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.
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|
|One-Off Installation Cost||£15.00||£15.00||£60.00||£60.00|
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.
The pricing for Virgin Media is simpler than Sky, but the raw pricing does not differ significantly.
TiVo 500GB box
TiVo 500GB box
|Sky Sports Collection||£31.75||£31.75|
|Sky Sports HD Pack||£7.00|
|One-Off Installation Cost||£14.99||£14.99|
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.
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.