The BBC has announced it will be ending its television coverage of Formula One three years ahead of its contract renewal as part of cost saving measures.
BBC Sport director Barbara Slater said she had been asked to save £35 million as part of a wider scheme to plug a ‘£150 million annual gap’ in the BBC’s finances from 2016, a move recently announced by the Director General Tony Hall.
Speaking in a BBC blog post, Slater said: “No Director of Sport wants to be responsible for reducing the amount of sport on BBC TV. But the current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made.
“There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.
“The BBC is announcing today that a significant chunk of BBC Sport’s remaining savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1.
Slater added: “Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.
“These are very challenging times for the BBC and sport is not immune to those financial pressures.”
Those who prefer to listen to the motorsport will be pleased to know the Beeb has extended its commentary rights for Radio 5 Live until the 2021 season.
The BBC regained F1 television rights from ITV in 2009 but another cost-saving measure saw it share the rights with Sky Sports since the 2012 season. It broadcasted 10 races live and offered highlights of the other nine.
It is clear the BBC needs to remain relevant in a time of Netflix and Chill, but cutting a sport in which the world champion is British (Lewis Hamilton) has gone down badly with some viewers.
One commenter wrote on the Slater’s announcement: “What a ridiculous decision! There is nothing more British than Formula 1 but the “BBC” has decided to scrap it, the corporation need to start thinking more about their viewers and less about the money or they won’t be lasting much longer.”
Another said: “Unbelievable! Couldn’t you cut the tennis or golf or some other minority middle class sport? If you’d not sacked Jeremy Clarkson, the profit the BBC made from Top Gear would have paid for F1 many times over.”
Others have defended the decision, citing F1’s less exciting nature: “A wise move to cut a non-sport that is decided not by driving skill but by which team of engineers produce the most effective engineering. If more savings need to be found I’d suggest the Boat Race (it’s not even the two best UK university teams).”
Channel 4 will be taking over the BBC’s coverage for the 2016 to 2018 seasons, with 10 races each season broadcasted live and in high-definition.
Now before you have flashbacks to ITV’s ridiculous advert break at the end of the Imola race, Channel 4 has said it will not show adverts for the duration of the live races.
Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone commented: “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 1 events without commercial intervals during the race.”
Channel 4 said the announcement of the presenting and production teams will be announced ‘in due course’.