Italian pay TV station Sky Italia are to screen all twenty races of the Formula 1 season from 2013 live, it has been announced. Eleven of these races will be broadcast exclusively live on their channel, with the remaining nine races (including the Italian Grand Prix) broadcast by a free to air station yet to be announced. That broadcaster will also screen the eleven races that Sky have exclusively in highlights form. In summary:
– 11 races: Sky Italia exclusively, FTA broadcaster highlights
– 09 races: Sky Italia and FTA live
This announcement appears to signal a reduction, or even possibly the end of Formula 1 involvement, for free to air broadcaster RAI. It is the latest blow for them, who recently lost the rights to the UEFA Champions League and MotoGP. In a statement of intent that they intend to expand their motor sports portfolio, the MotoGP rights went to Sky Italia exclusively last month, with the broadcaster to screen the races from 2014 onwards.
Sky Italia’s coverage will feature across all platforms, “web, tablet Smartphones and IPTV”. In their press release, Bernie Ecclestone notes that “we have a similar arrangement [in the UK] that is working very well, increasing the quality and breadth of coverage”. While true, I cannot help but feel that this is another irreversible step towards Formula 1 being exclusively broadcast on a pay TV station, leading to a dip in ratings. The initial effects of the UK deal after the first four rounds showed a drop in ratings, although the amount that the ratings have dipped by was unclear taking everything into account.
The situation, though, in both countries is different. Before the new deal in the UK, BBC screened every Formula 1 session, from the first Friday practice session to the race on Sunday. Whereas, in comparison, RAI in Italy only screen Qualifying and the Race live with no coverage of practice sessions. So, from that perspective, the fans in Italy may well be happy – or more welcome – to the prospect of Formula 1 being on Sky Italia, compared to the reaction when the similar deal was announced in the UK. Looking at Sky Sport’s Facebook page, specifically this post, it looks like they are more receptive to the move, although there are a few negative comments in there, as you would probably expect.
I would be interested to hear from Italian Formula 1 fans, if any are reading this blog. How do you feel about this deal? Do you welcome it, or do you want all races to remain live on RAI?