BBC says F1 coverage cuts will save ??150m


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

  1. Tiago Carvalho (@tiagocomodoro) said on 22nd December 2011, 8:09

    Guys, I think you all in UK are very lucky to have BBC.
    I live in China, and here the broadcast is the worst possible, half of the races the TV just showed after midnight on Sunday, and in all the races there are many ads, and of course, the poor coverage is all in Chinese even as I have cable-TV
    So believe me, you guys are in a good position

    • Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 23rd December 2011, 15:52

      I still don’t see how that excuses either the specific deal that Bernie approved of Sky getting half the UK-broadcast races to itself, or the general trend of taking F1 broadcasting to the lowest common denominator instead of encouraging everywhere to match the best.

  2. manatcna (@manatcna) said on 22nd December 2011, 8:55

    So, Sky is to show F1 races without adverts in 2012.

    Has anybody heard what their plans are for 2013 and beyond?

    • GT_Racer said on 22nd December 2011, 10:09

      They will show races without Ad’s for the length of there contract from what I’ve been told.

      I understand there may be 1 Ad break during practice (most likely early on when everyone is in the pits & additional breaks if there are any red flags) & at least 1 break during qualifying (In the break between Q1-2 or Q2-3).

      Sky know that Ad’s were massively unpopular when F1 was on ITV & when they looked at it they also saw that in the new format F1 (With more pit stops & more on-track action) there are no longer any natural breaks in the action (ITV often scheduled breaks to take place just before/after pit stops when there tended to be less going on).

      Looking at Ad breaks you would be surprised at just how much broadcasters miss while on an Ad-Break & much of t never gets mentioned or replayed when they come back. The bigger things like accidents & front running position changes often are but smaller things like passing a bit further back & spins or cars running wide (Which are often no less important) are often never even mentioned.

      ITV missed some key moments while on Ad-Breaks (Hill taking the lead at Hungary ’97, Schumacher crashing from the lead at montreal ’99 & retiring from the lead & having his title hopes ended at suzuka ’06, fisichella bringing out the safety car after big crash at eau rouge at spa ’05) & there was that incident at imola in 2005 when they cut to a break on the last lap in the middle of that thrilling fight for the win between schumacher & alonso.

  3. antonyob (@) said on 22nd December 2011, 10:43

    Gee! really? you’d rather not pay a penny and put up with advertising!! shock shock horror horror. Id rather have a free beer and listen to the landlord extol the virtues of Fosters lager for 90 seconds as well but in the real world theres a recession on so deal with your “hardship”!

    The real problem with the Beeb deal was they completely over did it. Probabably we dont want to go back to the days of 1983 when there was at most 3 minutes pre amble with it cutting back to horseracing as the winning car crossed the line but did we really need a separate team for practice? And why were they covering practice anyway?

    We dont, sorry i dont, want a pre show with EJ buying a shirt downtown and Jake giving us a robert robinson holiday program about whatever location they are in. I was always very happy when James Hunt used to cycle to the BBC in town and talk over the live feed. why did we need to watch DC wear inapropriate jeans for a 40 yr old stand next to an even more inappropriately goateed pensioner, live and direct from the venue? It added nothing.

    Its not a lifestyle show its motor racing. Im watching it for the cars not the stars. If i liked gok wang shows i wouldnt expect them to spend 4 minutes covering what had happened in formula ford that week so dont give me the opposite in F1.

    Its the same old story with motor racing, but for sites like this, there is no real understanding in the media of how to handle F1 so they get some oxbridge squit producing it who wouldnt know an f duct from his effin elbow and he/she tries to “broaden its appeal”. Id actually llike them to narrow its appeal.

    All of which means the bbc can save a ludicrous 150million when if they had not been so excitable in the first place they couldve covered the whole lot for half what they will spend next year.

    • And why were they covering practice anyway?

      because its an important part of the weekend which many fans want to watch.

      did we really need a separate team for practice?

      wasn’t costing the bbc any extra to have a seperate team as the radio broadcast is handled by an outside company & radio/tv broadcast’s differ so much that having 2 seperate teams is necisary.

      We dont, sorry i dont, want a pre show

      majority of fans would disagree.
      ok not all the pre-race stuff was great but i for one enjoyed a lot of it.

      if pre-race shows were not important then nobody would watch, the ratings would show this & the pre-race shows would be shortened or scrapped. ratings show that majority of fans watch the pre-race & the various message boards etc… im a member of indicate most of them enjoy them.

      going back to the old style coverage (from a london studio with no pre-show) isn’t going to happen because viewers expect more now.
      having a studio in london means you don’t have all the info from trackside. the american broadcaster (speed channel) broadcast’s from a charlotte studio & they are often behind when it comes to trackside information because there not there getting everything in real time.

      having no pre-show also means you never get to know the teams, drivers, tracks (more important to new viewers who are still learning about the sport) & the latest news & whats happened over the weekend.

      the bbc coverage with its practice coverage, pre-show & team on-site is an award winning broadcast, you never see broadcasters with less coverage winning the awards or getting praise from fans & there is a reason for that.

  4. UncleBob said on 22nd December 2011, 12:04

    Does anyone know how the qualifying will be televised???

  5. antonyob (@) said on 22nd December 2011, 14:14

    yes quite right Dizzy, though i didnt suggest there should be NO pre show. i just couldnt care less about the pompous mock poetry starts and EJ buying a shirt.

    Of course all your arguments, valid though they are miss one crucial point: The huge coverage and team required to run bbc f1 has meant we are now losing half the races unless we succomb to paying the dark side. I know what id rather compromise on and its not live free to air race action.

    • Although I think overall the BBC’s coverage is great the “pompous mock poetry” as you call it is one of the things that annoys me. I don’t know if this type of thing has a proper name I tend to class them the same as I do perfume adverts, pretentious twaddle, and sadly this is not just confined to BBC’s F1 team.

      The other thing that annoys me is when they do an interview, which is preplanned not the live ones, they use the same camera technique which has invaded a lot of modern TV. The shot does not stay still for more than a few seconds, the camera is constantly zooming in and out and they are always changing camera angles.

      A good example of this was during the show for the German GP with the Alonso interview. Alonso did a card trick, now when filming a card trick I think you should always keep a steady shot on the cards, but the camera moved about so much Alonso had time to completely change the deck of cards a few times.

      I don’t know why this style of camera work is so common now, it makes it look like the cameraman is totally inexperienced and is just pressing buttons at random

    • Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta) said on 23rd December 2011, 16:36

      The huge coverage had nothing to do with the Sky deal; even with the large production effort the BBC put in, the Bernie fee was still 4 times the cost of the non-Bernie expenses put together and that differential was only going to rise as time went on. Saving a couple of million a year to give bare-bones coverage wouldn’t have paid for the BBC to carry one more race let alone two years. Also, the audience continued to rise throughout the BBC’s tenure despite British drivers being less successful at the end than the start. The extra coverage was enjoyed by dedicated and casual fan alike.

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

    So half the live coverage but no reduction in the license fee, Mark Thompson really does have his head up his……

  7. just for those who fail to understand why the BBC ‘sold’ F1 to sky instead of allowing a deal with another channel
    the conservative government is supported by the news international newspapers , and is desperate to maintain that ; sky is , of course a NI subsidiary
    although the interests of the viewers is supposed to be protected by an independant panel the chairman of the panel is ….. a member of the conservative party and a former government minister !!!

    so we got screwed ; I wouldn’t have been pleased if the BBC had done a deal with an advert funded channel , but I could have understood that …the fact that F1 employs a large number of people in the UK and the UK is world leader should have dictated that the BBC gave the maximum support to F1 seems to have been ignored …plenty of money is given to support things like tennis and rubbish american programmes and the money could have been saved there

    this decision was POLITICAL

  8. Adrian J (@adrian-j) said on 23rd December 2011, 0:41

    I have to confess I’ve discovered a healthy way to potentially watch F1 live next year…

    …I am joining a gym for health reasons and they have Sky Sports available to watch while you’re on the running/cycling machines etc…

    …might well end up very fit after cycling for the full race distance!!

  9. antonyob (@) said on 23rd December 2011, 11:29

    yes what a complete nonsense! the bbc gives you 4 channels on the telly, iplayer, half a dozen radio stations for £10 a month and no ads and you want a partial refund cos some f1 races arent broadcast live. i think the only person with his head in the wrong place is you my friend.

    I actually feel quite angry when people make those comments about a service unmatched in the world.

  10. The Limit said on 23rd December 2011, 14:09

    It certainly appears as if this is the first step towards Sky attaining full coverage of F1 races. With people like Martin Brundle joining Sky’s F1 commentary team, the BBC’s version only has a slim chance of lasting for any real length of time.
    What angers me is the fact that the BBC pretend that this situation is the ‘best thing’ for the fans. That is complete rubbish and an insult! This is the best situation for Rupert Murdoch and Sky Tv and no one else. For all the stick ITV took when they had the F1 tv contract, atleast they saw it through for twelve years. Also, they had to endure the Schumacher ‘dominant’ years at Ferrari and low viewing figures. Only to be shown the door when F1 became more popular in the UK again following Hamilton’s arrival and Button’s championship.
    And now the BBC, after only three seasons, moreorless throw in the towel and in the most pathetic way possible. They might as well have Gary Lineker doing the highlights in a match of the day style format, it is embarrassing and a complete insult to suggest that that is what real fans want.

  11. themagicofspeed (@) said on 23rd December 2011, 22:30

    Thanks BBC, for screwing over the millions of fans who thought F1 coverage was about to get good again after ’09.

    – And i hope spending your £150m saving showing 3 days of rugby was worth it. Rot in the pits of hell.

  12. Jurgen Mueller (@jurgenmueller) said on 25th December 2011, 4:13

    I live in South America (not Brazil) and the F1 coverage here is provided by Fox Sports Lat Am and I must admit, it is kinda crappy since the races have commercial breaks in them making very frustrating to follow, besides when they run out of time the cut the drivers´ press conference and even the podium ceremonies.So when I have the chance I download (from the net) the BBC transmission which is excellent. It is shame to know that BBC free to air coverage will come to an end sooner or later.

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