Monday, December 14, 2009

F1, Advertising and "New" Media

Just this past week participants in the Motor Sport Business Forum pushed the idea that Formula One should be doing more to embrace the internet and new media rather than trying to focus on protecting its more traditional media channels; i.e. television. Given that a number of media companies and industries have embraced online content in a big way and advertisers have followed what is taking F1 so long to get with the program?

There certainly is an emergence of free and paid content models that F1 can explore. In my opinion, there is plenty in which F1 can offer its fan for free. Conversely, there is also plenty of things F1/teams can offer fans as "premium content" that people would probably pay for. But obviously I would prefer the free.

Here in the United States, F1 television coverage is pretty good. It is not like the saturation that exists with NASCAR, but nonetheless pretty good. SPEED has some shows dedicated to F1 in addition to broadcasting Friday Practice 2, Qualifying and the Race itself. However in terms of the new media question, I think F1 can certainly do more. I think they should stream races online. There can be podcasts of races and different practice sessions. They could make their Season Reviews videos available online. They could offer free telementary and live car to pit radio.

Maybe some fans would pay subscriptions to have access to older historic races. SPEED used to have a show called F1 Decade from 2003-2005, where they broadcast edited races from 1993-1995. Reportedly it cost the network too much money to continue with the arrangement in addition to paying for broadcast rights for the races. Well, maybe fans would pay a little fee to have access to this sort content online. Maybe fans would a pay a little to have access to old car designs or pay to have access to webcams that are filming engine bench tests or windtunnel sessions.

The World Rally Championship (WRC) has some interesting ideas for more exposure for their series in the new media context. For example, some of those plans include more access to live on-board footage and service park webcams on the internet, plus high definition and 3D television coverage in the future, as well as a new WRC video game into which live action from the stages could be integrated.

Now how great would it be to match up against Lewis Hamilton in a downloadable or live race situation?

As it is with most large monolithic institutions, change in this area appears slow. Which to me is a bit of a paradox given the hi tech nature of Formula One. However, with new fans coming in, new teams that seem willing to embrace such media and the ever increasing need for revenue there might be some serious movement on expanding the streams in which F1 fans get their content as opposed to having to get F1 content and sharing it "illegally".

I think with new team principals like Tony Fernandes of Lotus F1, who has extensive experience in the music industry, (an industry that has battled and finally embraced online content) will help F1 see things a new light.

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