Dissecting Bernie Ecclestone’s latest BBC F1 quotes

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.

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15 thoughts on “Dissecting Bernie Ecclestone’s latest BBC F1 quotes

  1. I’m reading that quote as saying Bernie knows there is a chance that the BBC are considering not bidding next time (in order to save money because of the licence fee situation). He still needs FTA coverage in order to attract sponsors/viewers, but also wants his cake with pay tv.

    He won’t mind giving a discount to FTA if he can get Sky and BT in to some sort of bidding war for the pay tv rights.

    Pay tv would also be more attractive to viewers if FTA went to ITV or C4 – because of the advert breaks on FTA.

  2. I can’t ever envisage Bernie letting F1 not be available in some form on free to air TV. I’m sure he believes that the casual viewer is king and you can’t get those from paid channels.

  3. Taking the money= less than a million viewers people turn off

    Not taking the money= millions of viewers and people embracing the sport

  4. Bernie needs the BBC more than the BBC need F1. I can see this going 2 ways, sky up their bid & have all races live with BBC paying next to nothing for highlights or ITV or C4 picking up the same deal that the BBC have with Sky now

  5. Whilst a lot can still happen between now and when the next UK contracts are agreed with broadcasters, I sincerely hope we don’t end up with what we now have in MotoGP. That’s all the races live only on PPV, but with highlights shown FTA on the day following. The BT Sport deal has screwed MotoGP viewing figures and now the ITV4 highlights are in decline. Rob’s comment is spot on – “Bernie needs the BBC, more than the BBC need F1”.

  6. Another interesting factor that’s just emerged.. While not F1 it could still upset things… Daily mail is reporting tonight that BT has won rights for the Ashes cricket

  7. i not seen an advert for sky f1 for a while either on bill board or on tv. maybe sky have reached the point they just cant get any more subscribers.

    I also use to watch motogp on bbc. I watched the lowlights once and that was end of it. Don’t watch at all now.

  8. By the end of 2018 things will look very different in F1, with things staring to change at the end of this season. Lotus could be gone entirely or become Renault again, though unless Renault’s international fortunes as a car company pick up how can they afford it?. Haas may be here and another team or two missing,

    Bernie has to have FTA because it is in the 100year agreement. How much, we don’t know.

    He could well want a longer set of tv deals tied up before the float (if it ever happens, my guess is it won’t!) He needs more money because he is about to have to give more to the teams. CVC may quietly sell off their remaining and somewhat depleted stockholding in Delta TopCo (who own FOM)

    Bernie has been saying and doing damaging things for a year or so now, some think, in order to knock down the value for him, or his nominated party, to take the controlling stake
    at a lower price. This latest tv thing is another value reducer.

  9. Bernie has said he would be happy to work with Channel 5, so he should have FTA coverage there if they are willing to broadcast the race without adverts. However, the sport should stay on the BBC because it is the home and always will be the home of F1 if Bernie doesn’t screw it up.
    Also, they should invest heavily and use innovative ideas to improve analysis sections on the forum or after the race. They need to spend wisely and stop wasting money on idiots such as Gary Linekar.

    They should also look at their programming to cut waste. For example, keep BBC3 on TV and scrap BBC4 and the useless radio stations, such as BBC Asian Network.

    F1 should stay at home, but Bernie doesn’t care. As usual he is just chasing money.

    • He could but Channel 5 bosses said, given the right opportunity they would do the best for F1 including remove advertising if possible (allowed by Bernie, FOM and Ofcom).

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