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MARCH 1, 2001

Rahal and Dennis against pay-tv

JAGUAR's Bobby Rahal and McLaren's Ron Dennis joined an ever-growing list of Formula One's bosses to speak out against pay-per-view television on Thursday.

They are concerned that German media groups EM.TV and Kirch will move Formula One to pay-per-view television if they complete their deal for 75 per cent of Bernie Ecclestone's company SLEC, which currently has the television rights for Formula One.

A group of car manufacturers including Ford, who own Rahal's Jaguar Racing and DaimlerChrysler, who supply engines through Mercedes-Benz to Dennis' McLaren team.

Rahal believes pay-per-view television is not in the interests of the teams.

"I would say anything that restricts the number of people who can watch a sport is ultimately negative," said Jaguar's American boss.

"If maximizing the number of people who you want to watch your sport is your objective, then that [pay-per-view] is probably not the way to go. If maximizing the revenue from it is your objective, perhaps then it is."

The car companies want high ratings to promote their brand name as extensively as possible, while the media companies are more interested in obtaining a financial gain.

"No matter what the sport is based on, it is the popularity, the success of the sport [that is important]," argued Rahal. "So probably pay-per-view is not a way to expand that field."

Kirch and EM.TV will claim controlling rights to Formula One broadcasting when they complete the purchase of 25 per cent of Bernie Ecclestone's SLEC company to claim an overall 75 per cent share.

However, they will face heavy criticism if they were to favor a move to pay television, and McLaren boss Dennis has also expressed his concern.

"Clearly the teams are going to be pretty uncomfortable if we move away from it to a pure pay-TV approach," said Dennis.

"And you can rest assured that our objective would be to in any way possible keep Grand Prix racing live on free-to-air television."