Start, Monza, 2018

It’s time for Formula 1 to smash its TV paywall

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Formula 1 currently faces arguably the biggest set of existential threats in its well-nigh seven-decade existence: political and environmental pressures on internal combustion engines; rising apathy towards the car and associated among Generation X and Millenials, dwindling viewer interest due to disrupted entertainment landscapes, and the continuing aftermath of 2008’s global economic crisis.

Add in inequitable revenue structures that wounded independent teams – some mortally – and an unhealthy reliance on billionaire benefactors as owners or bankrollers of pay drivers (or both), political uncertainties in F1’s heartlands and increased competition from Formula E, and it’s clear F1 faces various stern challenges despite rosy blurbs penned by PR folk who wouldn’t know an F1 car if it ran them over.

This week, during a podcast discussion with 2016 F1 world champion Nico Rosberg, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said: “I think in five years [F1] they are going to start feeling a lot the heat [unless F1 switches to electric power].”

“It’s going to be very difficult [for F1] if they don’t switch to electric,” he added, “But they can’t.”

True, Agag enjoys taking pot shots at the competition, but the fact is FE on course to boast at least seven mainstream motor manufacturers while F1 lists Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari, with Honda competing only as an engine supplier, currently supplying a single team (two in 2019). Make that three-and-a-half car companies then, or half FE’s roster.

BMW and Porsche shunned F1 to go electric. The latter entered despite the presence of sister Volkswagen Group brand Audi. Buy into Ferrari’s insistence that the Prancing Stallion is more luxury goods than car brand – as told to prospective punters during its NYSE IPO – and FE is on course to outscore F1 by a factor of three on the manufacturer front after just five seasons.

Since 2012 F1 has lost Caterham, Manor (twice) and Force India, while gaining just Haas – which entered via loopholes since closed to others. True, Force India was saved – by billionaires – but only after exceptional circumstances were devised for its survival, with aspects of that process still under dispute and heading for the courts.

Grid sizes have stalled at 20 cars despite circuits being homologated for 13 two-car teams. FIA President Jean Todt last month admitted no new team applications are on the horizon. Truly independent team are now the exception, not the norm they once were.

Jean-Eric Vergne, Lucas di Grassi, Punta del Esta, Formula E, 2018
Free-to-air Formula E has courted manufacturers
Worse, the mortality rate of new grands prix runs at 50 per cent: Of 10 new (or returning) venues attracted over the past 12 years, fully five failed, including New Jersey, which was aborted after a date was listed. Recently the city fathers of Rotterdam and Copenhagen announced they would not be pursuing grand prix projects, while Miami postponed its decision “indefinitely” – whatever that means.

But perhaps most troubling the lifeblood of grand prix racing – television audiences – has been chronically diluted of late. Ratings plummeting from over 600m viewers in 2008 to under 400m last year, like-for-like. Has that trend reversed, or at least stabilised, since Liberty Media – F1’s latest owner – acquired the commercial rights at a valuation of $8bn a little over two years ago?

No. In a recent earnings conference call CEO Chase Carey admitted they had dropped a further four per cent, adding the root cause was F1’s shift from free-to-air to pay-TV in Italy. Excluding that territory, overall viewerships were up three per cent. Tellingly, Formula E this week announced a five-year free-to-air deal for Italy.

Now let’s consider Carey’s statistics: Despite all the bells and whistles and graphics F1 added to its broadcasts, despite (allegedly) the most advanced over-the-top streaming service in world sport (link my March piece), despite so many new hires that Liberty was forced into posh new offices, the loss of FTA TV in a single territory undid all that good work in under nine months.

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This, in a nutshell, is the primary reason for F1’s malaise: swingeing reductions in free-to-air TV across the globe. Before F1 chased broadcast income rather than eyeballs on screens the sport attracted whole generations of youngsters, and oldies in emerging markets, who in turn became hardcore fans who subsequently shelled out hundreds in whatever currency to watch their heroes live.

Crucially, they encouraged subsequent generations, in turn feeding the numbers. This upward spiral enabled F1 to grow from a minority activity appealing only to a fringe element to a global sport spoken of in the same breaths as the Olympics and reaching more viewers over four-year blocks than either the Five Rings or the FIFA World Cup. All in under 30 years.

At one stage F1 was the world’s largest continuous TV sporting block; today it has fewer viewers globally than the Turkish football league. What was built over 30 years was decimated in 10 – by venture capitalists bent on short-term return on investment. Sustainability? Let the next owner worry about that.

Start, Magny-Cours, 2001
F1 began to leave free-to-air in the noughties
Thus they told their frontman Bernie Ecclestone to chase pay-TV deals – and the more, the sooner, the better. Before CVC Capital Partners acquired F1’s rights, pay-TV deals were few and far between and struck only where no viable alternatives existed.

For example in South Africa – the first country to go down this route, back in 2001 – the only possible broadcasters were either state-owned or the pay-channel Supersport. When SABC switched its sports budgets to (mainly) football, F1 had no choice but to go with the latter but Bernie hedged his bets by insisting on midnight highlight packages on SABC. Still, SA’s ratings plummeted by around 50 per cent.

The constant argument in favour of pay deals was the promise of increased revenues earned by the commercial rights holder, and paid to teams as ‘Bernie Money’. But in their collective clamours for a few dollars more from their tsar, team bosses overlooked one crucial factor: pay deals, by definition, deliver fewer eyeballs, in turn making F1 markedly less attractive to sponsors, car companies and consumer brands.

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The first to latch onto this were the car manufacturers, who had entered F1 en mass to build their brand images by competing on F1’s global stage. Before CVC bought into F1, the number of car brands numbered seven; within five years only Mercedes and Ferrari remained, with Renault staying remaining as engine supplier. F1 needed to justify this exodus, so put about the word that the economic crisis and/or lack of success forced their exits.

Christian Klien, Jaguar, Shanghai, 2004
Jaguar used to be in F1…
There is an element of truth to either reason, yet they did not cease advertising or other sport/cultural sponsorship activities – only F1. Clearly, then, F1 no longer delivered cost-effectiveness – little wonder given that eyeballs kept reducing by the season. Commercial sponsors in turn reduced their F1 spends, placing greater strains on manufacturer budgets. Ultimately F1 simply became unattractive, global crisis or not.

In place of the car companies came billionaires keen to own the next big thing: Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz bought Jaguar Racing off Ford, Vijay Mallya acquired Spyker (nee Jordan/Midland) from the boutique car maker, and Genii Capital cut a deal with Renault before being sold back after staring administration in the face.

Next, riding on the back of budget cap promises, came four entrepreneurs hoping to build teams by attracting sponsorship. Within as many years this quartet was buried, having found it impossible to raise sufficient funds due to the state of the sport, and being unable to survive on ‘Bernie money’ alone. Without exception, they took on pay drivers until even their contributions proved insufficient.

Their demises should have pealed warning bells, but the trend towards subscription-based TV continued. Aside from the British Grand Prix, live free-to-air F1 broadcasts will end in Britain, another F1 heartland, in five races’ time. Ecclestone cut a Sky-only deal for Britain from 2019 onwards, which will include delayed broadcast highlights packages on FTA broadcaster Channel 4, but remember the South African lesson?

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Jaguar, 2018
…now they’re in Formula E
Has Liberty learnt from all this? Consider comments made by Greg Maffei, Liberty Media president – and thus Carey’s boss – at a broadcast conference two weeks after the deal with CVC was inked: “I think there’s an opportunity to grow that broadcast stream, much of it free-to-air, to competitive pay services.”

“That’s for example what happened in the UK when [Sky] recently bought the rights,” adding his belief that F1 could increase sponsor revenues: “I think there’s opportunity to grow, invest in the sponsorship organisation.” Really? How?

Tellingly, since Maffei’s talk F1 has lost both corporate and team sponsors, continuing a trend that started a decade ago, as even the most cursory comparison of car liveries and driver overalls during that period attests. Clearly, then, F1 is becoming increasingly cost-ineffective as the move towards pay-TV accelerates. Yet the Sky Italia deal went ahead.

As an indicator of the ravaging effects of pay-TV, consider the following FTA/Pay-TV comparisons in Great Britain and German-speaking territories:

Data supplied by The F1 Broadcasting Blog.

Otmar Szafnauer, Simon Lazenby, Paul di Resta, 2018
Sky’s UK F1 viewing figures show little improvement
The delta between the two broadcast models is stark; now consider the effects of pay-only broadcasts on sponsors, and, by extension, teams. In short, their ability to attract sponsors has been severely reduced, making them increasingly reliant upon FOM income – a complete reversal from the pre-CVC, pre-pay-TV period, when even tail-enders managed to survive on commercial sponsorship thanks to over a billion eyeballs.

Commercial sponsorship enabled Frank Williams to enter F1 and build his multi-title-winning team, enabled Eddie Jordan to covert his junior league outfit into grand prix winners, Peter Sauber to switch from sports cars to F1, and Jackie Stewart to start a team from scratch. It enabled them to largely employ the best available drivers – without resorting to pay pedallers – off the back of global TV viewerships.

So, Messrs Maffei and Carey, here’s the deal: Cancel all pay-TV contracts and chase eyeballs, whether via TV footprint or digital media. Offer free race broadcasts across the globe, with value-added services being the end-game. Sure, broadcast income initially will reduce, but managed correctly teams/corporate sponsorship will increase in proportion to offset any losses. Eventually.

Crucially, global interest will increase, converting casual fans to hardcore followers willing to subscribe to bells and whistle OTT services, and buy into gaming and augmented reality products. In time they will drag their mates (and kids) along, and so on. Check how most fans, the ones you claim to have interviewed got hooked on F1; I bet it was via FTA.

Bernie Ecclestone, A1-Ring, 2018
Ecclestone built F1 on free-to-air TV deals
As F1 regains popularity, so race attendances will increase, delivering more profitable events for more promoters, further feeding this momentum and returning F1 to its rightful place at the top of the sporting pile. Teams will regain profitability, thus being increasingly less reliant upon pay drivers. Rather than staring at the scrap heap, Esteban Ocon would have five teams chasing his services. The losers in the auction also need drivers.

Top F2 teams could enter F1 off the back of their successes, having “grown” sponsors along the way, and the manufacturer brigade could no longer ignore F1 as a truly global marketing platform. Of course they won’t all partake, but two would be a step in the right direction. Add another two independents, and grids are oversubscribed, as they once were. Ask the F1 lifers about pre-qualifying and 43-car entry lists…

All this will, of course, take time and effort, but managed correctly will take less than the decade it took CVC to destroy a model built up over 30-odd years. That F1 survived despite CVC’s best efforts bears testimony to its resilience and appeal – and these attributes provide the first (re)building blocks. Forget not that where CVC was in F1 for a quick buck, you’re (allegedly) in for the long haul.

This proposal, of course, bucks the trend. But right now bucks of a different sort aren’t rolling in, as the numbers prove. Indeed, payments to teams decreased, and again – which points to a worrying, one mirrored in the latest TV ratings.

Ecclestone realised 40 years ago that F1’s future depended upon free-to-air TV. Indeed, way back then he handed out F1’s rights for free, and played the long game. Once the world was hooked, he and the teams coined it and built the business Liberty Media paid eight billion for. Forty years on they have a chance of (re) making history. To do it, they must go back to the future.

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 96 comments on “It’s time for Formula 1 to smash its TV paywall”

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      3rd October 2018, 12:23

      F1 left free to air in the naughties did it? :D Guessing it is a mistake. Looks a bit odd though!

      1. It started doing so then, but some markets haven’t fully converted – yet.

    2. I agree. How are new fans going to discover F1 if it’s not accessible to them? I know some people who follow F1, or are at least aware of certain drivers and team etc. simply due to stumbling over it whilst scrolling through sports channels. The reason I started following F1 12 years ago was because it was available to watch for free on television, and I hence started watching the races. If you have to pay exclusively for F1, or at least channels that show F1, that isn’t going to happen anymore. One alternative solution might be to embrace YouTube even further. I’m certain that plenty of new F1 fans discovered the sport on YouTube, and that is with limited content. If they started posting full races from years gone by, that might increase the following. Moreover, upload race highlights that are at least 10 mins long, as the 5-6 minute highlights can sometimes be confusing if you missed the race. Lastly, do more videos with the drivers. I personally love the “Grill the Grid” series, and they should do more of that. Get drivers from different teams to do interviews together, as we never see drivers interact with each other, especially if they’re not in the same team.

      1. I agree. How are new fans going to discover F1 if it’s not accessible to them?

        exactly @mashiat

      2. @mashiat There is no doubt that Youtube is extremely important for creating extra flesh on the bone, particularly mid-week with content such as you mention ‘Grill the Grid’ etc.
        I also agree that 15 minute highlights in HD are great for the general Youtube audience, as the actual physical action can be compressed – no need to be concerned too much with the technical aspects of the racing.
        The slight problem is … that format breeds a following of that format.
        Fine enough – 15 minutes of eyeballs, plus additional content pushed through via ‘the next vid playlist’, but the full experience demands thoughtful engagement with all the technical and strategic aspects of F1.
        Here, assuming that you’ve missed qualy, the race build up is key to catching up on what has been happening, and how the race might be affected (though, how could you miss qualy)?

        Clearly, full engagement delivers at least 5 hours of viewing time.
        That comes from growing up watching the sport, typically in a family environment, and in most cases, that would be free to air TV.

        Once FTA TV is gone, F1 will quickly drift out of the public mind.
        This will further reduce sponsorship interest, meaning less money coming into the sport.
        It’s a downward spiral, that offers no way out.

        Youtube can offer additional engagement, but if the younger generation isn’t allowed to become primarily engaged, then F1 is a generation away from becoming irrelevant – the F1 champion being a name that you might hear mentioned after the last race of the season … and if so … would you care less?

        @dieterrencken BTW Dieter, I found your article to be very readable, allowing sufficient space to transfer your thinking.

    3. An interesting read, but I’ll admit to struggling to deal with your writing style. It felt like a ramble.

      1. Sometimes I feel the same. It probably has to do with English not being my native language. Sometimes I struggle to understand certain paragraphs.

        1. YellowSubmarine
          3rd October 2018, 20:51

          Probably has as much to do with Dieter’s South African English constructions as well. Some of the phrases he uses are not very common, and are symptomatic of “Empire English”, the flavour of English popular in the middle and upper classes in the late 19th century to the early 20th century – and which was then passed on, as a second language, to people born and educated in British colonies around the world. British English then evolved and moved on, but the colonies all got independent and their English remained “where the British left it”, as English still remained largely a second language (from Dieter’s sentence construction, for example – the long sentences, the use of extensive clauses, the use obscure words and phrases, etc – one can tell that his mother tongue is either Dutch/Afrikaans or German).
          English was my third language, and today I cannot get over the (very common) grammatical mistakes and poor vocabulary command of the British people that I interact with. It’s not my language, but it’s shocking to read British newspapers – the command of the language among journalists is casual at best, and only occasionally does one run into someone with a decent grasp of traditional English (Boris Johnson is one such: his turn of phrase and his vocabulary and grammatical reserves are seemingly boundless). This applies to many ordinary people as well, and when someone that learnt English as a second or third language – as, in most likelihood, Dieter did – writes an article that draws on the length and breadth of the English language and its rich repository of words, grammatical constructions and phrases, then to someone else brought up speaking one of the UK’s many varieties of English – some more complete than others, but most seemingly limited in vocabulary to a base list of 1,000 or so commonly-used words – the article could seem like a ‘ramble’.

          I’m sure this comment reads like a ramble too.

    4. Mmm yes pay TV is obviously a major part of the problem, compounded by the lack of excitement and perceived expense. I absolutely agree that free to air (with ads) is the way to go. But Liberty have already said that they are committed to a “mix” comprising of pay and free to air, with the majority of races on pay. Also Carey is a Murdoch man, he will tow the corporate line on pay walls.

      1. Hadn’t realised that Carey had ties to Murdoch… that probably explains the Sky Italia deal in itself.

        1. Gavin Campbell
          3rd October 2018, 13:55

          Errr no he’s not – Liberty own British Sky’s main rival Virgin Media. They are not in bed together – in fact they are rivals.

          1. Carey used to work for 21st Century Fox my apologies. But Libertys commitment to a mix of pay and free to air are correct.

    5. This sounds about right, nothing less was expected from Dieter. But looking outside F1, TV global viewership is decreasing and showing no signs of reversing the trend. Although content is in more supply and objectively of more quality, viewers are transitioning to (paid) streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu and others. With regards to the World Cup and the Olympic Games, two comparable events to F1, not all 2018 matches were broadcasted FTA, at least in my country. I was living jn Brazil during the Olympics and if not mistaken I also needed a pay-tv service to watch all events although many events were also on FTA. Surely FTA F1 coverage woul increase viewership in the short term, but that doesn’t seem to be where the future viewers are going to be. FOM in the last year has increased their content in several social networks and e.g. the Youtube has increased in subscriptions. Still there is much to do there. It’s not difficult to find unofficial content on these platforms with the drivers’ interviews after quali and the race or the pressers. Why not offer this online and free for all? It shouldn’t be difficult to come to an agreement with Sky UK, Sky Italia, ZiggoSport, CMore, Movistar, etc. so that we had the interviews and the post-analysis discussions avalailable for everyone. Sky UK already offers Ted’s Network, a few of their feature interviews, the Welcome to the Weekend show. Make this content available from all broacasters online without the bs geo-blocks. Do it the F1TV platform if you will. But make it free and unrestricted to anyone that wants to watch it regardless their location.

    6. Johan Tolemans
      3rd October 2018, 13:11

      Years ago, a local media company launched a highbrow exclusive tv channel for people that normally are not inclined to watch TV. It failed.
      Because TV needs to aim towards people that do watch TV and must be inclusive. A channel for people that do not watch has no viewers.

      That story reminds me of Formula E. Wether it is for the subgroup of geeks of electric propulsion or for people that are not interested in anything un-green (racing in circles is pure waste even if it is electrically powered) it is destined to play to a minority.

      To draw viewers F1 only needs to be (1) inclusive rather than exclusive (2) raw, sexy, explosive, hightech F1 with zero handbags. It really is that simple.

    7. One thing that came to my mind while reading this was that is f1 alone in this? My impression is that all big sports have to moved to pay channels. Ice hockey, football, basketball, tennis and the sports that rely completely on pay to view: boxing and other combat sports. So the question in my mind is was f1 chasing the pay per view deals or did the marketplace change?

      During the early 2000s at least in europe lots of TV channels went digital. This meant that to get pay per view channels you did not need a special device anymore (cable is not even nearly as popular in eu compared to usa). No more special satellite boxes or equipment. You had a box connected to tv and you could buy subscriptions to different channels and by late 2000s the analog transmissions had pretty much ended in most of europe. Almost all of those people now had a digital device that could be used to watch pay to view television channel packages.

      To me this sounds more like a pressure from these tv channels to try to negotiate deals with f1 (for pay to view exclusive deals) than f1 trying to push these channels towards pay to view deals. After all these channels now had pay tv packages for sale. Something that did not exist some years earlier at all. And they needed content for those packages and sports is the most obvious one. Exclusive licenses are more expensive but if you are the only tv channel selling f1 in your area the people need to get your service to see f1. This meant that for f1 these pay channel exclusive deals were simply more valuable.

      My point is that to me it looks like the move to pay to view was mostly triggered by the new technologies and a change in the marketplace. And all sports jumped in when that change happened. I remember reading somewhere that sports is the best thing for any paid viewing packages. Sports is what gets people to buy these packages. From that point of view it doesn’t surprise me that f1 went behind paywall just like all the rest did.

      1. Maybe a huge difference is the fact that “everybody” plays football / hockey and can play basketball, tennis, go cycling (cricket as well, where applicable) etc themselves with hardly any effort to do so @hahostolze. This then creates interest for the “pros” automatically.
        And even then these sports also struggle with how they sealed themselves off from many viewers by pay tv deals.

        1. sorry @hahostolze, that was wrongly adressed. It should have had @socksolid instead!

      2. @socksolid, yes, there are those who have argued that rise of streaming services from outfits like Amazon or Netflix are taking customers who would previously have subscribed to those broadcasters for things that they couldn’t get elsewhere, such as multi-part drama series.

        That has driven a lot of those subscription services to target live sport series because they know that the internet companies aren’t active in that market yet, and they can use that to promote their series – in the UK, for example, BT deliberately sought out the MotoGP licence to help spearhead their move into sports broadcasts and to help lure viewers to them.

        However, even now it looks like those internet streaming services are looking to muscle in on that market – Amazon, for example, has been securing contracts for series such as the US Tennis Open, and has begun making moves towards the Premier League in the UK by securing a limited number of matches exclusive to their service (currently 20 a year).

        In that environment, if it is not the likes of outfits like Sky that secure F1, it seems only a matter of time before a major internet broadcasters starts muscling in – in fact, there had been some talk a little while back suggesting Amazon had been weighing up possibly bidding for F1 broadcasting rights given it would be a major headline series for them to broadcast.

      3. @socksolid One of the things that changed is the cost producing live sports went up partly because of new technology/equipment & partly because of what became the expected norm of a live sports broadcast.

        If you go back to when the BBC held F1 rights up until the end of 1996, They were producing coverage from a UK based studio, Sometimes they would have a modest crew on site but sometimes even the commentary would be produced from a UK studio. There was initially no pre/post race coverage & even in 1996 there wasn’t anything too deep, A simple lead-in & maybe the post race press conference.

        ITV & there larger budget was able to produce pre/post session coverage at the track, They were able to have 2 pit reporters & an on-site crew maybe 3-4x larger than what the BBC ever had. This obviously increased the cost of production & by 2008 in the face of cutbacks ITV opted to pull out of there F1TV deal early to focus there budgets elsewhere.

        I’ve told this story before but i’ll mention it again, When the BBC got the rights back for 2009 they brought the contract & set a budget & at some point after as they were starting to talk to some of the ITV crew regarding bringing them over asked how much ITV had been spending & upon receiving the answer realized they had bit off way more than they could chew which is a part of what led to the BBC doing the deal with Sky. They expected it to be costly but massively underestimated the cost of shipping crew/equipment to every race to produce the coverage they were from 2009-2011. They had actually overspent on there budget by just past the half way point of 2009 which is why you started to see less of the features they had done earlier that year.

        It’s the same across most sports which is why most have gone to PayTV, The PayTV broadcasters are the only one’s that can afford to produce the level & depth of coverage that is expected of sports broadcast’s now. Look at how much more live coverage Sky are producing, How many extra feeds there putting out across multiple platforms & how they have invested to be able to bring 4K coverage (And helped FOM buy the equipment to produce a 4K world-feed) as well as the 3D testing coverage a few years ago.

    8. When more viewers tune in at 11:40pm to watch Canadian Grand Prix highlights than pay to watch it live on Sky, there’s something wrong with the business model.

      1. Comment of the year right here!! Could not agree more!

    9. Another quality article! I hope that those in control consider your arguements.

    10. I’ll leave my testimony as a proving example of what was written in this article.
      I’m from Portugal. I began loving F1 as a kid watching on FTA TV. Then pay-TV took over and I completely stopped watching and following, there was no way I would get my parents to pay for that. In 2016 I realized I could watch F1 on a German FTA channel that is included in my TV package. (Fortunately, I speak German). Since then, I’ve become as hooked as ever, and this was increased a lot also by F1’s massive online content improvement since Liberty Media took over.

    11. I don’t get it. What is the issue here? Thousands of sites stream F1 live for free.

      1. I think your post is made tongue in cheek but I think you are also making a point. For majority of people those unofficial streams are the only way to watch f1 as f1 gets bundled into expensive channel packages or is not available at all (or need to watch on tv, can’t watch on tablet/computer/phone). Eu also made (and suppressed) a study some years ago about the effects of piracy on music, books, movies and games. So no sports was mentioned but I’d imagine live sports evens are pretty similar to those when it comes to the way people consume them.

        It could very well be that without piracy f1 viewing numbers would be a lot lower. At least with those streams hardcore fans can still access the content and stay interested and generate some buzz online. Piracy in all forms is after all nothing more than a distribution problem. If you make it difficult to access content legally then people use illegal means to access it simply because people choose the better service. And f1 has a distribution problem. And they know it. It is no wonder f1 had to move quickly to get the streaming service online.

    12. Once again a good read.

      Given that the viewership trend was well known before the purchase by Liberty (as were most of the other issues) I’m still wondering how CVC managed to price F1 and Liberty actually believed that it was worthwhile.

      They must have some kind of plan but at this stage there appears to be very little of substance. I have genuine fears that they are about to preside over the death of F1 as we know it.

    13. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      3rd October 2018, 13:45

      As I was reading this article, I realized what an important role Red Bull and Dietrich Mateschitz have played and continue to play in F1. Dietrich Mateschitz has been the most important man in Formula of the past decade – period. Without them, there would be only 8 teams which would be nearly ridiculous as nearly every racer would be in the points. They even have their own track and race.

      That leads to the 2nd most important thing that wasn’t even discussed in the article – next year, Red Bull will be racing Honda engines. Those engines need to be capable of podiums and wins and I’m not sure they will be. But they MUST be for the sake of the sport – it’s not an optional thing for F1 because F1 stands to lose more than Red Bull who can shift its attention to another sport if they need to.

      I’m also a bit concerned about Renault’s showing last weekend – they have doubled down on Ricciardo for the future but they need better pace in their car and the McLaren.

      No wonder car manufacturers don’t want to enter F1 – Honda’s struggles which incidentally supplies Indycar will serve as a reminder to every car manufacturer that F1 racing should be avoided at all costs.

      As a sidenote, I’m very worried about F1 coverage in the US. For some reason, I have found this season to be less engaging and I’m not sure if it’s Sky Sports, the Halo or a combination of both. I have a feeling of detachment that I haven’t had before and it’s obvious in the fact that I’m the only member of the family watching the races this year. If we didn’t have Hamilton to deliver some sizzling performances or Verstappen to entertain us, we could skip from Lap 1 to the last lap and we’d probably not have missed that much.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        3rd October 2018, 13:51

        Actually, I need to make a correction – Dieter’s article does mention the Honda engines but doesn’t emphasize the fact they will be supplying engines to Red Bull next season which is a game changer for F1. If the collaboration goes south (or stays close to its current performance), it could take F1 down with it.

    14. It is easy to see how people were drawn away from F1 by the switch to pay TV. Back in the day when F1 came up in conversation, randomly people whom I wouldn’t expect to know about F1, would talk about recent developments. Few years after F1 disappeared from free-to-air TV here in Czech Rep., the number of people who react when F1 comes up in conversation hasn’t changed much, but all I hear is “oh, I stopped watching when (…), I don’t even know who’s racing now”. The only people remaining who still follow F1 here are hardcore fans, and even some of those have stopped watching now.

    15. I’m not sure being pay to view is such a bad thing, just make a compelling product and make it readily available.

      When I’m away from home, I can stream BT Sport on my phone and cast it to a Chromecast. It works great. I can do the same with Netflix for TV series and YouTube for live/subscribed content. I pay £150ish a year for NFL GamePass and it’s great.

      Unfortunately, Amazon have done their own thing. Sky too, even with their “modern” Sky Q service. So any content on those platforms is difficult to just consume however I like. It’s even difficult to digitally consume FTA channels on any device.

      Maybe the future will arrive sooner than we can hope. I’d just like to be able to pay someone for an entire season/series/etc of access to something and be able to watch it how I want.

      I guess my point is, TV is a broken and legacy concept. Hopefully Liberty realise that and aren’t focused on viewer numbers, but more viewer reach. The latter can be grown through digital channels that are accessible to all and, hopefully, lead to more people becoming the former.

      1. ‘I pay £150ish a year… and it’s great.’

        You sound brain washed. How about getting all the sport for no additional cost? How would you describe it then? When the public think it’s great to pay for things that were (technically) free you know the brain washing has set in. Just like bottled water at prices that make petrol look cheap is ‘great’. The same H20 that comes out of tap in your house but with 2000% mark up to make some corporation rich. And the consuming public lap it up as a good deal.

        F1 and other sports are behind a paywall because idiots queue up to pay and then defend it.
        Sky and others don’t care if nobody watches as long as they rake it in. Boxing and cricket are dead and out of the public mind. F1 is one step behind.

        1. By that logic you might as well demand everything in the world be free too.

          F1 behind a paywall isn’t an anamoly, it just means it’s the same as most other sports. The sports cost a lot of money to run, so there’s nothing weird about charging for it,

    16. Never in a million years should F1 revert to free-to-air. Free-to-air channels have lots of other programs running on their schedule and they are often financed with commercials. They can’t plan their weekend schedules solely based on F1.

      In free-to-air whe’d have free GP, but with little to no coverage before/after the race, no FP sessions, possibly no live qualifying… I don’t want to go back there. I’d very gladly pay for the F1 coverage if I had to. Gladly I don’t because there are so many high quality free streaming options out there.

      1. Additional content can be upsold via apps – I make that point. Plus if the fee is low enough then the broadcasters don’t require as many commercials. Did you read the column or just the headline?

      2. In free-to-air whe’d have free GP, but with little to no coverage before/after the race, no FP sessions, possibly no live qualifying

        Strange. RTL in Germany manages to do all of that just fine. The only thing you can’t get on German free TV is FP3 live and completely, and quite frankly missing FP3 doesn’t hurt at all.

        1. @dieterrencken I read it and tried to understand it. Sorry, but I find your articles to be quite difficult to read. I’d need a dictionary and even with that in hand I’d still have trouble to understand some chapters. My English is fluent enough for me to understand pretty much everything I read on Internet without any issues, but I have lot of trouble understanding your articles. I’m not sure why.

          But yeah, I read it, and it has same faults than other pro free-to-air articles I’ve read. Comparing TV audiences alone is meaningless. Back in 2008 TV was the only way to follow the sport. Now people have all sorts of smartphones, tablets, PC’s etc. I bet if you’d compare worldwide TV audiences for say, action movies for example, the graphs would look very similar. That doesn’t mean people watch less action movies though. The majority has just changed the platform.

          F1 has just recently started to have an impact on social media. There’s still some unused potential there. I firmly believe strong presence in different social medias and pay TV are still the best way to go.

          Also, Ocon not having a seat doesn’t have anything to do with this. Ocon doesn’t have a seat because of this current trend of driver academies and B-teams. Without his Mercedes connections and without other teams being connected to other manufacturers there would no problem for Ocon to find a seat. Didn’t Tost just confirm that without his Mercedes history Ocon would be in contention for Toro Rosso seat?

          @klon Do you also get your races ad-free? That kind of free-to-air could benefit all parties involved, but I don’t think F1 is such a big thing elsewhere that free-to-air TV channels would care about qualifying, FPs or showing race without ad breaks.

          1. “My English is fluent enough for me to understand pretty much everything I read on Internet without any issues, but I have lot of trouble understanding your articles. I’m not sure why.”

            Perhaps because all your other sites are aimed at children – whereas RaceFans is aimed at adults…? Just a thought… ;)

            1. Hmmm…that is slightly cheap…

            2. Point taken Ales… I was just trying to respond positively (which might have failed) to what I saw as negative comment… ;)
              These days it seems people are increasingly unwilling to criticise themselves, and, therefore, accept criticism – it’s always someone else’s fault… The, ‘If-you-don’t-agree-with-me-then-you’re-wrong!’ syndrome… ;)
              It’s a sign of immaturity, and common on the internet…

            3. Agreed. Just not being native English speaker myself, I know it is not always so easy to fully get texts that are relatively narrowly focused on a particular subject or too technical, etc…

            4. Hi Ales – nice to chat with you. I do appreciate the problem. A couple of years ago I tried following some German sites to better understand the German attitude to VET/HAM, and of course had great difficulty… but I didn’t complain to those sites that it was their fault… ;)
              On the other hand I regularly correspond with a Belgian guy whose English abilities are better than most English speakers I read… so keep persevering… If I may say so you seem already to be doing very well…

        2. joe pineapples
          3rd October 2018, 15:32

          Yep, so has Channel 4 in the U.K. Live weekends include all practice sessions, plus an hour build up before quali and the race and enough blah blah blah afterwards to satisfy anyone. Shame all that is coming to an end.

      3. Quote from your post

        “Never in a million years should F1 revert to free-to-air.
        I’d very gladly pay for the F1 coverage if I had to. Gladly I don’t because there are so many high quality free streaming options out there.”

        So are you saying that no one should get it for free unless they steal it over the net?

        1. In fairness, F1 is unashamedly a capitalist venture, and in a functioning capitalism, a consumer or customer’s only role is to get the best deal for themselves for the product they want. If a stream is available, it’s not the customers job to not watch it, it’s the corporations role to employee a team of people to keep on top of squashing the streams.

          But they want to cost cut and guilt trip you to taking all of the drawbacks of capitalism, but not reap the benefits.

    17. The push to pay TV and the push for a younger audience seem like objectives which are at odds with each other. Imagine you’re 15 years old. You come across a 60 second video of F1 on Instagram. You decide that’s pretty cool. You go to YouTube, you watch some highlights, some driver interviews. You’re really getting into it. You decide you want to watch the next race live. What can you do? If you’re in the UK of course you can use Now TV to watch one race for £7 or whatever, and you think wow that was great I want to watch all of them.

      From next year, you have to watch on Sky. You have to sign up to an 18 month contract at around £45 a month. Now you’re looking at spending over £500 a year to watch F1. How is a 15 year old kid supposed to afford this? How are they supposed to convince their parents to sign up to an £800 contract? I know I wouldn’t have been able to.

      Either make it free, significantly cheaper, or give up on chasing the younger audience. Bernie was right, teenagers can’t afford a Rolex, and the ones that can are F1 drivers.

      1. Either make it free, significantly cheaper, or give up on chasing the younger audience. Bernie was right, teenagers can’t afford a Rolex, and the ones that can are F1 drivers.

        Bernie is always right.

        He sold the Americans a lemon.

        They thought it was as easy as creating a youtube channel and uploading some content.

        1. Johan Tolemans
          3rd October 2018, 14:46

          Correct. Also any marketeer can tell you no longer “chasing the younger audience” is commercial suicide. Always.

      2. Before this current season began, a 9 month “Season Pass” subscription to Now TV was £150. That also got you all the Sky Sports channels for the duration of the F1 season (so all the football, tennis, etc … oh and golf for Dieter).

        I would expect they do something similar next season if it was successful.

      3. I agree. I don’t think moving to pay TV is necessarily an issue but it deinfiret goes against going after the younger demographics.

    18. The people I know who aren’t motorsport hardcores, would still watch F1 on sunday mornings back when it wasn’t covered behind a pay wall. A lot of people stopped watching in the Schumacher years, though, but they still had a choice if they wanted to see selected races, like Monaco or whatever. But now it’s impossible. No one I know watches F1 anymore. And I used to be able to talk to some people about the race… now they ask me how it went. F1 isn’t even on newspapers lately.

      I’ve paid for F1 TV before moving to Spain and I enjoyed it, although it wasn’t as promised and I couldn’t follow the whole weekend of racing, only F1. But it was a move in the right direction… sad here in Spain it works like Sky in the UK: the deal with the broadcasters forbid any sort of legal streaming service.

      It spirals, as you say. Fewer people watch, less income, worse spectacle, and even less people watch. I’ve disliked F1 since 2013, generally speaking, I guess I only watch these days because it’s inherent in me and I cannot overlook it. I keep coming back because it’s my passion, but if I’m really honest with myself, 90% of the time I feel disappointed with it. There’s too much going on, it feels fake somehow, Crofty and Brundle can shout how interesting tyre wear is but it’s just not pretty anymore.

      And if it’s so difficult to have access, one day I’ll wake up and think: “why do I bother with all this?” and watch old seasons of the The Simpsons instead.

    19. I’m the lack of FTA plays a significant part, but so does the hybrid era.

      Since 2014 F1 has largely been uncompetitive with one team taking something like 80% of all races.

      Just think how bad ratings would be in England if Hammy wasn’t being gifted all of these wins in the all-conquering Mercedes?

      1. Same old, same old………….

      2. You do realise how diverse the UK is in who it supports – I believe Raikkonen is the most popular driver by some margin, and that will only go up when he goes to sauber, because British people quite famously (at least from where I’m from) love the underdog more than the winners. Hence why Manchester United is far more popular where I live than in the UK

    20. There’d be at least another half a million out there going unaccounted for on the various pirate sites and programs. That’s just from my own anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen with my own eyes. Not even counting languages other than English.

      It’s sad that F1 can only report these numbers to sponsors, when nobody truly knows how many people are watching because we have to jump through illegal hoops with a different host each week just to watch the damn thing. It’s ridiculous that they’re developing this OOT service, but can’t implement it in the major countries because of these dated contracts.

      2021 can’t come soon enough.

    21. This is too much sense. The sport’s audience will die next year in the UK. the same thing happened in cricket and people are wondering where all the kids are now. it’s a damn shame. I struggle to watch that much because of the stupid sharing system that C4 and sky have – next year I will not be able to watch the sport live. I can stream it, sure, but it’s always a bit rubbish and it’s not legal. highlights are ok, but often on late or at a funny time.

      One thing, rather unrelated, that jumped out – why is there comparatively so little coverage of F2? I’d rather watch them race than free practice. the cameras are there at the race, so why not? i’d watch any of the support races if they were on. if C4 had retained the rights they could easily have shoved that on one of their many channels instead of the hollyoaks omnibus or whatever other vital programme is on now.

      1. I remember F2 and other support races being promised during the build up for the F1TV product. Also wondering where they are.

        1. Every F2 race is live on Sky F1. It has been great watching Markelov’s charges through the field!

    22. Bernie standing next to Putin, a dictatorship or two on the calendar, polluting engines….. sponsors anyone?

    23. There is far more to this than just pointing the finger at pay TV, suggesting that FTA is the answer is incorrect as well.
      Channel 4’s ratings are down by 40% compared to what the BBC achieved, so with both of these being FTA, what’s the explanation for C4 losing over a million viewers? Then there is the question of whether FTA broadcasters in the UK actually want F1, and the decrease in revenue will result in less prize money for the teams.
      More eyeballs does not automatically mean more sponsorship, I would suggest that McLarens struggles for sponsorship are more to do with the way the team and Alonso have behaved during their Honda relationship.
      FE has manufacturers involved for two reasons, it’s comparatively dirt cheap and they need to be seen to be involved for PR reasons.
      F1 has created its own problems, bland tracks with tarmac run offs, spending is prohibitive to new teams and that is being enforced by the likes of Mercedes. Teams have too much say in the way the sport is run, Liberty Media are dumbing down the world feed to unbelievable levels and making changes just for the sake of change and not adding value.

      Sky’s viewing figures do not include streaming so it’s not an accurate comparison. Personally I don’t think that Liberty have much interest in FTA, I don’t think they ever have. They want the revenues that pay TV brings, especially from their OTT service, I think they are banking on the future regulation changes improving the racing to the point that subscribers will increase markedly.

      1. Yea I agree with this.

    24. Oh my! I’m under 40 and now I’m an F1 lifer. I remember pre qualification. sponsorship can go either way. I can’t afford to drive a car. If I were to buy one a Ferrari would be way out of my range, mercedes is a deeply, deeply boring brand, let’s not get sued for libel by talking about Renault’s. I do appreciate a nice honda though. However put me in a newsagents on a hot thirsty sunny day and I will buy the biggest can of red bull available. I walk straight to it and ignore everything else. Marlboro sponsorsip of McLaren was why they were my first cigarettes. I hate highlights. On hair and in sports. I have to listen on the radio to alot of races as they are not all live in the UK which means the only way I can be advertised at during these races is if I come to an internet site like this and look at the cars. It looks like Silverstone will be the only full on f1 advertising experience for me next year being the only free to air race. It makes me sad I can’t afford to subscribe to watch it live as one of my first memories was watching monocoque on TV with my mum and dad. We were all so excited.

      1. Modern phones argh. Please insert monoco instead of monocoque.

        1. joe pineapples
          3rd October 2018, 15:39

          Or even ‘Monaco’ :)

          1. FFS don’t give them a choice of which to add lol please insert Monaco. Thanks for pointing out my spelling error Mr pineapples.

          2. I also spelt sponsorship wrong. I’m surprised you didn’t mention that too

            1. Also my grammar, usage of paragraphs and writing style is all over the place.

            2. Apart from that, DarkStar, it was a good read… lol…

    25. Thank you for writing this article, it’s exactly what should happen. Of course it won’t because we’re talking about short-termist parasites who want every sport they infest to become a “luxury brand” for the global middle class.

      F1 isn’t the only sport suffering competitive decay due to this.

    26. I disagree with the article because it seems to conveniently forgot two important aspect: 1. the need of the owner (Liberty) and 2. how the TV (and world economy) landscape has changed since back then.

      First, about the need of the owner aka Liberty. They’re business entity that want to make money, that much is clear. Dieter proposal, while sounds good especially to people who don’t contribute (giving money to Liberty directly or semi-directly), simply doesn’t help their situation. Especially with the $8bn purchase including debts. Read again his proposal (emphasis mine):

      Cancel all pay-TV contracts and chase eyeballs, whether via TV footprint or digital media. Offer free race broadcasts across the globe, with value-added services being the end-game. Sure, broadcast income initially will reduce, but managed correctly teams/corporate sponsorship will increase in proportion to offset any losses. Eventually.

      Eventually? What kind of proposal is that? I challenge anyone to try selling a proposal that promised non-specified amount of ROI and in time frame of eventually. Only special kind of salesman like BE that maybe have the ability to do that. The proposal basically just said please have less income — I don’t care if you bleeding money — so we can enjoy free stuff. In return we going to wish you well and certainly our good will will net you a profit someday. When and how much? I don’t know, but god works in mysterious way, isn’t he?

      Why I must defend Liberty need here? Simply because I want top notch F1, not just some side program that may be cancelled suddenly, after spending its last years in sorry state because the lack of fund and disinterest from the share holders to invest.

      Second, current situation is totally different from 40 year ago, the amount of year the article told us to go “back to the future” in its conclusion. Back then — and this is a very important thing — TV is the primary media and sport is a big source of entertainment. Today, internet is the primary media and nothing can claim to be major source of entertainment. Back then, every house probably only have 1 TV or 1 good TV. If the parent choose to watch F1, there’s almost nothing their children can do except joining to watch. Nowadays, every household has multiple TV or displays in their house. A parent that watch F1 in the living room can have their children playing smartphone, browsing internet, or just watching something else in their own room. Going free TV also doesn’t really help much. Sure old people might still do channel surfing and it might catch their attention, but even gen X and gen Y kids (who in their 30-40s now) rarely watch TV anymore. And that’s the core of the problem: it’s simply less people watching TV now. Another issue is younger people has less interest in sport and automotive. No longer every boys room have at least a sport star and a supercar poster.

      Considering the above, my suggestion is:

      1. Keep taking the most profitable TV deal they got. PayTV or free TV doesn’t really matter at this point. It only serve the old generation fans. TV is dying, I’d expect the deal value will only diminishing in the future and no one can prevent it. Might as well reap the most benefit they can. In other and, I think SkyF1 is still one of the best deal they can have. A channel that willing to pour money to have crew in each race with complete coverage and a lot of extra show. I don’t care if some of you hate the pundits, but they still better than 90% of “experts / commentators” that local TV invite.

      2. In other hand, having free access to F1 for more casual fans is also important, for the purpose of retaining / capturing new potential serious fans. The internet looks like the future so far. So increase F1 presence in internet. In this regard I think Liberty actually has done many things right. More social media presence and quality videos in YouTube. What they need now is complete coverage in “free” including FP, quali and race. I think having a delayed YouTube and popular streaming service (e.g Netflix) is a good idea. FP and quali can be uploaded in full after 6 or 12 hours. The race can be postponed a bit longer. Maybe 5-6 days so people who want to watch for free can still do that, but not live. The intent is of course making casual fans that hooked enough to convert to paid access for live race.

      3. Keep refining F1 TV. This is simply the future. F1 TV is important simply because it potentially the biggest money maker for Liberty by cutting the middle man while at the same time it also cheaper for the fans.

      So that’s my take: maximize TV profit while they still can, grant delayed but free full race access on internet and make F1 TV the endgame.

      1. You appear to live in a totally different world to me – – – and for that I am grateful.

        1. @nullapax Everyone can have their opinion and I don’t need you to agree to mine. However, I do want to listen on what solution do you have in mind and how it might satisfy the need of Liberty, teams, and fans?

      2. I think your suggestion is spot on. The answer is a combination of the two. You simply cannot serve the hardcore fans who want the sport, and the mainstream folks that advertisers want, with a single solution.

        At the same time, I feel that advertising is empty money. I think the whole industry is severely over-valued. But that’s not really a Formula One problem.

        1. I feel that advertising is empty money. I think the whole industry is severely over-valued. But that’s not really a Formula One problem.

          @knewman You also spot on that statement. Advertising game has changed so much since back then that pouring a really big budget to a single method is illogical nowadays. No matter how good F1 do, in pure eyeball per money spent on sponsoring, it’d have much lower value. And you’re right, this is not F1 specific problem. F1 problem is of course quite complex and I already wrote a wall of text so I intentionally just focusing to the article topic.

      3. I think you’re more on to it @sonicslv than @dieterrencken
        Although you are right Dieter that the F1 media landscape is a big issue. But TV as we have known it for all these years is dying. The new and/or casual viewer needs to be caught via Internet.
        But at the base of it all is the product. Right now F1 is simply not a good product. It lacks exitement, tension and unpredictability. Long term both companies like Sky and traditional sponsors are not willing to pay for something that is not worth watching, on whatever medium…

        1. @ricod Thanks. As I’ve said to another commenter above, F1 problem is quite complex and I already wrote a wall of text so I intentionally just focusing to the article topic. There also a problem where it’s not as simple as having a title sponsor, why the blame on no manufacturers isn’t as big on F1 side as the article and many people seems to imply, and how the “fans” are actually helping killing F1. Even on the TV topic discussion I couldn’t really say much without researching more (and frankly I don’t know where and too lazy to find out) about global trend (decline?) of TV viewership, sports viewership in general, major sporting event (World Cup and Olympics), and how other sports are doing (soccer, NBA, NFL, etc). @gt-racer probably has a lot more insight about this kind of stuff.

          My biggest problem with the article really is that it feels like entitled child asking Liberty to do how they like it without thinking about them. It’s more like you should give me what I want at your expenditure instead of how do we find a win-win solution.

    27. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
      3rd October 2018, 16:29

      They shouldn’t do free tv. Quality programming behind a paywall works fine. They should lower the ticket prices, so more people will enjoy it live. There is no way I can invite a friend with me, who is somewhat curious about f1 and get him hooked. And on tv it’s actually pretty boring a lot of times for casual people.

    28. I too have no problem watching F1 on ‘pay TV’ because everything is on cable anyway, and here in the US, ESPN2 and the previous broadcaster NBCSN are part of my cable subscription, whether I want to watch F1 or not. Not sure how it is in England or Italy, or elsewhere for that matter, but is there really anybody out there who does not pay for cable TV nowadays? All I can say is what I said 100 times before, the TV broadcast should be enhanced by rotating camera shots to make it more appealing…if IndyCar and Indy Lights can do it, why not F1?!

    29. This thought process makes a lot more sense than what F1 are currently doing.

      Now they are decreasing viewership by charging fees in an overall declining TV viewership market.

      The only way to gain more viewers in such a market is with a free offering. They *can* increase viewership in a decreasing overall viewership market with a great product and free exposure.

      As they say, the first one is free. Offer the races for free and as @dieterrencken says, add more features for pay. There are so many people who have never even heard of Formula what? If exposed, they may respond in a positive way. No exposure = No reward for F1.

      Having seen F1 on TV go from a few minutes of highlights on Wide World of Sports (here in the states as a youngster) to nearly world wide free TV coverage and now to painfully constricted expensive access for the semi-wealthy or extremely dedicated fans is quite telling. F1 is restricting its own future.

    30. The free broadcast was full of commercials. I’m not interested in that.
      If you are not willing to pay for your hobby… then watch the news instead.

    31. I live in the Netherlands and here it’s not expensive at all. Sure you need to be with ziggo or get a monthly 15€ extra subscription but you get a lot more sport with that.

      And you don’t have commercial breaks during sessions.

      To me this is just the way we look tv nowadays.

      I can imagine though that it’s a different story if the subscription is kore expensive

    32. In very approximate figures, at the time Liberty bought the remainder of the F1 100 year commercial rights lease , it had a turnover of around just under $2Bn per year. It owed between $3Bn and $5Bn in loans that Bernie had taken out and distributed as dividends and bonuses. 60% of the annual take was paid back to the teams in the three column system.
      How anyone could pay any more than $1 for it amazed me as it stands no chance of making a profit for Liberty for may years to come. Liberty’s day today running costs for F1 must be in the order of hundreds of what Bernie spent (which was basically nothing) Liberty are actually spending money on marketing! Not always what we in the UK appreciate but with good if misdirected intent.
      That F1 in “Bernie’s Pay world” was unsustainable was obvious for many years, he had no solution for the sport and he knew just what would happen. The loss of sponsorship drove the teams to be more dependant upon FOM money and thus more controllable.
      I have been writing about this in blogs for about six years or more expecting a disaster, but instead Bernie used his exit plan.
      Liberty have not learned from Bernie how to handle the teams, (everyone had a different contract ending at a different time and dependant upon many other interlocking conditions, bonuses etc) . Instead Liberty face a more or less complete new deal for all the teams at once. We shall see, as the proposed rule changes often appear to be meddling with “what ‘aint broke”.

      There is no way F1 can go all electric, however there is tremendous scope for electrical assistance which is currently not allowed. Go back and look at Max’s proposed regs for cost capped teams for a few of them but there are many more. Obviously electric 4 wheel drive and cornering assist, braking, ABS etc would enable more use and more power regen from braking (As per Audi system)
      Live front flaps for cornering and braking, (this was done before but only for trimming,no one exploited it fully)

      The comparison between F1 and FE is ridiculous, I have forced myself to watch a few FE races, they all remind me of a gokart race in a warehouse, they all look exactly the same. High walls, the venue has no impact upon the perception of the race. They even managed to make Monaco look boring. Next year they go the full distance on one bigger battery but until the venues are changed and the rules loosened to allow development it is just slot racing.

      The only immediate saving grace for the UK is Channel 4 has the highlights package for next year, admittedly shorter and later than now and with an unknown presentation (Ch4 has been excellent, sky not so)
      The other spanner in the works could be the sale of Sky to Comcast now finally decided, how will this affect things?
      In the good old BBC/Murry Walker days, it was 11m viewers in the UK. Next year Sky will have 0.4m and Ch4 about 2m if the current presentation team is retained. If Liberty had made their digital OTT stream available in the UK at £5 per weekend they could have got some viewers back but by the time they do this it will be too late.

      1. Yes, Bernie is the best used car salesman of all time. And sold the lot lemon at the right moment for an insane markup.

        Let’s not ignore the smoking elephant on the paddock. In lock step with the migration to paywall was the banning of tobacco advertising. Soon after Chapman’s deal with a death-peddler merchant in the 1970s, all the F1 teams were hooked on tobacco money. All through the 80s into the early 2000s, tobacco companies made F1’s exorbitant spending on technology and drivers possible. Today, Ferrari still can’t kick the habit. Just hide it behind alternate marketing approaches.

        The combo of migrating to PayTV, loss of ‘sin’ product merchants and the rise of the internet, F1 is doomed to be a smaller niche. While Liberty may appear to be promoting the teams by promoting the sport, it’s in fundamental conflict with the teams’ profitability. FTA is more lucrative for sponsorship options for the teams – but FTA reduces Liberty’s broadcast income compared to PayTV. And Liberty has those big payments to make on the Bernie’s used car loan and shareholders to answer for.

    33. I didn’t have Sky when I was a kid. So if F1 had been on pay TV when I was 13/14/15, I wouldn’t have spent the last 20 years obsessively following it. Chances are I wouldn’t even have developed an interest.

      I doubt I’m alone in being able to say that.

    34. F1 has to go electric to appeal to snowflakes? Give me a break.

      1. No, it needs to go electric because petrol is going to become irrelevant to the concerns of the majority of viewers (not as quickly as Mr Agag thinks, however) and F1 markets itself on being modish, not archaic.

    35. It is such a shame that Ch 4 is only showing highlights and only Silverstone live next year, As CH4 has the best presenting team compared to SKY! the only problem has been to many adverts! Ok it is commercial FTA, but I suppose the races live without ADs is something but it gets a bit much on live races when you get 2 ad breaks 15 mins before race and another after grid formation and switches back just before lights out ! Then there is the fact that not everyone can afford SKY and older F1Fans have not got a computer and so the only way they can enjoy the racing is CH4 on FTA !!!!!

    36. I’ve been saying for a while now that the future of Sports isn’t FTA or PayTV, It’s ultimately Online OTT platforms (Such as F1TV) as the TV model we have had to this point both FTA & Pay isn’t going to be the way most people watch TV going forward.

      It’s already starting to change & it’s going to be something that happens a lot faster than people think.

      1. As more and more companies bring out online offerings the cost of subbing to them makes them prohibitive. Sure £10 a month is cheap but times that by 15+ and soon it becomes a problem. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney, WWE, HBO, CBS, etc all want their cut. Online PPV is not the future and it is unsustainable. But to short sighted folk it looks great. If this nonsense spreads the only winners will be torrent or streaming pirate sites. Greed is what is killing stuff. Everyone want a slice of the pie but is too dim to realise that the public are not millionaires who want 100s of subs just to watch something of their choosing. FTA is the only tech that is sustainable. Fight for eyeballs with quality not extortion (exclusive Paywalls).

    37. Pay TV is not always as evil as people make it out to be. Before coverage of F1 switched to Pay TV in Australia we where getting qualifying on delay and the race with adverts all through it.

      Now on Pay TV we get every practice session, qualifying and the race live as well as an hour pre & post qualifying and an hour and a half pre and post race, plus the F1 show.

      There is no way I could ever go back to free to air coverage and if F1 ever did in this country, they would probably lose quite a lot of viewers.

      1. As a fellow Aussie. I’d argue the best deal for F1 here is what Moto Gp has with Channel 10 and Fox Sports. Fox sports shows what they cover now while 10 only covers the F1 race, I reckon it would be a good deal for everyone.

    38. I hope Liberty Media understand that an article on this subject on this website is because F1 is in dire straits. Every day the top radio station in my city has a sports hour, and one of the commentators loves to watch F1, but he seldom mentions it because hardly anyone one else watches it, and the reason they don’t is F1 doesn’t want to be popular here, they basically fine people for watching their races. So people watch other sports, and those sports are what gets discussed on the radio, which in turn encourages people who don’t watch sports to watch those ones and not F1. I don’t know who thought selling the TV rights in Italy to a Pay TV company was a good idea, because there’s ample evidence it turns away fans.
      I can only conclude Liberty Media are happy with the investment they bought loosing brand recognition.

    39. Derek Edwards
      5th October 2018, 0:51

      If you want people to pay for a product you need to have a product worth paying for.

    40. I wonder how much social media is an influence on the matter? Nowadays, whenever anything exciting happens in F1, it ends up all over the social media in a matter of minutes – witness the large increase in eyeballs, especially in the UK, when Hamilton’s engine blew up in Malaysia 2016 (which potentially – and probably did – change the course of the championship).

      In a free-to-air landscape, viewers can immediately go to that channel, see the replay and consequences, and decide if they want more of this excitement in their lives from next race.

      In a pay-to-view landscape (much like the online streaming channels* or per-race Now), viewers have to think a little more. If it’s beyond mid-race, they may well decide it’s too much hassle to set up viewing even if they’re convinced the rest of the race will be brilliant – and given F1’s reputation, even a first-lap carambolage might not be enough to convince them to join in that race. But it goes into the databank and may persuade someone to start viewing it in the next few races, once the exciting moments mount up.

      In a pay-to-subscribe landscape (e.g. Sky, or the pre-season Now deal), viewers have probably forgotten about the whole thing by the time the moment comes to actually buy the product with which to view future moments on. By then, they may also have heard enough about dull races – or even not had that initial exciting moment reinforced by others – to have had second thoughts on the matter. Also, in an increasingly unstable financial world, it’s getting harder for working-class people to guarantee they can afford one subscription channel, never mind the multiple often needed to watch all programs of interest. Further, social media makes it easier to find someone who can introduce a viewer to the world of piracy. Pirated viewing figures are not collected systematically and cannot be reliably reported to teams or anyone else. As such, they provide zero direct income to F1 or the teams (contrast FTA, which has monitoring that allows viewing figures, sponsorship rates and rights income to be calculated).

      * – I think all the online streaming services do a subscription deal as well, but in this context the fact that they all have a per-view option – at least for some content – makes it easier for them than the likes of Sky.

    41. José Lopes da Silva
      30th October 2018, 22:21

      F1 was a popular sport entertainment option in Portugal in the eighties and the nineties, just like everywhere else. Even before that, as “Fittipaldi” was synonymous of a fast road driver. There was some losing of interest after 94, but when it turned to paywall in 2006 it completely vanished from mainstream.
      How can I turn my 7 year old son to watch this? Because I can watch free-to-air RTL in the cable TV options. We don’t understand a clue of what the commentators say, but it’s enough for me to explain him what is happening.
      I’m pretty sure this won’t be an option. Let’s hope we don’t all die until 2024 or when this paywall stupidity ends.

      Demand is decreasing, so you must lower the price.

      Replying to @macca, you’re talking about something different of what’s being discussed. If you’re part of the elite market for paywall, great. But Dieter Rencken is talking from the business standpoint, not from the consumer.

      I’m thankful to Krombacher beer for paying my German transmissions, even if we don’t have that beer in Portugal.

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