F1 to disappear from RAI free to air TV in Italy, a foretaste of UK situation?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Jan 2018   |  9:37 pm GMT  |  262 comments

It’s not been announced, but serious outlets in Italy are reporting that the state broadcaster RAI will no longer carry F1 in 2018, leaving pay TV channel SKY as the primary platform for the series.

RAI will show only the Italian GP from Monza live.

In the late ’90s and early 2000s heyday of Schumacher and Ferrari, the audience on RAI was usually between 10 and 12 million for each race, similar to RTL in Germany.

While RTL soldiers on with live rights in Germany, at least for a couple more years, RAI’s deal for 9 live races and the rest of the rounds in highlights appears to have lapsed. Motorport.com Italy is reporting that the free to air platform TV8, which is part of the Sky family, will show some packages, yet to be defined.

Central to this discussion is the difference between terrestrial stations, like BBC or ITV in the UK and free to air, which can be carried on digital platforms, but which does not yet have the penetration olcoverage of the terrestrial stations.

The TV and media landscape is moving quickly; in the next five years the picture of what is and isn’t free access will change a lot.

In France, which will host a F1 Grand Prix again this season after a lengthy break, a package was agreed by Liberty Media on terrestrial carrier TF1, in addition to the Canal Plus pay service which bucks the trend of things disappearing behind a paywall.

The RAI deal was worth €23million a year to F1, roughly similar to the fee paid by the UK’s Channel 4, which is in its final year of a three year deal to host F1.

In the UK there is much speculation about the intentions of SKY bosses regarding their obligations under the exclusive deal they have from 2019-24. This requires them to show the British GP live and race highlights on a free to air channel.

That deal, worth almost $1 billion to F1, has an unusual clause in it whereby SKY gets to decide who gets the free to air component, not F1 itself. So Liberty has no control over the situation.

The example of Italy shows that it is possible for that free to air channel to be one of SKY’s own, rather than ITV, BBC or Channel 4. Many in the F1 broadcast industry believe we could see a repeat in the UK.

Rupert Murdoch has announced that he is selling his interest in SKY to Disney, which owns ESPN in the USA.

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It is very hard to maintain the enthusiasm for something and very easy to give once Free To Air is lost it will be very hard to get fans back after they have moved on and found something else to replace F1 I have followed F1 since the early nineteen sixties and i will not watch F1 from 2019 onwards i will easily find something else as F1 stands at the moment it is extremely boring anyway so why pay to be bored?


This whole thing is a bad situation that I hope gets better. I think Liberty just wants the streaming rights and they want it to be free if possible. Unfortunately many agreements were made before they took over.

ESPN now have the rights in the US. You do have to pay a little extra to get that but no more than NBCSN which wasn’t wasn’t much good in coverage even though the announcers were great.

Give it time to pan out. In the meantime just get a hacked Amazon Fire TV box or similar if you are in a country affected. I’m not saying steal but I don’t think even Liberty wants pay only countries.

I know ESPN is paying a lot but it seems Sky is the real problem and other entities may not be able to pay enough or are not willing to give Liberty streaming but pay only ain’t the answer. Advertising can be done with picture in picture so you don’t miss the good parts but well if you want no commercials you should pay. I get that. I also get advertising and more people can make a whole lot more money.


I don’t think ESPN is paying a lot for the rights. Low millions but there is a lot of support there beyond money

SKY in UK is paying around £150m a year for the exclusive 2019-24 period and they’ve just done a big deal for exclusive in Italy.


Well I think with the announcement from today from Sky to say they will ceasing satellite and be a streaming service like netflix or the like, I think that means, that no channel in the UK will be getting F1 and the one free race a year the British GP will be streaming only! 🙁


Unless there is something the new owners can do to intervene, I suspect what will happen is we’ll get a twenty-minute highlights package in the middle of the week after the race, stuck on Sky’s Freeview channel Pick TV. No doubt padded out to half an hour with ads telling us to subscribe to Sky if we want to see more. Such a shame to be losing Channel 4’s coverage as their team is so much better than their tedious pay-channel counterparts.


Let’s face it, in the end, with smart TV’s, there is going to be an OTT subscription direct to a Netflix/YouTube type F1 channel and you will have access relevant to what you’re willing to pay. F1 already do the broadcast/world feed so it just the pre and post live stuff. A lot of people hate Sky but would happily pass their cash direct to F1 as a subscription. If F1 can also sell the feed to a TV broadcaster – all well and good. But I think they would rather have a direct link to the consumer. Imagine a channel with all the historic races that you can watch whenever you want etc.


After 20 years of regularly attending F1 races and another 10 years on top of that watching them on the telly box I remember thinking ‘these days are numbered’ when I first heard Sky was to get the TV rights.

To be fair at first it didn’t change very much, Sky included the F1 channel in my Sky subscription and I carried on watching and attending races as before, on the whole.

Then Sky got greedy and found a way of changing my subscription, so unexpectedly the channel was switched off and I was expected to pay an unreasonable amount to have it switched back on again – needless to say that didn’t happen.

From then my viewing of F1 has diminished considerably, since new engines – sorry ‘power units’ were introduced I’ve gone from travelling to 3 or 4 races a year and watching every session of every race on TV to (at most) watching 3 or 4 races a year on the box with no current plans to attend another race again.

The cars are just not spectacular enough to justify the cost – especially when WRC has gone in completely the opposite direction and made the cars more spectacular and more easy to watch on free-to-air TV (with predictable effects on viewing figures and attendances I might add).

I’ve no idea if I’m typical or atypical, but certainly I am being given less and less reasons to continue giving FOM my hard-earned cash and more and more reasons to follow other forms of motorsport.

I was cautiously optimistic when F1’s new owners came in, but I think that optimism was’t warranted.


@ Gareth…another excellent post. Well said.


Been following f1 since late 80s. My mum happened to leave the TV on BBC when the race was on and I was captivated as a young child… Literally 5 years old or so. Now a lifelong fan. I genuinely believe that at the end of this year I’ll give up my interest in f1. I’m not paying a sky subscription for it. F1’s on the decline anyway so it’s probably a good break point to give up my interest.


@ Corp…. I’m a really cynical and some times ‘crusty’ old guy who has watched motorsport for over 60 years and when i read a post like yours i experience two emotions…firstly i rage at the thought that someone who apparently loves his F1 is being denied that opportunity and the secondly, i feel sad, because it should not be this way.


Ch10s coverage in Australia may have been free, but it was a terrible. I’d rather pay to watch SkyF1 than miss 1/3 of the race through ads. Apart from the Melb GP, Ch10 had no Pre Race, no Post Race, no Practice, no F1 show. The races weren’t even shown live years ago. We’d have to wait until after the Sunday movie had finished!
Paying to watch F1 via Foxtel is too expensive, yes, but it’s better than Ch10. Hopefully there will be an option soon the pay some sort of streaming subscription instead.


I’ve watched nearly every race for the last 4 decades, & watched the telecast in Australia bounce from ABC to SBS, to Channel 9, then Channel 10, to . . . . . . . down the toilet basically.
So F1 (or 2 stupid red stripes as per the new logo) has new owners that, superficially, claim they want to make F1 more accessible for the fans.
So because I can’t afford Foxtel’s 40 channels of not wanted plus the 1 I actually want, in the interest of fair play & giving the new guy a chance, I have tried to contact Liberty Media.
Has anybody else tried this, & if so, has there been any success?
When I get to their web site, there appears to be no way to contact them unless I want a share portfolio, which isn’t really the point of accessibility for the masses.
All this digital paywall crap is ruining everything.
Thanks for that, Bernie!!!


I’ve said similar on this website before, and I’ll say it again in the hope that somebody with influence reads this – and other comments on here. I’m not paying to watch F1 – especially when I already pay for regular TV. I’ve been a fan since the early 90s when I was a kid, but I’ve been drifting away since the Sky deal was struck. The reason for that? I lost track of which free to watch races were live, and which ones were highlights broadcast later in the day. As a result, my fortnightly Sunday afternoon was disrupted and I often found that I’d be out on a Sunday afternoon and then think “Ah man, today is a free, live race and I forgot”. I still follow F1, but I usually just read about it online now, and watch video snippets online on the Sunday evening. I’ve just naturally drifted away – all because of paywalls. And because of that, I see fewer Rolex adverts and buy fewer Rolex watches. Sorry sponsors, but paywalls are c*****g it all up for you. Nutshell – I rarely watch F1, but I read about it all the time.


Seems like the rest of the world has caught Australia’s Channel 10 virus, which means pay boat loads of money, or miss out.


Pretty sure that post 2018 Coulthard, McKenzie and possibly Jones will follow the money to Sky and they will drop people like Lazenby, Croft/Kravitz. Brindle and Coulthard were the A team back in the day, who could forget Canada 2011?

Regardless, it still won’t entice me to pay, I have to pay for BBC dross by stealth and the BBC I hold responsible for the shady deal done with Sky.


Just get rid of Croft and that annoying twit Johnny Herbert. that alone would be worth an annual subscription…


As a consistent fan of F1 but one whose happiness doesn’t depend on it, I’ll take whatever scraps I get. There’s no way I can afford Sky so I’ll just have to wait and see what’s available. I do sometimes wish that those who have stopped enjoying F1 would leave this news forum alone and join fellow Luddites on some more history-oriented site.


Been a big fan since 1990 , been to Silverstone, Monaco, Monza and Spa but if the highlights is on Sky too I wont be watching F1 anymore and wont be looking at this website which is unfortunate as its a great site.

Im a simracer so will have my little 2 hour enjoyment myself in a sunday afternoon instead.

I will have to watch Formula E, motogp and WRC in channel 5 until they disappear


A lot of disgruntled F1 fans here, have to say I get a bit frustrated and bored as well sometimes.
I’ve been watching the Dakar highlights over the last week or so. Made of tough stuff those blokes, and the camaraderie is fantastic. Lots of sideways barely in control action.
Bit like the open wheeler races I used to go to watch at Warwick Farm back in the early 70s.


Dakar has been awesome. Very happy for Sainz Sr…

There are plenty of motorsports events where you feel the drivers are really being tested, and that the results are in large measure a result of their skills: MotoGP, IoM TT, Dakar, WRC….


Sainz snr. has acquitted himself admirably especially at his age. Great drive. What annoys me is that they continue to call it the ‘Dakar’!! A stupid decision and it’s time to change it to something that reflects the actual destinations.


@ Kenneth… I believe that keeping the “Dakar” name was a hedge. They were expecting to return to the original route once the situation in that area of Africa stabilized…

Also, I guess that the name / brand has more cachet and mystique than any alternatives. Its very recognizable – even my wife, who has zero interest in motorsports, knows (vaguely) what the Dakar is…


@ Redline…Yes, i know the theory behind the choice of title but that doesn’t in any way lessen the stupidity of the geo location. It’s like holding a 23day gruelling bike race around the USA and calling it the Tour de France because there is too many chances of a terrorist attack in Nice/Paris!!! Funny about that last fact of yours? It is apparently a universal trait of those who carry the XX chromosome..hahahah


So, it is getting harder and harder to view a sport that has dwindling appeal. It seems to be going down the large porcelain appliance.


So we have folks who’ve watched F1 for decades on free to air. Lovely wasn’t it. Now we see those folks never placed any value on the product. On this side of the pond we’ve only paid for our F1 watching for decades. Entitlement will come to an end. Perhaps those folks will realize it had a value all along. I love it because I invest in seeing it.


Yes we watched it on TV but in the UK TV is not free we all pay for a TV licence…. but after watching it on TV we went to Silverstone from 2004 to 2014…….would love to go again but the sound of the cars and the fact that one’s expensive grandstand seat is not guaranteed for qualifying makes it unappealing especially to us older fans!


I’ve never paid a thing for MotoGP either…but I’ve bought a Honda motorcycle. Id only ever buy Honda and Ducati based solely on Doohan, Gardner, Stoner, Bayliss etc. riding for them. I wouldn’t buy any of the brands if I didn’t ever see those guys riding those bikes.
So I’m prepared to pay, just not for TV that has fifty other channels I’m not interested in, and can’t justify to the “leader of the opposition” ie. wife! I could talk her around paying for an F1 channel as she knows I love (loved) it…but there is no way in hell shes letting us get 50 channels of stuff we don’t want to watch a GP every 2 or 3 weeks.

Annie the F1 Alley Cat

@Luke I’m, as you so wittily put it, the ‘leader of the opposition’ in our house & I’m also the biggest F1 nut (been watching religiously since mid 80’s). I was given a Sky subscription a couple of seasons ago as a Mother’s Day gift so I could watch my beloved F1 as much as I wanted on their dedicated channel. However, I cancelled the subscription last November as, like you, I simply could not justify the amount being spent on it. We were paying around £60 per month for dozens of channels only one of which was actually being watched. Ridiculous! I am not totally against paying for F1, that’s pretty much to be expected in this day & age unfortunately. What I am against is paying such a high price for it. Putting F1 almost entirely behind a pay-wall is, in my opinion, a rather large nail in the proverbial coffin.


But Dandi, the bigger point almost everyone is making is: while all of we older fans might be willing to pay something to continue watching a diminishingly entertaining show, you’re simply not going to get a new generation to sign up and pay for it, because there’s no FTA exposure, unlike all other major sports.


Turn the thought around. How did I or any other American become a lifetime fan when we never ever never had any FTA coverage of F1? We’ve had to be willing to sacrifice to see it live. What I’m reading here is many of you are unwilling because you think it’s become an entitlement. Welcome to reality…enjoy your stay.


Dandi, good points. I didn’t realise the US has never had fta coverage. I guess it proves the point that fans can still be attracted.


I think most genuine fans will have either paid to watch races live or have bought magazines/merch over the years, especially before the web and social media.

I’d argue that’s what F1 and Sky have forgotten, fans have been paying for the sport since it started.


At the end of the day, do the millionaires and billionaires running the show and doing the motor-racing really care what the riff raff and paupers (and I include myslef in that list) on this site and elsewhere do with their cash?

Billionaires are always going to race cars and yachts. They are rich mans pursuits. Could they even care less who watches? Maybe that’s why no one really seems to give a hoot about F1 going behind paywalls.

Also, if you said in the early 2000’s “How can we ruin F1?”..this would be a good list
– Get rid of great sounding engines ✅
– Go to more boring tracks designed by one architect and/or even more boring street tracks ✅
– Go behind paywalls to stop the riff raff having an interest ✅
– Put gimmicks on the cars for passing, buttons and DRS etc ✅
– Put horrendously ugly Safety devices on the cars to shrivel the testicles of drivers and break the hearts of fans ✅
– Go to one tyre supplier, supplying ordinary and gimmicky tyres ✅
– Introduce expensive engines and lock in any advantages gained by first adopters with gimmicky and restrictive token development systems for the Forster few years (ensure it destroys any new comers silly enough to have a go) ✅


Would have been hard to do worse…!!


Redline, well they could have kept traction control, and they could have kept the V8’s and waved goodbye to Mercedes and Renault, leaving us with maybe five or six teams all powered by Ferrari or Cosworth. That would be worse.


@TimW – I personally agree with you, but for many the engine is a black box – it doesn’t matter who makes it, as long as its noisy, and the grid is competitive. Who knows – the racing may have been better with spec v-8’s, and the fans less frustrated!


Redline, some fans would be less frustrated, but many would be more frustrated! I don’t think the current engine format and competitive grids are mutually exclusive, and I don’t think the blame for the current large gaps can be layed solely at the doir of the PUs either. Last year was closer at the front, but the smaller teams didn’t get much of a look in, I would say this has more to do with the strange financial reward system currently in place. Why Mercedes and Ferrari get so much money (when neither of them need it) is beyond me!


I agree with what you have said. But without the great unwashed going to/watching the races each month the sport will wither and die.
But i do not want to see it go down the Rd of razzmatazz, dancing girls and all singing all dancing hype that seems to be American sport.


friends of donald trump have resumed complaining all over again


To be fair aveli if you were a friend of Donald Trump you’d be complaining too 🙂


@ Random…Don’t bump the Trump. We need a Trump like character to take on the F1 heavies. He is not afraid to call it like it is. Yes, he has many faults, but he won’t be silenced by the PC hordes.


You have a point, but at the same time just being a loudmouth is not a virtue.


@ Random….yes it is especially when you’re the one signing the cheques, however it all boils down to the definition doesn’t it? It’s only those who don’t like what he’s saying denigrating him. I would describe his actions as strident, but with conviction. Different to the commonplace mealymouthed platitudes of the ‘hoi polloi’ politicians we are accustomed to.


Free to air could mean a slot on thier own channel on freeview.
Being cheapskates it will just be the 1hr skyf1 show from monday evening after a race with plenty of advert gaps telling you about the incredible week of sport ahead.
Whats so hard about finding a different channel on a tv?
Why cant people watch things if its a different button than usual?


A Long term follower of F1, I have been watching it since the early 80’s and have often been to races. After 2018 season, I will no longer be watching F1, I refuse to give Sky my money and as the owners of F1 are not bothered about F1 getting a good TV coverage and viewing figures, I will not be bothered with F1 anymore.


Power to the people Grazza UK ✊
The half million with Sky well they can enjoy propping up Murdoch’s/Walt Disneys Sports sock.
I’ve watched Sky F1 show once and a Grand Prix live in a pub by Sky. Didn’t think much to it. Bitty and stop start conversations. Only Anthony Davidson and Martin Brundle and Hill shine. Rest are just pants. Absolutely pants.
Oh well Formula E on Channel 5 (Though what the neck is Vernon Kay doing hosting it😄). Moto GP highlights on ITV and WRC on 4 and WRC on 5.
WSBK and SBK on ITV or 5 (where ever its on)
World Rally Cross on Quest.
That’s going to get my attention. Watch the British GP at Silverstone 😎.
Sky can pander to the pay per view audience.


We are doomed


Again it’s past the point of me being too bothered.

F1 serious fan since 1985, but it does seem with modern viewing habits F1 is out of sync.

WEC have just put up a 3 day weekend pass for the Spa race- €26!

Sport can only overcharge its fans for a period before numbers drop and the real fans find an alternative affordable sport.


I feel for those who can’t afford a cable service. Especially people here in the states. You will only get three races per year on your basic package or local digital broadcast coverage if you are within 25-50 miles of a transmitter with perfect line of sight. Then again, I think back to the days when the only F1 news was via a monthly print magazine.


I would love to join in the conversation but for some reason the only post showing is mine!
Special thanks to “Sarsippious”. An excellent well thought out post. Apart from which I obviously agree with everything you say 😉

@ Rdqpp: If, at some time in the future I decide not to watch F1, then according to you I can’t/shouldn’t post on the Forum. I apologise, I didn’t realise that you made the rules. Do you actually have a point to make or are you merely trolling?


I am fortunate enough to have Sky to watch the F1 but the quality of the coverage is much better on Channel 4 and previously on BBC and ITV. Once SKY have exclusive rights, what is their incentive to improve their output?
SKY have a dedicated channel for F1, but other than race weekends, nothing else is broadcast on it. F1 needs to, if everything is disappearing behind a paywall, give these broadcasters access to testing, car launches and historical races AND make them show them.
If they want exclusive rights, to make people pay for it, we as consumers should be getting a lot more for our money. There is so much more that F1 can do as a sport to engage fans. The old Ecclestone routine of squeezing every penny out of every deal and everyone having to accept it, is history.
Fans demand more or they will switch off, which is what the numbers are starting to show. There is too many demands on fans time these days. F1 will have to fight for their/our attention.

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