German-based media group Kirch Gruppe yesterday insisted that Formula One motor racing would remain on free television, following the news that a group of European car manufacturers intends to set up a rival championship [WAMN: 05-Apr-01].

The car companies are worried that Kirch, which owns 75% of the broadcast rights to Formula One, will switch coverage to its ailing pay-TV platform, substantially reducing the audience – and hence the marketing opportunity – of one of the world’s most-watched sports (lagging only the Olympics and the soccer World Cup in terms of TV viewers).

“There are no plans to let Formula One slip into pay TV,” stressed Kirch, adding that it was committed to maintaining the sport’s appeal to a mass audience.

News source: Wall Street Journal