Jerome D'Ambrosio, Mahindra, Formula E testing, Valencia, 2018

Formula E secures live digital broadcast deal with BBC

Formula E

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Formula E’s 2018-19 season will be broadcast live on the BBC’s digital platforms in Britain, the championship has announced.

The series will be available for free on BBC iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and BBC red button digital television service. BBC will also broadcast one race of the upcoming season live on network television.

The championship’s move comes as Formula 1 will almost entirely disappear from live free-to-air television in the UK next year. Only the British Grand Prix will be shown live on free-to-air Channel 4. Sky’s pay TV channel has an exclusive deal to broadcast F1 live in the UK until 2024.

Formula E’s media and business development director Ali Russell said the championship “will continue to be broadcast to the masses and across a variety of platforms in the UK.

“It’s imperative that Formula E remained on a free-to-air network in such an important territory and key market for motorsport.

“What better place to showcase some of the best and most competitive racing than on the BBC. We’re fully-charged and ready for the new season on the streets of the most recognisable cities – and this year promises to be more intense and unpredictable than ever.”

The first race of the new season takes place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 15th, with the remaining races taking place in 2019.

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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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46 comments on “Formula E secures live digital broadcast deal with BBC”

  1. I’m going to try to follow FE this season.
    I am not impressed by what I have seen so far but I am going to try to get into it and give it a chance.

    I bet all the teams will be delighted to hear this :)

  2. Extremely smart move given Formula 1’s swing away from free-to-air in the UK. Really looking forward to this FE season. I honestly couldn’t care less that the cars are slower, and I think it’s fantastic that it’s an electric series (naturally, I’m sceptical of claims that something as superficial as ‘noise’ is a key component of a motor racing spectacle). For those interested in FE demographics: I’m 29 and environmentally conscious (like most of my friends), and have followed F1 with progressively waning enthusiasm for 21 years. Anything that makes FE easier to watch and feel more connected to (no pun intended) is a big plus.

    1. @newfangled
      For me this is at best a sideways step. Previously all races were live on Ch5 or Spike (both freeview). Now they’re all essentially online. You can’t set a digibox to record the red button. On TV you can’t choose to start watching a BBC live event from the beginning until its finished (can online). Gives me less freedom.

      I hope we don’t lose Dario, although it sounds lile BBC are doing this on the cheap with as little involvement as possible other than airing the world feed.

      1. You can’t set a digibox to record the red button.

        Yes you can. Freeview channel 601 is essentially the red button feed. The catch is that the time blocks tend to be far longer than the actual program but it is certainly possible to record it, I’ve done it many times over the years.

      2. It will be available on iplayer so you do not need to record it…

  3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    13th November 2018, 12:12

    I wonder does this mean the official YouTube feed will now be inaccessible to UK viewers?
    It would be a shame as it seems that’s where the buzz will be with YT getting on board with production.

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      13th November 2018, 12:16

      Apparently the two will run concurrently.
      Good move on FE’s part, appeal to ALL the demographics!

  4. Very smart move by FE, F1 should sit up and take notice.

    1. I think that’s the exact point, Pedro. The FIA will watch viewing figures very carefully and will conduct surveys to evaluate the impact and appreciation of FE itself and in comprison to F1.

  5. Fantastic news. I’ll definitely be watching. Amusing to think how FE viewing figures will almost certainly dwarf Sky’s tired microcasts of the ‘pinnacle’ of motorsport. Will any of this register with Liberty? Praying that Croft, Brundle, Kravitz and Di Resta already have watertight contracts with Sky for 2019. I’d hate to have to hear any of them again.

  6. As i wont be able to watch most of next seasons F1, my motorsport fix will now be this. They just got a new fan.

  7. Excellent, shall try to watch the whole season this time. There are some really good drivers and teams in the series now. Obviously it’s not at F1 level (yet) in terms of performance but there’s plenty of talent there, hopefully good racing, and all on free-to-air tv. What’s not to like?

  8. Have no fear, the BBC will sell it to SKY after a couple of years just for the giggles. Just like they did with F1. Don’t get conned by the FTA is good speech. I don’t see this as good news. People have no memories.

    1. The BBC wont sell anything to SKY, the right are held by the owners of Formula E not the BBC. If they have any sense they will keep it on the BBC and grow the fan base, just like F1 did back in 1980s.

      1. How did SKY get F1? er, the BBC sold it to them as they didn’t want to continue with their contract. They could have gone to other free to air channels but chose their mates at SKY for future bonuses and because they didn’t want competition from FTA channels. They will do the same when a BBC boss wants a high paid job at SKY.

        Whether you watch the BBC or not makes no difference to their bottom line (as long as you pay the TV Tax) so they don’t do things to benefit the viewer as there is no reason to. They don’t need to grow viewership because their money will always come rolling in. A commercial channel needs viewers to show a profit. The BBC would still exist if they showed nothing for 18 hrs a day. If the BBC had to earn money like every other company on the planet then you might have a point.

        1. anon-e moss – the BBC isn’t what you think.
          It has a Royal Charter which details the programming requirements, regulatory systems and oversight structures. It’s detailed and makes it clear that viewer numbers are a very important part of the funding calculations.
          BBC commercial services provides film studios and media technology to other businesses, plus the sales of programmes to other broadcasters/media services, which makes a big slice of the money that funds the BBC.

          TL;DR – it’s a competitive business with ethical and functional constraints, with an unusual income structure. And that’s the real reason why the F1 contract was sold off. Too few viewers and too much cost. The tragedy is that Sky has reduced the UK viewer base even further.

        2. The BBC did not sell the rights to sky as such. They came to an agreement with the rights holder to transfer the rights to sky. BBC the money back for the remainder of the contract that they had signed and Sky paid for the remainder of the contract. The BBC did not make any money out of the transfer as they do not own the rights. I think you are a little confused as to this deal and to how the BBC operates in general…

    2. I’d be impressed if Sky managed that given that the pay TV Formula E rights are currently with BT Sport. If any pay TV platform got it, I suspect it would be either BT or one of the paid online platforms.

    3. Bit of a muddled timeline there. The BBC were outbid for the full live rights by sky fair and square. They picked up the half races live and highlights of the rest. It was c4 they gave there rights to when they didn’t want them anymore.

  9. If they could just try and make it not seem like a squadron of angry washing machines swinging through the city streets then I would probably be really interested. Needs more speed!

  10. I so wish Keith would do Formula E coverage like he does for Formula 1. Atleast interesting segments like a pre-season rundown of all the teams and drivers and what to look out for in the seasons. Anyway, I’ve followed it as much as F1 since the third season and I’m going to keeo following this because the racing in Formula E has been especially entertaining.

  11. Going from strength to strength!

    FE may be slower and no sound but the amazing racing more than makes up for it. As a life long F1 fan, i’m now more excited for FE than F1.

    1. Me too. I have become a bit of a fan of Formula E as the racing is pretty good. Now F1 is going off FTA I will be watching less of the highlights and will possibly just end op not watching it at all. Which is a shame as I have been watching it for around 35 years at least…

  12. petebaldwin (@)
    13th November 2018, 14:34

    That’s bad news for F1. I’ve always struggled to get into other series because I’m not addicted and don’t watch every race. If FE is available for free on the iPlayer, I’ll watch all of them and I know I’ll end up much more of a fan than I was before.

    This could really hoover up the casual motorsports fans who aren’t willing to pay hundreds to watch what is currently a fairly dull and predictable series. If nothing else, FE will be much more of a competitor to F1 as it was previously in terms of fans, sponsors and manufacturers.

  13. Live on ordinary Channel 5 (or whichever one of their channels they chose to dump it on – still live TV) to effectively online-only at the BBC, with the exception of one race. Either on a website or hidden behind a red button, absent from TV guides.

    Can’t see this as a step forward for FE… seems sideways at best.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      13th November 2018, 15:14

      It means every race is free to watch online at your own convenience. Youngsters today don’t watch TV, they watch things online. This move is aimed at the kids Bernie said F1 didn’t need – the ones who can’t afford to buy a Rolex.

      On top of that, FE will now get coverage on the BBC news and website where it didn’t before.

      1. How do you build a community when everyone picks their own time to watch? If you watch it hours later the results are known and plastered on the net and in the news. This is just an exercise to make people use iPlayer (to sell the data for more profits). Then the BBC will insist that everyone with internet pay them money even if you don’t use their services. The BBC is TV provider and should broadcast via the airwaves or pack up and give the keys to someone else. Or even go commercial and compete with others on a level playing field.

        1. You build it through the Internet – like everything else these days.

          Also you’re making it sound like people don’t record and save and watch for later. I dunno about the UK, but is over in Malaysia have had this technology called a DVR for a long time. Time shifting is nothing new.

        2. That is already the case in F1. I had to wait until about 11pm to watch the Brazil race as that was when the channel 4 coverage started… I had to stay away from all the news in order to not find out the result. That will be worse next year as every race (apart from the British GP) will be highlights rather than the half currently.

          The BBC will be showing these races Live so you can watch them at any point from the live time. If I get in 5 mins late I can simply watch 5 mins time shifted. That is far better than having to wait until the current F1 highlights finally get aired.

          Also the article above is not 100% accurate. The official response is that “At Least” 1 race will be shown live on normal TV, rather than only 1 race. I know it is a minor error but hey we may get more than 1 race on Terrestrial TV.

      2. The races were already free to watch online on C5’s iPlayer equivalent, or on YouTube, so no change there. And while it’s true young people are watching more online stuff, they still watch normal TV as well and many would – like fans of all ages – prefer a proper HD TV broadcast to a streamed one.

        Not that I think this move was aimed at younger people… from my following of the topic, they had no offers besides this sort of thing, so they didn’t have a choice.

        Good point about BBC Sport website, though. I hadn’t thought of that – it should at least provide some of the ‘stumble upon’ exposure that FE sorely needs if it wants to grow its fanbase.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          14th November 2018, 8:45

          I can’t really explain why but I’m not sure I’ve ever watched Channel 5….. No-one does. There are lots of shows that moved to Channel 5 and their viewing figures tanked!

          I think it’s partly a case of “what does FE have to lose?” There isn’t really a fan base so if this works, they are in a grey position. If it doesn’t, they are where they are now.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            14th November 2018, 8:46


    2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      13th November 2018, 16:15

      Terrestrial isn’t the gateway to the masses that it used to be. The average BBC1 viewer is now aged 60 (61 for BBC2) as the younger generation turn to Netflix and streaming services.
      This multi-format approach seems like a smart compromise I reckon.

    3. I agree @neilosjames – its sideways at best. Folk are talking like it wasn’t available before and this is some sort of revelation.
      I note that nothing has been said about Qualifying on BBC yet. On plus side, was already available on YouTube any way.

    4. Five didn’t cover all of the Formula E races live – a couple of early-season rounds were delayed for children’s TV, and the double-headers were not necessarily both live either (though the New York ones generally were).

      It is something of a swings-and-roundabouts deal.

  14. Meanwhile on BBC2, a re-run of an old Homes Under The Hammer. If you’d like to watch the Formula E in pixellated Standard Definition, hit the red button now.

    1. Or just watch it in HD on iplayer…

  15. Hmm.. HD Freeview is superior to compressed iPlayer HD but now there’s a much better catchup service to watch it on if you miss it live. Probably a slight improvement in coverage in my opinion.

  16. Stephen Higgins
    13th November 2018, 17:43


  17. This might be a good idea doing it digital only first, even if it’s an accident or no choice scenario.
    This way people can discover it and hopefully it attracts a cult following and becomes acceptable because of that. The ‘in crowd’ watching it first gives it a head start. Then it builds in a kind of word of mouth way. Where as straight out onto network TV leaves it vunerable to the nay-sayers and agitators who could dampen interest very quickly.

  18. This is great news, as a millenial snowflake who melts at the idea of having to use C5’s clunky buggy web-player I look forward to being able to watch FE live and conveniently through my browser.

  19. Hahaha

    Free on BBC. The restricted access greed of F1 is triggering the slow process of replacing F1 with another series.
    Give it 10 years and the popularity for FE will rise.

    Golden Goose WILL stop laying, unless immediate action is taken by F1.

    Would have preferred for BBC to go to WEC, but I guess the races are too long.

  20. Formula E 2018/19 is already scheduled to be shown live on Spike – see

    Is this BBC coverage in addition to Spike, or have Spike pulled out at the last minute?

    1. Ignore me. I misread that page (it’s still showing information for 2017/18) and also misremembered news of a FTA deal being done that didn’t involve the BBC (there were rumours of a channel 4 deal).

  21. Great news. I like how they will also be streaming live on YouTube, viewing will be super accessible – much unlike F1 and it’s massive paywall. #BingDownTheWall

    I’ll be interested to see how the viewing figures develop over the season.

  22. I think I’ll just wait for (maybe 2021) for the clockwork version

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