The $150m gamble that spooked F1

The $150m gamble that spooked F1

A $150million gamble cost Formula 1 dearly when it scared Bernie Ecclestone out of trying to get ahead of the curve in broadcasting. That's just part of the overhaul F1's new owner Liberty needs to implement to get grand prix racing's future secure

One of the first moves made by Bernie Ecclestone after acquiring Formula 1's commercial rights (initially for 15 years, but inexplicably extended by an FIA administration then headed by his chum, Max Mosley) was to establish what was known as F1 Digital+ - a state-of-art broadcast service offering a variety of channels and options that enabled viewers to effectively become their own TV directors.

The service was offered on subscription via existing broadcasters and, after a slow start in 1996 and even slower death in 2002, was canned. Initially budgeted to cost around $35m, Ecclestone is estimated to have lost $100m before eventually pulling the plug. That $100m would be worth around $150m (£125m) today - a fortune at a time when he owed the FIA double that for the purchase of rights he had not yet sold on.

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