The BBC is almost certain not to bid for a renewal of the right to screen live National Lottery draws when the contract comes up next year.
The corporation is searching for more ways to slash its costs and its six-year contract with the lottery operator, Camelot, expires at the end of December 2012. While Camelot has not yet launched a formal bidding process, it is understood that the BBC is likely to rule itself out when the deal if put out to tender.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said it was committed to live draws until the end of 2012. "As the licence is not up for renewal until then, no decisions have been made on the role of the National Lottery on the BBC after that date and it is too early to speculate," she added.
However, insiders say the lottery has already been identified as a way of saving more than £4m. It is set to be part of a cuts package to be presented to the BBC Trust for approval in July as the broadcaster looks to trim its budget by £400m. A spokeswoman for Camelot said it had yet to discuss the plans with the BBC.
The BBC's director-general, Mark Thompson, has been drawing up a cost-saving plan after the Government froze the cost of the television licence fee until 2017. Recent ideas include cutting BBC2's daytime output and replacing it with rolling news. Others include shutting parts of the BBC World Service, as well as replacing off-peak local radio broadcasts with content from Radio.
In 2006, the BBC saw off competition from ITV and was granted exclusive rights to screen the lottery draw on national television. The deal covered prime-time draws on Saturday nights and Wednesday nights, as well as lottery information on local radio and the BBC's interactive platforms. The corporation is believed to have paid £800,000 a year for the rights.
Camelot was initially owned by five shareholders, including Cadbury Schweppes, Royal Mail, De La Rue, Fujitsu and Thales Electronics, when it first won the licence to run the lottery in 1994. It won a second seven-year licence in 2000 and its third licence runs until 2019.
Last summer, Camelot was bought by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. In the year to the end of March, its sales rose 6 per cent to £5.4bn, but the end of its contract with the BBC would be a blow to the company because it would reduce the value of the lottery screening rights.