F1 chief: Pay-TV suicidal

Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has warned Grand Prix teams that it would be “suicidal” for them if the sport moved to News Corporation’s subscription channels as part of a takeover deal.

According to Ecclestone, who holds the sport’s commercial rights, teams would lose huge sponsorship interest if coverage was no longer on mass market channels.

“Murdoch hasn’t got anything really big to drive their TV audiences and Formula 1 would be good for that,” he stated in an interview with the official Formula 1 website. “They have been trying to buy the TV rights from us for a long time, but we won’t because they are not free-to-air television broadcasters. They are a subscription service,” he explained.

He pointed out that News Corp wanted to do something in Germany, in the UK and in Italy, (Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia and BSkyB respectively) but said: “We couldn’t do it. Sky is doing an incredible job, but if you look at their audience they are nowhere. With these figures it would be almost impossible for teams to find sponsors. That would be suicidal.”

Ecclestone suggested that News Corp should forget any plans to try and buy F1, because current majority shareholders CVC Capital Partners are not interested in selling.”CVC has given the answer,” he said. “They are the major shareholders and they do not want to sell. That is 100 per cent for sure.”

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