Channel 4 replaces BBC as F1's free-to-air broadcaster from 2016

Channel 4 has taken over the terrestrial television rights of Formula 1 in a three-year deal from the 2016 season, with the BBC "reluctantly" ending its agreement early

Channel 4 replaces BBC as F1's free-to-air broadcaster from 2016

The BBC's contract was due to run through to the end of 2018, but with the Corporation needing to make significant savings due to a £150m gap in its finances from next year - including £35m for BBC Sport - F1 has been axed with immediate effect.

Channel 4 has, however, stepped into the breach, and over the three years of its deal will screen 10 grands prix live per season, and without advertising breaks, with the remainder to be shown as highlights.

Reflecting on the change of broadcaster, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said: "I am sorry the BBC could not comply with their contract.

"But I am happy we now have a broadcaster that can broadcast Formula 1 events without commercial intervals during the race.

"I am confident 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."

In what is a coup for Channel 4 as ITV was expected to regain the rights, chief executive David Abraham said: "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."

The BBC, which secured the terrestrial rights in 2009 from ITV, felt it had no choice but to relinquish F1 almost four years on after initially being forced to dilute its coverage with Sky from the 2012 season.

BBC director of Sport Barbara Slater said: "The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made.

"A significant chunk of BBC Sport's savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1.

"Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.

"There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.

"These are very challenging times for the BBC and sport is not immune to those financial pressures."

BBC Radio 5 Live has, however, extended its commentary rights contract through to 2021.

Channel 4, meanwhile, will announce details of its live grand prix schedule for 2016, and commentary team, in due course.

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