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Channel 4 promises "new approach" as the home of Formula 1 on UK free to air TV

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Channel 4 promises "new approach" as the home of Formula 1 on UK free to air TV
Dec 21, 2015, 4:26 PM

Channel 4 will move the terrestrial television coverage of Formula 1 on, promising a new approach when it starts broadcasting in less than three mo...

Channel 4 will move the terrestrial television coverage of Formula 1 on, promising a new approach when it starts broadcasting in less than three months time, according to F1's commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone.

The move to show the live race action advert-free is a bold one from the broadcaster, which is new to F1, although it has bid for F1 before in the past five years.

Channel 4 has a reputation for innovation and creativity in broadcasting and has had a diverse portfolio of sports since its creation in the 1980s, from the groundbreaking Italian football coverage, to NBA basketball and NFL, WRC and cricket. It has taken over the three year contract for free to air TV until the end of 2018 after the BBC ended its agreement early.

The BBC, which had a contract to show F1 until the end of 2018, is under pressure to cover a gap of £150m in its finances from next year and BBC Sport needs to make £35m savings as part of that. F1 represented low hanging fruit in cost reduction terms, as each race costs around £500,000 to air, plus the rights fees.

Ecclestone explained that while he was disappointed by the loss of the BBC, he was pleased that the sport would continue to be broadcast on a free-to-air station, without the race action being interrupted by adverts. Channel 4's coup, in which will show ten races live per season and highlights for all 21 races, caught many observers by surprise as rumours last week on some F1 sites had wrongly suggested that ITV was set to take over the contract. They were involved in the negotiations, but they did not result in a deal.

Bernie Ecclestone

Ecclestone said: “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 1 events without commercial intervals during the race.

“I am confident that Channel 4 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 1 have moved on.”

BBC is not quitting F1 altogether; it has moved to extend its Radio 5 Live rights to 2021.

A Channel 4 statement explained that the station would screen the practice and qualifying sessions of the ten races it is showing live while it will also air highlights of the remaining races (and their qualifying sessions). This is a better outcome for F1 fans in the UK than all F1 coverage being exclusively on SKY, behind a paywall.

Suzi Perry, Lewis Hamilton

David Abraham, Channel 4 chief executive said: “Formula One is one of the world’s biggest sporting events with huge appeal to British audiences. I’m delighted to have agreed this exciting new partnership with Bernie Ecclestone to keep the sport on free-to-air television.”

Jay Hunt, Channel 4 chief creative officer explained that all the races would be screened without advertising breaks – a move likely to be popular with viewers in the UK.

She said: “Channel 4 and Formula One are the perfect partnership. We've the same appetite for innovation and we'll be demonstrating that to fans by becoming the first free-to-air commercial broadcaster to show the races ad free.”

BBC

The details of the ten races Channel 4 will show live next season will be confirmed in early 2016, while C4's new F1 Twitter stream said that details of its presenting team will be revealed in February.

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