John Malone-owned Liberty Media is revving up for Formula One’s landmark race on the Las Vegas strip set to unspool with fanfare next weekend.
Formula One, a promoter of the race, and owed by Liberty, has been prepping the Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix for a year, building a 3.8-mile track (6.2 kilometers) that starts at 10 PT Saturday after a weekend of practice and qualifying sessions. It airs on ESPN.
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Liberty leased Jim Dolan’s new Las Vegas Sphere, inside and out — so no U2 that weekend. The company bought out all external ad space and leased some out, said CEO Greg Maffei at Liberty Media investor conference in New York today. “It was necessary for us, because we have to be on their land.” He said the event will hold a “recovery brunch” inside the structure on Sunday morning showing highlights of the race.
There’s a new 300,000-square foot pit building and race hub with start and finish line, pit lane, team garages and hospitality areas. A new dedicated app will help fans get around. “It is a massive undertaking and will be an enormous spectacle, Maffei said.
American Express is a Vegas sponsor for the event, which has seen its popularity surge Stateside. Netflix drummed up interest with its nonfiction series Formula 1: Drive To Surive. The streamer announced its first live sporting event around the race. The Netflix Cup golf tournament will air at 3 pm Tuesday, pitting drivers from the show against golfers from another popular series Full Swing.
“In the way Netflix has introduced a whole new audience to Formula One, we believe Apple’s film will similarly boost interest in our sport among the broader audience in the U.S.,” said Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali.
Liberty/Formula One is said to have invested around $500 million in the event. Formula One Group trades under the symbol FWONK (series A stock, one vote per share) and FWONA (Series C, no vote).
The company, whose other asset include Live Nation, SiriusMX and the Atlanta Braves, showed investors a clip of a CNBC Formula One special air next week ahead of the race.
Execs said F1 fans are younger than for other motorsports (i.e Nascar), loyal and growing both in person, on linear television and digital outlets from YouTube to F1.com and F1.TV. The inaugural Miami Grand Prix in 2022, aired on ABC, averaged 2.6 million viewers, its largest ever live audience on U.S. television, and 270,000 attendeees.
New distributors, sponsors and cities are joining. But Vegas is particular.
“The excitement of a race across the Strip will be unparalleled,” Maffei said, thanking the people of Las Vegas for the inconvenience.
The event will kick off with a live opening ceremony with music and entertainment. The start at 10 pm PT is later than most races, and will also be colder than most, some reports have noted.
There has also been a strike threat by hospitality workers.
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