Broadcast understands ITV is ready to swoop for the motorsport in a deal that will allow the commercial broadcaster to follow Lewis Hamilton’s title defence from the first race in Australia on 20 March 2016.
Like the BBC, ITV will broadcast a selection of races live, while others will be covered via highlights. Sky Sports’ coverage is unlikely to be impacted by the change.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who revealed last month that he snubbed a plea from the corporation to renegotiate its contract, is almost certain to demand a termination fee that could run into millions of pounds.
Ecclestone told The Daily Telegraph in November: “We had a chat with them today. 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.”
Industry publication Broadcast has suggested, however, that a deal is close to being struck for the BBC to end its contract early – with ITV set to step in to replace it.
The commercial PSB is ready to step in after the BBC decided to walk away early from its seven-year deal, which was due to run until 2018, as it battles to cut costs.
Sources have indicated that the BBC could save up to £60m per season – or around £180m in total – as a result of its U-turn, but will have to pay F1 rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone a termination fee, which could run to tens of millions of pounds.
“The BBC is slashing costs,” said one source with knowledge of the deal. “Now it has started talking about cutting channels it is difficult for it to justify spending so much on sports rights and production.”