Mercedes's Toto Wolff has warned Liberty Media there could be potential 'consequences' if it perseveres with a wide-scale shift towards a pay-per-view model for TV audiences, suggesting more research needs to be done into its benefits and drawbacks.

Originally instigated by erstwhile F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, the sport has come in for criticism in the last decade over the decision to prioritise pay-per-view television companies and move away from a more widely available free-to-air model.

With UK coverage of F1 set to be shown exclusively on Sky from 2019, a number of fans - including Crash.net readers - have indicated they won't be willing to pay the monthly fees associated with watching the races.

Audience figures for F1 have been in decline for several years now, a dip blamed on the sport's limited TV availability. Indeed, despite the drama of the previous Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the F1 Broadcasting website is reporting only 588,000 tuned in to watch the Austrian Grand Prix on Sky, with an audience of 1.75m tuning into the watch highlights on free-to-air Channel 4 later in the day.

As a comparison, the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix - the most watched race during the BBC's final year of showing F1 exclusively on its channel for free - was viewed by 6.2m people.

Though the rise of multi-channel television on multiple devices and services such as 'catch up' have contributed to skewing audience figures, it is a decline that is reportedly causing concerns amongst teams and sponsors that the sport is risking the reach of the sport in favour of revenue.

As such, Wolff is calling on Liberty Media to potentially rethink plans that Ecclestone put in place to ensure fans aren't forced to switch off permanently and it will still be able to reach new audiences.

"We are not the experts. I think Liberty and its management understand TV inside out and the response to that very important topic was that we need a study for each of the countries that are important for Formula One to evaluate how large the penetration of pay TV really is.

"There will be markets where pay TV penetration is tiny, a couple of percentage, and it's clear that if you were to move behind the pay wall you would lose a large part of the audiences and I think the way they tackle it is in a very diligent way, an analytical way and they will decide on each of the territories, they will balance reach versus income.

"Formula One is not the only sport that needs to ask that question. We have seen that the Champions League had moved behind the pay wall and the consequence is that you are losing reach. It is a very difficult topic."

Sky has shown F1 since 2012, albeit as part of a deal that ensured half of the season continued to be shown live on free-to-air TV, initially alongside the BBC but more recently Channel 4. This deal ends at the end of 2018, with Sky F1 set to become the sole broadcaster in the UK.

WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

What do you make of Sky's coverage - do you watch Channel 4 as well?

Will you be willing to pay monthly fees when F1 in the UK is shown exclusively on Sky?

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Simply unable to pay for Sky. No more F1 for me.

liberty own eurosport so there is absolutely no reason why they should not show the race on their own channel, which i get for free as part of my hd package. but as i have always said, liberty bought f1 only for the money and what they can get out of it

Yirmin: Yes. If manufacturers like Mercedes and Ferrari want to use the sport for reaching potential customers they should have stepped up and bought the rights so they could use it as they see fit. Liberty didn't buy it just to help Mercedes get free TV advertising they bought it to make money for themselves. IF they get more money from going down the pay route then that is what they will do. [\blockquote]
and do you not think that showing it on air for free would actually encourage more followers? why, they could even show it in full 30 mins after real time and so would not technically be showing it live in contravention of any existing agreement with sky

I hardly watch a full race anymore with "free" tv coverage. Too many races that are little more than high speed parades. Now, MotoGP is something I'd pay to watch.

Not that anyone cares but I won't pay to watch F1 on TV.

Actually it's Liberty who is asking you to pay to watch teams like Mercedes and Ferrari and Red Bull spend millions on technology to show they are the best manufacturers in the world of automobiles. The point of this article is that manufacturer sponsors are afraid that if fans have to pay to watch F1 they will go away from the sport.

It sickens me that if you want sky f1 you have to pay for all sports, i.e footballers over inflated wages.It was fine when F1 came with the HD package.

The channel 4 coverage is better quite honestly (if you avoid EJ's buffoonery).

Brundle is good but overall the Sky coverage is just the three stooges who are more like a Lewis Hamilton fan club.

I won't pay to watch it though, the product is simply not good enough at present. The cost for Sky pay on demand to watch a race or even worse, a Sky subscription (and extra cost for F1 channel) cannot be justified to watch an occasionally decent race.

Yes. If manufacturers like Mercedes and Ferrari want to use the sport for reaching potential customers they should have stepped up and bought the rights so they could use it as they see fit. Liberty didn't buy it just to help Mercedes get free TV advertising they bought it to make money for themselves. IF they get more money from going down the pay route then that is what they will do.

Personally I feel that the Sky coverage is some of the best sports coverage I have ever seen.

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