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Volume 21 No. 18
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ESPN-Formula one talks reunite Magnus, Bratches

Formula One will move from NBC Sports to ESPN next year.
ESPN’s Formula One negotiations over the past month had a distinctly retro feel for Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president of programming and scheduling.

First of all, Magnus sat across the negotiating table from a familiar face. Sean Bratches, who left ESPN at the end of 2015 after a 27-year run at the network and joined F1 this year as managing director of commercial operations, was responsible for negotiating the circuit’s U.S. media rights deal.

“Sean is a smart businessperson and a trusted friend and former colleague,” Magnus said last week. “A lot of things came together really quickly and really easily.”

The fact that ESPN picked up F1 rights also gave Magnus a sense of deja vu. Magnus joined ESPN in 1995 as a program associate and was placed in the network’s motorsports division. Magnus said he has been a fan of F1 since watching coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” as a kid.

“My first job at ESPN of any consequence is that I ran motorsports for a bunch of years,” he said. “This was back when we were in our heyday of our first run through NASCAR. We had NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One, NHRA.”

Last week, ESPN completed a two-year deal for F1 rights. The deal does not involve a rights fee, and ESPN is committed to using a world feed for its telecasts. F1 will keep control of its over-the-top rights.

The move is surprising in that ESPN has walked away from rights deals with NASCAR and NHRA in recent years.

“It’s high-quality, world-class, live-event programming that generally fits right into spaces where we had availability,” Magnus said. “It is a perfect match.”

John Ourand