Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 this year

One of the key questions fans that want to watch every F1 race live in 2013 over the Winter will have been asking is ‘how much does Sky Sports F1 cost to view?’. The answer, is that you are likely going to have to part with at least £100.00 – maybe more. But how much exactly? That answer depends on what you want to watch.

Starting with Sky, the first option is to switch from your current provider to Sky, purchasing the Sports Pack on top of the required Entertainment Pack. The Sports Pack costs £21.00 a month, meaning that when you include the compulsory Entertainment Pack, this option will put you back £42.50 a month. Given that 12 months is the minimum subscription (see the small print here), this is £510.00 a year, which is probably not the most desirable option for those just wanting their dose of Formula 1.

Aside from the Sports Pack, as with in 2012, you can also access Sky Sports F1 with the HD Pack (assuming you have a HD ready TV). The HD Pack is £10.25 a month, which on top of the Entertainment Pack as with above costs £31.75 a month, or £381.00 a year – substantially cheaper than taking the channel with the Sports Pack.

Moving away from TV, and we move towards viewing Formula 1 via Sky Go’s Monthly Ticket system. Unfortunately, Sky do not offer the Sports Pack on its own, instead like with TV you have to add the Entertainment Pack at a cost of £35.00 a month. Whilst that is more than the ‘TV with HD Pack’ option above, the benefit of Sky Go’s Monthly Ticket is that it is simply that – a monthly ticket which you renew, if you wish, every month. With that in mind, the 2013 calendar is as follows:

– March 17th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky
– March 24th – Malaysia (Sepang) – Sky
– April 14st – China (Shanghai) – BBC and Sky
– April 21st – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Sky
– May 12th – Spain (Barcelona) – BBC and Sky
– May 26th – Monaco (Monte Carlo) – Sky
– June 9th – Canada (Montreal) – BBC and Sky
– June 30th – Britain (Silverstone) – BBC and Sky
– July 7th – Germany (Nurburgring) – Sky
– July 21st – ‘a European round’ – BBC and Sky
– July 28th – Hungary (Hungaroring) – Sky
– August 25th – Belgium (Spa) – BBC and Sky
– September 8th – Italy (Monza) – BBC and Sky
– September 22nd – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Sky
– October 6th – Korea (Yeongam) – Sky
– October 13th – Japan (Suzuka) – BBC and Sky
– October 27th – India (Buddh International Circuit) – BBC and Sky
– November 3rd – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Sky
– November 17th – United States (Austin) – Sky
– November 24th – Brazil (Interlagos) – BBC and Sky

If you want to watch every race live:

– ticket 1 can be used from March 14th to April 14th (Australia and Malaysia)
– ticket 2 can be used from April 14th to May 14th (Bahrain)
– ticket 3 can be used from May 14th to June 14th (Monaco)
– ticket 4 can be used from July 1st to August 1st (Germany and Hungary)
– ticket 5 can be used from September 15th to October 15th (Singapore and Korea)
– ticket 6 can be used from October 30th to November 3oth (Abu Dhabi and USA)

Six tickets at £35.00 is £210.00 at most – less than half of the first pack mentioned. Of course, you could decide you don’t want to watch Bahrain understandably so that cost can reduce to £175.00 for example.

But can you get it even cheaper? From today, you can. Sky have announced that their internet TV service NOW TV will be available on a pay-as-you-go basis for £9.99 a day. What this means is that you can watch the ten Sky exclusive races for £99.90. If you want to add Qualifying to that, however, this will increase to £199.80. My own personal opinion is that £9.99 a day is too steep – I guess it depends though whether you are just interested in F1 or Sport as a whole, if it is the latter than the Sky Go Monthly Ticket may appeal more, whereas F1 only fans may be more enticed into buying several NOW TV pay-as-you-go days.

Over on Virgin Media, their Sky Sports Collection pack is available for £25.75. Add the TV M+ package on top of that and you are looking at £39.75 a month, or £477 a year. As of writing, Sky Sports F1 is not available on BT Vision or Freeview, meaning that the above are the only viable options.

To summarise:

– £510.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + Sports Packs
– £477.00 a year – Virgin Media TV – M+ + Sky Sports Collection
– £381.00 a year – Sky TV – Entertainment + HD Packs
– £299.70 – NOW TV – Practice, Qualifying and Race
– £210.00 – Sky Go Monthly Ticket
– £199.80 – NOW TV – Qualifying and Race
– £99.90 – NOW TV – Race

All prices correct as of Thursday 31st January 2013. Information contained in this blog post is subject to change.

Update on February 7th – Sky are running an offer concerning Sky Sports F1. Customers already with Sky can upgrade to the HD pack for £5 for the next six months, before that price increases to £10.25 a month in-line with other customers. Customers new to Sky can watch the Sky Sports F1 via the HD pack for a total of £26.50 a month, increasing to £31.75 after the six months. The offer runs out on March 31st. In theory, you can join Sky on March 14th, meaning the six months run to September 14th. As the minimum contract is 12 months, the total is £349.50 a year if you wish to upgrade or become a new customer via the HD pack. The price therefore is the cheapest way to view via Sky TV, although the Sky Go Monthly Ticket is cheaper for those that prefer that option.

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Sky announces Italian team; extends contract in Germany

It has been a busy week for Sky oversees, with their Italian arm, Sky Italia, announcing the team for their new Sky Sport F1 channel, whilst Sky Deutschland has extended their contract with FOM.

This past Monday, Sky Italia announced their team for the 2013 season. Carlo Vanzini will commentate on the action alongside Marc Gene, as the two previously did from 2007 to 2009. Jacques Villeneuve, Fabiano Vandone and Sarah Winkhaus will also form part of the presentation team. With Villeneuve a permanent pundit for Sky Italia, it would make sense for him to occasionally appear on Sky Sports F1 in the UK during race weekends from time-to-time in exchange for someone else, so viewers’ on both sides benefit by getting different opinions.

As noted previously, the announcement also makes reference to many things that UK readers will be familiar with, such as the interactive mosaic, which has nine different options: the live Sky Sport F1 feed, three on-board channels, pit-lane channel, race control, live timing, driver tracker and a highlights feed. At the moment, there has been announcement by RAI concerning their F1 coverage in 2013, so it appears movement on that issue is in the lurch.

Over in Germany, SPEEDWEEK are reporting that Sky Deutschland will retain the rights to screen Formula 1 until 2015, alongside the deal already in place with RTL.

Sky Sports F1 – Top 10 ratings (week ending 20th January, 2013)

From BARB:

1 – 16k – McLaren Season Review (Sunday, 15:30)
2 – 15k – Italian Grand Prix Highlights (Monday, 20:00)
3 – 12k – United States Grand Prix Highlights (Sunday, 20:00)
4 – 8k – Fast Track (Wednesday, 18:00)
5 – 7k – Fast Track (Sunday, 13:00)
6 – 6k – F1 2012: A Season to Remember (Sunday, 21:30)
7 – 6k – F1 2012: A Season to Remember (Saturday, 17:01)
8 – 5k – Fast Track (Sunday, 12:30)
9 – 5k – Indian Grand Prix Highlights (Friday, 20:00)
10 – 4k – Fast Track (Saturday, 16:31)

The plight of the World Rally Championship

Ten years ago, the World Rally Championship in the United Kingdom was a fairly popular form of motor sport. Boasting terrestrial television coverage and audiences of millions of viewers and beyond, the championship enjoyed a high profile status. Fast forward ten years, and currently, the rights are non-existent. But why has this great form of motor sport experienced such a sharp decline in this country?

From the 1980’s through to 2001, the World Rally Championship alongside other forms of rallying made part of BBC Sport’s Grandstand programme. It was not all plain sailing for rallying on the BBC though. Two series’ of Mobil 1 Rally Challenge were produced and shown for BBC Two in 1989 and 1990, but this was not enough to persuade those high up to commit to rallying full time. The next opportunity for rallying to break out came with British stars Colin McRae and Richard Burns later that decade. This succeeded, somewhat, thanks to the Top Gear production team, with interesting being reignited in the product. Despite this, BBC’s motor sport portfolio was spiralling downwards, leading to Channel 4 winning the rights from 2002 onwards for an estimated £20 million over three years. At the time, then Channel 4 chief executive Michael Jackson said “The World Rally Championship has always been a thrilling and hugely popular event. However, new technology means we can now transform the coverage of this classic sport and make it accessible to a wider audience.” That statement, is such a stark contrast to what the World Rally Championship faces in the UK ten years on.

Unfortunately for Channel 4 though, their first season did not provide an exciting championship race as Marcus Grönholm stormed to championship victory in 2002. 2003 provided better luck with the championship going down to the wire. With neither Burns and McRae in the 2004 championship however, interest dropped. This did not stop a bidding war though for the broadcast rights between ITV and Channel 4, with ITV unexpectedly winning the rights at the start of 2004. The channel broadcasted the championship as stand-alone programmes, and as part of their Speed Sunday strand. Like Channel 4 before them, the ITV press release boasted about trying to “bring a wider audience to the sport”. That didn’t happen. It was a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’. 2004 marked the beginning of Sébastien Loeb’s domination and, as was the case with Formula 1 at the same time, audiences dropped along with the interest that went alongside it. Unlike with Formula 1 however, where Michael Schumacher was challenged and eventually succeeded by Fernando Alonso, followed by the emergence of Lewis Hamilton, over in rallying there was no one to challenge Loeb, no one to ignite the interest of the British audience. The picture was stagnant, and a stagnant picture means that casual fans, such as myself, become less interested in the product.

It was with that lack of interest that ITV’s interest in the World Rally Championship dwindled. Despite still attracting healthy audiences, such as the 1.57 million viewers that watched the culmination of the 2006 championship, ITV made the decision to move the championship over to ITV4. In terms of viewership, the decision was catastrophic. Audiences slashed, with only 297,000 viewers watching the conclusion of the 2007 season, and average audiences hovering in the mid 100,000. At the start of 2008, Dave bought the rights to screen the championship in a deal lasting three years. Not being on a terrestrial television station continued to hurt the championship with audiences failing to reach the highs it had many years earlier. In 2011, coverage moved to ESPN. The official World Rally Championship promoted the move as giving fans ‘more coverage than ever before’. Whilst, technically, that is a factual statement, the reality was that the coverage was now available to fewer people than ever before. Viewing figures were below 100,000 and the World Rally Championship in the UK had hit its lowest point. By now, it had gone from being a mainstream sport with millions of followers to one where you would have to dig deep into the TV guide to find out just when and where it was on. Alongside the aforementioned, British Eurosport would provide coverage of the events, but that too has come to a grinding halt.

Today, the World Rally Championship in the UK is currently without a rights holder for this season. The championship has been hit by its failure to evolve with the times to those who demand to be closer to the action and see everything live nowadays instead of in highlights form, and also by being dominated by one man for such a long period. Steve Rider discusses this point fantastically in his new book, noting how broadcasters’ still have not got a grip on rallying: “The challenge for television, then and now, is also to add that ingredient and portray rallying in a far more competitive tone, and not just as a series of disjointed ‘up and past’ shots linked together by prolonged ‘in-car’ sequences. [..] Then there is the biggest question of all: could all this be done live? Can live coverage of rallying ever make practical, economic or editorial sense?”

For the sport, it will be a long road to recovery. Has Loeb caused more damage to the championship than anyone could have imagined? I think so. When one man dominates for so long, it is inevitable that interest drops worldwide. Formula 1 was lucky. Alonso, Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel emerged at the right time and thankfully for that form of motor sport, Schumacher retired. Rallying has not been so lucky. Loeb has not retired, and no one has emerged to sufficiently challenge Loeb to create a ‘great battle’ to bring back the lost fans. As a result, rallying finds itself in a sad state. Let’s not take anything away from Loeb, he will probably be remembered as one of the greats with nine championships. But the damage caused will not be rectified soon. With Loeb announcing his retirement at the end of 2012, 2013 needs to be the start of the recovery process for the championship in this country. No British drivers’, no future McRae or Burns, means that the recovery process starting this season is highly unlikely.

It will be a long road to recovery for the World Rally Championship. And I, for one, hope to see it standing tall again soon.

The quote from Steve Rider’s book ‘My Chequered Career’ comes from page 94.

Rolling blog of Sky Sports F1 schedule changes

This blog is a rolling post that will be constantly updated in the next week or two in the lead-up to the first test in Jerez. Below is what has been added to the schedule at late notice:

Monday 28th January
16:00 to 16:15 – Inside Track: Lewis at Mercedes
– 15 minute segment as Johnny Herbert interviews Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
– repeated at 19:00 and 22:00
– repeated also in the days following

Wednesday 30th January
19:30 to 20:00 – Lotus Car Launch
– repeated at 22:00 and in the days following
– note that as of writing the live launch on Monday 28th January is still scheduled for Sky Sports News

Friday 1st February
19:00 to 19:15 – McLaren Car Launch
– repeated at 22:00 and in the days following
– expect live coverage on Sky Sports News on Thursday 31st January

Sunday 3rd February
19:00 to 19:30 – Force India Car Launch
– repeated at 22:00
– expect live coverage on Sky Sports News on Friday 1st February

Monday 4th February
19:00 to 19:30 – Red Bull Car Launch
– repeated at 22:00
– expect live coverage on Sky Sports News on Sunday 3rd February

Tuesday 5th February to Friday 8th February
21:00 to 21:30 – F1 Testing: Jerez
– see this blog post for more details

I will update this blog in the next few days or weeks, it is possible more ‘repeats’ of car launches will pop up on the schedules.

Last updated on Wednesday 30th January.