Pay-TV sports broadcaster ESPN has acquired the US rights for Formula One, the Liberty Media-owned elite global motorsport series, from the start of next year.
Under the terms of the multi-year linear and digital partnership, Disney-owned ESPN will show all 21 races from the 2018 Formula One season. In total it will show more than 125 hours of programming a year across its ESPN and ESPN2 channels, as well as its online streaming platforms.
ABC, the free-to-air network which is also owned by Disney and was the original US carrier for Formula One coverage in 1962, will show the US Grand Prix that takes place in Austin, Texas on 21st October 2018.
ESPN and ABC replace NBC as the home of Formula One in the USA. NBC had been the exclusive American media rights holder since 2013 but, according to an official statement, it ‘chose not to enter into a new agreement in which the rights holder itself competes with us and our distribution partners’. This is understood to be a reference to Formula One's plans to launch a new digital over-the-top (OTT) service.
According to SportBusiness Journal, OTT rights are not included in the deal, while ESPN will take a world feed for coverage and is not believed to be paying a rights fee.
“ESPN has had a long commitment to motorsports, and Formula One is a crown jewel in the sport,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “There are passionate Formula One fans everywhere and we look forward to bring the pageantry, spectacle and excitement to our viewers.”
Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations at Formula One and a former ESPN executive, added: “We are excited about the return of the world's foremost motor racing platform to the ABC and ESPN platforms. ABC's Wide World of Sports first started airing live Grands Prix in the early 1960s and this linear and digital partnership with ESPN represents a significant step forward in achieving Formula One’s aim of broadening the sport’s appeal.
The first Grand Prix that ESPN will broadcast will be the 2018 season-opening Australian Grand Prix on 25th March. This year's US Grand Prix will take place on 22nd October.