Formula 1 coverage moves from BBC to Channel 4 next season

The Beeb decides to end its contract early.

Peter J Fox/Getty Images

As the latest Premier League auction has shown, obtaining live TV rights to prestigious sporting events is expensive. It's unsurprising, therefore, to hear that the BBC is cutting back on its coverage to meet its new savings targets, starting with Formula 1. The broadcaster currently shows 10 races each season, as well as highlights from the other nine aired by Sky. It's now prematurely ending its contract, however, and giving Channel 4 the opportunity to take over from next year. Channel 4 is getting a three-year deal -- the amount that was left on the BBC's contract -- and has promised zero advertising breaks like its predecessor during each live race.

The BBC is painting today's announcement as an inevitable and regrettable sacrifice. The broadcaster outlined £150 million in fresh savings last month, due to what it describes as a shortfall in funding triggered by viewers that watch iPlayer without a TV licence. BBC Sport is shouldering £35 million of that burden; Barbara Slater, the broadcaster's director for BBC Sport, says there were "no easy solutions" and knew that "all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences." She added:

"Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly."

To soften the blow, the BBC has negotiated an extension of its radio rights through to 2021. Sky's package remains unaffected, although it now has a clear opportunity to increase its coverage when the next renewal rolls around. For now, Formula 1 is still free to watch in the UK, although it does mean we won't be hearing this iconic theme tune anymore.