|After Vettel's exit at end of year there will be no German drivers in F1, so RTL's ratings would drop|
UPDATE (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone thinks the looming end of free-to-air television coverage of Formula 1 in Germany is due to the demise of Sebastian Vettel's career.
Hot on the heels of Ferrari's news last month that it will split with the quadruple world champion after 2020, the German broadcaster RTL has now announced that will also pull out.
Instead, Liberty Media has inked an exclusive deal with pay-TV broadcaster Sky Deutschland, with RTL's sports director Manfred Loppe suggesting the new rights holder was "willing to pay double".
But former F1 supremo Ecclestone told Blick newspaper: "RTL's withdrawal from Formula 1 after 30 years is also to do with Vettel.
"Without him, they will lose their draw for live viewers. It will be interesting to see how Switzerland and Austria react as well," he added.
Indeed, the Austrian free-to-air broadcaster ORF's contract also runs out at the end of 2020. A spokesman told Der Standard: "We are in discussions."
It is believed Red Bull's Servus TV may be interested.
"Formula 1 rights are always interesting for a broadcaster, but we cannot say anything about it now," the energy drink company's Dietrich Mateschitz told Salzburger Nachrichten.
Kai Ebel, the colorful pit reporter for RTL, admits he is disappointed with Liberty Media for not fighting to keep F1 on free television.
"In this situation with corona and the weird season we are about to get, I actually expected some leniency from Liberty," he told the Dutch publication Formule 1.
"What I mean is that we always portrayed the sport with great care, but this is ultimately about money," Ebel added.
06/22/20 (GMM) After 30 years in Formula 1, Germany's free-to-air television broadcaster RTL is pulling out of the sport at the end of this year.
Bild newspaper believes the pay-TV broadcaster Sky will take over with a lucrative exclusive deal.
"If there are competitors in the game who are willing to offer double, you have to think about the exit scenario," RTL's sports director Manfred Loppe said.
Managing director Jorg Graf added: "The competition for TV rights has changed, and in some cases the market has overheated.
"We will now focus on football as the number 1 sport on TV with our recently-acquired rights package with all our strength, passion and joy."
RTL's well-known face of Formula 1, Kai Ebel, said when he heard the news: "I have to let it sink in first, but somehow it fits into this strange time with ghost races and Sebastian Vettel's clouded sporting future."
Former driver and pundit Christian Danner added: "This is not a good day for Formula 1 in Germany."
Finally, Britain's Sky says it is seeking compensation for not being able to broadcast live Formula 1 races throughout the corona crisis.
"The vast majority of conversations have reached a conclusion where the sport itself is able to continue to thrive and to have funding certainty over the short to medium term," Sky Sports' managing director Rob Webster told the Financial Times.