Formula 1’s teams are understood to have blocked a clause in Sky’s UK contract that would have resulted in them taking exclusive UK television rights from 2016 to 2018, this site has learnt.
The shared contract signed in July 2011 between them, the BBC and Formula One Management (FOM) for 2012 through to and including 2018 featured a clause that stated that, in the event the BBC (TV) were to exit their contract early, then Sky Sports would pick up the rights exclusively for the remainder of the contract.
When it became apparent in the run up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last November that the BBC were set to terminate their contract, Formula 1’s teams are understood to have requested that Formula 1 remains on free to air terrestrial television in the UK in some capacity until at least the end of 2018. The concern for teams was that they would have difficulty persuading sponsors to stay on board with F1 behind a pay wall in the UK. This led to the sequence of events that saw Channel 4 step in and take over BBC TV’s rights from 2016 to 2018 inclusive.
This has also been reported by James Allen, but this site has been able to confirm the information independently of that report. The UK is one of the biggest territories for Formula 1 and is home to the majority of the current eleven teams.
In separate news, it is interesting to note how Sky Sports appear to be so far operating a ‘black out’ with relation to the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) statement released yesterday. The statement has been covered extensively on digital media and elsewhere: BBC, Channel 4, AUTOSPORT, Motorsport and The Guardian to name a few. The statement was initially posted on Sky Sports F1’s website by writer William Esler, and quickly pulled. Google cache returns the article:
Journalism should be about reporting the good news and the bad news, not ignoring one element because it does not suit a particular agenda. Clearly a conscious decision was made to pull GPDA article, one reason in my opinion because Sky felt it would undermine their own statement given that the GPDA references an ever changing landscape. I’ve requested comment from Sky, but as of writing, I have not received an explanation as to the article’s disappearance.
Updated on March 24th at 16:55.
Update on March 30th at 20:45 – The GPDA letter was discussed on tonight’s F1 Report, which is good to see. Bear in mind that F1 Report tends to be treated separately compared to the main block of F1 programming, it will be interesting to see how much the letter is covered this week in Bahrain given the absence of coverage on the website since the removal of the original article.
Update on March 31st at 17:50 – The self imposed ‘black out’ of the statement on the website has ended it seems, with the letter now being referenced here. I suspect we will never know why the original article disappeared last week (and Sky clearly are not keen to explain why the article was removed either), or at least no explanation was forthcoming when this blog requested comment off Sky last Thursday.