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Sky Sports F1 coming to Virgin Media

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Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso racing at the Spanish Grand Prix

© Rex Features / The World of Sports SC

Virgin Media has agreed a deal with Sky to offer the forthcoming Sky Sports Formula One channel to its cable TV subscribers in March, but not in high definition.

Sky Sports F1, the satellite broadcaster's first TV channel dedicated to just one sport, will offer live coverage of all the Grand Prix race events from 2012 to 2018 under Sky's controversial new joint F1 rights deal with the BBC.

Alongside launching on Sky in March, the new channel will also be offered on Virgin Media's cable TV platform in the Sky Sports package, alongside Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3 and Sky Sports 4.

Virgin Media's subscribers to this package will have the channel added automatically at launch. However, Virgin will not be able to offer the high definition version of Sky Sports F1, as that will stay exclusive to Sky.

Sky Sports F1 will be solely dedicated to covering the world's premium motorsport, including live coverage of all 20 Grand Prix, practice and qualifying sessions.

The channel will have a new presentation team made up mostly of ex-BBC talent, including Martin Brundle, David Croft, Ted Kravitz and Natalie Pinkham, backed up by the likes of Georgie Thompson, Simon Lazenby and Steve Rider.

Alongside the race coverage, Sky Sports F1 will also offer a range of programme devoted to the history, glamour and technical innovation of Formula One.

Virgin Media executive director of digital entertainment Cindy Rose said: "We're delighted to be able to offer this new channel right from the off as it's certain to be an exciting Formula 1 season with a record number of races and six former or current world champions racing for the title."

Sky's director of the commercial group Rob Webster added: "As the new home of the world's most exciting motorsport series, Formula 1 is going to get the full Sky Sports treatment.

"Extending the distribution of our dedicated channel is great news for all Sky Sports subscribers, enabling millions of pay TV homes to enjoy the benefits of our innovative coverage and investment in must-see content."

The decision for the BBC to share the Formula One broadcasting rights with Sky from 2012 to 2018 has been criticised by some viewers, as it will result in half of the live races only being available on pay-TV.

Despite the deal with Virgin Media, it is not expected that BT Vision and Top Up TV, which both carry Sky Sports 1 and 2, would be able to offer Sky Sports F1 as they would first need to purchase an additional Freeview channel slot at a significantly high cost.

> BBC's Mark Thompson defends controversial Formula One deal

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