Channel 4 set to continue airing Formula 1 beyond 2018

Channel 4 are set to continue their coverage of Formula 1 beyond the 2018 season, according to a new report from the BBC.

The free-to-air broadcaster currently airs half of the championship live, with the remaining portion of the season aired in highlights form, a deal that will end following this season

From 2019, Sky Sports will air Formula 1 exclusively live, however live coverage of the British Grand Prix and highlights of all qualifying and race sessions must be available on a “free-to-air” basis, in a deal believed to be worth just shy of £1 billion across the six seasons.

As noted at the time of the announcement, it was unclear what free-to-air means in this context, whether Sky intended to air content on Pick TV (available to all Freeview viewers) or sub-let that element to another broadcaster, such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5. It now appears that the free-to-air element of the contract is heading Channel 4’s way, continuing their coverage of Formula 1 that started in 2016, albeit on a reduced level.

The BBC’s Andrew Benson reports that Channel 4 “is on the verge of concluding a deal to take on this aspect of the contract.” Channel 4 have yet to comment, but a source has told the BBC that the agreement “is very close”, with “still a couple of areas to be resolved between C4 and Sky.”

Speaking to this site in January, Channel 4’s analyst Karun Chandhok said “If Channel 4 can do a highlights package, with a bit of pre and post-race analysis, then I think they would be open to at least a conversation. They’ve been very happy with the eyeballs they’ve had for F1. They really enjoy having F1 on their channel, from what the executives have been saying.”

This site understands that Channel 4’s production team were informed of the deal on Saturday morning at Silverstone. I understand the deal between Channel 4 and Sky could include other sports as part of a wider ranging package between the two networks. One of the sticking points surrounds the production of the show, with Whisper Films keen to retain production instead of that element heading to Sky.

There are many, many questions this news presents, namely the timing and duration of highlights coverage, and whether Channel 4’s current line-up will remain largely intact; or whether it will be a slimmed down package in duration.

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15 thoughts on “Channel 4 set to continue airing Formula 1 beyond 2018

  1. Slimmed down would be a minor way of putting it.
    I would imagine you’d have the following;
    1)Presenter- SJ
    2)Analyst/Colour Com – DC.
    3)Lead com – BE
    4)interviewer/reporter – KC

    Plus extra analyst And pen reporter for British GP.
    Except for British GP they’d probably take f1 tv pen interviews

  2. Andrew Benson – “There is a free-to-air aspect of Sky’s contract, which provides for live coverage of the British Grand Prix and highlights of all the other races on a channel that has “90% technical availability”.

    That’s strange. All the press and comments that I read in the past, stated that SKY had all the rights except for the British GP. I really don’t recall any mention of “and highlights of all the other races on a channel that has “90% technical availability”. What did I miss?

    • Sky do have the rights to everything from 2019 onwards, that was the contract signed between them and FOM (under Bernie’s leadership) in March 2016.

      As part of the deal, Sky must show highlights of every qualifying and race session, plus live coverage of the British Grand Prix on a “free-to-air” basis. The definition of free-to-air can result in that portion of the contract ending up on one of Sky’s own free-to-air channels, such as Pick TV.

      Or, instead as now looks to be the case, Sky have opted to sub-let that element of the contract to Channel 4, meaning that Channel 4 (assuming the deal is made official) will have the rights to air live coverage of the British Grand Prix, plus highlights of every qualifying and race session.

      So, Sky do have the rights of everything, but have opted to sub-let one portion of it, no doubt with a financial fee attached to it.

      • Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. I just looked back at a few mainstream articles about SKY getting exclusive rights, apart from the British GP, and nothing was mentioned about the phrase “and highlights of all the other races on a channel that has “90% technical availability”. All the reputable F1 journalists and even the F1 team principals talked about exclusivity and the potential loss of audience. So something changed, and I’m guessing that pressure was brought to bear on SKY. It will be interesting to see what really happened/happens.

  3. I would like the production outsourced to Sky. It would allow Brundle and DC to work together. I’d like to see a 3-man commentary box with Brundle, DC, and Crofty (if Allen isn’t available).

  4. Whether it’s Sky production or Whisper Films, it’ll still be classed as 2 separate productions. Also it’ll get slimmed down except for the British Grand Prix which will be at full strength. The only other snag will be if they can keep their own commentary on-air because don’t forget this affects more than C4, it affects the worldwide channels that take C4 commentary

  5. Well I was all set to give up following F1 next season, it was not worth watching just the one race. The great thing about Channel 4 is the production and the mix of people. I have watched the Sky version for a season before via Nowtv and find that Chanel 4 is far superior.
    The thing that really needs to change is the priority the Chanel 4 controllers give to F1, it has ten times the audience of BakeOff yet was sidelined fora tiny audience. (about the same as Sky get for F1)
    If it is true then there is hope, but if it is just a cut down Sky production then it wont be worth watching.
    Maybe the thought of loosing 80% of its UK audience finally got through the American skulls.

  6. If ‘90% Technical Availability’ is a fact, I wonder if that may leverage C4HD back onto Freesat? I really hope so because, C4SD is substandard.

  7. Good.

    I’d rather watch highlights on 4 than live on Sky. Aside from the fact Sky’s a bloody rip-off, their coverage team is nowhere near as good as 4’s.

  8. I have watched and loved F1 for 47 years but the current C4 coverage is the minimum I will consider following. I have even changed brands to support F1 advertisers but if things do not improve I will give up following. There are a lot of other people who feel the same so perhaps the teams and advertisers and F1 itself should take note as in the long run it is them who will lose out.

  9. Very good news! As quite a few others have said I simply don’t think the Sky coverage is as good as Channel 4’s having seen both. Obviously I would have liked all the races to be live on free to air but I’m honestly happier to watch C4 highlights than line Sky’s pockets to watch their poor coverage.
    Yes I could afford the Sky “package” but I won’t pay that much for what I see as a poor service.

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