ITV loses F1 coverage to BBC from 2009

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

British F1 fans will be able to enjoy live Formula 1 free from adverts next year as the BBC have won the right to screen live coverage.

ITV has broadcasted the sport since 1996 and angered many fans by missing up to 15 minutes of every race with advert breaks. Last year ITV missed the moment that decided the world championship – Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox problem in Interlagos – because they were on an advert break.

More recently fans have bemoaned the obsession with Lewis Hamilton in much of the coverage.

And lead commentator James Allen, who took over from Murray Walker in 2002, has never enjoyed popularity among the sport’s fan base. It’s not yet known who BBC might put in the lead commentary chair – Walker did the European Grand Prix for Radio Five as a one-off last year but he has said he’s not up to doing a large number of races per year.

ITV-F1 hasn’t been without successes though. The appointment of Martin Brundle as second commentator was an excellent move and has been very well received. And they began broadcasting F1 live online this year, allowing British viewers to watch two of the practice sessions for the first time.

BBC’s deal will allow them to broadcast F1 on television, online (via its iPlayer service) and on mobile platforms. BBC already has some high definition channels as well, so we might finally get to see F1 in HD as well.

Ironically television communications regulating body Ofcom had recently revealed it was looking into changing advertising restrictions which might have forced ITV to reduce the number of adverts in its coverage.

It also appears ITV’s existing F1 deal has been cut short. At the last extension of their contract it was reported they would show F1 until the end of 2010, but that appears to have been cut back by two years. Was this ITV’s choice?

More on ITV and F1

2009 F1 season

94 comments on “ITV loses F1 coverage to BBC from 2009”

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  1. Fantastic news.  I’m sure Brundle will move across – he’s an independent contractor I believe.  Not sure if James Allen is as well – let’s hope not. 

    I should imagine Steve Rider will move across as well as he worked for the BBC for a long time and I think he has done pretty well fronting ITVs coverage (certainly light years ahead of Rosenthal) and he is a true F1 fan. 

    Hopefully the BBC can find someone good to replace James Allen – anyone would be an improvement.

    Very good timing on the BBC’s part, as they are likely to be taking over just after Hamilton wins his first championship…

  2. So who do we think is responsible? Has Bernie decided he’s unhappy with ITV’s standard of coverage and pushed them out? Or have ITV decided F1 isn’t making them enough money and bailed?

  3. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    20th March 2008, 10:48

    i dont mean get rid of brundle i mean itl be great if brundle goes to the bbc too! whats the original theme music?

  4. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    20th March 2008, 10:54

    can someone put a link for the original theme music for me i only started watching f1 properly in 97 when itv had just taken it over and i was only 9 then!


  5. It’s Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

  6. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    20th March 2008, 11:01

    ok thankyou

  7. Here it is along with the four themes ITV have used:

    Debate: The best ITV F1 theme tune

  8. I’m playing it now to get me in the mood :)
    The theme is about the last minute of the track

    I think the beeb should start with a whole new team. Def not Hill! Leave Brundle too!

    The radio team are good!
    I hope they can provide some unbiased commentary! Yee haa
    Music to my ears

  10. Strange how ITV went all out on their new f1 website only to announce they werent going to show f1 from next year :S Hopefully they will keep Martin and get rid of James but I’m just so happy we won’t miss any of the on track action in 2009 :)

  11. I thought it a little strange that this happened just after they revamped their website too!

    Hopefully the BBC’s web coverage of F1 will be expanded greatly to accomodate the live stream, etc – they are pretty on the ball so I presume they will already have plans for this.

    Will be interesting to find out what else they have planned – Bernie says they have some "innovative" ideas…

  12. Innovative = Maybe picture in picture – of Hami and Kovi simultaneously pressing the eject button accidentally

  13. At long last both the BBC and Formula 1 have gotten something right.  


  14. That’s a surprise indeed ,ITV deciding to bail out of covering F1 before the contract’s finished.

    I can only guess the"straightforward commercial decision" meant they weren’t able to make enough money from it (remember they were hoping to sell sponsorship rights for a lot more than Sony eventually paid for it).ITV have got a few things right with their coverage – especially Martin Brundle , and some of their features were very good in explaning how the sport works (I remember Grand Prix School or something like that shown during 1999 as a good example when I was getting seriously interested in the sport.)

    As for commentators , having Murray do only a few races won’t be a problem at all – much better than hearing James Allen , who in all respect is a far better as a F1 writer.I’d have David Croft or Ben Edwards covering the rest .Brundle made the colour commentator role his own , and there’s no way that should change.Put  John Watson (Ted Kravitz role) and have Dr Jonathan Palmer do some of the reporting and other things
    (not sure though if he’ll be too busy running Brands Hatch amongst other things these days)..Then get back Steve Rider and Maurice Hamilton to front the show , in a proper studio.

  15. More from the BBC site:
    BBC director of sport Roger Mosey said: Our understanding is that F1 did have a termination right at the end of the 2008 season, and that appears to be what has happened

  16. Not even lighting James Allen’s trousers on fire can get him to commentate like Muzza. Although sometimes I wish they would, sorry James. What about getting Rory Bremner to impersonate Murray Walker and give him the job alongside Martin Brundle.
    What ITV had going for them were the features before the race, couldn’t fault them. But they have committed cardinal sins such as:
    1. Cutting press conferences due to Coronation Street being delayed and for many other reasons
    2. Not using ITV2,3,4 to show practice sessions instead choosing to show 1970’s re-runs and the like (maybe they weren’t paying enough to Bernie!)
    3. Putting Martin’s grid walk on at the time the drivers are getting into their cars, very sensible
    4. Not cutting the adverts during the race and moving them to before, UEFA champions league football manages to fit in two adverts before the game, during half time and after the game
    5. Not replacing Murray Walker with someone of as good as a personality, set the trousers on fire!
    6. Occasionally not showing qualifying sessions, Canada was always dropped until recently

  17. Good news, although remember ITV have done a far more thorough job than the BBC ever did (quali sessions were only shown from 1994 onwards) and the first time all the races were shown live was 1995. Even now the BBC is quite happy to shunt Moto GP onto digital if it clashes with a dog show.

    No adverts is great news, although I imagine we will all get bored in a safety car heavy race (where ITV fill dead time with ads).

    My other concern is that a lot of current BBC sports coverage is really dull and worthy, and is too busy ‘explaining the sport’ to new viewers. The Moto GP coverage in particular can feel very flat, especially as that commentary team just flat out doesn’t work.

    In terms of commentators I can see Martin Brundle being retained, but the other commentator is a big question mark. I imagine David Croft will probably step in to the role as they will need someone with prior F1 experience, although there is probably quite a strong case for keeping Ryder, Allen and Brundle

  18. Ben, I would hope & imagine that Bernie (got’s something right for a change!!) has stippulated that the format is similar to what ITV have, ie live quali & race on the main channel. Let’s face it, what is actually wrong with ITV’s coverage??? The obvious one is the ad breaks, so that one problem is removed straight away..So what’s left after that?? Just the presenters in my view. Brundle MUST move over, so ,I hope, would Steve Ryder too..
    On a lighter note knowing the Beeb, they’ll probably have ‘guest’  main presenter, like Have I Got News For You. One race Murray could do it, then Graham Norton (!) and how about Davina McCall, aslong as she’s not pregnant of course. Even the Stig could get in on the act!

  19. I’m glad to see that this page has already collected plenty of signatures for the ‘Take Brundle to the BBC’ petition!  He has become the voice of F1 since Murray hung up his microphone.  So, where are we going to set up the petition?  ;)

  20. Robert McKay
    20th March 2008, 13:22

    Still a bit shocked by this news. But in a way, there’s a symmetry about it…BBC lost their contract in 1996, just as they were doing their most comprehensive coverage. And now ITV is losing it just as they are doing their most comprehensive coverage, with the online presence…

    But I think there’s more to this than ITV pulling out – I don’t believe that, that is just spin to cover up the fact Bernie had a clause to get rid of them.

    I dearly hope Brundle gets taken across. The rest of them are a bit more difficult to care for, but Ted Kravitz has become fairly solid after his shaky start a few seasons back now. And watching a race with no adbreaks will be a strange thing to get used to again :-D

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