Tents on the grid, Hockenheimring, 2019

Sky to air four F1 races free-to-air in Germany after replacing RTL

2021 F1 season

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Pay television Sky Deutschland will take over from free-to-air station RTL as Germany’s F1 broadcaster from 2021, in a long-term deal believed to be worth around $60 million.

Sky has committed to showing four races per season on a free-to-air channel when it takes over as Germany’s exclusive F1 broadcaster. It will also screen a 30-minute highlights program on a free station after every race.

Sky has promised 30 hours of live racing action per year on its subscription channels, including live and uninterrupted coverage of every race, qualifying, practice session and press conference.

RTL, which is in its 30th consecutive year as the country’s F1 broadcaster, will not extend its deal beyond the end of the 2020 season.

The popularity of the sport has dwindled in Germany since its peak when Michael Schumacher was winning world championships for Ferrari in the early 2000s. The German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring has fallen off the calendar this year.

Nico Hulkenberg’s departure from Renault has left Sebastian Vettel as the only German driver on the grid. Vettel’s future is also uncertain, as he will leave Ferrari at the end of the 2020 F1 season and has not yet confirmed his plans for next year. Mercedes, whose British-based team has swept the last six championships, is also yet to confirm its plans for 2021 and beyond.

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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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39 comments on “Sky to air four F1 races free-to-air in Germany after replacing RTL”

  1. We have awful sole tyre supplier – Pirelli, and we are having a sole awful broadcaster replacing all other options.

    F1 wanted to appeal to more fans?
    Ditch Sky as the sole option, make multiple free, fremium and pay options available, don’t just go with Sky.

  2. I mean i got that Bernie was weird like that but how is Liberty continuing to limit it’s own exposure?Well, it went well for Britain. And Italy.

    1. @mrboerns There wasn’t much Liberty could do in this instance (It’s different to what happened in the UK/Italy) as RTL opted to withdraw it’s contract & no other FTA provider came forward to replace them. Sky Germany were already broadcasting F1 alongside RTL as a commercial free/interactive option (As they have been since mid 1996).

      F1TV Pro is also available in Germany so that is another option now.

      1. Reports here are that RTL withdrew because competitors were willing to pay double their budget @gt-racer

        1. An RTL spokesman actually said that, himself. He said they were forced to withdraw from competition due to the aggressiveness of Sky.

          I have a really hard time believing that Liberty took F1 off free-to-air for only $60 million, especially in a market like Germany.

          Keith and Dieter, where are you getting this figure? It is fairly inconsistent with RTL’s comments, the level of commitment from Sky – i.e. dedicated F1 channel + OTT distribution – and Liberty’s stated broadcasting strategy.

      2. Why is that different from the uk? The BBC pulled out of its deal with f1 and no other free to air Channel was willing to pay for it. So sky got it.

        1. Is that definitely right? My recollection is that the BBC did a deal with SKY to get out of their contractual obligations at the time, and Channel 4 were not even approached.

          It may be that “after that”, Ch4 just couldn’t compete with SKY for live broadcasting, but the initial switch to SKY seemed a bit underhand of the BBC – in not even considering other terrestrial providers. It seems to have not been in the best interest of the watchers of the sport at the time. Of course, I’m getting old and my recollection may not be accurate…

      3. F1TV Pro is also available in Germany so that is another option now.

        It is an option, provided you have an annual subscription by Friday this week.
        As per the press release, F1 TV Pro will become exclusively available to Sky subscribers.
        F1 TV subscribers in Germany have been informed that existing annual subscriptions will be honoured and can be renewed beyond this season but that no new subscriptions from F1 will be available from 26.06.2020 for annual and from 30.11.2020 for monthly subscriptions.

        1. You hear that? that’s the Sound of old people wondering why people pirate their content…

  3. What? Does Germany currently get access to the live stuff on F1TV? If they do will that then become limited now (surely it would for Sky to be interested?

    Damn, I honestly thought they were waiting for deals like the UK Sky one to expire to then get everyone setup using their app. I’d much rather pay F1 directly anything like £50 to £100 a year for access than pay for Sky or Now TV passes which costs far more.

    I want F1 to be a successful popular sport, not something paywalled to hell and back with fewer and fewer fans. How is that good for anyone?

    1. Couldn’t agree more, what’s holding Liberty back from making the app available in the UK? I’d rather just pay for F1 rather than everything you need to purchase to get it via Sky. For the last few years I’ve just been streaming it illegally, which doesn’t help anyone.

      1. @bernasaurus

        what’s holding Liberty back from making the app available in the UK?

        Sky, There contract gives them exclusivity so all live coverage outside of the British Gp is exclusive to them & that includes digital distribution.

        We get F1TV access in the UK so can get the archive stuff (Including everything from last season) & some of the extra documentaries. But all live & current season content that’s part of F1TV Pro we can’t get.

      2. what’s stopping them? I’d say its the fact sky have a deal for exclusive coverage and I dont think sky would be happy with f1 undercutting them…

    2. Martin Whitmarsh said it was better for the sport to go this way – better for his pocket I assume, while at the same time alienating the casual F1 viewer, and erecting barriers to getting any new fans on board. Without enough fans the sport will eventually die and the sponsors will go elsewhere.

      They basically traded sponsor income which can vary, for guaranteed income, good for the teams, but not the fans or the sport’s popularity overall.

      I mostly watch Ch4 highlights, but do get a NowTV pass for the occasional race. I’m certainly not paying SKY for a full season via NowTV or any other SKY package.

  4. will the races still be live avaible at F1TV in Germany?

  5. I’m actually baffled why Sky would want this. My understanding is that by all metrics, the interest and audience in F1 is dwindling. Surely that’s only gonna get worse if Vettel quits. He’s the last German driver left on the grid, and I don’t see other German drivers replacing him anytime soon unless Mick Schumacher has a stellar F2 season and Ferrari choose to place him at Alfa Romeo.

    In one respect Sky can just repeat what they’re currently doing with Sky Italia piggy backing on the main production, but it’s yet another language, so there are only so many ways to keep costs down.

    Likewise, I did get the feeling that Liberty were waiting for the existing contract to end so that they could push F1TV as the first point of call in this region.

    1. @eurobrun Sky were already broadcasting F1 in Germany & have been going back to the F1 Digital+ days (Whats now Sky Germany used to be DSF:Plus & then Premiere World).

      Also seems that F1TV Pro will be offered as part of the Sky subscription similar to how Sky UK have started offering packages including Netflix & Disney+ for SkyQ customers.

    2. @eurobrun to some extent, live sport is the one area where companies like Sky have been able to create a niche that protects them against online streaming services. It’s not the biggest audience, but it’s enough of an audience to make it worthwhile to squeeze money from it.

      That said, interest in F1 in Germany seems to have been dwindling since the mid 2000s after Schumacher retired – even as Vettel was at the peak of his success in the early 2010s, interest in F1 in Germany dwindled as Vettel just never seemed to catch the public imagination in the way that Schumacher did. If a driver were to result in some sort of public revival of interest in F1 in Germany, Mick Schumacher might simply because of his association with his father – but even that might be transitory.

  6. I live in Germany and just got the email that my F1TV Pro will be terminated next year due to the Sky deal. Bummer. The thing I really appreciated about F1TV pro was the English commentary, I guess it’s too much to hope that the Sky connection will bring the UK commentary as well? In German it always sounds like a tennis match.

  7. Oh great …. now every major sport is broadcast exclusively by Sky!

    I used to watch football …. the rights went to Sky
    I used to watch darts …. the rights went to Sky
    I used to watch horse racing …. the rights went to Sky
    I used to watch boxing …. the rights went to Sky
    I used to watch cricket ….. the rights went to Sky
    I used to watch F1 …. the rights went to Sky

    R.I.P. “Choice”

    I am not paying hundreds of pounds per year to Murdoch to watch sport. He can shove it!

    1. Neil (@neilosjames)
      22nd June 2020, 20:57

      Murdoch era’s in the past, Sky is owned by Comcast now. But not sure if that makes it any better!

      1. They keep going on about getting more fans. How can you do that when the whole thing is sold to sky?

        The sky presenters never talk about it because they are employed and paid by sky so why would they.

        If F1 was free to air then you would get more people from not so wealthy families take an interest in the sport, and possibly into racing to become an F1 driver instead future race drivers will always come from rich or well off families..

        I wonder if sky had rights to F1 in Lewis and Jenson’s younger years if they would be racing now?

        Don’t understand how sky get away with this ..

    2. The internet is your friend then all sports are being streamed for free…. It’s that Ziggo still send F1 for free otherwise i only watch only Internet streams.

  8. RIP my Astra dish method :(
    Might really be over finally.

    1. @john-h
      It could still work though, but that depends on where you live. MBC action on NileSat, Badr 5 & E7WA is broadcasting F1 free to air.

      1. Thanks @tifoso1989. Not sure any of those are on Astra 19.2, however I might be able to find Arabsat for Badr 5. Thanks for the tip.

        1. and Nilesat of course, although I’ve heard it’s difficult to find from the UK.

    2. Austria should still send a satellite signal …

      1. Thanks @bascb. I wonder, I know it is usually on RTL Austria also, but I kind of presumed that they won’t be broadcasting too, seen as the broadcast is essentially the German one. ORF Sport + I think would be scrambled, if indeed they broadcast F1 on there. Will give it a go though!

  9. Hang on. The F1 rights only cost 60 million?

    Why the hell is this not on public TV then that makes 8 billion(!) per year from mandatory TV license fees.

    Instead we’re getting more folk music and probably still pay some retired TV hosts millions every year.

    1. The amount of people watching old stuff is much greater then the ones watching F1

      1. 60 million from an 8 billion budget is 0.75 %.

        0.75 % of Germany’s population are 622.500 people.

        About 4.5 million people in Germany watch F1 regularly.

        More than enough reason to secure the rights and offer something for those who are not interested in their usual content and yet are forced to pay more than 200 € per year.

  10. Well, this may very well spell the end of my F1 fandom – or, to be more precise, me keeping up with current races. The reality is, RTL for all its flaws made F1 much more accessible in Germany. I didn’t have to go on the prowl for a stream on sites full of adware or justify myself paying a monthly fee to watch the 2019 French Grand Prix where I literally feel asleep watching the race. If it takes ads to pay for this privilege, so be it. It was just something easy to do – turn on the telly and watch qualifying or the race. Commentary wasn’t always great (though anyone watching both and genuinely claiming that Heiko Waßer is worse than David Croft has no clue on what good commentary is) and the interviews were usually quite asinine (I still have traumatic memories of sitting through a Timo Glock interview every godforsaken time he was eliminated in Q1 whilst with Virgin/Marussia), but it is better than what we’ll have from next year on.

    The reality is, especially with the disappointingly dull 2022 ruleset on the horizon, I just do not think F1 is worth spending money on for me and especially not spending money on Sky. As I said, I find hunting for illegal streams just dreadful. With DTM also in shambles, the only worthwhile motorsport option on German TV that isn’t endurance racing (I am someone with a full-time job, I am not going to sacrifice what amounts to up to 20% of my weekend on one race) is Formula E, which is also treated like a red-headed stepchild by German Eurosport. Not a great time to be a racing fan over here.

    1. Sorry to hear that @klon, hope you can find a way to keep watching. I had the same problem when the UK went full Sky, however RTL was my solution (I guess I need to find a new one)… and Heiko Waßer > David Croft 100%!

  11. If Vettel doesn’t drive in 2021 there’s a good chance there is no German driver, no German race and broadcast on pay-tv. I thought F1 had hit bottom but seems that not yet :(

  12. JungleMartin
    23rd June 2020, 11:07

    “30 hours of live racing action per year”?

    I’m guessing there must be a typo there but I can’t figure out what it might have meant instead.

  13. Another one bites the dust!
    Grab the money and reduce your audience by 75%

  14. Well it looks like 2020 will be the last season since the days of Hunt. Lauda, Mansell and Prost that I will be watching live. No way will I be funding Sky and non tax paying millionaires for what has become (since the appearance of hybrids) a virtue signalling borefest.

    Without doubt both Sky and F1 will get their fingers burnt through their greed. Hopefully one day Liberty will come to their senses…

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