Weird happenings in the TV world

THE French racing magazine AUTOHEBO is reporting that television coverage of Formula 1 in 14 Asian countries has stopped. Fortunately this is not true.

"The Canadian GP was on Star TV as usual," reported our man in Hong Kong. "I watched it."

Star TV, which supplies most of Asia, is still listing its F1 programming in the weeks ahead which would also seem to suggest that there is not a problem.

But other sources say that there are problems in Asia because the coverage to date, which has been packaged at each Grand Prix by the Monaco-based PPGI company, was paid for by British American Tobacco and the tobacco giant has decided not to fund the program any longer. This makes sense given the current performance of the BAR-Hondas.

The problem appears to be that no-one else is willing to pick up the tab as no-one is very keen to promote what it, in effect, a Ferrari benefit. For the moment at least it seems that the coverage is being subsidized by the Formula One group but with economies having to be made because of the situation at Kirch, the Asian TV feed is apparently under threat.

The loss of the Asian TV market would be a massive blow to Formula 1. Asians make up something like 60% of the 350m viewers who are reckoned to watch each race. Star TV supplies the feed to China, India, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Singapore. It has been very successful in recent years with a 13% increase in viewing figures last year.

The need for economy in Formula One operations was highlighted last week by a letter to the teams suggesting that there would not be all the necessary systems in place at the French GP because of the back-to-back races and the extra costs that this entails. That would have meant that the automatic start light system, the jump-start technology and pitlane speeding gear, plus other race control systems were under threat. After conversations with the FIA, however, the planned cutbacks were rescinded a few days later.

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