Sky, Channel 4 come to UK TV rights agreement for 2019

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Press Release From Channel 4

TV viewers will soon find it easier to access and enjoy top sport and drama from Sky and Channel 4, thanks to an innovative content partnership between the two broadcasters.

The commercial deal, the first of its kind, will mean that highlights of Formula 1® and live coverage of the Formula 1 2019 British Grand Prix will be shown on Channel 4, with Series 1 of the popular Sky original production Tin Star also coming to the channel later this year.

Alex Mahon, Chief Executive Officer of Channel 4, said, “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to establish such an exciting and innovative partnership with Sky which will ensure that the British Grand Prix and highlights of the 2019 Formula 1 Championship remain available on free-to-air television for UK viewers.”

Stephen van Rooyen, Chief Executive Officer of Sky UK & ROI, said, “Today’s partnership is the start of a new era of collaboration between Sky, Channel 4 and, we hope, other British broadcasters. Not only will this innovative partnership benefit viewers, watching via Sky or free-to-air, but it will further strengthen the ecosystem of UK broadcasters and British originated content.”

Key Highlights of Sky and Channel 4’s Partnership

  • In 2019, Channel 4 will show highlights of Formula 1® races with the Formula 1 British Grand Prix shown live on both Sky Sports F1 and Channel 4. Sky will show all other races exclusively live on its dedicated Sky Sports F1® channel.
  • A selection of Channel 4 and Walter Presents drama series will be available as upfront box set stacks on NOW TV and Sky platforms, including Sky Go. The first boxset, the third series of No Offence, will be available from tomorrow.

How we got here

To understand the deal announcement, a little bit of context is needed. Television rights for F1 in the UK have a long history and have historically followed a free-to-air television model taking advantage of the larger reach of the BBC, ITV and other FTA broadcasters in the UK.

This all changed in 2012 when the BBC relinquished the rights to broadcast every F1 race live on free-to-air television. The new deal involved Sky Sports launching the now world renowned Sky Sports F1 channel and broadcasting the races live on its platform whilst the BBC retained rights to broadcast half of the races live and half of them in highlights form alongside Sky broadcasts.

In late 2015, the BBC announced it would be dropping the remainder of the F1 television rights it held earlier than anticipated leading to smaller free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4 agreeing to a two year deal from 2016-2018 to broadcast the BBC’s portion of the agreed 2012 rights deal. Later, during 2016 Sky and F1 announced a new deal to begin from the start of the 2019 season through to the conclusion of the 2024 season which gave the pay-TV operator exclusive rights to broadcast every F1 race live with the exclusion of the British Grand Prix, with some uncertainty over whether highlights would appear on an FTA channel or within Sky’s own ecosystem.  Today’s announcement confirms and clarifies some further details of the first year of that 2019-2024 announced deal.

Is it a good deal?

Whilst I’m sure less availability of ‘live’ free-to-air coverage will never be a particularly popular move among the fanbase, it was never realistic to believe that the series would tear up a contract signed during the stewardship of Mr.E. Therefore I suspect that many fans and some sponsors will breathe a collective sigh of relief that the sport remains in part on Channel 4 in 2019 with the ‘highlights’ deal announced today between Channel 4 and Sky whilst keeping Sky’s deal relatively intact. The primary advantage of staying in part on Channel 4 is that the risk of a potential fan exodus in terms of viewing figures as a result of the sport been placed entirely within the Sky platform is avoided at least for 2019.

What remains to be seen is what happens beyond 2019 and whether this deal is extended for the full term of the next deal on Sky. It also remains to be seen what the exact scheduling of Channel 4’s coverage will be and what will be shown as part of the deal. All of those details are still the be determined.

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What’s the take up of SKY in the UK?
In NZ it is losing subscribers at a precipitous rate, as people switch to other ‘digital platforms’ (whatever that means).
And does this mean that the F1 TV still won’t be available as an alternative until 2024?

On the positive side, the races are in the right time zone so going to the pub to watch F1 is a decent option. In NZ the pubs still open at 2am don’t feature sports, unless you like free style wrestling and boxing ;-)