Channel 4 has purchased rights to broadcast Formula One races free-to-air in the UK. The move comes after the BBC, as part of a budget cut, dropped coverage of the sport three years before its deal expired.
The British public-service TV broadcaster will show 10 races a season between 2016 and 2018 without any advertisements during a race. This could be one of the stipulations why it won the rights to beat rival ITV, which also showed interest in broadcasting the races. All of the 21 races in the preceding seasons will be broadcast live by Sky.
Costs of sports broadcasting rights have surged in recent years as they are a good source to earn revenues, be it from increased pay-TV subscriptions or creating large live audiences for advertisers. According to Enders Analysis, a UK-based research firm, Channel 4's financial health is improving because of an improvement in the ad market. The company is likely to make a financial surplus of about $29.8 million (£20 million, €27.3 million) this year amid the government considering proposals to privatize the broadcaster.
BBC's budget cuts
F1 is not the only sport that BBC has stopped airing. The broadcaster ended its live coverage of Open Golf and tied up with ITV for sharing Six Nations rugby. This is in line with BBC's £150m annual budget cut, of which it has decided to reduce spending on sports coverage by £35m.
Barbara Slater, BBC Sport's director, said that the move to drop F1 will provide a "significant chunk" of the remaining budget cuts.
F1 and UK
The sport's live audience in the country fell to an eight-year low this year. The calculation is, however, complicated by splits between pay-TV and free-to-air coverage.
In a recent public vote for BBC's Sports Personality of the Year, current world champion Lewis Hamilton, for the second year running finished fifth. Ahead of him were tennis ace Andy Murray, rugby league's Kevin Sinfield, athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and boxer Tyson Fury.
Although F1 could be viewed by a smaller audience on C4, Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive at F1 opined that C4 would bring in a "new approach" to the sport in the UK.