Published October 12, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The cable sports channel Speed will no longer air Formula One races after this season, ending a 17- year partnership.
Fox Sports Media Group, which owns Speed, confirmed Friday that the partnership will end after this season. The network indicated it was outbid for the U.S. broadcast rights.
"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 to The Associated Press.
F1 was in talks with NBC Sports Group for U.S. broadcast rights, according to two people familiar with the negotiations who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement.
NBC Sports spokesman Chris McCloskey declined comment, as did F1's governing body, FIA, which noted that TV deals are handled by Formula One Management. The series is in South Korea this week for the Korean Grand Prix.
"Speed has been the U.S. voice of F1 since the mid '90s, and it is a passion for many people at the network," the Fox Sports statement said. "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."
It's not clear what NBC Sports would do with F1.
NBC Sports Network currently broadcasts the bulk of the U.S-based IndyCar Series, and announced last month a deal with Robby Gordon to televise the inaugural season of his Stadium Super Trucks. Gordon inked a deal that gets 12 races televised — seven of them on NBC. The television contract for IndyCar is split between ABC, which owns the network broadcast rights, and NBCSN, which only has the rights to air races on cable.
The departure of F1 comes as Fox Sports moves closer to rebranding its motorsports network into a broad-based national sports network. Fox has not commented on the rebranded channel, expected to be called Fox Sports 1, but it is expected to be heavily utilized in the eight-year television contract announced earlier this month with Major League Baseball.
Speed partnered with F1 in 1996 in the network's first full season on the air. Speed moved to live coverage in 1997, and has expanded to live coverage of qualifying and practice sessions of the most popular motorsports series in the world.
Broadcasting from a studio in Charlotte, the booth of Bob Varsha, Steve Matchett and David Hobbs is considered by many fans to be the best in motorsports. The excitable trio breathes excitement into often single-file racing, and closely follows storylines and strategy despite being halfway around the world from most of the tracks.
AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report.