ORF and Servus TV to provide FTA F1 coverage in Austria from 2021
Formula 1 motor racing will be shown free-to-air to Austrian audiences from 2021 by a combination of Servus TV, the commercial network owned by Red Bull, and ORF, the country's public-service broadcaster.
The two broadcasters will share FTA coverage of races, with grands prix alternating between the two channels, according to reports in Austria.
Pay-TV rights in Austria were retained by Sky Deutschland last week as part of a deal also covering Germany and Switzerland to 2022.
ORF has been the long-time FTA home of Formula 1 in Austria, but its current deal expires at the end of this season.
The public-service broadcaster averaged 534,000 viewers for its live Formula 1 races in 2019, up from 515,000 a year earlier, and it will be expecting strong numbers this weekend when Austria hosts the opening race of the delayed 2020 season. A second race will take place in Austria a week later.
ORF retained the rights to Formula 1 in a deal in 2016 valued at under €10 million (then $11.4 million) per year, down from the circa-€15 million it had been paying, with the broadcaster saying at the time this was "in line with our reasonable expectations" given its financial situation.
Earlier this year, Hans Peter Trust, the network’s sports director, said the broadcaster would not give up rights without a fight, adding: “Of course we will make an offer.”
Red Bull, meanwhile, has considerable involvement in Formula 1 already, operating two teams, Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri, and being the naming rights sponsor for Austria's Red Bull Ring circuit, where this weekend's race takes place.
In February, Red Bull’s owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, said in an interview with Speedweek.com: “We have to think carefully about such an option (of going for broadcasting rights). F1 rights are always interesting for a broadcaster, but we cannot say anything about them now. We have to wait and see what ORF decides and what Sky does.”
Servus TV already holds rights to motorcycling’s MotoGP World Championship in Austria and Germany.
From 2021, Sky's F1 rights in Germany will be exclusive, after commercial broadcaster RTL ended its long-running coverage last week, while public-service broadcaster SRG SSR holds free-to-air rights in Switzerland until 2022.
Sky also holds Formula 1 rights in the UK and Italy, where an extension was recently announced to 2022.