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5th April 2022, 8:195th April 2022, 0:21 | Written by Keith Collantine
Formula 1 could split from US broadcaster ESPN next year as the series eyes a more lucrative rights deal.
Greg Maffei, president of F1 owner Liberty Media, told CNBC work on a new broadcasting deal is “ongoing” and he believes the sport’s growing popularity in the USA could help them command a higher price for the rights.
“This year we’re on ESPN and next year we’re looking for a broadcast partner,” said Maffei. “We have a lot of interest.”
Liberty Media moved F1 from NBC to ESPN in 2018, soon after it purchased the series. “ESPN has been a great partner,” said Maffei. “They’ve got a very good deal because we’ve had a rise in popularity and they’ve capitalised on that as well.
“Our hope is we’ll find a great partner going forward which could be ESPN or it could be somebody else, and is likely to be at a much better price for us. It’s hopefully still good for our broadcast partners too.”
F1 announced last week it will add a third American round of the championship next year in response to the growing popularity of its existing race in Austin and strong interest in its new Miami event, which will take place for the first time next month.
“Last year in Austin we had an amazing race, the largest race in the history of Formula 1 in terms of attendees, up probably about five times what it was five years ago in terms of attendees,” said Maffei.
“We have an upcoming inaugural race in Miami, May 6th-8th, sold out in about 36 hours. Tickets are trading in the secondary market for huge premiums. So demand is very strong.
“The opportunity to continue to ride on that demand, the strength in viewership both on ESPN and with Drive to Survive, the opportunity to capitalise on that, to recognise our growing fan base here in the US, recognise the strength of sponsorship here in the US – all of those – Vegas set that opportunity up and the opportunity to capitalise more.”
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5th April 2022, 9:36
Having 3 local races, and 5 of them in North America, as well as a very solid audience for the 3 of them we alredy have on the calendar would clearly make a good argument for a better TV deal. I just hope it stays widely available to get for viewers.
5th April 2022, 12:12
@bascb it’s going behind a massive paywall
That’s what’s happened pretty much everywhere else
5th April 2022, 12:30
Not necessarily. First it depends on what you mean by “massive paywall.” To me that’s like boxing or UFC where you could pay $50 or $75 to watch one fight night. F1 TV Pro in the US costs $80 and F1 TV Access is $30, so we won’t be seeing UFC style numbers for PPV.
Second, look at what it’s on. Currently it’s on ESPN, which requires a paid cable service or something like Sling TV. The cheapest service I can find costs $420/year. Sure you get cable channels, but most of it is junk. If you have cable tv already, I guess it’s no additional cost. But neither is Amazon Prime if you have that, or Hulu or Apple TV. All of these are currently active bidders for sports content, including American Football.
Currently the top two bidders for the coveted NFL Sunday Ticket package, where you get all the games: Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
And then the networks are willing to pay $$ although that comes with dreaded advertising. So the free for you thing might also be the most annoying.
6th April 2022, 7:22
Well made points there “mjbstl” – since most US households have several of those cable or streaming services already they might have to look at changing out one, but should be able to get them for more or less the same prices they were paying right now (a lot, yes, but that ship sailed a long time ago with the prices of cable subscriptions)
12th April 2022, 6:43
I think that’s pretty unlikely, especially with the way DTS has gone down.
Last season I had F1TV access in the US – at $27 for the year. It’s $80 for Pro, which unlike the UK includes live races.
If you take Indycar, that’s now on Peacock Premium – races are delayed 2 days, so like F1TV access is here. That’s $50 per year (with ads, but live broadcasts will have them regardless), & it also includes basically everything that NBC has streaming rights to on Peacock. That upsell makes it worth considering
Before NBC moved Indycar to Peacock (I think before last season), it was an individual Sports Pass as part of NBC Sports Gold – that was $55 if you signed up before the Indy 500 (it dropped in price after that, as access expired on Jan 15th regardless of when you signed up). And the races were still delayed 2 days from broadcast. The point is that now I can access everything on Peacock vs just Indycar coverage, and save $5 per year. And that’s before other sports (mainly rugby) that also had Gold passes at $200 per sport, that are now all bundled into Peacock. It makes Peacock a reasonably cheap option if you want more than just one sport (or access to other programming).
One other thing – all bar 3 races Indycar races this year are on NBC itself, so free to air. 2 are on cable, on is a Peacock exclusive. It’s a massive improvement over recent seasons, even since NBC gained exclusive rights over the series rather than the ABC/NBC split prior to 2018.
That’s way better than F1, where ESPN (and ABC) has the rights for free and does a token effort. It’s basically the same as the UK, only the USGP (and possibly Miami), i.e. the domestic races, are on ABC & free to air. Everything else is on cable, behind a paywall similar in relative cost to Sky in the UK.
Where it gets interesting is that NBC dropped F1 after 2017 due to F1TV launching in 2018 and didn’t want to show F1 if F1 . They’re the obvious choice thanks to NBC being owned by Comcast, as Sky now. Interestingly there’s no overlap with their Premier League coverage. The catch is that I’m sure that they would want some kind of limitation on F1TV service – something that I don’t think Liberty would go with.
Euro Brun (@eurobrun)
5th April 2022, 12:25
Given that this is US TV, the best deal would be a broadcaster who shows every race on the same channel, so that you don’t have to go hunting around week to week. And one that won’t move force the race to switch channels half way thru because it clashes with the local news!
5th April 2022, 12:31
They make money on commercials though.
6th April 2022, 8:09
Yes but if i pay for F1 i expect NO commercials those are for the free broadcasts.
5th April 2022, 9:54
Milking the net worth means higher prices for the streaming services and ultimately less viewers.
Several country’s with new contracts measured losses of 15% in viewer numbers.
5th April 2022, 12:20
@erikje sometimes it’s even worse than that…
6th April 2022, 0:55
Two words describe the whole situation – Corporate Greed.
6th April 2022, 9:32
Possible, but only short term greed.
Better receive 1 dollar from 1000 viewers then 100 dollar from 10 viewers.
Business who do not understand the difference will loose.
5th April 2022, 10:00
Seems odd. If anyone’s going to spend billions on getting the rights surely they’ll want to stop the F1 TV service from being available (like here in UK with Sky). Just as they’re growing their fan base they will end up making it more expensive and difficult to watch and thus quickly lose all those viewers again.
This all feels a bit like that last Star Wars film, are we going to find out that it was Bernie behind the scenes all along?! It feels like it.
5th April 2022, 10:37
This all feels a bit like that last Star Wars film, are we going to find out that it was Bernie behind the scenes all along?! It feels like it.
There was always this delusion among F1 fans that a move away from Ecclestone’s regime would somehow hand the sport over to people who “care about the sport more than the money”. Sports are a business, first and foremost, and are thus operated as such.
5th April 2022, 10:37
“Somehow Ecclestone has returned…”
6th April 2022, 9:33
Liberty went to the dark side.
5th April 2022, 10:27
F1 should be ashamed, not proud, of sky-high secondary market prices for tickets, it essentially means enthusiasts are paying over the odds. And how does more expensive broadcast deals make the sport more accessible? The only premium part of F1 is the Paddock Club, and let’s be honest, 80% of PC pass holders are not enthusiasts. I hope Racefans drills F1 on cost and accessibility because if they double down on profit they will be walking away from the fan base.
5th April 2022, 15:48
sky-high secondary market prices for tickets, it essentially means enthusiasts are paying over the odds.
The enthusiast are paying ‘on the odds’; it’s in the end supply and demand meeting what it is worth to them.
So rather than being ‘ashamed’ the promotor (not F1) could be a bit ’embarrassed’ as they clearly sold the tickets too cheaply.
5th April 2022, 22:29
@jff Promotor didn’t sold “tickets too cheaply”, scalpers were able to buy more than 1 ticket. Go watch “Last week tonight” episode s09e04 about this issue.
5th April 2022, 11:32
I seem to remember something about a goose that laid gold eggs until some greedy fools killed it.
Euro Brun (@eurobrun)
5th April 2022, 12:20
Tickets are trading in the secondary market for huge premiums. So demand is very strong.
Its abhorrent to be proud of this and effectively congratulate ticket touts for pricing out average folk. But hey, F1 baby!
5th April 2022, 14:27
@eurobrun Yeah, I was surprised by the “Tickets are trading in the secondary market for huge premiums. So demand is very strong. remark, considering they own LiveNation, and the general convention is touts and touting sites are ripping off the art and talent they’re flogging tickets for.
Weird, statement. Someone may have to point out to him that neither he nor Liberty make anything from that.
6th April 2022, 7:25
Who knows, a year or 3 back there was some ruckus in the Netherlands when it was uncovered that companies like LiveNation were actually working together and I think they were getting some kind of kickbacks from such scapler sites @bernasaurus. Given the state of US market regulations, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were actually doing something like that here too.
6th April 2022, 23:02
@bascb Oh, I hadn’t heard about that, but it doesn’t surprised me in the slightest. Sites like Viagogo aren’t exactly a bunch of high school pirates.
6th April 2022, 23:04
Indeed they aren’t, no @bernasaurus. What a mess of companies profiting off customers we are in.
5th April 2022, 13:00
My first thought reading the caption was: ‘A better price? For whom? F1, FIA, LM, fans?’
The article itself confirmed my fears within the first paragraph though.
This will mean they will do whatever they can to make the sports as ‘attractive’ as they possibly can, in order to justify the price people need to pay and keep their new audience.
So, confirmation again of ‘show’ first. Prepare for more and more gadgets, instead of less.
5th April 2022, 13:03
Bring back my Pit Lane Channel
6th April 2022, 3:31
Yes! That was the only reason I had a subscription to F1 TV in the first place. Now it’s just Will Buxton saying that we saw some footage there first, and right after he says that the world feed plays the same clip and all we get is something like, “Well, you’re seeing it again but you got to see it here before everyone who’s seeing it now.”
All I wanted was for them to stream the PLC in 1080 (if not 4k) and instead they gave us a half assed stream that looks to me, and I say this as someone who has worked in the TV business for more than 15 years and has experience with live sports programming, as though there’s virtually no crew working on it.
The PLC was great and this pathetic replacement just drives me crazy.
5th April 2022, 14:04
Spoken like the true corporate slime ball that Liberty is. How many times did they use the word ‘capitalize’? Just because you can sell tickets doesn’t mean it’s good for the sport!
7th April 2022, 20:16
We live in a capitalistic society. Profit is a great measure to determine what is good, don’t you agree?
5th April 2022, 14:23
Price out the fans and they will turn to illegal streams. Ruin the show and the fans will watch something else.
5th April 2022, 14:34
As an American, this fills me with dread. Currently ESPN is the broadcast partner, but that doesn’t mean every race is on ESPN. Some are on ESPN 2, ESPNU, or ESPN+. My cable package doesn’t include all the ESPN channels, it only includes EPSN and ESPN 2 so I am not able to watch everything.
“The opportunity to capitalize more” to me says they will find someone who will pay a lot but doesn’t really understand the sport or the fans and they will break up the races with ads like NBC used to do and ESPN did initially. If they own multiple channels, they will split the property across as many channels as possible to spread out the “halo-effect” of having a premier motor racing category on their network. This will be a regression rather than a progression.
The other option is for some streaming company like Apple, Amazon, or Netflix to buy the rights. I don’t know if F1 would do that given F1 TV, but Apple and Amazon have been attempting to buy sports programming quite a bit lately and Netflix seems like a likely candidate as well if F1 were to go in that direction.
I think the other thing that they should be considering is that right now Miami and Las Vegas are unknown quantities. To me these races look like they will attract a lot of attention for the first few years, but once the novelty wears out, they will struggle mightily because the tracks are not going to lend themselves to great racing. Liberty seems to be counting it’s chickens before they hatch and using them to drive the price up, which is not great business for any broadcast partner.
5th April 2022, 18:49
The reason there aren’t any ads on the race broadcasts is, because F1 basically gave ESPN the US broadcast rights for free after NBC’s contract was up and they wouldn’t agree to F1’s demands. ESPN isn’t paying a rights fee, and they have zero production costs, since they’re just taking the Sky F1 feed. Mother’s Polish pays ESPN some amount of money to keep the races ad free, which probably isn’t a huge number, since F1 costs ESPN nothing. I”ll guarantee that if F1 gets big money for the next broadcast contract, we are going to be watching F1 races with ads, unless you subscribe to the F1 streaming service.
5th April 2022, 21:04
@forrest I’d be interested to know what happened when ESPN extended their deal with F1 after the initial 2 years expired. They signed a 3-year extension at that point and I have to imagine at that point F1 wasn’t giving anything away for free anymore.
6th April 2022, 3:40
@g-funk There really wasn’t anywhere else for F1 to go at that point. Certainly no where that had the distribution that ESPN/ABC have. NBC was already planning to shutter NBCSN and CBS Sports is something of a joke – they’ll air anything, but they won’t pay for it if it’s going to be on their cable network and not the OTA channel.
At that point I don’t think any of the big names in streaming were quite ready to pony up the money either, hence the ESPN extension.
I worry about the quality of the broadcast if it ends up somewhere other than ESPN/ABC. If someone shells out big money for the rights then they’ll want their own take on it with their own commentary team and I don’t have much faith in any network coming up with a decent team for that, let alone any on-site coverage outside of the world feed.
5th April 2022, 18:12
NO to commercials during the race
NO to second string state-side commentators
Happy with ESPN they’ve done a great job.
I’m sure we will end up with a paywall. Maybe Disney, Prime or Peacock. But fundamentally while interest has increased here in the US it’s shifted from ‘none just hard core ex-pats’ to ‘some minimal interest’ and that won’t command mega bucks.
Fer no.65 (@fer-no65)
5th April 2022, 18:31
Milk that cow, F1… milk that cow… Use the same old tactics Bernie used! Put testing behind a paywall… get better deals from TV rights, so that costs raise for the general public. Make it more “exclusive”. Come on, do it!
Kenny Schachat (@partofthepuzzle)
5th April 2022, 18:36
I can almost guarantee that the new deal will give us races with commercials, most likely similar to the disaster that NBC presented (missing almost 1/4r – 1/3 of the action or putting the action in the upper left corner of the screen). Not to mention using some lunk-head commentators watching the race ion the studio. At least ESPN had the wisdom to drop the commercials after a couple of races and that went a long way toward giving new F1 fans a quality presentation. It wouldn’t surprise me to see F1TV Pro go the same route (they’ve already dropped using the Sky commentators, Oh well, we can always go back to the pirate broadcasts….
5th April 2022, 20:05
NASCAR is currently negotiating a new TV deal as well. It will be interesting to see what ends up on free TV, cable/Sat TV, or streaming TV.
I for one will not be nickel and dimed to death by the streaming platforms. One monthly affordable bill for me please and thank you.
5th April 2022, 23:33
I sincerely believe that one of the reasons that F1 viewership in the US has increased recently is due to the broadcast not being interrupted by commercials. When NBC had F1, it was dreadful … I don’t know the exact ratio, but I bet commercial:race was somewhere around 40:60. The commercial timing was also terrible. More often than not, they would cut to commercial when the most important part of the race was happening. It was unbelievable how often they would come back from commercial and we had missed a critical point, like a pitstop, or accident, or even pass for the lead. With such a high ratio of commercials to actual race, it is almost a certainty to miss some key moments in a race. F1 isn’t NASCAR with 4 hour long races, but NBC treated it that way.
When ESPN first got F1, they would randomly cut to commercials abruptly during the SKY feed, with no lead in/lead out from the commentators. Going to commercial and coming back right in the middle of commentators conversations, with no discussion of what was missed during the commercial. That was worse than NBC. I almost stopped watching F1 at that point. It was practically unwatchable. Thank heavens they wised up quickly (I think it was only 2 or 3 races in) when they switched to a full sponsorship by Mothers with no commercials.
I hope that whomever ends up with F1 in the US, they keep the commercials out. It will be *EXTREMELY* hard to go back to constant interruptions during the race. I am sure that if they do go back to a commercial-fest, the viewership will diminish (which might even include me).
6th April 2022, 14:59
There is a huge if in the whole equation and it is the team value itself. No commercials is as absurd as full-throttle ads interrupting the broadcast. The problem is the format. Companies who pay for sponsorship need exposure and ads to increase brand recognition. No ads means that the spending in a tiny decal in a F1 car and jumper suit has no ROI, specially if the driver/team is bad. A multi plataform, multi stream with exclusive streams for paid subscribers with interactive advertising with special promotions can make F1 a whole experience. Saying that secondary markets Icket price is the indicator of how successful is the sport is wrong. It is a social event and people react as such. Having an educated audience is a total different animal. Can F1 be in the spot to have a product to satisfy diehard fans, casual viewers, Liberty, sponsors, teams and be a fair sport? My take is that die-hard fans will face challenging conditions to keep consuming F1. Excuse my analogy, the first movie of the Fast and the Furious had some sort of reality and technical context that made the movie credible despite all the bad acting and silly plots . The last one was a circus in wheels full of CGI. F1 will race in the moon very soon.
6th April 2022, 19:56
I miss NBC’s coverage, they had a great team. ESPN just rebroadcasts Sky TV in the US which is fine, but it seems like a missed opportunity.
6th April 2022, 23:53
So much of development these days.
7th April 2022, 12:41
I guess Liberty Media wouldn’t consider having it on one of their own channels as the cost is way too high….
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