Manufacturers say they'll set up alternate series

Milan, April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Manufacturers involved in Formula One will set up an alternative racing series to the world's most-watched motor sport amid concern about its television broadcasting plans, said Paolo Cantarella, chairman of the ...

Milan, April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Manufacturers involved in Formula One will set up an alternative racing series to the world's most-watched motor sport amid concern about its television broadcasting plans, said Paolo Cantarella, chairman of the European Car Manufacturers Association.

``As a result of recent developments and in the best interest of motor sport, it has been unanimously agreed to set up a joint company to establish as soon as possible a new open-wheel single- seat racing car series,'' said Cantarella, who's also chief executive of Fiat SpA, in a faxed statement.

The move comes after Kirch Holding GmbH, a German media company which recently paid $987.5 million for joint control of 75 percent of Formula One, said it would consider moving some F-1 races to its pay- per-view channel. Manufacturers such as Fiat, which owns the Ferrari F-1 team, want to keep race broadcasts on free-to-air television.

Formula One attracts a TV audience estimated at as many as 350 million viewers per race, more than the combined populations of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Automakers and advertisers, which see the sport as a worldwide promotional platform, have expressed concern Kirch's pay-TV plan would shrink viewership numbers.

Kirch Holding and German TV producer EM.TV & Merchandising AG jointly hold 75 percent of F-1 through their Speed Investment Ltd. venture. Kirch said it wasn't worried that an alternative series would make an immediate impact on F-1.

``There are running contracts, meaning Formula One will continue until 2007,'' said Hartmut Schutz, a Kirch Holding spokesman. He wouldn't comment further.

EM.TV shares fell as much as 1.10 euros, or 21 percent, to 4.20 euros after the statement.

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, Formula One's governing body, said it would give its approval to a new racing series provided it met the established guidelines.

``The position of FIA toward any series is that it will sanction it according to the FIA's international sporting code, providing it meets the criteria in the sporting code which are mainly to do with safety,'' said spokesman Francesco Longanesi. ``We promote motor sport. We don't stop it.''

-FIA

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Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari