2017 Formula One Azerbaijan Grand PrixEnlarge Photo
Cable sports giant ESPN announced Wednesday that it would broadcast Formula One racing in the U.S. as part of a multiyear deal inked between the racing organization and the media company.
In a statement by ESPN, the channel confirmed its schedule for Formula One, beginning March 25 with the Australian Grand Prix.
The cable television giant, which is owned by ABC and broadcasts across several different channels and online, said it would offer every race live—and in some cases repeating later in the day on larger networks.
The zenith of the Formula One schedule may be the Worldwide Leader's Memorial Day-weekend race lineup, which includes the Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 on ABC on Sunday morning and afternoon.
ESPN has owned the broadcast rights to Formula One in the U.S. before. The channel televised races from 1984 to 1997, when coverage eventually moved over to the Speed Channel and then Fox Sports. NBC most recently aired Formula One racing in the U.S. and relied on former driver David Hobbs, former mechanic Steve Matchett, and play-by-play caller Leigh Diffey to provide coverage. Sideline reporter Will Buxton followed the races throughout the F1 calendar, and in a tweet Wednesday, cast doubt on whether the quartet would be retained in the move over to ESPN.
Well folks, it’s been a blast. Who knows what the future holds. All I can say is that the last five years have been an honour and a joy.— Will Buxton (@thebuxtonblog) October 4, 2017
Hobbs, Matchett, and Diffey all made the move from Fox Sports to NBCSN when the broadcaster acquired the rights to Formula One in 2012 for $3 million—which new owner Liberty Media called a relative "popcorn fart" in terms of revenue, according to Forbes.
ESPN didn't disclose terms of the deal with F1, but reports indicate that it will likely use the world feed provided to NBCSN and other worldwide broadcasters. Although the deal may be for more than the $3 million "fart" paid for by NBC in 2012, it would truly stink if the quartet of Matchett, Hobbs, Matchett, and Buxton were to be dumped.