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Why the BBC was right to ditch Formula 1

Updated on January 12, 2016
Channel 4 - the new home of Formula 1 on UK terrestrial TV
Channel 4 - the new home of Formula 1 on UK terrestrial TV

An end to F1 coverage on the BBC

Christmas 2015 bought the news that the BBC had decided to end their contract with the FIA early and ditch televising Formula 1 in the United Kingdom. The new broadcaster - which will share a number of races with Sky Sports F1 - is now Channel 4 (C4) who holds the contract until 2018 alongside Sky.

The move is set to save the BBC £35million

The fact is that whilst die-hard fans like myself continue to follow the sport avidly, there is a lot of noise being made by followers of F1 that the sport has become dull and predictable. In some ways this is true, although real fans of the sport will be able to provide you with a plethora of reasons why the sport is as good as ever.

Nevertheless, viewing figures are down and it's fair to say that the quality of the Sky Sports F1 coverage blows the BBC out of the pitlane. The BBC is under a huge amount of pressure to save money and Formula 1 wasn't top of the list of priorities.

With more and more people turning to other methods to view F1 including Sky Sports F1 and illegal streaming, the BBC has found it even more difficult to justify the cost.

Sky Sports F1's coverage is considerably better than the BBC coverage ever was

For a start, Sky Sports have some of the best presenters and pundits including the highly experienced Martin Brundell, former World Champion Damon Hill and also the highly experienced (and very likeable) John Paul "Johnny" Herbert.

The BBC had the (sarcastic) Scot David Coulthard, the (Marmite) Eddie Jordan and the (very wooden and inexperienced in F1) Suzi Perry.

Sky was also able to dedicate and entire channel to Formula 1 which the BBC simply couldn't do.

Channel 4 have a potential source of income that the BBC didn't: advertising

The BBC - funded by the TV tax known as the Television Licence which is a legal requirement if you watch live television in the UK - was unable to make any money from the advertising potential the Formula 1 brings, for various reasons including the need to keep the BBC balanced and free of persuation from sponsors.

However, C4 is free to show adverts at any point during any Formula 1 coverage such as during advert breaks. This provides Channel 4 with a huge amount of advertising revenue potential which the BBC just couldn't dial into due to the BBC Charter.

It's actually very good news for British Formula 1 fans

The fact is that the BBC were going to have to drop F1 at some point; it had been on the cards for years. Many people saw it coming when the original deal was made between Sky and the BBC.

If Channel 4 (or another terrestrial television company) hadn't taken it on, it may have spelled the end of free-view F1 in the UK for many years. ITV (also under pressure to save money) couldn't afford to buy the rights and Channel 5 just aren't known for broadcasting sports coverage.

So F1 fans who refuse to pay for Sky F1 coverage should be pleased. Yes, they'll be more advertising, but at least you can still watch the coverage without expensive Sky TV bills.

Whisper Films

The coverage of F1 on C4 will be produced by Whisper Films of which David Coulthard and Jake Humphrey are both company Directors.

Coulthard (former driver for Williams, McLaren, Red Bull Racing) is well known as being a co-presenter of BBC F1 and has 13 Grand Prix wins under his belt.

Humphreys left the BBC in 2014 to persue a career with BT Sport and is a BAFTA award winning presenter. He also snowboarded for Great Britain in 1999.

Update 11/01/2016 0 David Coulthard signs for Channel 4

David Coulthard was announced by Channel 4 as the first new presenter to sign for the new F1 programs on C4. Coulthard being a wealth of experience in Formula One to the broadcasters new venture.


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