ServusTV and ORF finalise three-year F1 rights-sharing deal

Austrian commercial broadcaster ServusTV has announced a new three-year deal for Formula 1 media rights, and will sublicense half of the races to the country’s public-service broadcaster ORF.

ServusTV’ new deal with F1 runs from 2021 to 2023. Its sublicensing deal with ORF runs for the duration of the contract.

The exact split of races aired will be announced before the start of each F1 season. Both broadcasters will air live coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix. Reports of the sharing agreement emerged last week in the lead-up to the delayed start of the 2020 F1 season.

Red Bull Media-owned Servus and ORF’s F1 rights from 2021 will be non-exclusive as Sky Deutschland renewed pay-television rights in Germany, Austria and Switzerland last month. F1 TV Pro, the property’s premium OTT package, will also remain available in Austria.

The altered 2020 season began at Austria’s Red Bull Ring last weekend, the venue’s first of two back-to-back events in the championship’s initial eight-race European swing.

Ferdinand Wegscheider, director general at ServusTV has said that “the cooperation with ORF makes sense economically and guarantees that Formula 1 fans have access to all races live on free-TV”.

ORF currently hold free-to-air rights in Austria, in what was originally a three-year deal from 2017 to 2019, but later extended to include the 2020 season. It broadcasts all races live, as well as qualifying and Friday practice sessions.

Alexander Wrabetz, director general at ORF, said that “although the agreement with shared broadcasting rights is a novelty, this cooperation guarantees that Formula 1 will also remain an integral part of ORF’s TV program in the coming years – while at the same time complying with economic requirements”.

Wrabetz mentioned that these are “economically challenging times” that ORF is also experiencing. The public-service broadcaster is reportedly required to make savings of €75m ($84.7m) in 2021.

It has recently acquired non-exclusive rights to 15 live matches from the Austrian Bundesliga, the top-tier domestic football league, following the restart of the competition after the Covid 19 suspension. Late last year ORF also secured rights to the second-pick Uefa Europa League match from 2021-22.

Viewers tune in for F1 return

ORF registered an average audience of 609,000 viewers (and a 46-per-cent market share) for Sunday’s race. The audience peaked at 669,000 viewers.

In Germany, this year’s Austrian Grand Prix was watched by an average of 4.48 million viewers (a 28-per-cent share) on RTL. This was a slight jump on last year’s audience of 4.36 million (albeit higher share of 28.6 per cent).

Pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus enjoyed a strong audience as the F1 action resumed, with an average of 1.06 million viewers (plus a peak of 1.24 million). The audience is Canal Plus’ sixth highest for a Grand Prix since it began broadcasting the series in 2013.

In Italy, pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia pulled in an audience of 1.3 million viewers. Delayed coverage on TV8, Sky’s free-to-air digital terrestrial channel, was watched by 1.34 million viewers (and an 11-per-cent share) from 6pm (CET) onwards.