BBC wins F1 title

From Colin Mann in London

In a surprise move, the BBC has secured the television rights to show Formula One in the UK from the 2009 season. The five-year deal marks the return of the sport to BBC screens 12 years after rival commercial broadcaster ITV began broadcasting Grands Prix.

A new five-year exclusive deal understood to be worth around £200m across TV, radio, broadband and mobile has been signed between the BBC and Formula One Administration Ltd. It will run from 2009 to 2013, inclusive, replacing ITV’s existing deal, which was due to run until 2010. An ITV spokesman said the decision to exit Formula One at the end of this season was “a straightforward commercial decision for ITV”.

The contract covers all platforms and will see F1 broadcast on the BBC Sport website, as well as on TV and radio. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he was “delighted”, adding that the BBC has some innovative ideas to consolidate and expand F1's UK fan base.” Among the new developments will be live video coverage of F1 on the BBC Sport website. Ironically, ITV had only recently announced that it had clinched a deal with Formula One Management (FOM) to acquire the UK online rights for Formula 1.

Dominic Coles, BBC Sport director of sport rights, confirmed that Ecclestone had approached the corporation about the return of F1 to the BBC, and promised Formula One fans uninterrupted coverage from BBC Sport, across all its TV, radio and new media platforms, for the first time since 1996. Since ITV took over coverage of Grands Prix in 1997, it has been criticised for the timing of its commercial breaks during live action and inconsistent scheduling of practice sessions at events in non-European time zones.

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