News round-up: Study published into “excessive alcohol advertisements” during F1 races; Alonso docuseries to premiere in September

In the round-up, a leading university has published findings looking at alcoholic content during F1 broadcasts, whilst two big documentaries are hitting the airwaves this September…

Where possible, Motorsport Broadcasting endeavours to link directly to the original source instead of linking to a third-party site that may have misinterpreted the original headline.

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

All the round-ups to date are located here, and as always, all feedback on the site, positive and negative, is more than welcome.

Formula 1

  • The University of Nottingham has published a paper looking at advertising of alcoholic products during Formula 1 coverage on Channel 4.
    • Unsurprisingly their research, which focuses on the 2018 season, finds that young people “are being exposed to excessive alcohol advertisements during televised sporting events,” which they believe could lead to increased consumption for children.
    • The research shows that F1 is heavily reliant on brands such as Heineken and Johnnie Walker, with 56 percent of Channel 4’s F1 broadcasts containing some form of alcoholic content during one-minute intervals of race footage.
    • “Our study clearly shows that alcohol content was highly prevalent throughout the 2018 F1 Championship broadcasts,” study author Dr Alex Barker said. “This is worrying given the young viewers this branded content would have reached.”
    • “Previous research has already shown that advertising of this kind can lead to alcohol consumption in young people, and this is one of many sporting events that uses advertising in this way. We would urge Ofcom to consider the implications of this, and whether restrictions need to be put on this kind of advertising.”
  • For those not watching, Formula Two’s World Feed has featured a raft of commentators this season.
    • Alex Brundle (Austria, Britain, and Spain), Matt Gallagher (Styria), Alice Powell (Hungary) and Peter Windsor (70th Anniversary) have all stepped into the hot seat alongside lead commentator Alex Jacques.
  • Viewing figures for the feeder series have surged in the UK since the start of the 2020 season according to consolidated audience data from BARB for the TV set.
    • At its peak, an average audience of 177,000 viewers watched the Formula Two feature race during the British Grand Prix weekend on Sky Sports F1, a significant increase on the equivalent race last year which failed to make Sky F1’s top 15.
    • More recently, 141,000 viewers watched the feature race during the 70th Anniversary weekend. The sprint race on Sunday morning failed to make Sky F1’s top 15 however, this a likely result of the audience being split across Sky’s F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event.
  • Formula 1 is to live stream coverage of the Eifel Grand Prix on YouTube across several territories this October.
    • All three practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself will air live on the platform in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The deal is in addition to their existing rights deals in place within those territories.
    • F1 says the partnership is an opportunity “to give back to those fans” who would have attended the Nürburgring round, but cannot due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Tomos Grace, YouTube’s Head of Sport in the EMEA territories, said “70% of Formula 1’s YouTube audience is under the age of 35. Sports broadcasters and organisers increasingly recognise YouTube’s ability to reach these new audiences and generate incremental revenue.”
  • The long-awaited documentary series focusing on seventy years of Formula 1 will premiere from September 12th, as first reported by RaceFans in Summer 2019.
    • Race to Perfection will air exclusively for UK fans on Sky and Now TV, with the series also being made available to TV channels and streaming services worldwide via NBCUniversal Global Distribution, although further concrete details are unavailable – including whether it will be available to subscribers of F1 TV.
    • The series interviewed over 40 of F1’s biggest names, with new archive footage contained within the seven episodes. Full synopsis details are available on the Sky F1 website.
  • A recent survey on F1 Fan Voice has hinted at some documentaries that F1 are looking to produce in the forthcoming months and years.
    • The choices on offer include an origin style series based off Netflix’s Drive to Survive; a ‘Last Dance‘ style series focusing on the 2021 season; and a Bernie Ecclestone biopic.
  • F1 has extended their rights deal with AMC Network in Czech Republic and Slovakia to broadcast the sport until the end of 2023.
    • The action will remain on Sport1 and Sport2, with every session covered live. In addition, fans will be able to access F1 TV Pro for the first time, the platform launching in those territories prior to the 2021 season.

Elsewhere…

  • A five-part documentary following two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso premieres on Amazon Prime across 240 territories on September 25th.
    • The series, produced by Madrid company The Mediapro Studio, sees the team follow Alonso as he embarks on the Indianapolis 500, Le Mans 24 Hours and the Dakar Rally.
    • “Fernando has been one more challenge in my career, a commitment with myself and with the public to show the work, the sacrifice and the high requirement that implies competition at the first worldwide level, as none of this never transcends beyond the circuits,” Alonso said. “Only two companies with the experience of The Mediapro Studio and Amazon Prime Video could make it possible with a powerful storytelling and global reach.”
  • Formula E has launched a talent call aimed at 18 to 24-year olds to join their presentation team for season seven.
    • The series will whittle candidates down to four finalised, who will “be assigned experienced mentors and receive professional media training,” with the winner joining the team from the season opener in Santiago in January.
    • The competition, open to residents of the UK, Germany, and France, closes on 12th September.
  • Meanwhile, the electric series will air live on free-to-air television in Germany for season seven on SAT. 1, taking advantage of F1’s recent decision to move to pay television in the territory.
  • Stateside, MotoGP debuted on NBC to 527,000 viewers on Sunday 19th July, beating both IndyCar races that weekend.
    • The two IndyCar races that weekend aired live in primetime, but on NBC’s sister station NBCSN, to an audience of 356,000 viewers and 334,000 viewers.
    • Things have improved for IndyCar recently, with live coverage of Indianapolis 500 qualifying on NBC averaging 824,000 viewers and 933,000 viewers this past weekend, beating the Spanish Grand Prix on ESPN earlier that morning.
  • BT Sport are continuing to cover MotoGP from Triumph’s HQ in Hinckley. Keep an eye on Motorsport Broadcasting over the coming weeks for behind the scenes content from Triumph…

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that I have yet to mention on this site, drop a line in the comments section below.


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Dramatic British Grand Prix conclusion watched by over four million viewers in UK

A peak audience of over 4 million viewers watched Lewis Hamilton win the British Grand Prix, which concluded in dramatic style yesterday afternoon, overnight viewing figures show.

All overnight viewing figures exclude people watching in pubs and bars, as well as those watching via on demand platforms, such as Now TV and All 4.

Although Motorsport Broadcasting no longer has access to audience data, the headline figures are in the public domain, allowing us to glean how the landscape looks. The sources for the figures are at the foot of this article.

UK viewing figures
Comparisons year-on-year are difficult to the differing factors surrounding each race, which we need to account for.

Last year’s race clashed with the Cricket World Cup final featuring England and New Zealand, as well as the Wimbledon final, both taking a bite out of the F1 audience.

Naturally, that meant more people watching around the television set, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic means that this year’s race fell during the Summer holidays, a period where fewer people are watching TV.

Channel 4’s coverage of the race itself, including a short portion of the build-up and immediate post-race reaction, averaged around 2.3 million viewers (25% audience share) from 13:45 to 16:15.

The free-to-air broadcaster says that the audience share for younger viewers was 20%, the biggest share in that time slot. Their coverage peaked with three million viewers, an increase on last year’s figure of around 200,000 viewers.

Live coverage across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event averaged a further 1.1 million viewers from 14:05 to 16:00, significantly higher than last year’s audience for the pay TV platform. Last year’s coverage on Sky Sports F1 peaked with around 900,000 viewers.

When accounting for Sky One, it is likely that Sky’s coverage in total peaked with around 1.3 to 1.4 million viewers, a sizeable year-on-year increase.

All of this means that, in total, a peak audience of over four million viewers watched the closing stages of the Grand Prix, a jump compared to last year’s figure of 3.7 million viewers, and bringing the peak back closer to the 2016 to 2018 audience figures.

Based on the (albeit limited) evidence we have, the strong suggestion is that Sky’s audience figures have increased compared to 2019, which is good news for the sport for the whole, although perhaps not good news for those hoping that F1 returns to free-to-air television in the UK.

Viewing figures across Europe dip as Summer hits
Despite Mercedes’ continued domination, there is little sign that audiences have tuned out in significant numbers when comparing the figures for key territories to the season opening Austrian Grand Prix, however there are some noteworthy dips.

Not in a title winning car? Not a problem in the Netherlands, where audiences continue to tune in for Max Verstappen. According to SKO, a massive audience of 1.43 million viewers (58.6%) watched the Grand Prix from 15:05 to 16:58.

The race, which was in-line with the season opener, saw 1.07 million viewers (44.2%) watch via the dedicated F1 channel, with a further 351,000 viewers (14.4%) watching via Ziggo Sport’s generalised offering.

Viewing figures did dip more in Germany and Austria, however. Motosport.com reports that 4.81 million viewers (30.8%) watched the race across RTL and Sky, compared with 5.09 million viewers (31.6%) for the season opener.

An audience of 4.28 million viewers (27.4%) watched RTL’s free-to-air offering, with a further 530,000 viewers (3.4%) watching Sky’s race coverage. Bearing in mind that Sky are the exclusive supplier for F1 fans in Germany as of 2021, it shows just how many fans F1 could lose in Germany if not many of them make the transition to pay TV.

Over in Austria, an audience of 550,000 viewers (39%) watched ORF’s offering, a decrease on their Austrian Grand Prix audience of 609,000 viewers (46%). Canal+’s offering for fans in France also dropped by a similar amount.

One country that did increase their audience compared to the season opener was Spain. An audience of 183,000 viewers (1.7%) watched Movistar’s coverage according to Formula TV, compared to a figure of 104,000 viewers (0.9%) from one month ago.

Sources for UK portion of article: Channel 4 Press, Liam Hamilton. US audience figures will be added once available.


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How Fox have adapted their NASCAR offering during the COVID-19 pandemic

In a guest article, Jack Ainslie (@JackAinslie) looks at the first half of the NASCAR season, and how US broadcaster Fox have handed difficult issues during their coverage…

As readers of this site will be all too painfully aware, the COVID-19 pandemic robbed motor sport of action throughout most of the Spring and early Summer. However, this understandable absence was significantly shorter for one racing series – NASCAR.

The stock car association’s three major series – the top-tier NASCAR Cup Series and its two main feeders – were back to a socially distanced track in May. Unlike series such as Formula 1 and IndyCar, the NASCAR season had already begun back in February, with it running races nearly every week through to December. Yes, it is a lot of races!

Having followed the opening NASCAR races of 2020 to fill the F1 off-season, I decided to stick with the series when it returned in May.

Fans in the UK can access NASCAR through Premier Sports, with an affordable price of £9.99 per month giving you access to their online Premier Player. The channel also covers La Liga, NHL, and Scottish football amongst others.

In terms of NASCAR, the broadcaster covers all Cup Series races live with more limited coverage of the feeder Xfinity and Truck Series.

Premier Sports have little to no input over the coverage with them lifting the US broadcast ‘as-is,’ in a similar vein to how Sky Sports air NBC’s stateside coverage of IndyCar. Fox Sports airs the first half of the NASCAR season for US fans, with NBC taking over for the second half of the year.

The Fox half of the season has just concluded, perfect timing then to reflect on their offering.

Difficult issues covered in detail on-air in a year of change
NASCAR has been in the headlines for more than one controversial reason this year, with its association with Republican politics obvious in February when President Donald Trump visited the flagship Daytona 500 event.

However, in recent weeks the sport hit back at Trump after he criticised the sport’s only black driver Bubba Wallace for perpetrating a ‘hoax,’ an entirely false accusation and it was heartening to see him backed by many within the sport.

The series has engaged in significant discussions around the Black Lives Matter protests and has banned the Confederate flag, which was often visible on television, from its races.

The moves to detoxify NASCAR’s image are much needed and will help bring new fans to a series which provides exciting, unpredictable racing.

Indeed, viewing figures have increased over the past few weeks, reversing years of decline, despite Trump’s claims that figures are at a ‘record low.’ The high broadcast quality and the willingness of the commentators to engage in difficult conversations may have played a role in the audience increase.

Veteran lead commentator Mike Joy delivered some heartfelt words during a recent event. When Wallace’s team found a noose in the garage, later discovered to have been there since the previous race last year, Joy called it a ‘despicable act’ which flew ‘in the face of NASCAR’s efforts to build a culture which is diverse, equal and welcoming.’

Popular ex-driver and co-commentator Jeff Gordon also ensured he was part of the conversation throughout. Both him and Joy defended Wallace against the ridiculous criticisms he faced after the conclusion of the investigation.

Joy and Gordon have also succeeded in terms of their racing commentary during a year of change at the network.

Unusually, for American motorsport, they now commentate as a duo following the retirement of Darrell Waltrip last year. For the last few seasons Waltrip and Gordon had shared co-commentary duties with Joy delivering the play-by-play.

This is a more typical arrangement for American motorsport (Townsend Bell, Paul Tracy, and Leigh Diffey in IndyCar is an example of a current trio), so it was initially surprising to see Fox not replace Waltrip, though it has nevertheless worked.

Waltrip, renowned for his “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, let’s go racin’ boys” start command, had huge respect as an analyst and advocate for driver safety, with the broadcast now having lost some of its more humorous side.

However, Gordon had already been providing far sharper analysis than Waltrip with his much more recent experience as a driver, having last competed in NASCAR full-time in 2015. Joy’s commentary style and Gordon’s sharp analysis make them perfect as a pair.

The pair also lends a more familiar, homely style, especially as Fox does not bounce around analysts as much as NBC’s IndyCar coverage, which has become particularly obvious and irritating this year after their strong performance last season, although things have improved in recent rounds. They also sensitively handled a serious accident involving Ryan Newman earlier in the season.

Former crew chief Larry McReynolds intervenes to provide analysis on strategy from Fox HQ in Charlotte, North Carolina, keeping some of the zaniness that Fox lost with Waltrip’s retirement. I can only imagine the madness when McReynolds, Joy and Waltrip used to be the commentary trio, until Gordon took McReynolds microphone following his racing retirement.

Fox’s pre-race coverage appears to be slimmer owing to the pandemic, with Joy and Gordon sometimes fronting the coverage rather than a studio host, although ex-driver Jamie McMurray also joins as an additional analyst at times.

Some races also include a build-up show called NASCAR Hub, presented by Shannon Spake with McReynolds and McMurray offering analysis, although this element is currently unavailable to UK fans.

Coverage benefits from excellent access level…
Fox’s on-air personnel access to drivers and strategists during races which an F1 journalist could only dream of, putting their coverage ahead of the field.

Reporters can interview crew chiefs during the race, whilst commentators can chat to drivers live during stage breaks (one of NASCAR’s many complications) and formation laps, both speaking to a wider positive relationship between the media and drivers.

Whilst I do not watch the Xfinity Series, Cup Series drivers often serve as analysts and commentators for the second tier of NASCAR.

Fox has also had driver-only broadcasts for the feeder series on occasion, with current Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick serving as lead commentator.

In addition to the incredible access to drivers and teams, Fox utilises an excellent array of camera angles. Drone cameras, helmet cameras and traditional onboards are just some of the options available to the television director.

The production team places the most impressive angles on the oval catch fencing, in my view truly showing the speed of the race cars as they skirt perilously close to the walls. I have also enjoyed the cockpit cameras which show the drivers wrestling with their cars, occasionally including their heart rate, revealing the true physical strength required to drive the machinery.

Unfortunately, the Premier Sports feed omits some of the standalone graphics which pair up with individual camera angles (e.g. telemetry), leading to a disjointed experience from one angle to the next.

…but the less said about adverts, the better
Despite the excellent qualities of Fox’s on-air personnel, as well as the fantastic racing, there are weaknesses to the product.

As is par for the course with American sport, it is frequently punctuated by ad breaks. Whilst Premier Sport do not cut to the ads, it does leave us Brits with no commentary for their duration. The inconsistent graphics also afflicts the breaks as the live leaderboard sometimes stays and sometimes goes.

Those who dedicate themselves to following every twist and turn may find themselves having to take multiple Monday’s off work.

Although most races air at around 20:00 UK time, races are frequently delayed by rain and thunderstorms. Oval racing cannot take place in the rain and thunderstorms are obviously a major safety concern.

The mid-afternoon start times in the US are peak storm time in many states and can result in hours long delays, or races moved to the Monday. Even the flagship Daytona 500 failed to miss the storm, moving to Monday after multiple rain delays which presumably hit Fox and NASCAR’s audience, not to mention revenues.

One area in which NASCAR does perform well is social media with their Twitter account having 3.4 million followers, significantly more than IndyCar, although NASCAR’s following has not increased to the level seen elsewhere recently.

Their channels have a nice mixture of content, with lots of video clips uploaded during the race. YouTube also offers plethora of highlights and other content, located on both the sport’s own channel as well as separate channels which the two main US broadcasters run.

Those who want to go even more in depth into the sport can find content such as Dale Earnhardt Jr’s (NBC co-commentator and ex-driver) podcast as well as highlights from the Xfinity and Truck series.

NASCAR is a difficult one to get into, as it does not follow the traditional motor racing championship system: NASCAR has stage points, playoff points and points for leading laps, making it all a tad confusing for the newbie.

It is also a sharp culture shock for British viewers where drivers are much more up front in blaming others, with the media playing up long running feuds between certain contenders. However, it has exciting racing and that is the main thing, right? Just enjoying the races on their own has worked for me. Do not be an oval snob!

Fox has done an admirable job in tough times in being able to put together a quality broadcast. Whilst I might not follow NASCAR as closely as I did during the F1 sabbatical I will certainly stick with the series as NBC take the reins for the back half of the 2020 season.

Have you watched NASCAR this year? What have you enjoyed or not enjoyed? Have your say in the comments below.

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Analysis: How F1’s return to action fared around the world

A peak audience of close to four million viewers watched Formula 1’s return to action in the UK, overnight viewing figures suggest.

Highlights of the opening round of the season aired on Channel 4 from 18:30 to 21:00, averaging 1.6 million viewers according to industry expert Liam Hamilton on Twitter, making it the most watched programme outside of BBC One and ITV on Sunday.

The free-to-air offering peaked with 2.3 million viewers. That, combined with an average audience of 1.5 million viewers for Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the race itself from 14:05 to 16:00, meant that a peak audience of near to four million viewers sampled F1’s return on Sunday afternoon.

Both figures are in line with what F1 has broadly averaged during the past few seasons, with Sky’s figures a little higher than expected given the Premier League competition on Sky’s other sports channels.

Down under in Australia, a further 111,000 viewers heard Sky’s Formula 1 commentary via Fox Sports late on Sunday evening, according to Australian website TV Tonight.

Netherlands and Germany shine…
In Netherlands, an average audience of 1.44 million viewers (52.3% audience share) watched from 15:05 to 16:58 across Ziggo Sports and Ziggo Sport Select, according to ratings bureaux SKO.

The ‘Select’ channel, which airs Ziggo Sport’s main attractions, averaged 426,000 viewers (15.5%), with the dedicated F1 channel averaging a further 1.01 million viewers (36.8%).

Interest in Formula 1 has soared in the Netherlands in the past few years, thanks to the rise of Max Verstappen, although the number from this past weekend looks to be slightly higher than in previous years.

Over in Germany, an audience of 4.48 million viewers (28.0%) watched Sebastian Vettel’s poor performance on RTL, as they begin their final year broadcasting F1, before an exclusive deal  between F1 and Sky Deutschland kicks into effect next year. The race peaked with 5.15 million viewers.

Quotenmeter says that RTL’s figure is up slightly on the equivalent 2019 figure of 4.36 million viewers (28.6%).

Suffice to say that, as poor as Vettel has been in the past twelve months, Germany’s interest in F1 has held up remarkably. Time will tell if interest will hold when F1 moves behind a pay wall…

For now, Sky Deutschland and RTL both air F1 live in Germany, however no audience figures for the former for Austria are currently available.

Over the border in Austria, ORF’s live free-to-air coverage of the race itself from 15:05 to 16:55 averaged 609,000 viewers (46.0%), as they head into a shared partnership with ServusTV beginning next season.

ORF says that their coverage from the Red Bull Ring reached 1.91 million viewers across the whole weekend.

Stateside, ESPN’s coverage averaged a strong 752,000 viewers from 09:05, peaking with 890,000 viewers as the race concluded, the highest ever for the event, and an increase of 16 percent year-on-year.

…but a poor showing in Spain
In Italy, audience figures were like that seen in the UK.

Live coverage across Sky Sport F1 and Sky Sport Uno averaged 1.32 million viewers (11.3%) from 15:10, with 1.34 million viewers (10.9%) watching delayed coverage of the Grand Prix on Sky’s free-to-air channel TV8. Both shows peaked with just over two million viewers.

Further down Europe, the picture for Formula 1 in Spain looks bleak.

According to Formula TV, An audience of just 104,000 viewers (0.9%) watched live coverage of the race on Movistar’s F1 channel, a dismal figure for a country that once watched in their millions during Fernando Alonso’s heyday.

F1 has fallen out of the public consciousness in Spain, and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz is not recording on their radar, yet. The announcement that Alonso will return to F1 next season with Renault should give F1’s popularity in Spain a much-needed boost.

To put the Spanish figure into perspective, Polish journalist Mariusz Wójcicki reports that live coverage of the Grand Prix averaged 214,000 viewers in Poland.

Whilst the Polish figure is, understandably, down year-on-year with no Robert Kubica on the grid, it does put into perspective the alarmingly low figure in Spain.

Over in France, 1.06 million viewers watched F1’s return to action on Canal+, which they say is a record for Austria since they first began airing F1.

Days of large audience figures are over
Two figures stand out positively for me.

The first is in Netherlands. The raw audience is nothing to shout above in the grand scheme of things, but when you consider that only 17.5 million people live there, it is important, and shows how much Max Verstappen is cutting through the public eye.

Germany also stands out, because it is the last bastion that falls by the wayside, whenever the 2020 season draws to a close. An average audience of over four million viewers may halve overnight.

Across the above ten territories, an average audience of around 14.5 to 16.5 million viewers watched the Grand Prix on television. I have been generous and rounded that up slightly to account for missing data points.

At its peak, that figure will be higher, and then the reach figures that F1 announces in press even higher than that. There will be additional public data available, it is just a matter of trying to find it in the depths of the internet.

The 2020 average television figure will again be down on yesteryear because of F1’s transition towards pay TV. So, where have the viewers gone?

Some will be watching online via one of the respective broadcasters’ over-the-top platforms, others will have migrated to F1’s over-the-top platform, both of which will take up a larger percentage than in previous years.

We cannot quantify the volumes involved, because the relevant parties choose not to disclose these figures publicly, meaning the picture is incomplete. It is highly unlikely that all the lapsed television fans have migrated, however.

Nevertheless, the above offers a snapshot as to how F1 is performing across Europe. The overriding message is that in many territories around Europe, the days of Formula 1 achieving viewing figures of 4, 5, 6, or even 7 million viewers for its live airing, are over.

Updated on July 8th to account for US audience figures.


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Red Bull channel ServusTV and ORF to share F1 rights in Austria from 2021

A television channel owned by Red Bull has secured the rights to broadcast Formula 1 in Austria, however has opted to sublet some of the package back to the incumbent rights holder.

ServusTV, a commercial free-to-air station owned by the Red Bull Media House, will share the broadcasting rights with longstanding national public service broadcaster ORF from 2021 until the end of 2023, ORF’s existing agreement ending after this season.

A statement issued by ORF via their media centre confirms that ServusTV acquired the rights exclusively, with ORF acting as their partner in the arrangement.

The situation is like the current UK F1 deal in that respect: Sky acquired the television rights, and Channel 4 then bought an element back off the pay TV broadcaster (although the scenario in Austria concerns two free-to-air broadcasters).

ORF and ServusTV will confirm the exact race split prior to the start of the 2021 season, however both will air the Austrian Grand Prix from the Red Bull Ring live.

ServusTV’s acquisition adds to their existing sports portfolio, which includes live coverage of MotoGP and the World Superbike series. In May, the channel also secured rights to 33 matches per season of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and the new UEFA Europa Conference League.

Their Director General Dr Ferdinand Wegscheider noted “The new agreement with the Formula 1 fills us with pride and we will do our utmost to write another success story in Austrian motorsport coverage, parallel to MotoGP,” he said.

“With Formula 1, MotoGP, and the Superbike World Championship, ServusTV will offer the best live motor sport program to viewers from 2021 onward.”

“The cooperation with ORF makes sense economically and guarantees that Formula One fans have access to all races live on free-TV.”

The story so far
The last line by Wegscheider outlines the issues that his counterparts over at ORF are facing, a recurring theme in recent weeks on this site.

Speculation about ORF’s continuation as broadcaster is not new. In 2016, ServusTV was again said to be interested but ORF was able to negotiate a reduction in the fee, which Austrian outlet Kleine Zeitung reported reduced their fee from over €15 million to €10 million a year.

However, ORF says that the “economic challenges” in recent times has resulted in a further change from their perspective.

“These are economically challenging times also for ORF, and with the acquisition of the live broadcasting rights of the current Bundesliga season and the UEFA Europa League, ORF was recently able to secure free-TV rights that are equally important for sports and sports fans,” explained ORF Director General Dr Alexander Wrabetz.

“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. And that is good news for all motor sports fans in Austria.”

ServusTV has increasingly in recent years tried to raise their profile within Formula 1 by inviting motor sport guests to its popular Monday evening talk show broadcast from an aircraft hangar in Salzburg airport (Sport und Talk aus dem Hangar-7). Just last night, the crew invited Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel onto the show, creating headlines across the F1 spectrum.

Speaking ahead of a potential F1 rights deal back in February, Red Bull’s owner Dieter Mateschitz told the Salzburger Nachrichten that they are not “…fundamentally not a sports broadcaster.”

“But we should think twice with such an opportunity. Formula One rights are always interesting for a broadcaster, but we cannot say anything more now,” he added.

“We must wait to see what ORF decides and what Sky does. It simply depends on the situation in the market. We’ll watch that and it is always very interesting.”

Viewing figures remain healthy in Austria, where the rapport between ORF commentator Ernst Hausleitner and pundit Alexander Wurz is frequently praised.

The news from Austria comes after the decision of RTL in Germany to step away from Formula 1 broadcasting, first announced to English-speaking audiences on this site.

Additional reporting by Edmund Wareham.


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