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F1 CEO sees TV rights opportunity with ESPN deal attributable to expire

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Formula 1 is riding a wave of recognition within the U.S., and its CEO is shopping around its success with potential media partners for a more lucrative U.S. media deal.

The racing league’s current take care of ESPN expires at the top of 2022. It was prolonged in 2019 to the tune of $5 million per yr. Sports Business Journal reported the league, which is owned by Liberty Media, is searching for as much as $75 million a yr for its next TV rights deal.

Formula 1 Group CEO Stefano Domenicali declined to specify which potential partners the league is talking to, or how much the league is searching for, but he told CNBC he sees “great opportunity” within the negotiations and expects the subsequent deal to “construct on” the ESPN fees.

“We have to be respectful for the indisputable fact that ESPN did an awesome job for us to advertise the business in that landscape,” he said from the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. “But the nice opportunity we now have is to make certain that the longer term offers we’re discussing with the partners are well positioned when it comes to content, when it comes to opportunity for the fans to follow and after all when it comes to fees. The longer term could be very interesting for us.”

Formula 1 set a latest viewership record last season when it averaged 934,000 viewers per race on ESPN channels and the ABC network — up 54% compared with F1′s 2020 races. F1′s 2021 viewership included a median 1.2 million viewers for the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin.

The expansion shows no signs of slowing. ESPN said the season-opener Bahrain Grand Prix in March averaged 1.3 million viewers within the U.S. and peaked at 1.5 million viewers within the race’s final minutes.

The share price of Formula 1’s important tracking stock is up 34% over the past yr and has doubled since 2017.

The game’s recent surge within the U.S. is largely powered by the Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive.” Season 4 of the show, released in March, attracted its largest audience thus far and broke into the weekly Top 10 in 56 countries, in keeping with Formula 1 and Netflix. The parties announced Thursday the series has been confirmed for a fifth and sixth season.

Some have speculated Netflix could seek to purchase the live F1 media rights, and mark its first foray into live sports. Domenicali declined to rule it out.

“Netflix has helped us quite a bit,” he said. “They did an incredible job. We did an incredible job together, because that is something that you simply cannot do alone. I feel that together we can have also another things that we will do together to enhance our accessibility within the American market.”

In 2023, F1 will host three U.S. races, with the addition of a race in Las Vegas in November and the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin in October. The primary Miami Grand Prix runs this weekend.

While the game has long been popular overseas, with a world audience averaging greater than 80 million per race, it has lagged far behind NASCAR within the U.S., which averaged just below 3 million viewers per race last yr.

“We are only at first of this latest journey,” Domenicali said. “The recognition of our sport has grown tremendously. It requires a variety of attention, to make sure that our narratives hit the tastes of the American fans.”

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