The negotiations have begun between BBC and FOM…

…but for the BBC, it didn’t end well.

Multiple outlets are reporting this morning that the BBC are attempting to renegotiate their television contract to broadcast Formula 1.

Telegraph.co.uk – Bernie Ecclestone turns down BBC plea to renegotiate F1 contract
Daily Mail – BBC set to pull plug on live F1 with Abu Dhabi Grand Prix set to be swansong race
The Times – BBC rebuffed in bid to revise F1 deal

As the three headlines show, the news is bleak.

The articles say that the BBC met with Formula One Management and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone in his Kensington office yesterday afternoon, following the announcement minutes earlier that the BBC were making further cuts to various budgets, including BBC Sport. Simply put, the offer by the BBC to renegotiate the financial aspect of the contract was refused by Ecclestone. The current cost of the contract is between £15 million to £20 million per year for the BBC.

Various quotes from Ecclestone are making the rounds in the broadsheet papers listed above, which can be summarised as follows, this from The Telegraph: “We had a chat with them [BBC] today. What they would like to do is not spend as much money. They want to know if they can schedule it different ways or pay a bit less now. They don’t have a lot of choice because they’ve got a contract with us. They’re there for another three years. Beyond then [2018], I’ve no idea. I don’t know what’s going to happening tomorrow morning. I can’t tell you what I’m going to do in two years’ time. Definitely, we want them to carry on [with the BBC]. Of course.”

Ecclestone claims that he has not had contact off any other broadcasters concerning future Formula 1 rights. On the BBC side of things, Daily Mail have reported that an e-mail from BBC’s Director of Sport Barbara Slater, circulated to BBC Sport staff, does not list Formula 1 as part of their crown jewels. Most startlingly perhaps is the suggestion from Charles Sale and Jonathan McEvoy of the aforementioned Mail that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the last live Grand Prix on the BBC. Yes, that is Abu Dhabi, which takes place in just ten days time, with the BBC either screening highlights only from 2016 or the rights transferring to another free-to-air broadcaster.

ITV is the broadcaster suggested by the Daily Mail. Sale is either hitting the mark, or extremely wide of it. Suggesting that ITV could formulate a team, and put aside the relevant money by Melbourne in four months time seems far-fetched to me. Some of Sale’s track record has been hit and miss, notably claiming earlier this year that BT Sport would broadcast La Liga exclusively live, only for Sky Sports to officially claim the rights a few hours later.

Clearly, this is going to be a fast moving story over the next few weeks and months. If BBC want to get out of live Formula 1 at the end of this season, an announcement would surely come within the next week, it would be ludicrous if there are no on-air references to their coverage ending in Abu Dhabi. However, if we hear nothing before Christmas, we can assume that BBC will broadcast Formula 1 with the same deal as now in 2016.

Update on November 25th – Enter Channel 4. Per yesterday’s edition of The Chris Evans Show (thanks madmusician on DS for the tip), and I quote from Evans: “This is what I heard yesterday, that Channel 4 may sweep in and take the rights to Formula 1 away from the BBC next year.” Given that Evans has involvement with both the BBC and Channel 4, namely through his own show, Top Gear and TFI Friday, I would say that rumour has legs. I have noted on these pages before about their previous efforts when BBC’s rights were under threat in 2011. Will it be second time lucky for the broadcaster?

Update on November 29th – Suzi Perry at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix show: “We will see you next year, hopefully.” – so, there you are.

Update on November 30th – BBC pundit David Coulthard has used his column on the BBC website to comment on the rights situation. He notes that, as reported above, BBC’s rights are under threat because of budget cuts around the corporation. The most important part of Coulthard’s column, was this, which I wholeheartedly agree with: “My personal view is that if F1 allows itself to lose free-to-air television coverage in the UK, it will not only affect the popularity of the sport, and by extension the teams’ ability to raise money to compete, but it will also reduce its exposure to the next generations of engineers and mechanics.”

Update on December 7th – Current Sky Sports F1 commentator and former BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle spoke about the situation at last night’s AUTOSPORT Awards. In an off-topic diversion, Brundle said “I really hope the BBC stays in F1 next year. We [BBC and Sky] push each other along and it’s good for F1.”

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10 thoughts on “The negotiations have begun between BBC and FOM…

  1. Quite sad really that we’ve reached the point of the inevitable departure of live F1 from FTA. I was a casual viewer in the 90s but the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix changed everything for me and I was hooked on F1 but before I knew it the kick in the stomach of the new rights deal was announced in July 2011. The BBC output for me is still of a decent quality (although I did think the build up for the Brazilian Grand Prix last weekend did feel a bit ‘rushed’) and from what I’ve seen of the the Sky output I still prefer the BBC. Dare I say it but the highlights have worked better for me this season as I’ve been working a lot of weekends and not had time to watch back everything ‘live’. I do hope ITV or Channel 4 step in and take over the live rights the BBC currently has otherwise I think my interest (and I’m sure others) will disappear and then F1 will become another of those sports on Sky that get low viewing figures. I can’t ever see Sky getting anywhere near the viewers the BBC and ITV got when F1 was exclusively FTA. With ITV broadcasting Formula E I think they were testing the water before bringing back F1.

  2. Hardly surprising with doddery Bernie still at the helm.

    If he’s careful interest may well wain enough to affect is bank balance.

    As to the BBC commentary it is sometimes pitiful and heard Suzie notably saying (about Vettel gaining on Rosberg) “And he’s catching the German!”

    Indeed!

  3. As soon as the BBC pull out of F1, Ecclestone needs to give the contract to Channel 4 because they offered £5 million more than Sky did in 2011, but Ecclestone combined Sky and BBC’s money to make himself more (£60 million over £45 million).

    If FTA broadcasters don’t receive a contract, Formula 1 is dead!

    However, I hope BBC can stay with F1 because it’s coverage is great but recently has dropped slightly and became more rushed due to the highlights packages and shorter on air time.

    • Spot on. I didn’t catch the first hour of the race show for Brazil so watched it on iPlayer last night and indeed it did seem rushed. I do enjoy the grid walk though.

    • So you think the claim that Channel 4 pulled out of the last minute is false, just so Bernie could make more money? Certainly seems like a Bernie thing to do

  4. it’s sad to see that it’s most likely that BBC will drop their live coverage for next year, but i think they should go on with their deal, but just a little differently, for the european races, and the first and last races, everything stays as it would do, however for all the other races, they only send out the pit reporters, and the commentators to the races, but leave the presenters at home and to a Formula E style studio show. another thing that they could do is merge teh commentary teams so there is only one for the entirety of the BBC instead of one for Radio and one for TV. Therefore they’d save quite a bit of money. But i do want BBC to keep some live coverage even if it is only, say First Race, Last Race Britain and Monaco. It would be horrible to see all the live coverage on pay TV.

  5. The fact that channel 4 is publicly owned is important too… If plans to privatise channel 4 go through then there’s no chance of them getting F1… They would need to save about 20 million a year (they wouldn’t even be able to keep the Paralympics rights)

  6. I think a year of no live free to air live coverage might be the kick up the backside that some of the people in charge of f1 might need to sort sport out for the good of the fans.

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