BBC cuts could cut F1

If there is one thing that will get Formula One Management (FOM) focus and CVC Capital’s attention, it’s the notion that broadcasters may not be willing to cover Formula or pay for the broadcasting packages.

That could be the situation in the UK as BBC are heading toward serious budget cuts and F1’s half-live, half-highlights package could be at risk…meaning the free-to-air coverage of F1 would be over as the races would only be on Sky sports F1.

I was reading the coverage over at AUTOSPORT this morning and they do quote F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone from earlier this year regarding the BBC’s commitment:

“I hope they continue,” he said in August. “We’re not interested in the money.

“We’re interested in entertaining the public and doing a service. That’s what we are there for.

“The continuation of the Sky/BBC deal would be good.

“It works at the moment so there is no reason why we should change.

“Sky has done a super job. They have lifted the level, and they have lifted the BBC.”

If you’re new-ish to F1, this is actually relatively conciliatory language for Ecclestone. Think back to his positions with circuits and their inability to pay. Recall the types of words used and the overall tone of those comments as juxtaposed with this one? Mr. E rarely uses such praise when discussing people paying for access to F1.

I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, he’s just a shrewd deal maker and offering glowing praise for a group who is paying for his product isn’t usually his game. Also, he usually isn’t caught suggesting that FOM isn’t interested in the money.

I was chatting with our own motorsport monk, Tom Firth, and he was explaining that Sky Sport F1 has decided to roll up the sidewalks and convert their coverage this off-season to darts. Imagine that? The once 24/7 F1 channel goes dark for the winter.

It’s critical that F1 is covered in the UK and FOM will do what they have to in order to make that happen. It will be interesting to see what other broadcasters do as well. Has F1 lost it’s broadcaster appeal? Are the viewer numbers not justifying the cost or is it that the BBC are just in the tank and need to cut everything?


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Even when the Beeb just airs highlights they have more folks trackside covering the race than NBCSN does… For a two hour VT package the Beeb will have between 5 and 8 folks (depending on if they pull in EJ and Allan McNish) that weekend. Add in all the production staff to support them and that’s still a ton of money for essentially redundant coverage.

Does any other sport have multiple broadcasters in the same country providing competing coverage of the same event?

Shane Phillips

Viewing figures have already slumped since they moved F1 to pay TV, as long as sky keep lining Bernie’s pockets I doubt he’ll actually concede too much. It’s unfortunate to lose F1 to pay TV, but it’s probably inevitable.

The Captain

“We’re not interested in the money.”




Edit: Hahahahaaahahahaah ha

Paul KieferJr

So, the question in my mind is: Are the networks (BBC included) getting tired of Bernie’s antics and wheeling-dealing game? Have they decided that enough was enough? As you mentioned, Bernie’s big about his home country and probably doesn’t want to lose it. That’s a credible threat to him. Would love to see what comes out of this.


Well its the bigger issue is that Bernie is still running F1 like he did in the 90’s where cable was king. People don’t consume media like they did 10 years ago or even 5, heck even 2! Everything is on-demand, mobile and on every device you can name. People want instant video through their phones or on their Roku’s. Hell, at least on their PC’s!

Bernie wants to know why younger people don’t care, this is the exact reason.


We lost the free to air coverage at the beginning of this year (12 months earlier than planned). I admit that there is a highlights package for every race, but an hour of highlights, poorly put together without any context is unwatchable. There was also 10 out of the 20 races shown on FTA this year, but with the terrible BBC commentary and tons of ads.

Hence why I bought pay TV this year.

Louis Jansen

I live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and F1 is broadcasted live and direct in my country. But to be able to see it, you need to choose for a certain tv provider and a package. If you are willing to pay for an extended package, like me, you will be able to see all practice sessions, qualifying and race live, direct and uninterrupted by commercials. One thing though: qualifying and race will be commentated live from the circuit by an idiot Dutch commentator, Olaf Mol, who has been commentating on Dutch TV since Mansell won the drivers WC and was… Read more »

Johnpierre Rivera


Tom Firth

F1 hasn’t lost it’s broadcast appeal, and the viewing numbers are fine. To say the BBC is in the Tank so to speak, isn’t quite right, but it is the closest reason as to why. It’s complicated but most of it comes down to what the BBC as a public service broadcaster should be? What the BBC delivers today, it’s size, it’s influence on British society and culture, and as a rival to commercial broadcasters in the UK, and how the BBC will be funded once the Royal Charter is renewed in 2016, and in the future of a changing… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

That sounds like a similar argument we’re having with the “Public Broadcasting Service” (PBS).

Tom Firth

Exactly like PBS, though the size and scope are very different, are both PSB broadcasters.

In defence of Bernie and what appears to be a refusal to re-negotiate, you have to remember that the BBC/sky deal in 2012 was justified by the BBC as a need to cut costs, and that contract was wound up with Ecclestone a year earlier than should of run, so I can understand why he’s said tough this time of asking, you have a contract, run it.

Tom Firth