Channel 4 are set to continue their coverage of Formula 1 beyond the 2018 season, according to a new report from the BBC.
The free-to-air broadcaster currently airs half of the championship live, with the remaining portion of the season aired in highlights form, a deal that will end following this season
From 2019, Sky Sports will air Formula 1 exclusively live, however live coverage of the British Grand Prix and highlights of all qualifying and race sessions must be available on a “free-to-air” basis, in a deal believed to be worth just shy of £1 billion across the six seasons.
As noted at the time of the announcement, it was unclear what free-to-air means in this context, whether Sky intended to air content on Pick TV (available to all Freeview viewers) or sub-let that element to another broadcaster, such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5. It now appears that the free-to-air element of the contract is heading Channel 4’s way, continuing their coverage of Formula 1 that started in 2016, albeit on a reduced level.
The BBC’s Andrew Benson reports that Channel 4 “is on the verge of concluding a deal to take on this aspect of the contract.” Channel 4 have yet to comment, but a source has told the BBC that the agreement “is very close”, with “still a couple of areas to be resolved between C4 and Sky.”
Speaking to this site in January, Channel 4’s analyst Karun Chandhok said “If Channel 4 can do a highlights package, with a bit of pre and post-race analysis, then I think they would be open to at least a conversation. They’ve been very happy with the eyeballs they’ve had for F1. They really enjoy having F1 on their channel, from what the executives have been saying.”
This site understands that Channel 4’s production team were informed of the deal on Saturday morning at Silverstone. I understand the deal between Channel 4 and Sky could include other sports as part of a wider ranging package between the two networks. One of the sticking points surrounds the production of the show, with Whisper Films keen to retain production instead of that element heading to Sky.
There are many, many questions this news presents, namely the timing and duration of highlights coverage, and whether Channel 4’s current line-up will remain largely intact; or whether it will be a slimmed down package in duration.