Another sporting event goes to Sky
2 August 2011
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I was so disappointed to hear that live Formula One will now only be shown on Sky from next season. F1 has become so much more exciting to watch over the past few years and I, along with millions of others around the country, have looked forward to Grand Prix race day on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.
Reading the article on the Telegraph website it is clear that it will bring a lot more money into motor racing but Bernie Ecclestone is surely mistaken in saying that a lot more people will be viewing the races. He may be referring to highlights or delayed transmissions but in my opinion there can only be fewer people watching the game live as a result of this deal. Time will tell, but lower viewing figures will mean reduced advertising and sponsorship income and diminished interest in the sport. If that happens it will only be a matter if time before F1 is back on terrestrial TV.
I remember a few years ago when the RFU sold the rights to televise live England’s home Six Nations games to Sky for couple of seasons (or was is three?). Financially it was very good for the RFU as Sky paid much more than the BBC ever could, but the damage to the game at grass roots level was huge. Without the ability to watch their heroes on free-to-air TV children were drawn to other sports and numbers declined in youth & mini sections. Thankfully the RFU saw sense and brought the flagship Six Nations games back to the BBC, but the concern is what might happen in the future.
The Government has been talking about designating some Six Nations games as Listed Sporting Events so that they must remain on terrestrial TV. On the face of it this is good for the fans and clubs, but it would mean that the BBC could lower the amount it offers to screen the matches, safe in the knowledge that Sky couldn’t bid against them so reducing the amount of money in the game, which ultimately is bad for clubs. This is why the Home Unions have been lobbying against any Six Nations games being given Listed Events status.
However, we now have the threat of the BBC, through having to find savings, extending the Formula One bidding principle and offering a much smaller amount to screen the Six Nations live on the grounds that they can’t afford it. Faced with losing perhaps millions of pounds of revenue will the RFU continue its commitment to free-to-air TV?
The Six Nations is the top annual international rugby tournament with a huge global audience and I sincerely hope that for the sake of Rugby in the UK it remains live and free-to-air.