Sky presenters Simon Lazenby, Martin Brundle, Nico Rosberg, 2019

F1 admits UK Sky deal is “sub-optimal” and wants more live races on free-to-air television

2019 F1 season

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Liberty Media want to reverse Formula 1’s move away from showing live races on free-to-air television.

The sport’s commercial director Sean Bratches said he was concerned by the deal struck by Bernie Ecclestone which moved live F1 broadcasts in the UK off free-to-air television completely in favour of Sky’s pay television channels.

“It concerns us in a pretty material way, not just for Britain but around the world,” Bratches told the Daily Mail. “Our ideal circumstance would be to have 75 per cent of our grands prix on free-to-air.”

“From a brand standpoint, Formula 1 is nowhere near the position where it can lose free-to-air viewership,” he added. “This is an agreement that was done prior to our arrival. The pay element is very exciting revenue-wise but from a reach standpoint it is sub-optimal.”

Formula 1 viewership in the UK has dropped sharply since the deal came into place this year. Bratches admitted there is no way F1 broadcasting arrangements in the UK will change until 2024, unless Sky agrees to.

“There is no wriggle room in our agreement contractually and Sky would have to initiate anything,” he said.

Earlier this year Lewis Hamilton said the fall in viewership in the UK since he entered the sport as “terrible”.

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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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  • 27 comments on “F1 admits UK Sky deal is “sub-optimal” and wants more live races on free-to-air television”

    1. I think F1 is realising the exposure F1 gets on FTA TV outweighs the money brought by putting the sport behind a paywall.

      I believe all races should be live on FTA. But you should also offer an OTT system/ pay TV channel with no ads, all sessions live, telemetry, multiple cameras… Basically what F1 TV Pro offers. That way you please both casual fans and more invested fans who want more coverage than just the race

      1. So. Much. This.

      2. Casual fans get exposed to the sport, committed fans willing to pay can get better quality coverage.

      3. Stewart McAspurn
        7th July 2020, 0:02

        100% And I would rather pay a subscription fee to Liberty Media over Sky. At least you are only paying for the service you want rather than be sucked into a bundle offer you don’t actually want.

        The FTA content may even lead to more fans subscribing to the F1 TV Pro service.

        This needs to happen.

        F1 race coverage on my tv, second screen for telemetry/ lap times, third screen for multiple camera views and life is great.

    2. I want more free to air races too.

      I’m lucky that I have my Dad’s SkyGo log in, but it’s not ideal to say the least.

      75% free seems a fair compromise, strategically losing live coverage from Australia and Japan for example wouldn’t hit too hard because it tends to be only die hard fans that wake up at those sorts of times.

    3. All this on the day that I cancelled my subscription to F1TV because the live timing app was not worth the £19.99 cost per year.
      Well Mr Bratches and Mr Carey you are not going to get any help from Sky. BARB estimates that Sky F1’s audience for the Spanish GP was 852,000 or thereabouts. Multiply this by 32 ( £’s per month, for Sky + F1) and then by 12 (months) and Sky is getting about £327million a year, a great deal of revenue from this relatively small audience. Plus, of course, all the advertising revenue the Sky subscribers pay to watch.
      Looks like that funny little man, with the squint and the ‘pudding basin’ hair cut, sold you and your monetising mates a ‘pup’. By the time Sky have finished squeezing all the juice out of the F1 lemon, that you bought, all you will have left is the, dried up, rind.

    4. WOW!
      I think they just struck gold!
      Free-to-air television – to increase viewership, exposure, race attendance!

      And why didn’t we think about it earlier?!

      Oh, wait… *facepalm*

      1. Though, to be honest, it’s not Liberty’s fault, it was Mr.Ecclestone who thought that F1 must be as secretive and close as possible, to be exclusively enjoyed by Rolex-owners.

        1. Yeah when it comes to this in particular, Liberty pretty much had to live with what they got.

      2. + 1. It just goes to prove what an absolute ***** Ecclestone was. In his last few years he damaged this sport almost beyond repair.

        Choose expletive of your choice.

        1. It could be Twit of course.

    5. Lewisham Milton
      25th May 2019, 12:44

      Why is nobody questioning Sky, are they frightened of them? Get some live races on Pick or whatever their Freeview channel’s called.

      I’m missing my live F1 this weekend with one of the classic races, but 75%’s about all I’d watch anyway. Happy to miss Sochi, Baku, Barcelona and others, and I’m not missing much with the current state of leading drivers unchallenged in comfy seats (apart from Vettel 😊), aero and tyre boredom.

      1. Why are SKY at fault? They are a business. They took an awesome deal offered to them to make them money. They have no obligations beyond that. I assume they have a solid contract and are fully entitled to see that contract through.
        You don’t have to like SKY, or the deal they were sold but they paid handsomely for the deal on offer and deserve to see it through. Fair play to them. Their coverage is also vastly superior to the coverage offered up by C4, BBC and ITV in previous years.
        I don’t understand why people think they are entitled to free entertainment/sport. Those days are gone, for better or worse. That’s the capitalist economy we all live in.

        1. I disagree entirely. In the last few years I watched the live coverage on C4 and on Sky. I preferred C4s. I am also sure I was not alone.

          1. No Phil you are not alone , Sky coverage although more involved has poor presenters, Dave and Mark are brilliant on Ch 4 Hd and it’s a pity Karun had to move to Sky , but Sky seem greedy in wanting everything denying Terrestrial viewers the full races !

          2. Eh I prefer Sky’s.

      2. Not much of a concession, but Sky put the first three races of the season on Sky One, which isn’t free but anyone with a basic Sky package can get it not just those with Sky F1 subscription.

        The Channel 4 coverage was a million times better than Sky (on a smaller budget too), particularly because they hsd a better commentary and analysis team than Sky’s old boys club.

        Best thing about Sky coverage is Ant Davidson and Karun Chandock (after he has crossed over)

      3. I have two satellite dishes on pointing to 19.2 and the other 28.2(Freesat) I watch RTL German (Austrian) live F1 by picture My Freesat box is hooked up to an amp and speakers and I listen to Radio five live F1 commentary. there is about 1 sec difference between the sound and the picture (sound is quicker) but hey you don’t really notice it .and I see it all for free. Ok just a few German adds but the commentary keeps going. Well as I say its free and not complaining. Try it guys.

    6. F1 is becoming more scarce on free to air tv for 2019. I think it will be even more elusive in 2020 and even worse as 2024 looms when the Sky contract comes to an end, as they will want more people to sign up for their F1 package and justify keeping their contract. For me it has to be free to air tv is the only way I can watch F1 as I cannot afford the prices of Sky tv. If they would maybe charge just for the F1 channel alone I might be interested, as it would be cheaper to charge for just one channel than for all the sports channels. I am not interested in the other sports channels anyway.

      1. Matthew Ellis
        26th May 2019, 7:20

        In fact Sky do/did a deal for the season for F1 fans near the start of the season on NowTV which covers all races for under £10 per weekend – think it was £150 last time but I may be wrong. Like you I have no interest in the other Sports channels and have used this option for the past couple of years. As a bonus this year, I get to watch IndyCar (aka what quite a few former F1 drivers do next – Marcus Ericsson is racing in the Indy 500 today 26/5 for instance). You can also use NowTV if you just want to watch a few races as you can get weekend ‘passes’ sufficient for Quali and the Race for about £10. Picture quality is fine on a 55 inch non-4K tv. You do need broadband to get this, and you need to remember to cancel renewals to avoid the follow on £33+ per month.

    7. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
      25th May 2019, 14:08

      The question is if they want to lower the broadcast fees to achieve it. Cause most public broadcast company can’t spare that kind of money and i don’t think people want US style sports with commercials every 5 minutes.

    8. I think it would be preferable to have F1 on free to air TV with adverts than not at all. In the U.K. ITV had the rights for a while.

      This last deal with C4 covering about half of the races live was fine by me.

    9. Duncan Snowden
      25th May 2019, 21:27

      Good to hear, although, as you point out, there’s not much that can be done about it for another five years or so.

      I’ve been making the FTA argument for years, since the idea of losing any races to pay-TV was just a distant possibilty. It’s not about us, as fans, wanting free stuff; it’s about gaining the widest audience for the sport and, crucially, the sponsors who keep it alive. I don’t believe that the difficulty teams have had in finding good sponsors since F1 started moving to pay-TV is a coincidence. Certainly there are other factors, but it can’t help.

      I’ve also said, throughout that time, that – for that very reason – if it were up to me I’d stream at least Quali and the race on YouTube for free. Maybe without commentary – charge people for that, extra camera angles, better graphics, etc. on F1TV or indirectly through broadcast rights – heck, limit it to 720p resolution if you like, but get it out there. Grab as many eyeballs as you can to sell to sponsors. I realise that with existing broadcast contracts that isn’t currently possible, but consider this: over the last few months, the official highlight videos have had somewhere between two and four million views depending on the race, and they’re only about six minutes long.

    10. Thank goodness I don’t pay to watch F1 in it’s current state especially on SkyF1, one so called expert makes so many gaffs and giggles like a stupid kid is so annoying and one lanky Scotsman sounds like a whiny kid who lost out on a longer F1 career. With the current domination of Mercedes and their big budget no other team can get close to them and they have perfected their cars, these small rule changes have not stopped them dominating and its hurting the sport, it’s like being a smoker – paying to kill yourself, in this case paying to bore yourself!

    11. Haven’t watched a sky race. Just can’t afford it. Losing interest week by week unfortunately.

    12. being in America and with the sad state of affairs F1 has had on SPEED(aka as The NASCAR channel) and NBCSN(a rebranded SPEED) and ESPN(Sky’s Feed). the first 2 ran ads during the a live race, depending on the track you would 1-2 laps per ad, no post race shows. started streaming the BBC and then Sky, and what a wonderful show the live F1 races were. I got to see a different side of the drivers that I never got to see watching SPEED or NBCSN. both were not on the lower tier either the middle or highest tiers. all of them pay channels except when it came to the USGP and sometimes Canada then it was free to air.
      while it’s easy to blame Bernie for this mess, it was Bernie’s masters at CVC that were taking money out of F1 hand over fist.

    13. peter standing
      25th July 2019, 17:31

      All races and qualifying, should be FTA on Channel 4, and Sky can still have exclusive coverage with live P1, P2, P3, qualifying and the race.

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