Sky Sports and BBC to share F1 rights

Only half of Formula One’s races will be available live on free-to-air television in the UK after it was announced early on Friday morning that Sky Sports had acquired rights to the championship alongside the BBC.

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In a deal that will run between 2012 and 2018, Sky Sports will show every race, qualifying session and practice session live, while the BBC will air half the races live as well as the qualifying and practice sessions from those events. The public broadcaster will have highlights on TV, online and mobile for any race not shown live, and all grands prix will be carried on BBC Radio 5 live.

The new deal marks the first time that some Formula One races will be available live on pay-TV rather than free-to-air television in the UK. The BBC has broadcast Formula One since replacing commercial broadcaster ITV as the incumbent rights-holder in 2009. However, in March, The Guardian reported that the BBC was looking to cut its annual spending on sports rights by £60 million by 2014, and the broadcaster reportedly splashes out £40 million per year on F1.

The BBC’s existing F1 deal was due to expire at the end of the 2013 season. “This is fantastic news for F1 fans and Sky Sports will be the only place to follow every race live and in HD,” said Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis. “We will give F1 the full Sky Sports treatment with a commitment to each race never seen before on UK television.”

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said she was “absolutely delighted” that the Corporation had retained some rights to F1 and would “remain on the BBC”. She said: “The sport has never been more popular with TV audiences at a 10-year high and the BBC has always stated its commitment to the big national sporting moments.”

Slater added: “With this new deal not only have we delivered significant savings but we have also ensured that through our live and extended highlights coverage all the action continues to be available to licence-fee payers.” Under the terms of the new deal, BBC TV will air a number of leading races such as the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Monaco Grand Prix and the final race of the season

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