TV deal: F1 shoots itself squarely in the foot

This morning it was announced that from next season all F1 races will not be free-to-air. The incumbent BBC will continue to cover half the races but will lose exclusive rights to Sky.

The reasons for this are understandable. The BBC has had its licence fee frozen in the past year and in an era when cost-cutting is its priority, an expensive but relatively niche sport such as F1 was always at risk of losing out.

Secondly, the corporation’s contract was due to run out at the end of next season and rumour had it that F1 was to get the chop completely, in order to safeguard other coverage of events such as Wimbledon.

Thirdly, Sky will have been able to bid much higher than the BBC and it would be a brave man who tried to persuade Bernie Ecclestone to reduce the value of the commercial rights. F1 costs what it costs, FOM will have made clear during their negotiations.

But the move is a tragedy for all concerned. The first to lose out will be the armchair fan who either cannot afford Sky or refuses to pay more money into Rupert Murdoch’s pockets in the light of the phone-hacking scandal. What is more, casual viewers may be less willing to tune in to those ‘key’ races if they haven’t been able to follow the ‘story’ of the season as it has unfolded.

More pressingly, the F1 production team at the BBC will lose some of their number in the cost-cutting drive. This is a real shame considering that they have done nothing short of an excellent job. The multi-platform offering with which the BBC presents the sport to the fans is unrivalled, and Sky will have to outdo themselves if they are even to match it.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the new deal will have serious consequences for revenue in the sport. Viewer numbers will tumble as F1 goes to pay TV and this means sponsors will be less inclined to pay as much as they currently do to the teams. Sponsorship money is F1’s lifeblood and whatever percentage Sky have promised which in effect acts as compensation, you may think that it is likely to be inadequate.

Quite apart from all the commotion surrounding the deal, the question remains as to whether the teams will take it lying down. Investors in teams are bound to be beating on the team principals’ doors in Hungary, demanding to know whether the Concorde Agreement clause that requires F1 to be free-to-air is going to be invoked. The spectre of a breakaway may yet be resurrected by this, as a number of team principals are thought to be unhappy about the situation.

With the Bahrain debacle and the rules kerfuffle, the management of F1 has made itself look very stupid this season. But this deal takes the biscuit. Sky? Now? It is exactly as though F1 has taken careful aim and shot itself in the foot. It remains to be seen how debilitating the injury will be.

39 thoughts on “TV deal: F1 shoots itself squarely in the foot”

  1. Ecclestone you’re a cop out, nice to see you give a monkys about the fans – Sky of all people. Do you think I’m going to put a dish on my house and pay the murdoch family 50 sobs a month…….no. I suspect neither will the many 1000’s of others.

    YOU have just killed F1 cold… money grabbing ***.

    Why could you not have done a deal with one of the other commercial companies or even several of them???????

    As far as the BBC are concerned, well no surprises there, it will give you more more to spend on quality programming like doctor who and eastenders…….what’s that tax we have to pay you???


  2. Shameful.

    Interesting point about the teams walking away. Let’s get FOTA up and running again. F1 will just be two Ferrari’s going round the track (in a pre determined order obviously).

  3. Brilliant article. Much more accurate than other tosh I’ve read on various websites.

    I can’t believe that the MD of Sky Sports thinks that “this is fantasic news for F1 fans”. What planet is he on? This is a total disaster, not only for UK fans, but for fans around the world. The knock on effect of lost sponsorship could be huge.

    I’m praying that FOTA massively object and we have a US 2005 style protest this weekend. – I don’t imagine it will happen, but I really hope it does.

    I’m a huge (no, fanatical) F1 fan, but I won’t be watching when it is no longer free to air. I’m not putty in money in Mr Murderdoch’s pocket for anyone.

    The first nail has just been put in the F1 coffin, and I imagine the last nail will be hammered in when we lose all FTA coverage (end of 2013 maybe?)

    Farewell F1. It’s been good.

  4. Terrible news. The BBC have proven themselves inept once again. I hope the teams kick up a fuss about this because i can see the smaller ones going out of business if sponsors back out. Ecclestone clearly only cares about money. Time for him to go I think.

    Bear in mind I’m actually a Sky Sports HD subscriber, I still think this is terrible news for the sport as a whole and the quality of broadcasting in F1.

  5. OMG

    This is outrageous

    in the 30 some years of watching F1 I have NEVER had to pay

    And I tell you another thing, I will not pay for Sky Sports when the only sport I watch (or rather did watch) was F1

    Shame on you Bernie

    You have made a serious error and you will loose thousands if not millions of fans

    There have been worries that F1 is dying due to the lack of followers… now I think that having SKY broadcast it on SKY Sports has put the nail in the coffin


  6. My wife and I are devoted fans of F1 and are horrified by this news. All sides are to blame for the situation – Bernie for his money-grabbing, Sky for monopolisation and, disappointingly, the BBC for agreeing to deprive fans. I pay my license fee alongside Eastenders fans yet I don’t see that going down to 1 episode a fortnight with edited highlights on the other weeks. How, in any shape or form good news for fans? Now we have to pay to see races covered by an evil and morally bereft company – just when the BBC had got it honed to perfection and the racing has got more exciting. How soon before Sky starts manipulating the race results to fake a close championship? Disgusting – shame on you Bernie for screwing your home country.


    Also is there any paper that is not owned by Murdock that can take up the cause?

    To gather ordinary support and to influence sponcers to take their funds away untill the whole set of races at least are on free to air tv or free on line!.

    Hope we can soon get a comitment even from Sky its going to be available on thier free shy package. Not on sky sports as I dont warch other sport except F1.

    I am not going to give a Billion pound profit company £600 pounds for what should be free to air!

    Lets hit Murdock and even Burnie where it hurts in the pocket. Lets reclaim F1 for the fans!.

    OH and by the way I dont want to cut F! to pay for the Olympics and other sports I dont watch ie wimboldon, golf, etc.

    Best regards


  8. Ecclestone will (if not already) sell out to Murdoch and Agnelli who own News Corp (Sky) and Ferrari. The teams will get the equivalent of the last Ecclestone reimbursement for their los (£260 million) after the sale. The new FIA president (Jean Todt) will approve the transfer of rights, knowing who ensured his election (Ferrari) after News Corp (Sky) ensured the toppling of the last incumbent. I will lose F1 after 48 years since the first colour broadcast (at least) and the sport’s veil of competitiveness will be lifted to reveal the true nature of F1 – business – and thus F1 will die from lack of interest.

    Why would I (anybody) want to pay £600 to watch 10 races on TV?


    WHY,WHY,WHY go to skysports (o i forgot cus you wont more money) thats what its all about as you clearly you dont give a sh1t about the fans as you wouldnt do this, i was delighted when it went to the bbc as itv had breaks every 20min and drove me and many others up the wall,but now you wont us to pay over £40 per month to watch it in HD on skysports when it was free.. THANK YOU ECCLESTONE THANK YOU VERY MUCH…

  10. Greed will finally kill off F1. I for one will not line Murdoch’s pockets and I hope the F1 sponsors realise the backlash from many fans this will generate. Bernie has got this one wrong I am afraid.
    A sad day for F1!

  11. As interest wains the knock on effects will show.
    This will mean an end to the British Grand Prix.
    If this country is very lucky it may hold the odd European Grand Prix (pay per view).

    This has been planned for a long time by the money grabby elf and his cronies and i am not at all suprised.
    The Gov should step in, Because it will cost the country a lot of money to NOT have a Grand Prix and good fan base here in the UK.

    It is the age of “Rob & Sod The Fans”.

    Sad indeed.

  12. terrible news has bernie not made enough money out of f1 back to the bad old days of comercial breaks and replays and the thought of giving the murdochs money no way this is one money grabbing step to far goodbye f1 and good riddence mr ecclestone.

  13. Typical Bloody Ecclestone….standing there with $ signs in his eyes thinking money money money….

  14. Completely stupid deal F1 will now suffer this year I know lots of people that have started watching it because of the amazing job the BBC team does and having old experienced drivers commentating and chatting about the greats and floors about being a driver and experiences of bits that happen within the race to help the audience live the feeling of the race and now the move to sky sh!t sports is a complete disgrace and to screw the fans that have paid Bernie his money over the years is despicable, I cant believe such an intelligent man could be so stupid, why do you think the likes of vodafone and other companies sponsor F1 o wait because of the thousands of fans watching it, so really with the cost of living flying high most fans will not watch half a season and Bernie will get what he deserve because with less fans, less money sponsors will wanna pay……. Just plain business sense and I thought Bernie had that obviously too old to play the game any more

  15. This is a very sad day, I thought F1 had to be available on free-to-air TV. I for one will not be lining the pockets of the Murdoch family but the thought of seeing less than half the season on TV will make it far less iinteresting so I fear this where F1 and part company.

    Feel sorry for the BBC team who have done so well to give us the great coverage that we have seen of late.

  16. So if we can’t afford to pay Sky or if people refuse to give boost the profits of a man who’s compant hacked a murderd girls phone, we are to get the cast offs from the table? Will be get to see the full race, or is a case of we will get to see little bits later in the week? Just goes to show, that with all it BS about cutting cost, F1 are just a bunch of money grabers. If it was not for the the viewers of BBC1 and ITV before BBC1 took back over, F1 would not be the sport it is now.

    It is sad to see that whilst other big sports are being protected, the BBC and the government are ignoring F1 to keep Murdoch happy is a disgrace.

    When was this deal being talked about? Why did the BBC keep queit about it until everything was signed? Were they worried that the public might not like the idea?

    Typical BBC, we pay through the nose for something we have no control over and in return they treat us with contempt.

  17. Bernie has sold out the British public, we realy see what the fans means, just a way to put money in his back pocket, shame on you Bernie

  18. Well, well, well. The fans get pushed to the back once again for the sake of profit. So many people in this country cannot afford to pay for sky. They can barely pay their fuel and food bills. Bernie simply cannot compehend how tight money is for the average person at the moment. I’ve always loved F1 but now it seems my only sporting pleasure is being taken away from me. I know i’m only one of many thousands who are completely gutted. How is the BBC showing half the races a good thing. It is rubbing salt into the wound. Its like losing a friend. I’m going to miss you all very much.

  19. I agree with these comments..I have watched F1 since 1996 and as from next year I will be no more….Thankyou Ecclestone for thinking of your pockets and not the fans…I have just got rid of Sky and moved to Freesat and I will NOT be moving back… get stuffed Sky & Ecclestone

  20. It seems that the BBC Trust are refusing to comment on what they have done. I got an automatic reply when I contacted them that stated “If you are emailing regarding the recent announcement about BBC Formula One coverage, please raise your concerns or comments with the BBC Executive via the complaints website Please be advised that the Trust will not be responding in further detail to emails on this topic, as complaints must be dealt with by the BBC’s management.”

  21. I wholeheartedly agree with everything that fans of F1 have said on here. I too have watched F1 for 30yrs from my armchair, as I couldn’t afford to pay to go and watch it at the various race tracks. It is the only sport that I watch all year. It makes my blood boil when not only F1 but certain TV programs that were on for more than one or two series get snapped up by Sky, leaving those individuals that are unwilling to line Murdoch’s pocket, to miss out on how said programs end. Bernie should hang his head in shame for the direction he is taking F1.

  22. This subservience to sky is going to change F1 from an avidly followed live sport to a ‘catch up’ sport and so lose it’s excitement.
    Is Bernie not rich enough?? If the drivers agree with this deal then maybe they don’t deserve the level of support that fans give them.
    I was with sky for 16 years without any problems. I payed by credit card direct debit. Due to fraudulent activity on my card I had to cancel it and renew my credit card account. Due to this fraud and all the hassle it caused getting it sorted sky were unable to get one payment. They ceased my sky service immediately and then I started getting letters from a debt collection agency. After 16 years as a loyal customer sky shit on me from a great height.
    Rupert Murdoch owns 39% of sky and is trying to acquire the other 61%. He’s another person who can’t have enough money or power. He wants global domination before he dies (just like a certain Austrian!).
    If you subscribe to sky now you have to accept the fact that nearly 40% of your money slides into the sewer rat Murdoch’s pocket. If I was giving this slime money I would not sleep easy!
    BBC – Kill the expensive sh*te that is TopGear and put the money into a real motor show!!

    Formula 1 (born 1950 – died 2012) R.I.P

    Cause of death:- GREED

  23. If the BBC sacked their incompetent management without any undeserved compensation for loss of their overpaid jobs there should be sufficient money to honour their F1 contract without the need for SKY.

    The BBC have a prepared statement regarding this complaint presumably to put people off complaining so they can then come up with the excuse that only a few complained.

  24. Rip-off Britain is alive and well.

    How many other countries have Formula 1 as pay-per-view. I understand in Germany it’s FTA.

    I dumped Sky years ago, let face it it’s not value for money. But apparently 10m+ subscribe and they have just made a profit of £1.0 billion +, a lot of people are paying them loads of money.

    How many of you are serious about this issue, I note that there are only twentyfive contributions to this blog. Where are the 6.0m that regularly watch Formula 1 on the BBC. I know there are more blogs on the net that cover this matter but still there is only a minority that are making any comment.

    Is it not time we (all Formula 1 fans) make a stand. Start by hitting the sponsers.

  25. This is ridiculous, this is nothing else but a way for bernie to make money! I can’t believe you think everyone is going to go and buy sky just for half a season of f1. You have lost yourself yet another viewer!!

  26. Formula 1 will lose it,s popularity the same way that snooker did when it went to sky, snooker has not recovered and nor will F1. A very sad day for F1 fans in deed.

  27. Is it me or has every one of the BBC commentators not interested about the real F1 supporters.Not the hangers on in the pig bin on race day. has everyone ??? from the race owners down to the commentators had a cut of the pie to keep quiet think i will take up a job of phone hacking and character
    assassination to get on in the word

  28. Sky? no thanks. We already pay to watch BBC so we watch half the races on BBC then pay again to Sky to watch the other half, I don’t think so, Sky killed Boxing, Cricket and Football, now it’s the turn of F1, I won’t be watching it in future, it was starting to get really boring anyway.

    I much prefer Touring Cars anyway a lot more exciting, close racing.

    Goodbye F1. Rest in Peace.

  29. I have already took the advice of the BBC Trust and made a formal complaint via their website.

    I doubt many of the staff were aware of it, either that or they were told to pretend they were kept in the dark.

  30. I cannot afford Sky, cost expected to be £40 a month and the BBC coverage of 10 races is rubbish, who would buy a book that had 20 chapters if you could only read 10. So I think this will be my last season watching F1 and so will not go to Silverstone for the British round either.

  31. for those who have it I would point you to Eurosport who give coverage to GP3 & GP2 and let F1 sink

  32. I dont want it to happen as its the only sport that I will stay into to watch BUT Im not going to pay to watch it, let it go down the pan, we’ve had it and enjoyed it for a long long time BUT nothing lasts forever, after this deal I hope it sinks and bernie sinks with it

  33. have they signed a contract in invisible ink,regarding the deal the bbc had to air f1 to the end of 2013.i appreciate it is a business f1,but do the powers that be appreciate the fact it is the fans that ultimately drive it.alienate the fans,then the sponsors follow,eventually f1.its okay though cos bernie and the other slime lining their pockets with our money will still be rich!!!!! one last big pay day hey bernie..was your phone hacked and this is the price murdoch charged for his silence!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. This is simply an amazing deal for those who actually have sky or can afford to have it. but what about the thousands of people who dont including myself, i look foward every year to the start of the f1 season and have done for many many many years. what the hell were they thinking of when they took away so much pleasure from some many normal people.
    The only thing i can think of is that again the normal run of the day person is yet being screwed for the sake the rich getting even richer. A VERY VERY SAD DAY in what an amazing sport that was for everyone. RIP THE GRAND PRIX.

  35. I think this Barbara Slater needs investigating along with the rest of the cronies who sanctioned this deal. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they’ve had a sudden windfall in their bank accounts or offshore accounts I shouldn’t wonder or maybe a significant increase to their stocks and shares holdings. ??

  36. i am on my holiday in canada and just found out the news about f1 i just like thank you very much for a great kick in the teeth i am not buying sky i love f1 all the heads in f1 just dont give a ****

  37. I’ve just read through all these blogs and I have a feeling of great sadness. surely this is just the tip of the iceberg. I watched F1 through the 60’s 70’s and 80’s with my dad, now I watch it with my boys and it all has to end. Its’ a very sad time, I don’t want to see it go it has brought me some wonderful highs and lows but alas I shan’t be paying and so the one sport I love is taken from me. Goodbye.

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