Bratches: Liberty Media “to honour and respect” Sky’s UK deal post-2018

Liberty Media is “to honour and respect” Sky’s deal to cover Formula 1 exclusively in the United Kingdom from 2019 to 2024.

Speaking to The Guardian amongst other media at the FIA Sport Conference, F1’s Managing Director for Commercial Operations, Sean Bratches said “Free to air is critically important to us. My vision as it relates to media rights is a hybrid of free to air and pay. Our plan is to balance the two but have a prominent, over the year, free-to-air voice.”

The exclusive deal between Formula One Management (FOM) and Sky Sports was announced following the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, three months after BBC television announced their exit from the sport and just after Channel 4’s first race covering Formula 1. Overnight viewing figures supplied by Overnights.tv showed that Channel 4’s race day coverage averaged 1.96 million viewers in 2016, with Sky bringing in a further 669,000 viewers.

“There is the cauldron full of cash on the pay side and on the other side of the scale you have brand and reach. My view is a 30-70 model of free-to-air to pay, where you have a number of grands prix to be on free to air and then we can play and toil with the pay side to generate revenue that we can reinvest back into the sport,” Bratches continued.

As Bratches alludes to, Formula 1’s outfits should benefit financially from the Sky contract, helping to offset the loss of viewers and sponsors, which was a concern when the deal was first announced. Estimates produced by this site suggested that each team could gain around £6 million per season depending on how the revenue generated is distributed, and assuming the teams see every single penny.

Based on a 20-race calendar and a ’30-70 model’, the ideal situation would see around six of the 20 races live on free-to-air television. This would likely entail the season opener and closure, along with the ‘home race’ and three other rounds of the championship. However, this scenario is impossible in the UK now until 2025, by which point the landscape may be fundamentally different again.

“That deal is an agreement that we inherited. They are done between adult parties at an arm’s length and my suspicion is that Sky is very happy and we are going to honour and respect the deals that were in place when we arrived,” Bratches said.

The comments made by Bratches are not surprising, you cannot tear up a legally binding broadcasting contract unless one side violates the agreement or activates a get-out clause. It is also unlikely that highlights will find a home elsewhere, other than Sky Sports Mix as announced previously.

Elsewhere at the FIA Sport Conference, it was revealed that regionalised graphics will be introduced for the 2018 season. Depending on location, some countries will see miles per hour (mph) in their graphics set, whilst others will see kilometers per hour (kph). Personally, I have no issue seeing both kph and mph, but I assume that FOM are planning on making other graphical changes, otherwise introducing a regionalised version feels like an unnecessary overhead.

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21 thoughts on “Bratches: Liberty Media “to honour and respect” Sky’s UK deal post-2018

  1. i guess this is the news/confirmation we’ve all been waiting for and probably feared. If the highlights package, on whatever free to air channel takes it up, is on the same day, plus a few hours,
    then F1 in the UK might still have a decent following. However, if it goes the way of MotoGP and has a trimmed down highlights package the following day, we’ll see another sharp decline.

  2. It’s going to be the death of F1 in the UK. Since the announcement of the deal I’ve sort of lost interest as I know my viewing of F1 is on borrowed time. Money talks unfortunately and Sky have plenty of it. Sad times.

  3. He talks about money directly from the broadcaster, but surely a more sustainable (which is what I’m imagining Liberty wants given how recently they’ve bought F1) future is to have FTA live races on a major broadcaster and gain more money through a wider range of advertisers who could sponsor teams to enter the series or having ads at the side of the circuit.

    I would also like to know Martin Brundle thought the future of F1 broadcasting was when he took the extra coverage and money from Sky. He said he wanted the best coverage for the sport, but he must have known that this exclusive contract was looming in the coming years- I don’t think there’s been a case in the UK for a series going from Pay TV to FTA (when they’re ambitious, as F1 is, and only on Pay TV they’ve just died- think of A1GP, GP Masters moved away from the BBC to Sky and died along with Superformula League. Formula E may have the appeal of having the technology of the future but being on FTA helps sustain and grow it immensely.

  4. I’m making the most of this year’s coverage on Channel 4 and going to the UK race in July. I refuse to subscribe to Sky and next year I will concentrate on other motorsport genres like Touring cars and motoGP. It is a shame that it looks like the new media people have good ideas for the future but there will only be subscribed viewers enjoying F1.

    • I’m hoping C4 go out on a real high next season, they should properly go all out on everything to really show the bosses what the UK audience is going to lose.

  5. Good job there are plenty of good series that have realised the value of free to air either via traditional TV or online streaming.

    I refuse to give money to Murdoch & Co plus I cannot abide Croft as a commentator.

    Going to be interesting to see what happens to the viewing figures, ad revenues etc.

  6. I want to say that I hate Sky but have to agree with Sean Bratches for following through with the contract because he can’t make changes without Sky causing a major cock-up. I also read 30/70 a different way. It could be read as 30% of season Live; in which we could have Half of Qualy seassions live and every Race live at the loss of Practice. I think fans would appreciate this system by 2025.

    I also believe F1 will continue on Channel 4, but following a MotoGP style contract is more likely, but done correctly could work well. MotoGP is 1 hour long and has 1 hour highlights, so F1 is 2 hours long and could receive a 2 hour highlights package, following similar format to last season.

  7. Who knows, Sky might decide that getting 669k viewers for something you’ve paid £1bn for over 5 years isn’t great return and look for a get-out and stick with the current system or a 30/70 system. Part of the reason they bid for exclusively rights to F1 was probably to stop BT getting it and expanding their portfolio, however if Liberty more keen for FTA then this also makes it easier for Sky to back down.

    • Companies like Sky don’t care that they are getting low audience figures for something niche like F1. The important thing to them is that their rivals aren’t getting them… :/

      • That’s why I’d hope Sky can negotiate some sort of reduction in what they’ve paid in exchange for putting a number of races on Sky Sports Mix or similar. That way they’ll save money, increase viewing figures and stop other rival channels getting their hands on F1.

  8. Such a shame that Mr Bratches will complete the disaster that Bernie started. The miniscule pay tv audience in the UK often less than half a million, will render it totally uncommercial for UK sponsors. While the UK has for many years been the hub and home of most F1 teams it will seem odd to team members that only a handful of fans are able to watch the races.
    The dead FTA tv period will unfortunately be long enough to kill the current enthusiasm for F1 in the UK, it will be like yacht racing and polo, just for the few well off.

    A very bad decision Mr Bratches. A look at your demographics in the UK will tell you that most fans are older and many now pensioners on fixed income, which with inflation in every day living costs, effectively shrinks each year; we old gits are your core audience. Now if you can create a younger audience with bells whistles and irritating prima donna pop princesses/princes and those of indeterminate gender, good luck. In my view you will need it to be a week’s F1 festival in each country.
    Luckily you are prepared to spend on marketing the product, something that Bernie never did. Let the circuits keep some money, many spend the whole year paying the fees for your one race.
    How about a major food brand sponsoring the concerts? How about a marshals race? A VIP saloon car race (drivers would be either pop or film starlets or pit lane poseurs) . A journalists race! A car manufacturer may be inclined to supply (write off) the cars in each country with the race named as the brand. (They would if you televised it on FTA as a separate media deal) A race per day in F1 week! (Free to the tv networks but advertising you all week)
    However you must be careful not to include other major series which on their own are money earners for the circuit, since these are desperately needed to let the circuits survive.

  9. Sky might have the rights to live TV broadcasts, but what about legal streaming via the F1 website, or youtube, maybe this is something which could happen, and if not free, it surely wouldn’t be as expensive as Sky Sports?

  10. When we lost motor gp to bt I watched 1 highlights show. Not watches any motor gp since.
    This is what will happen to f1 to.
    It just comes down to it 50 quid month for hour half tv ever two weeks is not a good deal.

  11. In European countries such as France, where F1 went solely to Pay TV years ago, the sport has died.
    It’s hard to even find F1 magazines in the shops now, whereas there were plenty a decade ago. Likewise, model F1 cars no longer appear on the shelves of stores such as Toys R Us, even at Christmas.
    Despite having a couple of good French drivers on the grid, no one in Sports Bars talks about F1 anymore.
    If Liberty Media want to own a dead sport, with no meaningful audience, then giving it exclusively to Murdoch is a guaranteed result. RIP F1.

  12. Eddie Jordan seem to think Mercedes are going to jump ship just as UK loose free to air tv. I wonder if it’s related

  13. I don’t have BT Sport and i don’t know anyone who does. However i pay money to the NBA to see Basketball on their online sports pass. Nobody i know cares about Basketball so i can view matches days later or live and not have the results spoilt for me. Same with Indycar. Nobody i know watches it but i see the races for free days later on the Indycar YouTube page. In summary i enjoy watching “delayed live” sport which nobody is talking about. Even if F1 “dies in the UK” i will still see races in future either live, delayed or edited to a few moments on the F1 YouTube page. For as long as there are races i will care about who is winning and leading the championship.

  14. On geo specific graphics am I dreaming or do indy car do these in concert with bt at least for pre race? Watching now and grid graphic shows bt twitter etc whilst being lined up with American feed commentary.

  15. The BBC are currently trumpeting the return of cricket to FTA. It seems the ECB have belatedly decided that they don’t want to be a very rich but completely irrelevent sport in this country. Having weaned myself off the game 12 years ago when the ECB sold out, they ain’t going to get my support now. Sod ’em. I’m pretty sure the same thing will happen to F1. it will fade into obscurity, and if, at the end of the Sky contract, the owners decide they want to open it again to FTA they’ll find the same lack of enthusiasm. From me at least, it will be sod them, as well.

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