes more sense looking at that. Frustrating though for race fans, with some long waits in July & August.

    This year the US Grand Prix live on BBC should produce a nice spike in viewing figures late in the season. I remember how many people commented there that they didn’t want to watch highlights that late in the evening, they had work or school in the morning… same applied to the Canadian GP, so I hope BBC bags as many live races in the USA, Mexico etc as it can in the coming years.

    Keep us posted how pay-TV gets on in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy too (I hope it’s a disaster…)

    1. @bullfrog

      This year the US Grand Prix live on BBC should produce a nice spike in viewing figures late in the season.

      But that race isn’t live on the BBC this year (as noted in the article).

      1. Wishful thinking! Sorry for not reading it properly…I knew BBC had one of the US/Canada races live again but got the wrong one.

        Should still boost the ratings for Montreal.

      2. Further to that, Bernies delay of the Australia GP to provide a European evening viewing time results in a 2am viewing time in E.Coast USA. I’ll stay up for a 2am FINISH but not a 2am start. Great way to get interest going in the USA, not.

        1. David not Coulthard (@)
          13th March 2013, 13:53

          Try having an alarm clock wake you up at 2 AM. The US and Canadian GPs here starts past midnight, but I still got to watch that Monaco 1970esque lap at Montreal, and go to school 2 or 3 hours later.

          1. Thank you but I will do what I do for the other early am races, record it and watch at 8am with my morning coffee.

          2. Midnight races are a regular occurrence for us viewers in New Zealand. Most races start at midnight on Sunday night, with work on Monday morning, so we don’t get much sleep. And most of the races are in our Winter, too.

  8. I will be watching all the races live, as I have done for over 10 years. But I don’t have Sky Sports and I can’t afford it. So I will be watching those Sky races thru the internet I’m afraid to say!

    1. Don’t be affraid to admit it, I will too! It would be interesting to know the traffic those kind of sites experience for a Sky race.

      1. Same here. It would interesting to find out and I hope these sites continue to work. I find it frustrating but I have to admit that that’s how I do it too. Not a dime to sky…

        1. Same here.

    2. Its quite difficult to draw conclusions about overall interest and trends – other than the raw total figures went down when it was on pay TV – given that the entire viewing model changed so much from one year to the next.

      What will be of great interest is how 2013 compares with 2012. I’m expecting that viewing figures will pick up in 2013:
      – more F1 fans will “give in” and get Sky so they can watch
      – more people will be getting Sky HD anyway because people are gradually switching to HD and they’ll watch F1 on Sky as a side effect of having Sky HD
      – there is less sport competing for people’s attention this year.

      The bigger unknown is what will happen to viewing amongst those who already have Sky F1 available (Sky Sports and Sky HD subsribers) will they know be more intersted in F1 and start watching – or will people who watched F1 last year switch off this year.

      Viewing figures for football on Sky Sports steadily increased after the initial launch…. I expect the same to happen with F1.

      BTW the £510 cost of F1 only applies to those who have NO sky subscription already – the cost can be anything from as little as ZERO for people who already have a Sky subscription already. F1 on Sky adds value to an existing Sky Sports or Sky HD subscription without additional cost. [Note: I have no connection with Sky – just speaking as someone who enjoyed F1 on Sky last year without it costing me anything more than I was already paying for Sky HD].

  9. Come to Australia and watch it then, we stay up to all hours of the night to watch some totally stripped broadcast of what could be a good event. We don’t even get a choice! Shame on FIA/CVC, whoever is responsible for not moving forward and allowing streaming whether by subscription or free to air. The issue is not who broadcasts it, it’s who wants to watch it??
    Be part of it or don’t, your choice. I know I’ll be having another few sleepless night this year to follow my passion

    1. Good point – streaming or pay-per-view is the way forward; there’s no way in hell I am subscribing to Sky just for F1.

  10. I think a better picture will be seen after this season because we will see how many of the incensed BBC users that refused on principal to switch to Sky have melted in the 12 months since simply because they can’t go without their F1.

    I am one such person having endured last season with only 10 full races and 10 highlighted via the BBC and having called the Murdoch’s every name under the sun on this website and in every pub in my home town I will take delivery of my Sky HD this friday just in time for the first race weekend.

    Call me weak, I just can’t do another season like last year. I wonder how many people have gone the same way.

    1. You would pay all that money when internet streams are everywhere for free?

      1. If you sign up before the 9th April then you don’t have to have Sky Sports package to view F1 HD, and there is currently a half price HD offer on, which means you can get F1 in HD for £26 per month.

    2. Certainly not. I will put that £510 towards going to Silverstone (again) this year and other useful applications.
      I could easily afford Sky with the full works, but I have no need for it other than a single channel, and at both last years price and especially this years’, is completely extortionate.

      The BBC package, given the situation they got themselves into, was extremely well done. Yes, some of the highlights packages were lacking. Yes, the American races were on far too late (which I believe is why Canada and US had lower viewing figures). Yes, I avoid news and the internet until the delayed highlights are on (really, waiting a few hours doesnt hurt).
      But would I trade what are, frankly, some minor inconveniences….for half a grand? Not a chance.

    3. I watched all the races live last season and i Haven’t subscribed to Sky. There are plenty of good free streams out there

  11. The whole free to air/pay to view debate and live/highlights debate doesn’t bother me either way. As we have a toddler and a busy life we always Sky+ the live race when it was/is on the Beeb and watched it later, usually when the kid is in bed. This allows us to skip some of the inane segments and long cautions and replay the good bits. The current highlights show the BBC airs does this for us anyway so we don’t see any difference in our personal viewing experience now that only half the races are live.

    We ARE a Sky customer, but there is no way I’ll pay the extra for sports as I’m not a fan. Maybe if they offered the F1 channel by it’s self I’d be interested, but probably not. They get enough of my money!

  12. I subscribed to Sky last year, just the basic HD package, soley for the purpose of getting my F1 fix, Sky raised the price once already about 6 months ago, only a small increase, but still an increase, If u had not already subscribed then the latest hike would have priced it out of my reach, most people are having to tighten their belts and when all is said and done F1 is a hobby, its not an essential, If the price rises again it will be out of my reach and like others i will seek alternative ways to view.
    Being a Brit i paid my licence fee to assist in having F1 without commercial breaks, now we pay Sky and still have commercial breaks, though not yet throughout the race itself, Its hardly surprising the viewing figures have dipped, and i believe they’ll dip even further as more people make sacrifices between lifes luxuries and lifes essentials.

  13. Surely one of things that affects highlight packages for the casual viewer is that there is a high chance they will have found out who the winner was before watching it, this massively kills the excitement and buzz of it.

  14. It’s a shame this is motivated by money and not the fans – of course everyone needs to make money but my view is that this trend will do nothing but damage viewing figures and alienate fans even more.

    I would not mind, but there is a ton of money being made in advertising, sponsorship, collaborations and endorsements. I feel greed is the motivator and an exclusive, not inclusive, atmosphere pervades the entire F1 operation.

    Put simply, the powers that be actually do not give a toss about the fans.

  15. Alex (@alex-the-god)
    13th March 2013, 10:33

    I would never pay to watch F1 and if it’s not live why would I bother?

  16. I think the amount of viewers on Sky will grow and the amount of viewers on the BBC will stabilise.

    People just need to adjust that one will have to pay for live sport just like with football.
    In a few years time all races with perhaps the exception of the British GP will be behind a pay-wall and people will get adjusted to only highlights FTA just like football with MOTD

    Also a few million less viewers in Britain is nothing to F1 on a global scale.

  17. I think it’s time to stop looking at this kind of data as if it means something. Is it true that viewing figures are down because of the Sky deal? Probably yes. Will something be done about it? I doubt it.

    I don’t think Bernie or any of the sports shareholders would care if the viewing figures were down by 99% if it made them double the money it does now. So long as the business model is profitable it will continue regardless of its effects on people. The money men simply don’t care what we have to say, so long as they get their cash.

    1. @nick-uk

      I don’t think Bernie or any of the sports shareholders would care if the viewing figures were down by 99% if it made them double the money it does now.

      Yes they would. Of course they want to make the most money they can from the sport, but that does not make them greedy to the point of stupid.

      I see this question as whether F1 has sacrificed medium-to-long term audience growth (and hence greater future income) for a short-term pay-off. To suggest as you do that those in charge would accept a similar pay-off in exchange for sacrificing virtually the entire audience is a wild exaggeration of that.

      1. Sorry, yeah I was intending long term profits.

        My point was that they care nothing for their customers like the owner of an independant cafe would who is directly dependant on the customers money for revenue. So much of F1’s money comes from companies and sponsors who the average viewer has no idea what they even do.

        For example, generally the point of advertising is to get a consumer to buy your product. Tell me this, how many times have you thought: Hmm, I need to get some AT&T, Allianz commercial insurance, Telmex etc?

        1. This is a highly simplistic view of advertising and not really pertinent to F1. F1 advertising is about general brand awareness rather than selling a specific product and this does affect us all, whether we think it does or not. Numerous studies have show this otherwise companies would’ve stopped doing it. Faced with confusing or challenging decisions humans look for familiarity, brands which have enough exposure become familiar and people will choose them more often.

          As far as the whole pay-TV, reducing audiences damaging the sport debate goes, this is not a short term cycle. The cycle runs something like this:
          1. good product with small audiences due to difficult access
          2. access improved
          3. audience growth
          4. increased value of product due to increased audience
          5. product appeal wanes (either due to poor product or difficulty of access)
          6. audience decrease
          7. reduced value of product
          8. access worsens (noone wants to stock a product that noone wants)
          9. audience decrease

          This cycle is long. I would say decades long and can be manipulated to some degree by changing the product which leads to micro-versions of the same cycle within the larger cycle. An example of this is the drop in audience (stage 6) due to drop in product appeal when Schumacher was dominant (2001 – 2005ish). This led to a reduction in value (ITV negotiated an extension for around £30m a year till 2010, less than their original deal). A freshening of the product, more winners, better races picked things up again. and the value duly increased with the BBC paying an estimated £50m a year in 2009. The larger cycle began at stage 1 in the 80s when BBC’s Grand Prix programme really made the sport accessible to many people for the first time and the product was strong (many winners, many crashes, blown turbos etc.). I would say we are just at stage 5 now and have passed the peak of audience size and are now seeing reductions in audience due to more difficult access. The logical conclusion of this, probably in 10 or 15 years (though likely hastened in 2018 when the BBC share deal ends and it becomes Sky only) will be massively reduced audiences and therefore product value at which point Sky will drop the product as unprofitable and access will be rendered even harder reducing audiences even more until we’re back to the state of affairs in the 70s. F1 will go on (with much less money) because there will always be people who race but you’ll have to go to the tracks to see it.

          1. Forgot to say, the good news in all this is that these cycles also tend to be repetitive which means assuming the racing is good in X yrs time when all the big providers have dropped their coverage, some entrepeneurial sort will by the rights cheaply and start broadcasting it and the whole sordid process will start again.

          2. @keithcollantine and yourself Gavyn make some interesting comments. But I am fairly certain that some of them are flawed. Viewing figures are not necessary to generate revenue, except for advertising revenue, and even then it is debatable given the importance of targetting.
            Keith’s point first about the shareholders being worried about audience size: I just don’t buy it. In years (many, many, many) gone by, the FIA was struggling with motor racing as a going concern, and in many respects, outside of the core formulas, still is. Most formulas are money sinks where no one makes any money, there is no advertising, and it is a playground for rich individuals/companies who are passionate about the sport, (This is a good thing generally. I own a race car I am planning to race in the NSSCC next year, and it is the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition, but I’m not going to make any money out of it, but maybe I can can give some local drivers/mechanics some exposure at little cost to them) and it was in these circumstances that Mr Ecclestone operated in during the seventies when he worked his way into managing the teams organisation and purchasing the rights (commercial) from the FIA. From that point to this, all I see is Bernie wanting mo’ money, mo’ money. Yes, he has done a lot for the sport in some respects, but I would argue that Max Mosley did more, and if anyone has read any of my other comments would know, I think Bernie continuously plays the teams and the sport unfair.
            On the basis of all of the above, I think short term revenue over the five to ten year period is all Bernie (and now his partners) has ever shown.

            As for Gavyn, some replies to your points:
            6 to 7: Audience decrease does not automatically mean reduced value of product. Value is generated worth, and if a reduced audience can provide greater returns through smaller numbers, then that increases worth not lessens it. I do not deny that for any given product, more exposure gives the potential for more worth, but it is not guaranteed.
            Also, with regards to Sky dropping the product due to low audience numbers, you miss the ability of pay tv to operate with far fewer viewers due to it’s subscription model. If one million people keep their subscriptions up due to F1 coverage, then @ £501 this is £501 million pounds over a season, a HUGE increase over their commercial costs, and even given operating costs of £150 million which I think is unlikely given that there technology seems to be piggy-backing off their Premiership technology, then that is still a whopping £300 million pounds profit per year.
            Why on earth would they want to give up such a model, and why on earth would the teams/FIA, and FOM, who all make more money because of this deal want it to change??? (There is one reason, see below…)
            Bernie himself, as well as Murdoch and other media moguls all see the future in ‘pay tv’ and ‘pay per view’ dollars across a world wide audience, and that audience generally is growing.
            As far as I see it, there’s only going to be two correcting factors which could alter this trend:
            One: Continuous and unparelleled economic depression leading to the pay tv model going belly up. (Although sadly, in this scenario, F1 will be long gone as it is today)
            Two: The teams, whose external revenue is, at least to a degree, affected by audience share, actually take a stand against the commercial rights holder, as potentially they do have a reason to be against this model.
            Sadly, as the current model and Bernies negotiation tactics almost always aims to keep, relatively peaking, the status quo I do not see this happening, so i am left with the inevitable conclusion that audiences will dwindle…

          3. @damleda & Gavyn

            Thanks for your length replies. Always nice to see constructive and well thought out ideas and opinions shared. I’m gald my original comment inspired them, the replies were a pleasure to read :)

      2. The sport is extremely detached from the average individual who watches is.

      3. @keithcollantine That would imply Keith that the sport believes there is still audience growth to be had in Europe. All the new races being signed up are in wildly different timezones to Europe, as we are preached to by Bernie and the sport that is where growth lies. These figures only cover audience figures for the UK presumably, which means it would be very easy for Bernie to take total worldwide audience figures and use that as justification for the move to Sky.

        1. The problem with the system is the disconnect between the TV model and the worldwide model of F1. TV is not a distinctly global product – it’s localised because of costs, logistics and language.

          The internet, however…

        2. “These figures only cover audience figures for the UK presumably” – correct.

  18. No. The figures will steadily decline to point where FTA is no longer viable, and the terrestrial stations will drop it altogether. Viewing figures for pay to view will stay stagnant, just as premiership football as, and that has a fan base much, much larger than F1.

    1. I guess the one thing that *could* happen in the UK is that Ofcom/the Department for Culture, Media & Sport putting the British GP on the ‘listed events’ list (link) which would require the BBC to show it – they could then lobby for a portion of the license fee to go towards maintaining the rights.

      Quite why F1 isn’t on the protected list when it’s so UK-centric from an engineering PoV is mind-boggling and the irony of David Cameron using F1 as an example of the UK’s prowess mere days after the BBC/Sky announcement is just icing on the cake.

    2. Not sure I agree. I think a healthy audience will remain for F1 on FTA. I thought I had read somewhere that the BBC’s (per-race) figures had held up pretty well despite only having half of the races live in 2012.

      Myself I’m not too bothered by having to miss half of the races live – the BBC highlights package is pretty good. I do wish, though, that if F! insist on a pay TV solution then a decent pay per view system be worked out. That would allow us better to pick and choose the races we really want to see live. For example, I enjoy watching the races that are early morning in Europe, since it still allows me to get out in the afternoon, spend time with the family without being stuck in front of the TV.

      Sky’s old-fashioned business model means that it will always seek to bundle products together with a view to increasing its revenues per subscriber, that is why it will shortly only be possible to get its F1 channel by paying for the entire sports package. Nothing will persuade me ever to take out a subscription – F1 is the only thing among all the rubbish offered by Sky across all of its channels that remotely interests me. And I’m afraid Martin Whitmarsh is wide of the mark. Yes we all have smartphones, tablets and are consuming media in different ways. In a world where we have limited time to spend on all the sources of information availoable to us, this is precisely the reason why we need to get away from Sky’s business model and adopt a pay per view approach, e.g. on the internet, that allows us to pay a modest amount to see the things that really interest us.

  19. Numbers have gone down worldwide as well, especially in China so it can’t just be because its gone over to sky, because worldwide things didn’t change as much, we still get the same feed we got before it went over to sky in the UK. My guess is that formula 1 became less exciting, you notice from 2010 to 2011 numbers went up. In 2010 the championship was won in the last race and a few drivers still had the chance to win, so the season was more exciting. In 2011 however Vettel won with almost 6 races left, even some foreign media stopped attending the races. Its natural then that the numbers would drop from that season, pretty much what happen in during the Schumacher era. If one team keeps winning and its competitive and exciting then viewers will stay, if one team keeps dominating then viewers will probably not bother tuning in every race, especially since they’re other races out there that are more competitive. I know I watched all practices, qualifying and races from 2008/11 but in 2012 even though it was competitive I didn’t have the same motivation to watch everything. Following what happen later after the race was sufficient enough for me.

    1. Try living here in the US and watching F1 if you want to see how not to do it. The audience here is very small, approximately 1 million viewers/race. The coverage was just moved to the NBC sport channel that is only available on cable, at extra cost. There has been no publicity about races, no schedules posted, and in many cases fans don’t know about what is happening re coverage. I gave up on American TV years ago and watch BBC or Sky streaming. It’s certainly easy to find the broadcasts, and the quality is good. F1 has abandoned the US, even though Bernie claims it is a market they want to develop; you could certainly fool me about that. If a newspaper or TV sports show even mentions F1 it’s amazing. No one here knows or cares about F1. There is huge potential but FOM doesn’t spend any money developing the market. In my opinion F1 is, in the long term, doomed unless they change their ways from the pursuit of instant, short term profits (which have been enormous) to the development of new fan bases and easy access. Frankly, even though I have been following F1 and attended races in the US and Europe for more years than I like to remember, with the restrictive rules and lack of engineering innovation, I am becoming bored with the whole thing. Look, for example, at the 2014 engine rules; there was a chance to allow for innovative solutions but EVERYTHING about the engine is controlled, from V angle, cylinder bore and spacing, center of gravity, weight, rpm, materials, electronics, turbo location, etc. etc. until we might as well just have a spec engine. After the engines are running F1 will again homologate and freeze development, and allow adjustments in the engines to equalize them. Boring, and I certainly will not pay $600 or whatever to watch it.

  20. The whole situation is dispicable, The cost of sky seems to be increasing and a poultry 9 races on the BBC is pathetic. I can’t believe they are not showing the first race on BBC which seems bizarre after fans have endured a hard winter. Luckily I managed to twist my fathers arm into letting me add my xbox as a second device on his Sky subcription (Sky GO) which thank the lord will allow me to watch the whole season this time round. If you have a console or other device and know someone that already subscribes then this is a good option. The fact my Father lives up north and I’m in london doesn’t seem to be a problem….

    Even ITV was better than this crazy situation.

      1. Paltry perhaps :-) It’s a great word, but hardly used so kudos on the vocabulary, if not on the spelling…..

        1. I know it’s wrong but I think Poultry is better…

    1. The BBC have always said that when the races allotment is decided, they would specifically avoid events that would result in live broadcasts in the early hours of the morning.

      They took a punt on time-shifting Canada in 2012 and that didn’t work – it was broadcast at 10pm as-per the agreement, so wasn’t watched. They took that (and curiously, Japan) and let go of Monaco as a result, but then Monaco 2012 was dire.

      The fact they have 9 races is just bad luck because they took/were forced to take the TBC race as a live one on the understanding that it was happening. To be honest, I reckon they’ll be lobbying Bernie for a contract adjustment to deal with cancelled races.

  21. So they lost half a million viewers in 2012 from 2011. That is much much less than i expected.

  22. New Zealand Sky TV,
    they cover all races, which includes 3 days of racing all testing and qualifying,
    show repeats of main race during our normal daylight hours,
    cost are:
    Basic 1 Mar – 31 Mar 13 $46.12 you need this one first to get the other, cunning buggers.
    SKY Sport 1 Mar – 31 Mar 13 $26.34
    Sky Sport Discount 1 Mar – 31 Mar 13 -$13.17 discount for doing your home phone plus internet with them. which is separate, not included hear.
    Total SKY TV Charges $59.29
    x by 12 = 711.48 NZ dollars which = 393.28 British Pound Sterling for 12mths.
    at odd times we have the testing or qualifying delayed because it crashes with some other live sport.
    i guess we are pretty lucky considering what you guys are having to pay, i feel for you.

    1. should add Sky and Vodafone have shares in each other in NZ hence the reason for the tie up with my house phone and Internet charges for a Monthly discount on Sky Sport,

  23. Alex (@alex-the-god)
    13th March 2013, 11:40

    After reading the comments some people think F1 won’t care if the viewing numbers drop they forget F1 runs on money Sponsors money and the sponsors care if people are watching No sponsors no F1

  24. I think the biggest problem will always be PPV TV (Sky) versus terrestrial (BBC, ITV etc). A lot of people have Sky, but not enough on a national scale to compete with viewing numbers of terrestrial channels. So basically, no, I don’t think the UK viewing figures will recover to the point when the BBC were showing all of the races.

    It will also be interesting to see (although hard to gauge) whether Hamilton’s move will have an affect on numbers. The move in itself is interesting, but moving to a potentially non-winning team might have an adverse affect on F1 interest in the UK.

    Vettel’s 3rd title win in a row won’t have done interest any good either. Hard core fans will always watch F1 no matter what. But fairweather and casual fans will turn off if things get ‘boring’ or predictable. Vettel’s relentless march; in the vein of Schumacher before him; might be construed as boring to those fans. Which is a pity.

    1. The problem is the attention shouldn’t be entirely focused on Vettel. People gravitate towards the drivers, but operating license/branding/young-driver project aside, Red Bull Racing is a British team through and through.
      They also run Webber, who (whilst Australian) is very popular here and considers the UK his second home. He’s also publicly seen as the underdog in RBR, and us Brits love an underdog!

      1. The Vettel ‘issue’ is solely one of dominance. The fans have done it before. The FIA had to knee-jerk change the points system when people were turning away in their droves as Schumacher marched to several titles. I imagine by and large only Germany and Italy were truly enjoying that period. You won’t convince the British public that RBR are a British constructor.

  25. It will move to pay-tv this year in the Netherlands. Last year I watched the non-BBC races on RTL7 (the Dutch channel), but I have no intention of paying for it. Fortunatly (i’ve been told) the Germans still have it free-to-air and I will watch the non-BBC races there. If what I heard was right the Dutch paychannel that is going host it will only cost €15,- a month, but live is expensive enough, especially being a student. I’d prefer BBC at any race, but i’d rather listen to a German commentator that I can only half understand than pay for Dutch commentators that I have never been to impressed of (wich is why I moved to BBC in the first place).

  26. vivalacitta94
    13th March 2013, 12:06

    I cancelled my TV licence last year – Formula One was the only thing I really watched, and there was no point in carrying on if the BBC were only broadcasting half of the races. I like to follow a season, and have done since 1982, not individual races. It was also the only way I could make a stand on principle, which is also why I will not ever pay money to Murdoch or to Sky. I think that the hike in price for ’13, with adverts possibly added for ’14, will go to show that, for Sky, it’s a case of hooking people in and then milking them for all they are worth.

    The loss of Brundle and Humfrey has also been the nail in the coffin. Much as I enjoy the commentary of Coulthard, the others sound more and more desperate in their commentaries, and I cannot stand the pally mateyness of the whole Eddie Jordan thing.

    Last year, given the opportunity to watch the Belgian GP live on a friend’s TV, I eventually decided not to give in and instead took my girlfriend out for a lovely lunch instead, and it made me realise how little I needed the sport which no longer needed me, much like an ex-girlfriend who has wandered off with somebody new and shinier.

    I had to have a laugh at Whitmarsh’s comments, though. Does he really believe that people like me are recording things to watch them later, when the essence of this sport is the excitement it generates live? That is why Brundle went to Sky, after all. For me, the ten minutes of highlights on the iPlayer are more than enough, and distance has given the perspective to realise that it’s money, as always, that makes the F1 world go round. They will have to indulge in some eloquent Ronspeak if numbers continue to fall, advertisers fail to get the requisite bang for their buck and drivers continue to have to bring money to make up the shortfall. F1 is getting what it deserves.

    1. Your words sound like you haven’t ‘realised’ you don’t need F1. You’ve just cancelled your TV license and cut off your nose to spite your face in the process.

      Not giving the UK Government/the BBC money via the license fee will make no difference to Bernie, Murdoch or your local Sky engineer. You’re just the one missing out.

      Brundle went to Sky because of the money – the BBC would have still sent him to commentate on every race, even though some of his words during the boring bits would have been edited out. The guy is a mercenary journeyman – was during his F1 days, still is as a commentator.

      He’s got to pay to send his kids racing, after all!

      1. vivalacitta94
        13th March 2013, 13:25

        Meh, it would be spiting my face if it pained me to do so, but I didn’t watch a single race last year, missed the highlights of over half of them, and I don’t plan on following anything this year, apart from at arm’s length, the same way I view other sports I don’t need. I am one of those missing viewers, and it seems that there are many like me, so I have no problem with my decision to leave F1 behind as a fan and merely experience it as others do. What exactly am I missing anyway?

        Whatever Brundle’s motivation, the BBC still lost him, which was careless at best and I have no problem with the cancellation of my TV licence. It may make no difference to the Beeb and Murdoch, but it makes a difference to me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

        1. …so I have no problem with my decision to leave F1 behind as a fan and merely experience it as others do.

          Any context to the ‘as others do’ bit? Do you mean the 5 second mention in the Monday morning news? That’s not really following…

          Whatever Brundle’s motivation, the BBC still lost him, which was careless at best and I have no problem with the cancellation of my TV licence.

          His contract was up, he left for the opportunity with more money.

          It may make no difference to the Beeb and Murdoch, but it makes a difference to me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

          This flies in the face of…

          It was also the only way I could make a stand on principle, which is also why I will not ever pay money to Murdoch or to Sky.

          …where you say you wanted to make a stand. You’re not making a stand against anyone but yourself.

          If you genuinely don’t want to watch the sport any more, for whatever reason, that’s your decision to make, but I don’t understand where some of your logic comes from.

          For one, why are you still posting here, on a site for F1 Fanatics? :)

  27. Have Sky announced whether the Full race broadcasts will be made available On Demand?

    They only had the highlights last year, meaning if I couldn’t make the race on Saturday (hard with 2 kids) then it was either BBC Highlights (whilst good, not ideal) or Sky Go on Monday evening (spending day before avoiding results). I don’t have a Sky contract, I just use a friends spare Go ‘computer slot’.

    Heck, I can live with just the race itself – Sky’s build-up is dire.

    1. “Have Sky announced whether the Full race broadcasts will be made available On Demand?” – Haven’t seen or heard anything, sorry.

  28. 510 lbs for a sky’s subscription? THAT’S INSANE!

    1. Yeah that’s a bit heavy

  29. I think that F1 being pay to view is a retrograde step even more so as BBC is only showing 9 live races this year!
    My friends with Sky say they don’t like the coverage as much as BBC’s and the bits I have seen I would agree. I know that things are changing in how we view sport but surely the object is to get as many people as possible to watch a sport but I suppose money talks!

    If we are all going to have to go pay to view why not let the BBC or Sky have a on demand F1 at a reasonable price per race then we could decide how we view(live or recorded) its the best of both worlds.


  30. a mammoth 19.1 percent drop

    I actually can’t believe it’s so small. Although I hate to say it, surely this is a success for Sky isn’t it? Of course the numbers weren’t going to be the same as 2011 when half of the races were on pay tv?

    1. We don’t know if it’s a success for Sky because there’s never been any concrete figures for either side.

      The BBC numbers are based on BARB reports and Sky fudge their figures by reporting on the known viewers of race weekends, the total # of HD subscribers or the combined HD/Sports subscribers as it suits them. It’s also complicated further by time-shifted/on-demand viewings.

      Conjecture says that Sky have rarely (if ever, I forget) topped 1 million viewers on a race weekend.

  31. Well, the Sky figures are going to drop by at least one more as I’ve just cancelled the entire Sky package. Partner and I watch about ten hours TV in total each week – we both hate soaps and rubbish like dancing shows. So at £60+ per month, Sky was probably costing £1.50 an hour for what we actually watched. Too expensive!

    1. @timothykatz So what’s your plan for the ten races not on the BBC?

      1. Buy two bottles of plonk each and wait until it’s all over!
        I just cannot justify spending £700+ a year to watch ten races; tha’s ridiculous.

  32. “The traditional sport was based on terrestrial TV but I think if you just focus on that then I think you’re missing lots and lots of opportunities,”

    Everything that Whitmarsh says makes angry these days. I wonder how he himself got into F1?… probably by watching it on terrestrial TV no doubt as a child. What about the millions of children missing lots and lots of opportunities to get interested in F1 themselves Martin… ever think of them? Do you remember the 2005 ashes cricket series on channel 4 that inspired a nation to go out in the park with a cricket bat to play with their children? Has that been sustained when cricket was sold out to Sky? Of course not.

    Go away Whitmarsh.

    1. Alex (@alex-the-god)
      13th March 2013, 13:09

      well said, I started watching F1 as a child and have followed it ever since but I can take it or leave it now and would never pay to watch

    2. Do you genuinely believe that F1 was easier to watch in the 1960s than it is now?

      1. Alex (@alex-the-god)
        13th March 2013, 16:17

        It was much more exciting to watch in the 80s and 90s I was not born in the 60s so idk these days it can be very boring for most races it has improved with DRS and softer tyres I am looking forward to the Australian GP (my home race) I am lucky we get good live HD coverage on ONE. ONE also show NASCAR which I love except for the small oval tracks which are like racing around a clothesline they just go around and around.

    3. Come to think of it, I might have not become an F1 fanatic if F1 was not live and on free TV in 2008. The following year in Latvia F1 went to a pay channel with the recordings shown on free channel in the middle of the night with huge commercial breaks.

      So had this TV rights deal happened just one year earlier I’am pretty sure I would not become interested in Formula One.

      For me the interest to watch some sporting event that is not live goes down by considerable margin. And as for watching a sporting event that is interrupted once every few minutes – it is more of a pain than pleasure, so today I would never do it.

      I’am glad I did discover the wonders of F1 in 2008. And thankfully since 2009 I have been able to see F1 live on the BBC or Sky F1 trough internet streams, and on the rare occasion when I was not, due to some other on goings in my life, I torrent-ed them from the preferred channel without commercial interruptions or whatever.

      It is kind of sad that many young potential fans of the sport will never discover the excitement of F1. Honestly, I can not name a single friend or family member who has a subscription to the particular channel in question. I’ve only seen it once in a local posh hotel, and I would not pay a penny to watch such a rubbish production, that is if I could afford it, which I can not, even if I had a TV or a satellite dish, which I do not.

  33. Its a shame sky charge so much, £510 for all the sports channels when i only watch the F1 is unfeasable for me at the moment. I would quite happily for just the F1 channel if it were an option.

    As it is ill probably use torrent downloads for the races on sky (doubt that will be included in the viewing figures) and watch the BBC races live.

  34. I would say that those viewing figures are overwhelmingly positive. It was always going to be the case that this would affect viewer numbers, with many predicting fewer than half the viewers compared to previous years, and sponsors abandoning the sport in their droves. In fact, the numbers look incredibly healthy, and surely have to exceed all but the most optimistic of expectations.

    There’s more – the move to pay per view does, in some respects, represent much better value for sponsors. The most obvious reason being that people who are paying to watch the sport are more likely to be serious enthusiasts who are more likely to be interested in the kind of products and services they’re advertising. The ‘conversion rate’ of investment in advertising to increase in sales must surely be significantly improved when you have a reasonable understanding of your target demographic. In that respect, sponsors are getting a better deal. Better, of course, only if the viewing figures remain healthy, but that seems to be the case so far at least.

    The second reason this demonstrates better value for sponsors is because it increases their options when it comes to advertising. On the BBC there are no adverts whatsoever, so there’s no opportunity to advertise (unless you happen to be Shell..), whereas Sky does have adverts. Not during the race, but during the show, and of course at all other times on the dedicated F1 channel – a space which pretty much guarantees a certain ‘type’ of viewer, allowing for products and services to be targeted directly at them. And that’s not all. What Sky DO advertise a lot, during the show and immediately before and after the race, are all the other media outlets they run, including the website and mobile services, all of which are a brilliant space for advertisers. Web advertising is much more effective since the advertisers can gather metrics to measure their effectiveness, and the viewer can click through immediately to find out more information.

    All of which means that this is absolutely brilliant news for Bernie and his two tier TV model, and great news for sponsors. The only thing it does show, which I think is a little surprising, is that (aside from those who bumped up the numbers for Canada 2011) the vast majority of F1 viewers are dedicated fans who will make the effort to watch, rather than casual viewers who will only turn it on because there’s nothing else on the telly. This does imply that F1 is not doing as good a job as it should be doing of attracting new fans to the sport. They should consider whether this is more down to the image of the sport in general then anything to do with how the sport is shown on the screen.

    1. As an aside, I believe the BBC charter was modified a year or two ago to allow advertising to appear on the BBC to make it more attractive to sports broadcasts etc. They’re just not allowed to specifically promote products without the hackneyed ‘other *INSERT PRODUCT HERE* are, of course, available’.

      1. I believe that was simply a response to the proliferation of highly visible advertising at sporting events. It was becoming hard to justify showing feetball matches with giant glowing neon signs with ad sligans in the background, or interviews against corporate-branded backdrops. Not to mention being able to drop the name of the title promoter of a sporting event – like the ‘Betfred World Snooker Championship’ when it’s the title sponsor who is effectively paying for the tournament in the first place.

        What they can’t do, is take money to advertise directly. Which is where Sky has a huge edge over the BBC. Although this is something of a unique situation and not really applicable outside of the UK.

  35. In Australia, its due to TEN not showing it LIVE in HD on ONE or it could mean separate figures for TEN which meant figures were down but ONE is really pulling figures around 350,000 which it rated high for the Australasia rounds. For Australia GP it rates significantly as it gets 1.4 mil on TEN

  36. When its on BBC i watch it live, when its on Sky i usually get the events off a torrent site. I think SKY is charging an outrageous amount of money to watch a select few F1 races.

  37. I already said it in a really long comment but I’ll shorten it this time. I think on a long term base, the idea is awful for the sport (especially when you have 100% of races on subscription ony tv as we will have in France as of this year).

    I became hooked on F1 when I was a kid by watching it when my parents were still asleep (I grew up in the West Indies, East coast time zone). Had it been PPV, this F1 fan wouldn’t be commenting here. I can see it being the same in Europe for kids on a dull rainy afternoon or while Nan & Grand Dad are having a nap..

    1. I really believe the right time to get people “hooked up” to F1 is between 8 and 15 yo. After that, chances are, they already have a fav sport, and getting them to get interested and eventually pay 580£ for the right to watch the sport on TV or 700£ for a GP week end really is too late.

    2. Alex (@alex-the-god)
      13th March 2013, 14:23

      The kids I know don’t watch F1 they don’t watch TV at all they have better things to do on the internet

      1. Hence why F1 should be *properly* available on the internet.

        1. Alex (@alex-the-god)
          13th March 2013, 16:31

          I doubt the kids would buy it, they expect everything to be free on the internet

      2. Quite true. And with FOM’s habit of deleting all F1 material from youtube, it’s not going to reach over much isn’t it ?

  38. Interesting figures! Yet I think most of us predicted this when Sky took over F1 broadcasting, the simple fact is that a lot of people cannot afford the subscription fees. Lets face it, who can justify the cost just to watch twenty grands prix when you can watch them online via a computer. People with families, kids, they can’t afford to pay those kind of prices. I recently cancelled my sports package on my cable tv, one the cost and two I just didn’t have the time to watch it. What was the point?
    It was a mistake to take F1 off free to air tv. I am waiting to see what NBC are going to do in America and I am hoping that they do a good job. Its such a shame, but nowadays it seems we have to pay through the nose for everything. Even our hobbies.

  39. As a slightly crazy motorsport fan who nowadays only attends Le Mans due to cost and family commitments; the Sky and Sky Sports package is a small price to pay for F1 considering I had it already for the football. However two things did occur to me last year:-
    1 I don’t like Skys coverage, their build up and post race is poor. The much hoped for testing coverage was appalling!! Hopefully they will improve this year with the demise of Georgie and (hopefully) the eternally dull Damon plus Simon who annoyingly refers to his pundits as “guys”. Where possible I was watching the BBC coverage and the talented Jake; how good Susie will be remains to be seen as I didn’t miss her when she exited MotoGP coverage on the BBC.
    2 My friends who don’t have Sky watched online for FREE!!
    That aside; will the subscription model work for Sky and more importantly F1? They need viewers to keep the sponsors happy and they don’t need F1 to “die” in the UK as has happened to WRC. With football Sky took something that wasn’t really on TV and made it expensively available; F1 is different as it had good coverage available already for £145.50 BBC fee I am still paying. WRC had a decent following in the UK when Channel 4 took it over but they expected too much and paid too much and it ended up going to ITV, ITV4 and Dave and in the end Eurosport / Motors. Now? NOTHING; for anyone other than the die-hard enthusiast it is dead and gone.
    Additionally, what happens when Sky loose the rights to BT, or someone else? Take for example NASCAR as I happily watched my 1hr highlight programmes last year; now they are on ESPN only and I need to add to my £60+ sky subscription for them!! Not happening for me; but what happens when BT or someone else takes F1 or if Sky make it additional to the Sports Package?? Costs soar and viewers will disappear to free online while it lasts
    In the meantime I will watch what I can and hope someone wants to show WRC in the UK soon .

  40. Not having easy access to all the races, and especially the practice sessions (as bbcs highlights for race and qually were good) turned me off F1 last year. I avidly watched every moment of F1 i could get in 2010 and 11, even though vettell was dominating. Last year id forget about it, visit this site less and just generally be less bothered, which is sad and, if there are others like me, bad for the sport. There is no way i can afford £500 a year, and even if i could, i dont want to give it to sky anyway.

  41. Is that graph correct? There’s no data for the 2012 US GP, but apparently there was 3.5m viewers watching the non-existent 2011 US GP.

    1. @beejis60 The graph shows that 3.57m watched the 2012 US GP, so it’s fine.

      1. Then the colors must be backward on my computer or something as the graph shows in my browser there was a 2011 US GP and a 2012 Turkish GP.

        1. Yeah, the colours seem a little screwy.

  42. When was the last time I watched F1 on TV? One time, Budapest – I was switching my internet provider. I watch every other race of the season on internet . 2012.

    If I had an option to get Sky’s F1 HD on my laptop (Australia) with on demand replays of ongoing season, I would.

  43. I don’t think it’s fair to call the BBC “free to air” TV. It isn’t. There is a licence fee which is payable to view the channels. Comparing the total package costs of the licen fee channels and Sky would be a better comparison.

    Of course the Sky package cost looks like it’s very expensive, but who would only buy the licence fee to watch F1 races exclusively. No-one. Which is why it isn’t fair to assume that the same is true of Sky viewers. The basic Sky package costs £21.50 per month (in Standard definition) and includes 40 channels, over and above any that exist on Freeview, where this obviously some duplication. It’s the cost of the Sky package across those channels that needs to be compared, as it does with the licence fee for the terrestrial channels.

    If you only watched F1 on the BBC you would pay £145.50 for 9 races. That is £16.16 per race.

    If you watched F1 on Sky (with the HD pack) you would pay £348 for 19 races. That’s £18.32 per race. This excludes all the content around Practices, the F1 show, replays of Classic GP’s etc.

    Puts a different perspective on the “value” of the BBC vs. Sky.

    1. @voisey Your figures are wrong as you incorrectly assume Sky viewers do not have to pay the licence fee.

      Updated information on the minimum cost of buying a Sky F1 channel package can be found here.

    2. sorry, but your figures don’t stack up. I can’t think of one single Sky-commissioned programme that I would pay for. On the BBC on the other hand I have countless documentaries, at least a half-decent television news service, 9 live F1 races, etc., etc., for a fraction of the cost of the basic Sky package plus HD package/Sports package. It’s a no-brainer. Decent public-service TV is something that is done pretty well in the UK. I don’t see that Sky has offered anything in terms of original programming, on the other hand.

      1. Alex (@alex-the-god)
        13th March 2013, 16:44

        I agree, I had Foxtel (Australia’s Sky) and there was nothing worth watching so I cancelled it as I was not watching it

  44. Quicker analysis for you, ITV made a mess of F1 and viewers turned off, BBC improved things greatly and viewers returned (combined with Lewis being hyped into the sport), then viewers dropped off as BBC lost half the races and many not making the move to Sky that they predicted they would. It will continue to drop whilst it remains behind a paywall!

    1. I can’t really agree with that. What didn’t help ITV was Schumacher’s domination in the early 2000’s which sent figures to 3 million. It was only in 2007 with Lewis Hamilton’s emergence that figures rose again in the UK.

  45. The annual cost of TV subscription in India for ESPN-Star Sports watching F1 comes to 21 Euros a year..

  46. i’ve said this before, but i can watch f1 on swiss, german and austrian tv.. all of them are subscribtion-free!
    i mainly watch it on austrian tv, since it doesn’t habe any commercial-breaks and the commentators are great.

    i don’t see the licences in these three countries moving to pay-tv, except maybe germany, since the channel that broadcasts it there is a private one, while the swiss and austrian channels are run by the gouvernment, so i’ll happily continue watching f1 for at least the next few years

  47. I’d like to know if the threatened commercials during the races have surfaced this season?

    1. Same as last year – no adverts during Qualifying or Race.

    2. Sky know Ad’s would put people off, And likely get people switching over to the BBC when there live so there unlikely to ever include Ad’s during races.

      I also gather there was some agreement with Martin Brundle that they would not include Ad’s.

  48. You also have to remember that combining the BBC and Sky figures together, leads of a false increase in viewing figures, as many people will watch both broadcasts and therefore NOT be ‘unique’ viewers, something another F1 web site called Pit Pass got comically wrong.

    Unique viewers in the UK dropped by just over 22% from 2011 to 2012.

    1. Pitpass can be safely ignored because most of the editorial is what Bernie wants broadcast under the guise of free press. If you hear others mention ‘Bernie’s Parrot’, they’re almost always talking about Pitpass’s Christian Sylt

      Just like Planet F1 is basically Sky F1 (all the same writers), even though they deny any formal linkup.

  49. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
    13th March 2013, 19:27

    It’ll continue to decrease in my opinion. I used to watch F1 religiously until last year but now I don’t even get up for the early morning BBC races.
    I know many people who went from being casual viewers to not caring at all and with SKY’s prices increasing I imagine this trend will only continue. Such a shame really.

  50. Meanwhile the cost of a subscription to Sky’s F1 channel is set to rise by over £160 to £510 per year.

    Shame on those who paid for sky last year, you let them in f1. Now look what they have done.

    We had f1 for free, and now you have to pay £510. I won’t be following f1 as closely as I used to, and I won’t be paying for it or supporting it in any way.

  51. “Will viewing figures recover”?


  52. Speaking of viewing figures, the Figures for Sky’s live testing coverage was higher than expected-

    As to the future, I would actually expect a moderate increase for this year & then figures remaining fairly stable over 2014/2015.

    Regarding the drop in 2012, The figures also went down in a majority of other country’s including those who’s TV deal’s had not changed after 2011. Sky/BBC deal didn’t help but it was a world-wide downward trend.

    1. The testing ratings were hardly conclusive because it was a) the first proper F1 on TV for 4 months and b) they were doing a pointless 3D filming test at Barcelona.

  53. Here in Macedonia we got it on the national tv but the commentators dont know anything about F1 and i can’t watch it there, better to go on stream

  54. F1 will go the way of cricket and football an slowly consume itself, like entropy, theres no gettin away from it.

  55. Apart form TV rights, the CVC should offer a tv and online service for every F1 action much to the similarity with NBA and NFLs “League pass”. for £150 a year all 82 games plus playoff for the nba at least.

    1. Can’t happen due to the TV contracts.

      Pretty much all the broadcasters have exclusivity clauses in there contracts preventing anyone else from showing coverage in that region.

      The Sky/BBC deal gives those broadcasters exclusive online rights for the UK so even if FOM were to offer an online streaming service it would be geo-blocked in the UK & the same would be true just about everywhere else that had similar exclusivity clauses.

      The NBA/NFL have online services because of the way the broadcast deals work in the US. The networks who broadcast the games also produce the TV broadcast (Same with pretty much everything else over there) & this gives them a lot more freedom as they don’t need to worry about world-wide broadcasters or contracts as FOM does.

  56. Ahh. My personal favourite subject :-)

    My final post to this thread (I promise) is a link to an article from Bloomberg and quotes Bob Bernley of Force India. A lot of my personal headaches with the sport are ones he shares entirely, and I think it is pertinent to the issues of monies and audience share being discussed here:


  57. Damn that posted when I hit return. Anyway, the interesting figures are thus:

    699 million dollars from a 1.5 billion pot are distributed to the teams from CVC. CVC have made an estimated 3 billion dollars from their initial 1 billion investment, and are hoping to make up to another 4 billion from either an IPO or private share sales.

    Let’s be brutally honest here. The commercial rights holders are only interested in short term profits, and are not interested in the sport long term.

    I just do not see any data to suggest that this might be the case. :-(

  58. Up to 2012 I watched most F1 races (except when they were on ITV as the ad breake ruined the coverage). Last year I watched 2 or 3. As I couldnt watch the whole season I found it easier just not to bother. I dont have any pay TV (licence excepted) and watch all my TV on Freeview, the clue is in the “Free” part of Freeview.

  59. I was going to tell the story of the greedy people behind Bernie and F1 but realised it wouldn’t get past the sensor so i wont.

  60. Interesting to note Sky’s coverage of the Australian GP lost over 18% of viewers compared to their 2012 broadcast, and their qualifying lost over 39% compared to 2012.

  61. Ecclestone chasing free Sky Sports F1 boxe:
    “Ecclestone’s comments also suggest that he may be open to the entire season returning to a free-to-air channel in the near future”
    Looks like the Sky move was a disaster and now they have to admit defeat and redress it. I think formula E will be successful in the future and if F1 doesnt change back to freeview it will lose out significantly against it IMHO. I guess the fans who were against payview were right after alll.

    1. Yes, if Formula E goes FTA it’ll impact greatly on F1 viewing, and as Sky (after 3 races) have lost 16% of last years viewers, F1 has to act very quickly to stop the slide into obscurity Sky is facilitating.

  62. Three reasons why viewing figures are falling. 1) pay tv 2) one team/driver domination 3) drivers are not really racing anymore. Drive at 90% for most of the race looking after tyres. I’ve been a fan since the early 80’s but i find myself becoming frustrated and bored with it now. I will be cancelling my Sky TV deal at the end of the season and will not watch next season unless it becomes more competitive.

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