Respected British broadcasting news outlet Broadcast is reporting that ITV are set to over the free to air (FTA) broadcasting rights for Formula one from the BBC as early as 2016, 3 seasons ahead of the current contract. This site has contacted both the BBC and ITV for comment, both of whom responded that they do not comment on contract negotiations.
Under the current FTA UK agreement the BBC broadcast up to 50% of race weekend’s live with the remaining races broadcast in highlights form several hours after the race has taken place. SKY holds the broadcasting rights for all live race weekend coverage through the season.
Estimations on the costs surrounding the BBC’s agreement for F1 coverage range significantly from $20 to $60M per season. Whatever the true cost may be, in an environment in which the corporation is seeking to reduce costs F1 coverage may well be a luxury that can no longer be justified.
FTA coverage in a blend of live and highlights form, whilst not as strong as full live coverage has provided the BBC with a solid audience share since the deal came into place, although overall audience figures are on the decline.
News of ITV possibility taking on the FTA agreement comes at a time when overall audience levels for the sport are somewhat diminished, SKY are known to be exploring ways in which to reduce costs in their output.
With UK broadcasting agreements seemingly under re-evaluation perhaps now is the time to reconsider the way in which viewers receive F1 content. At present both the BBC and SKY have their own production teams sent to each race. This leads to a duplication of costs and headcount at each race. This despite both broadcasters using the same world feed for actual race and live session content. On site teams are in place to provide race build up and analysis. This compared to the way in which Formula E coverage is broadcast, where a single world feed is available to broadcasters and each country operates studio based build up and analysis. A studio based approach is far more cost effective and sustainable.
Whilst the BBC and SKY have been rightfully applauded for their breaking down the 4th wall approach to F1 broadcasting, in a cost conscious environment is now the time to consider a change? If ITV, a commercial entity, are to take on the FTA UK rights, rather than developing a new team to support the coverage, could they simply take on the SKY coverage, using the same broadcasting and or commentary team and content? The ITV coverage could be positioned by SKY as a promotional tool for the premium ‘ALL LIVE’ coverage, and sponsorship rights of the ITV coverage sold by SKY. This would give SKY access to a larger audience which would satisfy sponsor expectations. Such a model would allow ITV to broadcast the sport with minimal investment outside of the FOM broadcasting contract, and SKY could spread costs across a second broadcaster.
The audience for sports coverage is more dynamic than ever, in an environment in which broadcasters appear almost bullied by each other into paying astronomical fees for coverage rights is now the time to reconsider how the sport is delivered to the fans?