As global motorsport explodes in popularity and US media rights to Formula 1 in 2023 are up for grabs, Netflix, ESPN and NBCUniversal have reportedly been eyeing the international motor racing circuit.
Insider reported Monday that the three companies are bidding on a new streaming license for F1, starting in 2023. NBCUniversal told Vidak For Congress it has nothing more to add to the Business Insider story. Netflix did not respond.
Disney-owned ESPN is the only company so far to have confirmed this. In a statement to Insider, John Suchenski, Director, Programming & Acquisitions, ESPN, said: “We’re aggressively pursuing a refresh – we feel we have a distribution package and event presentation that can’t be matched in the industry … It has an mutually beneficial relationship.”
“It is understandable that they are looking at other options,” he added.
ESPN is currently the rights holder in the US for F1 and has been since 2017. The rights expire at the end of this year and F1 is targeting $100 million for the rights, according to the report. ESPN has reportedly made an opening bid of approximately $70 million, well below its target amount.
Comcast’s NBCUniversal owned the rights for the past five years. In early 2022, NBC shut down NBCSN, the all-sports channel. Comcast’s satellite broadcaster Sky has the rights of the UK and Ireland to Formula 1, a deal that expires in 2024.
Sources told Insider that Netflix is one of the suitors and has been in talks for months. However, they also said the company does not have an in-house sports negotiator, which could put them at a disadvantage.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has hinted at thinking about bidding for F1 rights. In September 2021, he spoke to the German magazine Der Spiegel and hinted that Netflix is considering buying into the sports category. He said: “A few years ago the rights to Formula 1 were sold. At that time we were not among today’s bidders, we would think about that.” He added that Netflix would only be interested if it could “check the source” and acquire exclusive rights.
Recently Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, during the Q1 2022 earnings call, said: “I’m not saying we would never do sports, but we should find a way to get a big revenue stream and a big profit stream. to grow with it.” So while he said Netflix wouldn’t use live sports to generate new subscribers, live sports shouldn’t necessarily be excluded from Netflix’s future plans.
Netflix’s long-running documentary series, “Drive to Survive,” has been credited with sparking American interest in the team-based auto racing event. Morning Consult stated that Americans who identify as fans of the sport have increased by 33% in the past two years, according to research data. The global decision intelligence firm also wrote: “More than half of F1 fans (53 percent) said the series, which debuted in 2019, played a role in becoming a fan, including 30 percent who said it was a ‘majority’. reason” was.”
After losing 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, the company’s views on live programming and advertising have changed. The streamer will get a cheaper ad-supported tier later this year, and has also confirmed that live streaming plans are still in their infancy for programming, such as stand-up comedy specials and reality TV shows. Livesport has yet to be touched upon by Netflix, but it looks like the company is considering it.
It would be in Netflix’s best interest to keep up with its rivals as the streaming wars only get tougher. For example, Apple recently struck a deal to stream Major League Baseball and is bidding on NFL’s “Sunday Ticket.” Peacock also grabbed the exclusive rights to dozens of MLB games. Amazon Prime has exclusive streaming of NFL’s Thursday Night Football, as well as 21 New York Yankees games exclusively on the New York market. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery already have a range of sports content.
If Netflix wins the rights to Formula 1, it would be an important pivot for the company.