Sky Sports will become the new home of the W Series this year in the UK in a new three-year partnership, both parties have today confirmed.
The series, which aired live and free-to-air on Channel 4 for its first two seasons, will air on Sky until the end of 2024.
However, the series will retain a free-to-air presence moving forward, with highlights of every round, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix weekend, airing live on Channel 4.
W Series’ move to Sky brings the series in-line with Sky’s existing rights agreement with Formula 1: live coverage on Sky, with highlights and live Silverstone action airing free-to-air.
Sky will air live coverage of every W Series qualifying session and race on Sky Sports F1, which W Series says represents their “largest media investment to date and will include distribution of W Series content across Sky’s channels, including linear, digital, and social.”
Motorsport Broadcasting understands that, while the live rights are moving away from Channel 4, production company Whisper will continue to produce W Series’ television offering.
In addition to the UK, Sky will cover W Series live in Germany and Italy. W Series will announce the talent line-up for the 2022 season shortly (update: now confirmed with no significant changes).
Catherine Bond Muir, W Series’ Chief Executive Officer, said “I’m delighted to announce our landmark broadcast partnership with Sky Sports, which is another significant step in W Series’ continued rapid expansion.”
“Throughout our conversations with Sky, I’ve been impressed by their commitment to women’s sport and plans to amplify coverage of W Series across their vast portfolio of distribution channels, which will add real weight to our offering across broadcast, digital, and social platforms.”
“This partnership enables W Series to continue to expand its viewership within the UK,” Bond Muir believes.
“With this broad broadcast offering, we have the perfect mix of coverage across our UK audience.”
“Our broadcast partnership with Sky Sports reflects this, giving us great breadth of coverage across Sky’s global platforms and we’re excited to showcase incredibly exciting racing through fantastic content, direct to our fans.”
Jonathan Licht, Sky Sports’ Managing Director, said “In addition to Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland, Sky Sports are delighted to be growing our motorsport portfolio with this recently established elite women’s series.”
“It feels like Sky Sports is a natural home for W Series, given we have such a dedicated motorsport audience and a dedicated motorsport genre channel.”
“We pride ourselves in being a good partner to sport and it’s been a privilege to work alongside Catherine and her team to come up with a broadcast offering that works for everyone.”
“I have followed the progress of W Series closely and it is clearly a very exciting time to be a part of this journey.”
“At Sky Sports we are committed to making sport more inclusive and I can now proudly say that, with the addition of W Series, every genre channel at Sky Sports now has both men’s and women’s sports coverage.”
“We look forward to sharing the excitement of this upcoming season with our viewers,” Licht added.
A good move for the championship
Normally, a championship switching from a predominantly free-to-air offering to a pay offering would be seen as a downgrade from a reach perspective.
From the outset, Sky have always had an interest in the single-seater championship for women, having wanted to air the first season of the series live.
W Series opted to go down the free-to-air route, going with Channel 4. While that resulted in some strong audience figures, especially for last year’s British Grand Prix offering, there have also been downsides to the deal.
For W Series however, the move to Sky for its live action offers something that Channel 4 did not offer: channel consistency.
Channel 4’s live coverage of the championship aired across both Channel 4 and More4, with viewers in some instances struggling to find the action.
Last year’s double header season finale in America saw the first race of the weekend air live on More4 late on Saturday night, with the second race airing in a better slot on Channel 4.
Aside from that, Channel 4’s W Series coverage was thwarted by delays to the preceding F1 qualifying session, which led to action from some races, including Belgium, airing live on Channel 4’s YouTube channel instead.
That is not to say that Channel 4’s coverage has not had its benefits, and it is good to see the free-to-air presence retained through a highlights package on Channel 4.
Furthermore, live coverage of the British round on the free-to-air station does continue to offer the championship a shop window moving forward.
In my view, the switch to Sky is a logical move for the championship now that it plays an ever-increasing role on the F1 support package.
Updated on April 27th with a note on the W Series broadcast team.
Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.