While there might not be any certainty about the future of the German Grand Prix, that hasn’t proven to be an obstacle for the country’s largest broadcaster, RTL, in renewing its Formula 1 telecast rights until the end of 2017.

German fans have the option of the free-to-air RTL broadcasts (which provide live qualifying and race broadcasts across the season) or the pay-TV Sky Sports Germany for completely live coverage across every Grand Prix weekend.

RTL recently celebrated its 400th Grand Prix on air in 2014, and despite falling TV audience figures across the country, it has secured a renewed deal with the option of additional years.

The announcement was made on Friday in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock, with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone scheduling a photo opportunity with the field’s German drivers – Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, and Nico Hülkenberg – and representatives from the network, who included former F1 driver-turned commentator Christian Danner and three-time World Champion and Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.

Ecclestone expressed his delight that RTL had renewed its contract at a time when the sports has faced increased criticism over its increasing shift to pay-TV broadcasters.

“The ratings have gone down, but at least they had the courage to sign,” he said.

“If we compare the ratings of F1 to our main opponent in the private sector, the ratings of F1 outperforms every other type of broadcasting, so we are happy about the ratings,” RTL’s TV programming managing director, Frank Hoffmann, added.

“The figures are still good. They are not as good as they used to be – 2001 was the peak when we had 10 million average viewership, and now it is down to 4.5 million. But if you compare it to let’s say blockbuster movies on German television – a blockbuster had 7.6 million and now in these years it is down to 3.5 million. So the market has changed rapidly and dramatically.”

Ecclestone did not give any firm indication on the future of the German Grand Prix, which had this year’s event scheduled at the Nürburgring cancelled over a lack of funding. The Hockenheim, the German Grand Prix’s sister venue which hosts the race on alternating years, was unable to fill the calendar breach in time.

“Really I have no idea. We have a contract with Hockenheim until 2018, so let’s see what happens,” Ecclestone answered.

“I hope that they will get some support, which is what they really need. They need support from Germany.”

Image via XPB Images

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Geoff Burke

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