The TV revolution takes another step

BERNIE ECCLESTONE has announced an agreement to launch the first digital broadcasting of Formula 1 racing at the German GP at Hockenheim in July. German station DSF will supply five different feeds of TV pictures and information on a pay-to-view basis to those with the necessary decoding equipment in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

In order to achieve this, Ecclestone is soon to unveil a mobile TV village facility which will be built at every Grand Prix in the future and will include multiple production facilities, editing areas, workshops and satellite equipment. It is expected to cost $45m to build, with an annual bill of $1m to transport the facility around the world. The FOCA TV crew is expected to number around 80 people.

The launch of digital "interactive" television in F1 has been expected for some time, but the huge costs of setting it up and the need for digital decoders to become more widespread among the viewing public will mean that growth will initially be fairly slow, although further digital deals are expected with other TV stations within months.

Ecclestone is also working on a concept known as "virtual advertising" which features blanked out billboards at races onto which sponsor logos are superimposed electronically. This means that every billboard at a Grand Prix can be sold many times, depending on the channel on which the program is to be shown. Ecclestone refuses to discuss the idea, but we noticed in Melbourne that there were a number of very large empty billboards around the circuit, painted green. We believe the Melbourne coverage is being used to test "virtual advertising."

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