Formula One: Channel 4 becomes FTA home of F1 in the UK

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Channel 4 will be the terrestrial home of the FIA Formula One World Championship™ from 2016-2018 in a new deal agreed today with Formula One World Championship Limited.

Channel 4 will broadcast 10 live Formula 1® races, including practice and qualifying sessions, in each of the three FIA Formula One World Championship™ seasons from 2016 to 2018. It will also broadcast comprehensive highlights of all 21 Grands Prix and qualifying sessions – including those shown live by Sky Sports F1®. All of the live coverage and highlights will be broadcast free-to-air and in high definition.

Reflecting Channel 4’s track record for innovation in sports broadcasting, in a first for a UK terrestrial commercial broadcaster, no advertising breaks will be taken through the duration of the live races.

Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive Officer of the Formula One group said: “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.

“I am confident that 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 1® have moved on.”

David Abraham, 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.”

Jay Hunt, Channel 4 Chief Creative Officer said: “Channel 4 and Formula One are the perfect partnership. We’ve the same appetite for innovation and we’ll be demonstrating that to fans by becoming the first free-to-air commercial broadcaster to show the races ad free.”

Details of the 2016 races broadcast live by Channel 4 will be agreed in early-2016. Further details of Channel 4’s production and presenting teams will also be announced in due course.

The new agreement to broadcast Formula One World Championship strengthens the Channel 4 schedule and will not affect the level of spend on peak time, UK-originated content.

Channel 4 has a track record for innovative coverage of major sporting events, which most recently includes its BAFTA-winning coverage of the 2012 Paralympic Games, RTS-award-winning coverage of horse racing; and its BAFTA-winning cricket coverage. In 2016, Channel 4 will also broadcast the Rio Paralympic Games and 90 days of live racing coverage including The Grand National, Royal Ascot and The Derby

Barbara Slater Director of BBC Sport issued the following blog on the announcement:

The Director General announced recently that the BBC needs to plug a £150 million annual gap in its finances from next year. He outlined that two-thirds of the savings would come from ‘scope’ savings, meaning that the BBC would stop doing some of the things that we currently do.

BBC Sport was asked to deliver approximately £35 million of these savings. This was due to the pressing need to realise the savings and the greater flexibility that BBC Sport has to deliver them compared to most other parts of the Corporation.

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 amendment to the TV rights agreement for the Open Golf (a move from live to extended highlights) and the sharing of the 6 Nations Championship earlier this year contributed to our savings target. These deals also helped to mitigate the super-inflation that is prevalent across the sports rights market.

And 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. Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.

As part of the exit arrangements we are extending our radio rights deal to 2021 and will continue to cover the sport via our sports news service and the BBC Sport website. The package of TV rights we have foregone will transfer to another free-to-air broadcaster.

I’d like to extend my appreciation to our production team who for seven seasons consistently produced coverage to the very highest level which has been loved by the sport’s fans. It has won numerous awards, including a BAFTA. The quality of production from those behind and in front of the camera has been without equal.

These are very challenging times for the BBC and sport is not immune to those financial pressures.

We have had to take some unpopular decisions this year but we have done so from a position of strength with long term deals already in place for the likes of the Football World Cup, Wimbledon, the FA Cup, the Olympics, Match of the Day, UK Athletics and the World Athletics Championships, the European Football Championships, Rugby League, Snooker, the London Marathon, the Boat Race and much more.

Barbara Slater is Director of BBC Sport

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