|The commercial-free race broadcasts were a great improvement over NBCSN|
The recently-completed 2018 season for the FIA Formula One World Championship marked the return of the series to ESPN and ABC on American television and fans tuned in, making F1 the only major racing series to see year-over-year viewership growth in the U.S. for the season.
“Overall we were very pleased," said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming and scheduling. “We knew that there were passionate F1 fans in the United States and we’re very happy that they navigated to our platforms and responded to our offerings."
Over the course of the 21-race season, ESPN networks averaged 547,722 viewers for race windows airing on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, a two percent increase over the 2017 average of 538,114 across NBC, NBCSN and CNBC.
For all F1 events, ESPN networks aired live coverage of three practice sessions, qualifying and the race, with re-airs of the race telecast. ESPN, Sky Sports and Formula 1 also joined forces to bring Sky’s award-winning presentation for Formula 1 to American viewers. Beginning with the second race of the season, the live race telecasts were presented commercial-free.
Some other highlights from the season:
- ESPN’s live telecast of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix averaged 820,000 viewers, the largest audience for an F1 telecast on cable since 1995.
- A Monaco encore telecast on ABC earned 1.6 million viewers, with the combined 2.4 million viewers representing a 41 percent rise over 2017’s combined NBC and NBCSN telecasts.
- The Bahrain and British Grand Prix telecasts saw the season’s largest year-over-year audience growth (up 67 percent and 39 percent, respectively).
- The Bahrain event averaged 692,014 viewers on ESPN2, at that point early in the season making it cable’s largest F1 audience since 2012.
- Telecasts of qualifying averaged 248,066 viewers in 2018, a year-over-year increase of 14 percent.
The relationship marked the return of Formula 1 to its original U.S. television home – the first race ever aired in the country was on ABC in 1962. F1 races also aired on ESPN from 1984-1997.
The 2019 Formula 1 season begins March 17 with the Australian Grand Prix.