ITV loses F1 coverage to BBC from 2009

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British F1 fans will be able to enjoy live Formula 1 free from adverts next year as the BBC have won the right to screen live coverage.

ITV has broadcasted the sport since 1996 and angered many fans by missing up to 15 minutes of every race with advert breaks. Last year ITV missed the moment that decided the world championship – Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox problem in Interlagos – because they were on an advert break.

More recently fans have bemoaned the obsession with Lewis Hamilton in much of the coverage.

And lead commentator James Allen, who took over from Murray Walker in 2002, has never enjoyed popularity among the sport’s fan base. It’s not yet known who BBC might put in the lead commentary chair – Walker did the European Grand Prix for Radio Five as a one-off last year but he has said he’s not up to doing a large number of races per year.

ITV-F1 hasn’t been without successes though. The appointment of Martin Brundle as second commentator was an excellent move and has been very well received. And they began broadcasting F1 live online this year, allowing British viewers to watch two of the practice sessions for the first time.

BBC’s deal will allow them to broadcast F1 on television, online (via its iPlayer service) and on mobile platforms. BBC already has some high definition channels as well, so we might finally get to see F1 in HD as well.

Ironically television communications regulating body Ofcom had recently revealed it was looking into changing advertising restrictions which might have forced ITV to reduce the number of adverts in its coverage.

It also appears ITV’s existing F1 deal has been cut short. At the last extension of their contract it was reported they would show F1 until the end of 2010, but that appears to have been cut back by two years. Was this ITV’s choice?

More on ITV and F1

2009 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 94 comments on “ITV loses F1 coverage to BBC from 2009”

    1. This could well be the best news we will have all year.

    2. Wow, this put a smile on my face this morning!

      Hopefully they’ll move Brundle across too, and of course bring back the ‘proper’ F1 theme music :)

    3. I support both those ideas :-)

    4. Brilliant to have coverage back on the bbc … just don’t get Gary to front the coverage.

    5. Woohoo!!! This is great news. Can we all join hands and shout "HD!!!"

      I just hope Brundle comes along…

    6. Fantastic news. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I read it.
      The original theme tune surely must return. At least now we won’t miss a second of the action. :)

    7. It sounds like good news, after all the adverts are bloody annoying; however, I do wonder about their pre-race coverage.

      If there is one thing you can say about ITV is that it had a very slick look and feel to it, as you would expect from commercial TV. Will the BBC be able to live up to that? or will it be a little raw like the Moto GP tends to be?

    8. Dum,
      Da-da-dum, da-da-dadi-dum Dum!

    9. I want in decending order of importance:

      the Music

      If they don’t bring Brundle accross I’ll be very disapointed.

    10. According to The Guardian ITV pulled out of its deal. So what we have here is ITV giving up and the BBC taking over more or less by default. They did have two more years to run on their contract.

    11. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
      20th March 2008, 8:59

      great news if brundle goes and theres more than the 15-20 minutes of build up pre race. most football games on the bbc get 15 minutes build up hbopefulloy they will follow itv in that respect but otherwise im just delioghted that i wont have to listen to james allen talking aload of crap for 2 hours every other sunday :-)

    12. You want them to get rid of Brundle? I think he’s great.

    13. This is truly fantastic news! The BBC will have to up to Auntie (if you pardon the pun) to package it as well as ITV have done but no advert breaks will increase the standard of the coverage no end.

      I agree with most; Brundle getting the gig must be the top item on the BBC’s priority list, followed by cloning Murray Walker.

      I feel sorry for Steve Ryder getting his timing wrong but hopefully the Beeb will see sense and take him back. Having a host who actually knows what he’s talking about is a massive boost.

    14. Scott Joslin
      20th March 2008, 9:12

      Great news! I hope they dedicate more time to it consistanly than the Beeb currently do to Moto GP. You can only access Moto GP sometimes via the "red button" and they never really schedule it on for prime time, or it is hidden away in BBC3 scheduling and I don’t want to go head to head with 2 pints of larger and a packet of whatever!

      I am going to dig out Fleetwood Mac!

    15. Christopher
      20th March 2008, 9:40


      Alex Andronov summed it up nicely.

    16. From the BBC site :
      Dominic Coles, BBC Sport director of sport rights, said: "The biggest motorsporting event in the world is returning home after 12 years.

      "We were delighted when Bernie Ecclestone approached us about the return of F1 to the BBC.
      An ITV statement on Thursday said: "ITV plc today confirmed that it has decided to exit Formula One at the end of this season.

      "This was a straightforward commercial decision for ITV and we are pleased that F1 will continue to be broadcast free-to-air.
      So did they jump or were they pushed ?

    17. On other sites it is suggested that this is all linked to a deal over the rights to the soccer Champions League.
      Which BBC and ITV have been fighting over

    18. I don’t know much about football – can anyone tell me more?

    19. @Kieth
      Sky have the broadcast rights to most football, so BBC and ITV are squabbling over the scraps, which includes the European Champions League series

    20. Well it didn’t take long for the rumours to start –
      David Croft from Radio 5 Live to be a ‘shoo in’ for James Allen.
      Jonathan Ledgard to be a commentator.
      Martin Brundle to be the only one retained.

    21. Fantastic news.  I’m sure Brundle will move across – he’s an independent contractor I believe.  Not sure if James Allen is as well – let’s hope not. 

      I should imagine Steve Rider will move across as well as he worked for the BBC for a long time and I think he has done pretty well fronting ITVs coverage (certainly light years ahead of Rosenthal) and he is a true F1 fan. 

      Hopefully the BBC can find someone good to replace James Allen – anyone would be an improvement.

      Very good timing on the BBC’s part, as they are likely to be taking over just after Hamilton wins his first championship…

    22. So who do we think is responsible? Has Bernie decided he’s unhappy with ITV’s standard of coverage and pushed them out? Or have ITV decided F1 isn’t making them enough money and bailed?

    23. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
      20th March 2008, 10:48

      i dont mean get rid of brundle i mean itl be great if brundle goes to the bbc too! whats the original theme music?

    24. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
      20th March 2008, 10:54

      can someone put a link for the original theme music for me i only started watching f1 properly in 97 when itv had just taken it over and i was only 9 then!


    25. It’s Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

    26. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
      20th March 2008, 11:01

      ok thankyou

    27. Here it is along with the four themes ITV have used:

      Debate: The best ITV F1 theme tune

    28. I’m playing it now to get me in the mood :)
      The theme is about the last minute of the track

      I think the beeb should start with a whole new team. Def not Hill! Leave Brundle too!

      The radio team are good!
      I hope they can provide some unbiased commentary! Yee haa
      Music to my ears

    30. Strange how ITV went all out on their new f1 website only to announce they werent going to show f1 from next year :S Hopefully they will keep Martin and get rid of James but I’m just so happy we won’t miss any of the on track action in 2009 :)

    31. I thought it a little strange that this happened just after they revamped their website too!

      Hopefully the BBC’s web coverage of F1 will be expanded greatly to accomodate the live stream, etc – they are pretty on the ball so I presume they will already have plans for this.

      Will be interesting to find out what else they have planned – Bernie says they have some "innovative" ideas…

    32. Innovative = Maybe picture in picture – of Hami and Kovi simultaneously pressing the eject button accidentally

    33. At long last both the BBC and Formula 1 have gotten something right.  


    34. That’s a surprise indeed ,ITV deciding to bail out of covering F1 before the contract’s finished.

      I can only guess the"straightforward commercial decision" meant they weren’t able to make enough money from it (remember they were hoping to sell sponsorship rights for a lot more than Sony eventually paid for it).ITV have got a few things right with their coverage – especially Martin Brundle , and some of their features were very good in explaning how the sport works (I remember Grand Prix School or something like that shown during 1999 as a good example when I was getting seriously interested in the sport.)

      As for commentators , having Murray do only a few races won’t be a problem at all – much better than hearing James Allen , who in all respect is a far better as a F1 writer.I’d have David Croft or Ben Edwards covering the rest .Brundle made the colour commentator role his own , and there’s no way that should change.Put  John Watson (Ted Kravitz role) and have Dr Jonathan Palmer do some of the reporting and other things
      (not sure though if he’ll be too busy running Brands Hatch amongst other things these days)..Then get back Steve Rider and Maurice Hamilton to front the show , in a proper studio.

    35. More from the BBC site:
      BBC director of sport Roger Mosey said: Our understanding is that F1 did have a termination right at the end of the 2008 season, and that appears to be what has happened

    36. Not even lighting James Allen’s trousers on fire can get him to commentate like Muzza. Although sometimes I wish they would, sorry James. What about getting Rory Bremner to impersonate Murray Walker and give him the job alongside Martin Brundle.
      What ITV had going for them were the features before the race, couldn’t fault them. But they have committed cardinal sins such as:
      1. Cutting press conferences due to Coronation Street being delayed and for many other reasons
      2. Not using ITV2,3,4 to show practice sessions instead choosing to show 1970’s re-runs and the like (maybe they weren’t paying enough to Bernie!)
      3. Putting Martin’s grid walk on at the time the drivers are getting into their cars, very sensible
      4. Not cutting the adverts during the race and moving them to before, UEFA champions league football manages to fit in two adverts before the game, during half time and after the game
      5. Not replacing Murray Walker with someone of as good as a personality, set the trousers on fire!
      6. Occasionally not showing qualifying sessions, Canada was always dropped until recently

    37. Good news, although remember ITV have done a far more thorough job than the BBC ever did (quali sessions were only shown from 1994 onwards) and the first time all the races were shown live was 1995. Even now the BBC is quite happy to shunt Moto GP onto digital if it clashes with a dog show.

      No adverts is great news, although I imagine we will all get bored in a safety car heavy race (where ITV fill dead time with ads).

      My other concern is that a lot of current BBC sports coverage is really dull and worthy, and is too busy ‘explaining the sport’ to new viewers. The Moto GP coverage in particular can feel very flat, especially as that commentary team just flat out doesn’t work.

      In terms of commentators I can see Martin Brundle being retained, but the other commentator is a big question mark. I imagine David Croft will probably step in to the role as they will need someone with prior F1 experience, although there is probably quite a strong case for keeping Ryder, Allen and Brundle

    38. Ben, I would hope & imagine that Bernie (got’s something right for a change!!) has stippulated that the format is similar to what ITV have, ie live quali & race on the main channel. Let’s face it, what is actually wrong with ITV’s coverage??? The obvious one is the ad breaks, so that one problem is removed straight away..So what’s left after that?? Just the presenters in my view. Brundle MUST move over, so ,I hope, would Steve Ryder too..
      On a lighter note knowing the Beeb, they’ll probably have ‘guest’  main presenter, like Have I Got News For You. One race Murray could do it, then Graham Norton (!) and how about Davina McCall, aslong as she’s not pregnant of course. Even the Stig could get in on the act!

    39. I’m glad to see that this page has already collected plenty of signatures for the ‘Take Brundle to the BBC’ petition!  He has become the voice of F1 since Murray hung up his microphone.  So, where are we going to set up the petition?  ;)

    40. Robert McKay
      20th March 2008, 13:22

      Still a bit shocked by this news. But in a way, there’s a symmetry about it…BBC lost their contract in 1996, just as they were doing their most comprehensive coverage. And now ITV is losing it just as they are doing their most comprehensive coverage, with the online presence…

      But I think there’s more to this than ITV pulling out – I don’t believe that, that is just spin to cover up the fact Bernie had a clause to get rid of them.

      I dearly hope Brundle gets taken across. The rest of them are a bit more difficult to care for, but Ted Kravitz has become fairly solid after his shaky start a few seasons back now. And watching a race with no adbreaks will be a strange thing to get used to again :-D

    41. I’ll be singing to myself all afternoon now! :-D
      Excellent news.

      Thanks, AndyWolf – I’ve got a lovely picture in my head of Stig doing a grid walk… it would make a change from the drivers refusing to speak to Martin!

    42. I’m with AndyWolf – what about the whole presentation from the Top Gear team? Alternatively as a challenge they could enter as the 12th team if Prodrive don’t materialise

    43. Is it possible that the BBC will just get the existing production company to make the new program? As was Chrysalis or whatever?

    44. really wish we could get the BBC here in the states…. well ok, we do have BBC America, but it’s about 6-8 months behind… that’s a bit of a tape delay.

      I couldn’t imagine being able to watch F1 without adverts.  At least speed is pretty good about it though… they have definitely put off adverts whenever anything seems to be going on.

    45. will the BBC be following ITV in showing everything on the internet?

    46. If you want Brundle, you can use this page to contact the BBC TV motorsport team

      Just make sure you select the motor sport on TV option and type away, I dunno, maybe also tell them we don’t want James Allen

    47. Interesting comments on the BBC Sport Editor’s blog.

      Comments seem to be:
      1. Bring back ‘The Chain’
      2. Keep Brundle
      3. Murray?
      4. No James Allen
      5. HD?

      All in all, very positive, though there are a couple of strange/negative posts.

    48. Those (indeed strange) negative posts seem to be from people who simply have no knowledge of the sport – those who complain about their license fee and / or think that F1 is about ‘going round in circles’ (I feel dirty just for saying it!!).

      So who is everyone putting their money on for the spot alongside Martin Brundle in the commentary box (assuming, and hoping, that James Allen doesn’t get it)?

      Personally I wouldn’t mean listening to the infectious enthusiasm of Ben Edwards….

    49. This is great news! No more advert breaks! But BBC needs to get it right, and that means:

      – Get Martin Brundle into the commentators box!
      – Get Steve Rider and Maurice Hamilton into the studio (maybe Ted Kravitz at the paddock too…)
      – All races and quali sessions must be live
      – Bring "The Chain" back! :-)
      – …And please, please, please don’t shift the eariler or later races onto your digital channels…some people don’t have access to digital, you know?!

    50. "BBC should be concentrating on beautiful team sports like football, rugby leauge and cricket…"

      Excuse me, but what the hell is that?
      Having at least 100+ people working together to put the car onto the track to win a race, that’s more teamwork than football could ever be…

      I agree with Cooperman on this point.

    51. Excellent news… I have seen some ITV coverage in past. Camerawork is not exceptional. Commentary was the weakest link in the chain. So however it has come to it, it is good.

      Now as beeb is publicly owned, some of their videos are free for public to copy and keep… will it be legal for us people to record and keep whole season???

      I think this should give bernie enough nightmares, would it?

    52. I must be the only person in the world who has an immunity to James Allen. What is so bad about him? Sure, Murray had enthusiasm and a knowledge of history, but he was always commenting on a completely different race than the one we were watching!

    53. Not everyone seems to be happy about it:
      Politicians are getting involved now!

    54. No one mentioned Louise Goodman! :(

      +1 Brundle
      +1 Kravitz

      – 1 Blundell
      -1 Allen

      What about other retired drivers as a commentator along side Brundle? Irvine? Coulthard, when he retires! actually, my vote goes to.. Barrichello

    55. What is this politician sticking his oar in for – I thought the BBC was independent – not censored by the government – he should move to Iran or China.

    56. Can someone explain Brundle… god, NOOOO….
      F1 needs some new blood in the commentary box. Someone who can get excited, someone who can read the race….

      I just want to know why Brundle?

      Definitely no Louise, no Blundell, no Ryder and no Allen, oh and no Ted either… they get redundancy pay?