BBC says F1 coverage cuts will save ??150m

Television

Eddie Jordan, Jake Humphrey, Mike Gascoyne, Barcelona, 2011

Jake Humphrey presents the BBC's F1 coverage

BBC director general Mark Thompson says the corporation will save ??150m by dropping half of its live F1 races.

Speaking before the Culture, Media and Sport committee Thompson said the BBC had approached Sky about the deal and did not enter into negotiations with any other free-to-air broadcasters.

He said: “The idea of sharing the rights under the remainder of the current contract and of potentially extending that contract was our idea. There was a negotiation that led to all the parties involved in the conversation being happy with the idea.

“The effect will be to save the BBC well over ??150 million between now and the end of the contract-money that obviously means that only half of Grand Prix will be live on the BBC, but it has enabled us to keep a very good position in Formula 1, and to make savings that otherwise might have meant deeper cuts in other services.

“As for the considerations for us, we know that Formula 1 has only fairly recently come back to the BBC; it has been very popular on the BBC. Secondly, we know that Formula 1 fans ideally do not want Formula 1 to be interrupted by advertising, because of the character of the sport.

“Nor, of course-for the subset of Formula 1 fans who do not have Sky subscriptions-would they, ideally, like Formula 1 to go entirely behind a paywall. I believe that the arrangements that we have reached offer very good value to the licence payer, and the experience of Formula 1 on the BBC will still be very rich.”

Asked if the BBC had approached free-to-air broadcasters Thompson said: “No, and to be honest I think that I would have already been on the edge of the limits of what it is appropriate to do, in terms of the appropriate separations of sports buyers in the market under the Enterprise Act.”

He continued: “We were quite clear that, to get the economics to work for us, it was going to have to be a pay partner, and this was the only pay partner, credibly, whom we thought we could involve in it-indeed, a pay partner who had expressed interest in this very topic of conversation previously. It was an example of a free-to-air pay partnership, which is not by any means unknown in the market.”

The government imposed a six-year freeze in the BBC’s licence fee in October last year, forcing it to make significant cuts in spending.

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110 comments on BBC says F1 coverage cuts will save ??150m

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  1. mcmercslr (@mcmercslr) said on 21st December 2011, 15:33

    Secondly, we know that Formula 1 fans ideally do not want Formula 1 to be interrupted by advertising, because of the character of the sport

    I would rather have all races live with adverts than half of them with none

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 21st December 2011, 16:22

      Jake got my hopes up in the post-race coverage at Brazil. He said ‘and remember, you can watch all the races in full on the BBC next year.’ With the smile and reassuring tone, I assumed that having missed the pre-race coverage I’d also missed an announcement about the BBC getting the rights back. He then mumbled on for about 2 minutes and said ‘although only half the races are live.’ Stating it at first as though it would all be the same wound me up a bit.

    • This of course is all directed at the UK market whereas us poor colonials have to get F1 either from TSN or the poorer coverage of SPEED TV.
      TSN always gives us adverts, some side by side but typically at a point during the live coverage when something is happening on track.
      SPEED of course is never really live, and as such is edited to some degree and also features even more adverts than with TSN here in Canada.
      Having said all that, I could care less that I have to take adverts. That is what my PVR is for. Without them in EVERY race we would not have any coverage of F1 so UK fans have choices we do not.
      It is all a matter of perspective.

      • artificial racer said on 21st December 2011, 18:05

        The adverts during the race don’t bother me too much, but I do get annoyed at the flurry of them towards the end of the race. And they always cut out the bits of post-race between getting out of the car and the podium celebration. It’s pointless stuff, but seeing that stuff is always fascinating to me (sort of a “behind the scenes” feeling when the drivers are talking “off camera”).

      • lordhesketh (@lordhesketh) said on 21st December 2011, 20:39

        @Alex3
        I’m curious to know if you’re aware of any changes to our coverage here in Canada as a result of this deal. I’ve twice e-mailed both SPEED and TSN and have not received a response.

      • Yeah, I am really curious too to how this change for the bbc and sky is going to affect the tsn coverage. I really hope they are going to be able to show the races live still but I wouldnt be suprised if they only show the races the bbc broadcast.

    • F1_Dave said on 21st December 2011, 21:03

      I would rather have all races live with adverts than half of them with none

      And I would not.

      i watched 3 races this year on speed channel with commercials & coudn’t follow any of them because the ad-breaks not only broke up the natural flow of the race but a ton of stuff was often missed during those breaks.

      i later watched the same races from the bbc without breaks & found them much easier to follow.

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 22nd December 2011, 6:35

      Secondly, we know that Formula 1 fans ideally do not want Formula 1 to be interrupted by advertising, because of the character of the sport

      I would rather have all races live with adverts than half of them with none

      @mcmercslr
      I was going to quote the same sentence and make exactly the same comment.
      Mr Thompson, seriously… consider the fans… what a joke? The fact is the BBC already has other contracts with Sky, working on drama projects etc, so the Sky deal was the easiest solution, however that doesn’t make it the best solution.
      Having said that some F1 free to air is better than none and the BBC coverage is great, still disappoint with the BBC for the decision though, I suppose times are hard and we can’t all have what we want. :-(

    • Gordon said on 26th December 2011, 14:41

      @mcmercslr your comment about having all races with advertisements, instead of just 10 without is NONE-SENSE!

      I live in Chicago and I can tell you geniuely despise SPEED TV where every 14 minutes it cuts to a 5 minute commercial (zero coverage during commercial) and thus over MAX 2hour event if it doesn’t run over and forced to cut over something else has a mere 80-90 minutes of the race and the rest is commercials.

      The only thing i have going for me is SKY subscription (my butt hurts ) cause the price BUT at least I get to see EVERY SINGLE RACE WITHOUT ADVERTISEMENTS/COMMERCIALS!!!!

      I don’t think anyone in the UK or Europe realize how spoiled they have been, by the BBC _FREE_ coverage. Coverage is so bad in the US it’s not wonder why most people don’t watch F1 in the US. Just imagine a ManU vs Chelsea game with 30 minutes (game time) allocated to advertisements.

      I’m extremely gratefully to be able to watch F1 in HD commercial free from my TV in 2012 as opposed to going to ________ downloading 1080p and then watching on the Samsung LED 65 SmartTV.

      can’t wait to pay $800 for every single race and do so from the connivance of my couch

  2. Asked if the BBC had approached free-to-air broadcasters Thompson said: “No, and to be honest I think that I would have already been on the edge of the limits of what it is appropriate to do, in terms of the appropriate separations of sports buyers in the market under the Enterprise Act.”

    He continued: “We were quite clear that, to get the economics to work for us, it was going to have to be a pay partner, and this was the only pay partner, credibly, whom we thought we could involve in it-indeed, a pay partner who had expressed interest in this very topic of conversation previously. It was an example of a free-to-air pay partnership, which is not by any means unknown in the market.”

    In other words, we didn’t want to share with a partner on equal footing because we might have lost everyone to them whereas now we are at least guaranteed the cheap-skates, financially less well off and those who prefer not to give bloody Murdock a penny.

  3. KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 21st December 2011, 15:54

    I’m struggling to see the problem with the deal now… If you don’t get Sky, then fair enough.

    How many races are the BBC showing? 20. All of them. The difference is that only 10 of them are live, and the others get highlights.

    The BBC have done the right thing by not selling F1 to Sky, Sky only have exclusive live on 10 races, quite possibly 9 if Bahrain doesn’t go ahead.

    And above all, I’d far rather have a BBC that is still financially okay whilst only showing 10 races live, than a BBC that goes bust after showing 20 races..

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st December 2011, 16:09

      @KeeleyObsessed

      The BBC have done the right thing by not selling F1 to Sky

      I don’t see how you can say the BBC have not sold F1 to Sky? It seems pretty clear from this that not only have they done exactly that, they kept other free-to-air channels from bidding for it.

      • KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 21st December 2011, 16:14

        @Keith-Collantine Because if BBC had let Channel 4 take F1, then they would be selling, because C4 would not have shared with the BBC. By sharing it with Sky they still show all 20 races with a top coverage team..

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st December 2011, 16:19

          @KeeleyObsessed

          I think we’re just differing on semantics – as far as I’m concerned, they’ve sold live coverage of half the races to Sky. Whereas you seem to be talking about offloading the entirety of their F1 coverage.

          In which case I don’t see why you think having all 20 races live and free-to-air (on Channel 4, or wherever) would be worse than having ten live and free-to-air and ten not live?

          • KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 21st December 2011, 16:28

            Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I don’t believe C4 would have put enough into F1.. And as I’ve said above, I’d far rather the BBC stays financially intact, as there’s a lot of other shows I would like the BBC to show.. The sacrifice of having to watch delayed highlights of a maximum of 10 F1 races a year seems completely justified… It’s not as if we’re going to be missing every race that the BBC aren’t showing live, is it?

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st December 2011, 16:38

            You must have a very low opinion of Channel 4 to expect their coverage would be so bad it would be worse than not being able to see the races live at all.

            I’d far rather the BBC stays financially intact

            You should work for the BBC’s PR department, because that’s the most creative positive spin on this I can think of!

            I can’t share your enthusiasm. The only reason the BBC are cutting back on their F1 coverage is because of the cuts imposed on them by the government – and we all know where their allegiances lie when it comes to broadcasting (see comment to @xenon2 below).

          • cduk_mugello (@cduk_mugello) said on 21st December 2011, 22:09

            Hmm I don’t think the BBC has sold anything, it’s the television rights holder who negotiates the television rights. In my opinion it’s not the prerogative of the BBC to contact C4.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st December 2011, 16:53

        Indeed @keithcollantine, I see this as an admission of what was said all along. That it was the BBC that deviced this deal, while Sky naturally jumped at the occasion and Bernie gave his consent to the deal.

        The BBC did sell part of their rights on to Sky, limiting what their viewers will get next year. They could have either kept their side of the deal or asked Bernie to find someone else to take over. Instead, they barred from their direct “competitors” from getting that chance and distorted the option available.

    • mitchibob (@mitchibob) said on 21st December 2011, 17:28

      We’re also not getting the practice sessions, and have lost some of the best of the commentary team.

  4. petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 21st December 2011, 16:04

    I wonder if people will go to pubs to watch? I know my local is planning to show the f1 with sound on in part of the pub. Not sure how it’ll work when there’s football on as well…

    • KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 21st December 2011, 16:18

      @petebaldwin It’s a good chance they’ll do it for European and American races, but the Asian ones might be difficult..

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st December 2011, 16:24

      @petebaldwin I don’t think F1 lends itself to pub coverage as well as other sports like football do. There’s too much going on in a race, whereas in a football match there’s usually only one point of interest – i.e. where the ball is. Plus of course quite a few races are on at anti-social times.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st December 2011, 16:56

        Not to mention the ones that are not at anti-social times are largely at times those pubs would be rather showing football!

        To make F1 a worthwhile experience, I would imagine it would have to have several displays (showing alternative angles or in car footage), probably offer head sets to listen to specific driver/team radio. Add to that live timing and a track map. In effect it would rather end up looking like a game-con meeting than a meet up in the pub!

        • Ohm (@attakorn) said on 22nd December 2011, 15:09

          I’d love to go to that! XD

          • lubhz (@lubhz) said on 22nd December 2011, 22:56

            Recently i’ve been watching F1 on the internet using 3 screens, the oficial TV screening, the track map and the onboard camera (the problem with this one is that it’s random).

            Being able to select the onboard camera to watch is my ultimate dream.

        • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 23rd December 2011, 0:34

          How about a cinema rather than a pub?

          In all seriousness I would pay for a standard cinema ticket to watch F1 on the big screen…

          • Liam Stroud (@comabvbsixx) said on 24th December 2011, 2:04

            Yeah, same.. Imagine the sound <3.

            The whole idea about having specific headsets for specific drivers' made me laugh, getting an ASBO for giving a Glasgow kiss to someone trying to nab the Hamilton radio feed.

            :o Then there'd be a spinoff of the football factory, good times.

  5. Xenon2 (@xenon2) said on 21st December 2011, 16:06

    I’d rather the Treasury gave the BBC a fair licence fee settlement rising in line with inflation.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st December 2011, 16:13

      @xenon2 Couldn’t agree more.

      Obviously this point of discussion can only lead into a debate over the worthiness of the licence fee. But I think you can draw a straight line from the government’s freeze on the fee to the cuts imposed on the F1 coverage.

      Which, of course, has worked out very nicely for those firm supporters of the government, the Murdochs.

      • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 21st December 2011, 16:54

        I have never paid the TV licence nor will I ever do so, its totally immorral to impose on everyone a poll tax to pay for a state owned monopoly broadcaster. I could perhaps stomach it if the BBC would confine itself to programming which could plausably be justified as in the public interest, but when they waste hundreds of millions of pounds a year on entertainment shows and American TV show re-runs that should be povided by commercial broadcasters.

        Ultimately the only reason why F1 will no longer be free to air is that F1 was unwillling to take a short term revenue hit to ensure the sport reached the maximum audience in the UK. You can’t expect the taxpayer/govt to protect F1 from its own stupidity through a higher TV tax or by giving the sport protected status in legislation.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st December 2011, 17:41

          You can’t expect the taxpayer/govt to protect F1 from its own stupidity through a higher TV tax or by giving the sport protected status in legislation.

          Yes you can, it’s done with many other sports, including several that attract smaller audiences than F1:

          Why the UK government must protect live F1 broadcasts on free-to-air television

          • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 21st December 2011, 18:03

            Yes, and its wrong with each sport it does it with. The state should not pick and choose which cultural and sporting events to give special protection to. If a sport like F1 or Cricket a year or two ago believed its interests are best served by being on pay TV government should not interefere. It might turn out to be bad for the given sport, but you cannot expect goverments to prop up sports too stupid to look after themselves, especially one as wealthy as F1.

        • I hope you don’t ever view the BBC website or listen to any BBC radio stations, or have ever benefitted from any BBC educational programs at school or indeed any educational material produced by the BBC.

          You may think the licence fee is a poll tax(not sure you really understand poll tax) but I think of it as a type of national insurance for media. The licence fee is worth it for the documentaries and sports coverage alone! (although it is getting less so as decisions like this are made). Out of interest I assume you have been watching f1 on some other foreign channel the last few years?

          • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 21st December 2011, 23:19

            No one should be forced to pay for a state broadcaster just to watch television. Frankly in a free society there’s no need for a publically funded broadcaster. If the BBC continued in its current form on the basis of private donnations and voluntary subscriptions I’d be happy, but no way should it be funded through taxation.

            I’ll continue watching free-to-air TV, but I’ll do everything I can to avoid paying a tax to do so.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd December 2011, 9:41

            I disagree with that @ads21, in the same way that a countrie needs other services, free, unbiased media is important. We cannot leave it to market forces alone.
            A licence fee (or indeed taxing as such – coveres basic needs like defense, schooling, infrastructure, justice system/police, etc.) makes perfect sense to have.

            I do think one can debade and differ on what such a broadcaster should show and focus on to ensure everyone has a chance to voice their concerns or views on a non commercial station, as well as protecting several cultural events and even sports, if they are deemed to be important for the country.

            In a world without taxes, the police would only show for a fee, the courts would be unavailable to most and or just to the highest bidder, and amusement would easily crush most culture.

          • ajokay (@ajokay) said on 22nd December 2011, 9:59

            Anyone in the world can view the BBC website, including the 6.93 billion people who don’t pay the licence fee, so I don’t see why @Ads21 can’t look at the BBC website.

            The TV licence is just that, a TV licence, not a radio licence, so I don’t see why Ads21 or anyone else should not listen to any BBC radio station because he doesn’t pay a TV licence.

            And the licence fee only covers watching shows as they are broadcast. Meaning you can watch anything without having paid the licence fee, so long as it’s viewed after the original broadcast has taken place. The BBC provide an excellent service for circumventing their own licence fee. It’s called the iPlayer.

          • Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 23rd December 2011, 0:37

            @ajokay Actually it is a Radio licence as well. If you don’t own a TV but own a radio you have to buy a licence for it. If you have a TV licence then you’re covered under that.

          • ajokay (@ajokay) said on 23rd December 2011, 12:01

            @adrian-j Everything I’ve read says that you don’t need a radio licence. Apparently they were abolished 40 years ago.

      • Alex (@smallvizier) said on 21st December 2011, 21:09

        The best explanation is often the simplest one. Here’s the non-conspiracy version.

        -

        The Conservatives and Lib Dems both believe that the UK needs to stop spending more money than it’s got. They desperately want to break even every year so that our debts aren’t getting any bigger.

        In order to break even every year, they’ve raised taxes on absolutely everyone; they’ve reduced the pensions of our teachers and nurses; they’ve cut their own salaries; and they’ve had a fair few impassioned rows with each other.

        Because they sincerely believe this is important – and because they were elected on that basis – they’ve also cut the TV license. Can you really blame them?

        I’m glad our government has been consistent with their principles, even if this time, it’s hurt me instead of some nameless dustbin man (pay cut), bank clerk (job loss) or medic (pension cut). I reckon I can cope with the pain.

        • I agree. However the BBC have just spent a fortune on an American talent show format plus the move to Manchester. It is right that they need to make savings but they could have easily made cuts elsewhere. Also why did they restrict the competition in favour of sky?

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd December 2011, 4:41

            I hear that the design of the Manchester studio is ridiculous. At BBC studios they have studios, each with its own green room, edit suite and all the other ancillaries necessary. At the Manchester site all studios are lumped together, all edit suites are lumped together etc. Which means that to do a single programme the staff are spread over the entire site, which is a nightmare for travelling between ‘departments’ and for communication. And apparently all the studios can be accessed from a single supply road- it cuts into the centre of the building and the studios branch directly off it. Apparently it is so narrow that if a delivery is happening at the first studio along the road, none of the others can be accessed. Apparently the facilities at the BBC were still fine.

  6. The annoying thing for me is that the BBC threw away two years of full coverage of all races to jump into this deal. If they had let their five year contract to show every race run to the end and then negotiated this I would have said fair enough. The way they got out two years early to save money makes it unacceptable to me. I already have Sky Sports for the football but I totally sympathise with people who are now dabating whether or not to get it just for the F1.

    • They coulda aired two full years, and then STOPPED completely…

      now you get F1 on bbc/sky to what, 2018 or 2019 or something…

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 21st December 2011, 16:24

        Don’t think it’s that long. And if they’d just let the contract run out then another channel might have picked it up in two years- probably would have.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st December 2011, 16:58

        Well, they could have. Only that might have ended up being just as expensive as sitting out the deal. Remember they would have been in breach of contract and Bernie would use all clauses he has to extract an early termination fee from them.

  7. matt90 (@matt90) said on 21st December 2011, 16:10

    I believe that the arrangements that we have reached offer very good value to the licence payer

    As a licence payer, I used to get all races live. Admittedly I’m too young to have been a licence payer for that long, but in essence this went back decades. As a licence payer, suddenly I no longer get these things. As a licence payer, this is therefore shocking value as we have less coverage than we have had for decades at a time when the sport is incredibly popular, and not least because they didn’t even approach other free-to-air channels.

  8. matt90 (@matt90) said on 21st December 2011, 16:14

    Asked if the BBC had approached free-to-air broadcasters Thompson said: “No, and to be honest I think that I would have already been on the edge of the limits of what it is appropriate to do, in terms of the appropriate separations of sports buyers in the market under the Enterprise Act.”

    Read (pretty obviously) “we’re citing this Enterprise Act as a reason for selling the sport somewhere where it won’t directly compete with the BBC, rather than validly offering it to our competitors but to the benefit of the fans and our licence payers. We come first even though the public funds us.”

  9. 6 year deal (2012-2018), £150 million over the 6 years, so the BBC are saving £30 million per year.

    Based on this guardian report from 2009, they were previously paying £200 million for their 5 year deal: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/jun/19/bbc-walk-away-formula-one-contract

    So they’ve gone from paying somewhere around £40m per year to £10m per year, a huge saving but still very frustrating.

  10. Abuelo Paul (@abuello-paul) said on 21st December 2011, 16:49

    So, all the money they saved by not showing the “other” 10 races live and in full for about 7 million viewers …….. has been blown on the Rugby world cup international 6 day wotsit over about 2 weeks for some 2-3 million viewers.
    Well that makes financial sense. NOT.
    I do understand that budgets have to be met, but surely, with a programme as constantly supported and followed by so many, the BBC could have made cuts elsewhere. I do not believe for 1 minute that F1 is so low down the tables that it can be forfeited to SKY. No, there must have been some shennanigans somewhere.
    I tend to agree with the general concensus that the ruling class in BBC are ANTI motor sport.
    But hey, we get 1 man and his dog on a regular basis.

  11. peteleeuk (@peteleeuk) said on 21st December 2011, 16:55

    “There was a negotiation that led to all the parties involved in the conversation being happy with the idea.”

    Shame that the viewers were not part of that conversation then, because we sure as hell are not happy and EVERYTHING the BBC does should be for the benefit of the viewers. They have no shareholders to keep happy, only us, and they failed.

  12. disjunto (@disjunto) said on 21st December 2011, 16:56

    Unfortunately, SKY has now won in my household… buh bye money, hello Sky Sports F1 HD. BBC coverage is just not good enough, and I just have to be able to watch races live.

    An HD DVR with some extra channels is definitely a plus over useless freeview, but I’m now paying more than my TV a year on getting content onto my TV (Sky sub + TVL), which I feel is a bit silly.

  13. Others may have a different view but this doesn’t improve my view of the BBC in the whole F1 to Sky affair.

    I think some of his comments show that Mark Thompson isn’t an F1 fan and doesn’t really understand the sport.

    For as long as I have been an F1 fan all the races have been shown live on free to air in the UK and personally I would have prefer a return of adverts rather than have half the races live and the rest shown as edited highlights.

    It may just be the way I have read it but his quote

    “Nor, of course-for the subset of Formula 1 fans who do not have Sky subscriptions”

    says to me that he thinks it is only a minority of F1 fans who don’t have Sky so it isn’t a big deal, but I would have thought it was the majority who don’t have Sky.

    Also I would be more likely to believe his agruement about “a free-to-air pay partnership” if it starts happening with other sports on the BBC such as Wimbledon or the Six Nations, come to think of it why stop there why not show every other episode of Eastenders exclusively on Sky and just have a short recap before the BBC episodes for people who don’t have Sky.

    • ianmac said on 21st December 2011, 19:02

      Absolutely right, Sky have the minority audience, by a huge margin. But those fat fees paid to subscribe means tons of lovely money for Rupert’s sleazy empire, with nice bits siphoned off to Bernie. It’s not that Sky subscribers have more money, necessarily; just that they’re willing to spend it on Sky. I won’t. I suspect that several teams & their sponsors are unhappy to be losing a large chunk of the audience overnight, but again the flood of TV revenue into the teams means that ethical stances can be “adjusted”. Everybody wins except the fans, as always in Grand Prix Racing’s current F1 incarnation.

  14. I know there is a link to the transcript of this meeting but does anyone know if this will be shown on BBC Parliament and if so when?

  15. The deal doesn’t really seem so bad (probably because I have Sky) but a few things really bug me which means it probably really is horrendous; I’m convinced this is just the beginning of the end for F1 on free to air TV in the UK, most fans don’t have Sky and the BBC waste money in so many other areas (what is the point of BBC3???) that this shows a complete lack of creativity. I know the UK is so lucky with coverage anyway but this is a massive change for us.

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