Is social media causing F1 TV decline?

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. ;)

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