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Channel 4 will be the UK terrestrial home of the FIA Formula One World Championship from 2016-2018 in a new deal agreed with Formula One World Championship Limited. ITV had been rumoured to be in pole position to take over the deal from the BBC as it sought to reduce costs.
Writing in a BBC Blog, Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport said that “a significant chunk” of BBC Sport’s savings target would be delivered through the immediate termination of its TV rights agreement for Formula 1, adding that any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event was hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.
She confirmed that as part of the exit arrangements the BBC was extending its radio rights deal to 2021 and would continue to cover the sport via its sports news service and the BBC Sport website.
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. After taking over coverage of Grands Prix in 1997, ITV was regularly criticised for the timing of its commercial breaks during live action and inconsistent scheduling of practice sessions at events in non-European time zones. Sky shows races uninterrupted by ad breaks.
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.