Liberty Media should look to WRC to end F1 TV farce and pay-wall misery

Monday, 11 february 2019, 11:00 , by Craig Norman

Formula 1 has entered a brave new world in terms of coverage in 2019. Its long-term future on and off the track, as well as on and off the UK TV screens, continues to look unclear - but can it take solace from another motorsport series suffering the same issues on a smaller scale?

The World Rally Championship has for the first time fallen completely behind a large and looming paywall after the failure of Channel 5 to extend its agreement to air highlights shows at the end of a day's running in snow, grit and/or mud.

Sky Sports' stranglehold on F1 is tantalisingly close to completion; only the British Grand Prix will remain live and free-to-air in 2019 – only one race on a calendar with such an expansive and global reach.

Channel 4 retain the highlights package in a deal that's almost prehistoric when it comes to our modern, social media driven lives.

WRC Live is rally's answer to its struggling options in the TV market.

Just like F1 TV Pro it's a comparatively cheap way to get your fix of Scandinavian flicks, but tuning in for the Monte Carlo Rally at the end of January provided everything a fan could desire; all angles of speed and precision covered with clear, simple graphics to keep you informed of split times, position changes and overall leaderboards.

Special stages were covered by a helicopter, rather than the traditional fixed-position cameras, to give the element of drama unfolding before your eyes like a high-octane movie car chase.

The feather in the WRC Live cap was the competitiveness of the event.

Can F1 deliver the excitement of a leading pair eventually split by a couple of seconds regularly these days? WRC can, and we got the side-by-side footage to see where the loser just wasn't brave enough to keep his momentum, or where the victor put his, his co-driver's and their vehicle's safety on the line in the search for a vital tenth or two.

It wasn't perfect of course. Anything rarely is these days.

The main criticisms can be shared with MotoGP Video Pass in that there's no chance to catch up if you come into a stage late for some reason, and the inability to rewind live coverage to key moments, like BT Sport offers with its football coverage, jars considering the technology exists.

But, saying that, it's a game changer in most regards for the simple price of £8 per month, or £80 for the whole year - roughly the same price for an Amazon Prime subscription.

F1 fans probably look on in envy at that pricing, especially as most will now be tied down to a Sky TV subscription service that's nigh on £500 for the same 12 months.

With Sky you do get the slick sports coverage that the brand has built their reputation on. FOM's graphics have seen some tweaks in recent seasons as the brand takes on Liberty Media's influences, but they're essentially the same as they've always been with some complicated bells and whistles added on.

Onboards haven't developed any further than a driver's roll hoop or front wing - a 360-degree camera was trialled a few years back but was dropped quickly - and fixed camera angles will be assessed for change as they don't capture the speed of current F1 cars.

It all feels quite safe, when it should be captivating and exciting. Modern technology is what it is, both for the F1 driver and the TV production crew recording his progress.

The F1 TV Pro option is a fair few years away for UK fans as they wait for the Sky contract to run down, however that could end up becoming a positive for Liberty and viewers as the platform seemingly still has many bugs and issues to be ironed out – judging by its launch in mid-2018.

If Liberty takes heed from the WRC's almost stunning debut effort and spends those years refining a product that is affordable, accessible and ultimately a viewing experience that's worth the wait, then the floodgates to a hungry UK market could be the success story they're hunting for.

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Comments (34)

  • Jack Chevallier
    I'm 47 and haven't missed a race since I was 8. I've been sacrificing everything for the last few years to watch F1 but this year my rent and bills have gone up and I just can't afford it. I honestly don't know what I'm going to do when the new season starts. I'm desperate to watch it but I just can't afford the extra £43/month for all the Sky sports channels - and that doesn't even give it in HD, that's an extra tenner. If I could pay £12 or something for just the F1 channel that would be fine. I tried watching highlights the first year but it was terrible. It would sometimes just jump 12 laps, I had no idea what was going on, who had pitted or when and there was no tension or sense of anticipation. It's the same with MotoGP - haven't missed a race since the mid 90's but again, can't afford the extra for BT Sports. All in it's close to £800/year for both.
  • Mark Andrew
    I won't pay Sky either. This coming season will be the first I've not watched for over 20 years. I'm loathe to pay Sky, and just a bit bored with it all tbh. Same old teams winning sadly. If however, they brought in proper pay per view (like MotoGP) I would consider buying back in again, but they really need to level the playing field more. It's like football, same teams winning every year. So I ask myself, what is the point in watching? Pay per view might get me back on board, but Sky hold the monopoly in the UK and they won't give that up easily..
  • Spencer Hauldren
    I fail to understand why charging for access to a commercial and for profit form of entertainment is “Corporate Greed.” Why is the expectation that they give away the products for free? Rights fees are the lifeblood of the sport. How is a broadcaster to recoup their investment unless they charge for it? I would expect that if fans really love the sport as they proclaim to, then it would be palatable to pay for a product.
  • James Bursley
    No and I wouldn't. I do pay for MotoGP (they don't broadcast on a channel we get), but then again their practice, qualifying and races don't put me to sleep. I even started watching Moto3 and Moto2. F1 (and I have followed it since 1976) has gotten........boring. It got worse when ESPN starting "broadcasting" by providing the Sky broadcast. Their broadcast team is boring and unintelligible.
  • Debby Ingoldsby-Baillargeon
    I'll stop watching F1 and being a life long fan if it's no longer available on television. I do not have a "smart t.v." or any kind of internet capable t.v. so I'd be sitting watching the race on a tiny monitor on my desk top. Not happening. Liberty media must be careful about shooting itself in the foot, loosing all t.v. coverage? Fans will leave in droves. Didn't that happen in Italy last year?
  • Phil Carway
    Originally I got Sky just to watch F1, but it's just not worth it anymore. If sky let customers keep their original deals or you could pay for just F1 channel without the rest of the sports I'd reconsider. Or, if you could pay per race weekend and it wasn't a daft price, that would be great
  • Scott Hamilton
    Human nature is that if you had something free then you don't want to start paying for it. You certainly will not be bullied into paying by saying pay or you can't watch. Most will not watch. When veiwing figures drop the sponsors will go elsewhere then things will change.
  • Fiona Launders
    Paid for sky sports for last 2 years just for f1, seriously considering not bothering this year, it's too expensive, and I still miss half the races live anyway as I'm actually out doing stuff at the weekend..... get it back on free tv
  • Dave Webster
    The problem with pay-per-view is not only that it drives old fans away, but it reduces the exposure for new fans. Short-term gains from these bullshit Bernie deals, Liberty should get it free-to-air again, globally
  • Sten Sarapuu
    WRC+ made huge step they get my money F1, MotoGP, sorry guys you dont have earned yet my money all 4 one year money wise Noooooooooooo Wayyyy Guys my cable and internet is already 175usd plus wrc+
  • James Brown
    If someones truly an f1 fan they will shut up and pay it. If not stop whining on facebook and don't watch it... noone gives a fuck if you wont be watching go and watch formula e its free
  • Dave Newson
    Another reason why fans are drifting away from F1, nobody wants to pay to watch it live , there are plenty of other sports to watch for free and F1 will be the loser in the long run
  • Stew Goodall
    Nope. $99aud a month in Australia for Foxtel. Most people already pay Netflix or Amazon Prime. The one hour of highlights the following night will unfortunately have to do.
  • Lincoln Lambert
    Will never subscribe & absolute farce there's no freeview coverage. Highlights suck as results bound to come in before viewing so time, after near 50 years following, to call it a day.
  • Neil Comley
    I did pay sky for F1 but I refuse to now. MotoGP went to BT so I don't watch that anymore either, how many companies do they think we need/can afford?
  • Mike Clarkson
    I'll never pay SkyTV to watch F1, I'd rather see Liberty crash and burn first. Bring back free F1 on TV screens!
  • Jeff Meserve
    I've already paid extra on products to allow sponsors to put their brands on the cars. I won't pay a second time!
  • Walter Harden
    5-10 bucks a race and let me choose the race(s) I want to watch with the drivers I want to see. It's 2019 how hard could that be.
  • Lita Shaw Ingmire
    I don't pay for tv. I get antenna only. I used to get up at 4 am to watch F1. Now I only see Monaco & the US one.
  • Pafsanias Bakolias
    Well the internet gives you choices to watch everything for free so why should I pay those billionaires?

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