TV prize fund slashed

THE Formula 1 prize fund has been slashed by around $75m because Bernie Ecclestone's pay-per-view "satellite" television service is not attracting as many viewers as had been hoped. The cut in the prize fund - which will cost the big teams around $10m each - has been forced upon Ecclestone because the TV companies involved in the digital service have had disappointing results. They are demanding a better show from Ecclestone to help to differentiate their show from the normal coverage which is supplied by free-over-air "terrestrial" companies.

This caused some upsets in Melbourne with a reduction in the number of in-car cameras available to the host broadcaster, Australia's Channel Nine. While all the leading cars carried two cameras, the only one which was used by Channel Nine was a camera on Ralf Schumacher's Williams. In addition there were problems with terrestrial companies being banned from having studios at the race track. This caused uproar in Melbourne and the TV companies were eventually allowed back in.

While the drop in TV money is not a disaster for the big F1 teams, it is a major setback for some of the smaller operations, which had counted on receiving the money to help top up their budgets.

According to the prospectus for the F1 bond issue, the sale of TV rights is supposed to raise around $330m a year, half of which goes to the teams. If these figures are correct this means that the TV income to teams has, in effect, been halved because of the current difficulties.

Ecclestone says that there is a short term problem and that the TV companies involved need to do a better job with the promotion of their services.

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