One of the more popular posts on The F1 Broadcasting Blog is back for a fourth year, as this writer tries to save readers money by listing a variety of options to view Sky’s coverage of Formula 1 and BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage. It is easy to get confused with many different choices out there.
In 2014 and 2015, I analysed Formula 1 and MotoGP in the same piece. This year, I have chosen to analyse them separately, as BT Sport is a whole different ball game. This piece will focus on Sky Sports F1, and the MotoGP analysis will follow in the coming days. The end of the MotoGP piece will bring everything together for those that are fans of both Formula 1 and MotoGP.
As always, prices below do not include broadband, phone or any activation fees. Broadband and phone deals may be available, but I have tried to exclude them where possible so not to muddy the waters even more.
We start off with Sky, who this season will be broadcasting eleven Formula 1 races exclusively live. To watch Formula 1 in standard definition, you need the Sky Sports Bundle, which is an amalgamation of Sky’s Original Bundle, with the Sports channels on top of it. At a cost of £45.50 a month, it works out at £546.00 a year. The price over the year is down £6.00 compared to January 2015. The trick here is that Sky are hooking people into their cheaper packages by freezing the prices (the Original Bundle has actually dropped). As we are about to see, the same rule does not apply the higher the price goes.
If you want to watch Formula 1 in high definition, you need the Family Bundle, the Sky Sports top-up and then the Sports HD top-up as well. Yes, you still need to pay an extra £5.25 to watch Sky Sports in HD compared with SD. Overall, it is a whopping £66.75 a month, which equates to £801.00 a year. Yes, £801.00 a year to watch every Formula 1 session in high definition, a number that is up £48.00 compared with January 2015. The main attributor for the increase is the Family Bundle, which is now £36.00 a month compared with £33.00 one year ago.
For both options, and in something I don’t think I have seen while doing these pieces, Sky are also throwing in a free LG 32″ television. If you don’t want a new TV, then you can have £100.00 worth of vouchers instead.
Now TV from Sky
In previous years, readers have had the possibility of purchasing a Sky Go Monthly Ticket, which the customer could then renew or terminate as and when necessary. Unfortunately, that option is no longer available to new customers, however it has been superseded by the Now TV Monthly Pass which is available at a similar price to its predecessor. Now TV, available from Sky, allows viewers to watch content as soon as a pass is purchased or through the Now TV Box which is available for a one-off price of £15.99.
There are three Now TV passes. The Sky Sports day pass is £6.99, the week pass is £10.99 and the monthly pass is £31.99. At this point, depending on the variety of Formula 1 content that you want, you’re looking at a total cost of between £76.89 to £230.67. The 2016 Formula One calendar is as follows:
– March 20th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky
– April 3rd – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Channel 4 and Sky
– April 17th – China (Shanghai) – Sky
– May 1st – Russia (Sochi) – Sky
– May 15th – Spain (Barcelona) – Channel 4 and Sky
– May 29th – Monaco (Monaco) – Sky
– June 12th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky
– June 19th – Europe (Baku) – Channel 4 and Sky
– July 3rd – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Sky
– July 10th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 and Sky
– July 24th – Hungary (Budapest) – Channel 4 and Sky
– July 31st – Germany (Hockenheim) – Sky
– August 28th – Belgium (Spa) – Channel 4 and Sky
– September 4th – Italy (Monza) – Channel 4 and Sky
– September 18th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky
– October 2nd – Malaysia (Sepang) – Channel 4 and Sky
– October 9th – Japan (Suzuka) – Sky
– October 23rd – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Sky
– October 30th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Channel 4 and Sky
– November 13th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky
– November 27th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 and Sky
You can watch every race live by purchasing six passes through the year:
– pass 1 can be used from March 17th to April 17th (Australia and China)
– pass 2 can be used from April 29th to May 29th (Russia and Monaco)
– pass 3 can be used from June 6th to July 6th (Canada and Austria)
– pass 4 can be used from July 6th to August 6th (Germany)
– pass 5 can be used from September 15th to October 15th (Singapore and Japan)
– pass 6 can be used from October 15th to November 15th (USA and Brazil)
At a cost of £31.99 a month, the six passes work out at a total of £191.94 across the season, which would give you access to every session exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. However, there is a cheaper option. Purchasing eleven Now TV weekly passes works out at £120.89 across the season, which again would give you every session that is exclusive to Sky. Of course, Now TV is not in high definition. But we have quickly whittled down the price from Sky’s TV packages to something that would suit those who are not interested in all the extra Sky channels and simply want to watch a Formula 1. We could whittle it down further: if you just want the races, eleven day passes would cost you £76.89 across the season. But, in my opinion the weekly pass is the best option that Now TV provide for those who are looking for a cost effective option.
An even cheaper option is Sky Sports Mobile TV, which is £9.99 a month. Available for Android and iOS, it is a rolling contract, so you can terminate and re-enter as and when you want. Six months/passes as above works out at a total of £59.95 across the season. I should preface Sky Sports Mobile TV with a warning though. Looking on the Play Store, it appears there are some major issues with the app at the moment. I would not be surprised if Sky Sports Mobile TV is phased out as Sky continue to look towards Now TV as a cheap alternative going forward.
Away from Sky, we have Virgin Media who are the biggest cable television provider in the UK. Before I review the prices, I want to state that the usability of the website was not good. It was pretty much impossible to find the price of the Sky Sports package within their main website, which meant I had to build a bundle to find out the price. Maybe that is their intention, to ‘hook’ people with low prices on their website, only to find that the prices are actually higher when they build the bundle.
To watch Sky’s coverage of Formula 1 in standard definition, you need the More TV package, which is £20.00 a month. Add the Sky Sports package and V HD box onto that brings you to £49.25 a month or £591.00 across the year. Virgin Media’s prices appear to have increased significantly: that price is over £100.00 up compared to January 2015. As alluded to above, finding the price of the Sky Sports package (including F1) is incredibly difficult. The price through the ‘build a bundle’ is £29.25 a month. The V HD box is free, but it does not come with all the features you expect out of a modern day box such as pause, rewind and download. To get that, you need one of Virgin’s TiVo boxes for an extra £5.00 a month.
To watch Formula 1 in high definition, you need all of the above plus an extra £7.00 a month for Sky’s premium channels. The price therefore increases to £675.00 across the year. If you do not care about your definitions, then Sky is the place to go for Formula 1 in standard definition. But if you want Formula 1 in high definition, then Virgin Media is the clear winner. Given that we are focussing primarily on television only and not broadband here, TalkTalk are not really an option, but it is worth noting that you can get Sky Sports F1 through them as well.
In summary, if you are a Formula 1 fan, here are the key numbers:
– £801.00 a year – Sky (HD) – up £53.00
– £675.00 a year – Virgin Media (HD) – up £108.00
– £591.00 a year – Virgin Media (SD) – up £108.00
– £546.00 a year – Sky (SD) – down £6.00
– £191.94 – Now TV (Monthly Pass x 6)
– £120.89 – Now TV (Weekly Pass x 11)
– £76.89 – Now TV (Day Pass x 11)
– £59.95 – Sky Sports Mobile TV
With television packages continuing to rise, and Virgin Media looking like a less of an alternative, there really are three options for Formula 1 fans. One: look to other sources for inspiration, such as Now TV and Sky Sports Mobile TV. Two: bring in broadband and TV and hope for some triple play ‘divide and conquer’ method of bringing down costs. Or, three: watch Channel 4’s highlights programming and forget about Sky’s Formula 1 programming.
A piece looking at BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage, and the variety of options that you have to access that, will follow in the coming days.
Found something cheaper? Is there a figure that does not look right? Leave a comment and I will investigate… last updated on January 28th, 2015.
Update on March 18th – Readers may have noticed that I have not published a MotoGP piece. There’s a few reasons, but the main reason is the complicated nature of BT’s pricing alongside the other news stories that have been developing over the past month. Given Sky’s anticipated price rise coming in June, I’m going to republish this article nearer then, and publish an additional MotoGP piece.