The BBC has confirmed it will terminate its contract to broadcast Formula 1 in the United Kingdom, with rival broadcaster Channel 4 taking over the rights.
BBC bosses have been forced to slash costs by £150 million to cover a funding shortfall, with sport the biggest loser. The broadcaster has lost the Grand National, exclusivity on rugby’s Six Nations and golf’s Open Championship
It was rumoured that F1 could be next, with Bernie Ecclestone refusing to renegotiate their contract, which costs the corporation £10m annually.
Barbara Slater, BBC director of sport, said the decision to dump F1 was a tough but necessary one: “The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made,” she said.
“A significant chunk of BBC Sport’s savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1.”
To terminate its deal three years early required the BBC to find an alternative broadcaster to take on the rights. It was rumoured ITV were in the running, but it has emerged that Channel 4 – which originally put in a bid to show the sport back in 2009 – will become F1’s free-to-air broadcaster in the UK.
“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,” said Ecclestone.
“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 added: “Formula 1 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.
The channel insisted it would show the races ad-free, an unusual step for a commercial broadcaster which relies on advertising.
“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,” added a statement.