Channel 4 is to become the surprise new home of Formula 1 on British terrestrial television from 2016 after the BBC cancelled its contract with FOM three years early as part of cost cutting.
Though it is widely known that the BBC was looking to offload its F1 coverage, despite having a contract in place until the end of 2018, it had been reported that former F1 broadcaster ITV was likely to take up the free-to-air TV deal to run alongside Sky
However, in an unexpected move, Channel 4 has instead landed the contract to show F1 on terrestrial television for three years from 2016.
A mirror of the BBC's deal, Channel 4 will show 10 races live, as well as highlights of all 21 races over the course of the year, while – in an unprecedented move for a free-to-air commercial station – it televise the live races without advertising breaks.
With the broadcaster set to wait until 2016 to confirm its presenting team, chief executive David Abraham is delighted to land such a major sporting coup.
“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.”
Indeed, though Channel 4's sporting credits are relatively meagre compared with ITV and BBC, it has earned plaudits in the past for its cricket and horse racing programming, while it won a BAFTA in 2012 for its London Paralympic coverage.
With this in mind, Bernie Ecclestone is delighted to be giving Channel 4 a new opportunity, and took time to praise the decision to televise races without advertising breaks.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the BBC says it will continue to cover F1 through its 5Live radio station, of which it still retains the rights for.