Formula 1 appears destined to have a new television partner in the U.S. from 2013. A statement released from the FOX Sports Media Group to the Associated Press said F1 and SPEED will part ways at the end of this season. The AP, citing anonymous sources, said F1 was in talks with NBC Sports Group for U.S. broadcast rights,although NBC declined to confirm this.
“It's disappointing to learn that F1 has elected to move forward with a different media partner,” the statement said. “SPEED has been the U.S. voice of F1 since the mid '90s, and it is a passion for many people at the network. 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.”
The AP report, citing sources, said F1 is in talks with NBC Sports Network regarding the broadcast rights. FOX has been rumored to be rebranding SPEED as a new broad-based national sports network, possibly to be called Fox Sports 1. Signs have been evident in recent weeks that this is closer to becoming a reality, including last week when SPEED's logo at the top right of the screen has now had a FOX Sports logo on top of it.
SPEED has carried F1 in the U.S. since 1996, with live coverage beginning in 1997. The on-air team has primarily been lead anchor Bob Varsha with color commentators David Hobbs and Steve Matchett; Leigh Diffey and Rick DeBruhl have also held turns in Varsha's seat and Peter Windsor and Will Buxton have done the on-site pit reporting – Buxton taking the role from Windsor from 2010. The booth commentating, done from Charlotte studios, has been widely praised by the American F1 fan base.
Although there has not been an official statement from SPEED as yet, the anchors have taken to Twitter for some thoughts.
“Thanks for all the comments following the announcement of a new broadcast home for F1 in 2013. Let's enjoy our last five weekends,” Varsha wrote on his.
From Matchett, the former Benetton F1 mechanic: “Thank you for all of your kind comments: SPEED have built an incredibly talented F1 team; the remaining races of 2012 will be significant.”
Lastly, from Hobbs: “Thanks to all our fans who are so supportive. It's been a good run and I have enjoyed every minute of working with everyone from Speed. They are a great and creative crew. Always enjoyed wonderfully synergies with Bob, Steve, Will and Peter. I will miss it.”