F1 Racing Looks To Embrace The Internet, Rather Than Fight It

from the look-who's-driving-the-pace-car dept

We’ve noticed plenty of sports leagues really fighting against the internet, and assuming it’s a “problem” or a “challenge” that needs to be stopped, rather than a great tool that needs to be embraced. A prime example of this is the way the Premier League has gone on the attack against online video, even as it refuses to offer many customers any other way to watch the matches. It looks like Formula 1 racing is taking a very different approach. Paul Rodriguez alerts us to an article about how Formula 1 is looking to really embrace the internet and avoid the mistakes that others have made in the past. At first, I was a bit nervous, because the article mentions that Formula 1 wants to “follow the example of the music industry…” in embracing the internet (it’s news to me that the music industry has actually embraced the internet), but further down in the article, it does appear that they realize what’s really happening:

“It doesn’t make sense to try to charge people for something that they will figure out how to get for free. F1 will be available on the internet and you need to be prepared for that. The challenge is not in deciding what you give away for free but in deciding what sort of value you’re going to provide on top of that — elements that people are actually willing to pay for.”

Bingo. It’s exactly what we’ve been saying about so many industries, but too many of them focus on the core content and assume it must be sold. Instead, Formula 1 seems to realize that the core content is going to be free, so you need to focus on providing additional scarce value on top of that which is worth paying for.

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Comments on “F1 Racing Looks To Embrace The Internet, Rather Than Fight It”

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Thr Anti-Mike says:

Timing and Scoring

F1 has had live timing and scoring online for years, which means you can watch the race and get pretty much the same timing display the teams get, in almost real time (about 1 second behind the TV feed).

Their website is a hot mess of too much flash and too little content, but what can I say?

The biggest issue F1 faces is the way the sell exclusive rights to events to a “national” broadcaster. In Canada, we have a weird situation. TSN (the sports network) is the rights holder for Canada. SpeedTV is the US rights holder, and is available in Canada on sat and cable. Well, when an F1 race or qualifying is on, Speed is blacked out in Canada.

So now, if F1 has granted TSN exclusive rights in Canada, would ISPs be required to black out the internet during races?

Don’t ever take F1 at face value, Bernie Ecclestone is considered by many to be one of the most greedy, most money grubbing businessmen around, and it is very doubtful that he would give away a whole bunch of money just to be nice to people. It’s not his style.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: Timing and Scoring

F1 makes much of it’s money off of TV exclusive deals. If the TV deals were no longer exclusive (because the content is now available online as well) they would be trading some pretty big dollars in license fees in return for the unknown return (and major expense) of trying to sell the programming itself online.

That is what I mean by “just to be nice”, because there is little proof that there would be enough income versus costs putting this sort of thing online, and when you factor in lost licensing revenue, it’s almost an impossible thing to work out.

F1 has worldwide coverage already, moving it’s cash cow onto the net isn’t really in it’s best interests.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Timing and Scoring

F1 has already been burned on a couple of broadcast deals, and they aren’t likely to be the ones leading the charge down any other blind alleyways. They have a multi billion dollar setup that involves television rights and advertising / promotional rights, and they are very unlikely to throw that away for something else.

I think you will see any changes come from the bottom of the sports world up, as lesser known or regional sports attempt to use the internet to get a wide audience. Those that already have a wider audience are much less likely to want to change course, especially while the current direction is making them truckloads of cash.

F1 and the British Premiere Football League are two of the best series are generating amazing amounts of cash per event worldwide. I don’t expect to see either of them rapidly shifting to unproven delivery methods.

Lincoln Braun (profile) says:

I'll believe it when I see it!

F1 has had a long history of threatening internet sites and people using F1 or Formula 1 in just about any saying. For a current example, The Grand Prix Weekly podcast was known as F1 Weekly until they sent the lawyers after them.

F1 doesn’t even have an HD television feed. For a sport that has spends so much money on technology, their coverage is just terrible.

I hope these new owners can move F1 in the right direction but they will have a tough time doing it.

dpatac (profile) says:


I like NASCAR – Their website provides up to the minute stats during a race…They also provide additional services, like the scanner which I pay for, because I can listen to the drivers and officials during a race…That is something I can only get if I am at a race or through the NASCAR website…Now I am addicted because it is such a different experience listening to the race with all the behind the scenes chatter while I am watching the race.

steve says:

Misleading summary

The summary is very misleading. The title of the article is more accurate:

“F1 urged to embrace modern media”

That is, some team owners and others affiliated with the league want F1 to go in this direction. Since the league has been a revolving door of teams/owners lately, this is likely falling on deaf ears. I wouldn’t expect this to result in a revolution – or really in any significant change – in the way F1 distributes content.

Pessimistic, but as you say, sports leagues are particularly bad at this whole internet thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Misleading summary

Pessimistic, but as you say, sports leagues are particularly bad at this whole internet thing.

They aren’t bad at the internet thing (F1 has used the internet for years to distribute timing and scoring to fans realtime), but they are also very careful with the value of their product.

F1 makes the vast majority of it’s money on selling TV rights, sponsorships, and at some races ticket sales. Tickets are relatively expensive (they are a rarity, typically about 150,000 tickets once per year in a country), and races are a rarity to broadcast (which is why they get such high TV revenues), and all those eyeballs have value too (which is why they get huge sponsorships).

Moving to internet distribution would kick at least one of the legs out from under them, taking away some of the value of their broadcast rights, which is one of their big line items. Remember, broadcast rights are high because broadcasters are in turn selling advertising targeted to their local market. A worldwide internet broadcast would not be as easy to target (and increasing tergeting would require increased sales staff, costs, etc). Local market people for TV in each country is better equipped to sell the advertising, which funds the higher broadcast rights rates, which is what F1 lives off of.

There is little reason to move online. The F1 website already features images and video reviews of past races, etc. I cannot see them moving to “live on the internet” any time soon, at least not without a seriously priced subscription model.

gravit8 says:

An actual fan chimes in...

I’m a rabid F1 fan living in the US, and I’ve got a few ideas on this topic I’ve been sharing around the web lately.

First is the fact that in the states, we’ve got one option to watch, under FOX networks’ Speed channel, except the 4 races a year FOX broadcasts on it’s primary network. Point of fact: The race is on a time delay, so all that fancy timing and scoring available through F1.com (and several other sites now) become utterly pointless. It’d be like watching a football game, except all you could see is the location of the ball on the field and not the players. Pointless.

Add to this that even on Speed, they only televise qualifying and the race, and sometimes one of the three practice sessions. Compared to the coverage BBC has in the UK, this is nonsense. BBC has several online viewing options and these cover all practices, qualifying and the race, as well as behind-the-scenes commentary and HD in-car feeds (HIGH DEF! IMAGINE THAT!).

Ok, now we posit that the American market is probably the most lucrative for many of the advertisers and sponsors of the teams, the races, and the services affiliated with F1. Aaaand we’re left scratching our head in amazement that a sport with fans willing to get up at 3am to watch a race halfway around the world can’t legally view half of the televised content available in many other markets.

…and thus they find ‘illegal’ online feeds made available by other, understanding fans in countries where the broadcasters were willing to cough up more $$$ for better coverage. Somewhere along the line, F1 is losing potential income by making it nearly impossible for fans to watch.

I’d be happy to pay a premium to get HD in car feeds…even though the IRL already provides this option, and many other online viewing options, for free (FREE?!?! HOW DARE THEY!). But no such option exists.

This has, is, and will continue to cause tension between FOM (F1managment), it’s advertisers, team sponsors, and the fans. F1 ditched the american market and has yet to return (Canada is only half a step). You better believe the companies dumping millions of dollars into this sport are pushing for revised revenue streams – unofficially, it’s one of the main reasons Honda, Toyota, and BMW left the sport; They felt they werent getting the exposure they should have, given the advertised status the F1 is a world-spanning sport.

Got more stuff in the old reasoning arsenal, but I’ll let ya’ll chew on that for a bit.

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