Formula One raced back onto the screens of ESPN yesterday after a 20-year absence, and although the series trails in popularity behind homegrown competition in the United States, the contract is on track to drive a turbocharged return for the sports broadcaster.
ESPN’s track record in F1 stretches all the way back to 1962 when its sister network ABC broadcast the series for the first time in the U.S. It aired highlights of the Monaco Grand Prix on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and continued to screen select races until the 1980s. ESPN took over the wheel in 1984 and continued until 1997 when it lost the rights to the Speed Channel, which had a 17-year run as F1’s broadcaster.
Speed lost the rights to NBC Sports, which broadcast F1 from 2013 until the end of last year and revved up interest in the series by giving flagship races airtime on network channel NBC.
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