Formula 1 fans in New Zealand anxious about a lack of communication from rights holders Spark about the upcoming season will be relieved to know the telecommunications company has partnered with TVNZ for the first race.
This weekend's Australian Grand Prix qualifying and race proper will be shown free to air and live on TVNZ channel Duke. Spark have said in a statement that the first month of the new season will be free as a trial – which presumably includes the Bahrain Grand Prix later in the month – after which it will charge $19.99 a month.
"Further to this, we can also confirm that Spark Sport coverage of Formula 1 will use the extended Sky UK feed, which includes comprehensive commentary race data and graphics for each F1 practice session, race qualifying session, and the Formula 1 main race," a statement said. "The Spark Sport coverage will also include the Sky Grid Walk and post-race review show."
The Herald revealed last October that Sky TV had failed to win the F1 broadcast rights for the new season because of a change of approach from the company due to a drop in viewership here.
It is understood that Sky did bid for the rights and that it was not accepted. Due to the late start times in Europe, plus the showing of official highlights on social media, Sky felt a significant investment on F1 would not make commercial sense, much to the dismay of supporters of motorsport here.
Several F1 fans have emailed the Herald recently anxious about the apparent lack of information from new rights holders Spark. The telco's F1 partnership with TVNZ reflects its agreement over the broadcasting the Rugby World Cup.
Spark has promised in private that if there are any problems with a broadcast of a test on its sports app – which is likely to be tested to the fullest before and during an All Blacks match - that the test will be screened on TVNZ within five minutes. Otherwise, TVNZ will screen only a couple of All Blacks tests live.