After the new owners of Formula 1 racing called NBC’s rights fee with the organization “a popcorn fart” earlier this year, perhaps the writing was on the wall for the Peacock’s tenure with the sport. F1 has signed a multi-year deal with ESPN, which will be the new home of F1 starting in 2018. It brings back the sport back to the Worldwide Leader, which had televised F1 from 1984 through 1997.

NBC/NBCSN has aired F1 since 2013 and, by bundling F1 with NASCAR and IndyCar, had branded itself as the home of motorsports. It still has the second half of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series and Xfinity Series, IndyCar, and Red Bull GRC.

By re-obtaining the rights, ESPN can say it still has a foothold in motorsports, despite losing NASCAR in 2015, NHRA last year, and laying off announcers like Allen Bestwick last May. According to Sports Business Daily, ESPN will likely not pay a rights fee and depend on the world feed to televise the races.

Under the agreement, ESPN’s family of networks will air all 21 races in the season (16 on ESPN2, 3 on ESPN, and 2 on ABC). It will clear the schedule on Sunday morning, when most races will air on ESPN2.

ESPN executive Burke Magnus told Sports Business Daily that having openings in its schedule will allow the Worldwide Leader to promote F1 to its audience:

“We had the ability on Sunday mornings on ESPN2 to slide the races right into the schedule,” ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus said. “The design here is to lean heavily into the sport once again. It’s been a few years. We want to make it a big deal again.”

NBC, which was hoping to keep the rights, wanted a long-term deal. F1 wasn’t in favor of that, and also wanted to keep its over-the-top rights in house, which it will do following the new deal with ESPN.

F1 also wants to create a second U.S. race in addition to the United States Grand Prix, currently held in Austin, and ESPN’s marketing firepower can help with the promotion.

ESPN and ABC are back in the Formula 1 game, which is notable given that ABC aired its first F1 race on Wide World of Sports in 1962. For F1, it feels it has a win-win with ESPN and it most likely won’t be calling its agreement with the Worldwide Leader “a popcorn fart.”

[Sports Business Daily]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • eddie

    wow espn got f1 rights and what next for media rights like nbc sportsn and others latest news.

  • vinny

    ESPN is reported paying nothing for the rights on TV. F1 just wanted to keep the streaming rights for themselves.

    • ua2

      I would pay 10 bucks a month during f1 season if f1 had a ios app that streamed the races. F1 is perfect for streaming.

      • Steve Foster

        They are definitely gonna have one. Now that they are owned by an american corporation. Except it’s gonna be more like $10 to watch most races extra for Monaco, Monza and Spa.. Q1 and Q2 comes with basic membership but Q3 will only be for premium subscribers $25 per month. Formula one has got worse since adding that shit V-6 but now they finally killed it for America…….. you’ll see

        • anthony corbett

          No way am I paying more than I do now to stream by the race!!!! Why cant people leave well enough alone !!!!

    • jjdoe

      Robin Miller said NBC paid nothing, too.

  • eddie

    What about indycar ?

    • jjdoe

      It will stay on NBC.

      • eddie

        okay and what about the plan for nbc ?
        will they get race to air nbc,nbcsn,cnbc and will they get indy 500 to nbc in 2019 to replace abc if they can renew. will have to see how it goes

  • noonan18

    Just because ESPN has the coverage, doesn’t mean its going to be great. ESPN covering sports like Formula 1 is all filler until football and basketball season. They could care less about the sport themselves, but it beats putting on lumberjack competitions and trampoline dodgeball. That’s why the NHL is doing so much better now that they aren’t on ESPN anymore.

  • This stinks. The NBC F1 commentary crew is superb.

    • IWouldDoubtIt

      Right…Hobbs slurring his words; probably had a bottle under his desk. Couldn’t tell the drivers and teams apart.

  • WestLAGuy

    Oh no, you mean we only have three more races including today’s Mexican GP to “experience” a virtual lock for induction into the Awful Announcing Hall of Fame? I refer of course to the mic-hogging, in love with the sound of his own voice, cliche spewing STEVE MATCHETT, who never met a pause in commentary he couldn’t fill by telling us what he thinks a driver is doing, repeating what we have just heard a driver say on the radio, a habit Leigh Diffey has picked up, or the Matchett special gift of talking down to the audience whenever he sees the need to pontificate. It’s my opinion, of course, but having directed voice artists like Mel Blanc and growing up with a father who an outstanding announcer and actor, I do have a frame of reference to call upon.

    Steve Matchett, as you may know was hired by Speed as a technical expert having been crew chief for Benetton F1 in the 1990’s and came to NBC with David Hobbs and Will Buxton. For some reason, NBC has allowed Steve Matchett to dominate every practice, qualifying session and race in all areas not just technical. Play by play, driver expertise, you name Steve Matchett will talk and talk and talk about it. . NBC had Mario Andretti as a guest for the entire Italian GP a few years ago, the race that inspired Andretti as a young boy watching his hero Alberto Ascari and where Mario clinched his World Championship. IT could have been a memorable opportunity to engage this great driver and American Icon, but NBC blew it instead. There was Matchett, dominating the broadcast, jumping in to share his views on all subjects including how to drive at Monza! That Mario Andretti gradually said less and less over the two hours should come as no surprise.

    As a kid I remember waiting for delivery of Road and Track magazine to read about Formula One a month or more after a key race and therefore marvel at the incredible technology we have today. Yet, because of what can only be described as a Pavlovian reaction to the sound of Steve Matchett’s voice, I routinely turn off virtually every F1 race or just fast forward through whole sections if it’s on DVR rather than suffer through another chapter of amateur announcing at its worst courtesy of Steve Matchett. Screaming at the 4 ‘HD screen “Will somebody please tell Steve Matchett to shut the fuck up” hasn’t helped..

    • Steve Foster

      So at least they will keep you as a fan. Now that they are gonna have no commentary I think you will see a lot of viewers quit watching and we’ll go back to being broadcast 2 races per year. Without the back and forth of Steve and Dave, I’m done. You enjoy epsn though dude.

    • anthony corbett

      Really pretty big rant guess we now all know you dont like Steve Matchett. Good for you wow !!!! Hope espn works out for all of us !!!!

    • Nick

      Nice long post complaining about how much someone else talks too much. What irony!

      I for one enjoyed the show with Hobbs and co and will sorely miss them as a crew. Learned a lot from the “cliche spewing” Matchett and I’d like to thank him for passing on his years of experience to those willing to listen.

      ESPN should hire Will Buxton if available.

  • jjdoe

    I’ve watched F1 since the early 60’s, on WWoSports. I hated the ESPN era, and refuse to watch it now. This will be my excuse to drop cable. I could buy a modest new car for what we pay! ABC/ ESPN has absolutely no clue of how to present auto racing.
    I’m done! With F1 and cable.

  • IWouldDoubtIt

    Keep Will Buxton on the ground at the races!!!

  • Pat Frey

    Sorry F1 but I refuse to watch espn

  • huffy49

    All I can say is that this is most definitely NOT good news.

  • anthony corbett

    Yes it does stink espn is not what it used to be. They will get some ham and legs that do not know a thing about F1