Formula 1 to balance pay TV with free digital offerings

Formula 1’s new commercial boss Sean Bratches says the future of Grand Prix racing is achieving the right balance between pay TV and free-to-air broadcasts.

The Ecclstone era essentially grew the sport’s top line through hugely profitable network pay TV packages which quickly became F1’s cash cow.

While Liberty Media has every intention of pursuing the lucrative pay TV model, despite its impact on F1’s dwindling global ratings, the US media company will not abandon free-to-air broadcasting, but will seek to tailor its offerings on a territorial basis.

“More so than not, organisations are finding themselves on pay [TV] because that is where the money is,” Bratches explained in Melbourne.

“But I think you cannot look at it with a broad stroke, you have to look at it on a territory by territory basis.

“There are some marketplaces where the pay to free-to-air penetration is extremely high. The economic benefits are there, and it makes it a little bit easier to make that move.

“There are also some markets where the pay television penetration is low relative to free to air, which makes those a little bit more difficult. We are working through those.”

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Bratches still considers free-to-air broadcasting as a valuable distribution channel for content, but it’s all about defining the right mix going forward.

“I think there are ways to have an opportunity to create a free-to-air package that acts as a barker for the sport to create a brand awareness to a broad population

“The revenue on the pay side is difficult to ignore, but at the same time we are in a position in F1 where we are trying to build our brand and increase the number of sponsors who are investing in our brand, our belief and our vision.

“To have a combination of both is an appropriate mix going forward. We will make that decision on a territory by territory basis.”

The American executive also touched on Formula 1’s plans to finally embrace the digital age with a comprehensive approach which will include its own eco system of digital platforms.

“We are not looking at fan engagement from any one specific platform, we are looking at it holistically,” Bratches concluded.

“And with the advent of digital and broadband and interconnectivity, and the adoption of digital, we think that is a big opportunity to complement and augment markets where we do tend to go a little bit more in the pay direction.”

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