The car country Germany has lost interest in Formula 1. In the republic without a speed limit and with the largest car factory in the world, there is no station that wants to broadcast four races in the motorsport series on free-to-air television.
The pay channel Sky has been looking for a TV partner for months in vain in order to be able to fulfill contractual requirements. Even before the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday in Melbourne, the third race of the season, there are no signs of a solution.
"The extent to which we will enter into a partnership with a free TV partner again is an open question," Sky said on request this week. "In any case, we have several options for showing individual races Free to Air. We will announce any news on this in good time."
It is not so long ago that Formula 1 was able to look forward to brisk demand and price-driving competition when selling media rights in Germany. Sky had prevailed in the betting against RTL and is now showing all races behind the paywall for the third year.
RTL no longer wants it
The passage in the contract with Formula 1, according to which four races must be freely receivable, was fulfilled twice by the pay-TV provider by selling a sub-license to RTL. But the Cologne broadcaster, which has been the TV home for motorsport fans for decades, no longer wants it and canceled another deal in January.
ARD and ZDF are also not interested. And the ProSiebenSat.1 Group is no longer concerned with the subject of Formula 1, as spokesman Christoph Körfer confirmed: "ProSieben shows Formula E and the DTM. More motorsport is currently not planned."
Formula 1 is no longer attractive for the big broadcasters because the ratings have fallen rapidly. The times when more than ten million Germans watched Michael Schumacher drive on TV were many years ago. In 2020, RTL still had an average of almost four million viewers. Last year there were only 2.53 million in the four races.
German stars are missing
"The big German drivers and stars are missing, and the name Schumacher alone is not enough," said media expert Thomas Horky from Macromedia University in Hamburg about the past season. With the departure of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and the departure of Mick Schumacher as a regular driver, things have not gotten any better. The only German driver is currently the moderately successful Nico Hülkenberg.
For Sky, however, the purchase of rights has so far been worthwhile. In the first season with exclusive rights, the number of viewers grew by 50 percent, last year by another 20 percent to almost one million viewers on average. But now viewership is falling - and the hoped-for income from the sale of the sub-license to a free TV station is missing.
What options does Sky have to meet the requirements of Formula 1? The pay-TV provider could have its finished signal fed in free of charge by a smaller broadcaster and at least advertise in this way. Free-to-air transmissions on the Internet via the company's own homepage or a YouTube channel would also be possible. Only with the new TV contract, which applies from 2025 to 2027, does the four-race rule no longer apply.