ESPN Will Keep Formula 1 Rights Through 2025, And They’re Paying A Lot More To Do So

ESPN will be retaining the American broadcast rights to Formula 1 after all.

By Jay Rigdon

That news comes despite competition from Comcast and Amazon, which clearly saw the value in the growing racing circuit as well. John Ourand and Adam Stern broke the renewal news at Sports Business Journal.

According to Ourand and Stern, the deal includes provisions that could see a small number of races exclusively on ESPN+, although that feels more like future-proofing the deal or maybe setting up a one-time effort to boost subscriptions than anything else at this point. It’s hard to imagine ESPN and Disney paying that much money (and it is a massive increase) to not put the product in front of as many people as possible as often as possible.

The big question: how will this affect presentation? To this point, ESPN has aired F1 without commercials via the Sky Sports feed. Could this huge bump in what they’re paying lead them to reconsider that?

 

We wrote about that possibility in May:

Formula 1, of course, has no scheduled stoppages, meaning if rights fees climb high enough networks wanted to run commercials, they’d have to cut away from race action. ESPN tried that for their inaugural race, and the outcry was such that they completely backpedaled on the plan, which has paid dividends. But if ESPN, or another outlet that came in with a strong enough offer to convince Liberty Media to leave the platform and brand of ESPN, felt the need to run ads due to a massive rights number, that would be a huge loss.

Everything reported so far has indicated ESPN was not planning on inserting ads, which makes sense. There’s a strong case to be made that one of the big non-Netflix reasons for the growth of the sport in terms of viewership is the strength of the presentation, including the lack of commercial interruption on race day. Let’s hope that’s the case going forward.

Interestingly, Ourand noted that Netflix did indeed bid, as had been speculated, which could signal future interest in live sports.

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