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Italy follows UK in F1 pay TV deal with Sky
Italy follows UK in F1 pay TV deal with Sky
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jun 2012   |  7:58 am GMT  |  185 comments

The Italian rights to broadcast live Formula 1 racing in Italy have been won by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia, leaving the state owned free to air channel RAI to lick its wounds.

In a variation on the deal organised in the UK with SKY and BBC, from next season onwards SKY will have exclusive live rights for 11 of the 20 races, with 9 races available to a free to air broadcaster to show live at the same time as the SKY broadcast, with the Italian GP at Monza as one of the live races and highlights packages for the SKY exclusive races. Colleagues from RAI said in Monaco recently that the problem for them was that they would have to negotiate with SKY as well as FOM for the nine races.

Italy has had two broadcasters running in parallel before, with SKY trying to build an audience alongside full free to air coverage on RAI – with Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter Tamara as one of the presenters – from 2007 to 2009. They abandoned this route because it was hard to build an audience when qualifying and the races were also free to air. They have now come back to take a much stronger position, based on the UK model. Colleagues in Italy are talking about a figure of €65 million a year, roughly double what RAI were paying.

SKY Italia has Moto GP from next season as well as Olympics, World Cup, Champions League and Serie A football.

RAI has enjoyed viewing figures of over 10 million in the dominant Ferrari years of the 2000s. SKY Italia now has 5 million subscribers in Italy, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We have a similar agreement in the UK, ” said Ecclestone. “It works really well, amplifying the quality and depth of the coverage and assuring the races are still seen free to air.”

It is quite a delicate balancing act for the sport as it seeks to grow revenues from broadcast rights. The traditional home of F1, free to air TV, is finding it hard to afford the rights fees, especially in countries hit hard by the Euro crisis. But the trade off on audience numbers has to be carefully managed. The demand is different from football, which has been on SKY in Italy for some time, as it has in the UK and it generates huge revenues for the sport.

SKY also has the rights for mobiles, which is surely one of the key areas of growth in the future.

It will be interesting to see in how many more countries this model is rolled out; the rights in France are up for renewal and like RAI, French incumbent TF1 sees a threat from Al Jazeera, another pay TV channel with big ambitions on sporting rights.

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The 1st 11 live F1 races got 45.7 viewers in 2011 on the BBC.

The combined audiences for the 1st 11 races on BBC and Sky in 2011 dropped significantly to 24.1m.

Good going Bernie!


I have been a F1 fan for years I even went on my honeymoon to see Sena in Jerez, This year however I have not seen a lap and find I dont really miss it, so I think I have given up for good.


Its reassuring to see that Bernie and Rupert are still seen by denizens of this blog as 2 of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

So, who would the *other 2 be? Charlie Whiting? Jean Todt? Tilke? 3-Car Monte? Marko?

We should take a poll!

The Floor is open for Nominations!


Helmut Marko & Flav!

Brian Morrison

Well I have not watched a race since Hungary 2011, and I only watched that to see what the BBC had to say about their perfidy.

Looks like the Italians will be screwed over the same way, but then given that what I read about the racing seems to indicate that the drivers have to spit on their tyres and drive below the limit a lot it does beg the question of how many people actually want to see racing of this nature.

I hope Bernie and his mates enjoy counting their increased spondulicks, and that they’ve picked a bank to put them in that can survive the coming economic cataclysm.


I can’t afford the UK sky package and even if I could, F1 would be the only thing I’d watch (as much because I’m not in the house enough to watch TV as I’m really not interested in anything else Sky broadcasts)

I’d much prefer FOM to move everything in-house and have an online channel dedicated to the sport, just as Major League Baseball does in the USA (or in fact ManU TV here in the UK).

As it is, I watch Sky’s coverge in a pub for the cost of a few drinks (and maybe a couple packets of crisps)


Bang on cue Bernie pipes up with this

Better start saving now!


I think that’s a classic Bernie quote designed purely to ruffle feathers. He talks to the press about figures that bear no correlation to the facts he or the journalist is trying to back up, but it gets reported like the ten commandments. So what if Sky reach 10m households, there are over 25m licence fee payers in the UK (therefore more than double the number of Sky subscribers with access to the BBC coverage), plus lord only knows how many additional viewers there are who watch the BBC without paying for a licence and are therefore not included in this statistic.

Graham Clarke

It is mainly bluster, the contract isn’t up until 2018 unless the BEEB change their mind again.

But he knows in order to get his 10m viewers on Sky F1 would need ti achieve a 100% share in the raings, and I don’t think many Sky subscribers also pay fir sports anyway. (that’s the cue for someone from BSkyB to correct me over this ‘key metric’ 🙂 )


“The thing that TV stations want to buy most is live sport. People don’t want to watch delayed stuff because nowadays it’s hard not to know the result if you don’t want to,” said Ecclestone.

Really Mr E? How blinkered is he?

It’s true what they say of F1, they live in a little bubble which nothing of the outside world registers with them.

F1 is entertaining, sometimes, but it’s not life defining.

I go out with my children, or I get on and work or have a family BBQ, you get the drift.

I watch it later.

For the last 7 years, I have routinely recorded every race on a DVD recorder.

If a race starts at 1pm, I will watch the start whenever I get to a TV and I’ll be watching it “live” in my own time. If I want something to eat or drink, I pause, then press play on my return.

This was actually a God send during the ITV years because I’d be watching the live TV feed from an hour before but could fast forward every ad break.

I have watched the Australian GP like this at 8am, or watched the German GP like this at 10pm, after a wonderful day with friends and family, BBQ and beer.

I also won’t spoil my entertainment by looking on the net for the results.

Hey, I see it this way, there are 1000’s of speed cameras around the country, and Jeremy Clarkson wants them all destroyed. I hate them myself, but there’s an easy answer.

How long do you think the police forces would keep their money making project going if they were not raising funds from them?

I haven’t been caught by a speed camera since 1995.

It’s not because I want to drive slowly, I have passion for speed, but I choose to drive slowly, because it’s a finger in the eyes for the Big Brother regime.

My fix for speed, my motorbike, a go kart or my Formula Ford.


Unfortunate developments, and not just in Italy.

I see that Bernie is quoted in the Guardian Newspaper as saying that Free to Air coverage in the UK no longer matters to him and he will be happy just to go with Sky.

I’m sure that Sky are doing a good job but how many terrestial TV viewers who don’t want extra TV channels are going to pay £25-£30 per race just to watch F1 ? My entry ticket for the whole LeMans week only cost me £55 !

It might be different if we could sign up just for £2.50 per race.

Bernie’s argument is that Sky reaches 10m people in the UK but the BBC audience never reaches more than 7m

He’s obviously no statistician :

For a start, the figure of 10m is probably optimistic and will include babies and toddlers, secondly he assumes that everyone in the vast majority of Sky households will sit down and watch F1 !

Like many enthusiasts, I now watch the non-Sky races on German TV with an extra LNB on my Freesat Dish. It cost me £30, less than one month’s subscription to Sky and it’s perfectly legal.

I used to watch cricket until it left the BBC, now I just listen occasionally on the radio.

If F1 leaves European Free to Air TV altogether I will simply stop watching.

Is that what your sponsors want, Martin Whitmarsh and Co ?


Nice, so when all countries sign up to pay deals, all the F1 fans will be truly catered for (in Bernie’s logic).

Will the sponsors/teams react at all to the dropping viewing figures? Or are they satisfied with money from tv deals?


Hi James,

Are you able to do a piece on how (or if) the teams are compensated for lower viewing numbers when a portion of the live coverage in these big F1 markets are switching to pay tv? Assuming they are, this must also lead to a significant extra bid price from a pay tv operator to get the right, compared to what a fta operator would pay?


I think Sky is doing a fantastic job. Great to have different live feeds,press conference etc. Martin Brundle,Anthony Davidson,and Johnny Herbert. Not to mention all the practices,qualy and races live, and the F1 show(live) When has the BBC ever had all of this. Ok we pay, but well worth it.


I bit the bullet and signed up to Sky HD F1 back in March…. the coverage is only average – I much prefer the BBC coverage – so when the BBC have the live races I still watch BBC HD F1.


I can’t imagine F1 will end up only on pay per view. It’s not like football, it’s no country’s national sport (even in Italy) and it needs to be easy to access to maintain public awareness. Look at boxing, it used to be massive, who cares about it these days? F1 would end up the same, especially, as with boxing, politically correct factions have F1 in their sights, and I’m sure the F1 powers that be are well aware of this.


Pretty sure that license fee for the BBC (which even non-users of BBC services have to pay) means that their coverage, like Sky’s (which one has to opt in to paying for) is not “free”. In fact, it is the only coverage you do pay for even if you don’t end up using it.


Finland in 2007 was an experiment for Bernie to see how pay-tv works. F1 was the first really interesting pay-tv product here and was used to sell a whole new package of channels showing boring series and old movies. Indeed after 2006 all the live races have been on pay-tv.

The difference in Finland is that commercial FTA channels and pay-tv channels belong to the same companies, so there’s an incentive to make the free-to-air coverage unattractive. For the ice hockey world championships the law requires all matches of the Finnish team to be shown live on a free channel. But they had the best commentator only on pay channel. They paid another commentator so they could have worse commentary on the free channel.


I don’t know what the system is in Italy for “FTA” tv, but in the UK we pay a substantial licence fee to the BBC for our supposedly free tv, so it is not free at all. That is why some of us may seem somewhat angry that the BBC has chosen to spend such vast amounts on football and the olympics. The latter being a commercial bandwagon for sponsors and a huge drain on our taxes.


In Italy we pay 212 Euros per year to subsidise the state run broadcaster, RAI. For that we get wall to adverts on state run channels, heavy political bias and exceptionally poor technical service. Even in Italian and on live tv the lips rarely move in sync with the voice. F1 coverage is OK, including James (occaisionally!) talking in Italian with his English accent.


A little perspective. Here in the US, we’ve paid to watch Formula One for YEARS!!!!!

Welcome to reality. Just because you got used to something of high value for free doesn’t mean you deserve to receive it forever for free. Oh wait a minute, you’re Europeans. That’s what you’ve “entitled” yourselves to expect.


In Great Britain we have something called a T-E-L-E-V-S-I-O-N L-I-C-E-N-C-E F-E-E – -ergo those of us here have ALWAYS had paid to watch not only F1 but anything else on on our few mediocre terrestrial channels.

Still beats 57 channels and nothing on!



Better get your flame-proof underwear on!


Nobody ever got F1 “for free”. Who do you think pays for Vodafone, Canon, Pirelli etc to sponsor the cars, trackside etc?


Not to mention the BBC TV license fee.

Which reminds me of another grievance I have with Sky coverage, the obscene ammount of commercial breaks. I have never understood why Sky thinks it is acceptable to charge viewers a relatively large ammount to subscribe to their service and then feel that it is ok to exploit these subscribers for additional advertising revenue.

We have a competition commission in the UK to restrict distorted market power (and the expoloitative behaviour this creates), it’s a shame that the commission’s guidelines are so ineffective when it comes to broadcasting rights.


Everything else aside I think the coverage on Sky has been fantastic this year.

I really love all the extra feeds they provide, especially during practice when you can go to one of there onboard feeds or the pit lane feed to hear extra radio transmissions.

all the extra analysis tools they use are also great & provide extra insight you dont get on bbc.

if i got to pick where f1 stanyed in future years i would pick sky over bbc purely because there coverage is more in depth & far better overall.


BBC has the best analysis tools. A pen, a piece of paper and Gary Anderson.


forgot to add that sky also provide live gp2/gp3 practice, qualifying & both race as well.

they also started showing the driver/team press conferences live recently which is something no other broadcaster does.

we also had 1982/1983 monaco gp highlights & 2007-2011 monaco gp shown in full.

great stuff.


I just wanted to speak up a bit for the UK Sky coverage since for the most part it seems to be getting a bit of a bashing!

Yes it is an incredible shame that F1 went to Sky since the BBC coverage was not only free (or as good as, im not counting the licence fee!) it was also the best coverage we have ever had in the UK.

And Mr.Murdoch is most certainly a dubious individual and I fully understand people boycotting Sky for that reason (I admire your moral fibre! I’m not as strong!).

But as someone who is lucky enough to be able to afford the extra £10 a month (I was already a subscriber to Sky’s basic entertainment package) I have to say I have been impressed with the Sky coverage.

The commentary team are well informed, professional and accessible (albeit mainly pinched from the BBC!). The adverts are relegated to only show in the first half hour of the build up show (which is an hour and a half long) and after the race which is fine by me. The presenting team are at least as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as the BBC team (after a shaky start I think Damon Hill is really coming into his own and with Johnny Herbert they have their own slightly more coherent version of EJ!) and as someone else already pointed out you get coverage of all the support races, practise sessions, review programmes covering past seasons and a number of magazine shows – some of which at least are interesting!

Yes its not fair on the hard up fan to have to pay for it now, and yes Murdoch is a swine, but I don’t think you can knock the actual quality of the product.


I have to disagree with you.

Last years BBC coverage was excellent,Brundle/Coultard and humphreys/jordan/. This years is not as good but is still alot more fun and still far far better than Sky’s.

And if I watch that Paul Di Resta vid or the Legend’ vid on constant loop between races I will destroy a television (and my home insurance just ran out) I swear.

The actual pre race coverage is woe fully poor on sky and the race commentry is not the pairing sky had hoped for with Brundle and Crofty, which is almost as grating as the dark days of Legard.

As for the after race ‘forum’, it does not work – moment of hilarity at the last GP the BBC lads walking past the Sky lads into the Redbull after race party….Brundles face was a picture.

That said – F1 to go the way of boxing, cricket, football etc with no one knowing who the world champions are and “the stars” only being known for off field antics…..


I guess it’s a case of each to their own! I watched F1 from when the BBC first had the rights before going onto ITV then back to the BBC and I honestly believe that the coverage now is on a par with the best we’ve had (which for me was the BBC’s last tenure).

Are there niggles? Sure, I’m not too keen on their anchorman and they’ve inherited the BBC’s love of overblown dramatic ‘mood’ pieces (the Beeb’s Sean Bean voiced intro’s last year were just cringe worthy – and don’t get me started on EJ’s poetry!) but on the whole the race coverage is just as good as last year (but I couldn’t say better Matt!), I like Crofty & Brundle!

Where Sky surpasses the BBC is in it’s supplementary programmes. I love having coverage of the support races to watch and believe it or not Thompson I enjoy the ‘Legends’ series!

But again, that’s just my opinion!


Accepted, to each their own, I have to confess I love those cut scenes, with filters, pumping music, moody voice overs on the BBC (obviously shot and edited by the Top gear back room boys). The edited race summary after each GP I thought was superb.

but personally the Brundle/Coultard commentry was the pinnicle imo – for 1 season they got it just right.

But I’ll be watching on Sky this weekend…. 🙁

Matt Devenish

But is it any better than what we had and what we’re now paying for now?


That monthly fee will really sting in August…


I hear yeah……


I had the displeasure of viewing a race on sky whilst visiting a friend, and I have to say it was pretty awful.

Female presenters hired only for their aesthetic qualities and the abonxious commentary of David “Crofty” Croft made for a truely Murdochian experience.


“Murdochian experience” lol


Here in Canada F1 has been on “pay” cable for the last few decades. I’m sure Canada’s F1 viewership numbers speak for themselves- for instance: less people watched the 2010 Spa race than the final round of the Ladies Pro Golf tournament later the same day. When a good night of Hockey playoffs will attract 2-3 million Canadian viewers (free on CBC) and a typical F1 race only attracts 250K, you know where the money will go…


You can’t compare *anything to Hockey in Canada. No chance.


Whatever they do it can’t be worse than what Astro is doing in Asia.

THey have good coverage and stuff, but all through the race, every 10 mintues or so. I would rather watch a BBC highlights any day and at least get it uninterupted by commercials.


The only irony I see is James fighting the corner for sky and then working for the bbc




Hi James

You point view of view once the sky deal was announced was very pro sky and like it or lump approach. When in reality we could of done with someone of your reputation and cailibre fighting on the side of the fan. I was hugely disappointed in you as individual as you could see that money wasn’t an issue for you and you werent prepared to stick your neck out for the fans. Then to sign for BBC after that stance I thought was very hypocritical. I appreciate journolists are afraid of bernie and on that occasion it was clear you were afraid to speak your mind just in case you lost your position within f1, whilst the rest us had to loose f1 to some degree altogether.



If its not your job to fight for us, then who will? Your voice is louder than most and you have a lot influence, it would of been nice to have you on the side of the fans. It would of carried a lot weight.


I’ve got to agree with James; you’re talking nonsense.

The irritation with Ecclestone (can we please stop calling him “Bernie” ?) is quite understandable – greedy and unpleasant are epithets that spring to mind.

Quite how James is to blame for any of this escapes me completely.


This site is the best there is largely because the author does not get caught up in fanaticism. The articles available here are not available anywhere else, and the author creates fascinating articles for fans who really appreciate and understand the sport. Leave the sensationalist, favour-seeking garbage to Sky Sports where it belongs.

This site has maintained my interest in F1 during the past couple of years (which have been difficult for me to continue liking F1 after 20 years to be honest) and I have entered competitions that any real fan of the sport would dearly love to win rather than the usual win a t-shirt crap you find elsewhere.

I can’t image that this site makes the author huge piles of cash, so it must exist for OUR benefit rather than his in some sense. I am grateful for that.

I argue and criticise here and there on this site, but at the end of the day there is no other F1 site to compare to this one, no better source of knowledge and understanding and very few people who take such time to engage with fans as JA both does and facilitates.

We are all closer to F1 because of JA.

P.S Can I have that t-shirt now James? 🙂



I think these comments are unfair, although I do feel you could question more strongly re these TV deals.

For example, on the recent podcast the promoter being interviewed was clearly stating that F1 was going to cost the fan/viewer more over time. What he really meant was “the dan is going to pay a lot for for pretty much the same, to line various rich peoples pockets”. A fair argument against that would be to say that the fans already pay indirectly through BBC licence fee, as well as essentially paying for all the advertising on the cars and trackside. Hence why F1 is already a conmercial success. But the guy concerned was just left to state his case unchallenged.

F1 is and always has been a business. I understand that. But it is going too far.


That’s the opposite of what he said: he said that he thinks the costs will not go up, but that there will be more stuff for fans in terms of online feeds, mobile etc, more ways of interacting. But he’s careful to say that he thinks the prices won’t rise.


One of the strongest replies I’ve ever seen from you, James and I’m sure almost every regular visitors to your site will agree with every word !

It’s just a shame that the BBC insists on continually interrupting your excellent R5L commentary with reports from Football matches etc.

With digital radio I would have thought they could provide a second, uninterrupted feed for you.


To be honest, I’m glad of the odd chance for a breather and to take stock of how the strategies are unfolding!


I’ve no idea what you are talking about.

I wasn’t pro Sky in August last year, I reported the news objectively using my 20 years of F1 TV background knowledge.

It’s not my job to fight for fans, it’s my job to entertain and to inform fans and to help them get more from the sport, not fight crusades. I’ve done more for fans on this site in 3 years than most of the others in F1 put together – eg invent the Fans Forum..

And there’s nothing hypocritical in signing for BBC Radio 5 Live, which is a fantastic institution in the UK and which has nothing to do with the TV deals..

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