Formula One on TV: Channel Four take over BBC deal to broadcast for next three years

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Channel Four will lead Formula One‘s terrestrial television coverage for the next three years after the BBC surrendered its broadcasting rights.

The BBC, which announced a £35million cut in its sports budget, revealed on Monday that it had withdrawn from the deal which was shared with Sky Sports.

Lewis Hamilton will begin his quest to become the first British driver to win four championships in 2016, but it will be Channel Four rather than the BBC – who recently dropped its coverage of golf’s Open Championship one year earlier than planned – that will cover his historic bid.

“The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made,” said the BBC’s director of sport, Barbara Slater.

“A significant chunk of BBC Sport’s savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula One.

“Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly. There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.”

Hamilton claimed his second consecutive title in Austin in October and his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June attracted 5.6million viewers on the BBC. But its Formula One coverage is said to have cost the corporation £20million each year.

With the loss of F1 and the Open Championship, the BBC’s portfolio of live annual sporting events has been reduced to the FA Cup, rugby league’s Challenge Cup and Wimbledon. It will also share the broadcasting rights with ITV for the RBS 6 Nations from next year.

“Sport seems to be taking a severe hit and suffering disproportionately at this stage,” Clive Efford, the Shadow Minister for Sport, said. “It is important that people get access to sport on TV and the BBC has to play its part as a public sector broadcaster.”

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Efford added: “The BBC’s arm has been severely twisted by the government.

“Its entire approach to the BBC has been woeful and their intention is to starve it of resources so we see more and more of these things forced on to subscription TV.

“We need a Government that understands and appreciates what the BBC does and I don’t think that this government does.”

Reflecting on the BBC’s announcement, pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzine tweeted: “Good luck to @Channel4 with their #F1 coverage. Loved being part of £BBCF1 team. Some great times, people and wonderful programmes.”

Suzi Perry, the BBC’s F1 presenter since 2013 tweeted a picture, in which she is embraced with her colleagues Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, with the caption: “Love this gang …”

Perry’s predecessor, Jake Humphrey, who left his role to join BT Sport, said: “Raising a glass to everyone involved in £F1 on the BBC. Was a pleasure to play my own small part.”

The BBC regained the exclusive broadcasting rights to Formula One in 2009 before agreeing a seven-year deal to share the rights with Sky Sports in 2012.

Channel Four will take over from the BBC with immediate effect and show 10 races live – without commercial breaks – and screen extensive highlights of the remaining 11 races scheduled for 2016.

Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One’s chief executive, said: “I am sorry that the BBC could not comply with their contract but I am happy that we now have a broadcaster that can broadcast Formula One events without commercial intervals during the race.

“I am confident that Channel Four will achieve not only how the BBC carried out the broadcast in the past but also with a new approach as the world and Formula One have moved on.”

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December 21, 2015 |
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