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SBD Global/June 8, 2012/Media

Rupert Murdoch's Italy TV Arm Buys F1 Broadcast Rights

Sky Italia, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has bought the Italian live rights to F1 races from '13, "gaining the upper hand over state broadcaster RAI in a new agreement that blends pay and free-to-air TV coverage," according to REUTERS. Sky Italia will show every race live, while a second, free-to-air, broadcaster will have live rights to only around half of the races and will show the remainder with a time delay. F1 is "seeking to find a balance between striking lucrative television deals and the sponsors' desire to reach the largest possible TV audience." The global motor racing business has put plans for a stock market listing on hold "because of market turmoil." Sky Italia said that it had bought the live rights for all platforms including web, tablet, smartphone and IPTV. The national broadcaster who would acquire a share of the rights "would be agreed between Sky and Formula One" (REUTERS, 6/7). In London, Christian Sylt reported that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone "signaled that Formula One could drop its free-to-air television coverage on the BBC since the exposure it gets through the pay-per-view broadcaster Sky is sufficient on its own." For the first time in the modern history of F1, not all races are being broadcast in full on free-to-air TV in the U.K. At an estimated cost of £25M ($38.9M) annually Sky is broadcasting all races, qualifying and practice sessions live while the BBC is paying around £15M ($23.3M) "to show half of the races live with delayed highlights of the others." Ecclestone said that of the 25 million households in the U.K., Sky reaches more than 10 million. Fans "were incensed by the new deal" since it costs around £480M ($748M) every year to subscribe to Sky's sports package. Splitting the coverage "has already dented the BBC's viewing figures" and this "could push the F1 rights exclusively into Sky's hands when the current joint contract expires in '18" (GUARDIAN, 6/7).
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