F1’s director of digital steps down

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Something tells me that this news may not spare us the dignity-stealing overuse of emoji’s in their tweets but nonetheless, the head of F1’s digital program is parting ways and will return the the US.

I’ve thought a lot about our recent discussion on our last podcast with regards to F1’s digital efforts both in social media and their TV platform. The old adage that you have to start somewhere is certainly true but as the platform grew and F1 measured the appetite of consumers to purchase an F1 TV subscription, I am not 100% convinced moving the entire operation to AWS/Amazon Prime would be a good move.

I am sure there are 100 reasons why it would be great. Not just for fans but for F1 employees including production and on-air talent. I can’t argue against those reasons. I also think there are issues concerning content control, intellectual property, platform ubiquity and interoperability as well as complete control and metrics that F1 may be getting itself into that could be a major impact in the long term.

Liberty Media’s reason for buying F1, as stated back then, was that platforms are old school and it is now about content creation. We’ve seen that with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Hulu and more. Liberty, is and was, correct to a point.

In the long term, owning the content and platform allows for the greatest creative and innovative control but I am not sure Liberty is thinking that long term. Bernie Ecclestone, prior to the digital and social media revolution, understood the value of the content his series created.

Prior to the internet, Ecclestone controlled images, video and all content generated by F1. He also owned the platform that he created content on. A lot of things can happen in business and partnerships are multivariate in their equations. Your platform partner could have long-standing or even immediate, soon-to-be issues with other partners you work with presenting a complete transformation in the service your business relies on.

What if a key manufacturer or sponsor gets sideways with your platform provider? You can lease fertile fields to grow your corn or you can own the seed, soil and field in which to create your crop.

Over the last several years, I have seen deals broken and even legal agreements ignored or flouted in the margins. If F1 is getting a new head of digital, I believe they should look to continuing their hard work in creating a platform in which to host their content and be the masters of their own destiny. That’s just my humble opinion of course.

Here is the Press Release from F1 regarding the move:

Formula 1 has today announced that after four years at Formula 1, Frank Arthofer will step down from his role as Director of Digital and Licensing.  Frank and his wife have decided to return home to the United States, with their new-born son, to be closer to family.

Frank joined Formula 1 from the US, following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the sport in 2017.  He has been responsible for expanding the sport’s consumer facing businesses and growing the reach of F1 across all digital platforms.  Since 2017, Formula 1 has transformed its digital and licensing operations.  F1 has become a leading global brand on social media, launched and developed a direct-to-consumer subscription service, and created new, growing businesses in content, consumer products, and e-commerce.

Under Frank’s leadership, F1 has developed a robust gaming portfolio, and created a widely embraced F1 Esports series, featuring all 10 Formula 1 teams.  He has also partnered with the F1 teams to tap into new frontiers for the sport, including in trading cards, toys and collectibles.  Key metrics, from audience to transactions to revenue, have increased materially during his tenure.

Frank has and will continue to support the transition of his businesses within F1, before officially leaving at the end of January. There will not be a replacement for the role, with Frank’s responsibilities moving into other directorates within Formula 1.  F1TV and original content will become part of Media Rights, esports, social media and editorial will become part of Marketing & Communications with Licensing and Digital Advertising moving to the Commercial Partnerships team.

Chase Carey, Chairman, Formula 1, said:

“I want to thank Frank for his dedication and success in building and growing our digital platforms and licensing business. He joined us right at the start of our Formula 1 journey in 2017 and has been a big part of the team that has transformed Formula 1 into a leading global media and entertainment brand.  Since Frank made his decision last year, he has been a great partner in helping me ensure a smooth transition of his business units – and I am confident that these areas will continue to thrive in their new homes within Formula 1.”

Frank Arthofer, Director of Digital and Licensing, Formula1, said:

“It’s been a great privilege to work on the transformation of the unique, world class, company that is Formula 1.  Building the team and business from the ground up has been a professional challenge that I have relished and enjoyed from Day 1.  I want to personally thank my staff at F1 for their constant focus on improvement, and Chase Carey and the team at Liberty Media for their enthusiastic support over the past 4 years.”

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