Spending on athletics and minority sports is to be cut by the BBC, with its Red Button services also facing the axe, as the corporation aims to save £150m a year before its final round of budget negotiations with the government.
The broadcaster will cut online news and make savings in overheads as it deals with a funding shortfall, but it has promised to protect spending on drama.
A “significant chunk” of the savings to be announced on Wednesday morning, amounting to £35m, is expected to come out of sports rights, according to sources.
The Red Button services, which replaced BBC Ceefax in 2012, offer news and sport text services and are particularly popular during big live events such as Wimbledon and Glastonbury.
The corporation has struggled to compete for live sports rights against well-financed rivals Sky and BT, leaving many to fear the future of free-to-air sports broadcasting.
The corporation has already guaranteed the survival of some of its most popular sports programming, including Match of the Day and Wimbledon. However, in June, it lost control of the rights to the Olympic Games from 2022 onwards, after US broadcaster Discovery, the owner of Eurosport, made a £920m offer for exclusive pan-European rights.
BBC insiders said the corporation still hoped to bid to show the Olympics in the UK. More than 90% of the UK’s population watched at least some of the BBC’s coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.
Tony Hall, the BBC director general, is expected to tell staff on Wednesday that most of the savings – more than £50m – will come from overheads and contract efficiencies as well as cutting 1,000 middle management jobs, announced in June.
The £150m shortfall is partly due to more people watching iPlayer, after it was revealed this year that a loophole allowed viewers to use the catch-up TV service without paying the £145.50 licence fee. The BBC is already facing costs of £700m after agreeing a deal with the government in July to finance licence fees for over-75s.
The BBC is expected to set out its final budget proposals – with savings predicted to amount to £550m – in spring 2016.
The latest announcement is the first time the BBC has announced cuts to on-screen and on-air content. In June, BBC insiders said Hall’s “priority is what appears on screen and on the airwaves” and “everything else must be reduced to a bare minimum”.
Drama is the only part of the BBC’s television output likely to be protected but the rest of TV content is expected to face cuts of more than £10m.
After the 2010 licence fee settlement, which forced the BBC to take over the cost of funding the World Service from the government while freezing the licence fee for six years, the BBC cut its sports rights budget by 15%.
Since then, it has lost out on several live sports deals or worked together with other free-to-air broadcasters such as ITV to guarantee the continuation of live rights. This year, it lost the rights to the Open Golf Championship to Sky, bringing to an end 61 years of providing live coverage of the event.