Netflix Reportedly Bids for Formula 1 Rights But Loses to Disney’s ESPN

It's lights out and away we go (but not at Netflix)

by @kasey__moore
Published on EST

netflix loses out on formula 1 rights in us 1

Ferrari F1 car in Canadian Grand Prix – Picture: Getty Images

Formula 1 is a hot commodity with its growth in popularity around the world over the past few years. With Netflix invested in its docuseries on the sport, F1: Drive to Survive, the streamer has reportedly been interested in getting further into the action but despite bidding, won’t be carrying live broadcasts of races anytime soon in the United States according to new reports.

With Netflix’s growth challenges as of late, Netflix is reversing course on several of its biggest holdouts. The biggest of which are ads which it hopes to introduce by the close of 2022 and the other is seemingly getting into live sports.

Formula 1 makes an obvious choice for Netflix when it comes to getting into live sports, especially with its connection to the sport via Drive to Survive. Other reasons for getting invested in the sport are that it’s still growing in demand, it’s almost year-round which would be great for churn, and thirdly, it’s popularity extends around the world not just in one individual country.

How much Netflix’s involvement in creating a boom in Formula 1 is a contested subject, however. Many have argued F1: Drive to Survive, a companion documentary that releases shortly before new seasons is directly attributable but the reality is probably somewhat murkier.

Contributor to What’s on Netflix the Entertainment Strategy Guy argued that the narrative behind Netflix being the sole reason for the growth is overblown. In his piece in The Ankler, he states “Formula 1 has indeed seen a rise in interest in America, but Netflix only plays a partial (maybe even tangential) role in the story.”

He states there are four major causes for growth overall with those being:

“Cause 1: Liberty Media buys a controlling stake in Formula 1, which was finalized on January 2017.

Cause 2: ESPN buys the rights to Formula 1, airing most races in the mornings on Sundays starting in 2018.

Cause 3: Netflix starts streaming Formula 1: Drive to Survive in 2019.

Cause 4: Nielsen adds “out-of-home” viewing to their standard linear ratings measurement.”


ESPN Wins F1 Rights Until 2025 But Netflix Was In The Running

For years, live sports haven’t been a priority at Netflix but the first real instance of Netflix expressing a modicum of interest was back in July 2021 when Ted Sarandos said “never say never”. Since then, the steady drum beat of rumors has been hard to ignore.

The US rights to Formula 1 have been up for grabs throughout 2022 which is where Netflix comes into the equation.

In early June 2022, BusinessInsider said that it was a four-horse race with ESPN, NBCUniversal, Amazon, and Netflix were all bidding. This was big news but a source told BusinessInsider that Netflix’s pitches were “tricky” given “the company doesn’t have an in-house sports negotiator.”

Now, thanks to a new report from SBJ (posted on June 24th) it gives us the news that while Netflix did try and bid for the Formula 1 rights in the United States it ultimately came short with Liberty Media opting to re-up with ESPN despite a larger bid from Amazon.

Disney’s ESPN reportedly has won the rights to continue broadcasting races through to 2025 but did so at a significant cost. They reportedly paid somewhere up to $90 million per year compared to the $5 million per year they were paying between 2019 and 2022. They also will stream some races exclusively on ESPN+.

Regarding Netflix, the report states:

“Netflix had discussions with F1 and actually made an offer, but its bid wasn’t close on money. F1 executives made it clear that they were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service yet.”

driver lineup f1 drive to survive season 4

Drive to Survive Season 4 – Picture: Box to Box Films / Netflix

Rights for Formula 1 outside the United States could be up for grabs in the coming years. In the United Kingdom, Sky holds the rights until 2024 and in France, Canal+ has the rights until 2029.

Of course, Netflix will continue to produce and release new seasons of Drive to Survive. It’s been renewed for a fifth and sixth season with season 5 expected in early 2023. It’s also further expanding into sports docu-series with new series covering the PGA Tour and professional tennis.

Are you disappointed Netflix won’t be showing F1 anytime soon? Let us know in the comments.

Netflix Reportedly Bids for Formula 1 Rights But Loses to Disney’s ESPN

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Covering Netflix since 2013, Kasey has been tracking the comings and goings of the Netflix library for close to a decade. Resides in the United Kingdom.