In the same week it was revealed that Formula One race fees have surpassed television income for the world's premier motorsport, ESPN Star announced Wednesday it has acquired broadcast rights for F1 in Asia for the next five years. The deal extends coverage by ESS, which will broadcast live races in India and South Korea that are scheduled to debut in 2010.
The wrinkle in the new deal is exclusivity in broadcasting F1 across multiple platforms, that is, television, Internet, mobile and radio. ESS will hold terrestrial rights in a number of the 24 Asian markets covered.
"We are extremely delighted to continue our 17-year-strong partnership with Formula One Management through this historic new agreement," said Manu Sawhney, managing director for ESS Sports. "It is an ideal example of how partners can work together to build and grow a property."
Formula One commercial rights boss Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of FOM, said, "We are very pleased to have reached this agreement extending our relationship with ESPN Star Sports for a further five years. Formula One has enjoyed unprecedented growth in popularity throughout Asia over the last few years, and we feel that this comprehensive new agreement with ESS will help continue this trend."
No figures were given for the cost of the deal.
A grand prix has been held in Japan for more than 30 years. Malaysia, which contested FIA-sanctioned Formula Two races in the early 1960s, held its first F1 race in 1999. China and Bahrain debuted as F1 venues in 2004. The Turkish Grand Prix, which debuted in 2005, is held on the Asian side of Istanbul. Singapore appears on the calendar later this month with the first night race in the sport's history. Abu Dhabi is scheduled to hold its first F1 race in 2009.
Interest in India has soared with this year's presentation of Force India, the Silverstone, England-based team taken over from Spyker, Midland and Jordan before it by Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya.
Formula Money, the industry monitor, reported this week that race fees, augmented by new races in Valencia, Spain, and Singapore, will generate $403.5 million, $23 million more than brought in by television rights. The report said all F1 businesses will generate $4.7 billion this year. Formula One is conducted in U.S. currency.