Sky TV fail in race to retain Formula 1 rights

Author
Patrick McKendry, NZ Herald,
Section
Motorsport,
Publish Date
Thursday, 4 October 2018, 9:01PM
Like Kiwi F1 star Brendon Hartley last week, Sky TV has been forced to retire from F1 coverage. (Photo / Photosport)
Like Kiwi F1 star Brendon Hartley last week, Sky TV has been forced to retire from F1 coverage. (Photo / Photosport)

Sky Television have failed in their bid to renew their right to broadcast Formula 1 motorsport in New Zealand.

Sky will show the rest of the season, including this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, but a drop in viewership here due in part to later start times in Europe, plus the showing of official highlights on social media, has forced a change in approach from the broadcaster.

The Herald understands Sky did bid for next year's rights and that it was not accepted.

Sky will release the news tomorrow on the eve of Bathurst weekend, which they will again screen exclusively on a dedicated channel. Sky will probably also confirm today that they have retained the rights to the popular V8 Supercars until 2020 and Nascar until the end of 2021.

The Formula 1 issue is a sensitive one for Sky because it attracts a loyal and often fanatical following, but they will argue that going hard for the rights didn't make commercial sense.

Formula 1's change in ownership structure from Bernie Ecclestone to the Liberty Media Group has had a significant affect here because of the later starts to races in Europe from Sunday midnight to after 1am Monday NZT.

The unsociable starting hour has put off viewers from this side of the world, with Kiwi motorsport supporters instead drawn to an extensive (and free) package of highlights broadcast on Facebook from 6am Monday.

The changes led to what has been described as a "substantial" drop in viewership here for the races in Europe, with the other races also suffering a drop in audience.

Sky have been forced to look hard at what they bid for in an increasingly competitive environment. A TVNZ/Spark consortium won the rights to show live and exclusive coverage of next year's Rugby World Cup ahead of Sky, a major backer and partner of New Zealand Rugby.

In an interview with the Herald in April, Sky's director of sport Richard Last said his company would rather have won the rights to the World Cup but that it was important to walk away from a negotiation if the price wasn't right.

"It's a six-week tournament, not a six-month tournament," Last said. "We have to prioritise things over the longer term."

 

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