Ever get the feeling you’re being fleeced? Motor sport fans face paying upwards of £800 this year in order to watch live coverage of top-tier racing as international series move further behind pay-per-view TV services.
The cost of watching live races could have a detrimental effect on the popularity of motor sports in the longer term as younger viewers either struggle to afford the services or refuse to pay. It may also be fuelling a rise in the number of people watching live coverage of races illegally via streaming sites.
This year Formula 1 fans will lose free-to-air grands prix as Sky’s new deal means it will be the only place to watch live races in the UK. Channel 4, which showed 10 races live in 2018, will revert to showing a delayed highlights package of each race, and will only show the British GP live on terrestrial TV.
The change has already brought warnings from the Formula 1 Promoters’ Association – comprised of the promoters of 16 grands prix – about the damaging impact of restricting access to races. In a statement the organisation said: “It is not in the long-term interest of the sport that fans lose free access to content and broadcasting.”
With annual Sky and Virgin Media subscriptions costing on average £50 per month this means F1 fans in the UK must stump up £600 per year to watch live F1.
This figure increases for Sky customers wanting BT Sport as part of the package as it’s a £20 per month additional cost. BT Sport comes included in the Virgin deal.
It’s not just F1 fans who are paying the price. While highlights of the World Rally Championship are shown on BT Sport, along with selected stages live, fans who want uninterrupted live coverage must subscribe to the WRC+ All Live streaming service which comes at an added cost of £78 per year.
American series are also behind paywalls, with IndyCar coverage on BT Sport’s ESPN channel and NASCAR largely restricted to Premier Sports (an additional £10pm or £120 annually), although a handful of 2019 races will be shown on digital channel Freesports.
The fees required mean that an F1 fan who wants to follow WRC and NASCAR would be required to pay around £800 per year to keep up to speed.
The only FIA single-seater series boasting free live coverage this year is Formula E, which is on the BBC’s Red Button service.
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