BBC cuts could drive For­mula 1 off ter­res­trial TV

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

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

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