British viewers will get free-to-air F1 race highlights in 2019

2019 F1 season

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Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom will be able to watch highlights of every race next year on free-to-air television, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix.

Channel 4 has confirmed it will show highlights of every race in the 2019 F1 season. Sky has an exclusive deal to show live F1 races from 2019 to 2024.

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to establish such an exciting and innovative partnership with Sky which will ensure that the British Grand Prix and highlights of the 2019 Formula 1 Championship remain available on free-to-air television for UK viewers,” said Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon.

Channel 4 will show four of the remaining seven races this year live, including the Singapore, Japanese, United States and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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64 comments on “British viewers will get free-to-air F1 race highlights in 2019”

  1. Praise the Lord!! I’ve actually got Sky but I’m very happy for all those who aren’t getting ripped off.

  2. I feel so unashamedly smug about still having the legacy F1 package on my Sky subscription.

  3. Great news. Any word on length of action we’ll see? Hopefully no less than now, eh?

  4. How long are those highlights? 5 minutes per race or more? At least people will get to follow F1 to some degree on free to air tv, something that doesn’t happen everywhere!

    1. @fer-no65 Looking at some of the races this year, 5 minutes will be more than enough to cover all the ‘action’!

      1. Which season are you watching?

    2. Depends on the weekend, action, current affairs, but it can fluctuate from an hour to 1:45 for a whole race including pre + post race coverage, I believe

  5. Great news, just a shame that its not ‘live’ because I think C4 coverage is better than Sky’s.

    1. I doubt they will continue with the expense of making it ‘their coverage’ (except maybe Silverstone).

    2. I agree. I prefer C4 to Sky.

      1. My fiancee does too.

        I’m fairly neutral on it: I prefer C4’s team slightly, but find the technical detail in Sky’s coverage to be slightly better.

        The thing is, as it costs £££/year, Sky’s coverage should be better (and more than slightly). I will probably end up shelling out for the coverage next year (I can afford it and it’s a better option than only one live race) but I’m not happy about it. At least it’s slightly cheaper now than it would have been a year ago… Although I may just stick to NowTV. We’ll have to see…

  6. I’m just hoping it’s Whisper’s current production team and not a cut-down rebroadcast of Sky F1’s show (Crofty drives me bonkers!)

    1. Crofty can drive anyone bonkers, but Steve Jones on C4 just makes me want to scream.

    2. Ian Thomas (thelem)
      15th September 2018, 11:31

      Other sites are reporting that channel 4 have ruled out using the sky coverage team, which is very good news in my opinion.

  7. Wonder what will happen to those countries that have a partnership with Channel 4 for the live feed//

    1. @webtel I’m guessing that edwards and coulthard will continue to attend the races and commentate on the entire thing, so the commentary feed will still be available for other countries.

    2. @webtel Can you name any of these countries? I was under the impression the share deals have been using the Sky commentary for a while…

      1. I visited Zimbabwe a few years ago with my mate from there when I was still at University. It wasn’t when C4 had the rights but they had the BBC commentary feed on DSTV (which is their cable over there). If I am not mistaken that same cable company operates in South Africa too so that would also have been the case.

      2. @optimaximal – I’m in India, and we get only C4 commentary for every race (even though C4 doesn’t telecast all those races in the UK). If we’re going to get Sky F1 commentary, that is going to be a huge letdown for me, and might be the thing that spurs me towards an F1 TV subscription when it comes available here (for the race sounds with no commentary option).

        @frood19 – fingers crossed that the scenario you’ve outlined is what plays out. Karun/DC as the pundits are excellent.

      3. Eir Sport in Ireland show all races live with Edwards and Coulthard commentating (and Chandok in the pits!), whether C4 has it live or not.

      4. @optimaximal

        According to the info on Wikipedia, Asia watches F1 on Star Sports and Fox Sports networks. And i think i can be safe in assuming that the broadcast it with C4 commentary in all countries especially the Indian sub-continent (i am in India). Fox caters to a wider audience in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam , etc. I am unsure about the feed they use but i believe its from Sky as Fox Aus use Sky. Nevertheless, i really hope it stays the way @frood19 mentioned.
        @phylyp I doubt if such a model will work in India. As it is, the ‘following’ isnt too great. It is still seen as a sport that is difficult to understand. And practically tough for an individual to invest himself in it unless there is a genuine interest or someone to support/follow (applicable to all citizens of the world).

  8. Any news on what time delay there will be between highlights starting and the end of the race?

    1. @gabf1 Probably the same as now.

  9. Most races dominated by the same one or two drivers. Artificial passes down straights. Naff sounding, ugly cars. McLaren running around at the back of the grid with drivers I don’t really care about. A highlights package shown often at times I’m busy, which I can only watch in SD thanks to Channel 4 taking their HD channel off freesat.

    Sorry, highlights or not, I can’t see any reason for me to watch next year.

    1. The HD Channel 4 is still on satellite, its only the guide data that’s gone. I just added it as an additional channel on my old sky box. Not sure what hardware you’ve got but you should still be able to watch in HD.

  10. Interesting, I hope they keep the same team

  11. But no other full races? – just the British GP?

    1. Yes, that is the question. Did C4 drop the 9 live races they do every year?!

      1. Ian Thomas (thelem)
        15th September 2018, 11:30

        Sky announced earlier in the year that they had got exclusive live rights for all races except the British Grand Prix. I don’t think it was channel 4 dropping the live races. It was FOM dropping the requirement that the races needed to be broadcast on a free to air channel, which allowed sky sports to buy the rights.

  12. This is a sham! How can F1 believe a full race can be portrayed in 5 minutes?

    1. @drycrust Channel 4’s Highlights are 90+ minutes including pre/post. The actual race highlights tend to be 60+.

      This is way longer than the 25 minutes we used to get on the BBC back in the 70’s/80’s/90’s, Back when F1 attracted many new fans via those highlights as the BBC never used to show many live & i do not believe they showed every race live until around 1994.

      1. BBC used to show many races live – I certainly remember Hunt winning in Japan was live.

        1. They did show races live but not that many, Especially not in the 70’s where we didn’t even get every race on TV at all. I also seem to recall the races from Fuji were on ITV with highlights on the BBC & i’m not sure either was live, I certainly know ’76 wasn’t.

          For most of the 80’s less than half were shown live & most of those weren’t shown in full due to been part of grandstand. In the early 90’s they expanded the number of live races but it was’t until 1994 they aired every race live although some were still not in full again due to been part of grandstand which saw them moving away for periods to update you on other sports.

          One of the reasons we got Sky in 1990 was because Eurosport was part of the package & they were showing every race live with qualifying+warm-up coverage which was something the BBC wasn’t covering at the time outside of the British Gp. BBC didn’t start showing every qualifying session until 1996.

  13. The movement towards pay TV in the UK is contributory towards the dwindling viewership numbers. I am sure the same is true for other countries too. I am fortunate that I got all Skysports channels with Talk talk when it was on offer for £15 a month if you took out their broadband and TV as well. Total- £40 for the lot including kids tv etc. If the action on track isn’t as exciting as fans expect it to be and the F1 bosses are charging excessive amounts, decline is inevitable.

    1. That’s a bargain! You remind me of my friend who has unlimited data on his phone contract and pays £13 a month. I really do fear for the future of F1 though.

      1. I know right!! As soon as I saw the offer it was obvious that was the right thing to do. My Mrs still thought that was a bad deal but I suspect she had an agenda coz then now weekends are all about Football and Formula 1 :)

  14. I do not see why people are so against Highlights only or why you always hear the argument that Highlights will hurt viewers & hinder F1’s opportunities to get attract new fans.

    I say this because back when I first got into F1 in the Late 70’s/Early 80’s Highlights for everything apart from the British Gp was all we got on the BBC. They would sometimes show other races live if there was nothing else on but even then they would often break in/out of the coverage to check in on other sports they were showing on grandstand.

    It wasn’t until 1990/91 when Eurosport got F1 coverage that we got every race live as well as coverage of qualifying sessions & the morning warm-up & like with Sky today Eurosport was only available via satellite/cable subscription. The BBC didn’t start showing every race live until I think 1994 & didn’t start adding qualifying until 1996.

    During these periods having only highlights on a FTA platform didn’t hinder F1, In fact it grew during this period gaining many new fans (myself included) based on seeing the highlights rather than full races. Full races may well be preferred but I do not see any reason why highlights are bad.

    1. Back in 1994 you didn’t have to worry that you’d have the result spoiled for you by looking at social media. I find this a real issue since social media is primarily how I communicate with friends and family, so waiting for the highlights means either cutting myself off from the world or knowing the results before it comes on.

      Plus for me part of the enjoyment of F1 is the slow burn of strategy and seeing how things unfold in realtime – a lot of the ‘inbetween’ laps where you don’t have a lot going on, actually define how teams will approach pit strategy and suchlike towards the end of the race. Highlights cut this all out.

      1. I’ve found that cutting myself off from the world occasionally is actually a blessing. Turn the phone off, enjoy the peace, then enjoy the race!

        1. Not looking at social media for a couple of hours isn’t exactly cutting yourself off from the world though is it!

    2. I thought it would be obvious why everyone states that a highlights only deal for F1 will harm its long term popularity. Generally if something has more exposure it will get more attention.

      For example if a new film is only shown at one chain of cinemas it will not be as successful as if it was shown at every cinema in the country, that is the same case with live sport, if it is behind a paywall it will not get as much viewers as if it was on a free to air channel.

      You often hear about how minority sports want more publicity and exposure to grow, one of the reasons some people claim that women’s sports are not as popular as men’s sports in general is that they do not receive the same amount of coverage.

      It is often a scenario whereby, a minority sport won’t get much coverage because it doesn’t have a big enough the fan base, but it can’t grow and get those fans without more coverage.

      If a sport is big enough they can sign up with pay TV and earn more money but it comes at the cost of reduced awareness and lack of new fans outside of the core support.

      The total number of people who have access to pay TV is a lot less than the those who have access to free to air TV so there is less chance of gaining new fans via casual viewers or people channel hopping when they have nothing else to do.

      I started following F1 later than you did, about 1991, largely due to Mansell mania, from memory I thought that all races were shown live on free to air from that time but it seems from what I have read that only a majority were shown live not the full calendar.

      But I can safely say that if F1 had been highlights only on free to air in 1991 and since then I would not be as big a fan of F1 as I am now and probably may even have gradually stopped following the sport at some point such as when there were some dominant and predictable seasons.

      Also TV and other various forms of entertainment available have changed since the time I started following F1 and definitely since you started watching the sport, there are so many more things competing for people’s free time.

      If we just limit the list to activities involving screen time forms it is still a long list, there are now hundreds of TV channels available, there is also streaming and on demand, the video games sector has grown massively, social media is around now and of course there is the biggest source of distraction ever invented, the internet, all that is not included the numerous different sports which also want more participants and followers.

      Of course the more popular a sport is and the more viewers it has the more attractive it is to sponsors, just as there are lots more ways for people to spend their free time now there also seems to be more events competing for sponsors.

      The move by F1 to pay TV has led to falling viewing figures, which I have seen some say is a problem when teams are trying to attract sponsors, at the moment the increased TV money makes up for the loss in sponsorship money, but it is something else to take into account long term.

      So while I agree a highlights only deal on free to air would not have stopped F1 growing in the 1970s and 1980s, now in the modern day I think it will have a negative impact, it may not be obvious straight away but it will happen.

  15. History of F1 broadcasting in UK here –

    1. It seems churlish to comment on a four-year-old blogpost, so I’ll just say here that I remember the BBC trying out a few guest co-commentators after James Hunt died before they settled on Johnathan Palmer. Jackie Stewart definitely did at least one race (because I remember being pleased to hear him, but disappointed with his performance), and I’ve a faint recollection of Nigel Mansell doing one, although I may be mistaken. I’m pretty sure John Watson did a few as well.

      It is worth remembering that the BBC never showed qualifying at all until the rights returned from ITV, who were the first to do so. ITV was also the first to show free practice. Everyone always remembers the way they spoiled their coverage with ad-breaks (and rightly so), but in every other respect it was actually a vast improvement. What was so great about the BBC’s coverage from 2009-11 was that it was basically ITV’s format without the adverts.

      Hard to believe it’s 17 years since Murray Walker retired. There are grown adult fans who don’t remember his commentary.

  16. One of the reasons why so many sponsors have deserted F1 is because far fewer people watch F1 than would be the case if it was still free to air. This has cost teams, impaired the racing, and concentrated wealth and power within the sport (if we can really call it a sport anymore – better to call it an entertainment). I live in Britain, and could afford a Sky package, but F1 is just about the only sport I would watch, and on top of my antipathy to all things Murdoch I can’t justify this.

    As a result, after nearly 40 years of following F1 closely, I now only watch the odd race, either live on C4 or through a low-quality stream. I’ve become more interested in other classes of racing (and the dog gets walked more…). I very much doubt that I’m alone. There must be millions of us around the world – potential eyeballs that F1 would rather forego in favour of a funding model that keeps power concentrated in a few hands.

    Even now, F1 has the most viewers in those (few) countries where it is still available FTA. And in Britain C4 still gets twice the viewers for the highlights of a race that Sky carries live. The days of nearly a billion people around the world watching an F1 race are long, long gone. In Japan, which used to be F1 mad, the numbers crashed as F1 moved behind a paywall. How private can Liberty make F1? How low can the viewer numbers go before the bottom drops out? And does anyone in charge give a damn? It’s a kind of inverse example of a “Tragedy of the Commons”.

  17. “Such an exciting and innovative partnership”. Oh do us a favour and call it what it is. Channel 4 is the proverbial dog under the kitchen table getting thrown the rind of the rasher from Sky. In an era when Formula 1 is desperately looking for larger viewership, it makes no sense to decimate its British and Irish viewing numbers by kowtowing to a subscription model which by its nature massively limits its current, and future, audiences in what is traditionally a very strong region for F1 viewing. Sky are making this a minority sport in one of F1’s biggest strongholds. One of the few parts of the world where they already had a decent market share, and they’re doing what they can to ruin it. Slow claps to all involved.

    1. You’re so right about the viewing figures. The number of F1 viewers in the U.K must be one of the highest in the world. Yet this is all being put in danger, and the numbers will inevitably fall by allowing Sky the exclusive viewing rights.

      It was an extremely bad decision and Liberty really should make every effort to cut it short. I don’t think they will though.

  18. They play the highlights here in Australia, and they suck for the serious F1 fan.

    Because it focusses on action that is camera friendly, you don’t get the context. It’s a bit like watching an action movie where they only show the scenes where the protagonist and antagonist are in the same scene.

    Take the classic undercut pit stop scenario. Watching the full race you’ll see that one driver is stuck behind another (but faster). They pit, spend a couple of laps out of position pushing hard, while their rival is also doing the same. The rival pits and they come out side-by-side, the showdown occurs in the first corner. What the highlights show is both pitstops and then the overtake, with nothing before or in-between shown. Repeat this 10 times for everyone from the front to the back of the grid.

    It informs you as to the result, but the appeal about watching any sport is seeing the journey. The highlights package misses that.

    1. Yes, you are correct…

      But the argument is up against the fact that the Highlights show is effectively free (TV license not withstanding) whilst Sky want (at bare minimum) £456 per year (add a further £228 because its a minimum of an 18 month contract plus the cost of broadband) for the privilege of watching F1 live.

      Some people can (and probably do) absorb this cost and watch it live. Others cannot afford to.

      1. 456 quid a year? Not really. You can buy a month pass for sky sports for £25 from Currys. For the 9 month F1 season you pay £225. I guess if you are clever with when to start your passes you could even pay less than that. Or you could just buy the week passes for when f1 races are on for £10 a pop (get a voucher from Argos) – £210 for the season. Or you could just buy 24 hr pass to watch the race (admittedly no practice or quali) and pay 7.99 a day. Roughly £170 for the season.

        Presumably whether you watch f1 or not you will be paying for your broadband so you can’t include that in the costs.

        It isn’t free but if anyone is contemplating paying £456 just for the privilege of watching F1 then they are effectively robbing themselves.

  19. I’m really pleased that C4 have decided to continue offering as much F1 coverage as they’re able to.

    The alternatives to this were covering the British GP only or nothing at all, so we as consumers have got the best deal possible given Sky’s monopoly on live coverage from 2019 onwards.

    I know others will mourn the loss of 9-10 other live races, but with a young family I find I can’t make time for the live races anyway and end up either watching a recording or C4’s highlights package later in the evening. This new deal almost caters for my needs perfectly!

  20. I am glad there are going to be some highlights on free to air. I hope they will be as long as the ones we get now but I doubt it.

    They need to be around 60 mins at least as I think most races last around 1hr 25 to 1hr 40. Occasionally even longer.

  21. Not really interested if the races are not shown live or in full. Liberty need to bring live races to F1TV UK at a reasonable price and free full replays for free to streaming sites to attract younger viewers.

    Maybe the F1 teams need to get involved as most of them are UK based, they won’t be attracting young talent from any field in the UK if F1 disappears behind Sky’s fossilised paywall.

    This is the first nail in the coffin, buy out of the Sky contract before it’s too late…

  22. Just a question, what do you need to pay in the UK to have live races broadcast? It must be some sort of satellite package that would include a couple hundred channels. If that’s the case then what’s the big deal? I’m not trying to be rude but just trying to understand because every other week there’s some sort of article about pay or free this or that.

    1. Never mind, I just read an above comment by Optimaximal. Is Sky only one channel or a package of different channels because 400 hundred dollars seems steep for one channel

      1. Sky sports gives you lots of different channels for many different sports – football, golf, cricket, F1 and other events too. The issue is if you have no interest in those other sports and just want to watch F1. But there are legitimate ways around it and no one has to pay more than about £200 quid for the entire season.

      2. Sky is both the satellite provider and the broadcaster.

        To get F1 with Sky on a normal package (I will ignore broadband-only stuff for now) you must pay, per month:
        – Sky Entertainment: £20
        – Sky Sports F1: £18

        So, a total of £38/month, or £456/year, on an 18 month contract, and an extra £5/month for HD. You can probably do it slightly cheaper through other providers, I haven’t looked, but I doubt by much.

        There is, of course, the broadband/streaming option I ignored above on NowTV. If you are only interested in the races, you can do 21 24hr passes for £7.99 each, for a total of around £168. If you want Qally & FP too, 21 week passes are £12.99 each, making around £273/year. I think there’s a “full season F1” pass, too, although I can’t remember the price.

        The problem with NowTV is that you can only watch live: no pausing to go to the loo, or watching later when your missus has arranged something for the Sunday without asking and doesn’t take well to “I’m not visiting your parents’, the F1 is on!”

        1. That is a mega hassle. How hard is it to have an option to watch on demand after the event! BBC iplayer managed it ten years ago.

  23. Hard thing is sittin waitin 4 rerun. Internets full of who won. And any news tells you. But am still not payin for what should be free.

  24. While Channel 4 retaining the rights to F1 highlights for 2019 is good news I will wait for the full details to emerge.

    They haven’t announced the details of the deal yet so we still don’t when and in what format the highlights will be broadcast and the deal that has been signed is supposedly only a one year contract, so there could be the same uncertainty this time next year.

    If the 2019 highlights are broadcast at the same time, for the same length and with the same presenting team as Channel 4 currently do with highlight shows then that is the best those of us in the UK who rely on free to air coverage can hope for until the Sky exclusive live deal ends.

    However it could still be a case of a significantly reduced highlights show, possibly only for the race not qualifying and in the worst case scenario not even on the same day as the race.

    While I have read that Channel 4 have said they do not intend to use Sky’s presentation line-up that does not mean we will still have the same people at Channel 4 next year, some of the Channel team may decide to jump ship if they only have highlights, one live race a year won’t make much difference, Lee McKenzie does not attend every race weekend already as she covers other sports events which is a good decision career wise in the long term.

    I have never seen Sky F1 so I can’t compare the two line-ups, but I think the Channel 4 team are pretty much spot on at the moment, in my opinion the only person the current Channel 4 highlights show misses compared to a full live weekend is Mark Webber, so it would be a shame if that team was broken up.

    But as they will only have highlights I wouldn’t be surprised if we see changes both from Channel 4’s side wanting to reduce costs if there are no live races and from the individual presenter’s side, for example when the BBC agreed the deal for Sky to take over full live coverage with the BBC showing only half the races live I seem to recall Martin Brundle stated the fact he wanted to continue to be involved with full live races as why he signed for Sky.

  25. Better than nothing I suppose.

  26. In North America (I can’t speack for the South) we generally watch the races on pirate streams and then buy t-shirts after the fact. Television is SO 20th cebntury, forget them. But we support our interests in other, better ways.

  27. The best thing about this, if I choose to go to Silverstone I won’t get to see 1 race on live TV…

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