F1 Winter Break
How we might consume F1 content in future
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Aug 2011   |  1:03 pm GMT  |  107 comments

It is said that “tradition is an experiment which worked’.

This evening on Facebook there is an experiment taking place which will be eagerly watched by sponsors, rights holders and broadcasters and, if it works, could have a significant role to play in the way F1 media is consumed in the future.

Budweiser, the sponsor of the FA Cup competition, is streaming the opening round of the FA Cup live tonight at 7-45pm on its Facebook page, taking the content live and direct to its consumers. It expects around 100,000 of Facebook’s 700 million audience to watch and may show other live games if it works.

The teams involved are not significant; Ascot United and Wembley FC will not be heard of in the later stages of the competition when the bigger clubs join in, but the idea of a sponsor being able to present live unique content direct to fans, who already buy in to their brand, has many possible applications in Formula 1 and attractions to sponsors.

Up to now the model of F1 has been mass-market free to air TV with sponsors paying large sums of money to teams and to Ecclestone for track signage in order to get a ‘share of voice’ on the TV – ie camera time and exposure.

But we are now starting to see F1’s model change in a number of ways; Bernie Ecclestone has started diluting the model by selling the rights to Pay TV companies like Sky, turning the F1 armchair fan from a consumer to a customer, paying up to £400 a year for their pleasure.

The internet and mobile phones offer new opportunities to the sport too and tonight’s Facebook premiere of a live football match, which incidentally is all Budweiser’s work, not Facebook’s, shows how simply and effectively a sponsor can showcase its involvement in the sport.

That said, we are a long way from Ecclestone selling rights directly to sponsors, indeed one imagines that he would hate the idea of one sponsor getting so much prominence. But you can begin to see possible new models where a mixture of pay TV and free events like tonights game, might work in future and certainly he has many possible content streams he could sell to sponsors in this way beyond the simple live race feed, such as qualifying, practice, live cameras in the paddock or leading team garages and much, much more. There is so much untapped content and a significant market for all of this.

Certainly the freeing up of rights for teams and sponsors to activate online will be a key area of negotiation between the teams, FIA and Ecclestone later this year when they start talking about the post 2013 Concorde Agreement.

Speaking of football, Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes has completed the acquisition of Queens Park Rangers football club, which is now playing the the top flight Premier League in the UK. He bought Ecclestone’s controlling stake in the team, while Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal still owns 30% of the club. Fernandes attended the team’s opening game last weekend with Flavio Briatore, who previously partnered with Ecclestone in buying the club.

Meanwhile Ecclestone told the Mirror newspaper in the UK this week that it was the BBC who brought Sky to the table, in a deal to save their involvement in F1 and extend it beyond the original 2014 deadline, to 2018.

They [the BBC] got to grips with Sky themselves,” he said. “I spoke with ITV too, and came up with the same problem as Channel 4 had. We had a contract with the BBC which didn’t run out until 2014.”

Ecclestone said that the BBC’s contract meant that it held the whip hand in the negotiations. Channel 4 put together quite a sophisticated bid for F1 based on

“If they [Channel 4] had said they wanted to sign a contract today to start broadcasting for 45 million pounds a year, then we would have probably done it.

“But that’s the problem. We couldn’t deal with them, even if they had wanted to.”

Ecclestone still believes that with the BBC showing half the races live and the other half on a highlights programme going out in prime time 6pm Sunday night slots, F1 will be seen by more people next year than it is at the moment.

“In the short-term, I think that collectively taking in the amount of broadcasting that’s going to be scheduled between the two of them next year, there will be more eyeballs watching than we have now,” he said.

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We've explored other commercial models with F1 and Bernie wasn't interested - he neither wishes to increase the number of licences nor has the means to manage such a many-to-many revenue model.

One of the unique strengths of Bernie's business model is that he bears 'very' little risk and investment in the viewing experience has up until now been borne by the broadcaster. Bernie is happy to keep it that way - simple, risk free and with his grip firmly on the tiller.

Moreover he doesn't trust the Internet to protect F1s content from being hacked and reused by unauthorised upstarts, so from our experinces Bernie is no hurry to embrace the likes of Facebook.

I wrote an article on this subject a few weeks ago "why the BBC/Sky deal will open the way for augmented broadcasting' and this remains a likely outcome although I agree that brands and sponsors will most likely replace broadcasters in presenting content which is then combined with other/related content and information to enhance the experience. So there is likely to be less advertising and more in the way of branded experiences within which F1 is delivered.


augmented ad space - now that would be quite a clever way of getting Bernie to sell the 'digital' rights to say Youtube, who can then stream it free to air via the web and sell augmented ad space so each region has its own direct ad's.

Of course the fees would be huge as FOM would loose the benefit from the ad space taken up at the track, but global digital rights wouldn't be cheap...

At the end of the day, the whole tv rights/costs are in such a mess due to the way Bernie has been skimming the profits for vast amounts - as mentioned he takes no risks and everyone else is doing the bulk of the work (either making cars, promoting the races and filling the seats at the tracks and of course building the tracks and paying the inflated fees).

Hopefully, once the F1/FOM/CVC/whoever pays back all the debts and the greed that is in the F1 management disappears then the costs will have scope to come down a little and give us all access via the mediums we want when we want...


I think Bernie's comment about not being able to do a deal with C4 is telling. I doubt very much that the deal with the BBC had much room for renegotiation during its lifetime. If Bernie had wanted to do a deal with C4, he could have simply said to BBC "stick to the terms, or default". It would be fascinating to know what the financial terms of the new deal are. I imagine that Sky has much deeper pockets, and if this deal goes well gives Bernie leverage to try and introduce pay-to-view in other territories. But keeping a significant part of the season on free-to-air, there's plenty of opportunity to appeal to new viewers. The BBC is effectively advertising on behalf of Sky!


Interesting news from the Edinburgh TV festival:

Cosgrove also spoke about Channel 4's attempted bid for Formula 1 with the BBC: "We made a bid for F1 that we felt we could afford ... but money is king and we lost out."

*With* the BBC?


Yes, I wondered this as well. He could simply have told BBC that they either stick to the deal or default. The fact that Bernie is all over the place all of a sudden saying how the BBC 'forced his hand' and how it was the 'BBC that brought SKY to the table suggests that the uproar in the UK has not gone un-noticed and may have even been a little more outspoken than he had anticipated (Bernie very rarely sees fit to explain his decisions). I for one am sick and tired of F1 constantly assuming that I am an idiot, be it the decision to race in Bahrain; the fantasy reasons behind expansion to deserted dust-bowl tracks in the middle of nowhere; environmental initiatives that do not outweigh 1/100th of the pollution caused by flying freight to tracks that no-one but wealthy dictators want to see; artificial racing the likes of which DRS brings about (and before you all retort ANY RULE which deliberately hands the advantage to another driver for the express purpose of manipulating the racing IS FALSE); Todt’s own personal agendas such as being more worried about driving road car design than driving sporting entertainment; Bernie partnering F1 with SKY and therefore the Murdoch’s at THE WORST possible time for anyone with a shred of morality; FOTA deserting its fans and conveniently forgetting everything it had ever said; the moment SKY opened its chequebook and the list goes on and on and on……..

The BBC/SKY deal has done me a favour for next year. I refuse to pay money to the Murdoch empire and F1 (despite a 20 year love affair) is not worth the compromise to my morals or the price tag of £600 per year (I could hire a tutor for my son, go on holiday, sponsor a panda and help Todt save the world etc). I would never have been able to tear myself free of F1’s grip on me because I love the sport - yet Bernie has kindly stepped in and taken the decision out of my hands. The way F1 is going I am almost relieved. I will be a part time fan next year, I will watch the LIVE races on BBC if I have nothing better to do (I steadfastly refuse to watch highlights as that is no way to follow a sport) but if I cannot follow a full season LIVE the sport will loose its hold on me and I can go to the park on a Sunday afternoon.


I am inclined to think the same way. It is a great sport but is starting to take a severe downward turn with Todt's influence especially.

About the only good thing under his reign are Pirelli's and ironically he didn't want them.

Great idea by James with the FOTA fan forums which could have really helped things but now unfortunately it is a bit of a joke.

I have had about enough of F1, I don't think I fit the idiot demographic they seem to want to appeal to so maybe it being stuck on Sky makes it an easy choice to walk away.




"Bernie assured me, and I asked him several times, the deferred coverage will not be highlights, it will be a full race."

"“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."


“There’s speculation surrounding Newscorp’s interest in the sport and let’s be clear: the teams are working together and this sport isn’t going anywhere without the teams. If we stay together, we can control the direction of this sport and we’re not trying to do that for any other reason than what’s in the best interests of the sport.”

"All of the FOTA teams believe in free-to-air television."


Yes the FOTA fans Forum is starting to look a bit like a very F1-ish smoke and mirrors PR exercise. It's all very well inviting 200 fans to a conference and making them feel part of the sport by allowing them to ask pre-screened questions.

But if you are going to desert those same fans the minute someone offers you large amounts of cash by forgetting and the statements you made previously about free to air F1...... Despite the odd person who has said ‘get over it’, the reaction has been huge and entirely negative. Where are the FOTA statements on the subject?

Whitmarsh immediately came out and said that he asked Bernie several times and was told clearly that the BBC's deferred screening WOULD NOT be highlights.; This is the same guy who said 'F1 is going nowhere without the teams' and how 'Free to air is essential to the F1 business model'

No-one in FOTA has expressed any moral concern about partnering F1 with the Murdoch empire either which is particularly gutless. Note new allegations about the Murdoch Empire are emerging every day – who knows where it will end?


I 1000% agree with you. All what Bernie said were [mod]. The only reason why he put up this deal is because there was more money at the end.

On the other hand, are Sky and BBC relations good enough for them to accept to share a sport and to come up with such a deal themselves. I very much doubt it, but who knows ? May be James experience in TV can help answer this question.


They have done so on premier league football (not with live games though).


That is utter rubbish from Bernie, he signed the contract extension up to the 2018 and is now trying to deflect the bad press onto the BBC (who do deserve far more than they are getting). I hope the Germans successfully implicate him guilty during this on going trial.


He is so twisted now, nearly everything he says is complete nonsense. Why should anybody trust a thing he says anymore?

In May this year, Talking about Sky sports, Bernie: "They have been trying to buy the TV rights from us for a long time, but we won't because they are not free-to-air television broadcasters. They are a subscription service.

"Sky is doing an incredible job but if you look at their audience they are nowhere. With these figures it would be almost impossible for teams to find sponsors. That would be suicidal."

Ecclestone convincing FOTA head Martin Whitmarsh:"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."

But BBC said it would be highlights and Bernie now also says he would prefer highlights.


Nice post Mad Max, F1 is replete with astounding, monumental hypocracy, greed [mod]. F1 and the Murdochs may well be great partners yet!


Sorry, made a typo. F1 not F2.

Der bwain!!


I still don't buy into the idea that the BBC can't afford to cover F1.

Apparently around 6 million people are watching F2 this year. That's £882,000,000.00 of license fees.

What are they spending all that money on that is so expensive it precludes them from covering one of the most important sporting series in the world? Eastenders perhaps?



Agree Wayne, from a moral and BS standpoint F1 and the Murdoch's are a perfect match.

The BBC screwed us too by teaming up with Sky but Ecclestone had a choice contrary to what he would have us believe.

Even if I was a billionaire and the outrageous sky subscription meant nothing to me I still wouldn't give Sky a penny.

If only people woke up and said no to these people and got rid of their subscriptions the company would be bankrupt in a matter of months and everybody would be able to watch sport on TV like it used to be years ago.


What Bernie says is pretty irrelevant. The BBC wanted out of the contract. If they were to walk away they would have had to pay off the rest of the contract anyway and wouldn't save any money. So their only option was to attempt to renegotiate and presumably Ecclestone has profited from brokering a replacement deal (a FOI request to the BBC in a few months might be interesting).

But at the end of the day, the BBC didn't want to keep to their original contract and have sold half the races in effect. How can there fail to be mismanagement at the BBC if they cannot afford to see out a contract they only signed 2 years ago?


No, the BBC instigated this whole mess. They had a contract and wanted to bale before it was complete because of their own pathetic mismanagement and impotence when it comes the modern world of TV sports. The saddest thing is that the public fund it and it's the public who are being shafted because of their incompetence. And then they have the nerve to say what they have done is best for the licence payer (ie. anybody who does not like f1).


I'm replying to Jon Wilde here so apologies.


How this is the politicians fault is beyond me. Had the BBC not just signed s contract for something akin to the x factor at about £23m, maybe there would be some substance. The BBC are publicly funded and like all other publicly funded bodies are being asked to cut expenditure.

It strikes me that the f1 contract was an easy target for those on the board who don't understand big sports.


So Bernie, says, Alexis - what? You believe him?


The BBC didn't instigate this. The Conservative party did when the announced the freezing of the TV licence in the UK for 6 years in effect demanding a 20% cut in costs across the BBC.

I truly believe this move was only taken with prompting from the Murdoch family in a bid to control the countries political agenda. The Government was and will continue to be played.

Without the cuts I'm sure the BBC would have honoured the contract to 2014 (original end date) The latest statements coming out of FOM with respect to the BBC objecting to discussions with C4 and ITV have been spun unfairly. The BBC have every right to protect an investment in anyway they see fit. It's not the route I would have taken but it makes sense, and to be honest I'm coming round to FOM's belief that with the new deal there will be more eyes than before on F1. It has worked in football there is no reason to believe it will fail in F1.


If you gradually chip away - fragment - the TV coverage, the audience becomes fragmented, and in the end that's all you have, fragments. The whole becomes less and less valuable.


I have been living in hope for a while that Formula One will actually move with the times but I've seen little proof of that since I started watching in 2000.

I loved how Flav used to say that we should do more for the fans about every 6 months and nothing ever used to happen. And why would it? Any change is costly and the results are uncertain so why would FIA, FOTA or CVC risk it?

Formula1.com is a hideous mess and it wasn't long ago that the homepage used to seemingly scroll forever. They could really do with a re-design. The site is nowhere near ready to host live video content, surely you'd expect to see this experimented with GP2 or GP3 first?


This is a personal opinion and I'm not affiliated in anyway to the site.

What a wonderful experiment it would be to open up the online stream and allow anyone to embed it. That was sites like yours could compete and innovate around the most engaging content. These sites already have large levels of community engagement and it demonstrate that informed comment does not only have to come from ex drivers and team owners.

Keep the TV licensed sure, but make the feed open. It would never happen but then we could really see coverage innovation.


The one thing I've always thought is strange about the current sponsorship model is that, aprart from the name of the team, the only exposure the sponsors get is if the cameras are actually on your car. In F1, the only guarantee of this is if your car is doing really exciting things. For example being a lap out in the front can mean you're only on the TV screens at the beginning and the end, if more interesting stuff is going on elsewhere. As such I think it's the drivers that are most valuable. Lewis Hamilton, Kamui Kobyashi and even, this season, Michael Schumacher are the sort of 'product' that creates great exposure for the labels all over them and their cars, whether they win anything or not! Some people may think Lewis should have kept quiet earlier in the year but Vodaphone must have been delighted that he wasn't just splashed all over the sports pages but all over every active media source for a while. Of course, noteworthy behaviour can sometimes go too far (Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods and this random guy that Abercrombie and Fitch are paying to not wear their clothes - although what great publicity that has been!!!!) but personally, I love it when Bernie's new HD TV cameras are stuck on the back markers for half the race just because it gives the sponsors that took a risk a decent payback.

On your Budweiser event, personally, while I don't mind being a passive consumer of sponsorship over which I can decide whether to buy into or not at a later date, for some reason I have an active aversion to direct marketing of this sort. Then again, I've never been one to 1) buy something just because of the label and 2) I like to do my own thing not what big corporate companies tell me to do!

Finally, I think it will be very interesting if the teams are able to wrest away online content from Bernie. He's never done anything with it so clearly has no idea of the potential. Some teams are already creating great online communities with (currently) free access to all sorts of stuff the fans love to see and watch. However this is all done on a team basis and I'm sure there a market for more online cross team battles and comparisons. The question still remains, does this remain a forum for consumption of peripheral sponsorship or an active pay subscription system. I can only say all involved would be wise to look at the company at the heart of the current subscription furore: News International's newspaper paywall.....


To be honest, the value of a sponsor's logos appearing on any car outside a Red Bull, McLaren or Ferrari (or, generally speaking, a regular frontrunner) is radically over-estimated. For instance, we know Sauber is a reasonably OK team, but the coverage they get on-screen is limited, even allowing for Kobayashi's antics. If you're down at the level of Lotus, Virgin, HRT, a sponsor depending on F1 airtime to promote their brand would be better off spending it on adverts on Coronation Street or billboards alongside major roads. The true benefits of sponsorship in F1 is the positioning element (ie saying "hey, F1's fast and sexy and high tech, so brand X must be too"), the business-to-business opportunities (e.g. Lotus and GE, Panasonic and Toyota back in the day; corporate hospitality) and the value of secondary promotion of the sponsorship. For example not many average punters know who HRT are, nor who their sponsors are, but if they see a tin of coffee with an HRT F1 car on it and the slogan "Brand X, proud sponsors of HRT F1 Team", might think "this coffee must be pretty good". The same applies to the top teams - Vodafone and Santander get some value from people seeing their logos on a McLaren, but the real value is in the adverts using McLaren and Button and Hamilton to promote the relationship.

Typically an effective strategy demands you add 50% to the cost of the sponsorship to promote the relationship. In F1 this is especially true because much as us James Allen readers love F1, the majority of consumers out there don't, and have only a vague conception of it being a positive thing. So you have to not only sponsor F1, you have to tell people you sponsor F1.

Sorry to sound like a marketing lecturer. It's me job guv.


Don't apologise, to get insight from a marketing perspective is great. Especially for an engineer like me 🙂



It's interesting that sponsors didn't say much when they switched from one lap-single car quali to timed sessions. At least once every meeting, every car was the single focus of the TV cameras for at least one full lap (two when they did pre-qualifying on Fridays. As much as I like the new format, sometimes better than the actual races, I do miss the single lap qualifying.


I think the idea of a sponsor showing an F1 race live is slightly unworkable, as there are so many races, and it is a championship too, not a knockout competition.

Lets be honest here, Budweiser givjng away free coverage of, without wanting to sound disparaging, Ascot UTD and Wembley FC is not much of a big deal, unless you support those teams.

Getting back to F1, i seen two interesting articles on planet-f1.com, interesting in that they are trying to big up pay to view tv for F1, even though theere is a conflict of interest i.e. planet-f1 is owned by, yes, you've guessed it, Sky.

Here is the links, for your amusement...




I'm going to start giving Bernie the benefit of the doubt. It's too easy to be reactionary (as I usually am) and call him a greedy little so and so when news breaks of yet another dubious 'deal' he's done. But, on reflection, we very rarely have all the facts as outside observers - it all tends to work out OK.

I for one am going to get off his back.


Having said that - I won't be subscribing to Sky so let's have some web-based alternatives after 2018...


I find it hard to believe the BBC held the "whip in negotiations" when they will have broken the original contract by not wanting to pay the full amount for the years left on it. Ecclestone could have just said as he speculated about before: "I can't see how the BBC could cancel [its contract early]. We could probably sue them.".

He could have said, either the BBC show the coverage as before for the last years of the contract or we fine them and show it on Channel 4 or ITV.

Whatever Bernie says now we may as well just assume the opposite as that is much more likely to be true.


Agreed. In many of the statements and questions Bernie has given over the years, it mostly turns out that the actual answer is the exact opposite of the one he gave, so I'm very suspicious of anything he says now.


Right on, funny. Like politicians, don't believe it til it's denied at least a couple of time.

Mohammed Al-Momen

To be honest I would like to have a way where I could stream the races online. And one where I could watch it at a time I like. Since I live in Saudi Arabia and our weekends are Thursday and Friday and me working from 7am-6pm, means that I miss watching all races live. What I do is turn to torrents where I can download the F1 races (BBC coverage) and watch them next day. I block all F1 news for that day until I watch the race afterwards. If there was such a service where I would pay to get online races in HD I would pay.


The American Le Mans series has done just that this year with it's new broadcast model, where the races are carried live on ESPN3, a computer website, and then a highlight show on network TV later in the weekend. You can also watch a complete replay of the race if you missed any of it. The only problem is having to watch it on my Macbook instead of my HD TV.

Mohammed Al-Momen


should fix your problem for 12.5$, got one last week works perfectly I have (Mid-2010 Macbook pro)


This gets my Vote, I love to watch every race live and the family hate that I monopolise the TV. The alternative is the PC with all the added extras of timing screen, track position map which makes the whole experience worth while...

But then we just get stuck with having to break the rules because both Sky and BBC coverage is restricted to the UK viewers only. (English speaker living and working in Belgium)

What is required is a subscription service on the Internet. Global and cheap enough to get billions of viewers which means no-one will care about working around the restrictions.

Sponsors will love it

Mohammed Al-Momen

I would love it more if they could record the live timings , and re run them along side the video. A service where you could switch between video and LiveTiming and it actually isn't live. That would be awesome


I'm with you on this one. I'd love a live timing/internet streaming mashup solution... that I can view at any time. Living on the West coast of the US means most races are at 4am, so I almost never catch them live. Thankfully, my DVR helps out there for now, but it's not as good as having live timing. When I do manage to catch a race live (Australia, Japan air Saturday nights here), the live timing and the twitter feeds really add to the experience.


Pretty disgusting that the BBC went to Sky directly.

Trying to squash free-to-air competition is not in the interests of the public; the BBC is not a private organisation.

This story gets worse every time more information comes out...


That shuffling sound you hear is Bernie furiously backpedaling. It's not just about sponsors and number of viewers, it's about pricing the rights out of reach. The BBC couldn't carry on with free-to-air under the stratospheric fees that Ecclestone demands. That's why great circuits like Istanbul Park will soon be a faded memory - Bernie's fees have reached beyond the tipping point.


Do you have a link to the match tonight? I'm on their Facebook page but I can't see a mention of it



Thanks for the article, great insight as usual.

I'm going to put the whole BBC debacle behind after this, having signed the petition on line.

However, its interesting that the Beeb, as I commented previously, put short term unenlightened self-interest ahead of the fans.

I cant criticise them for this - why would they want their terrestrial competitors to reap the benefits of their investment? But equally, I dont have to like it, or put up with it either.

I wont be taking a subscription to SKY. I cant afford it. But I will take F1 content wherever I can get it for free, or where I can just buy F1 rather than a whole bundle of unrelated content I dont want.

Thanks again, James.


Im 32 and have watched F1 since,1995.Its disgracefull that the beeb? cant hold on to the rights to show the full season,>???why do we pay for tv licence.sky is a rip of????2012 maclaren boys to win the champ?


I think it's insane that F1 hasn't been allowed to move to Channel 4.

ITV and BBC have many other sporting interests mainly that stupid ball-kicking one. Channel 4 have Horse Racing and errr...

Rather than be part of a sporting package fitting in amongst other pastimes, i can see Channel 4 making F1 the channel priority. Perhaps they may in future have opened up to showing GP2 as well, making C4 THE motorsport channel.

Now that Sky has got a foot in the door, we can say goodbye to Live F1 on freeview TV.

Thanks BBC, thanks a lot.


I am still hoping that Sky will offer a deal to those only wanting to watch F1 on Sky sports. There are many fans that have been alienated since this all came out and Bernie and Sky need to do something to entice viewers. I don't personally want to miss any races next year so will be forced to get Sky tv but as above think an F1 package should be offered. Football fans get several games a week, F1 fans will get on average two races per month. I think it is unjust to charge the same amount and think would be the fair route to take which will entice more fans to Sky whilst still generating substantial revenue for F1 it didnt have previously.


Prediction: F1 on Sky WON'T work.

The massive modal average type of Sky fan is a football fan, and a fan of unbelievably bad TV.

What does Sky even have?

- Premiership, the huge pull

- year old films that everyone has seen

- truly awful drama

- 100 odd, dull channels

Sky subscribers are not F1 fans based on the millions needed to make it a success.

It will come back to BBC.


Indycars (all races live), Goodwood Festival (live). Nascar Highlights, Nurburgring 24 hour highlights. If you have a sky or vigin platform you also get access to Eurosport (GP2, GP3, World Touring Cars, Porsche Supercup, Le Mans 24 hours) ESPN (DTM) and Motors TV (Aussie V8's, Bathurst live etc).

There is more to the world than F1. I love motor sport and Sky brings that to my frontroom so I don't complain as without sky/virgin I would be stuck in the 1970's with rubbish coverage of only F1 and not the rest of Motor sport throughout the world.

Oh and Sky also do a fantastic job of the cricket, golf and Rugby........


Sounds like they have a monopoly on sport to me.

How is that good for the consumer?


For the first time in 20 years of F1, this year has been the first where if the race was broadcast live- I have have watched it later in the day; and for example the BBC forum the next day.

The reason being its much more family/wife friendly- with on demand now working well, thanks to the internet speeds making it fairly seamless.

As much as I love F1, I can not watch the pre-race build, race, and forum all in one stint unless its a really lazy, rainy Sunday.

You know, this just might work...


I'm the same - family commitments. It's not hard to avoid the result.

But right now I can record it and watch when I like. Not watch highlights at a time of someone else's choosing.



“In the short-term, I think that collectively taking in the amount of broadcasting that’s going to be scheduled between the two of them next year, there will be more eyeballs watching than we have now,” he said.

And in the long term I predict many fewer views as SKY gain sole coverage and demand higher prices...


I have no idea of the money being exchanged between BSkyB and the Beeb but if a split deal was being hatched, would it not have made better sense for BBC to share the deal with ITV or C4?

Share the cost and keep it free-to-air, surely?

I'm sure Sky probably offered loads more cash though...


For a sport that prides itself as having the best technology in the world, it's pretty ironic that F1 has been slow to join the 21st century when it comes to presenting itself to the fans via the latest technologies. But then, it is the teams who deal with technology, not the old man who probably still has an old VCR sitting on top of the tube eternally blinking 12:00.


Bernie has a VCR? I didn't think he even had a TV! He does however have a fax machine, gotta get it in writing 🙂


Sounds cool idea James, thanks for sharing. This is a great idea to attract more audiences and into newer generation. Believe sooner or later F1 will need to open to this and reach to wider audiences.

Please allow me to share F1 experiences here, I'm staying in Singapore, F1 not only available via pay tv, the service provider also offer iPhone users to watch F1 via the phone with much lower rate, on monthly renewable basis. Still feel the screen is too small to watch, however it allow more flexibility and options. I tend to watch qualy via it as I don't have to sit in front tv, but will still prefer to watch race day on tv.


I'm an F1 fan from Malaysia, and F1 has not been available on free-to-air TV for several years, now; the only way to watch races live is via Sky Sports / ESPN on satellite TV.

However, the thought of paying for satellite subscription JUST to watch F1 is a bit silly (I don't watch anything else).

I'm willing to pay good money for live F1 streams on my PC, especially if I can opt to choose which driver I want to follow in real time.

Heck, I'd even pay just to get decent commentary (maybe from the BBC?) The commentary on Star Sports is beyond awful, with Steve Slater grating voice and glaring mistakes driving me mad.

On a side note, I'm sure quite a number of us readers miss not having you behind the mic on race day, James 🙂


By the way, i meant to say "Star Sports" in the first para. Typed in "Sky" instead...


And their commentary has somewhat limited vocabulary. It's always "let's savour the sound of V8 engine" in almost every race. They don't realize that the engine sounds different on TV compared to on-track. On TV, it sounds just like my food blender


There are already dozens of sites streaming the races live in HQ for years now. All channels, so there are never commercials etc.

Yes, illegal streams, but we are being forced to go there with all this nonsense.

I personally won't see any change thanks to these sites so they can go and sell the broadcast rights to McDonalds zand ask 1000 bucks per race for all I care.


I've never knowingly done anything like watch a streaming illegal feed. I haven't got a clue how to go about it. But this might drive me to try!



It could be we will one day be watching on our fancy phones or tablets. They're nice if you have a data plan that works for that kind of thing, but if I am at home I want to see F1 on a larger screen that any mobile device can provide me. I've been watching on a 53-inch TV since 2003.

Where I could "dig" the mobile idea is a weekend like I had this year: I was moving during the Monaco GP weekend. My mobile was fine, but my TV service wasn't installed until two days later.

Over here, in Canada, I remain concerned about how the SKY deal will affect what we get to see. The days of shortened 1-hour broadcasts are long behind us. TSN--The Sports Network--has been carrying F1 live for many years now. Not getting that coverage is surely going to turn fans away. And as it stands, the CRTC (Govt outfit) blacks out any competing broadcasts.

If we have a chance to get live PPV content here I suppose it could be considered. Chances are it remains more affordable for a complete season of F1 as a PPV service (or at least some of the season) than it costs to attend the Canadian GP for the weekend (and I don't have to travel, I live in Montreal).



F1 needs to hurry up and sell the sport directly to the fans using a live feed from f1.com or an app for iPhone/iPad. The tech is there, and we wont have to pay Murdoch a penny or worry about the gutless BBC wriggling out of a deal.


I can only see web streaming being a success where there is no television broadcast whatsoever, so I think this rules out changes in F1. The BBC streams F1, the last race at 720p I believe, great if you can't get to a tv but it must have a limited audience. If it is your only source of viewing, then fine but it will never be a major broadcast media.

The comments about the BBC and Sky deal are interesting. The BBC have had some very good viewing figures, more due to DRS and Pirelli and not their coverage as they probably believe, but I think they wanted to continue coverage but at a much reduced cost. This would have been their preferred option rather than no coverage at all, particularly as their other sports coverage is quite low.

I don't understand why Budweiser and other companies use Facebook. Why not just stream it through your own website. Facebook just feeds on the socially inadequate.

Andrew Halliday

What's all this rubbish about 'consuming F1 content?' Put simply I go to watch F1 at a circuit or I watch it on tv. The only thing consumed is a pint or two!


Or three... it is a long race 🙂


I've said for years that Bernie (and indeed any TV show producer, sports rights holder, movie producer etc), if he is truly confident that his 'product' is good, he should offer it on an exclusive pay-per-view basis. I don't object to having to pay Sky or the BBC or whoever a fair amount to watch F1, but what I don't want to do is pay a fair amount + an additional subsidy for the multitude of channels and shows I have no interest in watching. As I understand it, to get the Sky F1, you'll need to subscribe to one of their 'packages'. Why not simply have a fee for watching F1 and F1 alone? With the improvements in internet speed such a system could be relatively easily set up. Pay £10 for example to watch the GP. Or pay £100 for a full season, and so on. Surely this is the future of broadcasting for F1 and other sports? Or are the rights holders and broadcasters afraid customers will have too much power...?


Bernie tried that a few years ago. The F1 channel which was pay-per-race, with new and interesting camera angles etc.

It had (by Bernie's own admission) around six viewers.

It is one thing to sit down and enjoy something you have already paid for with the BBC licence fee. It is quite another to make an additional cash investment for one particular sport.

If you love football, cricket etc, you will already have Sky Sports, so F1 being shown there is no drama, but I simply can't afford to pay for a Sky Sports subscription, so I have a choice of either settling for the crumbs that the BBC give us, or give up watching and spend more time with the family.


I think the F1 official website should broadcast the races with a pay-per race format. I'm sure a huge amount of fans would be willing pay. I'm from a country where F1 is not on free to air TV and I'm not willing to pay 30$ a month just to watch F1. I have found a clever way to have access to the race almost for free but I would be more than willing to pay for each race if I get BBC style coverage. I don't think F1 fan are interest to pay for expensive TV packages but wouldn't mind paying a reasonable amount to watch each race. With the internet, there is endless possibilities for added content and interaction with the viewers, such live feed from the paddock. As for Bernie's fear of internet piracy, the is nothing you can do to stop that expect produce quality content at an honest price. TV is the ancestor of the internet, eventually everything will come from there. Its time for F1 to innovate but I fear that Bernie, at 80, is unwilling to change his business model that has been successful for so many decades.


I'm no luddite, but I don't want to get F1 content on my phone. I don't want to watch a practice session on Facebook. I'm not interested in monitoring media coming from a team's garage.

I just want to watch Formula 1 live on my TV without having to pay Sky for it.

It doesn't matter how it's dressed up as new technology, what we'll have next year is a huge leap backwards from this year. Coverage is getting worse, not better.


More specifically, I have a 47 inch TV that stands on a table and 4 inch phone screen that I have to hold. The sound quality out of a phone is pretty ordinary too.


Exactly, just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be, or even that it will be popular.

There are a lot of 'new media' charlatans simply trying to create businesses for themselves by promoting 'fads'


Surely a far more sophisticated online content delivery system is one controlled by the organisers such as the live online offerings of NASCAR or IndyCars should be the model for F1 or an official YouTube F1 channel.

Why would an individual sponsor go to the expense of making and maintaining a huge investment in online content delivery promoting a range of competing sponsors, it would seem to make little commercial sense. F1's traditional reluctance to embrace the web combined with its finances being partly based around exclusive country-based TV rights contracts means that the likelihood of any move to streaming online content (free or otherwise) seems light years away. But F1 doesn't seem to get that many young people watch the web as more than traditional TV so by failing to embrace it fully they are merely driving the sport into a dead-end with an ever ageing fanbase for the sake of short-term financial considerations. Any moves to full pay TV coverage at the end of the BBC deal would simply accelerate the trend.


I haven't owned an idiot box for last 5 years, but have seen all the races live. The Internet is a beautiful thing.

Michael Toronto



I suspect we'll see a significant increase in torrent traffic when Sky's coverage kicks in. That bypasses Bernie's pockets altogether, and unlike with Youtube there's not a thing he can do about it.


You can simply watch live FTA races from RTL amongst others.

I have free Sky as well as other broadcasters due to my job, but who'd actually be stupid enough to pay for something that can be obtained free, and isn't damaging the long term future of a sport they profess to enjoy.


I've just been looking at Sky's online offering: Sky Go.

In theory, this is where they could offer customers who don't want a dish and only want to watch F1 access. Sign up for an F1 Only contract and have to watch using the online stream. I'd be willing to do that if it was around £10 a race (as long as I could pay per race - no point paying for the ones already on the BBC).

Only thing is, at the moment it's not much cheaper (if any) than signing up to a contract and getting a dish and set-top box as you can still only sign up to pre-determined packages and have to take a load of other channels you'd never watch. On the other hand, you buy it a month at a time, so it does at least mean that you can avoid paying through the nose for those months where there are no races.


If I had a friend who was already a Sky subscriber but didn't use his inclusive Sky Go facility, then presumably there is nothing to stop me using his Sky ID on my laptop to watch the Sky feed effectively for free?


I think you will be in for a rude shock if you think it will only be £10 per race. I was thinking that it was more likley to be nearer £20.

Why? SKY will be seeking to charge significantly more for transient customers cherry picking their sports offerings such as F1 only, bypassing their standard pay for everything packages.

Would you pay at £20 per race as a non-SKY subscriber (which would be very costly for 10 races!)?


Each team website should offer the race weekend live for say £5. They would obviously be biased towards their team but if you could watch the whole race obnboard hamilton or button splitscreen with the normal tv camera i think it would be quite good. You could also have live telemetry of both cars and radio messages etc.....


Here are a couple of extracts from a document published yesterday:

"The Competition Commission (CC) has provisionally found that Sky’s control over pay-TV movie rights in the UK is restricting competition between pay-TV providers, leading to higher prices and reduced choice and innovation for subscribers.

We have found that, as a result of this lack of effective competition, subscribers to Sky Movies are paying more than they otherwise would, and there is less innovation and choice than we would expect in a market with more effective competition."

The full press release is here: http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/press_rel/2011/august/pdf/45_11_press_release.pdf

Is this writing on the wall for F1?

Unfortunately, it seems that the bad deed has to be done before the authorities respond. Maybe they will be proactive if we all write to the Commission now.


Channel 4 offered amongst other incentives ...

"More commercial opportunities for teams through sponsorship and ad-funded content. Free from BBC constraints."

In fact the teams would only be about £90,000 worse off with the Channel 4 deal than the Sky deal, so one wonders why Parr and Whitmarsh are so supportive of F1 being hidden away on a satellite channel, especially as the average loss of UK brand exposure to the 141 sponsors, will be £3.4 million per race, when 2010 UK exposure figures are taken into account.


maybe a lot of the sports contenet that is streamed via facebook and picked up on mobile phones [even with the larger screens] is only being used by the 'yoof' market because they can, not because they want to, I am sure for most viewers over 40 the idea of good F1 is sat in their favourite leather chair, beer in one hand remote in the other enjoying the 50 inch picture and the sound of Mercedes engines filling the room via surround sound, oh, and for free !


You're right.

The biggest demographic for F1 is the over 40s, the under 16s are very casual viewers, pulled in by 'Playstation' but have little staying power.

Avid fans tend to peak at age 34.

Another stat' is that 40% of viewers are female, and those tend to shy away from online/mobile activities, (how many females post on F1 blogs and forums compared to males).

There's nothing wrong with supplementing coverage with phone apps etc, but as you say the vast majority of F1 fans want a big screen and a big chair.

But there are people who see media business opportunities streaming races to iphones etc, but would people rather pay to watch F1 on a 2 inch screen, or watch it free on a big TV.

Some people should be careful what they wish for, because they might actually get it.


Hi, sorry to all but i cant't find a thread yet on opinion that its the BBC's fault that sky will telecast half the races in the near future I'm an Aussie and think it sucks as motor sport is huge there bigger than here and will the Australian Grand Prix be one they will miss as the same finger pointing the blame at the BBC told who ever it was to move the time of race start later to make it a better time for the mass's of Europe's tv audience but it looks as though he majority may not see half the season as they must dig deep into there pocket to even

sit at home to watch.

James whats your thought on it?

Love this site love the story's and go Mark Webber

Yes yes yessssssssss


Looks like I'll be moving my proxy from UK to Australia or one of the other countries that has free-to-air and an online feed I guess.

Guys. If you don't want to pay Sky for your F1, google and the keyword 'Proxy' are your friends.


Add 'torrents' to the friendly words list for those who can't stream live and who want more than highlights.


Question for you James - If the public are changing from 'consumers' to 'customers' - and being asked to pay for a high price - does this mean that 'the show' will become ever more important than 'the sport'?


Like football you mean? Hope not, but we're already seeing this year the rise of the show, with the changes made to the racing. So far it's the right side of acceptable, in my view


After every race.... how many times does the presenter say 'well.... blah blah did this and this caused'etc... or 'that was a good race, were there enough overtakes?'

No one watches wimbledon and thinks hmmm.. was that interesting enough or watches the ashes and thinks... we won... but it could have been a bit more exciting at times. Can we change the rules to make it so?

How about overs when the fielders have to be in certain positions? we can all them power plays... and oh dear goodness it's already happening.

What we're seeing is a sport becoming too big for itself, the people behind it are pushing it too hard. The audience is about as big as it can be out of those who know about it. If you want to draw in more crowds you need to change it to appeal to more people. ANd that's the problem, F1 has appealed to its fan base and now, to continue expanding needs more people not interested in F1. These are 2 lots of people

1) Those not wathcing currently, to be enticed through changing F1

2) Those who can't watch it/don't know about it

2 is being worked on by spreading F1, and so is 1, by changing rules.

The only other way to bring in more money is to make each consumer worth more, i.e. pay + watching ads vs just watching ads.

It's an economic model destined to fail and it is worryingly being pushed to the brink currently.


F1.com to host pay per view streaming of races. I'd pay. I could sit in bed and watch the whole race on my notebook, without ads for, say a tenner, instead of stay up all hours in the living room.

Watching on my iPad would be even cooler.

It could be done now, and probably would be, if not for broadcasting rights issues.


Just a side note, Formula 1 already streams illegally across the world in both live and with replays from the BBC to anyone who can download a simple UK proxy program. It is used by many expats and English speakers who live in foreign countries whose coverage is not in English and/or of lesser quality than the BBC content.


I think F1 should check out the UFC business model a bit. I know its not that big but the growth rate is unbelievable. Their entire business is built on social media platform, from facebook live streaming to the (probably manufactured) twitter wars between the competitors which generate a lot of interest etc..

There are so much things we dont know about f1 which we think we should. Sometimes we even struggle to find out who is on what tyre. Those are things you can exploit as James put it.


Would the options of how we consume F1 be part of the new concord agreement?, is the BBC/sky deal also dependent upon this agreement?, Could this be the chance, if teams are not happy, for a break away series? Is Bernies greed now being detrimental to F1?, Bernie has brought F1 to where it is today, but now I feel has taken a backward step, he hasnt weighed up his options properly, he has just seen the dollar signs in his rose tinted spectacles, and has left more questions over the sport, than answers!!!!!


Fully agree Wayne. The thought that Bernie had his hand forced in a contract is laughable. The BBC were defaulting on their original agreement, Bernie held all the cards, and fool can see that. He, as usual, just chased the pound signs. I am even more disappointed at the FOTA over this. I refuse to be sucked into the spin and lies any more.


Some very interesting points James.

The future is very exciting & I can't really see the Sky subscription deal working...so I hope it'll be back on Free to air with Chan. 4 soon...until then...

I've been informed by my Belgian brother-in-law that F1 is still being shown free to air 'live' in Belgium. Apparently the cost of a dish to receive the signal is £60...turn on radio 5 for english commentary & 'Ta-Da'..put the remaining £340 towards the kids Christmas presents! 🙂

I think Bernie/Sky need to be more concerned about the current ways round the system before he starts worrying about the internet! 🙂


Here's an example of a unique way to let people watch races for free online:

How about letting the team and the sponsors broadcast in any way they want the on-board camera for the whole race? That way, if I'm not in front of the TV or I don't have an expensive TV subscription I can watch the race live from the point-of-view of one driver (or two drivers). Massive brand exposure. Include radio calls, replays, a sponsor-themed score board app, and a live discussion board to let fans swap commentary live. I would watch.


Just a minor correction to "turning the F1 armchair fan from a consumer to a customer, paying up to £400 a year for their pleasure".

It's actually more like £600 a year, and that's on top of the UK licence fee. And that won't cover you if you're in someone else's home when you want to watch it, and they only have the normal channels.

I think the main players in this TV deal are being very clever. They're splitting opinions on who was responsible for moving F1 to a subscription-only service. That means there's no single unified response from the fans. We're all chasing our tails, debating it endlessly on various forums and trying to guess who the biggest villain is. While they're probably all sipping champagne on a yacht somewhere, laughing their socks off and counting their dosh.

Rather than debating whether it was Bernie, or some corrupt BBC person, or the government, or the Murdochs, or an evil pact between them all (which is my favourite option) I think we need to accept that we've been well and truly shafted. A government investigation would be good (therefore it's worth signing the e-petition), and I'm sure that eventually the competition commission will take a peek at it and decide something needs to be done about the Sky sports monopoly. But while we wait for those things the only thing we can do is vote with our feet. Bye bye F1. See you in 2018, unless we've fallen in love with someone else in the meantime.


The only reason Ecclestone has diluted the F1 business model is that he is forced to. The BBC in the current financial climate can no longer afford F1 on it's own, and therefore an additional deal with Sky was necessary to raise sufficient funds to keep everybody happy. I think Bernie is right in thinking that the COMBINED viewing figures will be higher overall. Personally while I could easily afford SKY, I have no intention of subscribing as a matter of principle no matter how much I like F1, and I suspect a lot of people think the same way. That being the case I suspect F1 may suffer as a consequence as free to air will become the poor relation in terms of live coverage of not just the race, but of qualifying, and free parctice.


What does this mean to fans outside the UK. I live in Canada and I do not watch the race on BBC, but rather on a feed from TSN. TSN has commercials so its PIP when a commercial is on but you don't miss any of the race (just commentary). I do not believe Canadians have the option to purchase SKY TV so how do I get to watch every race. I already pay enough for cable... so I won't be buying any additional packages. I found some sites that live stream Friday Practice because we don't get it here... the quality isn't the best but when its free its good enough.

If anyone can help answer how this affects fans in North America that would be great. I can't see F1 growing the franchise in the USA with paid TV so I think we are looking at another failed experiment in Texas!!


Thanks for nothing BBC.

If you'd just ditched it, we could have had some awesome coverage and related documentaries from Channel 4, but, no, they put their pride before the public.


My solution to the Sky / BBC sell out is to stop watching immediately. It worked for Hungary, the final test will be this weekend. If I can bring myself to not watch Spa, then Ecclestone, Murdoch and co will have given me back 60 days a year when I can do something else. They have already saved me 200 quid per annum with cancelled magazine subscriptions, and they will save me thousands more with no more holidays overseas watching F1.

I must admit it feels good so far. After 40 years addicted to F1, I was cured in a heartbeat by a crackpot decision by a beancounter at the BBC.

God it feels good.


I think why Fota and Ecclestone get the blame the real problem lays at the foot of the BBC door. I’m sure Fota and Ecclestone would have been more than happy for it to continue on the BBC.

Problem is the BBC has a strong political left wing element, the likes of which can be heard in its News and current affairs programs. They squander public money the same way as the UK Labour party did. Sure they have to save money but can you really see them continuing to promote a sport that looks to be dripping in money? No it does not fit with their thinking. The very fact that they have spent hundreds of millions moving to the Labour Party heartland of Manchester says it all.

You can rest assured that deep within the corridors of the BBC there are celebrations from these people who have effectively blocked viewing of what they perceive as a rich man’s sport. Top Gear will be next. They now have more money to spend on propaganda about climate change, multiculturalism etc etc the list is endless and of course at the end it will be blamed on the current government who blocked their annual licence fee increase.

It’s a shame that in the non-political part of the BBC lay a lot of creative talent that have produced such a brilliant show for F1 fans. But now it’s pay for it elsewhere or forget it. I just hope that Sky have got a good “get out” clause because they will need it


I reckon one thing helped motivate the BBC toward the Sky deal - beyond the obvious cost-cutting stuff...

And that is the audience they got for the Canadian GP - particularly because it managed to extend itself into BBC One prime time.

I reckon they think they might get *more* of an audience if the GP is shown nearer the Sunday evening prime time, rather than lunchtime or early morning. That "more" will, presumably, be casual viewers, rather than hardcore.

In fact, thinking about it, it would go down better with my family if I watched later in the afternoon, rather than a Sunday lunchtime!

It will be instructive once we get to see *which* GP they get live, and which they get to show delayed - and what time they then choose to put the show on.


A lesson can be learned from the organisers of the Indian Premier League. The IPL is now broadcast LIVE on the internet after their tie-up with Google's YouTube. The model is a commercial one and both the IPL and YouTube are benefiting.

Here's an interesting view on how Google and YouTube can change the way we consume Formula1 in the future: http://bit.ly/mSBeBg

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