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  Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 10:49 GMT
Digital F1 service scrapped
Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone has pulled the plug on digital

Bernie Ecclestone has finally decided to entirely scrap Formula One's pay-per-view digital television service, BBC Sport Online has learned.

It is thought that some 220 people have been laid off as a result of the collapse of the service.

Digital viewing figures have been poor and Ecclestone had already said he would scale down the project.

"We produce a product for pay-per-view and we agreed with the broadcasters to discontinue the service," Ecclestone told BBC Sport Online.

Only three weeks ago the F1 supremo said that, instead of providing an alternative from terrestrial images, the digital pictures would provide shots for free-to-air broadcasters around the world.

Effectively every country would have received their F1 coverage via the Formula One Management (FOM) company's pictures.

In the 2002 season FOM took cameras and equipment to every race - transporting them from country to country using two jet planes.

But now Ecclestone has made a u-turn and decided to shut down the service altogether.

That means the existing system, whereby a race in, for example, Brazil, would be beamed around the world via Brazilian television's pictures, will continue.

The countries which host F1 races have a reciprocal arrangement whereby the 'host' broadcaster gives the others its images.

However, Ecclestone said he hoped FOM would be producing TV pictures for the world by 2004.

Germany was the first country to screen the sport on pay-per-view television in 1995, while the interactive service has spread across Europe in recent years.

Features such as in-car cameras were cut back from terrestrial television in order to promote them better on digital but figures remained poor.

This could have been due to Ferrari's dominance but in Germany - home of world champion Michael Schumacher - numbers were disappointing.

In Britain the digital service was screened on Sky's F1 Digital+ but that will now be closed down.

The likes of Canal Plus in France and DSF in Germany will also lose the pictures which were provided by Formula One Management.

Links to more Formula One stories are at the foot of the page.


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