Advanced Television

Disney races to extended F1 deal

October 24, 2022

By Colin Mann

In the midst of what is on track to be a record-breaking season of viewership, the Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Formula 1 have extended their relationship with a new, multi-year contract that will keep F1 races on ESPN Networks in the US through the 2025 season.

The renewal was announced at the F1 Aramco United States Grand Prix 2022 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the second of two US stops for F1 during the 2022 season.

Under the renewal, at least 16 races will air on ABC and ESPN each season, more than in the previous five years since F1 returned to ESPN networks in 2018. Also, all race telecasts on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 will continue the commercial-free presentation used over the past five seasons, a format that has set ESPN’s coverage apart and proved very popular with viewers.

The new agreement also includes expanded direct-to-consumer rights, giving ESPN flexibility to roll out additional ways for fans in the US to consume F1 content over the next three years, including on ESPN+, with details to be announced later.

“Formula 1 and ESPN have been a strong and successful team and we’re delighted to extend our relationship,” declared Burke Magnus, ESPN President, Programming and Original Content. “We look forward to serving fans in some new and innovative ways in the next three years as we continue to bring the reach and relevance of the Walt Disney Company networks and platforms to Formula 1.”

After setting a record in 2021 for the most-viewed F1 season ever on US television with an average of 949,000 viewers per race, the average has moved into seven figures in 2022. Through 18 races, live F1 telecasts are averaging 1.2 million viewers on ESPN networks – with multiple events attracting race-record television audiences.

Earlier in 2022, the telecast of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on ABC generated an average viewership of 2.6 million, the largest US audience on record for a live F1 race.

“We are delighted to announce that our partnership with ESPN will continue,” commented Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO at Formula 1. “Formula 1 has seen incredible growth in the United States with sold out events and record television audiences, and the addition of Las Vegas to the calendar next season, alongside Austin and Miami, will see us host three spectacular races there. The ESPN networks have played a huge part in that growth with their dedicated quality coverage. We are excited to expand our relationship and continue to bring the passion and excitement of Formula 1 to our viewers in the US together.”

“After Formula 1 returned to the ESPN networks five years ago, the popularity of the sport has grown impressively,” added Ian Holmes, Director of Media Rights and Content Creation, Formula 1. “The extension and expansion of our partnership is a reflection of exciting times ahead and a result of our shared desire to bring Formula 1 to as broad and diverse an audience as possible in the US. The popular commercial-free broadcasts ensure that viewers continue to engage with F1 before, during and after the race. From next year we will have six races in the Americas, which means more favourable time zones to fans in the region, making the Formula 1 offering more compelling than ever.”

All race weekends will continue to include live telecasts of all three practice sessions and qualifying (including the F1 Sprint) as well as pre-race and post-race coverage. The new agreement includes an increased focus on qualifying, with more sessions airing on ESPN or ESPN2.

ESPN Deportes will continue as the Spanish-language home of F1 in the US and ESPN’s coverage of F1 also includes a dedicated site that reports on the championship year-round.

In addition, ESPN studio shows, including SportsCenter, will continue on-site coverage from races in the US, including the new event in Las Vegas for 2023, with coverage at other races potentially added. ESPN also will be creating additional ancillary programming on its platforms to support its F1 coverage over the next three years.

During each of the five seasons that F1 has been on ESPN networks since its return, the amount of F1 content on ESPN television and digital platforms has steadily increased. This year, the Sky Sports F1 programmes Ted’s Qualifying Notebook and Ted’s Race Notebook were added, airing on ESPN3 during race weekends, and the video podcast programme Unlapped began appearing on the ESPN YouTube channel.

F1 returned to its original US television home in 2018 – the first race ever aired in the country was on ABC in 1962. F1 races also aired on ESPN from 1984-1997.

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