Formula 1 has witnessed astounding growth over the last few years, especially in the US where it has registered a jaw-dropping increase in viewership. In fact, F1 has been deemed the fastest-growing sports league in the world. Smelling a massive opportunity, Apple is reportedly interested in acquiring the exclusive global rights for broadcasting Formula 1 races. According to a report by Business F1, the Cupertino-based tech giant is considering making a bid of up to $2 billion a year for the rights to stream Formula 1 races. The magazine quoted unnamed sources who claim that Apple has “wargamed” the idea and is now seriously thinking of making an offer. If that’s true, the deal with Apple would be double what the Formula 1 Group is currently receiving from different networks across the world. But sealing the deal won’t be very easy for Apple as there are some major roadblocks.
The Walt Disney Co. owns the US rights to broadcast F1 until 2025. Estimated to be worth $75 to $90 million per year, the deal was extended last year while companies like Netflix, Amazon, and NBCUniversal also reportedly made their bids. Similarly, Sky Sports in the UK has a deal all the way until 2029. What that means is Apple will slowly gain exclusivity of the broadcasting rights, gaining full control only by the fifth year. But there are clear signs that it might be a mega deal for Apple, which has been aggressively pursuing exclusive broadcasting rights for other major sporting events.
One of the major instigators behind the reported F1 deal could be the hugely profitable Lionel Messi-MLS partnership. Its 10-year, $2.5 billion deal with Major League Soccer has been very successful. However, it got a major boost when legendary soccer star Lionel Messi signed for Inter Miami in August in an unprecedented deal. Reportedly, MLS Season Pass gained more subscribers in Lionel Messi’s first month than in the previous nine months combined. The iPhone maker also has a seven-year deal with the MLB to broadcast Friday Night Baseball on their streaming service. However, both of them have viewers mostly in the US. On the other hand, F1 has a far more global audience.
Netflix show F1: Drive to Survive has proven to be very effective in attracting newer audiences to the sport, especially in countries like the US which traditionally have a limited fan following. However, the show has also been a massive financial success for Netflix, as well. This could also be a major reason behind Apple’s decision to go for this mammoth deal. Not only does F1 have a younger average fan age, which is a big positive, but also Apple can effectively leverage F1’s immensely valuable intellectual property. The company is currently working on two F1 projects: a documentary on Lewis Hamilton and an F1 movie starring Brad Pitt. It will be interesting to see how everything pans out.