Bernie Ecclestone comments on Sky’s new UK deal

Nine days after the deal was first announced, we have our first public comments from Bernie Ecclestone on Sky’s new Formula 1 deal in the UK.

The deal, which comes into effect from the 2019 season, means that viewers will only be able to watch the British Grand Prix live on a ‘free to air’ basis, with the remaining 20 races behind a pay wall. What that exactly means with relation to the free to air aspect, as discussed previously, is unclear.

Ecclestone, the CEO of Formula One Management was speaking to AUTOSPORT’s Ian Parkes ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. It was the first time Ecclestone had spoken about the new deal outside of the press release issued by Sky.

“[Sky are] going to get to more people than you would believe. They’re going to get to 25 million people with the type of broadcast they are planning. Honestly, it was nothing to do with the money, it was to do with the fact this is the way we have to move forward.” – Bernie Ecclestone speaking to AUTOSPORT

I have read this quote multiple times and still do not understand what is being said. Overnight viewing figures last year showed that BBC F1 averaged 3.11 million viewers compared with Sky’s 638k for their race day programming. What Ecclestone, and a lot of other people within Formula 1 who do this deal making need to understand and digest, is that just because Sky may reach 25 million people, that does not mean you are going to get 25 million viewers. Far, far from it. One of my pet hates is seeing figures of this nature bandied around (unfortunately this kind of thing is common place, sadly), when it really could not be any further than the truth. If you’re going to throw figures around, let us have some context behind it, what does the figure represent?

The last sentence and a half of Ecclestone’s quote may lean towards something new and radical for 2019, if not earlier, such as over the top broadcasting, it may imply that FOM and Sky have already had discussions about new media ideas. As for the money, I’m sure the teams will be thrilled to hear that the deal was nothing to do with money, and more to the point why does Formula 1 need to move forward this way? Why does F1 need to move forward with pay TV deals that restrict the casual Joe, or the less financially stable fan, from watching?

Ecclestone was also asked about the future direction of the sport, following the qualifying debacle, which was ridiculed on social media during the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

“We’ll have to have a good look now and see which way we want to go. We’ve lost a television audience, like all sports have, including football. So while we’ve lost an audience one way, actually more people are viewing F1 now than ever before on their phones and tablets. So there is more interest than there was before, which is what we have to take advantage of, and which is what we are doing.” – Bernie Ecclestone speaking to AUTOSPORT

Unfortunately, the loss in television audience will not offset the increase of viewing on phones and tablets come 2019, which is a problem that needs to be addressed. I agree that F1 needs to move forward, one way they could do that is by giving drivers’ more freedom. Maybe allow the world champion to film in the paddock on Snapchat or a midfield runner to do some live videos during testing on Facebook. Oh. Wait…

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10 thoughts on “Bernie Ecclestone comments on Sky’s new UK deal

  1. It has always been about money for Bernie & Co. Otherwise they would have listened to the fans, drivers and teams a long time ago and we would now be enjoying close, on the limit racing.
    People have seen the greed becoming more obvious for years. That greed is now ruining F1.

  2. It has always been about money for Bernie & Co. Otherwise they would have listened to the fans, drivers and teams a long time ago and we would now be enjoying close, on the limit racing.
    People have seen the greed becoming more obvious over the past years. That greed is now ruining F1.

  3. Yes it’s about money, but it’s also about commitment. When you talk about numbers being thrown around without context, it’s no different to you throwing around the Beeb’s average of 3.11 million, but where are the BBC? They don’t want it because they would rather spend the money elsewhere.
    Channel 4’s reach is only 3% less than the BBC’s, yet their F1 viewing figures so far have been some 30% less than the BBC’s, why? FTA broadcasters aren’t exactly queuing up to take it on and it seems that the FTA viewing figures would vary wildly depending upon which FTA channel it’s on. So then you have to question the validity of the viewing figures as a measure, particularly when used in the context of losing fans because it clearly isn’t just about FTA verses a paywall.

    If you take reach into account, then Sky gets twice the viewers as the BBC did, against the potential. It just depends how you want to look at it.

  4. Of course it’s about money, how naive does he think people are ? all the goings on with the future of races at Monza is about money, the German grand prix not happening last year was about money, everything to do with him is about money.

    If he thinks Sky will get 25 million people watching F1 then he really is deluded, yes a lot of people have Sky TV, not Sky Sports, there is a difference. If F1 can’t get that when it’s free to air, then it’s definitely not going to happen on pay tv. Sky struggle to get 1 million most races, I think it will increase a bit when they get it exclusively, but when I had Virgin Media on a free Sky Sports weekend (it was a German GP in about 2013) they got over 2.5M viewers, so even when it was free it wasn’t much more than the BBC were getting.

    The only football I know of losing audiences is the Champions League and I wonder why that is !!! same for the cricket and golf.

  5. Great blog as always. From a selfish point of view I have Sky and have been happy with what they provide on the F1 side of things, some things like red button material not in hd not withstanding, but obviously Bernie has been sold on x million possible viewers and thinking ‘thats x million viewers’ rather than possible. 25 million seems a bit large! Is the current figure 12 million sky boxes in use at the moment? That’s a lot of extra Q boxes to shift in the next 3 years. To me it sounds like the plan from June of last year is well under way, Sky taking over F1 and maybe even FOM (god knows they need a kick up the rear end) after winning the battle over BT and Discovery to do so. If that is the plan then why not sell off FTA coverage but Sky produced/branded. FTA Viewers then get to see GPs and Sky get free advertising. I’ve been an F1 viewer now for 40 years………. That sentance isn’t going anywhere but I’m sure it will annoy someone we know 🙂 Keep up the frankly excellent work sir!

  6. Any business person will tell you the way to run a successful business is with return custom.

    F1 is becoming a fly-by-night market stall, hoping to rip off the casual occasionally viewer, while showing complete disregard for it’s regular customers.

    This bait-and-switch presentation of the sport fits hand in glove with Sky’s output, which is aimed at football floaters rather than the foundation fans the sport relies on for longevity.

    25 million – LMFAO. Sky sports only sits in 5.5 million UK households so unless each of these has 5 dedicated, hardcore F1 fans I think someone needs remedial maths.

  7. He will make it the only channel available on Sky when a GP starts. No other Channels, it will cut straight to Sky Sports F1. Either 25 million will watch or 25 million will turn off.

  8. Ecclestone must think that we were all born 1/2am hour ago. “it’s not about money” oh really!! I wish he would retire and stay at home and count his Billions and let someone who knows what the hell they are on about run F1.

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