Channel 4 has picked both the Monaco and Singapore Grands Prix for the final season of F1 racing in the UK involving a regular live free to air component.
From March 2019 onwards Formula 1 will be exclusively live behind a paywall with the exception of the British Grand Prix.
For its swansong year, Channel 4 has gone for two of the season’s most celebrated and colourful events – perhaps prompted by the spectacular action in F1’s night race last season (above).
They have avoided both the French and German Grands Prix, which make a comeback to the schedules this season among the 10 rounds they will have live out of the 21 in total. Instead they have gone with the Austrian GP, which makes sense as Channel 4 presenters David Coulthard and Mark Webber both have strong connections with circuit owner Red Bull, so they will be able to stage something spectacular, no doubt.
The other races will be highlights only.
Italy has gone behind a paywall this season on Sky, with very limited free to air coverage and audiences are expected to plummet as a result.
This time next season, British F1 fans will be facing the same prospect, with SKY yet to decide which free to air channel they will award the free to air obligations of the British GP and highlights.
Many fans – and now doubt Liberty Media too – are hoping it will be BBC or ITV, to give the best possible access to F1 coverage. But as the decision is in SKY’s gift and not Liberty’s then it’s possible that they will do what they have done in Italy and put the FTA component on a channel they control. From a commercial point of view that makes sense, as they are then not competing with another commercial broadcast for advertising and sponsorship money.
The SKY exclusive 2019-24 deal was signed by Bernie Ecclestone early in 2016, before Channel 4 had broadcast its first event.
SKY paid around $165m a year for five years from 2019 to see off BT Sport’s interest in F1 and acquired the exclusive live rights. They will be competing against BT Sport again soon for the next round of English Premier League rights, although the signs are that neither side is minded to escalate the arms race on spending like it did last time.
SKY cut its production budget for F1 in the light of a massive overspend for the last round of Premier League rights and once it becomes exclusive F1 rights holder, the concern is that they will again cut on production as they no longer have to compete with another broadcaster.
2018 UK F1 TV schedule
Australian Grand Prix, 23-25 March Sky only
Bahrain Grand Prix, 6-8 April Sky and Channel 4
Chinese Grand Prix, 13-15 April Sky
Azerbaijan Grand Prix, 27-29 April Sky and Channel 4
Spanish Grand Prix, 11-13 May Sky
Monaco Grand Prix, 25-27 May Sky and Channel 4
Canadian Grand Prix, 8-10 June Sky
French Grand Prix, 22-24 June Sky
Austrian Grand Prix, 29 June – 1 July Sky and Channel 4
British Grand Prix, 6-8 July Sky and Channel 4
German Grand Prix, 20-22 July Sky
Hungarian Grand Prix, 27-29 July Sky
Belgian Grand Prix, 24-26 August Sky and Channel 4
Italian Grand Prix, 31 August – 2 September Sky
Singapore Grand Prix, 14-16 September Sky and Channel 4
Russian Grand Prix, 28-30 September Sky
Japanese Grand Prix, 5-7 October Sky and Channel 4
United States Grand Prix, 19-21 October Sky and Channel 4
Mexican Grand Prix, 26-28 October Sky
Brazilian Grand Prix, 9-11 November Sky
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, 23-25 November Sky and Channel 4
All Photos: LAT Images
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