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Formula 1 and Television

August 1, 2011

Being at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend kept me busy, but what downtime I did eventually have allowed me kick back and think a bit.

To be frankly honest, not much news from the outside world filtered in – there were other things going on that enjoyed my attention; however one couldn’t help but notice the new UK television deal for Formula 1.

If anything, it took me – and everyone one else it seems – by complete surprise and although I normally appreciate surprises (life is so much more fun when you don’t know what’s going to happen next), this announcement left me dumbfounded.

So from 2012 until the end of 2018, the BBC will get to show half of the races live (choice events no doubt), while showing highlights for the remaining events. Meanwhile, Sky Sports will have coverage for the whole season – reportedly without ad breaks, but only for 2012 – within their usual pay per view package.

Well I am not going to pay it. Firstly, this nonsense about Formula 1 being “free to air” desperately needs to be debunked, for the simple reason, the TV license is a tax that is hardly free.
Indeed, when £145.70 leaves my account every April, I feel dreadfully poor for a time; however this is not the place to get into the pros and cons of the license fee – I am happy to pay, for I actually know where it goes and what it does.
There is no such thing as “free to air” and there never has been – everything comes at a price and on this occasion, Formula 1’s price is simply too high.

(Hint – those that concentrate on how much presenters potentially get paid as a way to criticise the BBC license fee, need to seriously broaden their horizons.)

Yet if I were not to pay the TV license, I would face prosecution from the authorities. Y’see, they don’t like it here if you keep your hands in your pockets for the duration…

However what Formula 1 and Sky are asking me to do is to pay for something for a second time… and I will not do that.
Regardless of the product – whether it be Formula 1 or a packet of biscuits – I will not willingly pay for something twice. Never. I am not – and never have been – that foolish.
Pay per view might be an idea when the audience is not already paying a mandatory fee, but forcing the issues rarely transfers into TV viewing figures. One only has to look at Sky Sports’ dire TV numbers to understand that.

Admittedly I do not have a choice in the matter. Living on the second floor of an unattractive block negates any possibility of my landlord saying yes to a satellite and quite frankly, the hardware necessary is out of my price range.

Numerous folks are saying publicly that they will watch the highlights, rather than give money to Sky; however I only see this giving more traffic to torrent sites and streaming sites.
Formula 1 has made a mistake.

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From → F1

2 Comments
  1. What I don’t understand about this whole thing is that Sky have tried showing F1 before, back about 2005 or so on a pay per view scheme, it didn’t work then so why would it work now?

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      Essentially Jackie, the difference simply comes down to expectation on Sky’s part. The last digital offering from F1 was in 2002 and the F1 world wasn’t really ready to make the move at the time and consumers dictated its short lifespan.

      This entire deals appears (on the outside at least) to based on the idea that “a certain number extra” will sign up on subscription to follow the F1 package. If fans do not sign up to Sky, then this deal may have a rocky future and I do believe we will see a huge upturn in F1 torrents and streams next year.
      There simply isn’t the money around right now to justify the extra cost.

      As far as Sky are concerned, the viewing figures are irrelevant. That’s what is so poisonous about the whole prospect – as long as Sky get their subscription fee, then a monkey, four cats and two incontinent elephants could be the only viewers and it wouldn’t make a difference.

      I genuinely believe we will see a Grand Prix not reach one million viewers for one of the few times in three-and-a-half decades, only now it will happen on a regular basis.

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