Formula 1 fans in the United States will be switching stations in 2013 and beyond, after long-time broadcaster SPEED failed to extend its broadcasting rights deal with Formula One Management.
While no official announcement has been made as to who the winning bid went to – it’s generally believed to be the NBC Sports Group – the leading figures on SPEED have confirmed that their seventeen-year association with F1 will come to an end at the end of the current season.
SPEED has been with F1 since the Fox Sports-owned station first started broadcasting in 1996, and it moved to a live broadcasting format from 1997 onwards.
More recent years have seen the station treat its viewers extremely well, offering completely live broadcasts of all Grand Prix practice and qualifying sessions. Its broadcast team includes (pictured right to left) frontman Bob Varsha, former Grand Prix driver (and friend to RichardsF1.com) David Hobbs, ex-Benetton F1 mechanic-turned-author Steve Matchett, and F1 season DVD review narrator Will Buxton, who also serves as the lead GP2 Series commentator with SKY F1 in the UK.
It is not yet known whether any members of the current broadcasting team will find themselves employed by the yet-unnamed new broadcaster next year.
“It’s disappointing to learn that F1 has elected to move forward with a different media partner,” Fox Sports Media Group said in a statement.
The news comes as a bitter blow to the network, particularly ahead of the series’ much-anticipated return to American soil – for the first time since 2007 – at the new Circuit of the Americas facility in Texas. A second race on US soil is slated for a berth on the 2013 calendar on a semi-permanent street circuit layout around the shores of New Jersey.
“Speed has been the US voice of F1 since the mid ’90s, and it is a passion for many people at the network,” the statement added. “Fox Sports Media Group made what we believed to be a fiscally responsible bid based on the sport’s current viewership levels, but F1 has elected to go in another direction. We wish them well.”