BBC wins Formula One TV rights

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The Independent Online

The BBC has regained the television rights to Formula One with a five-season deal starting next year after ITV exercised its right to cut short its current contract.

The BBC's deal, announced yesterday, can be interpreted as a coup for the corporation: ITV has broadcast F1 in Britain since 1997, and the BBC will get to screen it from 2009 to 2013, years when Lewis Hamilton, 23, can be expected to be a dominant figure in the sport.

But it was only ITV's unilateral decision to walk away that created an opportunity for the BBC to steal in. "ITV plc today confirmed that it has decided to exit Formula One at the end of this season," a statement said.

"This was a straightforward commercial decision for ITV and we are pleased that Formula 1 will continue to be broadcast free-to-air."

Sources pointed out that ITV wants to concentrate resources on prime time television, and typically only three of 18 F1 races each season are staged within that time frame.

ITV reportedly paid around £30m a year for the rights, while the BBC deal will be worth a reported £40m a year. The new deal will see races on BBC TV, radio and the internet, including the BBC iPlayer.