BRISTOL, Conn.—In the midst of what is on track to be a record-breaking season of viewership for Formula 1 racing, the Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Formula 1 have extended their sports rights deal with a new, multi-year contract that will keep F1 races on ESPN Networks in the United States through the 2025 season.
After setting a record in 2021 for the most-viewed F1 season ever on U.S. television with an average of 949,000 viewers per race, the average audience grew 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 this year, the telecast of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on ABC generated an average viewership of 2.6 million, the largest U.S. audience on record for a live F1 race.
The renewal was announced at the Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix 2022 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex., the second of two U.S. 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 companies said.
The new agreement also includes expanded direct-to-consumer rights, which will give ESPN more flexibility to offer fans additional ways to view F1 content over the next three years on platforms like ESPN+. .
“Formula 1 and ESPN have been a strong and successful team and we’re delighted to extend our relationship,” said 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.”
“We are delighted to announce that our partnership with ESPN will continue,” said 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,” said 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 U.S. 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 favorable 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 U.S. and ESPN’s coverage of F1 also includes a dedicated site that reports on the championship.
In addition, ESPN studio shows including SportsCenter will continue on-site coverage from races in the U.S., 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, the companies said.
George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.
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