As Formula 1 Returns to States With U.S. Grand Prix, Here’s an Inside Look at How F1 Races Are Produced
Behind the scenes with F1 Director of Broadcast and Media Dean Locke
After a two-year absence, Formula 1 returns to North America this weekend for the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX. With a sold-out crowd of more than 360,000 fans in attendance, the race will air live on ABC at 3 p.m. ET. Ahead of the race, here is a look back at SVG Europe’s chat with Formula 1 Director of Broadcast and Media Dean Locke at the Motorsport Show 2021 on the latest production and broadcasting innovations being used to produce coverage of, and programming around, one of the world’s most popular sports.
ESPN Brings Sky Sports’ Coverage to the States
ESPN and ABC will bring Sky Sports’ award-winning presentation of F1 to American viewers and after the series returned to its original U.S. television home in 2018 (the first race ever aired in the country was on ABC in 1962 and races also aired on ESPN from 1984-1997).
During the pandemic, Sky’s European territories collaborated in ways they hadn’t done before, earning them a place on the SVG Europe Sports TV Awards 2021 shortlist for ‘Outstanding Production Achievement – Event.’
Particularly strong was the collaboration between Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and Sky UK that saw technical infrastructure sharing, resource sharing, content sharing, and support across the three territories becoming the new normal on Formula 1 cover. With the power of the group and support from NEP and Tata, Sky Sports were also able to generate maximum output through sharing features, interviews, and even whole shows from Sky UK. In addition to that, they were also able to share facilities (SkyPad) and talent (Nico Rosberg) on-site in Germany and Italy.
Sky Deutschland laid a lot of the groundwork for this shift to collaborate international remote-production, having already moved to a remote model in 2018 for sustainability reasons. This meant that the F1 production was ready to go when the pandemic hit. Coverage was produced from a base in Munich and then paired with a small production unit on-site, with collaboration from the UK Osterley site, and camera feeds from UK, Germany, and Italy.
As F1 Draws More American Eyeballs on ESPN, Series Eyes Expansion to More U.S. Cities
Through the first 15 races of 2021, F1 races on ESPN and ESPN2 are averaging 916,000 viewers, up 51% over the entire 2020 season average of 608,000 viewers and 39% higher vs. the average of 660,000 viewers for the first 15 comparable races in 2019.
In addition to increased viewership, F1 continues to expand it footprint in the US. After signing a 10-year deal in April to host the Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium, F1 has also floated aspirations of growing further to cities like Las Vegas and Manhattan.
For more on how F1 race broadcasts are produced, check out this session from the Motorsport Show 2021 featuring Formula 1 Broadcast Executive Director of Television Production Philip Rorke chatting with Fox Sports’ NASCAR Coordinating Director Artie Kempner on the tricks of their trade, their tools of choice and anecdotes about their jobs and careers.
The U.S. Grand Prix 2021 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin will air live on ABC at 3 p.m. ET with coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m. In addition to Sunday’s race telecast, qualifying and all three practice sessions will air on ESPN networks on Friday and Saturday with streaming of all sessions and the race on the ESPN App. ESPN Deportes will air the race, qualifying and the three practice sessions in Spanish.