It was announced this evening that Sky Sports has extended its deal to remain “the home of Formula 1” in the UK and Ireland until 2024 in a deal which will bring to an end live free-to-air coverage of the sport.
The subscription-based broadcaster originally secured the exclusive broadcast rights to Formula 1 for the 2012 season but agreed a deal with the BBC, which permitted the free-to-air broadcaster to show ten races live and the remainder as a delayed highlights package.
That same deal has now been taken up by Channel 4, with the UK broadcaster seeing out the remainder of the BBC’s original seven-year contract.
Sky’s new deal will eventually put an end to live free-to-air coverage once Channel 4’s deal ends in 2018 – though highlights from every race will still be shown on a free-to-air basis according to Sky. It’s not clear how exactly this will happen.
In a statement to the media this evening, Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports said the following about the new deal as follows:-
‘This is a brilliant deal that takes Sky’s partnership with F1 to the next level. Since 2012, we have demonstrated unrivalled commitment to F1, offering fans innovations including a dedicated channel and the very best broadcasting talent.
‘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.’
In his own statement to the media this evening, Formula One Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone added the following:-
‘I am delighted that we will continue to work together. Sky’s commitment to the sport and standard of coverage is second to none.’
As I’ve grown up, I have been lucky to watch F1 on ITV, BBC and now Sky while others have had to rely on the free coverage that is just as good as Sky. And that isn’t a bad thing. End of the day, you should have the choice to either pay or watch for free and FOM need to realise that they will lose more fans yet again by what they have chosen today.
Overall, I will admit that even though Sky’s coverage is good and yes I do pay for it as an extra channel on my family’s Sky package, I do many people simply cannot afford to pay the price to get the channel on their televisions. And with the economic climate, people have other important utensils such as gas and electric and have to put them before this.
The message is clear to the FIA and FOM, this is the wrong decision and you will lose even more fans as a result of this; instead of attracting them, please reconsider.