F1 chose to renew its media rights deal with ESPN through 2025. Amazon’s bid to stream the prestigious auto racing series, however, was significantly higher, according to Sports Business Journal sources. Still, ESPN will have to cough up a lot more than it paid to cover the previous three years.

F1 renews ESPN deal as US popularity soars.
Max Verstappen wins Miami’s inaugural F1 race in May 2022. In 2023, F1 will add its third US race in Las Vegas.(Image: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

ESPN started covering F1 racing in 2018. Even back then, F1’s US popularity was growing. So, in 2019, ESPN was more than willing to pay $5 million a year for a three-year deal. Since then, F1’s popularity has exploded, drawing over a million viewers per race. That growth turned F1’s latest media rights offering into a bidding war. But in this case, the highest bid didn’t win.

ESPN offered F1 a loyal and growing audience

Netflix was in some way responsible for the F1’s popularity surge in the US. Its documentary series, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, brought new fans to the international sport. As a result, Netflix was interested in F1’s media rights. But they just didn’t have the bankroll and dropped out early in the negotiations.

The hardcore bidders for F1’s three-year deal were Amazon, Comcast, and its current provider, ESPN. ESPN, the ultimate winner, will pay F1 between $75 million and $90 million per year — roughly 1,500% more than its previous deal. Reportedly, Comcast was willing to match that amount.

Meanwhile, Amazon was apparently willing to pay $100 million per year. In the end, however, F1 stuck with ESPN, bowing to its experience and proven ability to grow viewership.

Vegas readies for its 2023 debut redux

As much as F1’s US audience has grown, it still has room for more. Next year, it will have six races in US time zones. Three of them, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Montreal, are outside the US. But there will also be three domestic races. Austin, Texas has been a popular F1 venue since its debuted in 2012. This year, F1 added the Miami Grand Prix. And next year, Las Vegas will join the fray.

While the Caesar’s casino parking lot was the site of a couple of F1 races back in the 1980s, the 2023 race will take to the streets. To provide for the pits and paddocks, F1 bought a 39-acre lot, which was home to the former Ice nightclub.

Disney, ESPN’s parent company, will show most of the F1 schedule on its ABC or ESPN television networks. But it will also have the option of streaming some of the races on ESPN+. At this point, neither ESPN nor F1 have released a statement confirming the deal.