Netflix interested in acquiring rights to broadcast F1 in the US

Sam Cooper
Netflix camera films a Drive to Survive press conference. Bahrain March 2022.

A view of a TV camera recording a driver press conference.

Netflix reportedly wanted to gain the rights to broadcast Formula 1 in the United States but were beaten by ESPN.

The streaming service has a long connection with the sport having made their documentary series Drive to Survive since 2019 and such has been the popularity of the show that Netflix are reportedly looking to increase their involvement.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix was interested in acquiring the broadcast rights for Formula 1 in the United States but lost out to ESPN.

It would not be the first time a streaming service has made a foray into sports with Amazon’s Prime service showing football, tennis and the NFL.

Last month, Formula 1 announced it had agreed a new deal with ESPN to extend their existing contract by three years. ESPN has been the home of US F1 since 2018.

But with an increased focus on the US market from F1, Netflix appear to want to get in on the action. While they do not release streaming numbers, Drive to Survive is said to be one of their most popular shows and has been renewed for a further two seasons.

It is not just Formula 1 that Netflix is open to acquiring the rights to with the Wall Street Journal also reporting an interest in the UK and France rights to the ATP tennis tour as well as the right to the Women’s Tennis Association in the UK.

Netflix also believe they can use their platform, which has more than 220 million subscribers, to allow fewer mainstream sports to gain a new audience. In that regard, the company was in talks to buy the World Surf League last year but discussions broke down.

With F1’s US home secured for the next three years, it seems Netflix will have to wait a while to get another shot and deposing ESPN.

It has been the season of renewals for Formula 1 with the sport also announcing a new deal with Sky Sports. As the broadcaster for the UK, Ireland, Germany and Italy as well as providing commentary for the international feed, the Sky Sports contract is the key broadcasting deal for F1.

At the end of September, both parties announced an extension to the deal which will now run until 2029.

Global interest in Formula 1 has increased massively in recent years and the sport has stated that in the UK alone, viewership has been up by 60% since 2019. The average viewership for the 2022 season is 1.7 million and of the 4.3 million new viewers to Sky Sports F1, 1.7 million were women.

There has also been a steep rise in the US with 2.6 million viewers tuning in to watch the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in May and more than 400,000 people in attendance for the United States Grand Prix held last month. With Las Vegas set to debut next season, that number seems only likely to rise.

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