NFL is streaming on Twitter, why isn’t F1?

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.


Facebook logo c600They 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.

Twitter F1 C 600A 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

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The Captain

Yes, in the NFL deal here Twitter is paying so it’s not “free” really, but I think the real problem is the all or nothing nature of Bernie’s approach to streaming any content. Just today I was on another F1 site (is that cheating?) and we where all watching the on board camera of Stoffel Vandoorne’s first couple of laps. It’s amazing stuff! But it’s not available for most potential fans to ever see. Hell, we weren’t even supposed to be looking at it. Yet there is was, buried down the list of a very obscure website probably going to… Read more »

Tom Firth

Why shouldn’t F1 broadcast on Youtube or another streaming site in a commercial deal with that site, I don’t think they should do it for FREE, but a deal like what NASCAR, INDYCAR, NBA, NFL have… I’m not sure what the problem is with that? Whether that is free at the point of entry and paid for by Youtube or whoever, in a partnership between the media aspect of FOM and Youtube, like how NASCAR have done it, or behind a paywall on one of those sites, like MotoGP have recently done with highlights, by offering the highlight package for… Read more »


The current TV rights deals are by region (usually National boundaries), any streaming service would circumvent this. So in removing Sky’s monopoly of live races in the UK, would mean they wouldn’t be prepared to pay as much for the rights. I think the whole viewing rights package needs to be restructured. Do it by language (English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.) live races to be available on line, possibly behind a pitwall like Netflix or similar, highlights packages to be available free to air on TV in all regions. These highlights packages wouldn’t attract the price premium of… Read more »

Tom Firth

I would disagree with the idea that they wouldn’t be prepared to still pay as much for the rights. If anything it increases the value of the rights, with more competition. Sky has acquired the live broadcast rights exclusively, so it would probably rule out a simulcast free broadcast out on Youtube, but is nothing saying that F1 can not also supply a narrowcast pay-streaming service I’d imagine alongside that. BT has the exclusive rights to MotoGP, and paid far far more for that privilege than any broadcaster has in the history of MotoGP rights in the UK, it also… Read more »


Tom: “Sky has acquired the live broadcast rights exclusively, so it would probably rule out a simulcast free broadcast out on Youtube”

Tom, I posted the link above to the Skysports livestream site – NowTV – which is pay-per-view for a day/week/month to all Skysports broadcasts including F1.

It’s geoblocked for the UK only, otherwise I’d probably try it out here in the USA (of course there’s always VPN, but naahhhh…. too much trouble).


Here’s the model and future of F1 streaming:

Social media is based on free content, user surveillance, and monetization of clicks and eyeballs. To wit, its users are the “product.” On the other hand, FOM is in the content business – just like any film producer – and I can’t imagine that it sees any conceivable overlap of its business model with that of social media. OK, we might get some rock-em, sock-em, adrenaline-pumping F1 trailers on Youtube. But that’s about it.


F1 will always face a major hurdle when it comes to viewership/fanbase in North America no matter what the medium is. I am a confirmed fan and I’m willing to set an alarm to get up in the middle of the night to watch. Most people are not. And it takes a lot of the thrill out of watching any sporting event when you watch a rebroadcast. More races in the US would help spark some interest but the time problem will always be a major hurdle. I for one would love to have access to old races and would… Read more »


The Need For US To Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night Because Of Most European Races, Is The Same For Europeans With The Far East Races.

It Is A Problem That Routinely Affects Everyone Worldwide, No Matter Where The Spectator Is Located.

SKYSPORTSF1 Usually Rebroadcasts Several Recent Races Every Single Day.

GO, 44 !


True, but I think as a rule Americans are less willing to get up at odd hours on a weekend for what they see as a “foreign” endevor. It’s got a lot to do with American Jingoism, particularly as it relates to sports. F1 growth in America would require appealing to the very young, much as Football (Soccer) has managed. I am hoping that the emergence of Haas F1, the race in Texas and the rumored race in Las Vegas will bring F1 a bit more forward over the next few years.


Whatever People Think About DP, I Would Love To See Her In F1.

The ROI For US And Worldwide Female Audiences Would Be Huge.

If bernie Was Not Senile He Would Have Brought Her As Early As 2005.

F1 Needs US More Than US Needs F1.

GO, 10 !


[sarcasm] Yep, she’s been so good for NASCAR![/sarcasm] She just passed 300 races in Sprint/Xfinity and Indy combined. One win, average finish in Indy was 10th, Xfinity 18th and Sprint a whopping 26th. And out of just over 62500 laps she’s managed to lead 215. The LAST thing F1 needs is another back marker who’s only got the job because of sponsorship. And she doesn’t bring ratings, which have been consistently down for years. I will say watching her cause accident after accident and blame everyone else but herself is one of the few entertaining aspects of Sprint Cup at… Read more »


I Live In EUROPE, So No Bias From Me, Whatsoever.

Whatever You Think, Her PR Potential Is Huge.

I Believe She Could Kick Some Midfield Posteriors, Too, And I Rather See Her As An F1 Pay Driver 10 Fold, Than That HAAS 21 Waste Of Time, Any Day.

GO, 10 !