Formula 1

Sky's new exclusive F1 contract won't kill UK viewership

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Last week, Sky Sports announced a new exclusive deal with Formula One Management (FOM) to show all F1 races live from 2019.

The new deal runs for five years until 2024 and sees the continuation of the specialist Sky Sports F1 channel that has been running since 2012.

"This is a brilliant deal that takes Sky's partnership with F1 to the next level," said Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis. "Since 2012, we have demonstrated unrivalled commitment to F1, offering fans innovations including a dedicated channel and the very best broadcasting talent.


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"We are absolutely delighted that we are strengthening our coverage for viewers even further, with live and exclusive F1 from 2019 and the chance to watch in Ultra High Definition for the first time from next season. We are pleased to support F1 and look forward to working with them to progress, develop and enhance coverage of the championship during the agreement."

End of free-to-air coverage

It will see an end to free-to-air coverage of the sport in the UK for the first time ever as any potential secondary broadcasters, currently Channel 4, would only show race highlights, with the exception of the British Grand Prix.

It is being seen as a dark day for the sport as fans who currently rely on Channel 4 - who replaced BBC as part of a last-minute deal at the end of 2015 - and can't afford to subscribe to Rupert Murdoch's satellite giant.

However, would the end of the full race coverage really spell doom to the UK viewership?

There is still three years until the new contract comes into effect and with the evolution of technology it could well be that most of us will be watching TV through the likes of Netflix on their iPad or other devices.

Formula 1 is slowly coming to grips with modern trends and it may well be a subscription streaming service could be up and running in time although it still doesn't solve the issue of the lack of free coverage.

F1 should learn from football success

But what of that? After all, Formula 1 is far from the first sport to see its TV coverage be taken from the BBC and head onto Sky's channels. The Premier League has been on Sky for two decades now and most football fans have had to either pay for Sky, go to matches or watch highlights on Match of the Day.

Does that mean interest in football reduced? Certainly not, after all Match of the Day has become one of the most famous sport programmes anywhere.

Providing the highlights coverage is strong and F1 fans can still expect to enjoy watching the best of every race on a free-to-air channel. Don't forget, not all 90 minutes of a football match are worth watching.

The timing of the deal does come during a period when the sport is struggling to maintain its viewership numbers globally.

Some of that is because of other countries are heading down the same pay-TV path while others are put off from boring races and championships, with one team often dominating every weekend.

Ultimately, the deal will be good for those who have Sky and can enjoy the 24-hour coverage the Sky Sports F1 channel brings. As for the rest, time will tell.

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