Will Setanta grab high-def F1?

David Coulthard, Alexander Wurz, Melbourne, 2007, 2An emerging player in British television broadcasting could have an important role to play in whether UK viewers get to see Formula 1 in high definition any time soon.

Last week Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that F1 will be available in HD by the end of 2007. But means will have to be found for each territory to broadcast it in that format. At present it does not seem to be an option for ITV’s terrestrial channel ITV1, which currently carries F1 races.

This is where Setanta may come in.

Setanta was formed in 1990 when Michael O’Rourke and Leonard Ryan realised they were unable to watch the progress of the Irish team in the Italia ’90 football World Cup.

The pair negotiated broadcasting rights with Fifa, the European Broadcasting Union and the BBC so that they could show a game at a pub in West London.

Seventeen years later they run a network of subscription digital sports channels and recently they have worked closely with ITV on several deals.

The biggest of these was the ???425m deal to broadcast England international football matches and the FA Cup final from next year.

Colin Turkington, BMW, BTCC, Brands Hatch, 2007Of more interest to motor racing fans is the British Touring Car Championship. Setanta broadcast every weekend live while ITV show the final round of each weekend with highlights of the first two.

ITV currently hold the rights to broadcast F1 in Britain until 2010. Setanta already airs F1 in Ireland but that signal is blocked for British viewers.

But as ITV continued to struggle for advertising revenues, allowing Setanta to broadcast F1 live and in HD for a fee must be worth considering?

For fans it would come at a price – but perhaps not too onerous a fee. Setanta was formerly only available through Sky TV which itself requires a subscription. But it is now also available through Freeview (subscription-free) digital television.

One thing’s for sure – if ITV fail to sort out a solution for F1 fans to watch the sport in HD as soon as it becomes available, they will not deserve a contract extension in 2010.

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4 comments on Will Setanta grab high-def F1?

  1. It would be lovely for Setanta to be allowed to broadcast HDTV, if only to give people a choice of broadcaster. From what I’ve heard, they have a better standard of production and commentary than ITV, and it would be a valuable service to many UK viewers.

    However, if they got exclusive rights it would be a problem for me, as their Freeveiw channel doesn’t reach my house, which is theoretically in a non-Freeveiw area (but get about half the channels regardless). Admittedly ITV’s doesn’t reach my house either, but since they have an analogue signal, that doesn’t matter – yet…

  2. I hear they are looking to get a Setanta channel in the U.S. and Canada, but the company in Canada is having serious trouble with credibility and management of hockey and Leafs TV. It seems the company in Canada is more intent on turning businesses off without any proper notice to force them to pay. Doesn’t sound legal to me!

  3. Me neither. The Canadian Setanta’s behaviour sounds really bad. I haven’t heard of Setanta UK doing anything like that yet, though.

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