France follows UK and Italy to pay TV model for F1 coverage
F1 on TV
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Feb 2013   |  12:14 pm GMT  |  245 comments

[Updated] France has become the latest major European market for Formula 1 to switch to a Pay TV model, as Canal + snapped up the rights starting this season.

The 11th hour deal is exclusive, which means that long time free-to-air broadcaster TF1 is out of F1 after many years of association and it is another nail in the coffin for Free to Air broadcasters as purveyors of premium live sports.

It also means that three of Europe’s largest markets for F1 coverage are now under the control of Pay TV, following the UK which switched to Sky in 2012 and Italy which is following suit this year. French TV audiences for F1 have usually been at a similar level to the UK, perhaps slightly lower, at around 4-6 million per race. F1 in Holland has also switched to Pay TV only for this year.

This exclusive Canal+ French deal prioritises revenue over reach; it will have an inevitable effect on the viewing figures, particularly as there is no free to air dimension to the deal, so only the audience paying €35 per month will be able to see F1 in France. After many years without a French driver on the grid, the country now has Romain Grosjean, Jean Eric Vergne and Charles Pic. And Jules Bianchi (above left) may be confirmed at Force India in the next few days.

It is interesting to compare F1 to football, which went down this PAY TV route first and has since thrived in UK, Italy and many other markets. But football is a national sport for most countries, whereas these deals will test whether F1 is a ‘minority” sport or whether the fanbase is dedicated and committed. Research shows that in many European countries F1 is second only to football in terms of audience demand.

In the UK there is a half way house solution; the concept of Sky carrying every race live with BBC showing only half the races live and the rest on highlights led to a small decline in figures last year compared to 2011, according to BARB figures. It will be interesting to see which way the trend goes this year.

In Italy a similar effect is anticipated under the arrangement proposed with SKY carrying all races live and RAI showing selected rounds free to air.

Global TV audiences were up by around 12% last year on 2011 values, thanks to additional races in Bahrain and Austin and to a more sustained and exciting championship than 2011. Typical global audiences for races in European time zones were around the 45 million mark.

F1’s global popularity was built up over the last 30 years on mass market free to air TV. It is now entering a second phase where it looks to maintain its TV platform but the only place to turn to keep the revenues high is Pay TV.

Down the road one imagines that F1 may look at shifting to a different model, whereby users have a direct relationship with F1 via the website and can pay to live stream races as well as order other content.

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They are all so far up their own they cant see the light, the light is while they where FTA advertisers saw a 600 million season audience, now the figures are in they don’t add up for the advertisers, so they leave to put their ad budgets into other things, which means less revenue for the teams, jobs have to go and wages drop.

If Bernie had set up his own TV company and used F1 as the funder, he would of had a bigger earner than F1 if that is possible!


I do believe Sky have actually changed their subscriptions and that as of something like March 1st the F1 channel will no longer be included in the HD pack for new customers. New customers would also have to take up the Sky Sports subscription. Current subscribers are uneffected (for now).

Reliance on PPV channels is a dangerous game, as Elite League Speedway is finding out.


Men, we are the best in the worst things, I have to say!! I am Portuguese and I have been paying F1 for at least 4 years, but last year I dropped out!! Too much!! I go to bars or watch on FirstRow!! Lucky you guys that you only have to deal with it now!


How about doing something for the F1 pay walls?

A petition has started to support free, live TV coverage worldwide and boycott the first 2013 race.

Show your support, share and act.


What annoyed me when it first came out that BBC were not doing live races anymore was that in their original press release the BBC said that they would cover 10 races live and on the remaining races show THE WHOLE RACE three or four hours later in the day.

I would have been happy with that. I could find something to do all day on Sunday with no access to tv or computer and then sit down in the evening to watch THE WHOLE RACE.

But this has not been the case. On the non-live race days, the BBC has shown just 1 and half hours of extended highlights. In this 1 and half hours they show 20 minutes of rubbish at the beginning and 20 mins of rubbish at the end making it 40 minutes on non racing, thereby cutting the actual race to around 50 minutes. This is then the total sum of the whole race. The whole race isn’t even available say two or three days later.

I too have found some internet sites which stream the whole race, but as already stated in other posts the quality is very bad.


Another fight between Sky and BBC.

Yes, Sky just provided about 20 minutes of coverage on each day of testing(this includes interviews and Ted’s diary), but you gotta see that this is the first time they are covering a test session. Remember what happened at the first two races in 2012?

You gotta give them time! They are broadcasting the Barcelona test in 3D and it is the first time that F1 is broadcasted it 3D!(though FOM has tested 3D in Singapore and Abu Dhabi).

So lets hope Sky provides better coverage in the next two test sessions!

Bring Back Muarry

Try justifiying it to your other half if you want to spend all that money on a 3D TV just to watch the F1!


I live in India and there are no 3D channels here, so I obviously won’t buy a 3D TV. Star Sports coverage isn’t upto the mark and I usually watch F1 online(both BBC and Sky).

All I wanted to say was that Sky’s coverage wasn’t up to the mark in the 1st test but I expect a much better coverage from them at the Barcelona test.


You can all still watch for free. It is called the internet!

Bring Back Murray

I’ve tried to watch the non-bbc races via streaming but the quality is pants compared to a decent wide-screen TV in high definition

Well watching low quality streams live just about beats waiting for the highlights I guess


Anything beats giving Murdoch money! And I’ve seen as many as 50-70,000 people streaming on the Sky weekends. Eventually if the poor ratings continue the teams and sponsors will realise they can’t make as much money via pay per view as Football or the NFL, there just isn’t the mass market.


Yep, these deals would have been more damaging 10 years ago.


Bernie can shove F1 where the sun doesn’t shine if it goes pay TV here in Australia. The reason he can charge the money he does for races and the teams can for their sponsorship is because of the claimed viewership. At some point the greed gets beyond a joke.

I’ve been a dedicated fan of F1 since the first race in Adelaide as a teenager, but I’ll be stuffed if I’m going to fork out money to watch something that he already makes an absolute fortune from because of millions of people like me.


My only thought from this is to think of all the kids who will not watch F1 while growing up.

As has been said, free to air coverage of F1 has been the norm for decades, and this meant lots of people grew up watching it, they saw it on one day and liked it.

So when the kids grow up having not watched any F1, why would they bother paying to watch? Is this move effectively neutering its legacy.

I am aware this is a generalisation, and that there will still be many kids who get to watch it. And I am aware of the need for money.


I just hope FOM dont do the same with the radio commentary. Radio 5 live do a superb job on the cricket, and they could and should up thier game when it comes to F1.

Motorsport is not the most visually interesting of sports, rather like cricket, but it is much harder to cover than cricket. Maybe this is why so much of the BBC coverage was/is focused on the preamble and the post race analysis. Dont know about sky.

But with some creativity and innovation in F1 Radio coverage, you could easily create an immersive, informative and very enjoyable listener experience.


If your English or French and support one of your drivers at least you can pay to watch your drivers.

But if your Italian like me and want to follow an Italian driver why pay?

I would gladly pay to watch Formaula One if I had an Italian driver to follow, until one returns I will save my money.


I know he’s Spanish, but Alonso drives for an Italian team and speaks Italian. Isn’t that close enough for government work?


LOL!! I first thought that TV stations where going to pay a model (a person) for F1 coverage, which left me a bit puzzled for some seconds until I got the right meaning.

Of course, that must be because of my lesser English.

In my country (Bolivia, Southamerica) you only get F1 via the most expensive paid cable network. And you have to stand frequent advertising, mostly colombian and veeeery long, when I watch it I find necessary to also use live internet commentary or it’s not possible to follow the race.

So I find weird that you euro people complain so much!

Nice site James!


You have a point, but just because you’re used to something that doesn’t make it acceptable – people can get used to almost anything if given enough time.

The Europeans probably won’t be grumbling as much in ten years time (assuming the pay TV model doesn’t self-destruct in the meantime), but that won’t invalidate all the opinions that people have expressed today.

PS – Your English is fine. For some reason I find that a lot of people who have learned English as a second language seem to be better at it than those of us who use it as our only language! 🙂


Thanks tell your friends!


Let’s cut to the chase (and this *will* offend some of you)

Bernie is 80+ years old. He’s looking at the short term gains because he knows he’s probably going to die soon.

Why would he care what we think?


Very interesting – just as I read Martin Whitmarsh at McLaren complaining about ‘falling rate cards’ (what the surface area of the car is worth to advertisers) , and the people running the sport are determined to further restrict who get to watch it. Nice one.

F1 was just about to become mainstream, and putting it behind a pay wall rarely helps.

If you really want to compare F1 vs Football here is a very simple test. Saturday morning at your local shopping centre, count the number of people wearing footie shirts, and the number wearing F1 shirts. You’ll find there is a teeny weeny bit of a gap in the numbers!

Nice quote “but I guess when you are 80-something you aren’t thinking long term anymore”


Oh God I hope pay races doesn’t hit the U.S. I for one won’t be able to afford it, not to mention the best sport in the world is already struggling here, mores the pity too because the most races and replays here is nascar. GOD I HATE NASCAR!


F1 went to Pay-TV already in 2007 here in Finland.

It sucks, but what can you do. Either you pay and watch, or then you don’t watch.


Interesting that F1 is now tapping Govts to subsidise the sport at ever increasing level, and now looking for more revenue through the pay-tv model.

Keen to understand whether the recent change in F1’s ownership model(i.e. now run by a private equity firm) and its profit targets are driving this move. At the end of the day, CVC’s sole purpose is to maximise its return for its investors, fatten it up for the holding period (what… 10 years?) then offload it on the sharemarket through an IPO (singapore 2012 fizzer), as its investors walk away with a big fat cheque. As you say – it’s not a major sport like football so not sure how this will turn out or what their projections are saying. Also, what are the sponsors going to think about this? Forget the fans, no-one thinks of them anymore…


Well I have to admit that I returned to Sky after a couple of years break purely because of F1 but I do watch some football and cricket and teh missus loves Alibi but I do still watch BBC coverage and will be tuning in to see how Suzi does. I did get a 12 months half-price deal but will probably continue when this runs out.

I like the full coverage of FP sessions, and record the GP2 races to watch on the Monday.

Sky have recently announced that they are making available “24hr day passes” for £9.99 to watch all 6 Sky Sports channels via the internet which wouldn’t be worth it to me compared to £40.50 for a full month but might be of interest to someone who watches the BBC races and just wants some extra.

Plus it had to be worth something not to have to listen to Eddie Jordan – for someone who ran a F1 team I continue to be amazed by how little he actually seems to understand.



I guess come 2016, F1 on RTL will also disappear, and in 2018 the BBC will lose what coverage it still has, that’s when I will cease to be an F1 fan, after what will be 42 years of following the sport.

TV output is bad enough now, no way do I want to spend £35pm for just 4 hours viewing and to add another multitude of channels still with nothing on.


I’ve been in France for a few years now, and can tell that the French coverage was less than impressive – instead I opted to watch the races broadcasted by the BBC through the internet. Canal+ will struggle unless they improve the show.


This is nothing more than a cash grab to liquidate the sport’s popularity. As others have said, long term this will cause a decline in viewership- but I guess when you are 80-something you aren’t thinking long term anymore. ALL major US sports have SIGNIFICANT free-to-air coverage- and that is why they have become major US sports. First you get the viewers, then you get the sponsors. People love racing all over the world- that will never change. The US is the example that for the biggest country in terms of motorsport (even lawn tractors are raced there)- it couldn’t give a toss about F1. People have other things to watch and other racing to follow. No FTA coverage = loss of largest motorsport market in the world. People simply put their attention and money elsewhere- except the minority of die-hards like those on this comment string…


As an loyal F1 fan since the mid eighties, the prospect of losing free to air broadcasts will mean that I will no longer watch races, it is that simple. This will mean that my children will not grow up as fans (which saddens me) and I suspect this scenario will be (and probably already is being) multiplied across many thousands of other families across the UK and many more internationally. Short-sighted greed will be the death of the sport.


Darn! Last year I managed to convince my better half (who is French) that buying a TNTSat box would be brilliant. She could watch all her free-ta-air French TV channels and I could watch the live races not on the BBC via TF1 and listen to the Radio 5 commentary by James.

Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be as successful in convincing her to pay for Sky Sports…

Bring Back Murray

That, my friend, is a bummer…


(Hi James – I’m not able to post on your site for some reason. I’ve used an alternate email address in the meantime.)

An important point to add is that Canal+ is a dying channel after having lost the Ligue 1 and Champions League to BeIN Sport.

Asking F1 fans to fork out 19 Euros a month plus deposit and set up fee nearly equals to spending 20 Euros per race on a channel that is dedicated to movies rather than F1.

Unlike the UK, I think this is a suicidal move for F1. They will lose 80% or so of the viewers.

France has no longer a grand prix but has two major companies in Renault and Total involved in the sport. That’s on top of the three or four drivers mentioned in the article.

All the young kids that we once were getting into the sport because it was just there on free-to-air aren’t going to be converted into F1 fans and interest in the sport will certainly fade in the long run.


Regarding Sky’s viewing figures, There not concerned with them as Sky don’t care about viewing figures.

To sky its all about subscriptions, As long as them having F1 is seen to be bringing people to there platform & keeping people on there platform then they will be more than happy.

Bring Back Murray

We have to hope that the sponsors will eventually do the talking and pull out, effectively forcing Bernie’s hand. But there’ll be nothing left of the F1 as we know it by that stage


That is correct


Maybe so, but it’s hardly a revelation that Sky are, quite reasonably, in it for themselves. No one thinks for one moment that they care about the sport or the fans. The point made by many is that the teams rely on the sponsors believing they’re getting the best exposure. So they must all be very interested in viewing figures…you’d think!


Well the sponsors are in big trouble if they depend on me. I don´t care about Infinity, Burn or whatever. I found interesting however how during testing in Jerez Lotus (they have the best twitter comments ever) were giving updates with great sense of humor. At some point they mentioned they were drinking Earl Grey tea. That´s something I can identify myself with.



People moan F1 going to a PayTV model, However ignore that most sports have already gone the same way with F1 lagging behind in that respect.

Sport on FTA TV is a dying thing because the FTA stations cannot afford the rights & also in most cases would rather show something which appeals to more people.

Also consider that all the FTA channels are trying to cut costs (In the UK at least).

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