Fresh thoughts on BBC, Sky and the implications for Formula One

Posted on August 3, 2011

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Comments today by Williams chairman Adam Parr about cost cutting in Formula One and the new TV deal in the UK have brought the issue back to the front of my mind.

Adam Parr (l) has waded into the TV row.

As has been extensively documented, Bernie Ecclestone has secured a six season deal, from 2012, for the BBC and Sky to share live coverage of Formula One. Fans have been left outraged by their sport’s first ever move into pay television.

Parr has been quoted today claiming the issue feeds into the wider programme of cost cutting in the sport, something which has been a frequent focal point in recent years. Teams are currently working in line with a mutual resource restriction agreement – part of the reason we are now in a summer break before Spa.

Parr said: “Since I’ve been in Formula 1, I have crusaded to reduce the costs of Formula 1, which would be beneficial for everybody. The teams would be more sustainable, we would be able to invest more in young drivers. We would be able to potentially have lower fees from motors, lower fees from broadcasters.

“While it costs, on average, each team let’s say £100million a year, £1.2billion a year to put the show on… That money has to come from somewhere.

“What I say to the fans is, we understand how you feel and it’s a shame the BBC couldn’t sustain that [exclusive coverage]. We are trying to put in place the best possible and most accessible deal we can for British fans.

“Meanwhile, we have to balance the book, which let’s face it, not many teams in Formula 1 are doing. And we are trying to keep the quality of the show and everything at the same time.

“I’d like the fans, perhaps, if they felt supportive, to be a bit more supportive of some of the things we are trying to do to reduce the cost in the sport.”

I’ve quoted extensively because it baffles me. Why should reducing costs for the teams mean higher bills for the fans? The new broadcasting deal is asking fans to pay about £500 to see all the races live. That money would more than cover me spending a weekend at Silverstone but could I do both? No idea.

Costs should be coming down in the sport. It might well seem to follow the broadcasting rights should become less expensive. Except that is neither true nor what has happened. Broadcasting rights are an entirely seperate market to the cost of running a Formula One team – and the sport is making more money out of the new deal, not less.

If fans can’t spent spend more, they will have to see less. That might be sacrificing a trip to a race – surely supporting the very life blood of what the teams do – or seeing less on television and potentially losing interest over time. I can’t believe that’s really what Parr and Williams want but it’s the likely result of hiking the average fan’s bill.

This is bad for the fans. Some might argue it was inevitable in an era where the BBC can’t afford the same lavish productions of the past two and a half years. But, as a fan, I refuse to like the situation.

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Posted in: Formula One, News