BBC terminates F1 coverage but why?

The BBC’s decision to stop covering Formula 1 in their broadcasts is not a great situation for F1 nor its fans but when you consider that they had a 150 million Pound gap in budget to cover and F1 was one of the first to go, it makes you wonder if the BBC are reading the tea leaves just fine.

Sure, you could argue that the BBC have made significant cuts in their services and as an American, who doesn’t watch the BBC, I will concede the points to those who do. However, cutting sports seems to be a very aggressive move and while retaining many other sports programs but cutting F1, I have to wonder if the sport’s appeal versus costs isn’t one of the bigger justifications for dumping it.

“The Director General announced recently that the BBC needs to plug a £150 million annual gap in its finances from next year.

“He outlined that two-thirds of the savings would come from ‘scope’ savings, meaning that the BBC would stop doing some of the things that we currently do.

“BBC Sport was asked to deliver approximately £35 million of these savings.

“This was due to the pressing need to realise the savings and the greater flexibility that BBC Sport has to deliver them compared to most other parts of the Corporation.

“No Director of Sport wants to be responsible for reducing the amount of sport on BBC TV. But the current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made.

“There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.

“The BBC is announcing today that a significant chunk of BBC Sport’s remaining savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1.

Summing up the move, Slater commented: “Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.”

I assume F1’s large price tag made it one of the more immediate objects on the hit list and one package that could take a significant chunk out of the 35 million needed. Being a premium service may cut both ways.

While Channel 4 is stepping in to fill the void and provide terrestrial coverage, the BBC’s massive appeal and coverage surely will be felt. It will also be interesting to see how the contractual obligation the BBC had with F1 is handled now they’ve terminated the contract early. One assumes a financial penalty will occur and even with that penalty, it seems dumping F1 still made the most since. Again, that doesn’t bode well for the broadcast package health of F1.

It may be purely coincidental but I had heard some folks mentioning that Sky Sports F1 is/has changed its format during the off season to darts or some other sport. Again, that doesn’t bode well for F1’s appeal either.

Hat Tip: BBC

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When it takes 60 people to cover every race, even the ones only shown as highlights you have to wonder about over staffing. Eleven different pundits and presenters are not required when four are only ever seen on race day.


Completely agree. Staying in the same hotel and observing breakfast activity each morning, I was shocked to see how many cast & crew BBC brought to a race (Canada) – you’d think they were a minor race team.

Alianora La Canta

BBC has a full-season F1 radio service to staff, which takes a fair number of people in itself. Note that the BBC is still covering F1 via Radio 5 Live, so some BBC people will still be seen travelling the world. Plus the BBC had contracts to provide full presenter coverage to some other countries for every race, which not only covered the extra staff but helped a little with defraying other costs of the F1 coverage (due to the fees charged to the countries receiving BBC commentator service). As such, it made zero difference in staffing whether the UK… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

To finish the first paragraph: the point of making half the UK highlights-only was to cut the Bernie fee by an estimated 40%. Yes, it makes that much difference to the value of the contract.

John The Race Fan

As a US fan, I’d love to have anything close to that level of coverage.

NBCSN sends one guy to the races (Will ‘The Kill’ Buxton) and the other three are in a studio in Charlotte.
Compare that to BBC and other outlets that have staff that tour with Formula 1 to all the events, and perhaps testing sessions and other ancillary happenings.

Dr T

So the BBC is a little different to what the US is used to… We have the ABC here in Australia (different to the US version of the ABC). The BBC and ABC are public broadcasters that are to a large extent funded through the government either raising a fee or diverting money from taxation. Again this is different to the non-profit PBS in the US. As such the masters of the network are bureaucrats who have to please the politicians and keep the voters off their backs. At the moment most governments are looking for significant savings in budgets,… Read more »

Tom Firth

Channel 4 is losing its horse racing centrepiece from 2017, F1 has quite a good opportunity to become central to C4’s sports broadcasting as a result going forwards beyond the end of 2016.

BBC’s losing sports rights to commercial rivals, all over the spot over the past couple of years. Eventually all that will remain will be the ‘Crown Jewels’ sporting events that they have to air live, either in live or highlights dependent on the event.