Over the past few podcasts, we’ve spoken about the Netflix series, Drive to Survive, and how Formula 1 is hanging its hat on that proverbial marketing hook. With good reason, of course, as that series did well to garner new and existing fan interest in the sport by taking advantage of the concept of binge watching, cord-cutting and Netflix as a content package that people loiter around these days.
It’s early doors with Netflix, Disney, Apple, Amazon and others who are in the business of creating content and these ecosystems have a captured audience who have paid for the pleasure of surfing their insufferable categories to watch content. Binge-watching a series is a very real content consumption behavior in the world of Neo media and since you’ve paid for this limited media ecosystem, you tend to expand your horizons and watch stuff you may not have in the past.
In our podcasts we mentioned the Drive to Survive’s Hollywood screenwriter penchant for creating emotional energy and excitement around feats that would otherwise be average or overlooked in the sobering reality of F1 life. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you, it is what the series is designed to do and it does it well. When was the last time, as an F1 fan, you were on the edge of your seat worried that Roman Grosjean may not secure that 13th place finish? If you watched last years Drive to Survive, you probably were.
This year the series will include two holdouts, Ferrari and Mercedes, and this may prove to either add weight to the series or burden it by dominating the narrative. With all the teams on board, the series could become one of the better properties of F1 in that the racing happens in order to generate the event that begets a documentary series watched by millions. That would be a sad use of F1 but who knows?
A few weeks ago, while discussing this Netflix series, I mentioned the screenwriting of Drive to Survive and how it created energy and excitement and how the two realities may collide with each other. In particular, I mentioned that the F1 newbie, who watched the series and thought they might start watching the actual racing, may find a real disconnect with the emotion and appeal of the Netflix series versus the product F1 delivers during a normal race weekend broadcast.
The F1 noob may find that the TV broadcast team’s complete lack of coverage for anything outside the top 5 puts a sobering reality on the event and sucks the oxygen out of the series. It may reveal that Grosjean finishing 13th isn’t really a thing and certainly not worth the TV broadcast production group focusing cameras on.
Haas F1 were the stars of the first Drive to Survive Series and other drivers have now commented on the TV production team’s lack of adequate midfield coverage. This week Sergio Perez has weighed in saying:
“The main problem in my opinion is a difference across teams.
“When you see the racing in the midfield with the same tyres, with the same aero, with the same bullshit that we keep talking about every weekend, they get racing in the middle.
“Yes. The problem is that they don’t show it on TV.
“I think that directors are not doing a great job. But the race in the midfield, it is unbelievable.
“It’s a fantastic sport, but the viewers will be so happy to see a race like this – turn on the TV and you don’t know who’s going to win the race.
“Turn on the qualification, and you don’t know what’s going to be like the top five teams. That’s pretty encouraging to see.
“As a fan, I would like to I would love to see that.”
Here’s the kicker, the Netflix series is right, Romain finishing 13th actually is exciting sometimes and Sergio is right in that some of the best racing over any given weekend is in the midfield.
Not every pass or position is edge-of-the-seat but there are epic battles midfield and while the world dips its toe into the waters of neo media and content ecosystems such as Netflix, Disney, Apple and amazon, perhaps it is also time to completely re-think TV broadcast production and content. Not just the delivery method but the entire format of TV production.
Even Haas F1’s Gunther Steiner knows what made him a celebrity in last season’s Drive to Survive and he believes F1 could do better.
“I think it should be shown a little bit more because at the front there is not a lot happening and you need to show the spectator the whole picture because otherwise you don’t really understand why this is shown,” he said.
“It would be very nice if they could show more from our perspective.”
F1 TV is best poised to have a revolutionary movement toward a new way of TV broadcast production in order to capture the excitement of the entirety of a race weekend and ensure that, as I said on the podcast, it dovetails with the Drive to Survive series in narrative, energy, excitement and accessibility.
They have the platform, streaming network backbone and now need a full production crew and on-air talent to start crafting season-facing storylines with the Drive to Survive crew and storyboard the heck out of it. They need to build content containers with weighted narratives and then move these pieces in and out of a weekend broadcast like a delicate dance between TV broadcast and documentary veneer.
If they did that, Sergio Perez would be happier and so would the fans—new and old.
Hat Tip: Autosport