Motor racing-Murdoch's Italy TV arm buys F1 rights

LONDON, June 7 Thu Jun 7, 2012 1:26pm BST

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LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) - Sky Italia, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, has bought the Italian live rights to Formula One races from next year, gaining the upper hand over state broadcaster RAI in a new agreement that blends pay and free-to-air TV coverage.

Sky Italia will show every race live, while a second, free-to-air, broadcaster will have live rights to only around half of the races and will show the remainder with a time delay. Races are currently shown live on RAI.

The agreement appears to be modelled on a deal that started in Britain this year.

Pay TV operator BSkyB, in which News Corp is the largest shareholder, shows all 20 races live in Britain, while the publicly funded BBC screens 10 races live and extended highlights of the others.

Formula One is seeking to find a balance between striking lucrative television deals and the sponsors' desire to reach the largest possible TV audience. The global motor racing business has put plans for a stock market listing on hold because of market turmoil.

"We have worked with Sky Italia in the past and I have no doubts about their production standards," Formula One commercial head Bernie Ecclestone said in a statement issued by the Italian broadcaster. "We have a similar agreement in Britain that is working very well," he added.

Sky Italia said it had bought the live rights for all platforms including web, tablet, smartphone and IPTV (Internet TV). The national broadcaster who would acquire a share of the rights would be agreed between Sky and Formula One, it added. (Reporting by Keith Weir)