Ten’s decision to cut F1 is shocking yet unsurprising

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By Bayden Westerweller, Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru


15 Have your say

    News that Network Ten has terminated live Formula One coverage of all but the Australian Grand Prix blindsided many, yet the outcome had been coming for some time.

    Most unsettling was the action’s immediacy, with last weekend’s scheduled Malaysia Grand Prix screening cancelled just two days ahead of the event.

    The pre-existing contract – set to run through 2019 – didn’t even conclude the middle season of its intended duration.

    The embattled station was acquired by American giant CBS last month, concluding years of uncertainty regarding its future, leading many to deduce that high-commodity items such as F1 were secure.

    Alas, the scythe was drawn on coverage, which has featured on Ten rising 15 years, and free-to-air since 1985, with the Nine Network possessing the rights until the former inherited them in 2003.

    Ten CEO Paul Anderson assured viewers, “the Australian Grand Prix is an iconic sporting event and we are delighted it will remain on Ten.” The patronising sentiment, with the ‘consolation’ of Monday evening highlights on secondary station One for all remaining events, further isolates a market which has diminished since its FTA presence was reduced in 2015.

    On that occasion, it was revealed weeks prior to the curtain raiser that Ten – with a season remaining on the agreement in place at that time – had adopted the United Kingdom’s polarising ‘split’ model, which took effect in 2012.

    Half of the calendar was to be screened live on Ten and the balance presented in highlight capacity, while Foxtel would assume exclusive rights to the latter, a direct reflection of British terrestrial broadcasters BBC, and currently, Channel 4, alongside Sky’s satellite coverage.

    Sky’s bombshell in April 2016 that it had acquired exclusive broadcasting rights to the sport from 2019 has left many UK fans to endure an elongated conclusion to their viewership. As we’ve learnt, this is a courtesy which hasn’t been extended to Australians.

    Having beaten the UK to the punch, with the added ignominy of having the tap switched off in the midst of the sport’s most compelling season in some time, readily sourcing legal viewing – $39 monthly at minimum via Foxtel’s streaming service, Now – for remaining events isn’t a viable option for most.

    Notwithstanding its costs, Foxtel can’t be blamed for the result, having provided unprecedented coverage since its arrival onto the scene. The same juncture would have been reached in all likelihood by 2019, concurrent with the UK’s trajectory, had Ten chosen not to act immediately.

    It won’t take long for the effects of the deal to be realised. Trading off a solitary event in the Australian GP – which has doubled as a cross-promotional tool in recent years – as a platform for a season of late Monday nights upon which viewers will be greeted by watered-down coverage won’t wash, and that’s for those who remain beyond this season.

    The only caveat is that Formula One’s new owners, Liberty Media, appears to know what they’re doing, and will possess the good sense to see there is a market out there and negotiate accordingly.

    Until then, in excess of 30 years of viewing for the majority has reached an abrupt yet inevitable conclusion.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • October 5th 2017 @ 10:41am
      Thomas said | October 5th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

      The Australian Grand Prix is covered under the Anti-Siphoning Laws in Australia which means that the AGP has to be on free-to air TV.

      Dropping the remaining races of the season is pretty disgraceful from 10. I know they are struggling financially but don’t you actually need people to watch your channel to make any money at all?

      • Roar Guru

        October 5th 2017 @ 11:33am
        Bayden Westerweller said | October 5th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        Ten is only screening Australia out of that necessity, and as the stated cross promotional tool for their chat and reality programs. The coverage for that weekend alone will be laced with commercials. The paradox is there again that if you’re fortunate enough to have the funds for Foxtel, you’re receiving a great deal with comprehensive access to the sport, though it isn’t a reality for most.

      • Columnist

        October 5th 2017 @ 2:14pm
        Michael Lamonato said | October 5th 2017 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

        To be fair to Ten (I suppose), according to creditor reports the CBS bid would leave it able to repay only 10 per cent of its debts to F1. It’s not surprising that F1 would want to minimise its losses, so I don’t know how much you could actually attribute this to poor form — it’s more collateral damage from management that left the station is such dire financial circumstances.

        • Roar Guru

          October 5th 2017 @ 5:41pm
          Bayden Westerweller said | October 5th 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

          The overriding bitterness comes from how immediate the changes were, Ten didn’t even have the decency to broadcast the weekend in question, much less the few remaining commitments this season. Whether another network would be willing to become involved in the future is something Liberty will have to consider, though OTT is surely the only alternative to pay television moving forward.

          • Columnist

            October 5th 2017 @ 6:39pm
            Michael Lamonato said | October 5th 2017 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

            What I mean is that we shouldn’t be surprised if it was not Ten’s fault per se that live rights were taken away from FTA. I don’t think Ten’s administrators decided all of a sudden to stop broadcasting the sport — indeed it’s important to note that the change was announced by Formula One with statements from FOM and Fox, but not from Ten. It looks to me that a deal was stitched up quickly by F1 to minimise the sport’s exposure to financial loss and ensure that there’s stability for the Australian deal going forward rather than Ten jettisoning the rights.

            I think OTT is around the corner — indeed NBC, after apparently withdrawing from the bidding process for the US rights, said “we chose not to enter into a new agreement in which the rights holder itself competes with us and our distribution partners”. Seems like it’s only one cycle away.

            • Roar Guru

              October 6th 2017 @ 10:07am
              Bayden Westerweller said | October 6th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

              Fair enough that FOM wants to protect itself, though you can only hope that they’re working on a solution in the medium term unless OTT arrives sooner than anticipated at a friendlier price than Foxtel.

      • October 5th 2017 @ 10:14pm
        Chuck Norris said | October 5th 2017 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

        Nothing to watch on Ten at all now.

        I’ll just watch the pirated coverage over the internet. It was in HD for the Italian GP.

        • Roar Guru

          October 6th 2017 @ 10:13am
          Bayden Westerweller said | October 6th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          This is where the debate over piracy hits the spot. If something is available legally and in timely fashion most will settle for it. At least Ten was screening its races in HD so it had something going for it, yet if a product is taken away – immediately, with the only legal option to pay unreasonable costs for most, you can’t be blamed for sourcing alternative ‘means.’

    • October 5th 2017 @ 4:36pm
      steve said | October 5th 2017 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

      I am rather enjoying the far better extensive coverage on Fox Sports. All sessions live, lots of talk before and after, rumours tec. I’m loving it. Screw Channel 10. FTA TV cant and doesn’t cover any sports to a decent level.

      • Roar Guru

        October 5th 2017 @ 5:45pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | October 5th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

        For those who can enjoy Foxtel’s Sky simulcast, there are no concerns, yet it’s hard not to sympathise with those who have a passion for the sport without the means to invest, and are now left with negligible coverage.

        • October 5th 2017 @ 8:24pm
          steve said | October 5th 2017 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

          Yeah, I get that mate. Its unfortunate.

    • October 5th 2017 @ 5:09pm
      AJ said | October 5th 2017 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

      Disgraceful from 10 to just drop the remaining races with no mention or warning. I have loved F1 for 30 years as a kid growing up recording races on the VCR to watch them first thing in the morning before school was always a great way to start the week. Hopefully someone else picks up the FTA rights cause like most things if it’s not on FTA it doesn’t exist.

      • Roar Guru

        October 5th 2017 @ 5:49pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | October 5th 2017 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

        That’s the worst factor in the outcome, which can be argued had been coming for some time – to have the rug pulled without notice. The enthusiasm from those who are die hard fans sadly isn’t met by FTA in this age, you’d hope Liberty sees the need for a base level of coverage which functions in tandem with pay television and soon enough, over the top coverage.

    • October 5th 2017 @ 11:15pm
      Nick P said | October 5th 2017 @ 11:15pm | ! Report

      This new TV deal is going to backfire on Ten and on F1 if Daniel Ricciardo ends up fighting for a championship

      • Roar Guru

        October 6th 2017 @ 10:17am
        Bayden Westerweller said | October 6th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        At the height of Mark Webber’s success, Ten’s coverage was quite excellent – they had a 60 minute buildup for some time,

        Inexplicably, its commitment since his retirement has gradually diminished, to the point of halved coverage from 2015, to commencing transmission as the cars were on the formation lap, and now to a non-existent presence. This despite Ricciardo’s broad appeal and the generally accepted wisdom that he is superior to his countryman.

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