F1 fans in the United States are to get the Sky Sports F1 UK package on ESPN and ABC under a deal announced yesterday.
The deal for ESPN to replace NBC as the rights holder in the US was done last year and there is also an OTT (Over The Top) offering in the US.
ESPN looked at various options for how it could work with F1 to get coverage of the races, qualifying and practice, as well as supporting content.
With Sean Bratches being a former ESPN executive and Chase Carey having worked for Rupert Murdoch and Fox for many years, the pathway to this arrangement clearly made sense.
What it means for F1 fans in the US is that, although they will not have their own dedicated team as they had under NBC, they will have access to more content. It is similar to what happens in other countries, like Australia, where the Sky coverage is carried on Foxtel behind a paywall.
NBC had its live presentation team based in the US, travelling only to occasional races in the US timezone and Monaco, while Will Buxton was dedicated on-site NBC reporter at every round together with producer Jason Swales, producing interviews, reports and live grid coverage.
There was no American voice in the NBC coverage, which was led by Australian Leigh Diffey and that will also be true of the Sky package on ESPN.
But this is part of a process to drive more engagement with sports fans in the US, which F1’s management has identified as a territory with strong growth potential, along with China.
Getting a comprehensive broadcast and OTT package together is an important step in that process, as the way fans consume TV and video content is changing quickly. ESPN has suffered in the last couple of years from ‘cord-cutting’, where US consumers give up expensive cable TV packages in favour of OTT and mobile offerings.
But Sky has a new head of F1 in Scott Young, for whom 2018 will be his first season, and it will be interesting to see how he evolves both the coverage and the team over the coming seasons.
For example, while Sky’s coverage has lots of in-depth interaction with the cast of characters in F1, it isn’t particularly rich on stats, which is considered an important part of a US sports fan’s appreciation.
Sky will be the exclusive carrier of F1 in the UK from 2019 onwards, behind a paywall, while this season it has taken a dominant position in Italy also, with RAI only carrying one live round at Monza.
Photos: LAT Images
Are you based in the USA? What do you think of this development? If you are UK based or watch the Sky coverage in Australia or other territories, let your US counterparts know what to expect, using the comments section below