Talks over US coverage of F1 as NBC deal nears end

Everyone in Formula 1 has their Silly Season and broadcasters are no different. Contracts end and negotiations begin. So it is with NBC Sports and their hosting of the F1 series.

Set to end this year, NBC Sports has been given a 12-month extension but F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says he’s speaking with other stations about the broadcast rights to F1 in America.

Since moving to NBC, the sport’s viewership numbers have increased for an American audience. An article at Autoweek says:

“F1’s viewing figures on NBC have accelerated over the past three years with the Singapore Grand Prix in September 2015 being the most-watched broadcast of the race on the network ever. It averaged 510,000 viewers with the audience up 26 percent on 2014.

It was the fifth NBC F1 race in 2015 which had an audience of more than 500,000 and followed a strong year in 2014 when its numbers grew by 10.1 percent to 12.6 million viewers.”

The same article quotes Ecclestone as saying that he’s in talks with a few stations about the broadcast package and certainly Fox seems to be an obvious possibility after losing the broadcast rights to NBC Sports back in 2013.

Ultimately the US is viewed as an emerging and untapped market and that’s great but it is difficult to know just what the total fanbase size is in America. Regardless, it isn’t huge and it would seem there is plenty of room to grow.

A new US team in Haas F1 and a vibrant broadcast package seems to be the way forward in capturing new interest in America but as an American website, I can tell you that we are a fickle lot over here and have a lot of sports vying for our attention.

NBC has done a nice job of covering F1 and to be perfectly honest, ramping up their coverage would be a welcome sight. It’s unclear whether Fox Sports 1 would have an appetite in re-acquiring F1 broadcast rights but Ecclestone was relatively evasive about the idea:

“NBC’s contract was meant to be up at the end of this year but we have given them another year. We are in talks with several stations so we will have to wait and see.”
“I don’t know if Fox would take over.”

We’ll have to wait and see if NBC feels strongly about their continued F1 coverage or if Fox or even another sports broadcaster might find it intriguing to snatch the broadcast.

Hat Tip: Autoweek

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To be honest I can not stand the commercial breaks in the races. Yes, I understand other races have commercial breaks. However, not many races are as short. I would rather deal with logos plastered on the screen, than commercials. So m check action is missed during the breaks. I hope Bernie look towards the future and gets a streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon. That would be amazing.

Todd Moriarty

For the love of god, somebody please replace Diffie and Hobbs!!!!


Just Hobbs; Leigh has some life in him!

Todd Moriarty

Unfortunately, Diffie’s voice is worse than nails on a chalkboard, and his F1 knowledge wouldn’t fill a thimble

Jason Walley

While some of the lap and driver analysis I see Anthony Davidson doing on Sky or the insights of a Coulthard or Webber would be invaluable, I can’t imagine American F1 coverage without some of the Hobbs and Matchett banter. I think they just need to be cut loose to talk at a higher level.

Todd Moriarty

Steve Matchett is a good fit, and I would like seeing him move over, but Hobbs is starting to lose his edge a little.

Tom Firth

If it did go to FOX, hypothetically speaking which network would it be on, FS2? Would they realistically be prepared to put it on FS1, given it’s audience? Probably better to stay with NBC SN in that case.

Michael Self

It would bounce around depending on what else is on at the time. Not much else on at 8AM Eastern on a Sunday morning when most races are. Oh except starting in September I think FS1 has an NFL pre-pregame show starting around then.

FIA/FOM please just give us an over the top video streaming service. I can’t think of a better test market than the USA. Give SKY a small cut to make use of their broadcast.


What ever F1 does. Please don’t pull a Motogp and go to a soccer network. It either going to fox or nbc.

Daniel Johnson

I hope they don’t go back to Fox FS1 is not a first tier cable channel. I honestly doubt that a deal with Fox (unless they get them to broadcast the majority of the races OTA) will do anything but kill the ratings. As far as commercials go I (like NC) watch the Tour de France and wonder if they would be better served by selling ad space as “The USGP brought to you by Mercedes” with merc logos everywhere and even a few underwriter live reads mixed in. Also if I were Bernie I would be pushing to get… Read more »

Richard Bunce

Was able to watch Sky Sports coverage for the first time this weekend. Very good and access to F1 info (virtual lap data, etc) that was very good. I recorded Sky Sports on my PC and recorded NBCSN on my DVR. For the race I watched NBCSN pre-race coverage, paused at the start, listened to BBC 5 audio pre race on demand, then synced NBCSN video and BBC 5 audio for the race. After the race resumed NBCSN audio and video, BBC 5 was off on the Derby or something… Watching Sky Sports coverage I recorded this morning. For the… Read more »

Richard Bunce

Since Bahrain will be mid day in the US Eastern Time zone I will probably watch Sky Sports live and record NBCSN and Channel 4 just in case Sky Sports stream goes away then maybe watch/listen to some of the NBCSN, BBC 5, and Channel 4 pre and post race coverage…


It’s good you can sit around all day with your hand in your pants. :-)

Richard Bunce

Two days of decorum and civility?

charlie white

While I don’t love the present show on NBCSN, it’s better than nothing. When it comes to the greatest home penetration, NBCSN is better than Fox Sports 2, which is where F1 would end up if Fox got broadcast rights. I just wish we got similar features and specials that Sky Sports provides. At least, we should get Ted Kravitz’s Notebook and not endure Will Buxton anymore.


Just give us what we want. A paid commercial free subscription service.

My Friendly Atheist disqus acc

Fox doesn’t want F1 back.


Good news

The Captain

The broadcast? My time to rant. Ugh. Not this again. At first this sounds like Bernie just doing his Bernie thing, same thing he does with tracks. When the contract is up, mention how much someone else wants to do something and try to jack up the price. The only problem is American broadcast execs are a ruthless bunch and Bernie just can’t push them around like he does with track owners. If the negotiations came down to it, all American networks would take a pass on F1. Bernie really doesn’t have that much power here. I also don’t see… Read more »


US TV has 7.5 minutes of commercials per 30 minutes so it’s never over 25%.

Negative Camber

As Sean share with us last night on the cast, they have 8 commercial breaks to fit in.

The Captain

Just went back and looked at my notes and at the one race I timed last year NBC spend 22 minutes out of 91 minutes in commercial (about 12 of 52 laps in commercial) So you are right, it was 24%.

Now missing 24% of the race is still absolutely ridiculous!!!!

I’m sorry but missing a quarter of the race is really no better than missing 30% of it. They re both unacceptable.

Rafael Vieira

Dear friends, I am Brazilian and watching F1 races since a very young kid. These commercial breaks are the most disgusting thing ever on NBC broadcasting. Too many and too long advertisement . As I can’t stand the spanish language (Portuguese is my country language) during the transmission, the easiest solution was pick up through internet the Sky F1 sound and use Univision broadcast on TV. Out of commercial breaks, NBC team is great, they do a good job.


Fox was worse. Look how bad it is with NASCAR…one lap and then a commercial. It will be the same way if F1 goes back to them. I’m a girl; and I still don’t want to see a washing my face machine…I want to see racing.


Hey Rafi, it’s free. Stop complaining.

Peter Riva

Look, this is simple. Your podcast with Matchett covered more ground, gave more technical insight into F1 and engendered MORE interest in this household than all the “gee whiz” from Mr. Buxton (who adored the quali set up)… If NBC cannot see the need to involve the viewer in the technical and mechanical side… they deserve to lose the contract. A Ferrari was on fire and still they had Will gossiping away and NO COVERAGE of the Ferrari fire. Not during, not after, no Kimi interview. NBC is so amateur it is frightening.

Jason Walley

I dont know who is responsible at NBC because it is clear that Mr. Matchett wants to give people more and I am confident Will is capable of more.

Is Mr. Diffey not setting them up with the right questions or is someone off camera telling them to keep dumbing it down?

Fred Talmadge

Negotiation in public seems to be an act of desperation. In this case by Mr E


It’s SOP for Bernie.

'Nouny Mouse

I’m in the U.S. and I haven’t watched the U.S. broadcast in years. I don’t actually get regular TV (Hulu and Netflix suit my needs). I’m a little ashamed to admit that I wait until the Sky broadcast falls off the back of the internet. But I’d happily pay for a subscription service with Sky’s broadcast team.

Andrew Pappas

Just give me a web series with hand knitted robots for crying out loud.


I’d also prefer a pay service but just as an alternative thought, I’m not sure if their market penetration is any better than Fox Sports 2 but have you looked at the programming lineup on CBS Sports Network, Formula 1 would the biggest thing that network’s ever had, and I don’t think they’d have to worry about being bumped by things like World’s Strongest Man competitions or the NBA D-League. I don’t know if they have any interest and they have the NFL so over the air TV broadcasts might be difficult late in the season but its just an… Read more »

Chuck Goldsmith

I enjoy the NBC’s coverage of F1, and I have enjoyed Matchett and Hobb’s work for years. I don’t care about the commercial breaks, and if it were to go to a paid service, viewership would plummet just when F1 has a chance to get a foothold in this country. Anyone who doesn’t agree is foolish.


It already is a paid service. You can’t get NBCSN for free over the air. We’re already paying for it with our cable subscription sometimes we even pay extra because NBCSN isn’t part of the basic package from some providers.


News flash. Paid subscription commercial free service as the only delivery mechanism will NOT grow F1 viewership in the US. They’d only capture the fees off those already committed. Now, offering it in addition to the broadcast, yes that’s a good option.

Negative Camber

There seems to be a large call for a FOM broadcast package on level of Sky but as we were talking on FB, would a streaming broadcast package be good for growth in the US? Certainly it would be terrific for those of us who are already fans but would it help grow the audience?


I think it would – if done right. Heck, what pushed us to go seeking out the UK coverage in the first place was a desire for much more than what Speed and later NBCSN provides. As annoying as the commercials are, it was the added interviews and depth that comes with having an extra 60 to 90 minutes of air time to work with that makes a huge difference. Obviously the risk is that the streaming service could cannibalize the broadcast package, but if done right it could complement the broadcast stream. For those who are familiar with BBC’s… Read more »


I’m with MichaelB, if the subscription package complimented the broadcast rather than just mirrored it, that could be value add. Put things like countdown shows, driver interviews, and soft stuff like, “Let’s talk about the rain patterns in Belgium!” on the subscription feed, but also give those of us who’ve cut the cord or live where you can’t get Sports Channel X on a given cable package the ability to keep watching. (I mean, I’ve resorted to stealing my dad’s Charter Spectrum login just to watch what’s still a commercial-chopped feed over NBCSN’s app. Next option, see if my employer’s… Read more »

The Captain

It might help a bit with ‘growth’ to get some newer viewers. But it wouldn’t help with a lot of the frustrations of established viewers. I mean I didn’t buy a 60 inch plasma and surround sound system to watch the races (or anything) on a blocky stuttering stream on a 13 inch computer.

charlie white

For those US fans who (rightly) complain about the many commercial breaks in the NBCSN broadcasts, I offer an alternative. Watch Telemundo/Galavision Spanish language broadcasts. It is commercial free and then I run a F1 Twitter stream for English commentary.

Charles Clemen

Just don’t stop the broadcast, please.

Johnpierre Rivera