There are multiple websites this morning reporting quotes attributed to Bernie Ecclestone, made yesterday during the Belgium Grand Prix weekend, with relation to the current BBC and Sky deal that is due to expire at the end of 2018.
The quotes, which can be attributed to the Telegraph, AUTOSPORT or the Daily Mail, have Ecclestone saying: “I hope [BBC] continue. We’re not interested in the money, we’re interested in entertaining the public and doing a service. That’s what we’re there for. I think it would be good [to continue as we have at the moment]. It’s works at the moment, so there’s no reason why it should change. Sky have done a super job. They’ve lifted the level and lifted the BBC up.”
In relation to whether BT Sport are interested in Formula 1, Ecclestone said: “Let’s see. They’ve not been in to see me, but then even if they had I wouldn’t tell you.” The quotes were made in response to the news that RTL have extended their current deal in Germany to cover both 2016 and 2017. The price quoted by the Daily Mail for the RTL deal is 25 million per season (I’ve adjusted this sentence, Karol296 in the comments section notes that this is €25m, which is £18m, a bargain). The Daily Mail also say that it is £25 million per year for the current BBC deal, although I have in the past put that number at between £15 million and £20 million. You won’t find any information about the exact number in the public domain, but both RTL and BBC are definitely paying less than previously.
All three websites have also reported a factual inaccuracy. The current BBC and Sky deal does not expire as the end of 2017 as the three websites note. It expires at the 2018, as the BBC say themselves on their website. Where 2017 comes from, I have no idea, but I would have thought ‘end of 2018’ is a basic fact in the story. By bringing that date forward a year, you are changing the complexion of the story somewhat. I talked about what could happen in the future last month. If BBC want to stay in Formula 1, then they will enter negotiations with Sky and Formula One Management earlier than expected. A BBC spokesperson told this blog last month “We remain committed to our existing contracts for Formula 1.”
We’re not interested in the money, we’re interested in entertaining the public and doing a service. – Bernie Ecclestone (August 21st, 2015)
The majority of Ecclestone’s quote is your normal talk and nothing out of the ordinary. The only line, in my opinion, that is worth discussion is the one I’ve put in the block quote above. Coming from Ecclestone, it is difficult to look at a quote of that nature with a straight face. Every other sporting contract in the recent past has seen their value jump such as the Premier League and UEFA Champions League. The last F1 contract renewal which started the current arrangement was completed before BT Sport entered the fray. Fact is, if someone throws Ecclestone a bundle of money at the table, he is unlikely to reject it. That is just my opinion, after all Formula 1 is more a business than an entertainment franchise.
If money is no object either, then why is every race not live on free-to-air television? If RTL are paying £25 million to cover every race live, is there not precedence for saying that the BBC should be able to cover every race live by paying the exact same amount? If money is no object, then you may as well invite ITV or Channel 4 to the table and come up with a deal similar to the recent Six Nations deal that was announced. For a business built, and skewed, around money, that quote is surprising. What I think the quote does show with certainty that Ecclestone wants BBC to stay in the game. Maybe it shows that he is concerned that BBC could exit Formula 1 soon, but I’m not sure as no doubt that quote applies to RTL as well.
The earliest in my opinion that we will hear any news is the middle of next year, but that is only if BBC want to renegotiate. If they want to continue in the same vein as now, then I don’t expect to hear any news until 2017.