Bernie Ecclestone has revealed he is in talks with “several stations" about taking over from NBC Sports as the U.S. broadcaster of Formula One which today held its season-opener in Australia.
NBC began broadcasting F1 in 2013 and its contract was due to come to a close at the end of this year. Ecclestone says he agreed to extend it by 12 months but adds that he is already in negotiations about the following years.
“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."
The most likely candidate seems to be Fox Sports which owned Speed Channel, F1’s previous broadcaster in the U.S. F1 switched to NBC after Fox decided to shut down Speed and switch its programming to the general sports channels Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 in a bid to become a major competitor to ESPN.
However, Ecclestone is coy when asked whether either Fox channel is in the running and says, “I don’t know if Fox would take over."
It is the latest twist in F1’s changing media landscape which has recently seen Spain’s coverage switch from free-to-air to Pay Television whilst the BBC broke its contract early in the UK with rival Channel 4 taking over.
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. More at AutoWeek