Monday, 21 December 2015

Channel 4 takes over from BBC as Formula One Broadcaster

Channel 4 will broadcast Formula One on free-to-air television in the United Kingdom next year after the BBC opted to end their contract early.

The new agreement, which will see Channel 4 show 10 live races and the rest as highlights - much like the BBC have done since 2012, lasts from 2016-2018.

Channel 4's HD coverage will not include commercial breaks during races marking the first time a terrestrial commercial broadcaster in the UK has shown sport without advert breaks.

Speaking in a press release issued by Channel 4, the channel's Chief Executive David Abraham 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."

"Channel 4 and Formula One are the perfect partnership," added Channel 4 Chief Creative Officer Jay Hunt. "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."

Financial difficulties for the BBC are behind the decision to bring an end to their on-screen Formula One coverage which began in 2009 having previously been on ITV between 1997-2006.

BBC Sport were asked to save £35m to help plug a £150m gap in the broadcasters finances, with the termination of their Formula One rights agreement said to be delivering 'a significant chunk' of the saving.

"The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made," said Barbara Slater, the BBC's director of sport. "Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.

"There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences," added Slater. "These are very challenging times for the BBC and sport is not immune to those financial pressures."

Speaking of the new development, Formula One Group Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone appeared to have mixed feelings after one agreement ended prematurely but another to step into the breach immediately afterwards.

"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," he said. "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."

The BBC has extended their Radio 5 Live commentary deal however. The station will continue to air Formula One live until 2021.

Further details of Channel 4's Formula One coverage will be announced in due course.

Image: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

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