Spark revs up sports rights, nabs Formula 1 off Sky

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen at the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. Photo: Getty Images
Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen racing in the Formula 1 US Grand Prix. Photo: Getty Images

Spark has bolstered its sports lineup by winning three-year exclusive rights to the Formula 1 World Championship, Formula 2 Championship, GP3 Series and the 2019 Porsche Super Cup Series, starting with the Australian Grand Prix in March 2019.

Spark head of sport Jeff Latch said more content deals are on the way for the company.

Sky TV said it pulled out of the bidding for rights to Formula 1.

The races will be broadcast over its new sports streaming service, which will launch early next year.

Pricing has yet to be announced, although the telco has already displayed a robust appetite for charging, with managing director Simon Moutter raising the possibility that a Rugby World Cup pass will cost around $100.

Spark has recently built a portfolio of sport, outbidding Sky TV for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, regaining English Premier League rights for three seasons from next year, and securing Heineken Champions Cup rights to European rugby.

At Sky's recent annual meeting, chairman Peter Macourt stressed that not all the country would have ultrafast broadband by Rugby World Cup.

Macourt said Sky's ability to reach the whole country via satellite was a key advantage with sports bodies.

And although he did not name the telco, Macourt put the acid on Spark by reminding shareholders about the Fifa World Cup debacle in June - where a frozen stream saw Optus forced to refund all views and hand over all games to broadcaster SBS, delivering the free-to-air channel a bonus 1.2 million viewers.

For its part, Spark has partnered with TVNZ and says it has a plan B if streaming fails. It has not detailed its plan but presumably it would involve handing off coverage to the free-to-air broadcaster if things go south.

At the AGM, Sky chief executive John Fellet reiterated that his company had pulled out of bidding for Formula 1 races for the next three years.

Fellet said a move to races at 1am and increased highlights on social media had pushed viewership to below 1 per cent of Sky subscribers - diminishing Sky's appetite to place a high bid.

 

Spark's sports rights so far:

Rugby

Rugby World Cup 2019
Women's Rugby World Cup 2021
World Rugby U20 Championships 2019
Heineken Champions Cup

Football

Premier League
Manchester United TV

Motorsport

Formula 1 World Championships
Formula 2 Championship
GP3 Series
2019 Porsche Super Cup Series

 

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