ESPN to further commercialise F1 coverage

Mercedes-Benz and Heineken onboard to help fund commercial free race broadcasts.

ESPN to further commercialise F1 coverage

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  • ESPN runs commercial-free F1 coverage
  • Heineken to sponsor race preview and recaps
  • Mercedes-Benz USA secures presenting partner deal

Disney-owned ESPN is looking to commercialise its Formula One US broadcast to a greater extent for the 2023 season

As first reported by Sports Business Journal (SBJ), ESPN is taking the unusual step in the US of airing its Formula One races commercial-free and plans to continue to do so under its new rights deal. For the 2023 season, the network's Formula One rights deal is worth up to US$90 million a year, a major increase on the meagre US$5 million it was paying annually under its previous contract.

The 2022 season was the most viewed in US history and therefore great value for ESPN, but with the increased rights fee now increased the broadcaster is looking to maximise commercial revenues around its Formula One content.

As reported by SBJ, Heineken has secured marketing inventory around race previews and recaps on 'SportsCenter' for 23 weeks. Mercedes-Benz USA has also agreed a deal as the new presenting partner, replacing long-time partner Mothers Polish.

The automaker's three-year deal includes a presentation animation at the start and end of each race. According to SBJ, the animation will last five seconds and feature the sponsor logo and a voiceover. Seven watermarked graphics will appear in the corner of the screen for one minute each during races and Mercedes will also receive a mention post-race.

According to the SBJ, ESPN's revenue related to its Formula One coverage has increased 163 per cent over the last year and is up 1,405 per cent since it picked up the rights in 2018. Sean Hanrahan, senior vice president of Disney's advertising sports brand solutions, told the SBJ that the media giant has nearly sold out all advertising space for the 2023 season.

“We are big fans of F1 — that’s why we renewed, because it delivers a great audience that advertisers have interest in,” he said. “We’ve seen great success in the marketplace and a lot of interest, so I think we’ve gotten off to a good start.”

Hanrahan continued: “The momentum that has happened with F1 ... you put [it] all together and you’ve had advertisers calling to say, ‘How can I be a part of it?’”