A lot of people this week have been getting to the blog via various ‘Formula E UK TV rights’ terms, wondering who will be screening the series. Today, we have our first indicator of where the rights could be heading.
Christian Sylt, writing for the Telegraph, is quoting Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag, who says that they “are talking with BT Sport and with Sky. The strategy in the UK and in Europe is to wait until the drivers are out in February or March then we go for it because we can get more value. The TV people we are talking to absolutely love it. One hour races and they love the pit stop concept because the drivers are going to run. Everybody will have the same distance between their car and the other car. This running, the TV people love it. You can actually have overtaking here. [My ultimate aim is] to do free-to-air even if we get less money. Free-to-air would be great: BBC or ITV.”
Agag in the above mentions that interest will increase once the drivers’ are announced. Unless they pull off a huge coup and, for example purposes, manage to get Michael Schumacher in a car, the rights money in the UK at least won’t budge. Not a muscle. Casual audiences will not be drawn towards ‘F1 rejects’, to coin the term. I really can’t think of many drivers’ alone that could be a draw to UK audiences.
Moving onto free-to-air, I think we can eliminate BBC straight away. ITV or Channel 4 (which Agag hasn’t mentioned)? I don’t think it is likely, but never say never. I’d be really surprised if it happened, and could be quite a risk commercially. Would ITV enter a three year deal for something that may not be guaranteed to last three years? I’m sure A1 Grand Prix wanted free-to-air, but the fact is that it is a huge risk to take into uncharted territory. I think terrestrial television highlights is the more likely option.
BT Sport or Sky Sports will always be king with live sport. Sky Sports would surprise me. They have Formula 1, why would they want Formula E? And then, if they did get it, would they even be allowed to screen it on Sky Sports F1? Would Bernie (or whoever at FOM) block them from screening it on Sky Sports F1? It would definitely go against Martin Turner’s statements in the past about screening non-F1 content on the channel as it would ‘dilute the brand’. Unless something drastic changes in the next six months, Formula E being on Sky Sports is a non starter. I do note though that the term ‘BSkyB’ is used, so whether there could be home for it outside of the Sky Sports portfolio, I don’t know.
I think BT Sport will get it, and in doing so would actually create a strong motor sport brand for them: MotoGP, Formula E and IndyCar, which should entice some motor sport fans. It will be interesting to see what happens, there’s several potential options for them. Of course, it could just end up on Eurosport or Motors TV, which I somehow doubt Agag wants!