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Volume 25 No. 239
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BBC Reportedly Could Let F1 Contract Expire In '13 To Save Digital Channel

The BBC is “poised to drop Formula One motor racing rather than close one of its digital channels,” according to Richard Brooks in a front-page piece for the LONDON TIMES. The network's contract to “screen F1 for five seasons until 2013 will cost” almost $485M (all U.S. figures). At about $4.85M per race, it is the “most expensive BBC programme being broadcast.” Sources said that the company “can spare BBC4 if it saves the annual” $97M that it spends on F1. A source said that the “cost of covering 19 F1 races was more than the entire annual budget of BBC4.” The source added that the BBC “did not intend to rebid for the F1 contract when it expired in November 2013.” Brooks noted F1 reportedly costs $1.62 “a head for every viewer.” Apart from the British Grand Prix, “most races attract only between” 2-4 million viewers. Not renewing its F1 contract “could ensure that the BBC will be able to keep its grip on Wimbledon, which has a broader audience.” The BBC's current contract with the All England Club expires in '14. The BBC is also “determined to hang on to its existing football highlights programmes which include Match of the Day” (LONDON TIMES, 6/19). In London, Tom Cary reports McLaren-Mercedes Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh “has urged the BBC to rebid for Formula One when its five-year deal expires in 2013, hitting out at what he claims are ‘significant inaccuracies.’” Whitmarsh: “Formula One insiders have been surprised by the recent newspaper reports, since they contain significant statistical inaccuracies. In terms of average viewership, peak viewership and average share of viewership -- the three key indices for TV executives -- more people are watching Formula One this year than last year or indeed than in recent previous years.” He added, “I think it would be very sad, and most unwise, if the BBC were to disappoint so many millions of British sports fans by axing it” (London TELEGRAPH, 6/20).