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May 25, 2019

Formula One wants more races on free-to-air TV

Sports

P
Pa
May 25, 2019

MONTE CARLO: Formula One bosses are keen for the sport to return to free-to-air television — describing Sky Sports’ exclusive deal as “sub-optimal”. The Monaco Grand Prix, one of the world’s grandest sporting events, will be broadcast behind the paywall on Sunday.

Sky Sports brokered a £600million six-year contract with F1’s former supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, in 2016, to gain the live television rights in the United Kingdom. This season is the first year of that deal, with Channel 4, who screened 10 live rounds in 2018 including the race in Monaco, reduced to showing a highlights’ package — 1.7million watched its coverage of the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this month.

The British Grand Prix in July will be the only race on the 21-round calendar which will be screened live by Channel 4 this season. “It concerns us in a pretty material way,” said Sean Bratches, Formula One’s commercial boss. “From a brand standpoint, F1 is nowhere near the position to lose free-to-air viewership.

“The revenue element from pay television is very exciting and attractive to us, but from a reach standpoint it is sub-optimal. In our vision and our plan, our ideal circumstance would be to have 75 per cent on free-to-air, and 25 per cent on pay TV. There is no wriggle-room in our agreement, contractually. That would have to be something Sky would initiate and agree with us.”

F1 lies second only to football as delivering the biggest audience numbers for Sky — the broadcaster is understood to be reporting a five per cent year-on-year increase in its viewing figures. More than two million people tuned in to watch Lewis Hamilton win his fifth world championship in Mexico last season.Hamilton is bidding to win for a third time on the streets of his adopted home to extend his seven-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the championship.

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