It’s not been announced but serious outlets in Italy are reporting that the state broadcaster RAI will no longer carry F1 in 2018, leaving SKY as the primary platform for the series.
RAI will show only the Italian GP from Monza live.
In the late ’90s and early 2000s heyday of Schumacher and Ferrari, the audience on RAI was usually between 10 and 12 million for each race, similar to RTL in Germany.
While RTL soldiers on with live rights in Germany, at least for a couple more years, RAI’s deal for 9 live races and the rest of the rounds in highlights appears to have lapsed. Motorport.com Italy is reporting that the free to air platform TV8, which is part of the Sky family, will show some packages, yet to be defined.
The RAI deal was worth €23million a year to F1, roughly similar to the fee paid by the UK’s Channel 4, which is in its final year of a tree year deal to host F1.
In the UK there is much speculation about the intentions of SKY bosses regarding their obligations under the exclusive deal they have from 2019-24. This requires them to show the British GP live and race highlights on a free to air channel.
That deal, worth almost $1 billion to F1, has an unusual clause in it whereby SKY gets to decide who gets the free to air component, not F1 itself. So Liberty has no control over the situation.
The example of Italy shows that it is possible for that free to air channel to be one of SKY’s own, rather than ITV, BBC or Channel 4. Many in the F1 broadcast industry believe we could see a repeat in the UK.
Rupert Murdoch has announced that he is selling his interest in SKY to Disney, which owns ESPN in the USA.