During the 2022 United States Grand Prix weekend, Formula 1 announced that it has inked a deal with ESPN to continue providing broadcast coverage for the next three years, or until the conclusion of the 2025 season. With a massive growth in the sport here in America, the deal is nothing but good for both parties involved.
ESPN first took over F1's broadcast rights from NBC Sports back in 2018, back when the sport was still on the cusp of its current explosion in America. The sport had just been purchased from Bernie Ecclestone by Liberty Media, and Liberty was keen on finding new ways to grow the sport that had formerly been banned. That included more expansive coverage in America, with ESPN using the Sky Sports F1 broadcast rather than its own team of in-house commentators while also removing pesky commercials from the American broadcast.
Since then, the introduction of Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive has introduced an entirely new audience to the sport, and America has become one of the more significant, growing fanbases for F1. As such, the deal renewal is reportedly very “lucrative” in terms of the money involved, Motorsport.com reports, but there are no numbers available to the public.
The deal is an important one for America. F1's contract with ESPN was set to expire at the conclusion of this season, and it was unclear where the broadcast would be aired going forward. F1's ad-free international broadcasts are unique, since America is fond of mid-race commercials. There was concern that those commercials would return, or that ad-free races would return behind a paywall. Either option would have been deeply detrimental to F1's continued popularity in America.
From an F1 statement:
At least 16 races will air on ABC and ESPN each season, more than in each of the previous five years since F1 returned to ESPN Networks in 2018, and all race broadcasts on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 will continue the commercial-free presentation used over the past five seasons.
The new agreement also includes expanded direct-to-consumer rights, giving ESPN flexibility to roll out additional ways for fans in the United States to consume F1 content over the next three years, including on ESPN+, with details to be announced later.
All race weekends will continue to include live broadcasts of all practice sessions, qualifying (including the F1 Sprint) and races, 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.
Stefano Domenicali, Formula 1's current boss, noted, “F1 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 U.S. together.”
Here’s to three more years of ad-free, early-morning wake-up calls, fellow F1 fans!