When NBC lost the rights to broadcast F1 following the 2017 season many fans were bummed. Gone were Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, and Will Buxton. The sport announced they would be moving TV rights to ESPN who would in turn simulcast the Sky Sports broadcast from the UK.
At first, fans bemoaned this decision. No one wanted the Sky Sports feed, it felt like ESPN took the cheap way out. They did, but in an unexpected turn, it helped grow the sport in America. F1 fans here quickly latched onto the Sky Sports commentators, everyone appreciated the refreshed graphics and presentation Sky presented.
The switch to ESPN came with a major hitch, however. The broadcast for the opening round of the season at Australia in 2018 was a disaster. Audio and video problems plagued the broadcast and fans were FURIOUS. ESPN apologized and then they did the unthinkable. They announced they would be showing races all season, commercial free. Flag to flag coverage of nothing but racing and occasionally a “Mother’s Car Care” logo popping up in the corner. Overall the entire ESPN/Sky experience has been very enjoyable for fans.
NBC Wants Back In
NBC decided not continue their relationship with F1 after the 2017 season because F1 wanted to bring F1TV to America. NBC wanted to keep the streaming rights in house with them. F1 said that wasn’t happening so NBC backed out. ESPN took the TV rights then and F1 brought F1TV to America.
Now it appears NBC wants back in but it isn’t clear what that means. There are two options:
- NBC gets the streaming rights and F1 fans will be forced to pay more to watch F1. Just like with IndyCar it is highly likely NBC will put F1 practices and qualifying behind a paywall while showing the races on cable. So now to watch what you currently watch on ESPN you’ll have to have a cable subscription and then pay for the streaming service.
- NBC gets the rights and just like ESPN, it’s all on TV or on the app when you log in with your cable provider. F1TV is still available in the United States.
For American F1 fans it’d be great at this point of the sport stayed on ESPN. It’s easily the most watched cable network for sports, the reach is far greater than NBC and they show the races commercial free. The old NBC commentators are amazing, a commercial break every 3-5 laps isn’t.
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