Should F1 stay on the BBC?
Autoblog would rather see the likes of Strictly Come Dancing and most of BBC3 disappear from our screens before Formula One coverage was axed but even we understand the pressures on the BBC to rein in its spending.
As the 2011 F1 season gets underway, it looks as though the sport's place on the BBC is under threat. The nation's broadcaster has to make cuts and sport is one area that looms large on the accountants' radar. The current F1 contract, which runs until the end of 2013, costs the Corporation around £40 million a year - a natural target for the chop, you might think?
But why should that be the case? F1 is one of the UK's most popular sports, much of the related industry is based here and it plays an important role in automotive technological innovation. There's also the small matter of success - Britain has produced 10 world champions, two of them in the past three years. Which other major sport has produced just one world champion from these shores since 2008?
ITV's decision to axe F1 three years ago was a purely commercial one, it had simply begun to cost too much. The BBC now faces a similar choice but if they think it through, the Corporation's bean-counters should realise they have some leverage with F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone.
With ITV out of the equation, which free-to-air channel will take it on? Channel 4 is out, so that leaves Channel 5 which would certainly have the financial backing through media mogul Richard Desmond but would Bernie wear that? It would be a huge step down from the BBC.
The only other likely alternatives are Sky Sports and ESPN but fans would have to pay. There's little doubt that viewing figures would ultimately be hit and while that would be bad for Ecclestone it would be even worse for the sport's sponsors and teams who would see their advertising and publicity reach severely diminished.
The BBC should realise the strengths in its position and look to renegotiate the F1 deal to its advantage now rather than just take the easy route out.
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