Bernie Ecclestone arrived in the F1 paddock at 2pm this afternoon and is set to meet with the F1 teams after the ninety minute practice session to discuss the SKY/BBC F1 broadcast deal which was announced this morning.
Both Ecclestone and the teams have made it clear in the past that F1 must remain on Free to air TV and yet the Sky part of the deal, where they will broadcast all 20 F1 races and practice sessions live, would seem to contradict that.
My understanding of the crucial clause in the Concorde Agreement is that it says that the Commercial Rights Holder must “avoid” a situation where F1 coverage is “only available on pay TV” in key markets, such as the UK.
Ecclestone may argue that this clause has been respected because all the races will be shown on the BBC, it’s just that half of them will not be live but will be highlights. Either way he is likely to have found a wording which allows this to happen.
BBC staff at the Hungaroring are stunned by today’s news and have not yet been informed of the details of how this arrangement will work.
Whitmarsh confirmed that the teams were not consulted on the deal despite the fact that it appears to go against the Concorde Agreement and makes a mockery of Whitmarsh’s recent claim on the subject of Pay TV that “The sport is going nowhere without the teams.”
However when presented with the figures they may change their minds as the revenues from F1 on Sky are likely to be large. If just 1 million people pay £600 a year to watch F1 on SKY that’s £600 million of gross income. The BBC currently pays around £45 million a year in rights. One would imagine that the deal is likely to be based on the actual take up numbers, so there should be a back end for F1 and the teams get 50% of all revenues.
SKY had F1 a few years ago at the time of the multi channel digital coverage. Ben Edwards, John Watson and Damon Hill were involved. That didn’t do so well because ITV had F1 live and free to air at the same time. This deal is quite different to that.
As I understand it the model in Finland and Japan is slightly different again; there the race is live on pay TV but is also available in its entirety delayed on Free to Air TV.
In Japan the audience for the pay TV show is around 2 million, each paying £12 a month. The terrestrial audience is around 5 million. This is down on the Senna days when around 17 million watched F1 in Japan.
Meanwhile word coming through from SKY is that they plan a full scale production of F1, with no adverts, which they say will take the coverage of F1 “to a new level.”