Analysis: The numbers show why Formula 1 took the exclusive Sky deal
F1 on TV
Martin Brundle
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Mar 2016   |  11:55 pm GMT  |  456 comments

We have had an interesting response to the news that F1 in the UK will be behind a paywall from 2019 onwards with many comments from fans suggesting that this will be the point at which they disconnect from the sport.

But a glance at the numbers involved in this deal show why F1 felt it was a deal they had to take.

We always like to showcase the outstanding contributions our readers make to the comments section of this site, with many intelligent and considered points of view. We’ve picked out one reader’s comment below, which sums up the mood among a certain contingent.

This is actually a really fascinating situation, with F1 trying to balance the need to generate income from media rights with the need to maintain mass viewership. Like any media business the monetisation of the sport is based on its scale.

Where the UK is concerned, it’s worth remembering that the two recent TV rights negotiations F1 Management was involved in were ITV wanting to pull out in 2008, replaced by BBC and then BBC wanting to pull out in 2015. That’s quite a negative for the sport, but also shows how F1 needs to be careful with whom they partner, as both of those partners were unable to fulfil their side of the deal.

Webber and Coulthard

Balanced against that in 2015 was the will of Channel 4 to come in and take the BBC’s package of 10 races live and the rest highlights. The numbers on this are that BBC paid £15m a year for its package. They needed to exit because of a shortfall in the licence fee revenues and the need to find quick savings. Channel 4’s deal is worth £24m a year, reflecting the channel’s ability to raise income through advertising. The new Sky deal is a kick in the teeth to them, just days after they broadcast their first F1 highlights show and a week before their maiden live offering.

It means they will host live races only for three years. At best they’ll be able to subcontract the highlights from Sky after that.

Now consider that Sky has been paying £45m a year for its rights, during this time of shared rights. With the Channel 4 fee on top that has meant a yield from the UK for F1 of £70m a year. This is roughly twice what ITV was paying 10 years ago and about 80% more than the 2009 BBC exclusive deal.

With the Channel 4/Sky deals in place until the end of 2018, F1 Management wasn’t in any particular hurry to secure a longer term deal, but when the ongoing battle between Sky and BT Sport over rights acquisitions moved onto the F1 playing field, they were not about to turn that down.

Sky Sports F1

In recent weeks a bidding war has been taking place between the two broadcasters and it has led to a 150% uplift in the yield from UK TV rights for F1, taking it to almost five times what BBC was paying for its original contract from 2009-2011. Over six years that’s roughly a billion pounds.

Looked at in that context, you can see why F1 took the deal. It’s a business after all, one that shares 60% of net earnings among the teams (albeit in an unfair split). It is hard to turn down that kind of offer. Fans will have noted a deafening silence from the teams to this news; they realise it’s unpalatable to many fans who don’t want to pay or who won’t engage with Rupert Murdoch’s empire due to its distasteful activities in print media or other reasons. But it’s a rainmaker deal for the teams.

There is little consolation in any of this to the many F1 fans who have been used to watching F1 free to air, even with adverts. But with that kind of money on offer it’s not hard to see why F1 took the deal, just as the Premier League did with its £5bn deal over three years and the Champions League, which is exclusive to BT Sport and no longer live on ITV.

In 25 years no Premier League match has ever been shown live on a terrestrial channel in the UK, but the popularity of the series and the following is greater than ever.

But football is not F1; motorsport is more niche. Compare it to golf, whose Ryder Cup is only shown on Sky. The danger is that it diminishes in importance as the audience consolidates at a much lower level.

The UK F1 fan has been able to watch F1 free to air in some form for longer than fans of most other sports and it’s not surprising that they are unhappy to lose that privilege.

Murray Walker

The small consolation is that the new Sky deal obliges them to show the British GP live and all highlights on a free platform, available in 90% of homes. At present Sky does not have a platform that qualifies. So they may well sub licence the highlights to Channel 4 or more likely ITV, in the same way as Champions League is live on BT Sport with highlights on ITV.

This is what is know in the industry as ‘barker content’ – the opportunity to showcase the sport on a free to air platform that lets people know that the event is on and draws some to take up the pay offering to watch more of it live.

This is not to defend F1 Management’s deal with Sky, merely to provide some context. As TV fragments and declines in value, quality sport is one of the few things that consumers want to watch live. So there is a real premium on it. One wonders what events will still be free to view by the end of this decade.

Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Anyway, to our reader reaction piece. It comes from M Pinchbeck, who is one of many that grew up with Nigel Mansell racing on the BBC with The Chain as a theme tune and Murray Walker providing the soundtrack.

M Pinchbeck writes: I started watching F1 as a child in the early 90s when F1 was free to watch on the BBC. The uniqueness of an F1 car and the fact that one of them was driven by Mansell, with a big red ‘5’ on the front was what got me hooked. I went on to become an avid watcher of F1 and a fan of Williams to this day. I’ve bought F1 memorabilia, attended an F1 race, and exposure to sponsorship (on the cars, at the circuits, and on TV when F1 was on ITV) have subliminally affected my choice of purchases and influenced my products of desire over the years. I would say that the free-to-air business model has worked if I am example and especially if I am one of 10 million+ other people with a similar experience. It’s a shame that the F1 powers-that-be think otherwise.

Back in the early 90s F1 didn’t have the same money it has now. It was certainly hard for teams to make ends meet but TV rights and circuit hosting fees didn’t cost what they do now. Today, if an historic circuit can’t afford the latest exorbitant fee it simply gets dropped for another Tilke-drome in a country with no F1 following regardless of the views of the fans and drivers. Perhaps F1 has become a victim of its own success. Right now it can probably afford to sit itself behind a TV paywall with a diminished, but paying, TV audience. I’m not so sure it can afford to so forever though.

F1 fan

If, when I was a child, F1 had been behind a paywall, it would be doubtful that I would have had that initial exposure to generate a lifelong interest. To maintain the interest I did get as a child it relied upon being able to watch each race every couple of weeks which I was able to do. The opportunity to do that would have been distinctly reduced if F1 had been behind a paywall. I’d have been reliant upon parents paying for and choosing the right sports package. From 2019 onwards, where will the new F1 fans come from? Or does F1 no longer care?

It is clear from the other comments here that I’m not alone in not having followed F1 to Sky. Free-to-air works for me and I’m not fussed about the extra F1 content offered by Sky (I’ve got the internet and F1 Racing magazine instead). I don’t often watch the races live due to time of day and having a family but recording the races that are live on terrestrial to then play back later, or watching the delayed extended highlights programs, suits me. I’ll hold full judgement until we see what sort of highlights package becomes available in 2019. However, taking MotoGP as an example, I wouldn’t be surprised if F1 highlights on terrestrial end up becoming a condensed 1 hour program at 7pm on ITV4 on the Monday after the race. If so, F1 will end up a minority sport. And with such a reduced program package, I can see my interest in the sport, and certainly my religious following, waning when that happens.

If F1 does go ahead in sitting behind a paywall then that’s just something loyal F1 fans will have to reluctantly accept but surely there must be a better way than Sky exclusivity. Personally, much as I love F1, I’m unlikely to switch to taking out a Sky Sports package. Having little interest in other sports, I’d have to decide whether or not the fee for Sky Sports is worth it for just 20 or so events a year. At least for football followers they have 100s of games per season they can watch. For F1, I don’t think pay TV works but unfortunately the F1 powers-that-be think otherwise!

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1

Having to pay to watch a procession will be the end of F! for me – I look for some excitement in my paid viewing.

I think my decision might change if certain things changed in the race organisation. At present everything is set up for the benefit of the richest teams – without caps on their pending they have the fastest cars and drivers, and gain overwhelming advantage from qualifying on a clear circuit when there is no competition in order to gain “pole”.

The skill is limited to driving on a clear track; and has nothing to do with competing with other cars and drivers . The spectacle or theatre is artificially limited to those rare moments when one driver actually tries to pass another.

The theatre would be radically changed if the starting positions were reversed, so that the faster cars/drivers started from the back of the grid and actually had to compete with and pass others! The mechanism by which this could be achieved would be to scrap “qualifying” and the cars start in the reverse order to their driver’s championship points tally (last year’s final tally being the decider when there is no difference in this year’s points to date.

Add a strict cap on the amount which can be spent, so that financial backing is less important, and we might see real inter-car racing which would be worth paying to watch.

2

I have to agree with the general consensus. Why would anyone pay a yearly subscription to SkyF1 for 20 races per year. This channel was free on digital when it came out as a “taster”. No offense but it was rubbish. Rerun after rerun of the last race…. re-runs of post race chats…. re-runs of “classic” races. The impression was of a channel that had very little to offer except on race weekends. I’m not a great football fan so I would be getting the package for F1 only………and quite frankly its simply not worth it.

3

The challenge is that it’s only 42 hours of racing a year

They have to fill a channel with lots of other stuff

4

For 20+ years i watched F1 live and from 2001 6 of use used to meet at mine to watch each race live even 3am early starts, but since lsing free to air we have gradually watched less( only got together for 2 races in 2015) last year none of us followed f1 anymore, thevsimpke truth is we could not get a feel for the race when watching highlights only none of us willing to pay slowly we stopped getting together to watch F1 and in 2015 none of us watched any races.
Not sure if we will ever come back now as do not take much notice of F1 news anymore when i hear it on the radio.
BTCC has improved greatly in last few years and i used to follow this during Cleland years, the 4x4Audis ruined it a bit and the T5 volvos made us all laugh as well as surprising us.
BTCC today has again got lots of different cars and got past the single series astra years.
F1 lost lots of loyalty and fans in 2012 sell out

5

I’ve following F1 since i was 7 that’s 1981 till today. it has swayed my decisions on what i wanted to do all through school and sadly it never turned out the way i thought it would. So today I’m a redundant Ex lorry driver with a background in specialised engineering; that aside. When Sky took over F1 coverage, I didn’t follow as it was IMHO far to expensive for a Globally minority european based sport. Instead I took to the internet to look for hacks and streams to watch for free basically because my income vs expenditure is largely in the negative and has been most of my working life. So if FOM and its corporate owners thinks I ‘m stealing from them, well think on because I’m the kind of man that started this sport in a 18 by 20 garage thats the spirit of F1. the cooperate giant it has become and the technology in the cars has been outstripped by the manufactures. F1 has been weighed and measured and been found wanting, if it wants to charge a price to watch it had better get back to it roots. Better technologies, free thinking engineering and open mind as to what an F1 car is.

20 races at £3 a race is still £60 out of my meager earnings and thats about what i could scrimp together to watch a race. add another £3 for the qualifying oh sorry that out side my budget.
So if 1 million people in England watch 20 races and qualifying at £3 a weekend, thats still £60 million from the English, in TV revenues. If its 6 million people then that £360 million so how much is SKY making, really off of its £70 million investment, add advertising revenues per annum and once this Paywall is in place, F1 benefits how from this arrangement. Its may have secured an income for the short term but it is a diminishing Fan base that will ultimately put pay to the pay per view audiance or the end free view internet

6

I think it’s crass to take f1 away from free tv. When Silverstone has no fans there because people are no longer interested- then more fool them. Without fans there is no f1 and they won’t drive around an empty and empty stadium, which I seen before. Loads of spare seats.
All my mates used to watch it, now there’s only me. And I will stop when they make you pay.
It’s a case of greed killing another sport.
It’s not a sport anyway anymore. It’s an elitist, rich persons entertainment.
Who ever decided to go that way is a dick.

7

With an American perspective, I have recently started watching the Sky coverage somewhat against the territory broadcast rules here in the US. And I absolutely love it. You folks in the UK have it so much better for F1 than in America. Sky gives you lot almost endless coverage, it seems, and an awful lot of it without ads. Sky seems to send a veritable army of reporters to every race, sometimes so many of them crawling all over the paddock, they end up wandering into each other’s camera shots. It’s amazing.

Compare to the US coverage where they send a whopping two people to every race, one of them doing camera and not even on the air. Meanwhile just three guys anchor the rest and do play by play from a booth somewhere in the US. It’s extremely low budget and yet jammed with ads from end to end and stuffed with pumping music and drama in an effort to emulate NASCAR coverage. It’s horrible. It’s boring. It assumes the audience is all idiots and proceeds to treat us like we have no idea why the cars lack fenders or why they don’t refuel during the pit stops. NBC’s F1 coverage is so bad, it is almost preferable to not watch at all just to not have to endure any of the misery.

So in that case, I haope you can understand just how much I love what Sky is doing. Compared to what we have in the US, Sky F1 is a dream channel.

8

Now is the time for BBC or ITV to pick up new motorsport sries (NASCAR, INDY, Formula 2, a new Open Wheel Sports series in direct competition with F1, but outside FOM). There has to be alternatives to the megalomaniac s Ecclestone and Murdoch. Come on Beeb and ITV, get your thinking caps on!

9

Can’t see the long term gain for F1. As advertisers start to analyse the figures I think they will put pressure on Bernie to think again. Last year one race on Sky had 2.2mil viewers? BBC highlights had 4.8mil viewers. Channel4 gets even less. By the end of this season I reckon upwards of 60mil UK viewers will have been lost to F1 and its advertisers?

10

I’ve watched F1 solidly since Nigel Mansell was driving for the brilliant Williams team. I remember being rivetted to my seat watching Nige trying to get past Senna in Monaco in ’92. I remember Imola not long after, I remember Schumacher’s incredible rain dance in Spain and his amazing race stuck in 5th gear at the same track. I remember Patrese getting air born from Bergers rear tyre in Portugal and Brundle sliding upside down into the gravel in Auz. Too many amazing races and memories to mention. These last three / four years I have essentially stopped watching F1. Reasons, 1. lack of actual racing, 2. Sterile boring circuits, 3. The Pay wall, 4.The lack of competitive midfielders. 5. The lack of new privateers in the sport.

11
Charlie Stevenson

In all the discussions about viewing figures and the impending disappearance of F1 behind a paywall, I’m wondering what all the advertisers think. They want eyeballs on branding and logos, and if the audience figures drop from 3-4 million to 700k (in the UK) they will be losing a significant amount of visibility.

12

I have been an F1 fan since the late 60’s and my father was too, but i cannot afford a sky package just to watch F1. F1 has had money from me in other ways over the years such as merchanise sales, saving up for a few years to go to a live race once a decade and the advertisers have influenced my decisions when purchasing products. All this from my love of F1 which i fell in love with at no cost to my parents.
3 of my 4 children are now F1 fans who also spend money on merchandise and tickets for live races from time to time but their kids will not grow up as F1 fans because there will be no home exposure to F1 to get them interested in it once it goes behind a paywall that parents cannot afford.
F1 is slowly killing itself off and without change will die through sponsors leaving the sport because watching it has become the exclusive domain of the wealthy who are not influenced by the mass marketing campaigns advertisers use for mass market products and there are no longer enough “Ordinary” fans like me to justify buying air time for their products which sell not to the rich but to the mass market who can no longer afford to be f1 fans.
On a more technical note, stop restricting the drivers through electronics, fuel limits and artificial tyre degredation and let them race and get rid of the stupid front aero that means no car can follow another without wrecking his tyres and overheating engine and brakes forcing them to back off or break down.

13

Don’t have Sky don’t want Sky. Will have to *some how* source F1 from somewhere in 2019

14

I have followed F1 for more years than I care to remember, 50yrs more on than off. I was one of those who regularly got up at 5am to watch the Far East races & quail’s live until bbc handed over the bulk of races to sky. This was a sell out. BE always said he would keep F1 on terrestrial channel but even this has gone to the wall. I will not pay sky for the sports pack for how many channels I will never watch. I am a 70+ yr femail and have no interest in Any other sport. So why should I be expected to pay for them. Sky will not offer F1 S a sole channel. So when this comes in in 2019. It will be bye bye F1 from me. Sad. Sad. Sad.

15

R.I.P F1 from 2019 – one way or another it seems that those people “running” the sport I have avidly followed for four decades will not be satisfied until they have completely destroyed this wonderful sport!
#annoyed #frustrated #totallyruined #sadlydead

16

agreed with m pinchbeck. the sport is in disarray with its management, current appeal, qualifying debacle and numerous aspects. the true fans are being ignored. i dont watch other sports so need for a sky sports package. the races in effect are not at an ideal time of the day in the first place for televison viewing, let alone creating another barrier to entry. wake up guys and smell the coffee.

17

Hi James,

Excellent site. I have been following you for a while now, but not posted very much, however recent events have prompted me.
In summary:
F1 coverage is better than it has ever been.
Some races are dull and better skipped, even for the fan.
The future is looking even better with UHD coverage
The first F1 race I watched was Monaco, in the early 1970s. There used to be about 2 races a year and that was it. Coverage expanded in the 1980s but I can still vividly remember watching F1 races on CeeFax (TV Text Pages refreshed every lap or two). Then discussing it with colleagues the next day at work.
We have been spoilt over the last decade or so. Not particularly by ITV’s coverage, but the fact that we had access to many more races live, not just a few key races like Damon Hill winning the world championship live – which for some reason I watched in Spain, live and free.
I do subscribe to Sky. Initially F1 was free to all Sky subscribers. However reading between the lines this is going to change, to become part of the Sports package. Not much is being made of that point – Sky charging twice, or making F1 premium content.
Is Sky coverage worth it? In my view it is. Sky have taken watching the sport to a new level. I can’t wait to watch F1 in UHD. I am a fan so I will pay for that. And that will involve new hardware as well as an extra subscription. Maybe I am hard-core? But to be clear my primary motive in subscribing to Sky is for HD TV. And I subscribe to Sky Sport for the Cricket. F1 coverage is a welcome bonus.
[The Sky HD picture is better than that on BBC. With a choice between Sky and BBC I would watch on Sky because of the increased picture quality. I believe that C4 broadcast in the same resolution as Sky, so there may be a genuine choice available, for the race at least, for 3 years.]
The best race of the year for me has always been the Monaco GP. And not just because it was my first. And to make the opposite point to my only other comment on this site, it is precisely because there is no overtaking. It is all spectacle.
But what might happen? I used to watch MotoGP. Both my wife and I really enjoy bike racing. The final year of BBC coverage, in HD, was excellent. I have not watched a single race since the move to BT Sport. I can’t even watch the highlights package. All the excitement and immediacy has gone. And no it has not Barker’ed me into BT Sport.
I conclude that F1 viewers will decline (in numbers.) However the coverage will get better, if not the overall show, as we are about to see again with qualifying in Bahrain!!!
(I have just bought a 3D printer, and honestly, watching that for 2 hours making a tiny model is more exciting than some recent F1 races.)

18

As with many F1 fans spanning decades (mine 5) the sport has become an irrelevance as the divided free to air/paywall format has split a compelling season in half. What’s the point of watching half a season?

Bernies 2019 deal with SKY may well benefit F1 financially, I have little doubt it will, not because British fans will subscribe but because it probably gives SKY so many other options for broadcast to other markets. What we British fans forget is that there is a big world out there willing to pay stupid fees to watch sports we were able to access without cost other than a paltry licence fee.

However, even worse is that Bernie has also evolved the sport into a bling, celebrity focusses entertainment fest for the Facebook and Twitter generation. Sadly their attention span is equivalent to a goldfish. As fast as his entertainment spectacle has risen, it was simultaneously crumbling as the turnover of these people is enormous, and exhaustible.

The cost of this attention deficit is the competition, the heart of F1. And no matter what statistics you present to cynical F1 fans to persuade them there is more overtaking now than ever (artificially contrived via DRS of course) and winning margins are smaller, they will always bemoan the passing of halcyon days. The fact is they were moaning then as well, about the same issues.

The sport grew not on high technology but simple principles: strip a car of everything non-essential to going quickly and hope it will reach the end of the race before it falls apart. The limitations were engineering of the moment, track limitations and tyre technology. Over the years, each of these has improved beyond recognition so teams and management now have to artificially restrict everything, power, tyres, fuel, tracks, etc. etc. So in fact, F1 no longer pushes the boundaries of performance, it’s become a victim of its own success and ego.

If the sport is to succeed once again the whole thing must adapt to appeal to spectator preferences. More variety, if Superbikes can compete on a TT basis at the IOM, why can’t F1. Deaths at the TT have not put spectators off going there but it’s used as an excuse in F1 to sterilise and over manage the sport. And whilst no one wants to see one death in any sport, drivers and riders know the risks.

Why is their no ‘pursuit’ event? Individual cars, or even teams starting from opposite parts of a track , perhaps even as part of qualy. say 4 laps to set a time. No chance of teams reducing qualy. to yet another farce of empty tracks for 20 minutes, you either run when told or you’re out. How about hill climbs or slalom events? These might give the smaller teams a decent chance to gain some points as different events require different car qualities. Even American open-wheelers now include road circuits, not just ovals. At the very least, two race events with support races similar to World and British Superbikes should be considered then there’s the chance of a damaged car gaining points in the second race.

In my 50 years of watching the sport have I not seen any attempt by the F1 community to acknowledge what fans want. Indeed, it’s reverting to the very inception of the sport when it was a competition between manufacturers and spectators were an inconvenient consequence. Except now we’re expected to pay through the nose for something we’re treated with contempt by.

The engines may change, the drivers may change, the teams may change; but nothing about the spectacle changes. After 50 years of fans moaning, F1 still isn’t listening.

Good riddance, frankly. F1 has utterly ignored the rising competition from tin tops and motorbikes never mind Formula E. It’s haemorrhaging spectators and paying the price of its selfish disdain. The sooner it suffers an ignominious death the better for world motorsports.

19

From a business point of view, I can understand this move. It’s a nice little windfall for all concerned.

But, how much money is too much?

F1 has been heading this way for years and here we are at a point where money has overtaken the sport. Bernie et al have more money than they could ever spend, yet its never enough, is it?

Not since Gerald Ratner’s proclamation that his products were “cheap crap,” has an organisation striven to ruin itself so comprehensively.

On the BBC’s website, a similar level of outrage by fans was directed toward the move to Sky. A move that was already a fait accompli when it was announced, so it wasn’t going to change. A lot of the people there swore off F1 but many went back on their words and carried on watching.

Is this going to be the same thing?

Not me. I’ve been boning up on Nascar and Indycar and intend to give them a try. I used to follow Indycar in the 1993 and 1994 seasons when Mansell was racing there and it’s good to know that they still respect racing and their fans.

F1 is so up itself, it would take a tow truck to pull its head out of its behind.

20

I won’t be paying to watch live F1 despite being an avid viewer since the Mansell era. Just like I’ve lost live MotoGP I’m resigned to catching up in 2019 on free to air F1 replay: for as long as the bean counters allow that service to happen of course. I do think C4 has been hard done by. I enjoyed their highlights coverage of the first race and look forward to their first live race coverage. As for the BBC, it really is time for me to consider if their licence fee is worth it given they dropped F1 in the first place. F1 was the only live to air TV programme I thought worthy of their extortionate licence fee.

21

James – it might be a good laugh to put up a poll to see how many people will pay for Sky (new subscribers) after 2019. It won’t change anything, but it will be interesting.

Based on the comments of a lot of people highlights will be a good thing. Since we, the tight-arsed and unwashed, have only had half the races live it has been quite nice to have a condensed package of all the best bits at a really suitable time. It’s a bit like having a breakfast bar instead of a bowl of wheaties. And the general comments are that it’s boring, that it’s an unmitigated fiasco and so on and so on. Think about it. Highlights are perfect. You get all the good bits and still have time for lavvy breaks and more time for Call of Duty (or whatever your Call of Duty is).

I actually find it easier to persuade my son to watch highlights than a full race, something he finds absolutely mad. When I was growing up all my friends watched F1 and racing, we talked about it and Iron Maiden pretty much all the time. I have yet to hear my kids or any of their friends mention racing at all.

22

It’s just sad when u think about all that TV rights money going into the coffers of a VC fund to pay off their loan which they took out to buy an overvalued “sport show”. But I guess this is the way it’s going with paid TV channels snapping up most of the popular sports’ TV rights. We even had to pay for full World Cup football coverage in HK for crying out loud!! Coz the local terrestrial TV just couldn’t be bothered bidding against the cable TV company.

Anyway going back to this new Sky deal, I agree with M Pinchwood’s feedback that F1 risks marginalising its fan base and fail to attract new followers when it goes fully paid to watch. If Sky were clever in their marketing maybe they’d offer different viewing packages for their UK viewers e.g. season pass over internet feed or a pay-per-view option. Otherwise I can just see the whole nation falling out of love with this motorsport series gradually due to a dwindling fan base. Anyway ever since Bernie sold his shares in F1 the series has been on a collision course. I’m actually surprised at how long this dream sustained.

23
Kieran Donnelly

Short and sweet – won’t be subscribing to Sky in 2019. No, nay, never! If there’s highlights on then maybe but barely motivated enough to watch the free races at the moment given the generally drudgery of the races so might have already given up by then

24

I found this article very interesting. I still remember, very clearly, the reaction to hearing of the first Sky deal. I think that the best thing to come out of that demonstrated that I didn’t need F1 as much as I thought. It’s not a middle finger at Sky and F1, not at all. It’s a demonstration that we get on with life.

F1 is very niche in its participation. Attracting new drivers is not generally a problem. But pay to view sport has had an impact on player numbers. Cricket is an example. I spoke to the chairman of a cricket club near me and since cricket has been exclusively on Sky participation numbers have dwindled. Not by a little, by a lot. So mush so that clubs are closing at a rate never before seen.

The rugby club that I play for has seen player numbers rise since the World Cup, despite our dismal performance. Since the 6N, well – this remains to be seen. But I have to wonder what would happen if these events were not free to view. Rugby, seen by many as a dangerous and elitist sport anyway, purely on pay to view will suffer in the same way that cricket is.

We live in a society where getting our kids involved in sport is becoming more and more difficult. Obesity levels, we are told, are on the up. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have more sport on free to view to expose kids to it?

Back to F1. I genuinely don’t believe that it will suffer by being only on pay per view. There are those that will pay, there are those that won’t. There will be those that will be happy with the free crumbs that spill from the Sky table. If viewer numbers decline then it won’t matter. If the British GP is not well enough attended to make it financially viable then it will just be dropped. Azerbaijan has a GP now and F1 is more focused in these areas than in Europe. In fact, attending a GP in Baku is still cheaper than going to Silverstone, flights included. For Sky, to keep BT out is probably worth more than the money they paid, they can afford to absorb any loss that they incur on this deal.

25

Having watched almost every race since 1994 including moving from the hours friendly UK to the hours unfriendly Australia 8 years ago, having bought merchandise, having been to a Grand Prix, having played endless hours of the Grand Prix 2, 3 and 4 games, watched season highlights DVDs and ready books, I’m done with F1 now. It is totally moving in the wrong direction be it this TV paywall (which I’m sure will be case here in Aus soon too), the new races on usually terrible Tilkedromes, Halo devices, continuous controversy, aligning with people like Putin and Murdoch who are highly questionable morals, the list goes on. I just can’t abide what’s happened to the sport that I used to love and I’m not alone. Many of my friends here who watch F1 have drifted away from it to MotoGP or V8 Supercars and now don’t watch F1 at all.

26

Having watched almost every race of F1

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