Channel Four takes over from BBC as F1's free-to-air broadcaster

22 Dec 2015 04:31

Bernie Ecclestone is confident Channel Four will offer a 'new approach' to Formula One after obtaining the broadcasting rights from the BBC.

Lewis Hamilton will begin his quest to become the first British driver to win four championships in 2016, but it will be Channel Four rather than the BBC - who recently dropped its coverage of golf's Open Championship one year earlier than planned - that will cover his historic bid.

BBC's shared broadcasting deal with Sky Sports expired in 2018, but the corporation - which recently announced a £35million cut in its sports budget - called time on their deal three years early.

Channel Four will broadcast 10 of the 21 races live next year - without commercial breaks - and screen extensive highlights of the remaining 11 grands prix.

"I am sorry that the BBC could not comply with their contract but I am happy that we now have a broadcaster that can broadcast Formula One events without commercial intervals during the race," Ecclestone said.

"I am confident that Channel Four will achieve not only how the BBC carried out the broadcast in the past but also with a new approach as the world and Formula One have moved on."

Hamilton claimed his second consecutive title in Austin in October and his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June attracted 5.6million viewers on the BBC. But its Formula One coverage is said to have cost the corporation £20million each year.

With the loss of F1 and the Open Championship, the BBC's portfolio of live annual sporting events has been reduced to the FA Cup, rugby league's Challenge Cup and Wimbledon. It will also share the broadcasting rights with ITV for the RBS 6 Nations from next year.

Suzi Perry, the BBC's F1 presenter since 2013 tweeted: "Thanks so much for your messages today. For the record, I thought we were #kickass ;-)"

Perry's predecessor, Jake Humphrey, who left his role to join BT Sport, said: ''Raising a glass to everyone involved in #F1 on the BBC. Was a pleasure to play my own small part.''