I haven’t seen current data that reveals TV viewer numbers but apparently Pirelli’s Paul Hembery has and he isn’t too happy about the numbers. As a sole-supplier and sponsor of the sport, Pirelli are keen to understand the complete package of their investment and Hembery says that it is important to look at other delivery methods that are aligned with the way fans want to consume their entertainment. AUTOSPORT has the call:

“We look at how many people are watching the sport and what they think of the current F1. Viewing figures so far this year are extremely disappointing – there’s no doubt about that.”

But with BBC figures suggesting that iPlayer growth was 33 per cent last year, and live radio audiences jumping by 53 per cent, there is a growing view that the way people consume F1 is changing dramatically.

“We’ve been looking at some studies done by Premier League and Sky, and they’ve seen a very increased take-up on the iPad viewing and not watching on TV. That’s certainly a way many people are going,” said Hembery.

“We’re seeing the world change and it’s not just Formula 1, it’s the whole way people follow their sports and get their entertainment.”

While UK residents have access to a host of features and a 24/7 channel on Formula 1, the rest of the world consumes the sport in varying levels of frequency and access. In the States, we have a broadcast that typically covers Friday FP2, qualifying and the race. As for online content, you have to hunt a bit to even find F1 on their website. There is no iPlayer/Red Button type of feature.

Would F1 do well to stream the races via an app so fans could watch on their iPads or mobile devices? We’ve asked this question before and suggested that perhaps F1 is missing the plot when it comes to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other online content delivery platforms.

Regardless of the current viewing numbers, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t feel a sense of panic nor does he believe that F1 should simply give away its content via social media telling AUTOSPORT:

“…I think the change that is currently taking place is very short-lived, as these social media people are starting to think it is not as good as they thought.”

“No. We’re commercial… If they find people to pay us [to do that] then I will be happy.”

If you would have asked me a mere 12 months ago what I thought of this statement or the concept of F1 being ubiquitous or more focused on social media content delivery and content marketing, I would have had an opposite view than today.

Today, I agree with Mr. E. That doesn’t make it right and it very well could be Neolithic thinking that betrays the very path that the rest of the world is moving in but from a business and content standpoint, I completely understand his position and agree with it.

Offering the Red Button feature like the BBC had or iPlayer is a feature that can be purchased by the BBC. NBC, in the States, chooses not to purchase that streaming capability from F1 and that is their choice. If fans want that ability, then let NBC know that you would prefer to consume their F1 content via this particular online method.

Formula 1’s revenue is, in large part, down to TV revenue and packaging deliverables that broadcasters can acquire for their customers is a much better model that continues the current revenue stream and perpetuates the series.

What Hembery may be witnessing is a strong desire to consume content within the mobility model and that’s great but that doesn’t mean that F1 has to be the source or origin for that mobility strategy rather sell that feature to host broadcasters who could offer that feature for their viewers. It becomes a cafeteria of content features that F1 sells to host broadcasters. Pick what you’d like to buy from Formula One Management based on what your customers want from you as the host broadcaster.

Do the metrics indicate that the drop in viewer numbers is due to a lack of social media content delivery methods or is it simply the Mercedes domination of the sport, lack of sound from the cars, artifices used to “spice up the show” or other issues that are making F1 sour to its consumers?

Pressure to fall in line and convert your content to a free social media platform for all to consume is becoming less convincing. The world doesn’t have a right to get F1 broadcasts for free. This isn’t a social media free-for-all.

Twitter, Facebook, Google and others have their own monetized business plan based upon the ubiquity of content freely provided but ultimately this lives in the world of erosion of content value. NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and other TV broadcasters are struggling to keep control of their broadcast content versus engaging the social media world.

Perhaps if we considered ourselves as F1—in order to make Facebook work, people have to deliver their life content free to the platform. What if we started charging Facebook for our life content? How much is Facebook prepared to pay us for our life’s content including pictures of our life moments and video so others can consume this content via mobile devices?

The difference is in Mr. E’s choice of words. He said, “we’re commercial” and that is different than the rest of us. That is why we aren’t charging Facebook for our life content…we’re not commercial. Just because we hand over all of our life’s content for free to Twitter and Facebook doesn’t mean businesses should.

However, using our analogy, if our content isn’t that good, no one “friends” us or “follows” us and that may be where F1 is sitting at the moment. It may have less to do with F1’s lack of social media presence and more to do with F1’s lack of entertainment value due to poor racing.

Perhaps the simplest way to reconcile this is to say that great content doesn’t need to be given away freely to social media to garner eyeballs. Great content will be sought out and paid for. If the content isn’t that great, it garners fewer eyeballs, ears etc.

F1B is a blog of fan opinion about motor sport. We’re not re-broadcasting F1’s content nor are we associated with F1 in any way. We are merely fans sharing our opinions about news stories and the world of motor sport. That is a completely different position than what is being discussed. IF we were to record the races and then post them on the website, well, that becomes a major issue. However, if we paid F1 for the right to stream their races, then Mr. E would be fine with that—now click that donation button and I’ll see what I can do to get the races on our site and even create a mobile app for you. ;)

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Vince

    The biggest problem F1 has with social media is their lack of interaction with the fans. They have no comment system setup on for fans to interact with each other about stores and tech articles, they rarely if ever reply to tweets and as far as I could find their is no Official F1 Facebook page. People who want to will seek and search out more F1 information and thankfully there are a good amount F1 websites/blogs that provide it.

    The F1 and FIA are so so so so concerned about people posting a 15 second clip of a race on YouTube what they don’t realize is that it might just draw more people to the sport. Copyright infringement is a huge deal but why not have their own YouTube channel or post videos from the races via Instagram? You telling me someone behind Charlie couldn’t take a 15 second video fo the start of the race from the control tower and upload it? They have the money and resources but for some reason don’t take advantage of hardly any of it. The Live Timing app is cool but they aren’t breaking down barriers by streaming what the teams have seen for years.

    If you want quality live track footage the teams Twitter/Facebook accounts are they way to go, they get it and always will. I just wish someone would tell Bernie how much more money he could make with better social media interaction.

    I remember when SpeedTV would broadcast FP 1 online only and it was just the sounds of the track from the microphones on the cameras (cars, crew, drivers etc). No announcers, no commercials just the sound albeit that was when the cars were worth listening to (a discussion for another time). As a fan I liked that better than someone telling me what I was watching especially during a practice session. Also what ever happened to Chalk Talk with Steve Matchett? That was informative and more interesting than the mundane interviews with the drivers and their robotic responses.

    The NHRA and NASCAR do the “sounds of the track” sparingly throughout their broadcasts and it is a nice change from announcers constantly talking over the racing action. Lately I have been tuning in to the Spanish channel broadcast of F1 races because they have less commercials, don’t talk over the racing as much, have the audio turned up louder than NBC Sports and when they do go to commercial the racing still takes up a larger % of the TV screen. Racing announcers have a tricky job because they rarely are telling us more than what we can clearly see and hear.

    The internet has given us so many ways of sharing and interacting and F1 has been frustratingly slow to respond even though it’s 2014 and the technology is their and easily adaptable.

  • SpannersReady

    In the UK need a sky package to watch every race. You need sky tv plus sports. That’s around 50 quid a month. Since F1 is literally the only thing I would watch that means that each exclusive Sky race costs me over 60 quid (90 dollars? ) to watch. That’s stupid. BBC only has 9 or 10 races. Before Netflix and Round type services I had Sky tv as it was the only option for decent tv. So then it was only paying extra for sports. Now that 95 % of my screen time is streamed over the Internet I’m not going to pay £600 a year to watch the other half of the races. Sky killed British boxing in a similar way. Let us buy F1 at the source and I would pay per race.

  • I don’t believe Expanded media nor Social media’s causing a viewership decline. It’s the shift in how the audience consumes content, as well as a larger content pool on offer dividing masses. Fewer of us care to be stuck on the couch at a pre-set time, or in the US suffer commercials (this coming from an ad guy).

    I watch more television via Apple TV, HBO Go or time-shifting than live-broadcast, and would appreciate alternative streams with expanded content. As F1’s financial model precludes creating it’s own TV channel (understandable given language and national viewership preferences), I’d appreciate an NBC either purchasing said Red Button interactivity or creating its own.

    As always, it comes down to money; does NBC think fans will accept higher premiums for expanded channel content? I don’t know. And, for streaming, has it found a way to monetize new media? Nope. the traditional broadcasters are struggling with adapting the advertising and metrics model to integrated televisions. It’s easier w/ a pay-model system like HBO, where it simply extends options for those willing.

    Broadcasters are experiencing declining viewership across the board as the market segments; it’s that Darwinian thing again; climate (technology in this case) providing impetus for evolution, multiple branches of change narrowing until the fittest survives. With new media, we’re in that early stage where the old stalwarts are adapting slowly whilst the upstarts explode, then wither; in time, a happy medium where traditional and integrated tv meld. Until that time, it’s incumbent upon the providers to experiment, giving us opportunity to sample and vote w/ wallets, and decide what works best.

    As to the Facebooks/Vines/Twitters, I think it has it’s place as an opinion forum/sound bite/breaking news feature; supplemental outlets to the main streams for those who crave immersion. An optional feature, not unlike a blog or podcast; remember when those were new, and denigrated as trend nonsense?

    True to an extent, “great content will be sought out and paid for.” We want to find alternative media that caters to more than the broadest demo or lowest common denominator. However, viewers are generally lazy beasts watching “whatever’s on” or via “word of mouth” and press; something must entice first. Here, free Social Media can be a great benefit; word of mouth explosion on how great f1 is, a la Game of Thrones season 1, might convince people pay for expanded streaming/tv coverage. In depth interviews (podcast would be ideal), fantasy leagues, event-primers… They’re all online via independents such as yourself; a centralized, officially-created or sanctioned hub a la NFL, with some rah rah self-promotion, would do wonders.

    The Social media induces active rather than passive and thus fledging/interest. Personally, I’d forgo the Mosley in a thong GIF or Briatore d*ck pics, but the beauty of Social media is one takes it or leaves it, and hey, whatever entices the audience to pay for the Expanded/New media…

  • As to the opinion poor racing is causing a decline, I don’t know, could be the case for some. For those sharing that view, no content delivery model’s going to change your view; there are plenty of other interesting things on the boob tube/computer. I dislike current NBA (sorry Grace), so have stopped watching; easy as that.

  • Rick T

    I wont lie, the idea of getting to see fp1/2 is somewhat of a dream so us Australians.
    Our licenced partner only shows the qualifications and race whilst cutting to advertising every 5 mins. Meaning we (Aussies) tend to miss out on a lot of content.
    Although I agree the social media is damaging the f1, sometimes the only way we can get info is via social media or by some boot legged stream of sky f1.

  • 1) I cannot see how social media plays any role in this.

    2) As has been discussed earlier, I’m sure that a push from free TV to pay TV in several countries definitely plays a role.

    3) The Mercedes domination might play a role, but then at least it gives us a thrilling duel, whereas last year gave us a one man domination. So no, I don’t think this has changed anything.

    4) What I do think is that F1 suffers from the typical TV disease of a fragmented market and its antiquated method of distribution. There really isn’t any fix for this other than to go online and offer new alternative ways of consuming F1. Stuff like the BBC iPlayer are not the solution though, they simply take the fragmented TV world and map it onto the net. Instead, Bernie should take a hint from Steve Jobs and offer a common and complete experience for everyone everywhere no matter the device he’s using.
    There should be a common F1 app on every Smart TV, every iPhone, iPad, Android device, Apple TV, it should be on the web, etc., offering the full F1 experience. Given the nature of the internet, monetarization shouldn’t be a problem. You could have targeted commercials for every demographic. On top of that, you could offer a paid subscription, maybe something like: The more you pay, the less commercials you’ll see during the race or the related program. Or you can pay extra to choose your own camera’s beyond the world feed.
    All that money would go directly to Bernie, not channeled through TV stations around the globe. This way, everyone around the world could get exactly the dose of F1 he/she likes.
    The biggest hurdle here are of course the TV stations who’d face a new challenger and who’d therefore fight tooth and nail against it, but if there’s anyone who could do it, it’s Bernie.

  • Juan

    In my humble opinion, F1 is causing F1 TV decline. They’ve just been ruining it for some years now.
    My choice would be: YES to refueling, NO to a sole tyre manufacturer, NO to DRS, NO to KERS/ERS, NO to pay-drivers, NO to hybrid small engines.
    I’m just speaking from my preferences and my absolutely small world, but I know many people who gave F1 up because of that, not social media involved at all. They just don’t like the new F1.
    I don’t either, but I still watch it.