NENT Group extends F1 reach to Netherlands, Ziggo Sport contract to end following 2021 season

The Nordic Entertainment Network Group (NENT Group) will broadcast Formula 1 in the Netherlands from 2022 to 2024 after outbidding current rights holder Ziggo Sport.

Ziggo Sport, a joint venture between Vodafone and Liberty Global, have aired Formula 1 since 2013 across cable, satellite, and internet.

From next season however, coverage will air via NENT Group’s streaming service platform.

Viaplay, which has yet to launch in the Netherlands, will cover every F1 season live, with NENT promising “in-depth coverage from every event and innovative programming.”

Six races will be available on a free-to-view basis, including the Dutch Grand Prix.

Despite the change in broadcast rights, F1 has confirmed that their own streaming service, F1 TV Pro, will remain available to fans in the Netherlands, as it has been since launch at the start of 2018.

The announcement increases NENT Group’s stranglehold on F1 in the Nordic regions. Earlier this month, the group announced that they would be airing F1 exclusively in Poland from 2023 onwards.

Today’s news brings the total number of territories that they hold, or will be holding, F1 rights in to ten (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden).

Commenting on their Twitter, Ziggo said that they were no longer able to afford F1, with NENT, along with a third party, increasing the asking price.

NENT are understood to be paying around €30 million per year to broadcast F1 in the Netherlands, a 36% increase on the €22 million that Ziggo are paying currently.

NENT’s arrival in Netherlands part of a much bigger jigsaw

Ziggo has benefited significantly in recent years from the rise of Max Verstappen, the Dutch driver now in his 7th F1 season.

The opening race of 2021 in Bahrain averaged 2.51 million viewers across their television channels, with more than 18% of the population watching the race.

Although not truly free in the sense of the word, the small fee involved to watch F1 in Netherlands during Verstappen’s rise has not resulted in interest in the sport stifling. How NENT’s emergence from 2022 will change interest in the sport, time will tell.

NENT will be hoping that the Verstappen hype will translate into new subscribers on their service. The quote from NENT Group President and CEO Anders Jensen gives a sense of where NENT want to head.

“The Netherlands is an ideal market for Viaplay and a very attractive next step towards our ambition of becoming the European streaming champion,” Jensen says.

“Our long-term and multi-market partnerships with key sports rights owners, together with our ever-increasing line-up of original and exclusive content, will enable us to offer Dutch viewers something new and unique.”

“When bringing Viaplay to a new market, we look for clear opportunities to grow, innovate, collaborate, and take leadership. The Netherlands delivers on all counts.”

For the NENT Group, Formula 1 is a small part of the jigsaw, but an important one as NENT attempts to break into what they believe is a strong market for streaming.

Note how the quote from NENT curiously fails to mention F1, but does reference NENT’s goal of “becoming the European streaming champion.”

NENT sees itself in a long-term battle with Netflix. In the territories where NENT is active, NENT holds a strong second spot, only behind Netflix.

If NENT, which targets 4.5 million international subscribers by the end of 2025 for Viaplay, can expand into further European territories, it has long-term potential to dent Netflix’s position in the market.

There is a lot of movement in the streaming sector currently, following news earlier this week that AT&T and Discovery are to create a new streaming giant.

This is the first time that a ‘streaming first’ entity has taken on Formula 1 rights in a big market. It is, I suspect unlikely to be the last.

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