ESPN Renews Formula 1 Rights In U.S., Outmaneuvering Netflix And Other Tech Suitors – Report

U.S. media rights to Liberty Media’s rising auto racing circuit Formula 1 have reportedly been renewed by ESPN through 2025 after the Disney-owned sports operation outmaneuvered Netflix and other tech suitors.

The pact is worth in the area of $75 million to $90 million a year, according to Sports Business Journal, which first reported the deal. While such a number would be exponentially higher than the $5 million level of the current contract, it is believed to be less than what several tech giants were offering.

Reps for ESPN and Formula 1 declined to comment on the report when contacted by Deadline. Complete plans for how the package would be delivered remain under wraps, but other sports set up at ESPN find their way across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN+, ABC and other platforms.

Netflix is understood to have joined the bidding, in a departure from its prior avoidance of live sports. It justified the pursuit as an effort to possibly position live F1 races as a complement to its top-rated docuseries Drive to Survive. Amazon, which is in the midst of a big push into live sports, also reportedly made a play, as did NBCUniversal.

The John Malone-controlled Liberty acquired Formula One Group for $4.6 billion in 2017. Former longtime media exec Chase Carey ran it as CEO until 2020, when former Ferrari and Lamborghini exec Stefano Domenicali took the reins. During the Italian-born Domenicali’s tenure, F1 has seen a surge in popularity and tune-in, adding U.S. dates to its long-established global calendar. The first event ever held in Miami in May drew 2.6 million viewers for ABC, a record for F1 in the U.S.

In an interview with Deadline last month, Domenicali said his team was “exploring all of the opportunities” and “not in a rush to make the decision.”

Amid an ongoing rise in sports rights in the U.S., live events with a particular draw among younger fans are especially coveted. On Liberty Media’s earnings call last February, execs were asked about a scenario much like the one that has apparently played out — a renewal with ESPN even if the dollar figure isn’t the highest among all bids. Liberty CEO Greg Maffei said the company opted to take “broader coverage over the money” in its most recent ESPN renewal in 2019, “and I think that’s paid off.”

In this year’s evaluation, Maffei added, “I don’t think, as you know, it’s a complete trade-off. There will be degrees of access, degrees of coverage, and there’ll be degrees of money.”

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