Whitmarsh: Sky deal is “cautiously good news”
F1 on TV
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Jul 2011   |  6:17 pm GMT  |  281 comments

FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh has given a cautious welcome to the news that F1 in the UK will be partly on Pay TV and partly on terrestrial as SKY will share the coverage with BBC.

Whitmarsh has long maintained his position that Free to Air is the model the teams wan and he seems to be trying to force Ecclestone into a position where the BBC will show entire race deferred on Free to Air TV, a few hours later.

The financial package is also clearly attractive enough to teams, who share 50% of all the sport’s commercial revenues.

I’ve written about this extensively over the last few years and regular readers will know that I’ve been forecasting for years that something like this would happen, as it has been the model in Japan and Finland for some years now. In Japan the arrangement generates £240 million a year, with 2 million subscribers each paying £12 a month.

I’ve learned that this BBC/SKY deal came together very quickly and in the last few days. It was looking as though BBC might give up everything and at one stage Channel 4 was looking like it might share a deal like this with SKY. It seems that the SKY part of it has been on the cards for a while.

“From what Bernie has said it’s better than expected,” Whitmarsh told reporters after his meeting with the commercial rights holder this afternoon.

“The BBC will show every grand prix in full, half of them live and half of them deferred, so free-to-air is available to everyone.

“Sky sound like they are really going to commit to it as well, so it sounds like there is a little bit of competition between the BBC and Sky. So overall, from Bernie’s view, it will increase the total viewership within the UK. Bernie assured me, and I asked him several times, the deferred coverage will not be highlights, it will be a full race.

“That, to some fans, will be very important, depending on exactly what races they are, so hopefully that means it’s a good deal for everyone.”

“Based upon that, if it increases the total viewership, and it maintains the ability of free to air for all of the viewing public in the UK, then cautiously it’s good news isn’t it?”

Whitmarsh had questioned how the new deal would work under the Concorde Agreement which stipulates that in key markets F1 must not be solely on Pay TV.

This is a bold move, but one which has been coming for a long time and now many other countries are likely to follow suit, with France likely to be one of the first.

In Germany RTL is financially very robust and earns well from F1 so it is likely to hold onto the exclusively free to air model for some time.

Featured F1 ON TV
FORMULA 1 ON TV Briefings
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

There is perceptibly a bunch to know about this. I suppose you made certain good points in features also.


Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.


It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read more things about it!


real shame for the British F1 fan!

James it does seem no one is intrested in what the fans think, i have been watching for 28 years now have spent money where i can on products from F1 and their sponsers(tyres on car are always what F1 cars use) but next set will be not be Pirelli i have sent an email to them also , cancelled my Sky sub end of July after hearing about this,have now cancelled my vodafone contract, and looking to boycott anyone who puts sponership on the cars ( will be taking notes next race see what else i can boycott) this is my last year as an f1 Fan (really depressing) i would have preferred the BBC withdraw completely (would have more respect for them that way) i have always watched races live getting up at 3 in the morning to watch the Australian GP even managed to watch races live when i am abroad on holiday, have 28 years of F1 memorabilia that i will stop adding to this year.

simple way to show how most people feel is by looking at Rugby Union and England seling out to sky and kicking the fans in the teeth, i stopped watching English Rugby quite a few years ago now and now support the Britsh TEams who did not sell out to sky, i did try to watch highlights on BBC3 but soon got fed up as could not get into the game with the amount that was missed out on the highlights so no longer watch English Rugby, so the only sport i really watched was F1.

i work in the industry and supply every team on the F1 grid with parts, so will still have to deal with them next year but no longer will allow my intrest to be held by the F1 Teams. think i will have to see what tickets i can get to other Motorsport and start supporting the BTCC again as it is slowing getting back to the good old days(remeber when we had the Volvo estate take to the track exciting days!)

F1 has lost another fan and 6 of my friends who were not quite such big fans (they were the casual watchers that everyone keeps talking about but seems none of them will bother next year either ),31000 have signed the petition so far and more will follow!!

why has no one stood up for the F1 fan????

why do you not stand up??

is this really what F1 needs right now??

how on earth are sky going to get more viewers than BBC?

2012 RIP F1 in the UK


Teams had a simple decision to make.

Money or fans?

They chose money.


In such a global society as we have today, is it really a good idea to have deferred races? Not only do some teams (particularly Team Lotus) tweet live during races, but my friends and I use Twitter mid-race to comment on the action. Not all those friends are based in the UK. I do not want to stop watching F1 as I love it, so I will probably end up doing what I already do for GP2 and GP3 since I cannot afford anything beyond the TV license. Even the TV license is a stretch for me. However, I’m paid up there until next August (I bought it just before the news came in) as I thought it would be worth it even only to watch the F1.

I cannot see how this will increase the number of people watching F1 legally in the UK. I think instead it will increase the use of illegal live streams and the deferred coverage won’t see anything like as many viewers as yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

With F1 receiving more viewers yesterday than any other program, including Top Gear and the new series of Dragon’s Den, I can’t see why the fans are being ignored so much. What happened to ‘majority rules’?


James,can you please answer this if you can?if every home in GB already has a television licence then we can ALL watch F1 with the BBC team doing a superb job,that is EVERY home can watch!so why then does Eccelstone insist on saying his sport or our sport we love will get more coverage when it is on Sky aswell?it is purely money for him,he wanted to get more money out of the BBC which they dont have but already pay him a good sum for.More people will watch it on free to air than satelitte and i thought that was what he wanted at the start ot this year?also can you tell us what happenened to the 2yrs left on the current BBC contract,was that just ripped up or hadnt they paid that?thanks


I can’t speak for him but BBC highlights show like a kind ofvMatch of the Day will be on at 6pm Sunday night, so prime time. We’ll see how it rates. Sky will probably do long shows as they do for Champions League etc. Hard to see how overall audience number grows


So, are we back to ‘Highlights only’ for the non-live races on the BBC?

Has the ‘deferred full race’ show been dropped ‘for sure’ now?



If the BBC are only doing highlights for the 50% of races that they don’t broadcast – assuming SKY put their foot down and insist on highlights only – forget it. I’ll just watch half the GP. Assuming I can’t get a feed on-line from someone.

I still don’t see how you can increase a national (or from some of the correspondence here – international) audience by moving a broadcast from a free channel to a pay-channel.

Can anybody help me with that one ?

Of course, it does free you up to double-count if you think that’ll fool your sponsors.

But in reality, the bottom line is what SKY are prepared to pay and how much the teams get. If it is big enough and the teams are prepared to argue it through with their commercial partners

– It may look as though you get less air time but in reality its more because – – – – -‘.

As long as the SKY money beats what they might lose from other partners that walk away – they’re happy.

It might reduce the audience but as long as the money increases I’m sure the teams won’t mind.

As for me, I’m off out every 4th weekend from now on the watch some live racing in the UK. I’ll watch the highlights that night when I get home – just like we did 25 years ago. Ahhhhhh progress.


What about races like Canada? Will we have to wait until Monday to see them?

Craig Richardson

If this is true and BBC will be showing the Entire race this is fantastic news, everywhere else is saying it’s highlights only.

personaly I can only record the race anyway and have to avoid the news etc. if they dont show all the race then will be my last year of watching F1

Robin Rainsley

Martin, I thought you understood better than most in F1 the importance of fans and their support not just for Mclaren but also your Sponsors. I watched your recent interview on BBC and again on their web site and Bernie’s version one after the other and Mr E admitted on air he had lied about the ‘full GP being shown but delayed’ to you the Chairmain of FOTA.

I can’t believe that is acceptable to anyone let alone the representative of the F1 teams business. Perhaps Bernie took media advice from Rupert Murdoch before the interview.


Reading this post and your subsequent one, James, I’m glad Whitmarsh has said this. The abandonment of 10 full races by the BBC was to me unacceptable, and as I have posted before I had some decision making to do regarding my commitment to F1.

BUT if (insert Murray Walker quote here) Whitmarsh gets his way, and we end up with the full race shown on e.g. BBC3 at a reasonable hour (starting 6 – 10pm on the same day as the race) then I think that I can accept that. I trust people to develop delayed live timing so I can press play at the start of the race and effectively watch the race ‘live’. Of course, I’d have to avoud all social media and plug my ear for the whole afternoon.

I believe there’s already a delayed live-timing app on one of the mobile platforms, though I can’t recall which.

We shall just have to see whether this position can be reached, or whether Bernie is determined to let the BBC get away with showing only a 75 minute programme. That would mean highlights of, say 50 mins or so. Not good enough.

So, let’s all pester the teams and their sponsors to see if we can get some of this sorted.


Along with thousands of others i have no intention of subscribing to Sky Sports so 2011 will be the last F1 T.V i shall watch.


Poor show Martin.I am sure football fans never watch defered telly it needs to be live. I have Sky but flatly refuse to pay for the sports. I love F1 and cycling but your viewers will drop http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/keepf1onthebbc/0/13


It’s the costs to the Fan that is eye watering in this deal and Whitmarsh and others seem not to realise it. The Japanese deal seems reasonable 20 races for £144 is £7.20 per race. But with what is propsed with sky if you want it in HD is £610 for 10 races, a staggering £61 per race. A ticket for Monza is only £72 ! even if you don’t go for HD it’s still £49 per race. That is ridiculous. Why anyone thinks this will boost viewing numbers is also beyond me. Coverage switching to sky has decimated the viewing figures of almost all sports, the only notable one that hasn’t is Football which keeps being refered to. But only a handful of live football games were shown on free to air before going to sky, sky now show about 400 live games a year, at a cost of only aboy £1.50 per game…but that just isn’t going to happen with F1


James – what is your view on this news in the light of the talk of CVC/FOM sale to Murdoch? There HAS to be a connection surely?


Can’t wait for F1 to get on Sky.

They have a history of technical innovation within sports coverage that F1 is crying out for in this country rather than 3 men on a tandem riding through English villages and poetry over classical music.

My guess is that the BBC will show full races deferred on the red button and extended edits on a main channel.

I can also see Sky offering the full race with ads on one of their “cheap” channels like Sky 1 and a non ad version on subscription Sky Sports.

If the upshot is I see less of Lewis messing about on a jet ski and more analysis of how Vettel and Webber get different things out of a Red Bull then I’m all for it.


Votes for JAMES ALLEN as the lead Commentator on Sky – that would be something really special ????

Mohammed Al-Momen


I live in Saudi and am not affected by this, but doesn’t FOTA/F1 think of how valuable the internet is? why don’t they create a global option where one could stream or view the race online at the time of his convenience ? I would pay for a subscription that would offer that. Could you please somehow pass this suggestion to FOTA?


In the early days of F1 in Canada, the CBC used to show the race in a delayed and edited fashion. You know what I did? I waited for the newspaper report the ext day. Talk about free.

Then we got TSN, an extra charge cable station that showed the race live, but inserted commercials, usually at the most inappropriate time. I still watched.

If coverage goes back to a delayed format, I will choose not to watch.

Do the right thing for the fans Bernie.


Pay TV is a dying distribution model. The digital age can only be ignored by content providers for so long before it costs them dearly. The music industry resisted change, vilified consumers and fortified their content too. now they lose just as much revenue through illegal channels as they get through digital distribution. This looks like the only likely outcome from this scenario. Power to the consumer.



Its all good saying we pay fees and all. But that’s fine. I am 18 – I started watching F1 from 2000 – I was 7! Now as a young person I never had Sky Subscription or a Sky Sports Package – but because I could watch the sport on ITV, I fell in love with it – and haven’t missed a race since than.

My question is how are the next generations, the youngsters who fall in love with the sport when no one else they know are interested, supposed to afford a Sky Sports Package?

If the sport doesn’t loose as many fans right now, than surely in the future, with there being less interest in the sport than today – its sure to die out.


Ecclestone and the BBC have shown nothing but utter contempt to the UK audience.

If FOTA backs this I honestly hope the sport dies, and I love it! I felt/feel exactly the same about football in this country.

Sky didn’t enhance it, just Americanised it so it totally lost its charm. It is not even a shadow of its former self.

What a terrible decision


Seeing as you James, do the f1 news features for Australian television one HD for quail and race as well as RPM. do you see Australia heading the same way ?


Its going to be very interesting how Sky handles its broadcasting of F1. The Beeb coverage is excellent so Sky will really have to up the ante a lot in order to impress people all round. Not just us fans but the teams, sponsors and organisers as well.

I guess the British GP will be sponsored by Sky and The Sun and they will be starting the day with a wet T-Shirt contest for all the Brolly babes followed by another contest between the Sky presenters as to who can shout and scream the loudest throughout the entire race. With the race trophys being handed out by Mr R.Murdoch, J.Murdoch, Mrs Murdoch and the constructors trophy by the winner of last weeks Sun bingo…..Ho hum

Top Tags