ESPN wins US F1 rights race
October 4, 2017
By Colin Mann
Formula One and ESPN have agreed a multi-year linear and digital partnership to broadcast every race live in the US from the start of the 2018 season. NBC Sports Group has held the F1 rights since 2013, but said it “chose not to enter into a new agreement in which the rights holder itself competes with us and our distribution partners”, referring to the €7.1 billion acquisition of the sport by Liberty Media in September 2016.
Beginning with the Australian Grand Prix, every race will air live on the either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. The package will include every practice and qualifying session and involve more than 125 hours of F1 programming across the first season.
“ESPN has had a long commitment to motorsports, and Formula One is a crown jewel in the sport,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president of programming & scheduling. “There are many passionate Formula One fans in the US and we look forward to bringing the pageantry, spectacle and excitement of F1 to viewers across the ESPN platform.”
“We are excited about the return of the world’s foremost motor racing platform to the ABC and ESPN platforms,” said Sean Bratches, managing director, commercial operations at Formula 1. “ABC’s Wide World of Sports first started airing live grands prix in the early 1960’s and this linear and digital partnership with ESPN represents a significant step forward in achieving Formula 1’s aim of broadening the sport’s appeal. The US market is a very important growth opportunity for Formula 1 and we are looking forward to working with ESPN to ignite the growing fan interest.”
ESPN affiliate ABC broadcast the first race aired in the US, the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix, shown on its Wide World of Sports programme. Select races continued to appear on the network until 1988.
ESPN began televising F1 races in 1984 with a 10-race deal, expanding to 14 races for the next four seasons and 15 from 1989-1993. The number continued to rise each season until 1997, the last year F1 appeared on ESPN.
In a Statement, NBC Sports said: “Although we take great pride in having grown Formula One’s visibility and viewership since we became its exclusive US media rights holder in 2013, this will be our last season with the series. In this case, we chose not to enter into a new agreement in which the rights holder itself competes with us and our distribution partners. We wish the new owners of F1 well.”