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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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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:


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.


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


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.


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.


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!!


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.


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.


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.


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! 🙂


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.


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!!!!!


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.


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.

15 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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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:

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.


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…..


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!)?


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 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


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