Report: Disney's ESPN fends off Netflix to retain F1 - at a price

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Disney's ESPN network will continue to hold the US media rights to broadcast Formula 1 until 2025, according to breaking news reports that appeared in the industry press on Friday evening.

The Sports Business Journal website reported that ESPN had secured the rights through to 2025 in a new deal believed to be worth between $75m and $90m a year.

That's a huge 1500% rise on the the $5m value of the existing contract and reflects the huge growth of interest in the sport in the US, especially after the dramatic and controversial finish to the 2021 season.

This year's inaugural Miami Grand Prix saw attracted 2.6 million viewers in May, believed to be an all-time record for a TV audience for the sport in the US. Viewership of races on ESPN across 2021 jumped 56% year-on-year, and in-person spectator attendance at to Austin's US Grand Prix also rose sharply

It was known that Netflix wanted to snap up the rights to make the most of its existing relationship with F1. The Drive to Survive behind the scenes documentary had been credited as a key reason for the new popularity of F1.

It's understood that Netflix was offering substantially more than ESPN to win the rights but that Formula 1 finally decided to stay with the network and the House of Mouse that also includes ABC, ESPN2 and streaming service ESPN+.

Netflix has traditionally not been interested in live sporting rights, unlike rival Amazon Prime which has been snapping up key tennis and soccer rights around the world.

Amazon also reportedly expressed interest in the rights to live F1, as did the NBC Universal broadcast group.

Sports Business Journal and media industry website Deadline said that they had reached out to representatives for both ESPN and F1 to discuss the reports, but that no comment had been forthcoming from either party.

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali told Deadline last month that he and his team were “exploring all of the opportunities” and “not in a rush to make the decision” about the US rights.

Liberty CEO Greg Maffei previously stated that up to now the company had opted to take “broader coverage over the money” when the contract with ESPN was last renewed in 2019, adding: “I think that’s paid off.”

Ahead of this year's negotiations, he 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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