September 30, 2022

As global motorsport explodes in popularity and US media rights for Formula 1 are up for grabs in 2023, Netflix, ESPN and NBCUniversal are reportedly eyeing the international motor racing circuit.

Insider reported on Monday that the three companies were bidding for a new F1 streaming license, which will begin in 2023. NBCUniversal told TechCrunch it had nothing further to add to Business Insider’s story. Netflix did not respond.

Disney-owned ESPN is the only company to have confirmed so far. In a statement to Insider, John Suchenski, Director, Programming and Acquisitions, ESPN, said: “We are aggressively pursuing renewal – we believe we have a cast package and event presentation that cannot be matched in industry… It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.

“Naturally they are considering other options,” he added.

ESPN is currently the US rights holder 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 reportedly submitted an initial offer of around $70 million, well below the targeted figure.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal held the rights for the previous five years. In early 2022, NBC shut down NBCSN, its all-sports channel. Comcast’s satellite broadcaster Sky owns the UK and Irish rights to Formula 1, a deal that ends in 2024.

Sources told Insider that Netflix was among the suitors and had been discussing for months. However, they also said the company doesn’t have an in-house sports negotiator, which could put them at a disadvantage.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has hinted at the possibility of bidding for F1 rights. In September 2021, he spoke with German magazine Der Spiegel, hinting that Netflix was 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 the bidders today; we would think about it. He added that Netflix would only be interested if it could “control the source” and win exclusive rights.

Recently, Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, said on the Q1 2022 earnings call, “I’m not saying we would never do sports, but we should see a way to develop a big stream of revenue and a big profit stream. with that.” So while he said Netflix wouldn’t use live sports to generate new subscribers, live sports aren’t necessarily banned in Netflix’s future plans.

Netflix’s long-running docuseries “Drive to Survive” has been credited with fueling American interest in the team-based auto racing event. Morning Consult said Americans who identify as sports fans have increased 33% over the past two years, according to survey data. The global business intelligence firm also wrote: “More than half of F1 fans (53%) said the series, which debuted in 2019, played a role in their becoming a fan, with 30% who said it was a ‘major reason’.”

After suffering a drop of 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, the company’s perspective on live programming and advertising has changed. The streamer will get a cheaper, ad-supported tier later this year and also confirmed that live streaming plans are in their early stages for programming – like stand-up comedy specials and TV shows. reality. Live sports has yet to be touched by Netflix, but it looks like the company is considering it.

It would be in Netflix’s best interest to keep pace with its rivals, as the streaming war is only getting worse. For example, Apple recently struck a deal to broadcast Major League Baseball and is bidding on the NFL’s “Sunday Ticket.” Peacock also grabbed exclusive rights to dozens of MLB games. Amazon Prime offers exclusive streaming of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football”, as well as 21 New York Yankees games exclusively in 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 a major pivot for the company.