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F1 NEWS 

Bernie Ecclestone says Sky pay-to-view TV deal will grow F1's audience

BErnie Ecclestone 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has promised that the sport's audience will grow with the onset of Sky's pay-to-view television deal from 2012.

A surprise deal was announced on Friday morning that the BBC and Sky Sports will share coverage of the sport in the UK from 2012 - with the satellite and cable broadcaster showing all live sessions while the BBC transmits only half on terrestrial digital television - prompting a wave of angry responses from license holders on internet forums and Twitter.

But Ecclestone, speaking after leaving a meeting to address the subject with F1's team principals, insisted that the deal is positive for the sport.

"It's good for Formula 1," he said. "For sure there are going to be a lot more people viewing, and a lot more opportunities for people to view, so from that point I'm very happy.

"I've been finalising this all night long and one or two things might change a little."

"Sky will broadcast everything, all the races, live. The Beeb will do 50 per cent live, and when it isn't live, they will be putting together a very good highlights package.

"They [BBC] may yet do the whole race deferred, we have to see."

Asked what he would say to fans who could not afford a Sky subscription, Ecclestone replied: "That's where the problem is, I know, but from what I understand Sky has enormous coverage, 10 million homes.

"For those who can't watch Sky, they can still watch on a Sunday night, which will probably be better than watching the whole race live half the time," he added.

Ecclestone added that the deal was not complicated by issues surrounding the current Concorde Agreement because the covenant comes to an end prior to the beginning of the Sky contract.

"The Concorde finishes in 2012," he said. "After then there may not be one, we don't need one. We'll see.

"But I think this is all positive, and having spoken to the teams, they think it's positive too."

Along with indicating that the deal was likely to mean more income for the teams, Ecclestone spoke about the general onset of pay-per-view television and how the media landscape affected F1 in the future.

"We do have to do the best we can, and I'm interested in getting the maximum coverage because we have to invest in the future for the good of the teams and for Formula 1," he said.

"I think in the end people will be more happy with this than they are at the moment."

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