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Volume 7 No. 149
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Live Formula 1 GP Coverage To Move Behind Paywall In U.K.

Live Formula 1 grand prix coverage in Britain is "prepared to disappear behind a paywall," according to Richard Williams of the London GUARDIAN. For viewers in the country where 70% of the cars on the grid are built, the only exception next year will be the British Grand Prix, the "crumb of comfort" for Channel 4 to go along with a one-year deal for a highlights program. Given that the owners of Silverstone "recently triggered the exit clause" from their contract with Formula 1, the '19 race "could even be" the last round of the world championship to be held in Britain. And "that would mean no live free-to-air grand prix racing on British television at all." The deal to grant Sky exclusive rights for a fee of around £1.2B ($1.5B) over five years was made by former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone. So F1 "finds itself in the position" of test cricket, the Ryder Cup, the Premier League, World Cup skiing and England's home rugby matches -- "available in Britain only to those with a subscription." For those with access to Sky, the satellite channel "will no doubt continue to bring unprecedented resources to bear on the sport." Liberty Media is "inheriting the probability of a further drop in audience ratings" following a "sharp downward trend" that began when Sky entered the picture and the free-to-air window started to close. Liberty Media's strategy "varies from country to country" -- in Germany, for instance, pay-TV has been abandoned in favor of a "lucrative arrangement" with a terrestrial network -- but its long-term plan "appears to be" the provision of coverage via its own streaming service (GUARDIAN, 11/26).