After five seasons of broadcasting Formula 1 races in the United States, the NBC Sports Group has elected not to renew its contract after the 2017 season. Instead, ESPN will take over the rights, signing a multi-year agreement that will put the sport on one of the most popular cable channels.
ESPN will broadcast over 125 hours of programming during the course of the season, which will include all practice and qualifying sessions, in addition to all 21 races. Each race will appear on either ESPN, ESPN2, or ABC.
Executive vice-president of programming and scheduling at ESPN, Burke Magnus, said in a statement that, “ESPN has had a long commitment to motorsports, and Formula 1 is a crown jewel in the sport. There are many passionate Formula 1 fans in the U.S. and we look forward to bringing the pageantry, spectacle and excitement of F1 to viewers across the ESPN platform.”
This comes on the heels of F1 owners Liberty Media announcing plans to move towards an Over The Top (OTT) streaming feature in the future, which will allow fans to have a direct-to-consumer service along the lines of WatchESPN and FoxSportsGo.
“Although we take great pride in having grown Formula 1’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 Group stated. “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.”