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Major changes on the TV broadcast front, and Italy isn't happy

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There's been a bit of shock in Italy, with news that the country is about to lose it free-to-air TV coverage of Grand Prix racing this year.

State broadcaster RAI, a partner of F1 for practically half a century, has apparently failed to agree terms with FOM on its free-to-air TV rights package.

The decision would leave pay channel Sky Italia as Italian viewers' only option for watching live F1 in 2018, a move which prefigures what will happen next year when Britain's Channel 4 leaves the paddock and only Sky subscribers retain access to live F1 coverage.

There may be hope however for Italian viewers as Sky works on a potential deal to broadcast four live races and highlights on its free-to-air subsidiary TV8.

As Liberty Media continues to devise its future broadcasting strategy, region by region, and fine-tunes the roll out of its expected OTT platform, ongoing coexistence between the free-to-air and pay TV formats could be gradually phased out.

Germany's RTL has renewed its free-to-air rights with F1 however - while a deal is still expected with Sky Germany,  and Movistar in Spain has extended its exclusive TV rights partnership with F1 until the end of 2020.

France retains pay channel Canal+ as its live broadcasting partner, but thanks to the return of the Frencg GP to the F1 calendar, and the healthy contingent of French drivers on the grid this year, free-to-air channel TF1 will offer viewers four live races, including France and Monaco.

In the US, NBC threw in the towel at the end of last season after five years of holding the media rights for F1 which have been taken up by ESPN, although the Disney subsidiary will simply tap in to Sky UK's broadcasting.

In Latin America, Fox Sports struck a new deal this week with Formula 1 and will hold the exclusive broadcasting rights on TV and digital platforms throughout the continent, with the exception of Brazil which remains in the hands of TV Globo.

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