Netflix’s Formula 1 show just pushed ESPN’s F1 rights through the roof


ESPN’s Formula 1 racing rights were pretty cheap in 2019. Then Netflix launched the popular series “Drive to Survive,” which increased interest.

The power of Netflix is ​​on full display on ESPN. The popularity of Netflix’s hit F1 racing reality series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” has seen television rights to Formula 1 racing skyrocket. The big price increases came about as fast as an open-wheel race car hits a straightaway.

On Friday, the Sports Business Journal reported that F1 and ESPN have reached an agreement to renew their rights deal through 2025. The publication reported that ESPN will pay between $75 million and $90 million annually for the next three years, a mammoth increase in revenue. $5 million that ESPN is currently paying. racing league every year. (That 2019 deal, so pre-pandemic, was also for a three-year span.)


A person with knowledge of the new handshake deal told IndieWire that the unsigned deal is on “the lower side” of the range reported by SBJ. That means ESPN will conservatively pay 15 to 17 times what it has paid, and it wasn’t even the highest bidder. Amazon offered $100 million (20 times ESPN’s current deal!) per year, the post wrote; Comcast’s own offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of money. Netflix was also a bidder, but the money “wasn’t close,” according to Sports Business Journal. Hey, it’s time to buckle down at the Netflix offices.

When contacted by IndieWire, spokespeople for Amazon Prime Video and NBC Sports declined to comment on the reported deals. Netflix did not immediately respond.

ESPN’s pending deal allows a small number of races to air exclusively on ESPN+, but the majority of races will air on linear television via ABC or ESPN. (Every serious bidder for F1 racing had a broadcast component in the bid from him; John Malone, the owner of F1 through his company Liberty Media, understands the value of cable better than anyone.) “Thursday Night Football” is moving to Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ has a Major League Baseball package on Friday nights – linear TV is still the number one place to be.

The 2021 Formula 1 season was the most watched on American television. In total, with races broadcast on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, the 2021 F1 season averaged 934,000 viewers per race in 2021. That broke the previous season’s record of averaging 748,000 viewers way back in 1995.

Through nine races in the 2022 season, the audience has increased considerably from last year’s record. The current season is averaging 1.3 million viewers per race, about 40 percent better than 2021. Last month’s Miami Grand Prix averaged 2.6 million viewers, the most in the USA for a live broadcast of F1.

Of course, all of that linear TV success follows the broadcast success of a hugely popular F1 docuseries. Season 4 of “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” debuted as the number five show on Netflix for the week of March 7-13, with more than 28 million hours watched in just five days, according to the Top 10 website of the streaming service. The following week, Season 4’s first full week of availability, it rose to fourth place with just over 29 million hours.

“Formula 1: Drive to Survive” debuted in 2019; Netflix did not publicly share viewership data when any of the previous three seasons premiered. In May, Netflix renewed “Drive to Survive” for another two seasons. For the real thing, check out ESPN. After this price increase, they could use advertising revenue.

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