Why Formula One Management needs a kick up the backside

This past Sunday, live on YouTube a record eight million people watched Felix Baumgartner skydive from 128,000 feet. The moment, for me, shown that the way we watch live events is changing. But how quick are people adapting to the change?

Whilst television is still king of transmitting live events, the fact that eight million people watched Baumgartner’s skydive shows that the internet is becoming a bigger player, and will only serve to become an even bigger force in the future. So how is motor sport adapting to the change? Do they have Facebook and Twitter pages for users to interact with their sports, and do they upload short clips to YouTube accounts?

The best examples of motor sport series’ which interact with fans has to be the IndyCar Series and MotoGP.

– MotoGP (Facebook/Twitter/YouTube)
– IndyCar Series(Facebook/Twitter/YouTube)

Both series’ have Facebook and Twitter pages, which in 2012 is crucial not only for communicating with your existing fan base, but also trying to attract new fans to the brand. I say ‘brand’ because that is what it is, yes it may be a form of motor sport but it is a ‘brand’, and the more recognised the brand gets via Facebook and Twitter, the more likely new fans are going to get onboard, and the more likely it is that the wheel will keep on spinning. Looking at the Twitter for both accounts, you can see that they are similar in their communication methods, both are clearly human controlled which makes it seem all the more real, they both sometimes respond to fans and hold Twitter Q&A sessions on the accounts. So that is all the right boxes ticked.

And the YouTube accounts for both MotoGP and IndyCar Series allow fans to get exclusive content as well as race highlights, to dive more into the sport they love. It also allows new fans to try it out, chances are if you don’t like the three minute highlight packages then you won’t return, but if you think “you know what, I like that”, then the person is more likely to return. And that’s one more fan watching your product. In no way or stretch of the imagination is that a negative thing. The benefit as well with having YouTube accounts is that they can also upload archive clips. I did spot however that the MotoGP account has been active for five years, and in that time they have built up 112,000 subscribers to YouTube, and their videos have been viewed 205 million times. The advantage there being that videos that were uploaded five years ago are still there now, take this video package for the Motegi MotoGP round in 2007, uploaded on September 23rd, 2007 and has now amassed nearly 5 million views. Not bad, hey! Both channels as well, more importantly make you feel ‘welcome’ to the page and allow you to explore further.

Again, MotoGP and IndyCar Series are both fantastic examples of how to build a social media profile, both have done everything right on that front which will benefit them in the future. Now, what about Formula 1, I hear you ask.

We’ll start off with Facebook. I can see a lot of fan pages, but not much in terms of official. There is a official DHL F1 Logistics page with 350,000 fans, but that seems an awfully odd title for a page. Where’s the official Formula 1 page created by Formula One Management’s social media leader? Because as far as I can tell, there is not an official page. Whilst there are team pages, there is no official pages, unlike with MotoGP and IndyCar Series.

Moving onto Twitter, and things improve. Slightly. There’s two official Formula 1 Twitter accounts here and here. Whilst that is a good thing, the two fail significantly in many areas. The first thing you will notice is that they appear identical. That’s probably not a coincidence, because diving deeper in, and it seems that both are just automated feeds that pull articles from the official Formula 1 website. I mean, what is the point of that? There’s no interaction at all, they don’t retweet anyone, they don’t conduct Twitter Q&A sessions, it is just an automated feed, which probably requires zero human intervention. So from that perspective, it’s pretty weak. Why not do a Twitter Q&A session on their official Twitter account? If Barack Obama can do a Q&A on Reddit, I’m pretty certain that Bernie Ecclestone can do a Q&A with Twitter users! I get the impression that they don’t wish to interact with the fans. If they did, then they would have opened up their Twitter account more instead of leaving it to an automated feed.

Finally there is YouTube. I would link to the official Formula 1 YouTube account. Except there is not one. Why? Who knows. MotoGP operates similarly to Formula 1 in the way that they do their worldwide television broadcasting rights, so why Formula One Management choose not to create an official Formula 1 YouTube account is beyond me. Some people would probably start screaming for Classic F1 races straight away. Personally, there is no chance of that happening. I don’t think the MotoGP account does that, so the chances of any Formula 1 YouTube doing that is highly unlikely. But uploading highlights one day after a race along with onboards and other exclusive content? Unless their contracts with broadcasters are that water-tight which effectively ban them from creating a YouTube account, I really don’t see a legitimate reason for why the above cannot be done. I’m not exactly requesting Mount Everest, but a few exclusive clips here during race weekends would not go amiss.

The fact that I am typing this in 2012 though is completely laughable when in reality Formula One Management should have jumped on the YouTube bandwagon years ago and started to upload clips. Instead of uploading exclusive content onto YouTube, Formula One Management seem insistent on removing content from the video sharing site. On one hand they are perfectly entitled to protect their copyright, but on the other hand that material is gathering a lot of dust doing nothing on the shelves at Biggin Hill as I’ve described multiple times here. If you are not bothering to reuse archive footage in new and unique ways then yes, in my opinion other people should use it in any way they see fit if you are not maximising the material you have. Touching onto the official websites for a minute, MotoGP’s video archive goes back to 1992. The Formula 1 website video archive goes back to 2008. Which is ridiculous. Okay, you have to pay to access MotoGP’s archive, but considering the amount that is on there, it is not unreasonable to ask for a fee.

Events like Felix Baumgartner’s jump last Sunday show how the internet is revolutionising the way we consume information and watch live events. In my opinion, Formula One Management need a kick up the backside where social media is considered, because they are three steps behind the rest of the world. Of course, let us not forget that Formula One Management always seem to be a few steps behind. We didn’t get widescreen until 2007. We didn’t get high definition until 2011. So don’t except them to start adapting more to the internet revolution any time soon…

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5 thoughts on “Why Formula One Management needs a kick up the backside

  1. Moto GP do not operate in a similar way with regard to media contracts. FOM allow the major broadcaster(s) to exploit (within reason) content as they see fit, this includes allowing 3rd parties to broadcast F1 over the internet or mobile devices if they so desire, but as the costs vastly outstrip any possible revenue broadcasters are reluctant to do this.

    Lesser known motor sports have to use free web access methods etc simply to say in the public’s eye, BTCC for instance have to give their coverage to ITV for free, and other’s have to have the YouTube channels simply to have any presence at all.

    FOM do not remove content from places like YouTube, NetResult do, on behalf of FOM who have a contract with the broadcasters to safeguard their investments, most other motor sports don’t need this as they hardly sell their broadcasting rights for anything, if at all (see BTCC).

    FOM is moving to a more ‘social media’ friendly platform, but this will come with a reduction in the money charged for broadcasting rights, and the teams are reluctant to accept less money, and in the new Concorde the teams have a clause stipulating minimum income … The teams are standing in the way by wanting more money from the broadcasting rights, while at the same time wanting the broadcasters to have less content to broadcast.

    • As always, thanks for your comment Karen. I like reading your comments, definitely helps me to understand things a bit more, so thank you for that.

      I didn’t realise about MotoGP and FOM operating differently, from the outside (money aside!) the contracts seem fairly similarly structured, with the BBC for example they have both TV and online rights for MotoGP and F1, hence the assumption that both were similar. I do wonder how much the value of the BBC and Sky contract would decrease by if FOM chose to distribute content to YouTube and not allow broadcasters to exploit content. I don’t think it would be that much because the value of the F1 contract, back to the ITV days has always been fairly high with no extortionate rises.

      I knew about NetResult, I omitted it from the article plainly because it is in a sense a technicality, the fact that they are doing it on behalf of FOM means that it is basically FOM’s actions in getting NetResult on board that mean that the content is being taken down.

      Ignoring the video sharing side for a moment, if FOM was moving to a more ‘social media’ platform, then why is there Facebook and Twitter profiles low compared to other sports? I can’t imagine that has much to do with the broadcasting rights. It seems to me to be an incorrect stance that they have taken there.

      Reading the Concorde Agreement bit you have put above, it sounds horrendously like a vicious circle.

  2. If F1 paid out (to the teams £45 million less (£90 million over 2 years, assuming 2011 revenue figures) then the clause would kick in.

    With race hosting fees being reduced (or at least not increased), broadcasting fees take on a more substantial role, hence the teams (FOTA and the recently gone Adam Parr) desire to see F1 put behind money generating pay walls.

    There’s no money in YouTube for the teams so they’re reluctant to see FOM move towards a broader platform.

    • The whole FOM structure seems odd, they get income from the teams and the tracks, correct? But their expenses? What are their expenses, who do they pay? CVC is one of them, and presumably FIA for the rights to host the championship.

      Reminds me of a comment Joe Saward made this morning “It is bonkers that half the money that is generated by the sport disappears into the pockets of financiers who would not know a Minardi from a McLaren.”

      Considering Formula 1 wants to cost cut, it needs to go the whole way, from race hosting to broadcasting fees to how much the teams have to pay FOM, the whole lot. Because inevitably the cost will continue to be passed on to the fan with higher ticket prices. There’s no point cutting costs if the fan doesn’t feel the effect at the end.

      Back to YouTube, FOM would gain advertising revenue from the millions of views (no idea how much?) so there is definitely money there, although I don’t know whether it would be five, six or seven figures.

  3. FOM don’t get income from the teams, that’s very odd to even suggest that.

    They get income from Promoters, Broadcasters, advertisers/Sponsors, Hospitality, etc.

    Outgoings are the Teams (who take between 50% and 58%), Tax, Depreciation, Debt repayments and Share Holder payments, (although in 2011 no payments to share holders were made).

    At most 47% disappears into the pockets of financiers, and as I’ve repeatedly told Joe, this would not have been the case had the EU commission not decided to unilaterally attack F1 and the FIA, the EU commission doesn’t have a problem with the governing bodies of football also controlling the commercial rights, they just had it in for the FIA after they were given special representation at the United Nations.

    The teams do not pay FOM, do you mean what the teams pay the FIA?

    FOM make more money from licensing F1 material, than any possible increase in revenue given to them by UBS because they may be featured on a YouTube video. Advertising and sponsorship income is currently around £150 million.

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