Gearhead channel SPEED has been under a lot of scrutiny lately as people speculate that Fox will turn the all car channel into a general sports channel called Fox Sports One next year.
We now have more evidence that this may happen: F1 looks to be leaving after 17 years on the network.
The F1 partnership began on Speedvision in 1996, with the channel airing nearly every race live with extensive pre and post race coverage.
But now that Fox is turning the channel to all sports, it appears that F1 is going away. The AP has learned that F1 is now negotiating with NBC to carry the races for the 2013 season. It is unclear if it would be on the NBC Network or possibly another NBC property like the NBC Sports Network.
SPEED's F1 pit reporter Will Buxton is currently doing an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit, and has been asked about this possible change. He doesn't have a comment.
If it goes on NBC that's amazing. If, more realistically, it goes on NBC Sports, it could also be a good thing. F1 could be the marquee sport for the entire network, which already carries IndyCar and full coverage of the Tour de France, as opposed to an also-ran to NASCAR coverage.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of SPEED's F1 coverage, but interrupting coverage for other events, like NASCAR practice, and most recently, soccer, has been a bit vexing. The lack of a budget has also meant that there is one person on the ground at each race, instead of a full team of journalists.
It is unclear what will happen to the commentary team of David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, Bob Varsha, and Will Buxton at this point. Hopefully they can stick together and go to the new network.
UPDATE: AP's ace motorsports reporter Jenna Fryer has gotten confirmation that SPEED is losing F1.
UPDATE 2: SPEED has issued the following statement on its site about the loss of F1:
It's disappointing to learn that F1 has elected to move forward with a different media partner. SPEED had been the US voice of F1 since the mid '90s, and it was a passion for many people at the network. FOX Sports Media Group made what we believed to be a fiscally responsible bid based on the sport's current viewership levels, but F1 has elected to go in another direction. We wish them well. - FOX Sports Media Group spokesman
UPDATE 3: SPEED's lead commentator Bob Varsha has tweeted his thanks to fans. No word on where he'll end up:
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