Formula One is to move to Channel 4 for the next three years after the BBC announced it is to “reluctantly” bring its contract to a premature end as part of its drive for savings across the corporation.
The channel will broadcast 10 live races, including practice and qualifying sessions from 2016 to 2018. It will also broadcast highlights of all 21 grands prix and qualifying sessions including those shown live by Sky Sports. No advertising breaks will be taken through the duration of the live races.
“The financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made,” Barbara Slater, the BBC’s director of sport, told its website.
Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive officer of the Formula One group said: “I am sorry the BBC could not comply with their contract but I am happy we now have a broadcaster that can broadcast Formula One events without commercial intervals during the race.
“I am confident Channel 4 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.”
David Abraham, the Channel 4 chief executive, said: “Formula One is one of the world’s biggest sporting events with huge appeal to British audiences. I’m delighted to have agreed this exciting new partnership with Bernie Ecclestone to keep the sport on free-to-air television.”
Details of the 2016 races broadcast live by Channel 4 will be agreed early next year. Further details of Channel 4’s production and presenting teams will also be announced.
BBC Sport had been asked to deliver £35m of savings to help plug a £150m gap in the corporation’s finances from next year and Slater said: “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.”
BBC Sport regained F1 rights from ITV in 2009 but had been sharing the broadcast rights with Sky Sports since the 2012 season.
“These are very challenging times for the BBC and sport is not immune to those financial pressures,” Slater said.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010