Sky Sport’s already unrivalled coverage of Formula 1 aired in the UK has received another boost with the announcement that they have bagged rights to show every race exclusively live from 2019. JORDAN HARVEY explains what this will mean for British fans.
Look after the fans and the sport will look after itself, the saying should go. Formula 1 and listening to fans has been a hot and cold affair. Just last year we saw a fan survey anchored by Motorsport.com and the GPDA in hopes that some direction would be achieved.
It’s now been announced that those without Sky Sports will only get the British GP live – something that has been universally received negatively. Sky Sports 1 – Fans 0.
The history of Formula 1 on TV has been a long and successful one. Fans have had the luxury of watching the sport on terrestrial television since the sport’s inception in 1950, with the first live race in the UK being shown in 1953. Years later F1 began to gain global momentum in the 70s and BBC snapped up the opportunity in 1979.
In the years that followed, F1 was seemingly at the fingertips of whoever wished to endorse in the pinnacle of motorsport.
But, from 2019, live F1 will now be a thing of the past for anyone who is neither willing or able to pay for a Sky Sports package.
Formula 1, however, will not be taken off TV altogether. When BBC and Eurosport lost rights to MotoGP to BT at the end of 2013, ITV 4 stepped in and offered extended, albeit analysis free, highlights. A similar thing is expected with this new commercial deal, with Sky Sports securing rights until 2024.
Hard pill to swallow for C4:
Not a live race has passed for newcomers Channel 4 to prove themselves and already their long-term fate has been sealed. With hindsight, it’s difficult for C4 to justify their bid to secure the sport’s rights.
Bringing in a twelve-stong team of presenters and pundits, the sport looked like it had found a secure home. But now such uncertainty is likely to turn fans away and without the opportunity to experience the thrill of Formula 1 live, fears are many will ditch the sport altogether.
Just hours before Sky’s agreement, the GPDA (Grand Prix Driver Association) issued a statement saying they’ll ensure that F1 is “fit for the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.”
Curious fans part of that “next generation” will no longer have the means to exercise their curiosity and try F1. Too many fans already watch F1 by default when ‘nothing else is on’ instead of making it part of their viewing schedule, and this move gives them another reason no to enjoy what the sport has to offer.
Sky may have Formula 1’s best interests at heart, but the nauseating realisation is if F1 closes its market any further, an industry that is primarily the source of entertainment will render itself obsolete.
Millions are spent each year to fundamentally put on a show. Without the fans, teams’ revolutionary concepts are a waste of resources, as Formula 1 functions to be a relevant source of future engineering that will soon be seen on road cars.
Formula 1 to Britain is immense, not only for the economic benefits – 8 out of 11 teams operate on British shores – but also media endorsement. With no races shown live to fans without Sky, audiences will inevitably decrease.
Recently rumours of internet streaming of races have been brought up, with Motorsport.com possibly being able to stream live races at the cost of a monthly subscription. However any attempt is likely to be vetoed by Sky.
If the fans of the sport are looked after, the prosperity and longevity of a sport tends to look after itself. But now with uncertainty for some regarding how they will consume F1 in the future, Formula One Management may have put the last nail in an already hammered coffin.
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