The return of pay-per-view


It has been revealed that with two championship contenders in 2007, Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari and Heikki Kovalainen at Renault, Finnish TV station MTV3 is to broadcast the entire Formula One season on a pay per view basis.

With a population of just over 5 million, it remains to be seen exactly how many will be prepared to pay for Formula One coverage, especially since previous deals in countries with a more sizeable F1 audience proved unsuccessful, with Bernie Ecclestone eventually opting to pull the plug.

It is widely thought that Formula One Management will use MTV3, and a similar deal with Sport TV in Portugal, as an experiment, as it attempts to find out if there might be a commercial gain in reintroducing pay per view F1 coverage in other countries.

F1 Digital was widely available on mainland Europe in the late 90s and early 00s, however it proved a massive disappointment, certainly in terms of viewer numbers. When introduced to the UK in 2002, with race fans unwilling to shell out 12 for each race, or even 50 for a season ticket, which consisted of more than eight or nine race, Ecclestone opted to pull the plug, after just one season.

Now, it is felt that as fans grow tired of advertisement breaks, and lacklustre commentary, they might be willing to pay extra for dedicated F1 coverage. However, previously the Concorde Agreement has stated that coverage must be available free-to-air.

Pay-per-view could be damaged by the audience drop off that is bound to follow Michael Schumacher's retirement, though the prospect of a new era in F1, that of Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa, could persuade fans to part with their money.

It is a tough call. Sponsors come into F1 in order to have their logos seen by the widest possible audience, aiming for the vast masses rather than the dedicated few.

Then again, with CVC at the helm, and intent on finding the best return on its investment, pay-per-view might be the first step in a major commercial initiative.

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Published: 22/10/2006
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