BBC Sport is to end its Formula 1 television contract three years early, with Channel 4 taking over from next season.
The beeb described how it has to 'reluctantly' cancel the remaining three years of its contract as part of savings across the corporation. Barbara Slater, BBC's director of sport said: "The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made. A significant chunk of BBC Sport's savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1.”
BBC Sport broadcasted 10 live races of Lewis Hamilton's world championship-winning season in 2015 with a one-hour build-up to each grand prix. It also offered highlights of the nine other races. As part of a £150m gap in the corporation's finances from next year, BBC Sport was asked to deliver £35m of savings.
BBC Sport regained F1 rights from ITV in 2009 but - in another cost-saving move - had been sharing the broadcast rights with Sky Sports since the 2012 season.
Channel 4 and Formula One agreed the new three-year deal for 2016-2018, and immediately confirmed the live races to be broadcast without advertising breaks. Channel 4 will broadcast 10 races per season live – with highlights of all 21 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 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.
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.”
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.