Australia’s position as one of the last countries to provide exclusive ‘free-to-air’ F1 telecasts has officially come to an end.
As we predicted earlier this week, Network Ten has agreed to a co-share broadcasting deal with the Fox Sports pay-TV network which will see the former provide live telecasts for just ten Grands Prix in the coming season. Fox Sports, meanwhile, will provide live coverage of all practice, qualifying and races. This arrangement will continue for the next five seasons.
The deal was struck with one year left on Network Ten’s current exclusive rights contract, however, the broadcaster is suffering massive financial pressure after several years of heavy losses.
It brings an end to Network Ten’s exclusive coverage of Formula 1 in Australia, which it has hosted since 2003 after taking over from Channel Nine.
Ten Grands Prix will be jointly simulcast live on both networks, while those shown exclusively on Fox will be re-aired on Network Ten’s sub-channel, One HD, as a one-hour highlights package from 9:30pm on the following Monday.
Fox and Network Ten will jointly broadcast the Australian, Bahrain, Monaco, Austrian, German, Belgian, Singapore, Russian, Mexican and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, while the rest will be shown live on Fox Sports only.
While the net effect is a major win for Australian Formula 1 fans lucky enough to be able to afford Foxtel’s hefty subscription fees, the announcement is a major loss for those reliant on free-to-air broadcasting and the social media response was polarising to say the least.
Network Ten tried to trumpet the announcement as a win for Australian fans – announcing it would offer 25 hours of live broadcasting during the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with former race-winner Mark Webber making a guest commentating appearance – it was a clearly desperate attempt.
“Our coverage of Formula 1 is world class. This new deal further demonstrates the network’s commitment to premium motorsport and our strategy of bringing big, live television events to Australians,” Network Ten Head of Sport, David Barham, said.
It’s a sentiment few would agree with.
Image via Network Ten