F1 on BBC and Sky: Is the Rights-Sharing Agreement Working for F1 Fans?

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F1 on BBC and Sky: Is the Rights-Sharing Agreement Working for F1 Fans?
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
The BBC's Suzi Perry and David Coulthard at the Australian Grand Prix.

For many Formula One fans, setting their alarms for the early hours of Sunday morning in the eager anticipation of watching the opening grand prix of the season in Melbourne would have been a huge disappointment.

Checking the television guide closely should, of course, be a prerequisite in forward planning. But I know of many who merely assumed the opening race of one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons in recent memory would be televised on a free to air channel.

Broadcasting rights means that BBC only has rights to show half of the races for the 2014 season live, well nine of the 19 races to be precise. Subscribers to Sky Sports, however, have the privilege of watching every one of the 19 races live on the network's dedicated F1 channel as well as every practice and qualifying session.

The Sky offering is an extremely slick one, with subscribers benefitting from a bespoke F1 Show and archive footage, with in-depth analysis from expert reporters such as Martin Brundle and Damon Hill.

But Sky subscription comes at a price, and there is a catch. To be a permanent subscriber to watch F1 on Sky, you have to sign up to the Sky Sports package, which also gives you all six sports channels, whether you’re a fan of other sports or not. Packages start at £22 a month.

The only alternative is to buy a 24-hour day pass for £9.99, which also allows access to the six channels for viewers to stream through their mobile devices or television sets.

If you’re not prepared to splash the cash on Sky, your only other option is to stick with the BBC for half of the live races of the season and either listen on the radio or try not to find out the result and watch the extended highlights later in the day.

A big blow to BBC viewers in 2014 is that the showpiece event of the F1 calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix, is not amongst the nine races it is showing live.

Whether or not the rights-sharing agreement is working for F1 fans is a difficult question to answer, as it all depends on the individual passion of the fan in question.

Yet there will be those in love with the sport who simply cannot afford the subscription fee, and for that reason the BBC remains the only choice.

According to BBC Sport, viewing figures are increasing year-upon-year. As such, the format does seem to be working:

Highlights packages were increasingly popular in 2013, with the German GP highlights attracting a peak audience of 7.7m last season. A total of 27.8m people watched F1 on the BBC in 2013, an increase of 1.2m on 2012.

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