Looking ahead to 2019

For most Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom, 2019 will have a completely different feel to it, as the new television broadcasting contract kicks into gear.

Sky Sports have exclusive rights to all the action from 2019 to 2024, in a deal signed in March 2016 with Formula One Management, then under the control of Bernie Ecclestone. How will Formula 1’s UK viewing figures look under the first year of the new deal?

I am not expecting a tumble in the total audience figure, as Sky have sub-let the free-to-air element of their deal to Channel 4, for 2019 at least. The move means that fans still have a major free-to-air platform to view highlights of every race, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix. But, Channel 4’s Formula 1 deal is only one year long.

Will Sky Sports let Channel 4’s coverage continue beyond 2019, or will they pull the plug? There are a ton of questions surrounding Channel 4’s 2019 coverage, the personnel involved, the commentary that they will take, and so on, plus whether there will be further jumps from Channel 4 to Sky. All will be revealed…

In its second season, expect Formula 1’s over-the-top service to grow significantly, something that we will be monitoring throughout the year as the service begins to mature. There were previous rumblings that UK fans could have access to F1 TV Pro, but this is unconfirmed. If confirmed, it provides another avenue for fans to view the action on.

Beyond Formula 1, MotoGP fans have stability, as the championship remains on BT Sport for the next three seasons. Formula E’s UK offering will be a focal point, the electric series choosing to go all guns blazing onto just about every platform possible. With the help of Auntie Beeb and YouTube, is 2019 the year that Formula E finally breaks into the mainstream in the UK and starts making significant movement?

For some, 2018 marked the end of an era, as 2019 marks the start of a new era. 2019 promises to be another fascinating year in the broadcasting landscape as each championship fights to remain in the limelight.

Who knows what the next twelve months may hold…

10 thoughts on “Looking ahead to 2019

  1. In my view the move to highlights only on C4 will see the overall audience figures drop significantly. Yes, Sky will gain some viewers it didn’t have, but I doubt very many. Sky will view the C4 coverage as an advert for their offering.

    When the audience stabilises (because they’ve got all that are going to sign-up), my guess is that Sky will start to cut back on their costs. They’ll drop some presenters and reduce the extra features. They won’t be competing for viewers any more so why spend the money? Sky already had to shell out a massive amount (was it $1bn?) just to have the coverage, and lost the economies of scale because in Germany another channel got the rights.

    Unless the racing itself really picks up, the sport will continue to bleed audience numbers. The Sky deal is just speeding the process up.

    • Sky would consider what they paid as a good deal, their viewing figures are good and their advertising revenue is on the increase generally. Sky do not compete for viewers in as much as they don’t want to share live sports, that’s their business model.

      When you talk of bleeding audience numbers, you’ve forgotten to mention that C4 have lost about 35% (1 million plus), compared to the BBC. Using your logic C4 have well and truly speeded up the process, it’s been nothing to do with Sky, C4 have managed it all on their own. However, it could be that viewing figures for FTA need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt. Personally I find C4’s coverage to be poor, but not bad enough to anywhere near explain how they can lose 35% compared to the BBC. So one could conclude that a large percentage of the population just watch whatever’s on the BBC and aren’t, or don’t want to turn over.
      Those that subscribe to Sky, and other pay TV providers, are different. They do so because there is content that they want to watch and they are willing to pay for it. A drop in viewing figures is not a question of pay TV blah blah blah, simply because C4 is FTA and they lost ‘viewers’ (if they were actually serious F1 viewers), by the truck load. The viewers for pay TV will be consistent generally speaking, what isn’t known are Skys’ true figures because they don’t include Now TV. I would be surprised if their true figures aren’t 20 to 30% higher, especially as last year you could watch all Sky Sports channels on Now TV for 150 quid.

  2. “For most Formula 1 fans in the United Kingdom, 2019 will have a completely different feel to it, as the new television broadcasting contract kicks into gear.”

    I would hope by now that most Formula 1 fans in the UK have prepared for this, and have already moved over to watching Sky’s coverage which has been unmatched by either the BBC or Channel 4 since it started in 2012.

  3. I’m *really* hoping F1TV becomes an option for us here in the UK next season. Or, at least something similar from Sky (in terms of pricing). I have nothing against the Sky team or presentation, indeed I’ve previously subscribed to it myself even when alternatives were available. But, these days F1 is literally the only thing I watch live, so there’s no way I can justify the expense needed for a Sky sub.

    I’d quite happily pay for F1TV, even at the higher rate of maybe £15/£20pm. Beyond that, it’s difficult to justify – especially if the racing isn’t up to scratch.

    FormulaE are heading in the right direction – the coverage is good, the racing decent. They just need to work on their communication a bit more – it’s still not as easy to find out when and what time races are on as it should be. The gaps between races don’t help keep it in people’s minds either. I will stick with it this year, more than I have previously.

    • I thought that Liberty had said that they were prepared to make the app available through their pay TV broadcasters, but if I remember it was worded in a way that suggested that it was the broadcasters that had the option of whether to make it available.

  4. “…the electric series choosing to go all guns blazing onto just about every platform possible.” – I think that means that they’ve been giving it away because broadcasters, and the public, aren’t really interested. Motor racing fans are generally well informed and it doesn’t bode well for the direction of a Series when Franchitti says something like “Look at that new diffuser, doesn’t it look cool”.
    Not only does it look slow, it is slow, and the last race was literally held between wall to wall advertising.

  5. How does the F1 TV Pro service work? Can you choose your preferred commentary to listen to? If so, I’d have DC and Ben Edwards from Channel 4’s vastly superior team. (Assuming they’re still working for Channel 4 next year.) Yes, I’m still furious about this stupid, short-sighted deal. And no, not wanting to give Sky your money does not make you a ‘casual’ fan – that sort of snooty attitude really sticks in my craw.

    Sigh. The first time in my lifetime that I won’t be able to watch live races (other than Silverstone). I’ll have to listen to the BBC radio coverage from now on and use my imagination, I guess.

    • Dominic, you can buy a cheap free to air satellite dish and point it at 19.2 degrees east to pick up RTL from Germany. They have adverts, but it works very well with 5 live commentary.

  6. If Now TV offered catch up for Formula 1. Even if you had to buy a month pass to activate it that would be ok for me. I tried Sky but they keep racking up the price even less than 2 months after giving you a “deal”. I cant always watch live or sometimes get interrupted so the ability to pause or watch later is important.

    Im grateful for the C4 deal even though its mostly highlights as I dont mind waiting and I can just not watch/listen to the news for a few hours and still enjoy the race (There is always Netflix/Amazon to watch while I wait). I thought about whether or not highlights would be enough and after watching the 97 season again from archive recordings I realised that ITV used to have quite a lot of 3-4 min ad breaks with replays of anything interesting that happened if anything important was missed. Therefore in conclusion with C4 I probably wont miss much more action than I used to miss when watching ITV.

    If post 2019 C4 lost the rights and it was Sky only (I cant see that happening) and Now TV didnt have catchup then I still wouldnt get Sky and I think it just wait until the season hit the F1 TV Archive and binge watch them the following year.

    Interesting side note I have been waiting for 2018 season to go into the F1TV archive and its not there yet but looks like it will be updated some time in January.

    Formula E is a different beast and I do enjoy it as I have been interested in electric cars ever since Tesla made their first Roadster. For me FE wont replace F1 yet as there are not enough races and a 45 min + 1 lap time limit makes them a bit too short for me at the moment (60-90 mins would be ideal). However I was very happy to be able to watch the race slightly behind live, from the beginning on BBC iPlayer in 1080p and not pay another penny which makes Now TV’s live stream only at 720p for a minimum of £7.99 look awful.

    So if Sky offered catchup sports on Now TV for month pass subscribers they would be getting £33.99 a month from me during the F1 season but seeing as they don’t they will be getting absolutely nothing. It’s not about Crofty vs Edwards or presenting style of C4 vs Sky its about value for money.

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