Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

BBC reach for the Sky // The UK Formula One coverage faces a split

Published by Christine

It won't have escaped your notice that earlier today the BBC confirmed a deal with Sky for a sort of time-share of the F1 coverage from next year onwards. We've been discussing it for most of the day, and still are not really any further forward than surprise, shock and mostly dissatisfaction.

Whether the angst is aimed at the BBC, who appear to be behind the decision, or at Bernie, who must bear the brunt of most broadcasting decisions, there's plenty of concern and anger to go around.

Personally, I don't know how I feel about the decision. It's totally understandable that the BBC need to save costs, and F1 always felt a little out of place there to me anyway. They've done amazing things with the coverage, but equally there's plenty that still can be improved.

Sky seem to have the oomph and the money to make some even better changes, but it's all going to be tucked away behind a pretty mammoth paywall. I don't know a lot about the Sky world really, it has never interested me. For those that already have Sky, it probably means an additional sports package on top. For those that don't subscribe to Sky, they'll have to think about the infrastructure from the ground up. Depending on the setup, prices range from £20 a month to £50 a month, and that's only after it's all up and running - which all depends on your satellite dishes and your landlords.

I'm sure there are ways and means to get better deals, and there's a Skyplayer online service that also needs investigating, but for me, just hearing that something is on Sky immediately means it is dismissed from my mind. It's just not something I've ever considered.

There's been plenty of discussion about the changing landscape of broadcast media, with many suggesting that people will have to get used to paying for things that were previously free, and that can be true to an extent. Mr C also brought up the idea that we're happy to pay Autosport to get behind their paywall, and Joe to get access to GP+, yet the sport itself is something of a stumbling block. I'd suggest the prices are vastly different, the barriers are much greater, the contracts involved vary enormously.

I'm still no clearer on how I feel about the deal. I think Sky could have the potential to make F1 better, but equally, the standard could fall just as much. That's always a risk you take with a new broadcaster and setup. No one's made any decisions or announcements on what the anchors and commentating teams will look like, so at the moment, it's hard to say.

Whilst the "extensive highlights" packages the BBC will promote may encourage the casual viewer, I can't help but thinking that moving F1 to Sky will ultimately be a stumbling block for new viewers. There will be some who can stumble across the coverage wherever it may be, but if they have to stop and think about subscribing to something, setting up direct debits, organising what dishes are attached to their house... well that seems a lot harder than just tuning in next Sunday. The BBC have raised the UK's interest in F1 enormously, but it's hard to see how that can go anywhere but down with this deal.