Why F1 is a social media troglodyte

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In many respects, regarding social media, content is king when it comes to a blog or trying to link to news sites etc. Sure, a catchy headline does that too in the case of several of the world’s top-visited websites such as Buzzfeed, Jalopnik and other sites that make a lot of money from clicks to their catchy headlines and irreverent nature. Then there are the sites that are all about clickbait headlines and much worse.

When you consider the content, if it is really good you will go to a site or engage because of it. There are other times when the headlines draw you in but the content is not so good and you quickly learn not to frequent that site very often. Content is still king even though clickbait and the others—with catchy, profanity-laced headlines and a eye-catching animated GIF—may gain lots of clicks but do little for delivering quality content that keeps people coming back.

FBC is really about the F1 fan community and our stories are about the stories. We find stories that interest us and share it with our community to talk about it, unpack it further and chat about our beloved sport of Formula 1. We’ve been doing that since 2005 and while other sites are younger and much bigger and even some folks Facebook pages are their bread and butter, we still believe in our model. FYI…so does Bernie Ecclestone.

You see, content is king and Formula One Management (FOM) knows that incredibly well. You want F1 video and footage? You’ll pay for it. It’s monetized. Every part of it from track-side advertising hoardings to video and other forms of content. The one product they have to sell is content.

Romain Grosjean was complaining this week that a live video feed he had on his Facebook page had to be taken down upon request from FOM. He said:

“I ran a live video on my Facebook page during our filming day, as well as from my room yesterday,” he explained to Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.

“And the FOM asked me to remove all the videos. We had more than a million views on all the videos.

“I think it’s great, it allows people to see F1, what it’s like inside, behind the scenes, but we’re not allowed.”

I agree with him on every point about doing these things for fans, trust me, we are fans and the voice of the F1 fan community so we get the plot here but I also understand FOM’s position. They have all rights to video and pictures surrounding F1 and F1 events. Check the back of your race ticket to see. Now, testing is a little different and credentials and other things are not as tied down but the content still is. You can’t show up to an F1 event and start a periscope session without getting clearance from FOM to do so. Sky Sports F1 pays for the right to shoot video of the race and for all pre-, on- and post event footage including Ted’s notebook. It’s expensive too.

Killing Music

A few years ago, it was all the rage to sell CD’s at 90% profit margins and fleece artists and do outlandish deals for the music industry. Then Napster happened and the record business was drawn and quartered but it’s not like they didn’t see this coming. No one in the industry wanted to believe their way of life was over. The massive pillars of the music industry were supposed to last forever, just like the A&R parties. Now the industry is in shambles and anyone who fancies starting a band to make money had better think twice on how to do that.

They lost control of their content and then tried to sue people for taking it instead of creating an all-new systems to deliver it and add value through the music, communication, concert and creative value they have.

Conversely, you may feel that FOM are being too draconian in their safeguarding the content they own and that they are really missing out on social media but I would argue that you may have simply forgotten what the video industry did in the wake of the public crucifixion of the music industry.

Blu-Ray and HDMI

You see, the video industry wasn’t going to get caught out like the music industry so they got their lawyers in Hollywood to create a new system of delivery that would lock down the video playback element. They created a video standard called HDCP which requires EDID tables for sources and devices to work together. Effectively this requires a digital handshake between Blu-ray players and the display before it is allowed to work. Almost overnight, the electronics industry ushered in a new video transmission format called HDMI and it is a consortium that earns several cents for every single HDMI jack on any product that is made and shipped.

As this is my day job, I was very upset because we were already sending HD digital video throughout entire facilities and enterprises just fine but the new HDMI—which started in the consumer electronics world—made this very difficult if not impossible in the infant years of HDMI. The encryption is constantly being developed and hacks are constantly being designed. It’s a game of chase but in large part, they made a big effort to lock down their content.

Now, I am not a fan of HDMI and prefer open-source video standards for a host of integrated technology reasons. I’m not working with one manufacturer in a $2 million system install, I am working with 30 manufacturers and I need all of those components to talk to each other and work together, open source would be better for that application.

F1 fans would prefer open-source racing content with no digital encryption or restrictions on broadcasting clips of F1 content, pictures or audio. I understand that but FOM is doing nothing more than what other industries have done to protect themselves.

Isn’t there a best of both worlds?

You could argue that the NBA, NFL, BPL and other sporting series have done a better job of protecting their content within reason and yet allowing enough of it to get fondled by the public community in order to intrigue and draw consumers into it’s marketing web. I would agree with you on that front and I have many suggestions for FOM on how to trickle enough out to take advantage of social media and alternate mediums but not compromise your monetized content—which is king.

Can FOM do better? They do have a Twitter account now and it’s been really good to be honest but could be a lot better for sure. They’ve improved their website too. I applaud them and while we all think they are being Neanderthals about this and are 6 years behind everyone else, I say they are taking a very measured approach and are not getting swept up in the emotion of social media and giving away the farm to be on the crest of the wave of change.

Let technology mature. Let Facebook, Twitter and others figure what they are really going to be in the future because right now they are becoming tedious. The next leap in technology will bring something else and it could be, like Napster was to the music industry, harmful for those sports who flooded a current-state platform only to be completely exploited by the future-state platform. Being judicious with your single biggest asset is not being Neanderthal, it’s being practical if not cautious.

There are several journalists I have read that are critical or frustrated about FOM’s lack of using social media and new technologies to spread the content to the public en masse. I find that a little confusing because these are the same folks who charge for a magazine, online or print, subscriptions. Their content is king too and clearly they feel it should be paid for and so does FOM.

So we still like our model of bringing stories we find interesting and feel that our community would like to talk about. FOM still like their content protected and more importantly paid for. We’re not monetized and they are, so I understand their point. FOM could easily hire a huge social media marketing group and flood the world with content so it’s not that they are illiterate about it, they simply choose not to use that medium as a way for fans to consume the sport…for free.

Hat Tip: Motorsport

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Daniel Johnson

Compare this to Indycar going live on Facebook with footage from their testing at Phoenix. I get keeping a lock and key on certain things, but there is so much of the surrounding that both informs the fan outside of an event and gets your fans excited for the upcoming season. Hell even Nascar now posts their entire race broadcasts on youtube the week after the event.

Negative Camber

Understood. They’ve chosen these actions as ways to share their content but F1, as of now, doesn’t find interest in that formula. That’s why I have several suggestions for how they could do some of this without losing their content to public domain or abuse. :)

geeyore

IMSA, Indycar, WEC, WRC, WTCC don’t have the 50-100 local country broadcast contracts that FOM has to contend with (or rake in, depending on your viewpoint). I’d guess that Bernie et al believe that every single drop of F1 video content on public bandwidth adversely impacts their existing broadcast contracts. And I’d say they’re probably right. Broadcasters would see any video or livestreaming by FOM as cannibalizing their local audience. And they also would be right. But FOM does need a transition plan, even though it’s a tricky balancing act.

Daniel Johnson

Let me tackle this in a few different ways. First the example you gave in the article is completely ridiculous. How in anyway shape or form people watching a live stream from Romain at testing doesn’t canabalize anyones broadcast or rights. At worst a driver might expose something the team doesn’t want but that’s a completely different discussion. Race broadcasts are a little different but what’s wrong with the Moto GP model? I’d probably work it like this. Sky F1 gets a cut of the stream revenue, you can charge by the race or a season pass and you throw… Read more »

Negative Camber

geeyore is right about breadth of contracts and scope that Indy doesn’t have. Also, it’s not that Romain’s live feed isn’t necessarily cannibalizing but he hasn’t paid for the rights to broadcast from the pits or garage area which is monetized in F1. Sky have to pay extra for the right to broadcast from the garages and pit area.

Paul KieferJr

“They can take our lives, but they can never take….OUR FREEDOM!!!”
Oh, wait, wrong movie. Sorry. :-D

Jack Flash (Australia)

As an individual who is completely anti-reality-TV and anti voyeur-social-media, who believes it is a current generational scourge destructing intelligence of the masses and obliterating imaginative free-thought; and who patently does not use Facebook for anything other than very occasionally sharing Holiday snaps to friends (very rare); and has never had the slightest voyeur interest in the Twitter-verse: Bah Humbug. Me… I use web-sites to chat a little about subjects that interest me, with others who gather there onsite with similar interests… but there it stops. I don’t give a ‘Rats Anus’ what the Kardashians are doing via E-tv or… Read more »

92gsr

Why are any of us F1 fans? Because we were exposed to it. This is counterproductive to rebuilding their dwindling fan base.

MIE

Most of the ageing F1 fan base were exposed to the sport through free to air TV. While the TV companies paid FOM for the rights to cover the sport, they never charged the end consumer directly, but raised the cash through advertising (or licence fee in the case of the BBC). Now increasingly the sport is available through pay TV, and in an increasing number of countries this is the only way of gaining access. While this has allowed FOM to charge more for the rights to broadcast the sport, it does seem to be very short term. Existing… Read more »

geeyore

“Sky make enough for a dedicated channel covering F1 just broadcasting to the UK. If that was available worldwide to all English speaking fans, then how much more would they be prepared to pay for it?” I’d definitely pay for SkySports F1 as a livestream. But, as you alluded, the FOM model is country-specific broadcast contracts, and any departure from that (e.g., FOM world feed or Sky Sports live feed) would upset the existing order and impact FOM’s ability to to sell broadcast contracts. You’re right though, CVC isn’t gonna’ bite the bullet in lieu of immediate profit, and the… Read more »

Jason Smith

I’ve made a similar point before about F1 literally killing its future through strangling the influx of new fans (and subsequent advertising funds) for the benefit of current (and short-term) profits. It may seem like a non-related issue, but how many current (highly questionable) regulations are done in the name of “controlling costs”? I think we can all agree, this is still a response to the loss of the tobacco money that made F1 what we currently know it to be. The sport needs to come to the realization that tobacco money is GONE and is NEVER coming back. Instead… Read more »

Spoonwacker

This probably comes across as a bit of a rant, but it’s late at night and I had a great experience with WEC streaming last year. Millennials (I’m still getting used to being grouped into this generation despite being in my 30s) want lots of quality content, and want to be able to enjoy it commercial free (read: they *are going to* watch it commercial free, but would rather pay for the content if the option is available and reasonably priced). In that environment, social media can be a loss leader: it’s an easy way for content providers to give… Read more »

geeyore

I agree with everything you’ve said, and I also do the WEC and WRC pay-streams (WRC didn’t do such a great job last year, maybe they’ll improve this season). Also, anything to bypass NBCSN, which is atrocious. Yes, I’ve found methods similar to yours. As I mentioned in my previous comment, I would strongly suspect that FOM has looked at the numbers and not found them attractive. There’s an expensive infrastructure to be built, and broadcast contracts would be impacted globally, and that has to be compared to projected livestream revenue. I’m sure they’ve done that analysis. But like you,… Read more »

geeyore

I have to side with Bernie, because IMO social media trivializes everything it touches (saying as a 10-year vet of New York print publishing). Just my opinion. It certainly doesn’t reward content – and doesn’t need to – since it’s user monetization that is the actual product of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Users are the product of social media, not content. Bernie’s view is the polar opposite (and more “old school” media): F1 content is his product. I respect that. It would be great if the F1 app were to add livestreamed race/quals/practice video to the rather minimal content… Read more »

Negative Camber

Great points and I would offer that there is an element of need (not desperation, that’s too harsh) for an audience. F1 may get to a point where it needs to do anything it can to get eyeballs should viewership wane to epic proportions but that is another time and another story. We’re still talking about 400 million viewers…not too shabby and broadcast contracts are multi-year deals so they are still churning in revenue from many countries regardless of the reduced numbers of viewers. Will they renew their contracts? That’s when the rubber hits the road.

geeyore

Bernie/CVC could consider dropping the fee on national broadcasts and even cut those broadcasters in on a percentage of livestream revenue, maybe based on in-country subscribers (e.g., we have 100,000 French subscribers, you get 1 percent of their annual sub). Of course you’d have to track all of your subscribers by country (very doable, since FOM does it now for online web subscribers). But then I’m subsidizing French subscribers, and hold on ….. the circuit promoters will also negotiate against it (“Livestream cuts our race attendance Bernie!”). And then…. and then…. and more. It’s exactly the same problem previously faced… Read more »

Taqbir Hossain Ali

”So we still like out model of” writing with spelling mistakes. Its shameful!

Negative Camber

And are part of my charm. You managed to discern my meaning I take it? :)

Fred Talmadge

If a driver, engineer or mechanic can explain something on a video then why not allow them to have 1 minute or 2. The fans gain something by this, and improve the ratings of actual race, either in person or on tv.

Negative Camber

That’s certainly part of it Fred. Part of how F1 could drip-feed the community with content and not give away the bank. I think right now they have everything locked down and to geeyore’s point, they’ve done the math(s) on this and aren’t making any drastic moves. this also assumes F1 feels the need or obligation to promote itself and to be honest, they do very little of that. They leave a lot of that up to the teams who cannot do some of the things we think would help due to restrictions.

Derek

I live in a country that doesn’t broadcast Formula 1 in my native language. The cost of watching is high, but not worth buying in for only F1. The race looks amazing, and that is about all I get to see.

I would love to have a dedicated streaming broadcaster with coverage similar to Sky Sports.

TheMan

I pay for DirecTV service which broadcasts F1 races.
DirecTV pays F1 which allows it to broadcast those races.
I own a DVR and it is my right to record what I’ve paid to watch.
And, I totally agree with Jack Flash’s post.