Fox Sports snaps up Formula One broadcast rights; Ten drops nine races

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 1 October 2017

Fox Sports has snapped up exclusive broadcast rights to Formula One in a new deal that sees free-to-air network Ten scale back its live coverage from 10 races to just the Australian Grand Prix.

The new agreement begins with the Malaysian GP today and will run for the next two seasons. Foxtel will broadcast every race live on Fox Sports and stream the action on Foxtel Now.

Network Ten will show highlights of each race on Monday night on its secondary channel ONE.

A renewed focus on programming that delivers stronger returns on investment is believed to be behind Ten’s decision to downsize its F1 broadcast rights package. Earlier this week, News Corp reported that Ten would lose the F1 and Supercars rights.

The network has retained its rights to the Australian GP, which is arguably the crown jewel in Ten’s motor sport calendar and the only race it makes money on.

This year, Ten’s coverage of the Melbourne GP attracted 2.82 million metro viewers in three days - practice, qualifying and race. The main race drew a national TV audience of 963,000 viewers and is regarded as a prestigious event in Australia's sporting calendar that attracts plenty of sponsors and advertisers.

That prestige counts for little to a free-to-air network if it can't attract enough eyeballs to its coverage. Ten's coverage of other races on the F1 calendar has failed to deliver the ratings and revenue required to make them viable in today's ad market.  

Since 2010, TV viewing of F1 has declined by 25% with more brodcastig rights moving to subscription-based services as free-to-air broadcasters are priced out of deals that don't deliver enough audience to justify cost. 

The tier-one GPs (Monaco, Monza, Silverstone and Spa) all take place in Europe and are shown in the early hours of Monday morning.

GPs that are time zone friendly are not attrcting large enough TV audiences to make a return on the cost of rights. For example, the Singapore GP, an increasingly popular event among fans on the F1 calendar that is shown in prime time over here, only delivered metro ratings of 217,000 on Ten and ONE.

Fox Sports exclusive coverage is ad free during the race and its success is measured on a range of factors, such as attracting commercial partners to the coverage and converting a proportion of F1 fans to become new subscribers of Foxtel services.

A comprehensive global F1 fan survey carried out this year found Asia-Pacific fans had a larger appetite for live streamed and catch-up F1 content than other regions, which could bode well for the more affordable Foxtel Now.

The survey found that 40% of fans watch less F1 in markets where races are only broadcast on pay TV.

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