Formula One is set for limited free-to-air coverage in Australia from 2016, with a comprehensive package to be provided by Foxtel.
According to a report on Speedcafe, an identical coverage model to the United Kingdom – where BBC & Sky Sports share the coverage, is to be adopted.
Incumbent rights’ holder – Network Ten, will screen half of the events live, whilst the remaining portion will be broadcast in highlight form. Fox Sports will provide full coverage of each qualifying and Grand Prix.
Many will bemoan the imminent demise of F1 as a free-to-air staple, unwilling to fork out the cash necessary to access pay television. Ultimately, it may be that the coverage which die hard fans have been calling out for many years will be delivered.
One recalls coverage in the late 1990s & early 2000s on the Nine Network – qualifying coverage was unheard of, whilst race coverage was often delayed until the conclusion of the Sunday night movie, sometimes as late as 1am.
This would often manifest in a grumpy Monday at school, especially if the commitment to view the race was not matched with a desired outcome.
Fortunes improved slightly with the switch to Ten in 2003, however it wasn’t until the advent of multi-channels in 2008 that qualifying coverage was enjoyed.
Despite the welcome addition, Ten’s reluctance in recent seasons to broadcast events in high definition throughout eastern states – with Grands Prix in a similar time-zone the exception, painfully frequent commercial breaks at crucial junctures, not to mention ever-diminishing pre & post race coverage, renders the transition which has been mooted for several years easier to process.
It is thus, through the necessary evil that is pay television, the following benefits can expect to be reaped. High definition coverage as commanded by live sport, a dedicated weekly show, practice session coverage – at the very least, the final session preceding qualifying. An extended pre-race build up & post-race breakdown, but most significantly, commercial free race coverage.
On a personal level, this is the commitment which has been dreamed about for years. If the stated terms are met, Fox can count on this individual to sign-up.
A bi-effect of the agreement is that the V8 Supercars complement at next month’s Australian Grand Prix is for the first time set to represent a championship event.
V8 Supercars enters a rights agreement with Foxtel & in a reduced capacity – Ten, from this season, thus the F1 deal will synchronise each categories’ coverage following many years during which conflicting broadcasters denied the former championship status at the Grand Prix.
Prior to any of this, there is a final full season to be enjoyed on free-to-air. One can only hope that Ten doesn’t use this as an excuse to cut back on coverage, to allow a seamless transition once the new arrangement takes effect.
Whilst the fair weather followers who cannot afford or by principle refuse to support pay television, will endure reduced coverage, resort to unofficial viewing methods or simply boycott the coverage entirely from 2016, for those who live and breath Formula One, this is the commitment we’ve been awaiting.