HomeNewsMotorsportUnited Kingdom

Returning F1 has no plans to open up free-to-air coverage

Formula 1 does not plan on increasing its free-to-air television coverage of the motor-racing series when it returns next month, despite events being held behind closed doors.

F1 announced yesterday (Tuesday) that its 2020 season would commence in Austria with a double-header at the Red Bull Ring on July 5 and 12. The championship will then stage a race in Hungary, before back-to-back events at Silverstone in the UK and further events in Spain, Belgium and Italy.

Following the announcement, F1 said that it has existing rights contracts in place for broadcast, stating that “it is right” to honour those commitments with long-term partners.

One of the two events at Silverstone will be shown free-to-air in the UK by Channel 4, which has an existing agreement in place with pay-television broadcaster Sky to cover the British Grand Prix and highlights of all races.

In Germany, free-to-air rights are held by commercial broadcaster RTL, whose deal is due to expire at the end of the 2020 season. In France, commercial broadcaster TF1 holds free-to-air rights to four races per season (including the French Grand Prix and Monaco Grand Prix) under a three-year deal covering the 2018 to 2020 seasons.

In Spain, telco Telefónica holds exclusive rights until the end of the season and the company remains interested in renewing its deal. Telefónica showcases the rights on its Movistar pay-television platform and the terms of its agreement state that it does not have to sublicense rights to the Spanish Grand Prix to a free-to-air broadcaster.

In Italy, exclusive rights are held by pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia until the end of the season. Sky’s deal stipulates that the Italian Grand Prix must be shown on free-to-air television.

Football’s English Premier League is among the properties to have opened up coverage to free-to-air broadcasters. The league announced last week that public-service broadcaster the BBC would show four matches live when the competition returns later this month, with Sky also set to make 25 of its matches available to digital terrestrial viewers through its PickTV channel.

Following yesterday’s announcement, F1 maintained its ambition to stage between 15 to 18 races in total this year. The series is finalising the details of the wider calendar and hopes to publish it in the coming weeks.