Will Liberty turn to streaming to replace Ecclestone’s record £1.1 billion Sky F1 deal?

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Immediately after last year’s Italian Grand Prix in Monza a senior Formula 1 figure smiled broadly when I asked how he was coping under Covid-19 restrictions. “Great,” he grinned, “Today’s race marks the second of three milestones, and now we can tick it off.”

He went to explain that the key points were the first, eighth and 16th races of the season. F1’s return to racing under the pandemic was an obvious milestone, but what were the other two?

“In terms of FIA regulations, we need a minimum of eight races to be recognised as an official world championship, and we’ve hit that today. There are no arguments about the legitimacy of this championship.

“Then, most TV contracts have a minimum of 16 rounds specified; once we hit that we’re clear on all fronts.”

History records that last year F1’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media successfully staged 17 rounds, against the odds, so the vital contractual clauses were fulfilled by the second Bahrain race, with Abu Dhabi still to go. Thus, F1 over-delivered in the face of Covid.

Start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Sakhir GP fulfilled F1’s TV rights obligations in 2020
But 17 races is well down on the 22 originally scheduled. Worse, the banning of spectators at most events caused race hosting contracts to be renegotiated as F1 could hardly expect promoters to pay full price while taking little or no income from their events. Revised terms varied from Liberty covering the actual costs of events through reduced fees (or even waived fees) to cost-sharing and profit-sharing models. Each race had a different deal.

Thus Liberty’s 2020 revenues took a substantial knock despite staging almost 80% of the original 22 races. F1’s financial results published last Friday revealing that the year’s revenues plunged from $2.02 billion from 21 races in 2019 to $1.14bn from 17 last year. This pans out at an average income of $96.2m per 2019 race versus $67.3m last year.

F1’s business model is built around four main streams: TV broadcasting, race hosting, ‘bridge and board’ signage and high-end hospitality, with the first two contributors ‘normally’ providing approximately 35% each; trackside hoardings another 20% and hospitality, and minor deals the balance. In 2020 this mix changed, with TV and advertising being the main contributors, with hosting fees reduced and nil hospitality.

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In 2019 television fees and race hosting contributed approximately $770m each, advertising $440m and hospitality and ‘other’ around $220m. Assuming similar TV and advertising streams during 2020’s truncated season, the combined income amounts to $1.21bn, or marginally over the reported $1.14bn – suggesting hosting income incurred a modest loss due to waiving or reducing fees for selected events and covering the costs of others.

Sky began broadcasting F1 races in the UK in 2012
Clearly broadcast fees are Liberty’s most vital stream under Covid, for without them F1 would have recorded nil income. Races can be paid for, hospitality is small beer (excuse the pun) and advertisers book hoardings primarily to be seen not by live spectators, but television audiences. Therein lies Liberty’s future challenge: to maximise TV income in the face of disruption created by streaming, social media channels and ‘ripping’ of paid feeds.

Our records show that one television contract expires this year – that of Dutch broadcaster Ziggo, controlled by a Liberty associate company – but that no fewer than six contracts expire at the end of the 2022 F1 season. These include several major markets: Latin America (excluding Brazil), France and Asia. Then 2023 sees the end of the Saudi-held MENA contract, while F1’s lucrative Sky deals in the UK, Germany and Italy expire the year thereafter.

The original Sky UK contract was one of the last cut by Bernie Ecclestone, and ranks as the single most lucrative contract agreed by the legendary deal-maker. It was, though, probably the easiest: the UK market was flush and a host of broadcasters chased F1’s British TV rights. There are no suggestions Liberty will be unable to equal or better it, but it will be tough – as Liberty CEO and president Greg Maffei admitted during a call to investors last week.

“Probably the most important component is how much competition there is among potential bidders, distributors of your product,” Maffei explained on Friday. “Candidly, the best deal we have probably is our UK deal, largely because there were several bidders highly interested in getting our product.

“[We’ve] seen declines in some of the other higher-cost European alternatives. But if you look on any kind of basis about what cost per eyeball, cost per hour, et cetera, F1 looks like a relative value.”

Maffei believes that as the costs of ‘scripted TV’ – series and movies – rise, sports rights are becoming more attractive. “With the rising cost of alternatives like scripted content, as that gets more expensive in some ways it provides a floor on what the value of some of the live sports can be,” he said. “Historically, live sports look expensive, [but] maybe not quite as much when scripted continues to rise.”

Sky is the “best deal we have, probably”, admits Maffei
When Maffei referred to the Sky UK contract as the “best deal we have probably”, he could have saved himself the closing word in that phrase, for there is absolutely no doubt that it was and still is F1’s best deal, and as such is an absolutely crucial contributor to F1’s revenue streams.

Exactly how crucial was revealed in February 2020 by Scott Young, then head of Sky F1 UK, during a presentation attended by RaceFans. Young’s presentation indicated that Sky’s hosting fees run to an eye-watering £1.18 billion ($1.53bn) for 2019-2024 – the six-year contractual period – averaging $255m per year, one-third of F1’s annual television income.

Factor in that Sky Germany and Italy combined add almost $100m – these also expire in 2024 – and Liberty could lose a third of TV income should Sky choose to drop F1. That’s a sixth of F1’s global income sitting in one bucket!

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That said, Sky F1 UK is clearly doing something right as an analysis by Motorsport Broadcasting shows: On average, an audience of at least 1.22 million viewers watched each of the 17 races on Sky (excluding wrap-around content) last year, an increase of 19.1% over 2019’s average of 1.02 million viewers. Thus, Sky avoided a slump in the second year of exclusivity – a rarity in the industry.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2021
Verstappen has kept Dutch fans watching
To put Sky’s fees in context, consider that during last week’s Q4 call new F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali reported an average of 88m viewers per 2020 grand prix – giving Sky UK an audience share of 1.4% in return for covering 25% of F1’s TV income!

Although F1’s global TV rating dropped by an average of 4.5% during 2020, audience ratings show that Sky UK grew its audiences by 2.6%, a swing of 7%. Consider, though, that China and Russia saw growths of 43% and 71% respectively, whilst Max Verstappen’s successes caused Dutch audiences to rise by 28%.

Calendar disruption due to the pandemic – most races were in Europe, affecting viewers in eastern and western time zones – and fewer races overall obviously impacted on the global footprint, so there are no doubts that on a global basis F1’s entertainment value remains robustly healthy.

“We saw only a marginal reduction in TV audiences, caused by multiple reasons but clearly driven but a shortened and limited geographical calendar compared to 2019, but something every major sport experienced in 2020,” said Domenicali last week.

So far so good, but the key question is not so much whether Sky will extend its F1 deals in all three territories, but at what price?

Maffei believes that F1’s various off-track initiatives such as the Netflix series Drive to Survive – season three of which arrives in just over two weeks – fan festivals and e-sports will build and maintain fan interest. He predicts a bidding war over future F1 television rights due to “some of the new digital players [potentially] entering.”

Netflix Drive to Survive season two
Netflix’s Drive to Survive brought new viewers to Formula 1
“They have sniffed [our product],” he said, referring to the likes of Netflix, Amazon and emerging streamers such as Disney and Apple. “We’ll see if we can get them excited. I do believe ultimately they will be become bidders, and that will be to our benefit.”

All this, though, points to the large Technicolor elephant in the room: F1’s streaming offering, known in the entertainment industry as Over The Top (OTT). F1 TV was launched to great fanfare in 2018 – a year after Liberty acquired F1’s rights – and has been constantly tweaked since to address a raft of technical and quality issues.

Yet problems with the feed have persisted, and as of the last race the experience still lacked polish. Its reliance on ‘outside’ voices grates: Australian or English-speaking Canadians watching the Sky UK-sourced commentary may rather hear more about their local drivers such as Daniel Ricciardo or Lance Stroll than, say, Lewis Hamilton or George Russell.

Breakaways, too, are jarring: All too often the voice provider cuts to grid, paddock or interview cameras, treating F1 TV audiences to commentaries about visuals that are visible only to the host’s viewers. Pre-race build-up – save for anodyne studio stuff, broadcast only in English – is conspicuous by its absence.

(The language gripe, incidentally, also applies to the F1 website, which is seemingly on a mission to actively compete with all independent English outlets while ignoring other language groups. Are they not worthy of news in their own languages, or are English-language sites simply easy pickings for Liberty?)

Start, Nurburgring, 2020
Eifel GP was shown on YouTube in some territories
F1’s Head of Digital Frank Arthofer left F1 earlier this year – his contract is said to have ended – but even before his departure Liberty seems to have admitted (semi-) defeat by offering F1 TV as a package through existing broadcasters or, crucially, streaming on social media.

In mid-November last year Domenicali’s predecessor Chase Carey talked up a new collaboration with a giant of internet video for the Eifel Grand Prix. “At this race, for the first time in our history, we partner with YouTube to stream the entire weekend for fans across selected European markets,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our unique partnership with YouTube as another way to engage our fans.”

In response to a subsequent question from an investor, Carey elaborated: “These digital players are going to be a bigger and bigger part of our future as you get an increasingly mature broadcast world and a maturing pay world, and trillion-dollar digital companies that are getting deeper and deeper into content. They’re an incredibly important part of our future. So, we’re looking to continue to try and expand these relationships.”

F1 stands at a crossroads: Does it continue down its traditional contracted broadcaster route, lucrative as it has been thus far, or turn down almost a billion bucks per year to a embrace what is clearly the future, albeit one that may not yet have fully arrived?

What is that future? Ultimately it entails entering into revenue-sharing deals with a variety of platforms such as YouTube by making F1’s product available through them rather than sticking to cable or satellite broadcasters.

Ex-CEO Carey saw streaming services as “incredibly important”
This avenue opens up a host of global options: sophisticated ad-free pay-views, potentially offering a variety of feeds; or a basic free-to-view single channel experience, funded purely by a share of advertising revenue. The language issue would remain until dedicated commentary teams are installed, but at least fans would have free options while still generating income for F1.

The tricky call however, is the exact timing of the cross-over. F1’s future broadcast strategy presents arguably the biggest and toughest challenge the sport faces in the short-to-medium term, larger even than the broiling sustainability issue: getting the equation wrong could put the entire sport out of business.

There is a parallel from another industry: the conundrum currently faced by automakers in the face of electrification: Switch too early, and income from current product is sacrificed; adopt a hybrid solution, which is an uncomfortable compromise by being betwixt and between; leave it too late and the brand trails the market before facing extinction.

And all the while broadcasters such as Sky are cagily playing waiting games of their own, hoping for better deals from Liberty, which will in time affect revenues.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 46 comments on “Will Liberty turn to streaming to replace Ecclestone’s record £1.1 billion Sky F1 deal?”

    1. I’d support any broadcast that removed Murdoch from the equation in Australia.
      Also it’s probably a good idea to be able to control how people watch the sport. I would think/hope that F1 could set a precedent and others could decide to take over how they get their sports to their fans.

      1. Pedro Gaspar
        3rd March 2021, 13:10

        Exactly….viewers could stream directly from their telly’s and mobiles devices to add to the live feed F1 already has though their app, it makes sense, and to ensure they would a decent revenue, they could limit the subscription 2 or 3 devices per person…it makes sense and they would save a lot of costs in the future…just hire a decent pundits team like sky sports has and do it!!!

      2. Yes, but considering the debacle that is non as the NBN, I’d rather not be reliant entirely on Live Streaming.

        I watch the EPL on Optus sport, which has become quite stable over NBN in the last year or so. I was having a lot of issues with drop outs at the start.

        Until we have a proper 5G roll out (since most new Modems are dual 5G and Fibre), I’d stick with the dish for now.

    2. Interesting: “In terms of FIA regulations, we need a minimum of eight races to be recognised as an official world championship, and we’ve hit that today”

      The WRC only had seven events last year. Does that mean it was just a “RC”?

      1. F1 – it’s written into F1‘s sporting regulations.

        1. Thanks for that, Dieter.

      2. @olpeculier WRC doesn’t necessarily have the same requirements as F1 despite being an FIA-governed series.

      3. @olpeculier Series can apply for COVID waivers, F1 could have got one if it really, really needed to do so, but F1 preferred not to depend on this – partly because it’s more profitable for them to be able to say, “Yes, we’re offering an actual World Championship here, and not even a virus can stop us from doing so”. That’s a promise that can be taken to the bank when future threats to the ability to stage races occur.

    3. I’ll take any proper streamer over F1TV any day of the week. That service just keeps getting worse and worse. They’ve updated the website for it, and in the process completely blocked “mobile and tablet” using it to watch streams. As a result, you’re mandated to use the F1TV app, which is just one of the worst streaming apps I’ve ever had the displeasure of using. On iPad, it constantly forces portrait mode during use (which if you have it on a keyboard stand, is a nightmare), it puts the video off-center to the bottom, uses dark blue bars instead of black bars around the video, it permanently displays the statusbar at the top in a lighter blue blackground and the home bar at the bottom is permanently displayed as well, while also overlapping with the video controls to make matters worse.

      This was fine while you could ignore the app and just use the website, but now you can’t anymore, so great job there.

      If this was on a streaming service like Amazon, I’d probably get 4K streaming, I’d probably even get 50fps streaming, I’d likely not end up having at least two or three race weekends a year where the service just outright fails to stream a session or (part of a) race. I’d be all over that, because paying for the current F1TV experience leaves a very bitter taste in one’s mouth.

      1. To add to this, I have to disagree with @dieterrencken on his point about language. Options are nice, but as long as they’re options. F1TV allows me to watch with Sky commentary, which is a god send compared to having to listen to Olav Mol and Jack Plooij. If I were forced to watch in Dutch, I’d definitely have to go back to piracy just to avoid that.

        Belgians, for instance, aren’t allowed to listen to English on F1TV, they’re restricted to French, that is understandably a deal breaker for many of them, especially the Flemish.

      2. I completely agree with how poorly executed the app is.

    4. The main contender to out bid sky would be Amazon, they already stream live sport and have involvement in the data side of the programming. I’d be happy with this.

      1. Amazon’s sport approach in the UK has been opportunistic rather than ‘blow the competition out the water’. Picking up rights that are relatively inexpensive when they come up. Their Premier League rights were packages that initially didn’t sell that they picked up later. Those batches of games were perfect to give them an opportunity to flog Prime subscriptions in the run up to Christmas, the same with the rugby last autumn. Yes they’ve got year-long tennis rights but F1 would be a different order of magnitude cost wise.

        That’s not to say they won’t want to go for bigger ticket events in the future and they aren’t short of money but thus far they haven’t done.

    5. I will never pay for Sky Sports just to watch F1. I only watch motorsport, most are free to watch or cost very little in online subscriptions. Even NOW TV is too much.

      1. That is the kind of the problem I have too. You can’t just get F1 coverage on its own in the UK, but have to buy it as part of, or in addition to, a package. I get that that’s the way Sky’s decision to bid for F1 works but I just don’t have the time or inclination to pay for a bunch of other channels I won’t watch.

        What I have learned though, is that the radio commentary is great and far less disruptive to your Sunday. The highlights coverage then just fills in the blanks at a more convenient time.

      2. I am with you. I will never give sky any money.

      3. For the first two years of the Sky deal I used NOW tv but the F1 package was put together with either a 5 day or a 2 day pass ie someone who knew nothing about F1 whatsoever.
        The Channel 4 coverage is good but so far delayed that everything is known and analysed before it is shown.
        However one thing above all spoils it, I am deaf and have the subtitles on, and they insist on obliterting the top of the timelist/leader board on top left of the screen.
        So basically I don’t bother to watch any more, can’t afford Sky and do not like their presentation format except for Teds notebook..
        Also worth noting that Sky’s wonderful figures are still only a fraction of the previous FTA figures. In the old days the BBC used to get 11 Million and ITV about half that. So Sky was very bad news for sponsors.

        Perhaps our failing BBC could redeem itself in a new iteration and bring back proper F1 coverage. You will remember that Bernie’s deal with the FIA was supposed to include FTA races. Typically he tied this commitment into a knot and offered delayed highlights instead, The FIA fell for it.

        1. very interesting feedback, rpaco !
          I am following all sorts of sports since ages, F1 since 1981, from Germany.
          I was and still am a great fan of public broadcasters and a firm believer that all content of certain magnitude / importance shall be televised (also) there.
          I cannot imagine a better way to grow a sport than distributing it as broad & deep as possible.

          How I miss their dry, unagitated, unobtrusive commentary.
          How invasive I rate the contemporary perma-palaver.
          How often I am dreaming of founding a new series from scratch, very small, to grow & show everybody what it takes — and what ought to be avoided (at any cost).

    6. I’d love for F1TV to be made available in the UK so that I can ditch Sky as the fact they have F1 is the only reason I still subscribe to the service & TBH I think Sky’s coverage is quite poor for reasons I detailed in a post a few weeks ago.
      https://www.racefans.net/2021/02/18/mclaren-confident-f1s-sprint-race-format-will-not-be-artificial/#comment-4590607

      I’d also like to see F1TV add the OnBoard-Mix as an option as that is the feed i’ve always found the most useful to have on a 2nd screen alongside the main broadcast. I know F1TV gives you access to OnBoard feeds from every car but i’d much rather have the FOM directed OnBoard-Mix so that I can sync it up with the main feed & then not have to worry about switching around the individual feeds myself.

      1. Isn’t that more or less what F1TV’s “Pitlane Channel” is? Also came with Alex Jacques commentary as an alternative to Sky.

        I wonder who’s replacing him, hope they’re at least half as good as Alex, he will be sorely missed.

        1. @aiii As an alternative main feed on a big TV the pits channel is nice to have (Especially during Sky’s ad-breaks in practice) but as a secondary feed to bring up on a smaller screen I don’t especially like it due to the 3 windows been smaller & therefore harder to see when it’s the other side of the room alongside the TV on a tablet.

          I just prefer the OnBoard-Mix as a secondary feed as it’s fullscreen, Has the rev-counter & is more often than not showing the right car at the right time. It’s just for me the perfect feed for a secondary screen to have up alongside the TV.

          My viewing setup from 2015.
          https://live.staticflickr.com/4709/40492975092_70380c4a1a_b.jpg

    7. Coventry Climax
      3rd March 2021, 13:32

      “Therein lies Liberty’s future challenge: to maximise TV income in the face of disruption created by streaming, social media channels and ‘ripping’ of paid feeds.”
      Great summary of the situation, Dieter. And of what Liberty is all about.
      And hence the crap with sprint races and reverse grid. Yeah, reverse grid; mark my words: Once sprint races are, in shameless Trump style, declared a huge succes, reverse grid is next.
      I have no other option; I’m currently paying just to be able to watch F1. Can’t understand what the commentators are saying, because they speak a language I don’t master yet, but hey, the comment is usually just biassed crap anyway. However, if sprint races and reverse grid are adopted, I’m out of here.

    8. Konstantinos
      3rd March 2021, 14:59

      As a recent convert with drive to survive bringing me back to the sport, I would never have considered actually watching races if it wasn’t for F1TV. It is a very under featured and convoluted app (and no app for smart TVs!) but it beats paying for Sky or free on TV with advert breaks. There are loads of things to improve but I would imagine that it is the easiest gateway into the sport for new fans because you can try it out and see if you like it, you can cancel anytime etc. I hope they invest in it rather than it being just a side thing.

      1. Actually F1TV is available on ROKU, though it may not be available where you are.

      2. Let me update what I just said, checking the web site they are advertising apple, google play, amazon, roku, and chromecast apps now

      3. +1

        i’ve no cable tv here, just internet, so F1TV is my only option. east coast US here and looking forward to getting up early sundays for this year’s season! except the crazy time ones hahaha

    9. I’ll only return to F1 after they stop all the kneeling silliness. Im not the only one either.

    10. I really hope we get a better model as viewers in the future. I’ve been left out in the cold in recent years because the cost of Sky is too high and NowTV isn’t a heck of a lot better. I’ve ended up having to pay for occasional race weekends (which on more than one occasion I haven’t even watched because I’ve had to miss the live broadcast and NowTV doesn’t do catch-up), and mostly just watching the highlights if I can be bothered and the result hasn’t been spoiled by then.

      F1 in the UK is shockingly bad value. I don’t mind paying to watch F1; I mind having to pay a hugely inflated price which includes things like football which I will never watch. Or an entire TV service which I don’t need. To watch it properly, in HD, on Sky, you’re talking over £50 a month. £600 a year. On top of what I’m already paying for services like Netflix, Amazon, and so on; each of which provides a huge amount of content for just a fraction of the cost.

      There’s a value proposition which needs to be carefully balanced, where on one end you have lots of viewers paying very little, and at the other end you have fewer viewers paying a lot. I can understand that in the short term, the Ecclestone deal maximises the revenue by skewing towards the latter end of the scale, but I do think that putting the whole of F1 behind a very high paywall is creating a situation where casual viewers are now excluded, and the next generation of potential fans are being sacrificed.

      1. Whilst F1TV has its issues, they are fairly minimal though from your perspective not being available in the UK until SKY’s deal expires is pretty big.
        As/when you can get F1TV, the cost of the service is pretty reasonable @ about $3-80/race weekend for a 21 race season.
        IF you have a VPN service, it might be worth while seeing if you can get F1TV in the UK with a US terminating VPN connection. You could try the free try out coverage to see if this works :-)

      2. I couldn’t agree more.
        I don’t know how long they can keep on squeezing rich lemons if wallets get emptier (GDP per capita trends after Covid-19 are disappointing to say the least) and a younger fan base is not developed.
        I doubt that huge audiences will be attracted by Netflix’s “Drive to Survive”: even if they were able to turn an F1 documentary in a compelling drama, the gap with the “borefest” of some racing weekends is too wide.
        For me, in the 90s my love for F1 was born more in the pre-race/post-race analyses and the technical reviews scattered in free-to-air TV programming over the race weekend, than for the races themselves.
        Now, either you pay a pricey subscription for the full package on Sky or you’ll have cheaper – but poorer – options on streaming services. It doesn’t look good.

      3. I was thinking about what to write on this subject, then I read your post. It says it all! The only reason I have Sky is for the F1 and right now that is decidely uncertain as they are trying to force a 25% increase on my bill, it was over 50% but I haggled until they offered a lower monthly charge. I’m now waiting to see if they will call my bluff on my threat to leave. Also a Mazda owner, Sportsnav 6 GT, ironically with Skyactiv.

        1. Likewise. I love f1, but could never pay the prices asked by Sky. If viewing numbers fall enough then perhaps sky will re-evaluate its value and bid less next time.

      4. Jonathan Oxley
        4th March 2021, 18:16

        We watched on now tv for £195 for the season in 2019, last year this was cancelled and we paid for month passes at around £30 a pop. I’ve been watching F1 since the mid 80’s and I can tell you this price, while its pretty reasonable if you break it down, is still ridiculous to someone who grew up watching FTA. If it wasn’t for my son getting into F1 I definitely wouldn’t have paid to watch …

    11. Too early to migrate with those figures of course, but streaming is ever to take over, paid streaming pricing is IMO critical to catch on globally. There’s a line where something is just within range of the vast masses, that will also lead to exposure big enough to grow. Would be fun to know the current F1TV subscription figures.

    12. Fred Fedurch
      3rd March 2021, 22:25

      Sign Amazon NOW. Virtually ALL of their own content is in 4K. It would be nice if F1, the “pinnacle of motor racing” could catch up to most other sports and start broadcasting in it. Come to think of it, they were woefully off the back when HD became common place, as well. Even Indy Car is superior quality wise. 360° panoramic roll bar cameras, better graphics, the list goes on.

    13. I suspect it will still go to Sky unless sky starts losing a lot of other sports because they’ll more than likely pony up the requisite $.
      They’ll then hive it off to their own streaming services (a bit like Fox’s Kayo) as a dedicated sports streaming option.

      For Amazon, Netflix or Disney, I just don’t see them absorbing the sorts of costs for purchasing broadcast rights into their current fee structures as sports seems to command a much higher fee than the “traditional” streamers.

    14. The question for the streaming services would be, should they land the rights, how will they charge for the content?

      It will need to be some sort of additional monthly payment, on top of your monthly subscription, to access F1 content. It isn’t going to included in your Prime package for example. Happy to be proven wrong, but Amazon aren’t in business to sit around campfires-holding hands-singing songs. How much will the average person be willing to pay before they start complaining its too expensive?

      I wonder what a good price point will be. 5 USD/Month over the normal fees?

      1. Yeah £5 a month would be a bargain for me compared to what I pay now and for a pretty rubbish service (NowTV – poor quality unless you spend even more, expensive and you literally must watch live, no catchup available so I miss races when I’m working). I seriously hope Amazon comes along. I’d happily pay a reasonable monthly or yearly access charge. I think it’s more than fair. In the UK we have been absolutely shafted by the Sky deal.

    15. I’m in the UK and cannot justify getting a full Sky TV contract just to watch F1. So I use the NowTV streaming option which Sky continually increases the cost of. At first it was something like £6 per race (24hrs access) but now it’s something like £11 in just a few short years. And that’s just 24 hrs so you can’t take in quali and the race, instead need to pay much more for way more time than you need. I dread to think how much they’ll be asking for come 2024.

      For the love of god F1 please please just sell the rights to someone like Amazon or possibly Netflix. We’ll get great picture quality and reliable service and undoubtedly it will come at a more reasonable cost. The fan base will grow exponentially here and isn’t that what the advertisers ultimately want??

      1. Agree. And Amazon/Netflix could easily upload classic races and features so people can watch whenever.
        We have Sky and WITHOUT the sports packages we’re paying close to £60p/m so adding SSF1 to it is one expense too much, especially as I don’t particularly like much of their on air team (Hill, Button, Kravitz, Chandhok & Brundle are the exceptions) so even when we had our old Sky contract which included SSF1 in the HD package we often waited for BBC/C4 highlights just for the superior team!
        I’d love Amazon/Netflix to come in and take the best from both broadcasters and keep the highlights on FTA TV as well (important!)

    16. RocketTankski
      4th March 2021, 8:49

      The main cast would need to feature a lot more women if it was going to be a Netflix or Disney+ show? :-)

      1. It’s already a Netflix show with the gender balance as it is, thank you very much…

    17. I would have thought it’s a no brainer for Liberty to go with deploying (and improving) their own streaming service rather than taking the (admittedly, huge) sum of money from Sky.

      1.22 million watching last year is an aberration caused due to the fact that for most of the season, the country was under some kind of stay at home order so there was a much larger pool of eyeballs.

      There’s clearly an enormous market for F1 in the UK: Back when F1 was on free to air the viewing figures in the UK were substantially larger – for instance when it was on the BBC and they had a fantastic commentary team, it tended to fall between 3m & 5m and peaking as high as 7m.

      What many of the comments above demonstrate is that there’s a vocal portion of the fanbase not prepared to shell out £50 a month just to watch F1, however I’m sure that most would feel a lot more comfortable paying £6 – £10 a month for F1TV. Using back of a fag packet maths, let’s say they managed to convert all of last year’s Sky F1 audience to the F1TV App, paying a tenner a month – that works out at £146m a year revenue. Considering the figures from the FTA period shows there are substantially more potential viewers in the UK then they could attract a considerably higher audience than that.

      It just seems obvious to me – streaming is the future – and F1 already has the infrastructure to capitalise on that.

      1. yep this – paywall broadcast tv is dead, it just hasn’t realised it yet. Streaming services are highly disruptive and consumers expect much better value. The Sky deal was great for Liberty but only in the short term, any future deal they need to separate the over the top internet services from the broadcast TV rights. They will only realise this when the sponsors start walking away alongside the viewers.

        I just cancelled my Sky, I can afford it but how can I justify it as a value proposition when I could have Disney,Netflix & Prime for literally half the money. Sky wanted an extra £5 for HD on top of that? – nope. It probably costs them more to downsample it to SD. Just like their satellites, they are not on planet earth anymore.

    18. I am in the UK and have subscribed to Sky purely for the F1 these past few years but I cancelled it at the end of last seasons as I could no longer justify spending £50 per month just for F1. I love F1 and am gutted I’ll no longer be able to watch live races, but the cost was just too much. So I for one am hoping it goes to another provider in the future that that costs a bit less!

    19. Sky is likely to have a larger-than-usual audience for 2021 as well as 2020, simply because of continued stay-at-home orders for the first part of the season.

      Normal service will likely resume in 2022.

      Unfortunately Amazon Prime is out of my budget (as well as many other people’s, just not as spectacularly as Sky), 20% of people don’t have internet and therefore couldn’t use Amazon Prime at all, and lots of TVs cannot have Prime cast to them. So going for an exclusive stream deal has major reach problems; just for different reasons to Sky.

      The other problem is that any transition to a streaming provider would probably have to be instantaneous, otherwise semi-automated piracy (already significant on streaming platforms) will wreck everyone’s profitability (apart from the streaming provider, which can generally earn some money, one way or another, from the initial thief). Expect a number of short contracts to get major countries to the same point in time, whereupon the streaming provider will come on stream (pun intended).

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