2018 will be the last season in which Formula 1 will be on free-to-air television in the UK until at least 2024, and Channel 4 has just announced the live schedule which includes ten races.
Sky Sports F1 will have the monopoly on coverage from 2019, and fans will have to contribute to Rupert Murdoch’s empire should they wish to climb the paywall. This shift comes at a time when the sport has opened up the floodgates on social media in a bid to improve fan engagement. Viewership in the UK has been gradually declining, although the live race packages that C4F1 and Whisper Films put together last season peaked at 2.5m viewers compared to Sky‘s 1.5m.
The deals have been in place for a long time and it is a shame that Formula 1 looks set to become a minority sport on terrestrial television. It also remains to be seen whether efforts from Liberty Media to make the product more entertaining will be worth it given that by reducing the size of the available audience, viewership inevitably declines.
Neither package can be considered poorer than the other, it seems to be more about personal preferences, but to leave the audience with one option means that those who opt to pay the premium for coverage will, without doubt, be expecting Sky F1 to take their package to the next level.
For the Channel 4 F1 team and its fan base, the high points this season will include the Monaco, Singapore, British, and Belgian Grands Prix, although sadly the returning German and French weekends will only be available as highlights packages.
Much like the BBC before it, Channel 4 has provided dependable, in-depth, creative content that has entertained the F1 fan for free. Let’s hope that this season can bookmark the efforts of those involved with a bang. Here’s what the full live schedule for C4 looks like this year:
- 6-8 April – Bahrain Grand Prix
- 27-29 April – Azerbaijan Grand Prix
- 25-27 May – Monaco Grand Prix
- 29 June-1 July – Austrian Grand Prix
- 6-8 July – British Grand Prix
- 24-26 August – Belgian Grand Prix
- 14-16 September – Singapore Grand Prix
- 5-7 October – Japanese Grand Prix
- 19-21 October – United States Grand Prix
- 23-25 November – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
So, one more year to get your fix of no-nonsense Mark Webber and full-of-nonsense Eddie Jordan – let’s make the most of it!