Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2017

2017 marks Formula 1’s sixth season with half of the races exclusively live on pay television in the United Kingdom, with this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix the first of ten races this year exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.

The cost of pay TV has been on the rise for years, an increase that is showing no signs of slowing down. This has led to Sky introducing the likes of Now TV, which aims to bring in a different type of customer. So, how much money do readers need to part company with to watch Sky Sports F1 in 2017?

The below information is primarily aimed at new customers on each of these platforms. As regular readers for these services will be aware, if you threaten to leave (otherwise known as ‘haggling’), expect Sky or Virgin to offer a cost reduction to secure your custom. This is not a guarantee, but likely if the pay TV company values your services, and if you have been a long-term customer. Note that all of the comparisons exclude double and triple play choices, such as phone and broadband deals.

This year, Sky customers have an extra mechanism of viewing Formula 1 content, thanks to the introduction of F1 in ultra-high definition through the Sky Q service. There should be three tiers: standard definition (SD), high-definition (HD) and ultra-high definition (UHD). However, the ultra-high definition option splices off into two sub categories.

Option SD
Sky Q 1TB Box
Sky Q 1TB Box
UHD + SD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
UHD + HD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
Bundle – Original £22.00 £22.00
Bundle – Box Sets £38.00 £38.00
Bundle – Sky Sports £27.50 £27.50 £27.50 £27.50
Sky Sports HD Pack £6.00 £6.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £49.50 £71.50 £61.50 £83.50
Yearly Cost £594.00 £858.00 £738.00 £1,002.00
One-Off Installation Cost £15.00 £15.00 £60.00 £60.00
Yearly Cost £609.00 £873.00 £798.00 £1,062.00

There are a few points to note. There is still a distinction between standard definition and high-definition. The Original Bundle, Sky’s ‘entry level’ television package, does not give you access to Sky Sports content in high definition.

Not only does this require the consumer to upgrade from the Original Bundle to the Box Set Bundle (at a cost of £16.00 extra per month), but it also means that they need to pay a further £6.00 per month to view Sky Sports HD. At this stage, high-definition should be the ‘new norm’, but Sky still considers high definition a speciality from a pricing perspective.

A second point to note is that, to view content in ultra HD, customers require the Sky Q 2TB box and Sky Q Multiscreen, the latter of which is an extra £12.00 a month. The reason for the ultra HD option being split into two is because, having a Sky Q 2TB box does not give you access to HD content. As a result, you could find yourself watching Formula 1 sessions in ultra HD, but the rest of the channels’ content in standard definition. Unusually, this combination is cheaper than the all high-definition option, but that is likely a result of little ultra HD content currently available on Sky’s platform. Both the Sky standard and high definition options have increased by around £35.00 compared to last year.

I do not know how Liberty Media can influence Sky’s strategy, but in my opinion, a monthly cost of £49.50 to view every Formula 1 race is more than an average family could afford.

Virgin Media
The pricing for Virgin Media is simpler than Sky, but the raw pricing does not differ significantly.

Option SD
TiVo 500GB box
TiVo 500GB box
Mix TV £20.00 £20.00
Sky Sports Collection £31.75 £31.75
Sky Sports HD Pack £7.00
Monthly Cost £51.75 £58.75
Yearly Cost £621.00 £705.00
One-Off Installation Cost £14.99 £14.99
Yearly Cost £635.99 £719.99

The entry-level Mix TV package is £20.00 (including the TiVo 500GB box). I should note that Virgin Media does offer a free Player TV package, however you are unable to combine this with the Sky Sports Collection.

The standard definition option ends up more expensive than the Sky equivalent, but the HD option is cheaper, simply because the base package is identical irrespective of the picture quality for Sky Sports. An extra £7.00 a month gets you Sky Sports in high-definition through Virgin Media, compared to a potential extra of £22.00 if you are with Sky.

Now TV
Outside of the traditional pay TV subscription, there is a cheaper option in the form of Now TV, also owned by Sky. There are three Now TV tiers for Sky Sports. The daily pass is £6.99, the weekly pass is £10.99 and the monthly pass is £33.99. However, the monthly pass is currently half price at £16.99 for a limited time only.

Based on the 2017 calendar, you can watch every race live by purchasing six monthly passes throughout the year:

– pass 1 can be used from March 24th to April 24th (Australia and China) – half price
– pass 2 can be used from May 11th to June 11th (Spain and Canada)
– pass 3 can be used from July 1st to August 1st (Austria and Hungary)
– pass 4 can be used from August 22nd to September 22nd (Italy)
– pass 5 can be used from October 1st to November 1st (Japan and Mexico)
– pass 6 can be used from November 1st to December 1st (Brazil)

The six Now TV monthly passes works out at a cost of £186.94 across the year. The cheaper option would be to purchase ten Now TV weekly passes, at a cost of £109.90 across the year. To further decrease the cost, if you just watched to watch the ten races that Channel 4 are not covering live, forgetting qualifying and extra material, you could purchase ten Now TV daily passes at a cost of £69.90 across the year. Personally, I think the weekly passes offer the best value for money and offer more flexibility. The reality is that there is not a one size fits all solution, and that you probably want to mix and match depending on your own circumstances.

Now TV is a great option if you want to dip in and out and do not want to watch Sky Sports all year round. If you do, the pricing mechanism is not much different to Sky or Virgin Media. As I have mentioned before, the daily pass should be priced lower.

Sky Sports Mobile TV
The last and cheapest option is Sky Sports Mobile TV for iPhone and Android users. Priced at £9.99 per month, six months in the same way as above works out at a nifty £59.95 across the year. There is a huge cost saving that can be made for consumers.

In summary, if you are a Formula 1 fan, here are the key numbers, including installation where applicable:

– £1,062.00 a year – Sky (UHD + HD other content)
– £873.00 a year – Sky (HD)
– £798.00 a year – Sky (UHD + SD other content)
– £719.99 a year – Virgin Media (HD)
– £635.99 a year – Virgin Media (SD)
– £609.00 a year – Sky (SD)
– £186.94 – Now TV (Monthly Pass x 6)
– £109.90 – Now TV (Weekly Pass x 10)
– £69.90 – Now TV (Day Pass x 10)
– £59.95 – Sky Sports Mobile TV

The gulf between pay TV and ‘cord cutting’ methods, such as Now TV and Sky Sports Mobile TV is increasing by the year. In the future, there is a good chance that the F1 App will be added to the above list, in which consumers will start consuming things by individual sports as opposed to by broadcaster, but that is some years down the road yet in the UK at least.

Pricing and information correct as of March 24th, 2016. Pricing is subject to change.

11 thoughts on “Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2017

  1. What an utter disgrace – and yet they wonder why viewing figures are falling.

    Sky are sucking the life out of this sport, it’s a shame money talks in F1…

  2. I might be able to afford 50 quid a month but good value it is not.

    My loyalty is changing to le mans sports which I can watch this year for twenty quid a year.

  3. Gosh, you’ve gone to a lot of time and trouble compiling all this, which just goes to show how convoluted the whole pay-to-view option has become. Add to this that if you want to watch MotoGP, or Indy Car you’ll have to subscribe to BT Sport as well. No wonder viewing figures are plunging. You only have to look at the recent Six Nations Rugby series to see the success of free to air where figures of around 9 million were recorded for some matches on both the BBC and ITV. This is then reflected in the big coverage which rugby now gets in the national press.

  4. Pretty disingenuous comparison. The TV prices you quoted are for new customers (as mentioned) and thus your comparison is based on having none of the infrastructure required to watch. So why do the NowTV and the app prices assume you do? Surely you should be factoring in the cost of an internet connection on that basis? Sure it’ll still be cheaper than £600 but saying you can go from complete zero to everything for £60 is fantasy

  5. I have Nowtv. It infuriated me that they seem to have no concept of the structure of the sport whatsoever. Their great marketing ploy is to send me an email on Saturday evening! They have no idea that F1 has free practice or even qualifying let alone the press conferences. Currently a week pass is best value for races not on FTA and not in the middle of the night. Channel 4 coverage is fine though obviously cut to fit in the time slot allowed. But the ideal would be a 3 day pass for £7.50.

    However this season with little or no overtaking will be a return to the Schumacher years a two part procession all dependant upon timing of tyre stops, thus the audience will start falling away as boredom sets in.

  6. I fear Sky’s future exclusivity will result in a vast drop in viewing figures unless they can figure out a cost-effective way for people to watch F1 in their own homes (excluding piracy). As you point out, it can be done fairly cheaply through Now TV, but what about the older generation who struggle with newer technology beyond a remote control in their hand?

  7. If you pay the full price for sky you are a fool.
    Now tv offers on amazon reduce the cost significantly.
    Sky sports for £!8 for 18 months offer has been in many users existing offers for months. I just got a 40% off deal off all tv and free broadband and half price line rental as a five year renewal of my previous similar deal I already had without even trying, a 10+ year customer.
    If you really love your sport , sky f1 football, golf, cricket and tennis is the best coverage by far and its not that much a month, I spend more than that on one weekend night out for a meal for my family or a trip to the cinema with my children and wife, mostly on food and drink for the kids.
    For me sky is great value for money.
    UHD this weekend was just amazing, really works for f1.

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