BBC Sport, under pressure to make vast savings, has given up its five-year exclusive television rights deal for Formula 1 which was due to run until 2013, announcing this morning that it has instead joined forces with Sky in a new seven-year deal from 2012 to 2018 in which just half the Grands Prix will be broadcast by the Corporation.
The BBC will show the British and Monaco Grands Prix live, as well as the final race of the season, along with probably seven other races each year, and will have “exclusive” highlights of the other races. All races will be shown live by Sky.
Under pressure to make extensive cuts to its budgets, by making this deal, the BBC should be able to continue to afford to maintain its coverage of the Wimbledon tennis fortnight.
The BBC never publshed the cost of its exclusive F1 deal, although it was widely reported to be spending £50 million per year. It was being reported today that for its share of the coverage, the BBC will be paying around £34 million per year.
The BBC had announced that it regained F1 rights in 2008, 12 years after it lost coverage of the sport to ITV. Its recent coverage has been widely praised and has benefited hugely from the successes of British world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
The BBC-Sky deal is the first time F1 has not been available live on free-to-air television.
The announcement comes as BSkyB also revealed a 23 per cent increase in profits, to £1.1 billion, while its subscriber base had increased by just 40,000.
In revealing the F1 deal, Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, expressed her “delight” that they had been able to negotiate an agreement to keep some F1 presence on the channel. “With this new deal not only have we delivered significant savings but we have also ensured that through our live and extended highlights coverage all the action continues to be available to licence fee-payers,” Slater said.
The BBC is seeking 20 per cent cost savings to its budget in all departments following last year’s flat licence fee settlement with David Cameron’s government.
Given the varied innovations that Sky has always brought to any sport it has covered, the promises from Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports, should excite petrolheads. “We will give Formula 1 the full Sky Sports treatment with a commitment to each race never seen before on UK television,” Francis said.
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