How ‘Drive To Survive’ Forced ESPN To Pay 16 Times More For Formula 1 Broadcasting Rights

Despite facing stiff competition from Amazon and Comcast, ESPN has managed to retain the broadcasting rights for Formula 1, after agreeing to pay around $90 million per year till 2025. Formula 1, owned by Liberty Media, was aiming to cross $100 million from broadcasting rights alone, but they have ample reasons to be content with the current deal. 

Read More: MotoGP Unlimited: An Answer to ‘Drive to Survive’ That You Can’t Afford To Miss 

ESPN will broadcast a majority of their races on their linear television channel, while some will be available exclusively to their streaming platforms. Comcast too matched ESPN’s bid, and they were planning to stream the race on NBC and their OTT platform Peacock.

As per a report in Sports Business Journal, Amazon’s $100 million bid was rejected by the F1, while Netflix’s proposed amount was far short of the winning bid. Moreover, F1 doesn’t want to put all the races on streaming platforms alone. 

According to the present contract, signed in 2019, ESPN was paying just $5 million per year. But they will now have to pay between $75-$90 million annually for the next three years. 

The pandemic hasn’t had much effect on motorsports. Since F1 races are not contact sports, it was resumed way before other sports. Moreover, the sports recorded a viewership of 1.9 billion in 2019, and their new fanbase has shot up to 73 million in the last two years. 

In 2021, Formula 1 became the fastest growing sports league in the world. As per their official figure, released in February 2022, their engagement rate on social media is second to none. 

“In 2021, followers (across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitch and Chinese social platforms) were up 40% to 49.1m, video views up 50% to 7bn and total engagement up 74% to 1.5bn,” read the report. 

Tom McCormack, head of rights holders at Nielsen Sports, says, “Formula One continues to benefit from its strategy of expanding its content offering – through additional peripheral and story-telling programming – which appeals to that 16 to 35-year-old market.”

Additionally, Netflix docu-series, titled Formula 1: Drive to Survive, has been a massive hit in the US, and is considered one of the major factors why the broadcasting rights grew multiple folds in the last three years. Launched in 2018, the series soon burst into the top ten in over 50 different countries.

“By embracing these platforms – as well as OTT services such as Netflix, with its Drive to Survive series – Formula One is now well-poised to convert newcomers to the sport to long-term fans and generate unprecedented interest levels,” added McCormack. 

Featured Image Credit: Formula 1

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