Motorsports stalwart Formula 1 has agreed to a multi-year linear and digital carriage deal with ESPN for the start of the 2018 season, the third television network to carry the racing icon over the years, and a return of sorts to its original U.S. TV roots.
With ESPN, the racing icon comes full circle – it had been carried by Fox and NBC prior to this deal. ESPN will begin carrying Formula 1 programming beginning with the Australian Grand Prix on March 25, and will carry every race live on either ESPN, ESPN 2 or the ABC broadcast network. The package will include every practice and qualifying session and involve more than 125 hours of F1 programming across the first season. Other season highlights will be the Monaco Grand Prix on May 27, which will air live on ESPN at 7:55 a.m. ET and re-air later in the day on ABC at 3:30 p.m. after the Indianapolis 500. The United States Grand Prix in Austin, Tex., on Oct. 21 and the Mexican Grand Prix on Oct. 28 also will air live on ABC while the Canadian Grand Prix (June 10) and British Grand Prix (July 8) will be featured live on ESPN. The Singapore Grand Prix, the only night race of the championship, will air on ESPN2 on Sept. 16.
"We are excited about the return of the world's foremost motor racing platform to the ABC and ESPN platforms," said Formula 1 managing director, commercial operations Sean Bratches in a statement.
Bratches, who until joining Formula 1 in January was a 27-year veteran of ESPN, most recently leading its sales and marketing operations before stepping down in 2015, added that ABC broadcasted the first Formula 1 race aired in the U.S. – the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix – as part of its ABC Wide World of Sports program. Select races appeared on the network until 1988.
Fox aired F1 races for several years on its now defunct Speed channel (it later morphed into Fox Sports 1). NBC Sports snapped up the rights in 2013 and extended that deal for the 2017 season last year, but the racing circuit’s new owners – Liberty Media – have been reportedly unhappy with the deal.
In a statement, NBC Sports confirmed that this will be its last year carrying Formula 1.
“Although we take great pride in having grown Formula One’s visibility and viewership since we became its exclusive U.S. media rights holder in 2013, this will be our last season with the series," NBC Sports said in a statement. "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.”
Last year Formula 1 signed a deal with Britain’s Sky Sports to become the circuit’s exclusive broadcaster in that country beginning in 2019 for a reported $150 million annually. Since NBC was reportedly paying about $3 million per year for U.S. rights, it is logical that Formula 1 was looking for another outlet.
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.
"The U.S. 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," Bratches continued in his statement.
Here is the full 2018 broadcast schedule:
March 25 - 12:55 a.m. - Australian Grand Prix -ESPN2
April 8 - 1:55 a.m. - Chinese Grand Prix - ESPN2
April 15 - 10:55 a.m. - Bahrain Grand Prix - ESPN2
April 29 - 8:55 a.m. - Azerbaijan Grand Prix - ESPN2
May 13 - 7:55 a.m. - Spanish Grand Prix - ESPN2
May 27 - 7:55 a.m. - Monaco Grand Prix - ESPN
-3:30 p.m. - Monaco Grand Prix ABC (re-aired)
June 10 - 1:55 p.m. - Canadian Grand Prix ESPN
June 24 - 7:55 a.m. - French Grand Prix - ESPN2
July 1 - 7:55 a.m. - Austrian Grand Prix - ESPN2
July 8 - 7:55 a.m. - British Grand Prix ESPN
July 22 - 7:55 a.m. - German Grand Prix - ESPN2
July 29 - 7:55 a.m. - Hungarian Grand Prix - ESPN2
Aug. 26 - 7:55 a.m. - Belgian Grand Prix - ESPN2
Sept. 2 - 7:55 a.m. - Italian Grand Prix ESPN2
Sept. 16 7:55 a.m. Singapore Grand Prix - ESPN2
Sept. 30 - 7:55 a.m. - Russian Grand Prix - ESPN2
Oct. 7 - 12:55 a.m. Japanese Grand Prix ESPN2
Oct. 21 - 2:55 p.m. - United States Grand Prix - ABC
Oct. 28 - 2:55 p.m. - Mexican Grand Prix - ABC
Nov. 11 - 10:55 a.m. - Brazilian Grand Prix - ESPN2
Nov. 25 - 7:55 a.m. - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - ESPN2
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