Virgin Racing Chief Against Murdoch Takeover Bid in Fear of Pay-TV Move

April 27, 2011

Graeme Lowdon, sporting director of Formula One’s Virgin Racing told the BBC he is against Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation buying the sport as it would most likely be taken off free-to-air television.

After reports emerged earlier in the month claiming that Murdoch, together with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, is putting together a bid to take over Formula One.

Despite F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone have initially rubbished the rumours, he later admitted to the possibility of selling the sport and stepping down, though not everyone is in favour of Murdoch taking control.

Lowdon stated: “My view is that the sport is served much better in the world of free-to-air for all the reasons you mention.

“F1 is an incredibly popular sport. It’s talked about by people. It’s the ultimate team game and the drivers are the heroes. If you remove the majority of the public, it removes a lot of the spirit of what F1 is about, as well as the ability for the teams to stand on our own two feet without reliance on the commercial rights holder.

“It’s more important that we have an agenda that grows the popularity of the sport than one that gazes inwardly.

“F1 is way bigger than pay-per-view and deserves its place on the global stage with the viewing figures it gets. We would be concerned if the sport was heading towards a pay-per-view only model.

“The attraction of free-to-air is it gives you more opportunity to diversify your revenue streams. If we go pay-per-view and find people use other (TV) channels, then we’re at risk. At least if you have underlying popularity, you can get your revenue.

“I’d be surprised if a race headlong into pay-per-view would provide F1 with the defences (it needs). Free-to-air provides you with so much flexibility – it means the business is less at risk than if you put all your eggs in one basket.”