The BBC will no longer host live coverage and highlights of Formula 1 after it was announced that the public broadcaster has cancelled its current contract three years ahead of schedule. Free-to-air broadcasting rights for F1 in the UK will now shift to Channel 4 until the present deal elapses in 2018.
The announcement brings to an end the BBC’s seven-year uninterrupted association with the world’s most lucrative motor racing series which began in 2009 when the public broadcaster regained exclusive rights from previous holders ITV. Although the BBC lost its monopoly over F1 screening in 2012 to broadcasting giants Sky Sports, it continued to televise extended highlights and selected live races from the championship until the 2015 season. This week’s announcement, however, spells the end for all forms of Formula 1 coverage on the BBC from next season onwards.
Well-publicised cost cutting at the national public broadcaster are behind the decision to terminate the current F1 deal early. The corporation must make up a £150 million annual shortfall in its finances from 2016, with around £35 million expected to be trimmed from the BBC Sport yearly budget. This belt-tightening has already seen the BBC relinquish its longstanding deal to show live coverage of the Open Golf as well as losing exclusive its rights to the six nations rugby tournament and the Moto GP series. With showpiece sporting events such as the Euro 2016 Football championships and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on the horizon, not to mention the Beeb’s long-standing commitment to cover Wimbledon, steadily declining audiences sounded the death knell for F1 on the BBC.
Live F1 radio coverage on the national broadcaster will continue under the terms of the current deal until 2021.
The addition of Formula 1 to the Channel 4 roster is a major boost for the commercial station. It already boasts extensive coverage of horse racing as well as bringing major para-sport events, such as the Sainsbury’s Anniversary games and the IPC Athletics European Championships, to our screens in recent years. The new home of F1 on UK terrestrial television will continue to show a selection of 10 live races, without advertising breaks, as well as extended highlights alongside Sky Sports’ subscription-only coverage.