F1 and Sky extend broadcast deals across UK, Italy and Germany

Sky Sports will continue to broadcast Formula 1 across key European territories in forthcoming seasons, the two parties have today (September 30th) confirmed.

In the UK and the Republic of Ireland, Sky will air Formula 1 until the end of the 2029 season, a five-year extension to their existing deal which was set to expire at the end of 2024.

Further afield in Europe, the broadcaster has extended their rights agreements with F1 in Italy and Germany until the end of 2027. Deals in both territories were set to expire at the end of this season.

The deal includes broadcast rights to Formula Two, Formula Three and the Porsche Supercup.

Live coverage of the home race, and highlights of all other races, will remain available on a free-to-air basis. This is the same as the current UK deal, but an increased level of exclusivity for Sky in Italy and Germany, with fewer races available live on a free-to-air basis.

As part of the new agreement, F1 TV’s premium-level offering, which allowed fans access to live action, will no longer be available to fans in Germany.

F1 says that, from 2023, viewers watching via Sky will have an “improved multi-screen and second-screen option, tracking their favourite driver’s position on the circuit or selecting a driver’s on-board camera.”

The wording here indicates that UK fans will not have access to F1 TV, a source of contention for some fans in the UK. However, it is possible that the experience via Sky’s improved options will be on parity with that offered by F1 TV.

Formula 1’s president and CEO Stefano Domenicali said “We are incredibly proud of our long-term partnership with Sky, and we are delighted to announce that we will continue working together until 2029, a very important commitment from Sky.”

“Since the beginning of our relationship in 2012 we have both strived to bring the excitement, emotion, and drama of Formula 1 to our traditional fans while engaging new and more diverse audiences. Formula 1 has seen huge growth in recent years, and I can’t think of a better partner to continue to reach our fans with dedicated, expert and in-depth coverage.”

Sky not only brings fans live coverage but a range of behind-the-scenes access and content that brings F1 to life. We are hugely excited about the future of the partnership and the journey of Formula 1.”

Stephen van Rooyen, Executive Vice President & CEO, Sky UK & Europe, added “Every race. Every moment. Every twist and turn. All exclusively live on Sky for years to come!”

“Formula 1 continues to break records on Sky, with millions more watching than ever before across our markets, driven by new younger and female fans which is fantastic for the sport. More than 80 countries will continue to enjoy our world class analysis and content of one of the most exhilarating sports in the world.”

While Sky Sports will continue to broadcast F1 in the UK until 2029, it is unclear whether Channel 4 will remain involved from a free-to-air perspective following the conclusion of the 2022 season.

The broadcaster, which has aired Formula 1 on free-to-air television since 2016, issued a “no comment” statement when asked by this site whether they will continue to cover F1 next season.

Announcement in the making for some time

Motorsport Broadcasting understands that the announcement has been in the making for some time. The extension is not a surprise to this writer, who accurately predicted the timing of the announcement back in July 2021.

F1 and Sky were originally set to announce the extension on the Friday of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, however both parties agreed to delay the announcement following the death of Queen Elizabeth II the evening before.

Sky have made moves in recent months to lock in long-term deals in the UK: Scottish football (2029), England cricket (2028) and PGA Tour golf (multi-year) some of the most recent extensions, however the F1 extension is their most high profile yet.

By the end of 2029, Sky will have broadcast 18 F1 championships and close to 400 races live on their F1 channel, compared with 12 full seasons on ITV and 22 full seasons on the BBC (19 under the ‘Grand Prix’ banner and 3 from 2009 to 2011).

While Sky’s F1 viewing figures in the UK largely plateaued when coverage of half the races also aired across the BBC and later Channel 4, their viewing figures have surged in recent years.

The broadcaster was the beneficiary of a titanic championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen last year, while also benefiting from Netflix’s Drive to Survive season, increasing their younger audience.

The positive trajectory has continued for Sky in the UK into 2022, with the British Grand Prix in July recording Sky’s highest ever audience for the home round.

Sky say that their audiences are skewing younger than in previous years, their offering also attracting more women to F1.

F1 audience statistics
Sky UK and Ireland

  • Average audience for 2022: 1.7 million (up 60% since 2019)
  • 4.3m new viewers to Sky Sports F1 since 2019, of which 1.7m were women
  • 4 of the top 5 most watched races ever on Sky during 2022

Sky Italia

  • Average audience for 2022: 1.5 million (up 20% since 2021)
  • Most watched Grand Prix in Italian pay-TV history was Saudi Arabia with 1.937 million viewers

Sky Deutschland

  • Average audience up 24% since 2021
  • Half of new viewers aged under 35
  • 40% of new viewers overall are women
  • Most watched Grand Prix was Saudi Arabia with 1.38 million viewers
Source: Sky

Sky will be hoping the Drive to Survive halo continues into future seasons, as their new deals with F1 come into effect.

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F1’s UK audience figures rise in 2021, but series sees worldwide dip

Formula 1’s UK audience figures rose to their highest level in around four to five years as the titanic battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came to a climax, however, audience figures dipped worldwide, analysis from Motorsport Broadcasting shows.

The consolidated UK data, released by BARB, includes viewers who watched the Grand Prix within seven days of the original transmission across TV, PC, smartphone, and tablet (defined by BARB as ‘four-screen viewing data’), the body no longer splitting these out into separate components.

A small number of historical data points are missing; however, these are not statistically significant enough to impact the overall trajectory.

In addition, this analysis excludes the Russian Grand Prix, as Sky’s figures for that weekend are unavailable, but does include the shortened Belgian Grand Prix.

Sky’s figures rise to highest ever level…

On race day, Sky split their programming into three or four blocks, depending on weekend.

Their build-up normally lasts 85 minutes, with the race segment lasting 135 minutes. The ‘Chequered Flag’ programme follows the podium for 60 minutes, whilst Ted’s Notebook sometimes wraps up proceedings.

Across a mix of Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase, an average audience of 1.59 million viewers watched the 22 races live on Sky during 2021, their highest ever audience for Formula 1.

Year-on-year, Sky’s figures increased by 25.7% from 1.27 million viewers in 2020, the fourth consecutive year that Sky’s F1 audience has increased.

For the first time, over 2 million viewers watched an F1 race live via one of Sky’s television channels. The season started well in Bahrain, with an average of 1.94 million viewers watching the race, peaking above the 2 million mark.

Later in the year, 2.11 million viewers watched a dramatic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix unfold, with 2.30 million opting to stay with Sky for the season decider in Abu Dhabi. The latter figure excludes those who decided to watch Sky’s broadcast on Channel 4.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Dutch Grand Prix was Sky’s lowest rated of 2021, averaging just 1.12 million viewers.

Competition from other channels was easier than usual, with no Premier League football, however the race followed the farcical Belgian Grand Prix one week earlier, which may have invertedly caused a dip.

Sky’s wrap around programming felt the benefit of the championship battle, with their pre-race build-up increasing by 13.9% year-on-year, while their post-race analysis increased by 31.1%, both double their 2018 averages.

Unsurprisingly, both Britain and Italy saw larger post-race audiences, thanks to Hamilton and Verstappen’s on-track incidents, with 407,000 viewers sticking around for the Silverstone post-race analysis and 448,000 viewers sticking around for the Monza debrief.

The new F1 Sprint format also performed well, with an average of 739,000 viewers watching Hamilton charge through the field in Brazil, the figure including Sky’s extensive wrap-around programming.

Sky gained an extra competitive session because of the change, with the displaced Friday qualifying session performing strongly. Both the Italian and Brazilian qualifying programmes averaged 470,000 viewers, comfortably above Sky’s usual practice average.

…as Channel 4’s audience continues to drop…

While Sky benefited from the intense championship battle, Channel 4 saw no obvious benefit, outside of the Abu Dhabi decider.

Highlights of 20 races on the free-to-air broadcaster (excluding Silverstone and Abu Dhabi) averaged 1.50 million viewers, down 14.4% of the 2020 average of 1.75 million viewers.

Including Silverstone and Abu Dhabi, the 23 races on Channel 4 averaged 1.63 million viewers, down on the equivalent 2020 figure of 1.80 million viewers. An average of 3.36 million viewers watched the season decider live on Channel 4.

The return of USA and Mexico to the F1 calendar hurt Channel 4’s average, both bringing in less than a million viewers after 7 days of consolidation, in part thanks to their late night time slot on Sunday.

Channel 4’s weak average was compounded by the fact that five of the European based races (France, Styria, Belgium, Netherlands and Turkey) averaged under 1.50 million viewers compared with one race (Abu Dhabi) in 2020.

Nevertheless, there were some positive numbers in amongst the overall decline for Channel 4, with the Emilia Romagna, Hungarian and Italian rounds drawing in close to 2 million viewers for their 150-minute highlights packages.

An average of 1.97 million viewers watched as Hamilton and Verstappen collided for the second time in 2021 at Monza, a slight increase on an equally dramatic 2020 Italian Grand Prix, which brought in 1.88 million viewers.

…but the overall UK picture is positive…

Unsurprisingly, Hamilton versus Verstappen drew in the viewers in 2021.

3.22 million viewers watched across Sky Sports and Channel 4, an increase of 5.1% on 2020 average audience of 3.06 million viewers, bringing audience figures back to a level last seen in 2016 and 2017.

However, the 2021 average dropped slightly at end of season compared with the mid-season figure of 3.24 million viewers.

As referenced both the USA and Mexican rounds performed poorly on Channel 4, with Sky’s live audience failing to offset the Channel 4 drop. The lack of increase may also suggest audience fatigue crept in as the season progressed.

For example, the Qatar Grand Prix averaged 3.15 million viewers, 1,000 viewers fewer than the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, despite the championship battle having stepped up considerably by that point.

The season finale in Abu Dhabi was the most watched race of 2021, with 5.66 million viewers watching live across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, this figure including some of the pre-race build-up and post-race wrap-around.

Overnight data showed that a peak of 7.4 million viewers watched as Verstappen overtook Hamilton to win the F1 title.

Saudi Arabia, Britain and the season opener in Bahrain also drew strong audiences. The inaugural race in Saudi averaged 3.88 million viewers, F1’s highest average at that time since the 2018 US Grand Prix.

Channel 4’s and Sky’s F1 audiences continued to converge, with a 49:51 split between the two broadcasters.

Assuming Sky’s audience figures remain strong this season, it is increasingly likely that they will become the dominant F1 broadcaster, from an audience share perspective, in the UK moving forward.

…as F1 faces a worldwide audience dip

While Formula 1’s audience increased in the UK thanks to the championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen, worldwide the sports average audience dropped significantly.

An average of 70.3 million viewers watched each race, a decrease of 20% on 2020’s average of 87.4 million viewers, and down on the 2019 figure of 91 million viewers.

F1 says that the decrease is due to a change in broadcast rights in Germany and Brazil. For markets where broadcast rights have remained identical, audience figures increased by 13% to 60.3 million viewers, which F1 says is the best figure since 2013.

Taking the figures at face value, this implies that where broadcast rights changed hands between 2020 and 2021, F1’s average audience dropped by 24.1 million viewers, from 34 million viewers in 2020 to 9.9 million viewers in 2021.

SeasonCumulative Audience% y-o-yAverage Audience% y-o-yRaces Held
20181.76 billionn/a83.7 millionn/a21
20191.92 billion9%91.5 million9%21
20201.49 billion-23%87.4 million-5%17
20211.55 billion4%70.5 million-19%22
Source: Formula 1 press releases / Motorsport Broadcasting analysis

The drop is significant for F1, but unsurprising in some ways. F1 themselves highlighted in their 2019 data release that Brazil and Germany were two of their top markets, a statistic that will have since changed two years later.

While not impacting the whole of 2021, it is likely that the closure of Fox Sports in Asia also dented F1’s average across the season. F1 needed to find new homes in territories such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia after Fox closed its doors in early Autumn.

The fact that F1’s figures have increased for territories where the TV rights have stayed the same is good, but it fails to account for the overall worldwide drop that F1 has experienced. Like Formula 1, Formula E also used their cumulative audience data to hide a race-by-race drop.

Over on F1’s digital platforms, analysis by this site shows that the amount of people watching F1’s race highlights packages on YouTube has increased by 41% year-on-year, from an average of 5.24 million viewers in 2020 to 7.38 million viewers in 2021.

Both the cumulative TV audience and unique audience increased by 4% and 3% respectively year-on-year to 1.55 billion viewers and 445 million viewers, reflecting the longer calendar compared with 2020.

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Sky Sports secures IndyCar rights in key European territories, including UK, until 2024 season

Sky Sports will continue to air the IndyCar Series in the UK until the end of the 2024 season, the broadcaster has announced.

The broadcaster made the announcement on Friday 29th October via their German arm Sky Sport. Sky have yet to make a formal announcement via their UK outlet.

Sky’s new exclusive deal also covers Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and Italy. It is the first time that Sky has covered IndyCar in Germany, the series currently airing on Sport1+.

Sky says that the deal covers live coverage and highlights of IndyCar, as well as “extensive exploitation rights for numerous other content, such as highlight clips or archive material,” although it is unclear whether this element of the statement covers all territories or just Germany.

Charly Classen, Executive Vice President of Sport for Sky Deutschland said, “With the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, we have secured the exclusive rights to the largest motorsport series in the USA, which also has a large fan base in Europe.”

“The racing series is a perfect addition to our strong motorsport range.”

The 2021 season finished in September at Laguna Seca, with Alex Palou crowned Drivers’ Champion. Next year’s season is set to begin on February 27th from St Petersburg, the earliest start to an IndyCar season since 2000.

IndyCar continues to support strong Sky F1 portfolio outside of core content

2022 marks a decade since Sky Sports F1 first hit the airwaves in the UK, and the shape of the channel outside of F1 race weekends has changed somewhat in that time.

The most noticeable change is the increase in supplementary content to the core F1 action. In recent years, Sky have aired, in either live or highlights form, the British GT Championship, the Ferrari Challenge, GT World Challenge, with IndyCar also joining the fray since 2019.

Sky goes beyond the basics, the broadcaster opting to air IndyCar qualifying and practice live (yes, practice) where possible.

The partnership between Sky and IndyCar makes logical sense, considering Comcast owns both Sky and NBC in the US.

Earlier this year, NBC and IndyCar announced a multiple year extension to their rights deal, making the Sky arrangement in Europe more of a formality than originally anticipated.

Sky have promoted IndyCar more in the UK this season through their F1 programming, with viewing figures benefiting as a result.

The 105th Indianapolis 500 averaged 125,000 viewers across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event according to consolidated data from BARB. The impressive figure takes into account Sky’s marathon two-hour build-up, with the race itself likely equalling 2019’s record figure for the 500.

Later in the season, IndyCar’s debut outing at Nashville on Sunday 8th August brought 66,000 viewers to Sky’s F1 channel, with 62,000 tuning in a week later to watch an IndyCar race round the Indianapolis Road Course.

While these figures are lower than Formula Two, IndyCar has built a loyal following over the past few years, a statement supported by IndyCar’s UK audience figures this year on Sky.

However, longstanding problems with IndyCar’s broadcast remain, including the lack of a consistent English-language commentary feed for the duration of the race which, in this writer’s view, prevents the series from growing further outside of America.

In addition, Sky have begun to air limited commercials following a sponsorship deal with Arrow, title sponsors of McLaren’s IndyCar outfit. It remains unknown if Sky intend to air commercials next season during their IndyCar coverage.

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Scheduling: The 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Summer holidays may be in full force for most, but for the World Endurance Championship, this weekend marks the 89th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans!

For WEC, the weekend is round six of the 2021 season, with the Hypercar category now in the limelight.

Replacing the LMP1 category, the new category sees five cars competing for overall victory, with two Toyota’s, one Alpine, and two Glickenhaus entries in the running.

On the broadcasting side, over 300 people are involved in the production, covering both behind the scenes and on-air personnel. 104 cameras will cover the action across the week, with 44 of those cameras on-board 14 different cars.

The action in the UK airs across Discovery’s portfolio of channels, the brand having recently extended their rights agreement to cover Le Mans for an additional five years.

Live coverage of full race airs on Eurosport, with Discovery’s free-to-air station Quest airing the start and finish live.

Tom Gaymor continues to lead Discovery’s commentary team for UK viewers, alongside Mark Cole and Jake Sanson. For Sanson, it is the first time that he has commentated on Le Mans.

David Brabham, Charlie Robertson, and Chris Parson complete the UK team, whilst Tom Kristensen will continue to provide his expertise across Discovery’s output.

Ever wondered what commentators read before a season of motor racing starts? Take a look at the WEC’s graphics guide.

Alternatively, fans can watch the action via the WEC app. This year, voices including renowned commentator David Addison and five-time Le Mans winner Oliver Gavin join the World Feed team.

Gavin makes his Le Mans commentary debut, having retired from competitive action last October.

Martin Haven, Graham Goodwin and Allan McNish continue to lead the offering, alongside Addison, Gavin and Darren Turner and Gavin. In pit lane, Louise Beckett and Duncan Vincent will provide additional analysis.

Radio Le Mans will be doing their thing throughout the week, with John Hindhaugh leading the team.

The race starts at 16:00 local time (15:00 UK time) on Saturday, an hour later than in previous years and an hour and a half later than last year. As was the case last year, the World Feed will not be covering the first practice session, with live coverage kicking in from Wednesday evening onwards.

Wednesday 18th August
17:45 to 19:10 – Qualifying Practice (Eurosport 2)
20:50 to 23:10 – Practice 2 (Eurosport 2)

Thursday 19th August
13:00 to 16:00 – Practice 3 (Eurosport 2)
19:50 to 20:45 – Hyperpole (Eurosport 2)
20:45 to 23:10 – Practice 4 (Eurosport 2)

Saturday 21st August
10:15 to 11:00 – Warm-Up (Eurosport 1)
11:00 to 12:15 – Road to Le Mans (Eurosport 1)
14:15 (Saturday) to 15:30 (Sunday) – Race (Eurosport 1)
=> live coverage of the start from 14:15 to 17:00 on Quest on Saturday
=> live coverage of the finish from 13:00 to 15:30 on Quest on Sunday

Full scheduling details for the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 17th August and are subject to change.

If details change, I will update this article.

Update on August 21st at 14:50 – Tom Gaymor is no longer commentating for Eurosport today after being admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis.

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Scheduling: The 2021 Berlin E-Prix

18 drivers. 2 qualifying sessions. 2 races. 1 weekend. And 1 championship.

With 60 points still on offer, there are 18 drivers still in contention to become the first ever Formula E World Champion as the series heads to Berlin for a double-header finale.

From Nyck de Vries on top currently with 95 points, all the way down to Alex Sims in 18th on 44 points, any one of those could exit Berlin as champion

The chances of someone clawing back that margin are highly unlikely, but Formula E has proved this season that anything is possible.

Following Channel 4’s one-off deal for the London E-Prix, live coverage of the Tempelhof weekend airs across the BBC and Discovery.

The first race airs live on Discovery’s free-to-air station Quest, with BBC Two picking up coverage of the season finale on Sunday.

In addition, the BBC’s and Eurosport’s digital platforms, as well as Eurosport 2, will be covering the action from both races.

It is unclear if the BBC are providing bespoke wrap-around content from Salford, as they have done previously when races aired on BBC Two, or whether Formula E themselves are providing localised UK coverage, like they did in London for Channel 4.

Vernon Kay presents the English-language feed, alongside Nicki Shields, with Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti on commentary, the latter three having been part of Formula E’s content offering since the very first race in Beijing 2014.

Series organisers say that “over 40 broadcast and digital partners” will cover the season finale, with a “strengthened” free-to-air offering in place.

Outside of the UK, broadcasters including Sat.1 (Germany), L’Equipe (France), Channel 20 and Italia Uno (Italy), CBS Network (USA) and SABC Sport (South Africa) will be airing the E-Prix.

Saturday’s race takes place earlier than usual for a double-header, this to give organisers time to reverse the circuit layout ready for the season finale on Sunday.

Friday 13th August
15:55 to 16:55 – Practice 1 (YouTube)

Saturday 14th August
06:55 to 07:40 – Practice 2 (YouTube)
08:45 to 10:15 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
12:30 to 14:30 – Race 1 (BBC Red Button / Quest / Eurosport 2)
=> Quest coverage runs from 13:00 to 14:30

Sunday 15th August
06:55 to 07:40 – Practice 1 (YouTube)
08:25 to 09:10 – Practice 2 (YouTube)
10:15 to 11:45 – Qualifying (YouTube / BBC Red Button / Eurosport 2)
14:00 to 16:00 – Race 2 (BBC Two / Eurosport 2)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Berlin E-Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Saturday 7th August and are subject to change.

As always, if plans change, the article above will reflect the updated scheduling details.

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