The BBC is poised to drop Formula One from is schedules at the end of its current five year deal, claims the Sunday Times.
The paper reports that the current deal, which expires at the end of the 2013 season, is costing the BBC around £300 million – about £3 million for each race – at a time when the corporation is trying to cut costs.
The Sunday Times claims that the cost of covering a 19 race season is more than the entire annual budget of digital television station BBC4, and that the BBC does not intend to renew the F1 contract, instead choosing to ensure that it can continue to finance its digital stations and keep its grip on Wimbledon tennis rights and its contract with the Premier League to show football highlights.
BBC F1 staff have been quick to allays fans fears today after the appearance of the article, pointing out that the article contains a number of inaccuracies:
Pit lane reporter Lee McKenzie said via Twitter: “Sunday Times claims BBC is to axe F1. The inaccuracies in the article hint that the journalist knows as much as the rest of us! Not much!” The @5LiveF1 account was even clearer in its dismissal: “Morning all! Loads of tweets about the Sunday Times article on BBC Axing F1, finding it hard to believe as it is filled with inaccurate info”
The article claims that ‘apart from the British Grand Prix, most races attract only between 2m and 4m viewers’ – a bit harsh considering the Canadian Grand Prix last Sunday drew in eight million and for the Monaco Grand Prix viewing figures were at a ten year high. It then goes on to say that F1 costs the BBC ‘£1 a head for every viewer, compared with the average 7p-an-hour broadcast cost for BBC1 and BBC2’, and adds that it costs more per hour than expensive dramas such as Doctor Who.
Whilst BBC staff complain of the inaccuracies in this particular article, and BBC bosses will no doubt disagree with the £3m-a-race figure, there is no denying that the corporation is currently looking to make cuts in a number of areas, and that its spending on sports rights is under review.
It seems that nobody is entirely sure what is going to happen with the British Formula 1 television rights in 2013, but it appears far from certain that the sport will remain on what Jake Humphrey has today called ‘it’s spiritual home!’