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Motor racing - 07 Oct 2021
Formula 1, the top-tier motor racing series, has secured TV coverage across a wide swathe of Southeast Asia until the end of the 2022 season, through six new broadcast deals announced today, with two existing Asian arrangements also extended.
The separate deals all come in to replace the coverage across the region of F1 by Fox Sports Asia, the prominent pay-TV broadcaster that last weekend permanently closed its channels, having shown the series in that part of Asia (under its last arrangement) since 2016.
The rights deals, which all start immediately and run until the end of next season, are as follows: TrueVisions in Thailand; Tap DMV in the Philippines; Astro in Malaysia and Brunei; Emtek Group in Indonesia; VSTV in Vietnam; and Canal+ in Myanmar.
After the scheduled departure of Fox Sports Asia from the regional broadcasting scene, the future of F1 rights in these markets had been up in the air, but this array of eleventh-hour deals has now resolved the issue.
Deals with Now TV in Hong Kong and Singtel in Singapore (where an F1 race is likely to take place next season, several reports have stated), had already been announced late last week, before today's official announcement.
The deals in Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar are all still subject to the usual regulatory approvals.
Meanwhile, the existing broadcast arrangements in Japan with Disney (through both Fuji TV and DAZN), and in India with broadcasting giant Star, have been renewed until the end of next season. Those two markets are considered key growth countries for the series in terms of its audience.
The 18 Fox Sports channels in Southeast Asia have been shut down, by owning giant Disney, as part of that heavyweight’s strategic shift to direct-to-consumer streaming platforms.
Disney announced in April that it would close its 18 linear channels at the beginning of October – including Fox Sports, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3, Star Sports 1, and Star Sports 2 – and was instead planning to roll out its over-the-top streaming service Disney Plus across the region.
The Fox Sports and Star Sports channels were a legacy of ESPN Star Sports, the pan-Asian sports broadcaster that was a long-time joint venture of international media giants News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, and ESPN, the TV sports business that is a subsidiary of Disney.
As well as the F1 action itself, these deals mean that the separate broadcasters will also cover the subsidiary Formula 2 and Formula 3 series during the course of the deal, as well as the Porsche Supercup.
Michaella Snoeck, head of media rights at Formula 1, has now said: “Following the closure of the Fox Sports channels in Asia, we’re pleased to be entering these partnerships to ensure we can continue to bring F1 action to our fans there … 2021 has been an amazing season to follow Formula 1 whether you’re a passionate existing fan or a new supporter.”
Meanwhile, Sport TV, the pay-television operator in Portugal, has secured exclusive rights to F1 in that country, in a three-season deal starting at the beginning of the 2022 campaign.
Sport TV, which had been a long-time holder of F1 rights in Portugal up until 2016, replaces international subscription broadcaster Eleven Sports, which currently holds the rights up until the end of the ongoing 2021 season in December.
Every race from the start of the 2022 season to the end of 2024 will now be live only on Sport TV in Portugal.
Eurosport, the pan-European sports broadcaster owned by Discovery, had broken a long-standing period of Sport TV coverage of Formula 1 in 2016 when it took on the rights for a year.
Sport TV (which also holds long-term rights to motor cycling’s MotoGP World Championship in its overall motorsport stable) then once again covered the series in 2017 and 2018, only for Eleven to swoop in at the end of that year and carry off rights for the next three-year cycle.
Sport TV is coming back in for F1 rights with the series currently enjoying a new lease of life in Portugal. After a lengthy hiatus between 1996 and 2019, 2020 saw the return of the Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, while the same venue also hosted a race earlier this year.
The 2022 season calendar, to be announced before the end of the year, is likely to have a record-high number of Grands Prix, after plans to hold 23 this year (which would have seen the record broken) were thwarted by the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, it is currently unclear whether the Portuguese event will be returning. Several races that could not take place for the last two seasons because of the pandemic’s surge are tentatively expected to return next year, such as the Singapore Grand Prix, meaning the Algarve event may end up being squeezed out.