Formula 1 will be broadcast for the first time in true native High Definition this year, after Sky Germany announced on Tuesday its improved coverage plans for 2011.
It was revealed in November that Formula 1 chiefs were close to giving the green light to full HD coverage of the sport this year, and had even ordered the equipment it would need to do so. There has not yet been any official confirmation of the HD plans from F1 commercial manager Bernie Ecclestone, but Sky Germany all but made it official on Tuesday when it revealed its own plans.
After clinching an extension to its F1 broadcast deal late last year, Sky Germany said that its German, Austrian and Swiss viewers would be able to watch the whole of the 2011 season in native HD. Brian Sullivan, CEO of Sky Germany, said: "The broadcast of Formula 1 in true HD is something that millions of racing fans in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have yearned for."
Sky would not be able to offer true HD coverage of F1 if Formula 1's own official feed was not broadcast in High Definition, so its announcement suggests that Formula One Management has informed them that it is ready with its ambitions. A number of broadcasters, including SPEED and FOX Sports in the U.S., have shown F1 on their own HD channels, but this has previously been simply an upscale version of the Standard Definition signal for improved picture clarity.
Ecclestone has said several times in the past that HD coverage of the sport would come in when he felt broadcasters were ready to make the investment worthwhile. He told AUTOSPORT last year: "I said to the broadcasters, 'Are you going to get more viewers? Will more people watch F1 because it is HD or will less people watch it because it isn't?' They really need to have a check and see who has got the right televisions.
"I don't think the average public realize that it is not the television, they have to have something to receive it as well. It is like producing a color signal when people only have black and white sets."
Ecclestone's views might hold some weight in Europe, but in the United States a recent study by the Leichtman Research Group showed that the majority of American households – 61 percent – now have at least one High Definition TV set and 26 percent have multiple HDTVs.