F1 returns to free-to-air TV in France

Formula 1 will return to free-to-air television in France next year for the first time since 2013, thanks to a new deal agreed with broadcaster TF1.

With pay-TV channel Canal+ having enjoyed exclusive rights to broadcast F1 for the past five years, the new TF1 contract is the result of a fresh push by F1 owners Liberty Media to better balance global audience figures from free TV against income from subscription channels.

The TF1 deal, which begins at the start of 2018, will mean highlights of each race are shown on free-to-air, as well as four full live grands prix – which will include the French and Monaco races.

The new arrangement of sharing coverage between free-to-air and pay-TV is the first time it has happened in France since 2013, although as a one-off this year’s Monaco GP was also broadcast on Canal+’s free channel C8.

F1 chairman Chase Carey said recently that the sport was weighing up the benefits of allowing more free-to-air coverage against the potential risk of losing lucrative income from pay-TV channels.

“We’re going to be much more analytical about trying to evaluate the trade-off between reach and dollars,” said Carey.

“I think in general what has been true is you expect to gravitate towards the pay platform over time, but we want to make sure we’re maintaining the reach.

“Obviously, digital will help maintain some of that reach to the degree we can find the right agreements to marry that with some free over the air. That is something we clearly value.

“But our goal is really going to be to engage the full spectrum of video platforms, to find the right balance of reach and dollars.”