We’ve spoken quite a bit about Formula 1’s lack of digital media and social media presence over the last few years. It’s usually been ramped up after F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone would make a comment about Facebook or Twitter or YouTube and mobile consuming of events. His stance all along hasn’t been the most positive about these new mediums as they are most likely foreign to him but that isn’t to say they are foreign to his staff and the folks at Formula One Management (FOM). Indeed, they are very aware of the upside and downside of plopping their content out in the world to just be hip and with it.
They control their video, their brand and the broadcast rights and advertising that surrounds the sport in a very firm manner. Last week was the fist time I’ve read Mr. E mention mobile and tablet by name—not that this is the first time he’s mentioned, just that it was the first time I’ve read him address the medium directly—and it is no wonder as the conversation was centered around waning viewers and the recent Sky Sports deal.
Many fans have slated F1 for being backwards and not doing what US-based NBA, NFL or MBL does. To that point, some pointed to the news that the NFL was now going to stream their Thursday games on Twitter. Seems like a great idea and fans are excited about the thought but perhaps this article will bring home what Mr. E has always said—he’s not giving his programming away to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or Snapchat for free. If they want it, they can pay for it. Unlike users who flood Facebook with content the social media giant reaps the rewards from, Ecclestone doesn’t buy in to the feverish pitch of running to be part of Facebook or Twitter because everyone’s doing it.
Some fans and F1 pundits say that’s wrong but I think in time, he’ll be proven right. To him, these newer mediums are no different than others when they launched. He views, much like the Times or Wall Street Journal does, that good content must be paid for.
So now you have the NFL streaming their games but you may have missed the point that Twitter is paying millions of dollars for the honor of being a medium that offers NFL games. Sound familiar? Sounds like selling a broadcast package to Sky Sports of NBC doesn’t it? In fact, Yahoo paid $20 million to stream games last season.
A compelling reason for the NFL to do this? Streaming their product to 185 countries and depending on the news source you read, either the NFL is destroying ratings with no ceiling in sight or they are flat and starting to drop. Funny how news stories report two completely opposite realities.
Does F1 need the audience of 185 countries? Perhaps but it’s a global sport and already enjoys international appeal but more would always help. The bigger question is really centered on if Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or other mediums will pay for the broadcast rights. I don’t see F1 simply streaming their races in a desperate attempt to find more viewers. We seriously underestimate F1’s strong brand and appeal if we believe that’s what they should do now. Perhaps if the sport keeps declining they may re-think that position but let’s not suggest they are in the same camp as, say, Formula E. They are not…no where close.
Before we start throwing viewer numbers around on streamed NFL games, there is a conversion that the NYT reveals about online viewers and what that equates to as broadcast or terrestrial viewers:
“Yahoo and the league said the game attracted more than 15.2 million unique users, nearly five times more than the previous record for a streaming audience, the 2014 World Cup match between Belgium and the American national team.
By comparison, 1.4 million viewers watched the streamed version of this year’s Super Bowl by CBS and the N.F.L.
But after a mathematical conversion that Yahoo disputes, the 15.2 million unique users for the Bills-Jaguars game turns into the television equivalent of 2.36 million average viewers, about 1.6 million in the United States.
A unique viewer is defined as a person who has watched a minimum of three seconds of a program. A viewer has to watch one to six minutes on television to be counted by the Nielsen rating service.”
So there is a difference in how we label a viewer. That’s important…very important to keep in mind when we wonder why F1 simply isn’t just giving away their product for free on YouTube so we can watch it when we want to on the device we want to.
I would argue that the NFL viewer numbers are solid and that it it actually Twitter that could use the boost as the article points out its growth is flat at 320 million users. There again, what constitutes a user? You may suggest that FOM is behind the times but I can assure you that one thing they know very well is how to create and sell a broadcast package. When the new mediums grow flat and need actual real content that is good, live and compelling, they will begin paying for it. That’s when F1 will listen.
Hat Tip: NYT