BSkyB, BBC in deal to share Formula One live rights

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The BBC and British pay-TV giant BSkyB said Friday they will share live television rights for Formula One from 2012 to 2018, in a move that means Britons will only see half of each season's races for free.

The deal was unveiled as BSkyB announced big annual profits despite the phone-hacking scandal embroiling chairman James Murdoch, and amid pressure on the publicly funded BBC to make savings as part of government austerity measures.

Under the terms of the agreement, the BBC will broadcast half of all races and qualifying sessions live, including the British and Monaco Grands Prix, while Sky Sports, BSkyB's sports platform, will show them all live.

The BBC had bought exclusive rights to Formula One in 2009 and for years it has shown them on its free-to-view terrestrial channels, but there had been speculation it would pull out of motorsport altogether for financial reasons.

"We are absolutely delighted that F1 will remain on the BBC," said Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport.

"With this new deal not only have we delivered significant savings but we have also ensured that through our live and extended highlights coverage all the action continues to be available to licence fee payers."

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said: "This is fantastic news for F1 fans and Sky Sports will be the only place to follow every race live and in HD."

BSkyB on Friday said operating profits soared 23 percent to £1.073 billion ($1.752 billion, 1.226 billion euros) in the 12 months to June.

It also reaffirmed confidence in James Murdoch as chairman amid the scandal over voicemail hacking by the now-defunct News of the World newspaper, owned by his father Rupert Murdoch's US-based News Corporation.

News Corp. has a 39 percent stake in BSkyB but was forced to pull out of a takeover bid for the broadcaster earlier this month due to the scandal.

The BBC is seeking to cut its budget by 16 percent in line with efforts by Britain's Conservative-led coalition government, elected in May 2010, to curb the country's record deficit.

© 2011 AFP

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