Sky secured the contract to broadcast Formula One in the UK from the 2012 season onwards, with the BBC only showing half of the races live. The move was met with some anger from British fans who were now forced to take out a subscription with Sky in order to see every race live, and the viewing figures reflected this, falling by 3.8m last year. In order to combat this, Ecclestone is interested in making F1 available to all once again.
“I said you can guarantee that when you put a Sky box in the house, although it is only for F1, people are going to say ‘why can’t I watch the rest’ and they will sign up,” Ecclestone is quoted as saying by the Express.
“Children will say ‘my friends at school watch this so why can’t we?’ Sky are very good with that kind of idea. It would use F1 to drive their subscriptions.”
Essentially, Sky would be offering Formula One to all in the hope that they would then take out a contract for one of their other services, such as Sky Sports or Sky Movies.
The idea would make F1 more accessible, but it would also require a large outlay from Sky to make the boxes available, and they would most probably try to negotiate a reduced rate for the F1 rights should the deal go ahead. However, it would unquestionably increase the viewing figures, and Sky’s extensive programming on their dedicated channel would also benefit. Having secured the rights though, Sky may be reluctant to negotiate such a deal until their contract expires.
Ecclestone’s comments also suggest that he may be open to the entire season returning to a free-to-air channel in the near future.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic.