'No going back' on absence of free-to-air F1 in UK

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Formula 1 commercial chief Sean Bratches has said there is no chance of the sport's new owners going back on its current television rights deal in the UK.

Currently Sky Sports has the rights in the UK to show all Grand Prix races live during the season.

However public service broadcaster Channel 4 is able to show half the races live, and the others in a highlights form after the finish.

But that deal expires at the end of next year, meaning that Formula 1 will be exclusively available to Sky subscribers only from 2019.

Bratches says there is no way of going back on the agreement, which lasts until 2024 and was signed before Liberty Media's takeover of the sport.

"That deal is immutable," Bratches told media reporters at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva on Wednesday, including GPUpdate.net.

"My suspicion is that Sky is very happy with that deal," he said wryly. "We're going to honour and respect the deals that were in place when we arrived."

The new owners have said that they would ideally like to see a mix of free-to-air and pay-per-view coverage to sustain the sport's wider popularity.

Formula 1 teams are also concerned about the growing move to pay-per-view. The fewer viewers the sport has, the less appealing the teams are to sponsors who pay millions to display their brand on the cars.

However, any such rethink of the sport's deals with broadcasters will have to wait until 2025.

"I think we'll have to make an assessment of where our brand is at that point in time," he said. "But I think it's premature.

"The [Sky] deal hasn't even started - it will start in two years – to speculate what we will do on the backside.

He added that they will be seeing how other major sports coverage, which is increasingly going subscriber-only, to see how they fare.

"They feel that their brand is at a point where they can actually afford to do that, notwithstanding the fan and the sponsor angle."

He added that the central theme of Liberty's approach was "is to serve the Formula 1 fan, and we're going to do that with rigour in everything we do."

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