ESPN is going commericial-free for its broadcasts of Formula 1 racing for the remainder of the 2018 season.
The network confirmed the news on its F1 website in the U.K. on Tuesday. The move is in reaction in part to the negative publicity generated from the network’s season-opening broadcast of the F1 Australian Grand Prix. That broadcast featured ill-timed cutaways for commercials and other broadcast glitches that had fans raging on social media.
ESPN won the U.S. rights to Formula 1 and is partnering with Sky Sports in the U.K. and taking the European network’s race feed. ESPN went commercial-free for its broadcast of the second race of the season in Bahrain and fans apparently liked the new look, as the live broadcast (11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2) averaged 682,914 viewers, the largest U.S. cable audience for an F1 race since 2012 (SPEED channel, United States Grand Prix, 688,329).
“We intend to present the F1 races in this way for the balance of the 2018 season,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming & scheduling – “F1 fans are passionate and we listened to a lot of feedback from them — the fans are very informed and the feedback we received was both polite and constructive. It helped us. We do not have a completely finished product but we’re very happy with the way the changes after Australia were received. We’ll continue to keep working to make it better for the fans.”
ESPN plans to broadcast every practice session, qualifying session and race live on its family of channels, including ESPN, ESPN2 and the on-line ESPN3 platform.