Sky Wins Full Formula 1 Coverage Rights; BBC To Air Half Of F1 Races

UK fans of F1 racing who have enjoyed watching the races live on free-to-air television will be disappointed to learn that the BBC has relinquished its exclusive rights to show all Formula 1 Grand Prix races. From next season onwards, the full rights to live F1 coverage will go to subscription-based digital satellite TV company British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), although BBC will still retain broadcast rights to half of the Formula One races.

Sky wins full F1 coverage rights
Sky wins full F1 coverage rights

This will be the first time that Formula 1 is no longer available in its entirety live to British viewers wishing to watch it on terrestrial TV. The Beeb is said to have been under financial pressure to keep its current level of live sports coverage (which includes Wimbledon tennis tournament and The Open golf championship) going. As a result of this, the UK public service broadcaster will now only be showing half of the races live, which means that only Sky Sports subscribers get to watch all the F1 races on their HDTV sets as they happen.

The new agreement kicks in next season, and is set to continue until 2018. The BBC has had to back out of its five-year Formula One contract two seasons early. The original contract would have cost the BBC £40 million annually, but instead of coughing up this amount of money, the organisation will now only be paying £20 million per season, while BSkyB will be picking up a bill of £45 million a year to provide exclusive, full and uninterrupted coverage of the Formula 1 races.

Formula One Management’s president and CEO Bernie Ecclestone had previously promised fans that all races would still continue to be aired live on terrestrial television. However, more recently he acknowledged that the Beeb had to make this move because of financial pressures, and that it was not just about what is right for the BBC, but also what is right for F1.

Ecclestone has moved swiftly to reassure Formula 1 fans that whilst the BBC did a great job with Formula One, the coverage on Sky is set be even better. He expects BSkyB’s broadcasting to attract a wider audience because the company is so experienced in delivering this type of content. This is something that Ecclestone took into consideration when he opted for Sky over Channel 4 who also bidded the same amount for full F1 coverage rights.