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Netflix, ESPN, and NBCUniversal in Battle for F1’s US Media Rights

A fight over the sport's US media rights is brewing as F1 soars in popularity worldwide.

As Formula 1 enjoys its new spike in popularity, it’s created a battle for the US media rights which are up for grabs in 2023. Netflix, ESPN, Amazon, and NBCUniversal are all reportedly in the running, hoping to host the world’s premier motorsport on their own service, reports TechCrunch.

F1 is in vogue right now. Waves of new fans are following the sport in the US, with Netflix’s narrative-focused Drive To Survive series credited for introducing the sport to new audiences. Combined with the drama and controversy of last year’s closely-fought World Championship, it’s no surprise new followers are flocking to the sport.

Thus, it’s no surprise that there’s a fight on the cards for media rights ahead of the 2023 season. News broke on Monday from Insider, quoting sources familiar with the negotiations.

ESPN told TechCrunch that the company is serious about holding on to what it’s got. The Disney-owned company has held the US rights to F1 since 2017. “We are aggressively pursuing a renewal,” said John Suchenski, ESPN’s director of programming & acquisitions.

“We feel that we have a distribution package and event presentation that can’t be matched in the industry,” Suchenski added, while noting that “Understandably, they are looking at other options.” Notably, the ESPN broadcast features the Sky Sports commentators and live feed, as is common in many English-speaking territories. Reports are that ESPN’s opened with a bid of $70 million, below a reported target of $100 million sought by F1.

It’s suspected that Netflix may be particularly eager to pair the live race broadcasts with its documentary series on the same platform. The company lacks a dedicated sports department and a live broadcast outlet, but establishing such facilities is not outside the realm of possibility. The company has previously expressed an interest in securing the rights to F1, with CEO Reed Hastings stating in 2021 that the company would “think about it” when the rights were up for renewal.

It could also prove an important growth strategy for the streaming giant which has faced difficulties of late. The company shed 200,000 subscribers recently, sparking a decline in stock market value. A new live broadcast arm with a major anchor sport like F1 could do much to stem the losses and even attract new subscribers to Netflix.

Regardless, neither Netflix, NBCUniversal, nor Amazon has provided public comment regarding the US F1 rights in 2023. Negotiations such as these will always go on behind closed doors, but we’ll all know the result soon enough.

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