BBC director general Mark Thompson says the corporation will save ?é?ú150m by dropping half of its live F1 races.
Speaking before the Culture, Media and Sport committee Thompson said the BBC had approached Sky about the deal and did not enter into negotiations with any other free-to-air broadcasters.
He said: “The idea of sharing the rights under the remainder of the current contract and of potentially extending that contract was our idea. There was a negotiation that led to all the parties involved in the conversation being happy with the idea.
“The effect will be to save the BBC well over ?é?ú150 million between now and the end of the contract-money that obviously means that only half of Grand Prix will be live on the BBC, but it has enabled us to keep a very good position in Formula 1, and to make savings that otherwise might have meant deeper cuts in other services.
“As for the considerations for us, we know that Formula 1 has only fairly recently come back to the BBC; it has been very popular on the BBC. Secondly, we know that Formula 1 fans ideally do not want Formula 1 to be interrupted by advertising, because of the character of the sport.
“Nor, of course-for the subset of Formula 1 fans who do not have Sky subscriptions-would they, ideally, like Formula 1 to go entirely behind a paywall. I believe that the arrangements that we have reached offer very good value to the licence payer, and the experience of Formula 1 on the BBC will still be very rich.”
Asked if the BBC had approached free-to-air broadcasters Thompson said: “No, and to be honest I think that I would have already been on the edge of the limits of what it is appropriate to do, in terms of the appropriate separations of sports buyers in the market under the Enterprise Act.”
He continued: “We were quite clear that, to get the economics to work for us, it was going to have to be a pay partner, and this was the only pay partner, credibly, whom we thought we could involve in it-indeed, a pay partner who had expressed interest in this very topic of conversation previously. It was an example of a free-to-air pay partnership, which is not by any means unknown in the market.”
The government imposed a six-year freeze in the BBC’s licence fee in October last year, forcing it to make significant cuts in spending.
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