Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Simon Lazenby, 2017

Sky to provide F1 coverage for US viewers on ESPN

2018 F1 season

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ESPN’s new Formula One coverage will bring Sky Sports’ coverage to viewers in the United States.

F1 has replaced NBC as its broadcaster in America and will now use Sky Sports commentary instead of offering bespoke US coverage. However Sky Sports will also produce additional segments for use on ESPN’s platforms.

All 21 races on the 2018 F1 calendar will be shown live on the ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC channels. Practice and qualifying sessions “will air live and in replay”, according to a statement released today.

The new deal was “arranged by Formula 1, with the approval of ESPN and Sky”, the statement added.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 82 comments on “Sky to provide F1 coverage for US viewers on ESPN”

    1. Confirms what I was told a few months ago.

      I’ve also had it confirmed that ESPN are planning no post session coverage & that the recently announced 10 past the hour race start time was implemented purely at the request of ESPN in order to give them some build up because they refused to have a program start earlier than 5 to the hour.

      A lot of the new additions to the TV/commercial side of F1 Group are former ESPN people because Sean Bratches is a former ESPN executive & is bringing in people he knows/trust’s.

      1. Additionally, as they want to increase the American audience, that explains why Liberty and the FIA agreed to ESPN’s terms.

        1. NBC was doing a good job of growing F1 viewership here. I don’t think ESPN will.

      2. So if I understand you correctly the entire world has to change its viewing habits to satisfy a broadcaster that does not even care to send their own presenters? I hope you are wrong.

        1. @mosquito: yes. The new owners have spoken.

          If the day of your countrymen running the show, we had a social media blackout, grid girls, and a cranky old man being interviewed every race….

          Each side has its pro’s and con’s… but chill on the pearl clutching please. race times are changed often…

          1. My countryman?
            Surely they never ran this business. In that case we would at least have a race….
            And watching this sport for 20 years I am pretty sure this is the first time in that period the European race times are changed.

        2. Right? Who would change a whole schedule just for one… Oh wait.

      3. in addition to grid kids also.

        1. Would not be surprise if Australia ( Nanny Country/ Political Correctness Mob ) whether they will requests all adults on rhe Grid to have a working with childrens clearance – World gone Mad downunder.

    2. I feel terribly sorry for all Americans. What a cruel fate. Try to hang in there!

      1. Thanks…..At least we have our ‘mute’ buttons.

      2. Have you ever seen American coverage of F1? If so you’d be loudly cheering.

        1. No, but surely it isn’t worse than British Sky. They are the worst of the worst.

          1. @huhhii I agree, sky has made a sizeable investment and their coverage is lengthy, on the other hand, sky is trying too hard, Crofty is a cynic, Kravitz an hypocrite, Hill and Herbert love to hate and the rest get negatively influenced.

            1. @huhhii
              We F1 fans are hard to please. With the exception of Murray Walker, I don’t know of any F1 commented team on any channel that were liked. The most consistent complaint from our brother F1 fans in America is how dire their commentary is & has been, except for Will Buxton. Surely, Sky would be better? No. As an aside, or maybe a challenge, who pray tell that commentators on F1 would you suggest, that would be better?

            2. @harold wilson
              Ben Edwards & David Coulthard make a decent team for Channel 4, and most seem to agree. Shame it will end after this season.

            3. So er whats your view on the “Banter Master” Steve Jones, the slightly creepy David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan who is clearly always a few packets short of a full set of marbles?

              C4’s coverage is awful I don’t tend to watch any of the pre-race build up etc, I don’t mind the commentary so much Ben Edwards does a good job. Sky’s is a little too long, my hope is that Formula 2 starts to get included with Formula 1 the way Moto GP do it. So all the pundits etc. will talk about F2, show the F2 race and then talk about it before moving onto the main event as part of an all round experience. Also make the proper F1 commentators do the F2 – possibly change the colour commentator to keep it fresh (I’d go for the the hilarious Davide Valsecci – the most excitable man in the world).

            4. @bonbonjai That’s only about english coverage. In Belgium we’re pretty happy with local commentator (despite some errors). English coverage may only be a small part of all coverages in the world.

            5. @bonborjai I liked Buxton when he did GP2 coverage. The current GP2 commentator is also pretty good (not a fan of Valsecchi though). Martin Haven is absolutely brilliant. So yeah, there are options which are on completely different level than Croft/Brundle.

        2. I would be cheering if it was full Sky coverage, including buildup and post race, without commercials (even if those were only on web/ESPN3). But as it is, we know they will come in 20min before, have more in-race commercials than [american] football (and they will just cut them off, mid sentence and return mid sentence too), and cut off as soon as the champagne runs out. I will be keeping my VPN subscription, that’s for sure.

          1. Having watched 1 race last year while in the states, you asking for too much there me thinks. Their will be adds a plenty, and they will kick in when ever, with little regard to the state of the race or any drama.

          2. I think the key question will be, how much advertising minutes does ESPN cram into the race itself @bl0rq, @bonbonjai, @peartree @huhhii.

            I agree that the first year of Sky they were best and went downhill from there. Probably what not having (serious) competition does to quality. I really like to watch it on CH4 when I can, as I find they focus more on the racing/session going on than on rants about noise/DRS/Halo/vetttel/Hamilton/penalties … etc.
            On the other hand, their coverage still is head and shoulders above what many countries get instead.

            On German RTL you have only a bit less ads running than in the US, but you get really a fan talk aobut mostly Vettel (with a bit Wehrlein and Hulk dropped in) from pretty awful presenters. And in many many countries fans have to make do with someone sitting in a studio missing half of the action, misinterpretating what is going on and jumbling up names so badly it hurts. Oh, and it can still have ad-breaks.

        3. NO we will not be loudly cheering.. SKY,the propaganda arm for mercedes and lewis hamilton is nauseating at best to least NBC was not OBVIOUSLY rooting for any one team or driver. thanks but no thanks

        4. @SteveR I couldn’t agree with you more. I wish I had a bit more time right now and maybe I’ll comment further later on about my experience here in Canada as someone who has at times had access to both US coverage (SPEED and/or SPEEDTV and/or NBC) and British (BBC and/or SKY) and frankly I am of the opinion and have been for years that one of the reasons F1 isn’t more popular in the US is the terrible coverage.

        5. Leigh Diffey was annoying. He spoke for no reason other than to fill dead air. Hobbs was always entertaining, and Matchett had OK insight, although it’s obvious his one regret in life was never serving the Scuderia. Also, his list of cliches was fairly short. Buxton had matured quite a bit, and was doing a pretty solid job of interviewing.

          The real problem was the amount of commercials NBC was starting to put in– 5-10 minutes of racing, 3-5 minutes of commercials. Very irritating.

    3. I was wrong.

    4. Geez. Will we at least get to see the Sky pre-race and post-race coverage? Hell, even if I have to stream it on the internet, I’d do it because we never get any kind of pre-race coverage. It’s usually been 30 minutes, at the most. Sigh.

      1. @DadeD No. Sky’s full UK coverage (in 2017) started at 90mins (with 30mins of adverts) prior to their live commentary starting (When Sky’s presenter hands over the commentary box) at 5mins to the hour (with lights out 5 mins later).

        Remember ESPN are getting Sky’s commentary only, not their whole pre & post race stuff. So ESPN’s coverage will start whenever Sky’s commentary starts (When Sky’s presenter hands over the commentary box) on the hour (with lights out 10 mins later – that’s to ESPN’s request to delay the race start – you can see why now).

        Also, as @gt-racer has said, you will get little to no post session coverage either.

        1. Thanks @fomwatch

          Wow, that is REALLY disappointing. I don’t understand why ESPN bothered if they don’t want to provide full coverage.

    5. Will Crofty and Brundle provide logical break points for U.S. advertisements every ten minutes? Will they tailor their commentary to “welcome back” viewers from the 4 minute ad breaks? Will U.S. viewers who aren’t Lewis Hamilton fans throw their TVs out the window?

      1. I would GLADLY pay for the unfiltered Sky Feed here in the US so I didn’t have to deal with the commercials. I wish they would offer that option, but they never seem to consider it. I’m a big fan, and I’d seriously pay hundreds of dollars to do away with all the commercial advertisements.
        For those of us who WANT to pay, we should have that option.

        1. Same. The VPN gag is annoying. (And expensive)

      2. I don’t think so, it should be the same situation as for Australians. Someone that was working for the US coverage hinted they were getting replaced by a world feed, I had the impression C4 was going to be doing it, but I guess ever since BBC disappeared, SKy gets the world feed service, I don’t believe they are unbiased and therefore unsuitable for world feed purposes, c4 is clearly behind but they try to watch the same race as the real one.

    6. Its going to be a challenge to provide better coverage than what we had in the US last season.
      Sky Sports appears to maybe have less than great announcers from what l hear. Please tell me the names of the broadcast team and what they each bring to the table. Good to hear that FP and Q1,2,3 will be shown live.
      Anyway who knows about The Sky Sports coverage and the commentators and would care to inform us in the US??

      1. I’m with you Ted, I’m curious as well. I enjoyed NBC sports broadcasts. Hopefully it’s not a major step down from last year.

        1. Martin Brundle, who is VERY smart and still involved in the paddock and even the cars. His technical insight is much better than Machette’s who seems to be far removed from the paddock and his time at Bennetton has clearly passed as he was often flat out wrong about technical advancements during the hybrid era.

          There is also David Croft, who hosts #askcrofty and is also very smart.

          Ted Kravitz is the pit lane guy and is about as good as Will Buxton, but to be fair, Buxton is better; more exciting and just a fun guy.

          Also they occasionally have Anthony Davidson, a former driver who commentates on GP2 with Buxton. He’s a former driver as well and is still contemporary within the paddock.

          They beat the Hobbs/Machette/Diffy/Buxton team and the incessant commercials we have here in the states.

          1. @boombazookajd Crofty is smart? and Ted don’t get me started on Ted, he can be funny but he does it at the expense of other people, I think these 2 should release some steam before going into air, so much hate from those 2, very anti, very extreme opinions and not to mention they can’t play for all viewers they should say what everyone thinks, we are British we want Lewis to win, now let’s move on and watch the race without prejudice.

            1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
              14th February 2018, 5:08

              guys, please stop with the negative stuff about Sky:-) We are going to have no choice in the States so I hope it ends up being good. With Nick Harris’ retirement and no more tres amigos, all that’s left is Ray Hudson on Bein Sports and Johnny covering Gran Slams. If they leave, we are doomed. We may have to ask Donald Trump to leave the White House and start commentating in every sport:-)

    7. Why F1 gods? Why?

    8. I’ll reserve judgment until I watch it but it’s going to be very hard to follow in the footsteps of the legendary David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, Leigh Diffey, and Will Buxton.

      I was watching luge in the Olympics the other day and the whole family started screaming “Dad, that’s the voice of F1!!!” If anyone who knows Leigh frequents this forum, I hope they let him know that he and the rest shall always be remembered!

      I’d be remiss not to mention Bob Varsha and his signature line “Here come the lights, turn up the volume!” who filled in for Leigh a few times from Speed Network!

      These guys have spoilt us rotten and I can’t think of a F1 fan household that wouldn’t welcome these guys as a member of their family.

      1. I was never a Leigh Diffey fan, just don’t like his shouting style. And NBC’s F1 coverage in the USA has way too many commercials. But I have always been a fan of Matchett and Hobbs and Buxton. We have all have our preferences I suppose. Hope the new US TV deal is a good one. Looking forward to the 2018 season boys!

      2. Michael hit the nail on the head in his appraisal of the f1coverage here in America. The team was as good as you could ask for. Insight, knowledge, humor and the style of their race call. All great stuff and a loss to American race fans. A+stuff

      3. @freelittlebirds The SPEED network team mainly Bob Varsha, had so much passion for F1. He was great, a great disservice the US broadcasting did to the only US commentator that could be compared to Murray Walker, very professional.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          14th February 2018, 4:58

          @peartree yeah, I agree. Bob was awesome to the point that I disliked Leigh when he came in as his replacement at NBCSN although he grew on me quickly as I pointed out. My understanding was that Bob chose to stay at Speed Network as they were the first to give him a job covering races and he was loyal but that might be the story they offered to the public. When you say a great disservice what did you mean?

          1. @freelittlebirds SPEED went bust, Bob would’ve been the logical choice for NBCSN but they were ambitious there and now they’ve given up, they sold their contract for a penny to espn.

    9. Going to miss the guys from Speed TV/NBC Sports as well as the opening music. Here’s hoping ESPN and ABC evolve the F1 programming, maybe hiring Hobo and Machete down the line.

      1. God no. Please leave that hobo off. He clearly demonstrated he has lost a marble to two, and Machette, to his credit was smart but if you read enough here or on, Steve would often be flat out wrong about technical changes or strategies.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          14th February 2018, 4:53

          @boombazookajd I think Hobbs called’ em like they are and he’s a really funny guy to boot – not to mention that no one can say kablamo or carambolage the way he does:-)

          As for Matchett, I can’t compare his knowledge to Sky but he was a very, very astute commentator. He would notice things that you had to watch in slo-mo to see like the brakes overheating or an issue with the car such as a piece coming off. I think all of us think we are watching the race and know what’s happening but no one watched it like Matchett did imho. I remember a lot of his comments like the car looks unsettled to me or the rear seems to step out. He was extremely good at analyzing the car’s behavior. He just seemed to have so much insight into what was going on and he was able to share that. He was very good at presenting his arguments in a logical and concise manner without emotion.

    10. At least the americans will now have to suffer Crofty like the rest of us.

    11. Great news if: the American money supplements the already fantastic coverage.

      Bad news if: our feed becomes “streamlined for the American market”

    12. I really like the Sky coverage and commentators… yet some others have great dislike for them. Guess it just shows it’s impossible to please everyone, so there’s not much point even trying…

      1. @neilosjames I believe it has a lot to do with what other experiences people have. When I compare recent Sky-UK F1 coverage with old British coverages, there is no denying the quality has gone down, whereas both bias and fake-excitement have gone up. When I compare it with anything German RTL has ever done, Sky-UK is still good, though (and Sky-Germany wasn’t much better than RTL last time I checked, which I admit is several years ago). Then there’s italian RAI, which is even more biased but at least doesn’t act like they wanted to hide it and appear unbiased to the casual watcher.
        I’d say the current best commentary (which I know) is probably Austrian ORF, not only because it is ad-free free-TV, but also because Alex Wurz knows his stuff, Ernst Hausleitner doesn’t feel the need to unneccessarily scream and shout around but stays comparatively laid back and likeable, and the lack of any Austrian driver kinda naturally prevents overboarding bias. The coverage around the race is limited, though, probably because the small population and thus audience can’t warrant that much funding.

        tl;dr: British viewers are likely a bit spoilt by having had the best coverage for most of the time.

        1. Sven @crammond you are spot on. I wished more viewers knew this. They were okay but Crofty and Ted got more and more comfortable. I used to like sky but as the seasons gone by as a viewer I can’t live with their fake-excitement nor pretending not to be bias

          Long ago, Allen on ITV could be a little too passive aggressive then BBC was doing great especially when they got rid of Jonathan Leggard which left Brundle on the lead with Coulthard on colour, 2011 I think.
          Sky came in with the big bucks and I guess they just try to justify their jobs and the investment sky made. SKy Italia doesn’t care about preference because they don’t lie to their audience why would you, in a sport that’s pratically British, but they don’t create fake news, they hint stuff like the Brits, never watched ORF but I remember once watching sky germany and that day, they were a bit off.

          1. Sky should get rid of Crofty, seriously, I really can’t stand his commentary. And Ted, God! I haven’t seen a more smug character since Richard Keys, awful!..the thing is, he seems to have got worse over the years (same could be said about Keysy).

            DC and Brundle would make the best commentary pair I feel and with Karun in the pits.

            1. @jaymenon10 He is smug and frankly incompetent (remember the spark plug incident) getting half the things wrong so can’t watch the notebook anymore, but let’s face it, he’s brilliant at interviewing. He should really take over from Pinkham/Brookes (who never asks pertinent questions and doesn’t understand basics like for example there’s no time for follow-up questions of stricken drivers during the race)

            2. @jaymenon10 Agreed. and @balue Ted does ask the tough and poisonous questions, well that is to whom he doesn’t like, that said he has some guts.

              @ju88sy Personal taste and subjectivity don’t apply here, Ted and Croft simply put are not nice pleasant people. I’m not opposing them because of their often fallacious arguments, Crofty’s noise and fake excitement, and Ted’s smugness.
              They don’t respect journalistic values, they don’t respect people, their prejudice is off the scales. They keep making fun and essentially bullying whoever they think it’s funny, they behave as if they were on the pub, I can’t lie they can be funny but you shouldn’t target and deride teams and drivers just because you don’t fancy them, often in the end they base themselves of their own prejudice and made up facts and rumours and they never apologise or take a step back. Honestly they are as bias as one can be, something that would be of no relevance if they didn’t keep pretending they aren’t and mocking any one tweet or comment they select and shun it live on air.

          2. @peartree I have commented before that this is ALL about personal taste and subjectivity. Across all sports where commentary teams play a central role conflicting opinions and taste’s are rife along with people who think their view is somehow the ‘correct’ one if ‘only other people could see this’ :).

            Personally, I really like Jack Nicholls (Radio 5 Live) and hope his F1 commentary career continues to develop. I can forgive Ted his smugness for the direct-from-the-teams insight he brings from the paddock during and after the race.

            It would be funny and an assault on the ears (& sanity) to combine David Croft and Davide Valsecchi as a commentary team!

    13. What i am wondering about is, does sky’s coverage in the UK have commercials during the race? If not, espn has some of the most frequent commercial breaks of any channel. That means sudden interuptions in the middle of a sentence.
      As US viewer i feel almost betrayed by this deal. Also, the Races in austin and mexico run right around the time when college football is on on ESPN. And ESPN likes to run over alot with their broadcasts. It is not uncommon to switch on the channel expecting your show or game to come on but instead you have to wait for another game to finish. And then you’ll have missed 30 to 40 minutes of what you wanted to see.

      1. @us-brian

        Sky doesn’t have commercials, they show the entirety of the race. No one can top NBCSN as far as commercial breaks, in fact, NBCSN actually interrupted commercials with briefs stints of the race.

        I’m sure ESPN will make some type of adjustment for the college games. And are you really complaining about one game running long? Fans who are watching that game deserve to see the end of the game, you’ll survive missing opening kick-off and the first drive.

        1. No one can top NBCSN as far as commercial breaks

          ESPN: Hold my beer

          1. We will find out…

        2. No i am not complaining about one game. I don’t usually watch ESPN that often. I used to a lot more in the past. I would just hate it if we would miss the start because of something like that. Or go from Espn or Espn2 to streaming only due to scheduling conflict. For some people that might cause and issue.
          Maybe I’m just expecting the worst. And maybe I will get pleasantly surprised.

      2. I guess I am more concerned with races possibly starting late and/or running long…will we see the finish?

        1. Like Korea 2010 or Montreal 2011.
          Adding 2 hours to the DVR recording wasn’t enough.

    14. I am going to miss David Hobbs, Steve Matchet, and Leigh Diffey’s commentary though. I’ll especially miss David Hobbs and Steve Matchett

    15. Will we get the full race, uninterrupted by commercials, or at least have the amount of commercials scaled back? NBCSN was terrible with them, often going to break during exciting moments on track.

    16. Huge win for those of us in the US who hated the US commentary team so much that we secluded ourselves from all social media during race time so that we could wait until late afternoon when a copy of the Sky broadcast was available to download (or way back in the day using a VPN to watch the BBC iPlayer here in the US)… to say nothing of the ridiculous commercial breaks they have here.

      We can watch races live again, and without complicated technical workarounds!

    17. This sucks! As a fan of Diffy, Hobbs, Machete and Buxton, I hated hearing the news that they were out due to the transition. Now reading this, I’m even more miffed. At least I have two years worth of coverage on my DVR to relive NBC Sports Coverage when the urge arises.

      I’m almost certain ESPN is going to mess this up, but I will try to remain as optimistic as possible. Melbourne is a little over a month away so we’ll find out soon enough.

    18. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
      13th February 2018, 23:59

      Trash. Trash move by FOM/Liberty to give it to ESPN in the first place without any competition. And a trash move by ESPN to simply re-air Sky broadcasts. While the NBCSN coverage was lacking in a few departments, I think re-airing a broadcast intended for another country is going to hurt F1’s viewership in the States a lot.

    19. In the us i hope they dont mess with the spanish station’s coverage. In the past it was commercial free. Being a f1 fanatic, i did a better job of talking to myself than most broadcasters anyway.

    20. The life of an American F1 fan is not an easy one, gents.

    21. This is good news for me as a tourist. The US coverage made me cringe whenever I had to watch it, I ended up using dodgy streams on hotel wifi instead.

      No longer will Valterri be referred to as Boat-Ass.

      1. No longer will Valterri be referred to as Boat-Ass.

        Made me chuckle! 😂

    22. I subscribed last year for the 4K, which was amazing.

      But the punditry and general presentation has gone to pot. When they first launched we had a studio F1 show with CGI mock ups of the cars going into detail on aero changes, now we have a couple of lower tier drivers chucking opinions at Natalie Pinkham.

      Pre race is full of fluff and none of the presenters bar Anthony Davidson and Damon Hill are particularly watchable.

      Commentary is a shambles with Crofty rambling on about the most useless inane details.

      Music and presentation is so vanilla it bores me to tears, give me C4 flavour with a variety of music and punditry that truly represents a world sport rather than endless little Indie music dittys, summed up by the title music.

      Needless to say, i’ve unsubscribed. I will miss those 4K visuals though.

    23. Probably only a matter of time before a decision is made to activate the VSC every 10 minutes for a 5 minute period to allow the advertisers to try and convince uninterested people to buy some over-priced tat.
      Sounds absurd but it seems to be the way the thinking goes that you have to pay to watch and then pay again to listen to advertising propaganda by way of increased prices, raised to pay for the advertising. It kills any sport.

    24. In my country we now have two options- to subscribe to Foxtel and get Sky F1 or to get one hour highlights Monday night (I am not sure in this still happens to be honest, I just watch Sky).

      I love the coverage to be honest. Martin Brundle is awesome, Crofty is good but I can see why some are not a fan, Simon Lazenby is awesome, Ted is great, in is awkward way……… I don’t see why people hate them!

      If you have one option and are forced to another, I can see the frustration. But here with Sky we have so much better than what we had so that’s good. Give them a chance.

    25. Seems to make sense not to have the build up from Sky because the adverts in the UK are shorter than in the US so that wouldn’t flow.

      Where is Will Buxton now working? I saw on his twitter he has started a new job but can’t announce it yet. Could it be for F1 direct for their youtube channel or similar?

      Also, with Channel four coverage in its last year, how likely is it David Coulthard will replace David Croft at Sky for 2019? This would bring back together the commentary (dream) team of the BBC days

      1. @harrisf1 Will Buxton will have a role on the OTT service & will be doing voice over work for video on there social media platforms. He will also be in a host/presenter role for some of the other activities Liberty have planned.

        Johnny Herbert will also be an on-air talent for FOM/Liberty alongside his Sky job, Something he started over the final part of last season which is why he wasn’t on as much of Sky’s programming as he had been in the past.

    26. When we can get the races on the sports channel here in Canada, they made the move of continuing the race during the ads, by having a picture in picture running the race, while the ad played. Smaller picture but still good to see all the actions.

    27. 2017 truly was the last great year. I can’t stand David Croft announcing. I’m gonna miss Leigh Diffy, David Hobbs, Steve Machet, and Will Buxton out there. :(

    28. Practice and qualifying sessions “will air live and in replay”, according to a statement released today.

      Ugh. This is honestly my biggest disappointing part of the announcement. Prepare for 3 am practice replays and qualifying coverage time shifted to noon to get better ratings. There is no way ESPN moves their Friday morning talking head shows for practice coverage.

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