Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2016

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.

Virgin Media
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.


24 thoughts on “Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2016

  1. Wow this is very interesting, nice idea with the 11 weekly passes with Now TV, lucky I’m on that contact where I get SkyF1 included in a HD SkyTV deal so I don’t know what the yearly cost is but if my parents decide to cancel it which they are thinking about, I will defiantly consider the NowTV option!

  2. i think if i ever want to buy sky (aka when i get a job) i’kll probably want to by 7 now TV passes as i’ll just watch C4 highlights for Australia, China, Japan and also Austria. They are all early morning apart from Austria, which is the same week as Formula E in London, so i’ll just catch up on All 4. Therefore if i were to buy Now TV for the races I want, it’d come to £76.93 which is considerably cheaper than everything on their. But for now, i’ll keep to streaming them…

  3. A friend of mine has now ttv , he’s not that happy with it. Has some problems with buffering, plus other reception problems too, I shd talk to someone who has it first, if you can.

    Im with talktalk for my broadband, tv, phone, tv box, I pay for the monthly Sky F1 channel as a boost through them. I get Sky 1 & 2 included, which I do like quite a few of the progs on those, Sky sports 1, which I never watch, and Sky F 1. I watch all the practice sessions, the qualifying, and the race (no adverts during race). There are weekly roundup progs and a lot of other F1 stuff during the season, too. You can dip in and out monthly, I used to alternate with BBC when they had the full coverage. You do get a lot more than just the race with Sky F1 though. It costs me £30 per month, but as I said you can dip in and out a month at a time, so it does take a bit of sorting out. I’ve been very happy with the whole talktalk package, very few problems, which they quickly sort out for me. I’m a very old female, though, and I think the operators I talk to have been brought up to look after their grannys!!!!!
    Good luck. 😃 Roll on new season!!!!!

  4. Just as an add on, for the unsocial hours, I record the race on the TVs box, but make sure not to watch news before race, got caught out once or twice hearing results, bummer!

  5. In the first year of Sky’s deal, I switched the sports package off at strategic points in the season and watched the BBC races when they were live. It meant an hour or so of setting up calendar notes for the reminders but worked well and saved a bit of money. The following year, the superior Sky coverage convinced me to stick with them throughout with just a gap in the summer break.

    The most annoying thing is being forced to pay for a Sky Sports package when I only want SSF1 and have no desire to watch football, golf or cricket. It’s a pity that Virgin can’t negotiate such a deal to get Sky to offer it as it’d probably boost viewing figures if it were around £10 per month or so

  6. I subscribe to the Sky HD and Sky Sports F1 is part of the package, so I get all of the HD channels, (except movies and other Sky Sports) and the Entertainment Pack, (I think) for £40.50 per month. The Sky Sports F1 part of that can’t be that much.

      1. I’m also still on this package, I can’t believe Sky haven’t tried to phase it out. Obviously a shame that others can’t now subscribe to this as new customers…..

  7. You state in your article that “Of course, Now TV is not in high definition.”

    This is contradicted by the following page on the nowtv website which states that 720p is available on some platforms:

    As an existing Virgin Media customer getting the XL TV package I was informed that adding Sky Sports to my package would cost an extra £29.95 per month, with 30 days’ notice required to cancel my subscription.

    Finally, I believe both Sky and Virgin Media may offer 6 months half price type deals on Sky premiums, though I haven’t a clue how you would go about getting them!

    1. Nice they do 720p but a shame they don’t give frame rate.

      For sports 720p50 is needed, if it’s 720p25 (like F1 “HD” on iplayer) it will look horribly jittery.

      Broadcast SD and HD are both 50 fps (after de-interlacing)

      1. I think Andy has summed this up.

        If you purchase Sky Sports HD on Sky or Virgin – you are guaranteed HD, whereas purchasing Now TV does not necessarily guarantee HD which is why I was reluctant to mention it in the blog post.

  8. With the Now TV, in its verious packages (day pass/weekly pass/monthly pass etc) is it possible to record from it and watch it back at a later date outside of the dates you purchased the pass for? For example, I work Saturday’s and therefore have to record Final Practice & Qualifying. If I had bought a day pass for the Saturday and recorded those two sessions is it possible to view them on say a Sunday morning or indeed at any other point in the following days?

  9. Yeah we switched to virgin just a few days ago.. The picture quality doesn’t seem as good as sky for some reason but its still pretty good.. And a lot cheaper… I think for alot of people virgin is the way forward especially now with all the sports channels being HD and BT thrown in there as well… With the super fast all singing dancing package its pretty much free which is great if like me you do actually like football as well given how much BT now have (champions league and FA cup in particular) its a great value package when you see what they have and how much cheaper than sky it is

  10. The comparison is just that, a comparison assuming that a customer wants to watch nothing else other than F1, and even then the packages are not the same in terms of content.

    I’ve had Sky Sports for years, and HD prior to Sky taking on F1, so for me the cost of watching every race live in HD on Sky is zero.

    I would suggest that those who would just want to watch F1 and nothing else at all, are very few and far between, if they exist at all.

  11. Be careful with upgrading to sky q though as you lose the legacy f1 hd deal, if you once had it.
    Saying that though, noone pays the full whack on sky, My deal is half price sky sports, free broadband and half price line rental for a year. Been a sky customer since they started in satellite and always get a good deal on the twelve month anniversary.
    Now tv is only on two devices and none of the f1 red button, f1 ipad app or sky go options, so pretty limited.

  12. I admire & respect SSF1 in terms of it being an F1 specific channel, with all the archive races, F1 show, tales from the vault etc that someone such as the BBC, as good as their coverage was (especially 2009-11), would unfortunately never be able to achieve, but I feel that this strategy and pricing is just creating fewer and fewer viewers in the long term.

    To explain, my household has just this week given notice to Sky that we will be leaving, meaning we will stop receiving Sky services from the end of Feb. We did this because we were not happy with the price we were paying (essentially every SKY TV package bar sports). We had the F1 channel as part of the legacy HD we all know about.

    We are switching to TalkTalk TV (we are already with them for broadband), where we can get all the channels that we watch (excluding F1 for me) AND Netflix, plus Sky Movies, for just under half what we were paying with Sky (bearing in mind also the Sky price doesn’t include Netflix).

    I’ll be honest regarding Sky F1 I only watched it for:

    Ted’s Notebook (which can be watched online)
    The F1 Show (at least I did, but since I got a job last year, I found myself watching it less often).
    The races where BBC were not live during the day (the early races I watched BBC highlights at lunchtime – hey, I like to be in bed in the mornings 🙂 )

    This post shows watching F1 is only getting more expensive in a time where F1

  13. (continued from above, pressed enter by mistake) …

    desperately needs more viewers, this seems such a dumb move.

    I’m keen to see what Channel 4 can do – I’ve not watch their sports coverage before, and I’m not the type of sad person to not watch it because it’s on a certain channel, I watch something because I like the program, but anyway, that’s another story for another day. It would be very interesting IF, say, the C4 coverage is at a level where more & more instead watch them instead of Sky, what will happen with the contract renewal.

    I almost want it to happen to show what a mistake reducing FTA coverage has been in the long term, but then again, Mr Ecclestone doesn’t think in the long term (again, another story, another day), especially with C4’s bid back in 2011 for full F1 coverage.

    If F1 channel was on its own contract, away from the main sports package, it might actually bring more revenue in. I, and I’m sure many others, would pay for it, if it was a reasonable price and/or if it was on a streaming service, not including Now TV (which quite frankly is the way TV is going in the long term, even if it is not entirely obvious yet).

    1. Channel 4 did a very good job covering cricket years ago, and I think they’ll be good with F1.
      The demise of FTA was down to the BBC, they waste money and just cancel contracts because it’s easier.Sporting bodies must be wary of the BBC now when it comes to rights, they’ve backed out of F1 contracts twice in 5 years, backed out of the Open Golf a year early.

      Saying it should always be FTA is all well and good, but FTA broadcasters generally don’t seem keen on long term commitments.

      1. Fair enough, I see your points. At least with Sky, I seem to remember they did show some of the races on Sky1, but I dunno if this is something they intend to do for every race or not going forward.

  14. @davidd93 From what I can remember Sky sometimes simulcast on Sky 1 when the race was live on the BBC. I would assume that they will try to do the same with the C4 live races.

    I’m a bit surprised that Sky hasn’t ventured more into motorsport to bolster it’s F1 coverage.

  15. You haven’t mentioned TalkTalk, you can get Sky F1 on that too, i’ve got it free for 3 months due to their website hack offer to customers, so get the first two races for free before I revert to Channel 4 for the rest of the season.

    They do a number of TV packages and you can add Sky Sports to that, not sure about BT but it’s not just Virgin & Sky that you can get Sky F1 on. I’m hoping Channel 4 do a really good job and get into F1 and when the contract is up for renewal they are in a position to get all races live as they will surely have more money what with sponsers and advertisers, having said that i would not bet against BT sport taking over from Sky.

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