RTL retains F1 and secures Europa League rights
RTL, the commercial broadcaster in Germany, has retained free-to-air rights in the country to motor racing's Formula 1 World Championship and landed rights to European club soccer's second-tier Uefa Europa League.
Both deals run for three years, 2018 to 2020 for Formula 1 and 2018-19 to 2020-21 for the Europa League.
RTL shares coverage of Formula 1 in Germany, one of the sport's major markets, with Sky Deutschland. Both deals expired after this season, but a pay-TV broadcaster for 2018 has yet to be announced.
RTL has retained the rights to show practice, qualifying and races on a free-to-air basis, and can show all races live. It has traditionally sub-licensed rights to practice and qualifying sessions to Sport1, the German sports broadcaster.
There is expected to be heightened interest in Formula 1 in Germany in 2018 with the return of the German Grand Prix from Hockenheim on the calendar. The race did not take place this year.
Ian Holmes, Formula 1's media rights director, said: "The extension of the agreement... will guarantee that our fans in Germany will continue to watch Grands Prix on free TV. The agreement is part of our strategy that aims to increase and strengthen television coverage on a worldwide basis, whilst tailoring it to the characteristics of each TV market."
Frank Hoffmann, managing director of programmes at RTL Television 1, added: “I’m very pleased that as a free-to-air TV station we were able to secure one of the most attractive sports-rights packages out there in such a bitterly contested market. We now want to take this long-running success story that we share with Formula 1 and make it into an exciting future project. The new owners have now entered into a new and exciting era together with us and all of our experience, know-how and innovative power will be at their side."
Earlier this year, the new owners of Formula 1 identified a preferred 30:70 split in terms of free-to-air and pay-TV coverage of the sport in future rights deals, but said they would honour an exclusive six-year contract with Sky in the UK that comes into effect in 2019 and is worth over £1 billion ($1.34 billion).
At present, Sky shows all of the grands prix in full, but 10 are also shown live by free-to-air commercial broadcaster Channel 4, which additionally offers highlights of the remainder.
Speaking at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva in June, Sean Bratches, the managing director of commercial operations at the Formula One Group, owned by US media giant Liberty Media, said: “Free to air is critically important to us. My vision as it relates to media rights is a hybrid of free-to-air and pay. Our plan is to balance the two but have a prominent, over the year, free-to-air voice.
“That is important from a fans, sponsors and relevance standpoint. There is the cauldron full of cash on the pay side and on the other side of the scale you have brand and reach.”
Europa League RTL will televise 15 Europa League fixtures live per season over the course of the three-year contract, including six group-stage matches involving German teams and knockout matches, having outbid incumbent Sport1 in the invitation to tender run by the Team Marketing agency.
In October, DAZN, the over-the-top service owned by Perform, added live rights in Germany and Austria to the Europa League to an earlier agreement for live rights to the top-tier Champions League. DAZN will have exclusive rights to 190 games per season, plus non-exclusive rights to the remaining 15 matches on RTL.
DAZN is replacing Sky Deutschland as the pay-TV rights-holder.
RTL said it will show Europa League programming on its RTL Nitro channel, adding to its existing portfolio of Bundesliga highlights rights and European qualification matches for the Fifa World Cup and European Championships.
Sport1, which currently pays around €9 million ($10.7 million) per season for its Europa League rights package, has shown the competition since 2015, acquiring rights to one game per match week and then replacing the ProSiebenSat.1-owned Kabel Eins as the rights-holder in Germany.
The competition gave Sport1 its best-ever audience as an average of 6.3 million viewers (a 21.2-per-cent share) watched Borussia Dortmund take on Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool last year.
The 2017-18 Europa League has been one of the poorest on record for German teams, with all three participants, FC Köln, Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim, failing to qualify for the knockout stage, albeit Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig will play in the round of 32 having dropped out of this season's Champions League.