Aussie #F1 TV coverage – sadly lacking in the coverage department

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Over the past two years, much has been said on this website regarding the diminishing audiences, and increasing disconnect, between Formula One and its fans. This has come into sharp focus here in Australia over the past few weeks.

Down under, F1 has been broadcast live on free-to-air television, most recently by the Channel 10 network on its digital ‘One’ channel. Notwithstanding the frequent commercial break interruptions, and at times bumbling incompetence of Daryl Beattie (motorcyclist!) and Greg Rust (‘professional’ commentator, who at least once has driven a hot-lap in a V8 Supercar), it was difficult to complain because each and every qualifying and race session was broadcast live, and free.

Towards the middle of last year, it became increasingly apparent C10 was perilously close to insolvency; but the Motorsport team pushed on merrily, and in a move that would no doubt have excited Mrs Judge13 – and as it turns out, Mrs CC – they even signed Mark Webber, that well-known and grid-wide respected conversationalist, to join the commentary team for 2015. F1 fans in Australia thought this year would now be relatively positive.

Suddenly, just weeks ago came the bombshell. C10 announced they had on-sold the F1 broadcast rights to Fox Sports, via Foxtel – a Murdoch owned Australian Pay TV service. C10 would broadcast 10 races live, and the remainder would be shown as highlights packages on Monday nights (similar to BBC UK); while Foxtel gleefully announced they would provide paying customers with all sessions live, with a syndicated deal providing “the same incredible coverage provided by Sky Sports in the UK” (1).

Despite the cost, many Australian fans scrambled to subscribe to the Foxtel service. Prices were set starting at $50/month for standard definition services – and a further $10/month to actually make use of the HD screen technology that exists in more than 75% of Australian homes (2).

Now heavily invested in their F1 coverage to the tune of at least $600/year, viewers sat down to watch the coverage of the Australian Grand Prix. To say we were surprised would be an understatement. Minutes into the broadcast there was an advertising interruption, and these continued through every on track session of the weekend.

The race alone saw more than a quarter of the race (15laps) interrupted by commercial breaks which muted all commentary and provided a one-quarter sized picture-in-picture view of the racing action. This was, more-rather-than-less, the same level of coverage provided free by C10 last year.

Now, the common understanding here in Oz is that Sky Sports UK provide uninterrupted coverage of all track sessions of every Grand Prix weekend. So Foxtel stating they would be providing the coverage “the same [as] Sky Sports UK” – was misleading to say the least.

Then, in a moment that can only be described as truly worthy of Formula 1, Foxtel explained they had contractual obligations that required them to serve up advertisements during their F1 coverage. This Sauber-esque reasoning appeared to pass way over the heads of the Foxtel PR machine

Customers mobbed Foxtel via their community forums and Twitter accounts, with most struggling to understand how their paid up subscription for a ‘contracted uninterrupted F1 coverage’ was now being stood down for another contract to deliver advertising (3).

It now turns out, that C10 had pre-sold F1 advertising for 2015 as the sole provider of the F1 broadcasts.

All this is further complicated, by a particularly twist in Australian broadcasting law that protects a list of ‘nationally important’ sporting events from be ‘siphoned-off’ free-to-air TV. Foxtel appear to have failed to observe this regulation and now remain uncommitted to providing uninterrupted coverage of further weekends (3).

And so, another year begins with the continued erosion of F1 fans access to quality Formula 1 coverage. As the sports owners continue to peel every last dollar out of a dying product, I’m left wondering why FOM haven’t moved the way of every other professional – and growing – sporting body, and taken true ownership of their broadcast revenue streams by providing online access to live streams and past clips. This is even more confusing seeing as they provide all the infrastructure, all the data, all the personnel, and indeed, the entirety of the global stream via the FOM broadcast already.

But as always, I’m sure Bernie has a grand plan. It’s just too bad us underlings aren’t part of it.

Sources:

FoxtelACMAFoxtel 2

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32 responses to “Aussie #F1 TV coverage – sadly lacking in the coverage department

  1. Only qually and race sessions are uninterrupted on SKY F1 UK, practice session still get adverts, but only 3 3minute advert brakes an hour during practice sessions.

    • Even ‘only’ 3x3mins is about 10 mins an hour, or aboot 17% – too much in my view… especially when one has to pay through the nose for the privilege.

      • Yep..my views entirely, if I pay for f1 then why should there be ads??..I have really thought of cancelling my sky account this year as this first race was just…well to put it mildly.. S#+t and then watch it through satellite in Germany using the radio 5 live commentary. Our sport is in trouble and as viewers and fans its clear that the ‘show’is becoming more like WWE than F1, the only saving grace for the sky subscription over here in the uk is the up coming WEC races..the pinnacle of motor sport(at the minute anyway)

      • Well that’s no different to sitting there watching it and there are no cars on the track for roughly the same amount of time.

    • But you do know that if you press the ‘red interactive’ button you’re able to follow the practice just the same? Though it’s on an ad break, there’s still roughly about another 4-5 features available:

      Pit lane camera
      Onboard footage
      GPS tracker etc

      I know people say the package is expensive, but thats only if you get the full package. You’re able to tailor it to suit your needs. As a man with 2 kids and a sports mad and movie junkie, I’ve got the full package and I think it’s value for money. I can watch the practice/qually/race on my iPhone whilst on my way to work or wherever I am.

      I find the Sky package exceptionally good, because they offer so many programs other than just the race:

      Legends of F1
      Classic Races
      F1 show & Midweek report
      As well as being able to get tickets to be in the audience for the live taping of the F1 show.

      • Have to sky+ practice sessions, due to work. The interactive doesn’t work when you sky+ it. Its a bit lame but at least I can ffw the ads.

        • Well that’s true. But if you’ve got an iPhone you can watch it on that or you login into your skygo account and watch it on a computer. With Skygo, you can access it on 2 devices, Skygo extra is 5, but they charge extra for that.

          • I work fitting industrial flat roofs and cladded arched roofs, so having a mobile or laptop set up and being able to watch it and hear it is an impossible task, which ever way you look at it. If I could I would, believe me 😇
            I wouldn’t even get away with just listening to the commentary, it would be just too dangerous as we have materials being lifted up to us on a pretty much continues basis, so you have to be alert and aware and able to hear if a warning is shouted, which stops any plan in its tracks. Breaktime is different kettle of fish lol

  2. I grew up in the early 80’s watching F1 on the BBC’s Sunday Grandstand show and 45 minutes highlight show in the evening.
    I still remember the 83 German GP, we saw the warm up lap then maybe first three laps of the race before it moved to snooker, golf, cricket or horse trials. Some time later there was another ten laps before returning to the cricket or rugby then later few more laps.
    From 1pm programme start till close at 6pm we were given about 25 laps and they missed end due to other sports.

    Frustrating!

    ITV took over and I had to endure ads till I got a HDD recorder then I’d sit down an hour into broadcast and watch live whilst ffwd thru ads.
    When the BBC sold off their contract to Sky I refused to pay the money as I just don’t use TV enough to warrant the specific options.
    Having grown up with poor TV coverage I’m quite happy with the highlights programme delivered free. As to Fox and Bernie, it’s their assumption that they control the masses through lies that offends me.

    As to TV, when you have young children it’s a wonderful baby sitter. How do you think these governments and corporations view us?

  3. Getting foxtel hooked up on Monday.Can’t wait to get away from network 10.I thought their Melbourne coverage was rubbish and the commentary from Webber and others amateurish.Looking forward to the full sky package without ads.Foxtel had to do ads for Melbourne because it was short notice and the ad slots were sold but after checking the foxtel forums they assure us it’s ad free from here on.

    • Agreed, Webber and Beattie both seem to perpetually mumble to me. Unfortunately I won’t be heading down the pay TV route, there’s just not enough other programs I’d watch to justify the cost. If Melbourne is any guide, I won’t miss too mush action… shades of 2004 for me, that was the last time I barely watched a race.

    • What type of sport is that then? 😱 😊

      Bloody hate football, can’t play it, never enjoyed it, not even world cup games……am I alone in this?

      • You’re certainly not alone Clear View. I don watch football or want to know anything about it. I don’t want to pay for a package that includes football, luckily in the Netherlands you can get an F1 package only but that’s only through the broadcasters online stream.

      • no – you’re not. I subscribed to the sports package here in Singapore, solely for the F1 and nothing else.

      • We’re talking AFL here(aussie rules) a hghly skilful game . I’m a Yorkshire man living in A us . It’s better than soccer/gaelic football/nfl/rugby and whatever else you can think of .

        • I know the game you are talking about. At 1st look it seems a little similar to rugby. A game which I do appreciate and will watch England matches, but only if there is absolutely nothing of interest on tv. I certainly don’t plan my fishing trips around it like I do with F1 (skygo app is great for viewing F1 on the lake bank so I select venues with a good strong signal to fish on race weekends)

  4. Well, I’m a stubborn pr!ck and I refuse to pay Rupert for anything at all (ever). Thus I’m not going to sign up for pay-TV coverage. I’ll be interested to see if I I stick to my guns on this one. My missus is telling be I’m being an idiot to myself (and she may be right). If I do subscribe, maybe if I punch myself in the face each time I fire up the satellite as punishment I’ll feel better?? Dunno.

    The V8 coverage has gone the same way as F1 – mostly to Foxtel. Channel 10 has changed the language in their motorsport ads. CH10 is now the home of “Big Event” motorsport – referring to the fact they’ll broadcast (in SD) only selected, “important” races. They also now say that you get to “follow” your favourite teams / drivers – as opposed to actually watching them live. Looks like Speedweek on SBS is the go now.

    Someone here on the forum made some interesting comments last year regarding how boxing fared after the sport went to pay-for-view. IIRC, the thrust was that the gain was short-term and only for the promoters. Now no-one gives a fig.

    I can only imagine that F1 will suffer the same fate as boxing. FOM will do OK for a while, but the sponsors will see the diminishing audiences (and diminishing exposure) and go elsewhere, slowly but surely.

    I’m of the opinion that motorsport is a fringe sport in most of the world. When the show is good (close / exciting racing) and free / easy to access then people will watch. If you throw friction into the transaction like subscriptions or streaming then it gets to hard for Joe Punter.

    I reckon most of the current F1 sponsors are broadcast sponsors as well – not narrowcast / niche sponsors. Frinstance, I don’t see Martini as being the drink of choice for a lot of motorsport enthusiasts.

    Then again. F1 is something like Bernie’s toy and he can do as he likes with it to some extent.

    P.S. Thanks to the admins for getting the search feature to work on comments now, as well. Much appreciated 🙂

    • RogerD I agree. will not pay Murdoch a cent too….. I will not be told by the likes of him and his shitty papers who i should vote for and what i should be up in arms about. Not now or ever. I don’t follow football either so even though my beloved F1 is being taken away from me i will not pay 750 to watch it for 12 months. That 40 bucks a race..!! What i would pay for is a quality steaming service from somewhere (anyone but Murdoch) without adds. I fear for F1 when passionate fans like me are ignored and sidelined. I have attended 20 odd Grands Prix since and including the first Adelaide GP but last weekend in Melbourne may have been the last……..

  5. As I complained past weekend in Latin America is now impossible to watch Formula 1 live. Since Fox Sports Latin America -who had the rights until last year- isn’t allowed to broadcast live by the new rights owners -or by FOM who is protecting the new rights holders, it’s not clear yet- they moved F1 from their main channel to Fox Sports 3, which isn’t included in all cable or satellite services. The pay per view option doesn’t exist and the plan to have a 24 hours 7 day a week Formula 1 channel reported here some months ago will never work in my opinion because the hardcore fan base in Latin America isn’t big enough; most watchers were casual watchers. Maybe at this point the new right holders understood that and now we were left without anything.
    Add to that a series that looks like CART just before its dead and I expect the rating to fall dramatically this year in the area.
    They are in the hole and they keep digging.

  6. Response from Foxtel

    “Hey – we understand your concerns! Unfortunately the ads in a quarter-screen picture-in-picture box are as part of the contractual obligations of the new broadcast deal. This obligation is only for the Australian Grand Prix, and will not feature during race coverage for the remaining 19 events on the 2015 F1 calendar. We appreciate your understanding!”

    • LOL from Sauber ““Hey – we understand your concerns! Unfortunately the “driver” in “your race seat” are part of the contractual obligations of the new “Sauber Driver” deal. This obligation is “not” only for the Australian Grand Prix, and will feature during races for the remaining 19 events on the 2015 F1 calendar. We appreciate your understanding!”

  7. Thanks for the informed write up of what is now becoming a rather frustrating issue in Aus.
    What really irked me about the C10 coverage was that Webber / Jones / Beattie did the commentary for the race. In previous years I could tolerate the lead up and occasional crosses to the Aussie commentators, because they would then give the World Feed with the Sky ? Commentators – Brundle / Kravitz etc.
    This year, there was none of that – no crosses to Ted in the pits or Lisa for an interview with a retired driver.
    I am hoping that it was only because it was the Aussie GP that they decided to do the commentary as well.
    Hoping we get the English commentary back for Malaysia….
    I don’t want foxtel – will download torrent if need be….

    • That has generally been the case for the Melbourne GP each year, then the remaining races we get the English commentary.

      I have to admit I subscribed to Foxtel just for the V8’s and F1 and I am very happy that I did, Pre/post race content was much better than you would have got on 10, plus there is the f1 show on during the week. unfortunately we don’t seem to get the classic races that sky gets, fingers crossed that will change in the future.

  8. There are a variety of places online where one can watch races streamed live for free. Usually this is because some kind Robin Hood has made his Slingbox (http://www.slingbox.com/) feed available. Google around things like “Maylasia GP streaming” and you will find various options on a race weekend.

    The Hola extension (http://www.hola.org/) allows anyone to watch the BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world. It should also work with any other country-specific streaming options.

    • Of course quality will vary, but realistically the only reason to pay nowadays would be for guaranteed uninterrupted full-HD coverage, or commentary in an obscure language. Tagalog anyone?

      These companies have ignored this but the reality is that their business model is just one well-funded ad campaign targeting race fans and letting them know about free bootleg options online.

      Understand you are paying a convenience premium, not for access to the underlying product, which can be had easily online for free. Over time the economics of this industry will converge to this reality.

      Similarly (and incredibly) AOL still has 2.4m people an “inertia premium” for dial up: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/08/07/aol-still-makes-most-of-its-money-off-millions-of-dial-up-subscribers/

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