Formula 1 Is Leaving NBC Sports, Moving to ESPN

ESPN/ABC TV will televise all 21 races in the 2018 Formula 1 championship.

F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain
Mark Thompson—Getty Images

NBC's coverage of Formula 1 will end this year. Autoweek reports that the series will be moving to ESPN for 2018 and beyond.

ESPN has had a long commitment to motorsports, and Formula 1 is a crown jewel in the sport,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling, to Autoweek. “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.”

ESPN will air all 2018 races live on either ESPN, ESPN2, or ABC. Only two races will be broadcasted over-the-air on ABC, but most racing fans already have cable or satellite TV that provides the additional networks. Interestingly, the first Formula 1 race ever aired in the U.S. was on ABC in 1962.

NBC Sports Group has more than doubled Formula 1 viewership since holding broadcast rights to the series. Average viewership on cable (NBCSN, CNBC) increased from 187,000 viewers in 2013 to 440,000 viewers today. Over-the-air coverage of four races this year bumps that number up to 548,000.

"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," said NBC in a press release. "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." Formula 1 owner Liberty Media has significantly increased Formula 1's online presence and is currently developing subscription apps that could directly compete with a TV network's own coverage.