By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – ESPN will replace NBC as Formula One’s U.S. broadcaster next season as part of a multi-year and multimedia deal, the sport announced on Wednesday.
A Formula One statement said all 21 races will be aired from March next year on ESPN and ABC, the network that first broadcast the sport in the United States in 1962.
Formula One’s commercial managing director Sean Bratches said the “linear and digital partnership” represented a significant step forward in achieving Formula One’s aim of broadening the sport’s appeal.
“The U.S. market is very important for us and we want to build on the success of the popular Formula One United States Grand Prix,” Bratches added.
Austin, Texas, currently hosts the only grand prix in the United States but there are plans to add another after next season.
Formula One’s owners are U.S.-based Liberty Media, who took over in January and see North America as a key growth area for the sport. It is also a key region for team sponsors and manufacturers.
Bratches was previously a senior sales and marketing executive with ESPN, spending nearly 30 years at the sports channel majority owned by Walt Disney subsidiary ABC.
NBC said in a separate statement confirming their departure that they had chosen “not to enter into a new agreement in which the rights holder itself competes with us and our distribution partners.”
Formula One last appeared on ESPN in 1997. NBC has had the exclusive U.S. broadcast rights since 2013.
No financial details were given and the Formula One statement did not mention over the top (OTT) streaming which would offer fans a direct-to-consumer offering similar to Netflix or Amazon.
Media reports have indicated that Liberty wants to retain control of those rights.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)