Formula One TV audience plummets following switch to Sky Sports

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Formula One has seen British fans desert TV coverage in 2019 following a new contract which saw the majority of rights for live races move to Sky Sports, according to the Independent.

All but one race across the season is now live and exclusive on Sky Sports F1 with highlights being licensed to Channel 4, who saw their own share of live coverage fall from 10 races to one.

The new deal has been a boost in financial terms for F1 with Sky's annual fee doubling to around £120 million, but seems to have driven fans away from the sport.

The fall in viewer numbers was suffered by Channel 4, whose highlights were watched by a cumulative total of 34.7 million viewers, down 10.8 million from 2018.

Sky saw a slight increase for its own coverage with an extra 2.2 million people tuning in, but the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board have revealed that the overall number of UK viewers for F1 has declined by 13.6 per cent.

Lewis Hamilton, who raced to his third consecutive Drivers' Championship this season, criticised the move toward Sky exclusivity at the beginning of the new season back in March of 2019.

He told Autosport: "It is the fans that makes the sport what it is, so the more you block them or deter them the worse the business is going to be for the people that own it.

"It is bloody expensive nowadays with everything you have in your home, with all your insurance and all the things you do end up paying.

"And on top of that you have to pay for TV and for a TV licence, which is ridiculous.

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"I am pretty sure that number is not going to change, because of the economy, it is a difficult time for everyone particularly now, so it is a shame that the fans are not getting to see as much."

The biggest fall in viewership on Channel 4 for a single race came at the US Grand Prix where highlights of Hamilton securing the championship brought in two million fewer than the live broadcast in 2018.

Slight increases were seen for the highlights of the Japanese and French races, but this wasn't enough to offset what will surely be a worrying set of figures for F1 chiefs.

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