In October 2012, it was announced that Formula 1 racing would be leaving its television home in the U.S. – SPEED Channel – and moving to the NBC Sports Group. NBC paid $3 million for the open-wheel racing series and is using everything at their disposal to market and make F1 work in America. The new season is here. The Australian Grand Prix airs on the NBC Sports Network at 1:30 a.m. ET and Americans should take notice.
SPEED did a fine job covering the sport but F1 was never given the attention it deserved. SPEED is hidden in deep cable on DirecTv channel 607. It’s not necessarily a channel that people “stumble upon.” Fox Sports never marketed Formula 1 like it did NASCAR or soccer and many F1 races were tape-delayed, preempted or interrupted by more “important” things. As Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski said, “While SPEED did do an excellent job, they just didn’t have the budget to provide this level of coverage and access to Formula One.”
NBC Sports has solidified itself as the obscure-ish sports – with a loyal following – channel: [The future home of] English Soccer, MLS, F1, Tour de France, College Hockey, NHL, Olympics, Mid-major college football and basketball (You mean James Madison vs. Delaware basketball isn’t primetime entertainment?!) And NBC Sports is doing everything it can to make this worldly motorsport more understandable and accessible to a casual American fan base.
The Formula 1 season consists of 19 races in 19 countries. 13 races will be shown on NBC Sports Network, three will air on CNBC due to Tour de France scheduling conflicts, and four races – Monaco, Brazil, Austin and Montreal – will be aired on regular, old NBC and will be given unparalleled American network coverage. Every race will be completely live on TV, streaming online at NBC Live Sports Extra and will be available on tablets and mobile phones. Also, nearly every single practice and qualifying session will be live on NBC Sports Network. Every race will be complete with a 30-minute pre-race and post-race recap show to inform and ingratiate NBC’s potential new audience. And if you can’t bring yourself to stay up until 4 a.m. to watch a Grand Prix, NBC Sports plans to re-air every race that same afternoon.
Sports Business Daily’s Tripp Mickle reported that, “Race coverage will be hosted from NBC Sports’ studios in Stamford, Conn., by Leigh Diffey on play-by-play with analysts David Hobbs and Steve Matchett. They will be on-site for the races in Monaco, Montreal and Austin. Longtime F1 journalist Will Buxton will travel to each race and serve as a reporter during the broadcast.”
NBC has created a stylish and modern ad campaign to promote their new automotive baby. Mickle writes, “NBC developed two, 30-second promotional spots with creative that focuses on the speed of F1 and aims to appeal to the upscale sports fan by highlighting its international appeal and cultural significance.”
With a reported title sponsor like Rolex and other advertising commitments from Mercedes-Benz, Pirelli and ExxonMobil, NBC Sports has made all of its resources available to make Formula 1 into a sophisticated American pastime that can get more attention without a desperate need for crossing-over NASCAR fans.
Along with the flashy new ad campaign, NBC Sports Network will continue its 36 series – a series that follows an athlete for a 36-hour period before a big game (or race) – with F1 36 and its first guest will be three-time defending champion, Sebastian Vettel. The way that NASCAR has such a close relationship with its fans is by actually getting out and connecting with them. With Formula 1 drivers in a different country every week and not being even remotely covered by other American sports outlets (*Cough* ESPN *Cough*), this F1 36 series is a chance for fans to actually get to know these drivers. And for you total beginners, NBC Sports’ Motorsports Talk has written a total Formula 1 manual – everything from the basics of racing, the drivers, the tracks, etc.
Think of it as a fast, expensive, explosive, international, humane, incredibly technical version of horse racing. The sport of kings has evolved into Formula 1 and NBC Sports will bring it into the American sports vernacular. Plus, you get to stay up late and watch the most expensive cars in the world go around a track that has RIGHT turns. A revelation.