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The real cost of F1 on Virgin Media

British Grand Prix 2011 - Hamilton & Massa

Last year the BBC decided to sell out and give half their F1 rights to Sky in a move that can only be described as a bloody outrage. Sky have also taken Martin Brundle, David Croft & Ted Kravitz, meaning that their coverage will be excellent – probably the best we’ve ever had.

I’ve looked into how much it will cost, and whether that cost is justified, to see all races live. The BBC will have 10, although their coverage will undoubtedly be inferior. (That said, it’s the race that matters, not the commentary team and pundits.)

There will be highlights of the Sky exclusive races on BBC, but I wouldn’t always consider these an acceptable alternative; I watched the Turkish GP highlights last year and it was almost impossible to follow the story of the race. (That’s an extreme example – the tyre degradation and DRS meant last year’s race had far more overtakes and pit stops that usual – but I still prefer to watch a race in its entirety.)

Virgin Media have now announced the only way to watch it on their platform (which I currently have,) is to add the Sky Sports package (which I do not,) so I’ve been able to do some mathematics and see how much it’ll cost per race.

Doing the math(s)

The VM package I’m on now costs £48 a month for HD TV, phone & 10 Mb (soon to be 20 Mb) broadband. To add Sky Sports would mean another £22.50 a month. I’d need that for 9 months (the season runs from March to November and I’d drop the sports pack after the season ends,) meaning a cost of £20.25 per race in order to be able to watch the races exclusive to Sky. (Albeit with Sky Sports 1-4, though I’m not factoring in their value as I just wouldn’t watch them.)

But it’s not as straightforward as that. Not all races are as good as others, and while it’s nice to be able to watch every race live, for the past few years I’ve recorded all early races and watched them later on.

So what I need to consider is how many races Sky have exclusively that I would actually miss watching live. If I’d have recorded the race and watched it later anyway, is there that much difference to find a torrent of said race an hour or two after the chequered flag? I’d say no. And I have no moral qualms about doing so – I’m perfectly happy to watch Sky’s content without paying them a penny.

Even if I did have a moral issue with this, the early races are an exception to the ‘highlights are crap’ rule – they’ll be extended on BBC, so not too dissimilar from watching the whole race later on.

Another exception to this rule is the shit races. I love F1 and I haven’t missed a race for years, but I have to admit that some of them (Bahrain, Valencia) are plain boring. Although still not ideal, those races lose less in highlights than others.

‘Real’ value

So I’ve gone through the calendar to work out which races I’d miss seeing live, and of those, which I’d actually lament missing, using the following criteria:

  1. If it’s only on Sky but it’s early, I’ll download it
  2. If it’s only on Sky but is a shit race, I’ll download it or watch highlights
Round Location Date Availability Will I see it? Will I miss it?
1 Australia 18/3 Sky No No – early
2 Malaysia 25/3 Sky No No – early
3 China 15/4 BBC & Sky Yes
4 Bahrain 22/4 Sky No No – shit
5 Spain 13/5 BBC & Sky Yes
6 Monaco 27/5 BBC & Sky Yes
7 Canada 10/6 Sky No Yes
8 Europe 24/6 BBC & Sky Yes
9 Britain 8/7 BBC & Sky Yes
10 Germany 22/7 Sky No Yes
11 Hungary 29/7 Sky No No – shit
12 Belgium 2/9 BBC & Sky Yes
13 Italy 9/9 Sky No Yes
14 Singapore 23/9 BBC & Sky Yes
15 Japan 7/10 Sky No No – early
16 Korea 14/10 BBC & Sky Yes
17 India 28/10 Sky No Yes
18 Abu Dhabi 4/11 BBC & Sky Yes
19 USA 18/11 Sky No Yes
20 Brazil 25/11 BBC & Sky Yes

Of the races that are Sky exclusives, I’d only actually miss five. So my ‘real’ value actually works out at £40.50 per race. No matter how much I love F1, there’s no way I can justify that.

Thanks, BBC. Thanks a fucking lot.

Category: F1
  • Steve Banksey says:

    I do agree with you on that I worked it out to £20.25 a race too and no matter how big an F1 fan you are this would be a rip off to anyone.
    I have been told in the past that premium chanels are not contracted chanels and can be added and removed from your package at your own will but I think virgin/sky will soon get pissed off when F1 fans order it on a fri and then cancel it on a sunday after the race, which is something I think you can do.

    Monday, 16th January 2012 at 22:57
    • Graham says:

      Interesting idea, but unfortunately Virgin Media’s terms state that premium channels (including the Sky Sports package) must be taken for a minimum of 30 days.

      Tuesday, 17th January 2012 at 07:52
  • Ed says:

    Or another way to look at it is to pick and choose the months you will subscribe. I believe the Skysports package can be taken on a 30 day basis. Personally, I’ll miss the season opener as I’m away skiing so that doesn’t feature in my workings:

    1 – Subscribe for 30 days on 25/03. This will cover 3 races, 2 of which are Sky exclusives.
    2 – Subscribe for 30 days on 22/07. This will cover 2 races, both Sky exclusives.
    3 – Subscribe for 30 days on 9/09. This will cover 3 races, 2 of which are Sky exclusives.
    4 – Subscribe for 30 days on 28/10. This will cover 3 races, 2 of which are Sky exclusives.

    Total spend is therefore 4 x £22.50 = £90. I’ll get to see all races (except Austrlia, which I’m away skiing for and Canada which I’ll miss and probably try and stream) on either BBC or Sky. It’s £90 I’d rather not spend but needs must!

    Thursday, 23rd February 2012 at 15:09
    • Ed says:

      Just to fill in the detail a little more. I’d subscribe to SkySports on 25/03, 22/07, 09/09 and 28/10. Those 4 thirty day periods would give me access to 12 races on Sky of which 8 would be exclusives. Much as I hate to admit it, I imagine Sky’s coverage will be awesome

      I’d bite the bullet and miss Canada on 10/06 (and Australia but personally no loss as I’m away) and watch BBC coverage of the 6 races that were on when my SkySports subscription wasn’t running.

      It’s not ideal and I’d far rather all the races were on BBC but it’s a lot better than I thought. Going back to your price per race, I’d be paying £11.25 per race looking only at Sky exclusives, and £7.50 per race if BBC races were included.

      Thursday, 23rd February 2012 at 15:30
      • Graham says:

        Thanks for your comments, and thanks for taking the time to figure out the timings! It’s certainly much better value to do it this way.

        Since writing this blog I’ve grudgingly switched to Sky. For TV with Entertainment pack and HD, phone and broadband, I’m paying £50 per month. A little more than I was paying VM, losing some TV channels I never watched and slightly slower Internet.

        The more I hear about the Sky F1 channel, the more I’m looking forward to it. I just feel a bit dirty giving Sky my money every month…

        Thursday, 23rd February 2012 at 19:13

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