Formula One to appear on Channel 4 after sport makes shock switch from BBC – Telegraph.co.uk
“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 One have moved on.”
David Abraham, C4 chief executive, added: “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.”
The BBC’s shared deal with Sky Sports did not expire until the end of 2018 but it was determined to claw back as much as possible of the £12 million a year that arrangement saw it pay.
Ecclestone, who revealed last month he snubbed a plea from the corporation to renegotiate its contract, is almost certain to demand a termination fee that could run into millions of pounds.
Allowing C4 to inherit the BBC’s races demonstrates Ecclestone’s eagerness to keep some of the sport free to air in the UK, particularly during an era of Hamilton dominance.
The world champion’s victory in June’s Canadian Grand Prix attracted a peak audience of 5.6 million people, far in excess of any race on Sky.
F1 becomes the third major event for which the BBC has surrendered a contract before it expires, having given up the final two years exclusivity of its Six Nations deal in exchange for a shared arrangement with ITV, and having handed the last year of its Open deal to Sky.
As exclusively revealed by Telegraph Sport, the Australian Open became the first victim of the latest cuts to the corporation’s sports rights budget, which it announced would fall by £35m to help plug a £150m licence-fee deficit.
The BBC’s 38-year association with BDO World Darts Championship is also under threat amid suggestions next month’s tournament could be its last.
It gave up exclusive coverage of every evening session and one semi-final last year to BT Sport, which could opt to take the remainder of the event from 2017.
The BBC has shown the BDO showpiece since its inception in 1978 and last year’s final drew 3.5 million viewers.
Snooker, a sport which boasts an even longer relationship with the corporation, was identified as being at risk as well.
But it could be spared the axe and remain on the BBC beyond 2017, when its current deal expires for the rights to the sport’s three biggest tournaments – the World Championships, UK Championships and Masters – which it holds along with Eurosport.
And it is still in negotiations with the pay-TV network over subletting the rights to the Olympics from 2022, having lost them to a pan-European bid last summer.
The BBC has prioritised securing the Games as part of a strategy aimed at keeping hold of events considered to be of national significance.
The ever-diminishing list also includes football’s World Cup and European Championship, the FA Cup, the Six Nations and Wimbledon, for which it signed a new deal until 2020 back in September.
Match of the Day falls into a similar category, with the BBC having paid £204m in January to retain the highlights to Premier League football until 2019.