What BBC sports coverage is under threat from the cuts?

Darts, snooker and Formula One are all reported to be in danger of being axed by the BBC – where can the BBC save £35 million?

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The BBC has warned that it could lose more live sport as it attempts to plug a £150 million hole in its budget.

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£35 million will be cut from the BBC Sport rights fund, and with several deals set to end soon, that means much-loved terrestrial sports could go.

But what events are under threat?


Darts

The rights to broadcast the BDO World Championships ends in 2016. The annual tournament is a BBC fixture, having been broadcast every year since 1978. But it has faced competition from the rival PDC World Championships on Sky Sports since 1994.

The commitment for the BBC is relatively slight – just over a week each January – but the convenience of a soon-to-expire deal inevitably puts the Lakeside tournament in the firing line.

It’s also worth noting that the BBC has shared BDO coverage with BT Sport since 2015. Shared rights deals have been part of the BBC’s smart, spendthrift strategy for a while: FA Cup with BT Sport, Six Nations with ITV from 2016, Formula One with Sky (see below).


Snooker

The BBC’s deal to broadcast the World and UK Championships and the Masters expires in 2017. The tournaments are also broadcast on British Eurosport.

Since the Black Ball final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor in 1985, snooker and the BBC have been joined at the hip. However, the sport is having debates about about the future, with some suggesting the Worlds should be moved to China, where snooker’s popularity is soaring.

The Crucible is guaranteed to host the tournament until at least 2017, and World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has insisted he wants to keep it in Sheffield. But if snooker does gravitate towards its new heartland, is there any reason for the BBC to keep the faith?


Formula One

Reports suggest the BBC’s shared deal with Sky Sports is about to come to an end. The current contract, signed in 2011 and expiring in 2018, sees the BBC broadcasting half of the races live, and showing delayed highlights on the rest, with Sky Sports F1 running live coverage of all 20 races.

According to F1 chief exec Bernie Ecclestone, the BBC has already attempted to negotiate down its rights deal – but he’s not budging. “We had a chat with them today,” he told Telegraph Sport. “What they would like to do is not spend as much money. They want to know if they can schedule it different ways or pay a bit less now.

“They don’t have a lot of choice because they’ve got a contract with us. They’re there for another three years.”

However, he also reiterated his desire to keep F1 on terrestrial television in some form once the current deal ends: “I can’t tell you what I’m going to do in two years’ time. Definitely, we want them to carry on. Of course.”

He’s previously suggested he would be willing to offer the BBC a cut-price deal. With a British double F1 champion to watch every week, the value of a potentially large casual audience is obvious. That said, is only showing half the races and missing key battles really a good deal for the viewers or the Beeb?


Tennis

The BBC recently signed a deal to continue broadcasting Wimbledon live until 2020, and the tennis tournament is considered a priority broadcast for BBC Sport.

The All England Club too have said they are keen to maintain their relationship with the BBC. “The BBC consistently delivers large national audiences for Wimbledon and they deliver those audiences with high-quality production values, live across multiple platforms and always with a strong narrative,” chief executive Richard Lewis said.


Football

Match of the Day will continue to run on the BBC until 2019, in a deal reported to be worth £204 million. The influence of pay TV, in particular the rights battle between Sky and BT Sport, has seen the price of football skyrocket, but the BBC managed to keep hold of its headline Premier League highlights show.

The FA Cup meanwhile will continue to be shared between the BBC and BT Sport until 2018, in a deal that has seen more exposure for the earlier Cup rounds – even if not all fans are happy about match kick-off times being shifted around to suit TV audiences.

“The FA Cup was getting lost in the madness of the Champions League and the Premier League,” BBC presenter Jason Mohammad told RadioTimes.com when the tournament came back to the BBC. “The hope is everyone will now know when the draw is on, when the first and second rounds are playing.”

Euro 2016 and 2020 will be shown on both BBC and ITV, as will the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.


Rugby

The BBC and ITV recently signed a new five-year deal worth a reported £50 million to share Six Nations coverage. It will last until 2021 and sees ITV given live coverage of England, Ireland and Italy home matches.

The BBC meanwhile will show live coverage of Scotland, Wales and France home matches.


Olympics

From 2022, Discovery Networks International (the parent company of Eurosport) will take control of the TV rights for the Olympic and Winter Olympic Games in a £922 million deal.

As a category A – ‘crown jewel’ – event, live Olympic coverage must be made available free-to-air (Discovery has committed to a minimum of 200 hours of the Olympic Games and 100 hours of the Winter Olympics on terrestrial TV) which means they could still choose to ‘lease’ UK coverage back to the BBC, but could also work with an alternative terrestrial TV partner such as ITV or Channel 4.

The BBC may indeed maintain the Olympics in a ‘sub-licence’ deal, but with Discovery taking overall control of European coverage, it will be hard for the BBC to maintain it’s status as the ‘home’ of the Olympic Games.

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As for other athletics events, the BBC has rights to the World Championships until 2017, and both the Anniversary Games and British Championships until 2020.