BBC cuts could drive Formula 1 off terrestrial TV
Embattled corporation has to make savings, and the sports broadcasting budget will be cut
The future of BBC F1 coverage is in doubt after the corporation was forced by the government to make £150m of savings.
The BBC want to save £50m of that amount from their sports rights budget, putting F1 in the firing line. Bernie Ecclestone confirmed the BBC had approached him to renegotiate their deal, which runs to the end of 2018, under which they broadcast around half the races live and the rest as highlights.
“We had a chat with them,” Ecclestone said. “What they would like to do is not spend as much money. They want to know if they can schedule it in different ways or pay a bit less now. They don’t have a lot of choice because they’ve got a contract with us. They’re there for another three years. Beyond then, I’ve no idea. Definitely we want them to carry on.”
Ecclestone is now trying to resolve the situation. This could mean a cut-price deal for the BBC, with highlights retained but a reduced number of live races. Or it could mean a switch of free-to-air coverage to another channel, such as ITV or Channel Four.
Equally, Ecclestone could force the BBC to stick to their contract, playing for time as he works on the best combination of financial income and audience figures. But he has to weigh the higher audiences the BBC commands against the higher fee he could negotiate with another broadcaster.
There are suggestions that Sky, who show all the races live in a split deal with the BBC, might pay more money if they could show more races exclusively live. It’s also believed that BT may bid to cover Formula 1 from 2019, following their success in winning other high-profile sporting events from Sky.
The BBC and Ecclestone are looking at ways to maintain coverage and cut costs