2021 marks Sky’s tenth season covering Formula 1 for fans in the UK, the sport having last aired fully free-to-air via the BBC in 2011.
From 2012 to 2018, the pay-TV broadcaster aired half of the races exclusively live, with the other half also airing live on free-to-air television.
Since 2019, Sky has covered F1 exclusively, with only the British Grand Prix airing live on free-to-air television on Channel 4. So, what options are available for UK F1 fans, and how does this compare to previous years?
Motorsport Broadcasting takes an in-depth look at the figures, to help fans decide which package is best for them…
All calculations in this article assume that we are still going to see a full 23-race Formula 1 season without COVID-19 causing an impact, but also comes with a slight caveat attached to them.
Who is airing what?
For fans of motor sport generally, Sky Sports is not just airing Formula 1 in 2021. As well as F1 itself, the F1 channel is also airing live coverage of Formula 2, Formula 3, Porsche Supercup, and the IndyCar Series.
In addition, fans can watch the GT World Challenge, Ferrari Challenge and Extreme E via Sky Sports, a shift from a few years ago when Sky’s motor sport portfolio consisted of the F1 programme and nothing else.
Meanwhile, BT Sport is home to live coverage of MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 and MotoE, with BT also airing live coverage of the World Rally Championship this year.
As in previous years, expect coverage of the World Endurance Championship (outside of Le Mans) and World Rallycross to turn up on BT. However, fans also have access to most, if not all, of BT Sport’s motor sport portfolio via the respective championship’s over-the-top service.
Analysis that Motorsport Broadcasting conducted at the end of 2019 showed that, broadly speaking, if you are only interested in MotoGP or rallying, then the relevant over-the-top passes are the way to go.
Over on Eurosport, fans should expect to find coverage of Superbikes, both domestically and internationally, as well as Formula E and World Touring Cars, whilst the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans is always a highlight.
Remaining live on free-to-air television is the British Touring Car Championship on ITV4, whilst both Formula E and Extreme E air via the BBC’s digital platforms. Incredibly, the latter has also secured live coverage on ITV’s main channel for its finale each race weekend.
The big question mark this year is the W Series. The inaugural season aired live on Channel 4 in 2019 when the series formed part of the DTM weekend offering. Now, the series has joined forces with F1, and will be a fixture at 8 race weekends this year.
It begs the question as to whether W Series will air exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, or whether W Series are able to strike their own rights deal outside of F1’s existing agreements, potentially remaining live on Channel 4.
W Series have yet to comment on their 2021 offering, but this is an area to keep an eye on over forthcoming weeks.
F1 TV Pro
Formula 1 launched their over-the-top service in May 2018, and since then the service has grown in stature, both in terms of archive and in terms of live content.
Speculation mounted last year that F1 TV Pro was set to land in the UK when F1 released a survey, suggesting that F1 TV Pro would be part of Sky’s TV platform Sky Q.
Despite the suggestions, nothing has since come to fruition, and for 2021, F1 TV Pro is again not an option for UK fans. UK fans can subscribe to F1 TV Access for £2.29 a month, or £19.99 across the year, which gives you access to F1’s rich archive.
The bad news for fans hoping to utilise a similar offer this year, is that no such offer exists this time around.
After changes to their packages last year, Sky’s pricing for new customers remains static this year. Sky’s Signature pack remains Sky’s entry level package for new subscribers.
Currently, new customers can grab the Signature Pack for £24.00 a month, or £21.00 when taking Sky Sports, which compares favourably to the previous Entertainment price of £22.00.
|Option||F1 only – HD|
Sky Q 1TB Box
|F1 only – UHD|
Sky Q 2TB Box
|Sports – HD|
Sky Q 1TB Box
|Sports – UHD|
Sky Q 2TB Box
|Sky Sports F1 only||£18.00||£18.00|
|Ultra HD and HD||£9.00||£9.00|
|One-Off Installation Cost||£20.00||£20.00||£20.00||£20.00|
I mentioned last year that the price for viewing Formula 1 in ultra-high definition had tumbled thanks to the package changes.
Comparing like-for-like (ignoring the £10 offer), the F1 only options stay static year-on-year, but a £2 increase for the Sky Sports pack and a £1.00 increase for the Ultra HD add-on means that the Sky Sports Ultra HD option jumps by £36.00 year-on-year.
No matter whether you are interested in HD or Ultra HD, going for Sky Sports F1 alone instead of the whole Sky Sports pack means you save just £12.00 a year, or £1.00 per month.
Sky are increasingly looking at the big picture, there are many apps integrated into their Sky Q box such as YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, All 4 and BBC iPlayer.
The prices above apply for new customers, and account for any offers that Sky are currently running. Note that, outside of the offer periods, the Signature package will cost £31.00 as of April 1st, whilst the Sky Sports pack is £30.00. My advice: phone up, and renegotiate…
Overall, as the pricing structures currently stand, if you want to watch every Formula 1 race live on Sky, you are looking at a Sky monthly bill of between £42.00 and £52.00.
By this stage, if you are seriously considering Virgin Media, it is because you also want to get broadband and phone with them as a triple-play, as their TV only prices are steep.
The only way to get Sky Sports via Virgin Media is to take their Maxit TV pack at £55.00 a month (an increase of £2.00 per month on last year), and then add Sky Sports for an additional £31.75 a month.
This does changes radically however if also want to take Virgin’s broadband package. If you want to take their broadband offering, then you can grab their basic Maxit TV pack with Sky Sports, reducing the overall cost.
TiVo 500GB Box
TiVo 500GB Box
|Maxit TV (including BT Sport)||£55.00||£55.00|
|Sky Sports HD||£7.00|
|One-Off Installation Cost||£35.00||£35.00|
BT TV subscribers can watch Sky Sports via a Now pass.
BT TV is an IPTV service, meaning that readers wanting to subscribe to Sky Sports F1 will first need to sign up to BT’s broadband offering, making the below an apple and oranges comparison compared to Virgin Media and Sky.
BT’s pricing is like Virgin Media’s, although Virgin’s television offering is more comprehensive than BT’s. The benefit of BT is that you can flexibly change your packages as you see fit without any penalty.
|One-Off Installation Cost||£49.98||£49.98|
If the idea of paying a significant amount of money for the pay-TV players does not sit well with you, there is still the option of Now, previously known as Now TV.
As well as Sky moving away from the “F1 for £10” offer, the F1 Season Ticket from Now has also disappeared for 2021. Some fans were e-mailed an exclusive offer to view Now for £20 a month, but oddly Now did not make this available more widely.
However, there are two offers currently running for F1 fans, although only one has a use for most of the season. Their offer gives you the Sports Monthly Membership pack for £25.00 per month for six months, after which it switches to £33.99 a month.
This option also includes Now Boost, allowing you to watch in full HD and surround sound, at a cost of £3.00 per month after the first three month. Assuming you cancel the Boost immediately after the six months, this works out at £266.97.
Now’s day pass remains £9.98, but the weekly pass is no more.
Sky Sports Mobile TV
In previous years, Sky Sports Mobile TV was clearly the cheapest of the bunch, and technically it still is based on the pricing on Sky’s website.
However, reviews of the app on both the iOS and Android app stores show that the app is clearly not working as intended, with users unable to purchase a subscription. As thus, Sky Sports Mobile TV disappears off the list of potential options, for now at least.
In summary, there are 10 different options, across four different players this year:
– £1,160.00 a year – Virgin Media (HD)*
– £1,076.00 a year – Virgin Media (SD)*
– £925.86 a year – BT TV (HD)**
– £865.86 a year – BT TV (SD)**
– £644.00 a year – Sky (All – UHD)
– £632.00 a year – Sky (F1 – UHD)
– £536.00 a year – Sky (All – HD)
– £524.00 a year – Sky (F1 – HD)
– £266.97 – Now (6 months Sports Membership + Boost) – offer (expires April 11th)
– £229.54 – Now (Day Pass x 23)
* includes BT Sport as mandatory
** includes BT Broadband as mandatory
In comparison, F1 TV Pro for fans in America costs $79.99 per year, which translates to £58.00 across the whole year, significantly cheaper than any option above.
The long and short of it is that the cheapest ways to view F1 in the UK have disappeared across the board for this year.
Are any of the options above cheap enough to hook you in? If you have spotted anything worth adding, or noted any other deals out there, drop a line in the comments below.
Pricing and information correct as of March 27th, 2021, with BT’s prices amended and Now’s clarified on March 29th, 2021. Pricing is subject to change.
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