‘To buy or not to buy’: BT Sport through Sky

As many of you who have followed this site in recent months will be aware, I am officially a homeowner. Which comes with it, some responsibilities. Namely, trying to get the best motor sport content at the cheapest price! Better said than done, of course…

For years I have talked about ‘doing the sums’ across the pay television landscape, now I am doing the sums for real. Where there is only one legal option, the route is clear, but where there are multiple legal routes, the waters become muddy very quickly.

My main priority is to watch Formula 1 live and, as this site analysed earlier in the year, Sky is increasingly cheaper in this respect than rivals Virgin Media. I went with an 18-month offer bundling Sports, Entertainment, Broadband and Netflix together with a Sky Q 1 TB box.

Sky’s broadband option I admit is not the greatest, but a month in and so far, so good. The frustration in the broadband space is that the pricing of Sky, Virgin and BT is more expensive than what it should be, but that is a discussion for another day.

This all leads me to one question: how do I consume the motor racing content that BT Sport currently airs? BT Sport’s motor sport portfolio comprises of the following:

  • MotoGP
  • Supercars
  • World Endurance Championship (excluding Le Mans)
  • World Rally Championship

Sitting below the top four are several other lower-tier championships, such as the Euroformula Series and the International GT Open.

BT Sport have MotoGP secure until the end of 2021, whilst the current World Endurance Championship season (which BT are airing) finishes in June next year.

Although there is no news yet on either Supercars or the World Rally Championship for 2020, expect both to remain on BT Sport.

Pleasingly, all four have an over-the-top offering that is not geo-blocked for UK fans, meaning consumers have a genuine choice. Do you go with BT Sport via Sky and ignore the over-the-top option, or do you cut the cord and go straight to the promoter? It is time to find out…

Note: This is based on my own personal circumstances, taking BT Sport through Sky. If you are taking BT Sport via BT TV or Virgin Media, the calculations will differ, but you could use my calculations as a baseline. And, as always, prices are subject to change.

BT Sport via Sky
If I wanted to watch BT Sport via Sky, normally I would be looking at a cost of either £379.88 (standard definition), or £438.38 (high definition) across the year. Those figures are based on the current standard pricing for BT Sport, which is £29.99 a month, as well as £20.00 upfront. If you want BT Sport in HD, expect to pay an additional £6.50 for month 4 onwards.

These prices are likely to rise over forthcoming months, after the broadcaster agreed a £1.2 billion deal to retain exclusive rights to Europe’s biggest club football competitions.

For the here and now, BT currently has a Black Friday offer, that allows you to watch all of BT Sport’s content in standard definition for as little as £20.00 a month. This comes to £260.00 (standard definition), or £318.50 (high definition) across the year, a saving of over £100 on BT’s normal pricing.

By subscribing to BT Sport via Sky, you also get access to BT Sport’s app, allowing you to watch your favourite content on the move away from the television screen.

From the outset, BT’s Black Friday offer feels like an instant grab. But, how does the combined cost of over-the-top compare with BT’s pricing?

Over-the-top – the ‘musts’
Again, this all depends on your own personal circumstances, and what you like or dislike. MotoGP is easily top of the tree for me, with the World Rally Championship following in behind.

Both the World Endurance Championship and the Supercars are nice to have, but neither are top of the list unfortunately (sorry).

> October 2016: Looking at MotoGP’s Video Pass
> April 2018: A quick fire guide to your motor racing streaming services for 2018
> September 2018: Behind the scenes with BT Sport’s MotoGP production team (1, 2)
> October 2018: How All Live is changing the face of rallying (1, 2, 3)

MotoGP’s over-the-top offering has stayed at €199.99 for the past few years now, but with a record 20 races on the 2020 calendar, there is a good chance that number could rise. UK readers are looking at a cost of around £171.73 across the season.

What BT offers MotoGP fans, and what MotoGP themselves offer fans are two different things. MotoGP’s over-the-top service offers fans access to their rich archive dating back to 2002, as well as a variety of camera angles, and insights from the likes of Steve Day and Matt Birt.

However, BT’s coverage offers additional colour to the MotoGP World Feed that Dorna themselves do not provide. BT’s coverage contains in-depth analysis from Neil Hodgson and Gavin Emmett, with Suzi Perry steering the ship.

2019 was the second year for World Rally Championship’s All Live service, clocking in at €89.99 across the season, or £77.27 for UK fans.

In a change for 2019, series organisers agreed a new deal with BT Sport, allowing BT to take the All Live offering and air it behind the Red Button. It is unknown if that will continue into 2020, again I would be surprised if it did not.

Assuming BT Sport continue to offer the All Live offering, the main differences between the two in my view play out in BT’s favour. WRC’s All Live platform only allows you to playback the All Live offering from the latest weekend, which I find somewhat odd if you want to catch-up with the action from earlier in the season.

To the contrary, All Live allows you to jump on-board with your favourite driver outside of the main feed, a feature currently unavailable to BT Sport viewers.

Combined, MotoGP and WRC’s over-the-top apps is set to cost UK fans £249.00 in 2020, compared with the £260.00 (standard definition) that BT Sport is offering for their portfolio of channels as part of the Black Friday bonanza.

At this point, you really must weigh up the difference of £11.00, whether you care about the picture quality (in which case, go for the apps), or care about the additional sports in BT’s portfolio.

Aside from motor sport, I do watch a bit of football and am a wrestling fan (which becomes more important from a BT perspective, with WWE moving over from January 2020).

Over-the-top – the ‘maybes’
Elsewhere, WEC’s over-the-top app puts you back £29.19 for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, whilst Supercars over in Australia will cost you £31.70, a total of £60.89.

Critically though, both apps give you a lot more than what BT offers, with additional feeds and qualifying, whereas BT only offers you the race itself, which is worth bearing in mind if you are mad into your Supercars or endurance racing.

A slight pain for me is that I would need to Chromecast to watch on the television set, if I was to go down the over-the-top route.

Combined, the cost of all four apps come to £309.89, a not so insignificant amount. If you are reading this during the Black Friday period, BT overall is a better proposition at £260.00 (standard definition), or £318.50 (high definition) across the year.

However, once BT’s Black Friday offer ends, their prices will increase again to £379.88 (standard definition), or £438.38 (high definition), putting them far behind the over-the-top competition.

What did I do?
I gambled and went with BT Sport’s Black Friday offer, which I feel is good value for money compared to the combined price of the MotoGP and the World Rally Championship apps.

Yes, the picture quality is standard definition, but I have the option to upgrade later if I want to. For me, picture quality is not the be all and end all, there is no guarantee for one that the over-the-top quality will be good all year round.

Clearly time will tell as to whether I made the right move. I think the chances of WRC and Supercars moving elsewhere are slim, but you never know.

Everyone is different, and there is no one size fits all answer at all here. If you are subscribing to more than one over-the-top platform in the motor sport space, I would advise looking at the Black Friday deals that are out there in the pay-TV world, because chances are you will be able to save some money, or add a ton of content with little additional cost and discard of your existing over-the-top subscriptions.

If you are reading this post after the Black Friday deals, unless you can haggle the pay-TV provider in question, you probably are better off staying off with over-the-top, for the moment at least.

It is only with BT’s current motor sports portfolio where this choice exists. Neither IndyCar or F1, which air live on Sky, have an over-the-top offering that is available to UK fans. If F1 made their premium-tier subscription available to UK fans tomorrow, the game would change again.

Have you seen any deals in the pay-TV landscape that you are planning to take advantage of? Have your say in the comments below.

Pricing and information correct as of November 24th, 2019, and based on the 2019 season where applicable. Pricing is subject to change.

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Scheduling: The 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the 2019 season. The championship ends in December for the first time since 1963, when the South African round that year took place on December 28th.

The race as usual airs exclusively live on Sky Sports, although one person who will not be out in Abu Dhabi with Sky is Damon Hill, as mentioned by the man himself during their Brazilian Grand Prix broadcast.

Post Abu Dhabi, Sky are showing live coverage of the final of this year’s F1 Esports Series, which takes place on Wednesday 4th December.

Over on Channel 4, Mark Webber joins Steve Jones and David Coulthard for their final weekend of the year. Channel 4’s relationship with Formula 1 continues into 2020 and beyond, having signed a new contract with Sky Sports to cover the sport until the end of 2022.

As of writing, it is unknown whether Whisper will be producing Channel 4’s coverage in 2020, an answer on that front is due imminently.

Channel 4 F1
30/11 – 17:00 to 18:30 – Qualifying Highlights
01/12 – 18:05 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
29/11 – 08:45 to 10:45 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/11 – 12:45 to 14:55 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/11 – 09:45 to 11:30
=> 09:45 – Practice 3
=> 11:10 – Paddock Walkabout
30/11 – 12:00 to 14:40 – Qualifying
=> 12:00 – Pre-Show
=> 12:55 – Qualifying
01/12 – 11:30 to 16:30 – Race
=> 11:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – On the Grid
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Paddock Live
=> 16:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
28/11 – 13:00 to 13:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
28/11 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
29/11 – 12:00 to 12:30 – The Brundles Race the Nordschleife
29/11 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/11 – 15:45 to 16:15 – The F1 Show
04/12 – 19:00 to 21:30 – F1 Esports Pro Series Grand Final

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
28/11 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
29/11 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/11 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/11 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
30/11 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/12 – 13:00 to 14:55 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

Formula Two – Abu Dhabi (Sky Sports F1)
29/11 – 07:25 to 08:15 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/11 – 14:55 to 15:30 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/11 – 14:40 to 15:45 – Race 1
01/12 – 09:20 to 10:20 – Race 2

This article will be updated if schedules change.

Updated on November 28th – Sky are also airing a 30-minute programme throughout the Abu Dhabi weekend as Martin and Alex Brundle tackle the Nordschleife.

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Scheduling: The 2019 Diriyah E-Prix

As the traditional motor racing season winds down, the electric sounds of Formula E return to our screens live from Diriyah in Saudi Arabia. Now in its sixth season, Diriyah plays host to round one of 14, which concludes in London next July.

The double-header takes place across Friday and Saturday, with live coverage continuing across BBC’s digital platforms and Eurosport. As of writing, BT Sport are not covering Formula E this season, so fans wanting to watch shakedown and practice will need to head to Formula E’s social media platforms.

In addition, based on information from Formula E’s ‘Ways to Watch‘ page, UK fans will not have access to the YouTube stream for qualifying and the race, meaning that the BBC and Eurosport are the only legal ways for fans to watch the live action.

Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti return to commentary, with Vernon Kay and Nicki Shields on presenting duties. However, Bob Varsha is not returning to his role in the commentary box, Formula E opting to return to a two-man booth. As of writing, there are no immediate plans for Formula E’s radio commentary feed to return as season six begins.

Fans watching Formula E should expect to see a few new camera angles this season, with e-racing365 reporting that helmet cameras are set to make their way into the coverage.

Formula E – Diriyah (race 1)
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
22/11 – Qualifying
=> 07:45 to 09:15 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 07:55 to 09:10 (Eurosport 2)
22/11 – Race
=> 11:00 to 13:30 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 11:45 to 13:00 (Eurosport 2)
22/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

Formula E – Diriyah (race 2)
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
23/11 – Qualifying
=> 07:45 to 09:15 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 07:55 to 09:05 (Eurosport 2)
23/11 – Race
=> 11:00 to 13:30 (BBC’s digital platforms)
=> 12:00 to 13:00 (Eurosport 2)
23/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

Virgin Australia Supercars – Newcastle
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
23/11 – 04:15 to 07:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 1)
24/11 – 04:15 to 07:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport 3)

As always, if plans change the schedule will be updated.

Update on November 21st – So, in a late addition, the big news is that it appears the BBC are also showing Formula E qualifying live this season across their digital platforms. Meanwhile, Eurosport’s online Player service will cover both Formula E practice and the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series live.

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Scheduling: The 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix

The championship race may be over, but the racing continues as Formula 1 heads to Interlagos in Brazil for the penultimate round of the 2019 season.

Unusually, the race on Sunday faces tough sporting competition in the form of England’s last Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo. The match kicks off at 17:00 live on ITV, whilst the Grand Prix starts at 17:10 on Sky.

Although England themselves have already qualified for the tournament next Summer, expect the football to put a significant dent in F1’s audience figures.

Elsewhere, both the World Rally Championship and MotoGP series conclude in Australia and Valencia respectively, the latter airing live on BT Sport 1 for the season finale instead of its usual BT Sport 2 home.

Fans of the annual Macau Grand Prix will need to look elsewhere for viewing options, with no UK TV channel currently airing the race (last year the race aired live on Eurosport).

Channel 4 F1
16/11 – 22:50 to 00:20 – Qualifying Highlights
17/11 – 22:30 to 00:30 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
15/11 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 1
15/11 – 17:45 to 19:45 – Practice 2
16/11 – 14:45 to 16:30
=> 14:45 – Practice 3
=> 16:10 – Paddock Walkabout
16/11 – 17:00 to 19:30 – Qualifying
=> 17:00 – Pre-Show
=> 17:55 – Qualifying
17/11 – 15:30 to 20:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports Main Event from 16:00)
=> 16:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 17:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 19:00 – Paddock Live
=> 20:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
14/11 – 14:00 to 14:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference
14/11 – 18:00 to 18:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
15/11 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The Story so Far
16/11 – 19:30 to 20:00 – The F1 Show
20/11 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
15/11 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/11 – 17:55 to 19:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/11 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
16/11 – 17:55 to 19:10 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/11 – 17:00 to 19:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Valencia
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
15/11 – 07:45 to 16:15 – Practice 1 and 2 (BT Sport 2)
16/11 – 08:00 to 16:00 (BT Sport 1)
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
=> 15:00 – MotoE: Race 1
17/11 – 07:15 to 14:30 (BT Sport 1)
=> 07:15 – Warm Ups
=> 08:45 – MotoE: Race 2
=> 09:30 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag
18/11 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (Quest)

World Rally Championship – Australia (All Live – BT Sport Extra 1)
Also airs live on WRCPlus.com (£)
14/11 – 05:30 to 07:45 – Stages 1 and 2
14/11 – 21:45 to 07:00 – Stages 3 and 10
15/11 – 21:00 to 08:30 – Stages 11 to 19
16/11 – 19:00 to 04:00 – Stages 20 to 25

World Rally Championship – Australia
15/11 – 12:30 to 13:00 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
16/11 – 04:00 to 05:00 – Stage 16 (BT Sport 1)
16/11 – 12:15 to 12:45 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
16/11 – 21:30 to 22:30 – Stage 22 (BT Sport 1)
17/11 – 11:15 to 11:45 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
18/11 – 18:55 to 20:00 – Highlights (5Spike)

World Touring Car Cup – Macau (Eurosport)
15/11 – 05:30 to 07:00 – Qualifying
16/11 – 06:50 to 07:45 – Race 1
17/11 – 00:40 to 01:15 – Race 2
17/11 – 03:10 to 04:15 – Race 3

As always, the schedule will be updated if plans change.

Update on November 13th – The final round of the World Rally Championship season in Australia has been cancelled due to the rapidly spreading bush fires. On the F1 front, both BBC and Sky got their Friday and Saturday schedules out by an hour, I have updated this article with the revised schedule.

For readers looking for the action from Macau, that airs live on Motorsport.tv‘s online platform.

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BBC retains Formula E rights for 2019-20 season

Updated on November 14th.

The BBC will continue to air Formula E during the upcoming 2019-20 season, organisers have confirmed.

The free-to-air broadcaster, who took over the rights from Channel 5 last season, will air every race live via their online platforms, encompassing BBC iPlayer, the BBC Sport website, and BBC’s Red Button service.

In addition, the Marrakesh and Rome rounds of the championship will air on either BBC One or BBC Two, an increase on the one race (Hong Kong) that aired on BBC Two last season.

Although the London E-Prix is returning to the Formula E calendar this season as a double-header event, there are no plans to air either race on either BBC One or BBC Two.

Motorsport Broadcasting understands that this is due to E-Prix weekend clashing with the opening weekend of the Olympics from Tokyo. The 2020 Olympic Games begin on July 24th, with the double-header taking place on July 25th and 26th.

Formula E’s existing arrangements with Eurosport continue for qualifying and the race, the pan-European broadcaster having signed a two-year deal last year encompassing the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

Quest also returns to the fray in a similar vein to last season. The free-to-air broadcaster will air highlights of every round, plus live coverage of selected races.

Of course, Discovery Communications has an investment in Formula E, and owns both Eurosport and Quest, which makes deals such as these easier to negotiate.

Based on Formula E’s press release, BT Sport’s involvement in Formula E is no more, leaving Formula E’s shakedown and practice sessions, as well as the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series without a home (update – see footnote at bottom of article).

Fans wanting to watch these sessions will need to head to the relevant social media channels moving forward. In addition, based on information from the Formula E website, the YouTube stream of the race will be geo-blocked for UK viewers.

Jerome Hiquet, Formula E’s Chief Marketing Officer, said “We are extremely pleased to be back on the BBC for yet another exciting year of electric racing, with more races selected to be shown live on network channels.”

“Expanding our broadcast partnership and offering different ways to watch Formula E on the BBC helps bring British fans closer to the sport than ever before.”

Session 2018-19 season 2019-20 season
Shakedown BT Sport
Practice BT Sport
Europort Player
Qualifying BT Sport
BBC online / Red Button
Race BBC online / Red Button
BT Sport
BBC TV (one race)
Quest (selected races)
BBC online / Red Button
BBC TV (two races)
Quest (selected races)

Good news from the outset, but not as great as hoped?
Formula E remaining on the BBC is good news for a championship which has clearly struggled to find a stable home in the UK.

All races will continue to be available via the BBC Sport website, whilst two races could capture a wider audience via BBC’s television outlets.

However, it is a sign of how wanted Formula E is by broadcasters when a press release is issued by organisers eight days before the season opener, with seemingly little fanfare and under the radar.

Formula E is keen to shout that it is a series on the rise, yet that does not show in television deals worldwide, which is bad news from a financial perspective given that is where the money lies.

Arguably the demographics where Formula E is rising are those that do not watch television in their masses, but you would expect some ripple effect across the board if there was a genuine rise.

The BBC deal is good, do not get me wrong. But, the fact that only 2 out of 14 races are airing on BBC TV compared with 1 out of 13 last season suggests that the needle never moved far enough.

Back in March, an average audience of 229k (4.6%) watched the Hong Kong E-Prix on BBC Two, peaking with 355k (6.5%), a solid number considering the fact that the race went largely unadvertised.

Evidently, it was not enough to persuade the decision makers to do something different this season which, and as someone who really wants the championship to break out into the mainstream, is a real shame.

On the World Feed front, Vernon Kay will continue to front coverage of the series, which begins next Friday in Saudi Arabia. Nicki Shields returns from maternity leave, with Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti remaining in the commentary box.

Update on November 21st – So, in a late addition, the big news is that it appears the BBC are also showing Formula E qualifying live this season across their digital platforms (I’ve updated the table in the main body as a result). Meanwhile, Eurosport’s online Player service will cover both Formula E practice and the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy Series live.

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