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F1’s commercial MD wants increased free-to-air coverage

Formula One’s commercial managing director Sean Bratches has told the Daily Mail newspaper that the motor racing series’ decline in free-to-air coverage across the globe concerns owners Liberty Media.

Speaking before the Monaco Grand Prix, Bratches highlighted the current UK media-rights deal with pay-television broadcaster Sky, stating: “It concerns us in a pretty material way, not just for Britain but around the world. Our ideal circumstance would be to have 75 per cent of our Grands Prix on free-to-air.”

Previous to Liberty Media acquiring Formula One, the Formula One Management, the series’ commercial rights-holder, agreed a six-year deal with Sky, from 2019 to 2024. Although earning F1 an increase in its media-rights value by about 157 per cent, the deal put F1 exclusively on pay-television in the UK and Ireland.

On the deal, Bratches said: “From a brand standpoint, Formula One is nowhere near the position where it can lose free-to-air viewership. This is an agreement that was done prior to our arrival. The pay element is very exciting revenue-wise but from a reach standpoint it is sub-optimal.”

Sky’s new deal began this year, and Bratches confirmed: “There is no wriggle room in our agreement contractually and Sky would have to initiate anything.”

As part of its deal, Sky has committed to making coverage of the British grand prix and highlights of all other races and qualifying sessions available free-to-air. It has sublicensed highlights rights for the 2019 season to commercial broadcaster Channel 4.

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