Today’s announcement that F1 coverage will be moved to Sky is nothing short of a disaster. While the BBC retains partial broadcasting control, this deal is a mess and will alienate the casual Formula 1 fan.
First of all, the obvious – a casual fan won’t be paying £610 a year to continue watching the sport. Even the average fans won’t be making that move. This obscene amount of money to be paid to Murdoch’s empire will turn away all but the most die-hard of fans.
Sky is touting “no ads during races” as a feature for their coverage – but it is rumoured that this is simply a ploy to pull viewers in, and ads would return from 2013 onwards.
The only good news is that the BBC will still show 10 races live per year – the others being deferred until the evening time.
However, the actual broadcasting quality of the BBC will still be hurt. Even BBC editor Ben Gallop has stated that “our coverage will not be as comprehensive as it has been in recent years”.
After searching for cuts in all departments, the BBC are probably happy with this decision. Sky will of course be delighted, having added another sport to their profit-driven portfolio. However, everyone involved in this deal seems to have forgotten the fans in this move, mistakenly beliving they will settle for a compromise.
FOTA were touted as the orginisation who could protect the fans’ interests, but it appears that they have no intention of doing so, with Martin Whitmarsh in favour of the move. Bernie Ecclestone, of course, supports this deal, claiming that the overall number of viewers will increase.
With this, it appears as if the fans have no way of opposing this move. In my view, a huge amount of the audience are going to lose out, and may well drift away from F1.
Despite the fact that I consider myself quite the die-hard F1 fan, I will be the first to say that I have no intention of switching to Sky. Even if it means losing out on 50% of live races, the excellent BBC coverage will always be better than whatever ad-ridden garbage is thrown at us by Sky.
Of course, not all fans will share this view. Many will not accept missing out on live races, and similarly will not be able to pay for Sky coverage. This is what many fear of, if this news is to cause people to lose interest in Formula 1.
This will be an important time for the sport. If FOTA are really going to protect the fans, they would want to get a move on.
Edit: If the fans want their voice heard, their opinions should be aimed at one location to maximise attention. The comment section on the BBC’s sport editor’s official statement is a good place to start.