Hamilton says pay TV is “not cool”

Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

In the US, Formula 1 has been on a pay-service such as NBC Sports, Speed channel or now ESPN. If you want F1, you have to have one of these “cable” packages. When NBC had the rights to F1 in the US, they would show a select few on what the British call free-to-air TV. In the US, we call it OTA or over-the-air or even simply “network” TV.

Now that Sky Sports F1 is really the only game in town for the UK with only highlights and some live coverage of the British Grand Prix on OTA, the situation for fans isn’t the most affordable. Lewis Hamilton says it’s “definitely not cool”.

“not my job to come up with the answers for that”, Hamilton said he was not convinced by the move.

“The more people you have at the grand prix, the more atmosphere it is,” he said.

“It is the fans that makes the sport what it is, so the more you block them or deter them the worse the business is going to be for the people that own it.

“But that is nothing to do with me. When the fans do come or the people that I do get to meet at the races, I try to utilize the opportunity to connect with them.”

The Sky Sports F1 coverage is a very good package and they pay dearly for the rights which is a serious revenue generator for the series which relies on broadcast rights fees to amass prize money for the teams as well as offset overhead expenses of running the series.

Still, there are throngs of British folk who grew up watching free on BBC and that has now gone. Lewis doesn’t see the viewers increasing with this pay-tv move:

“It is bloody expensive nowadays with everything you have in your home, with all your insurance and all the things you do end up paying,” he said.

“And on top of that you have to pay for TV and for a TV license, which is ridiculous.

“[I am] pretty sure that number is not going to change, because the economy, it is a difficult time for everyone particularly now, so it is a shame that the fans are not getting to see as much.”

We’ve always had it this way here in the US or at least it’s been this way for a very long time. The chicken and egg conundrum in some respect. Sell broadcast rights for millions and reduced viewers or reduce broadcast fees and allow free-to-air broadcasts to get more eyeballs on your product. I think we know which one makes F1 more money, don’t we?

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Sounds like Hamilton’s applying for a PR or marketing position, thought I definitely don’t disagree with him. If you want to make money, you definitely need to lower your price point to put more eyes on your product. However, you can only go so low.

Tom Firth

Well on paper yes and I know times have changed but remember it was Bernie’s pan European deal with the EBU members in the 1970s that made them all very rich, the sponsor rate card was worth much more which led back into F1. The Olympics followed the same model until recently, there’s money to be made in free to air but it isn’t the immediate cash injection that Pay tv delivers. It’s more a longer term investment.


Probably not cool for his personal or team sponsors but it is the wave of sports broadcasting.

Tom Firth

It all came out of a comment about a decade ago that F1’s global television rights revenue was about the same size as a Turkish football league or something like that. That’s when Bernie changed his long held policy of more eyeballs on free tv was best for the sport using the EBU model to chasing dollars from pay tv providers. That as you say has some advantages, it also upsets a lot of fans who have followed F1 through BBC, ITV and back to the BBC in various formats down the years. The BBC did give up F1, it… Read more »

Tom Firth

There’s always going to be less viewers as always less reach on pay Tv.

The pecking order is basically in terms of what F1 can expect

BBC – 7m
ITV – 5-6m
C4 – 2-3m
C5 – 1m maybe

Everything else – 300-900k or less