By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
In a move set to shock race fans across the country, NBC is dropping their F1 coverage for 2018 and passing the baton on to ABC’s ESPN network.
NBC through their NBC Sports Network has become the go to destination for U.S. race fans over the last several seasons by upping its coverage of F1, IndyCar, and NASCAR. Apparently it was too good to last and once again U.S. fans will have to go to multiple sources for their Sunday fun.
NBC released a statement today in which they stated they have chosen not to continue the relationship. Some speculation suggests it may be due to Liberty Media’s push for a new streaming service for fans dubbed Over the Top, in a style similar to Netflix and other streaming services that have boomed in popularity, that looks to be in direct competition with a service from NBC.
F1’s original broadcaster in the United States, ABC will be taking over. ABC first aired F1 in the U.S. in the 1960’s via the famous Wide World of Sports television program. ABC and ESPN are best known for their annual, if lacklustre Indy 500 broadcast, as well as several other IndyCar races. One can only hope with the scope of this new agreement that they will step up their game and give their F1 coverage as much attention as possible.
All 21 races of the 2018 season will be broadcast live and replayed on either ABC, ESPN, or ESPN 2, including all practice and qualifying sessions. It is highly likely a direct to consumer streaming service as previously mentioned is in the works as well, but was not mentioned today. The networks’ lack of motorsports coverage in recent years means F1 coverage will be somewhat of a novelty mixed among all the stick and ball sports and will hopefully lure mainstream sports fans over to F1 in the coming years.
ESPN Executive VP of Programming & Scheduling, Burke Magnus said, “ESPN has had a long commitment to motorsports, and Formula 1 is a crown jewel in the sport. There are passionate Formula 1 fans everywhere and we look forward to bring the pageantry, spectacle and excitement to our viewers.”
F1’s Sean Bratches, was equally upbeat about today’s announcement.
“We are excited about the return of the world’s foremost motor racing platform to the ABC and ESPN platforms.” He continued by emphasizing the importance of the United States to Liberty Media’s future plans for F1.
“The U.S. market is a very important growth opportunity for Formula 1 and we are looking forward to working with ESPN to ignite the growing fan interest.”