End of F1 on BBC?

Bernie Ecclestone has signalled that Formula One could drop its free-to-air television coverage on the BBC since the coverage it gets through pay-TV broadcaster Sky is sufficient on its own. It follows this week’s rights deal to broadcast live F1 races in Italy sold to Sky Italia in a move which further reduces the sport’s free-to-air coverage.

This year, for the first time in the modern history of F1, not all races are being broadcast in full on free-to-air TV in the UK. At an estimated cost of £25 million (€30.7m) annually Sky is broadcasting all races, qualifying and practice sessions live while the BBC is paying around £15 million to show half of the races live with delayed highlights of the others.

The Chinese Grand Prix in April was the first race broadcast live by the BBC this year and its viewing figures were down by 1 million on 2011 to a peak of 4.21 million. Sky’s coverage of the race peaked at 887,000 and averaged at around 1 million over the first four races of the year. However, since Sky has a dedicated F1 channel it broadcasts around three times more hours of the sport than the BBC does. The BBC is also hampered by not being able to show all the races live.

“The thing that TV stations want to buy most is live sport. People don’t want to watch delayed stuff because nowadays it’s hard not to know the result if you don’t want to,” said Bernie Ecclestone, F1 Chief.

He said that “Sky have done a super job”, and added that the live rights slipped through the BBC’s grasp due to its complacency. “The Beeb were sure we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere else,” he said.

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