Formula 1 – Less greed and more fresh thinking

Over the weekend I joined the conversation over at Sidepodast that evolved around the fact that Formula 1 own corporate hospitability and advertising business ended up $3 million in red. Here Pitpass confused me a bit, as they say that Silverstone made as much money as Formula 1, having made 1.3 million pounds, while in another article they report that F1 has lost that money. Anyway, let’s assume Bernie’s business lost $3 million. Even if it made the same money, it is pretty lousy result for mighty Bernie …

Here I with my permission quote my weekend self :-) :

I am confident that with a bit of fresh thinking that 3 million loss can be eliminated a turned into profit easily. But some fresh thinking would have to replace the greed.

So here are few bits that come to my mind without need for too much thinking:

The greed:

1) Milking more and more from the race organizers – the favourite hobby of Mr. Ecclestone, this comes before motoracing

2) Facilities, facilities, facilities – If Bernie was talking about facilities for spectators, I would not protest much. I would for example like TV screens that actually are OK to watch (unless you are right next to the screen there is no way to read the names or times, or the latest invention to squeeze 16:9 picture into 4:3 TV screen on the track – Sepang), or perhaps food that is OK to eat or beer that is OK to drink (Shanghai). But these things are rarely or never mentioned. Most of the talk is always about the Paddock facilities … The fate of the race should not hang in the balance just because Mr. Ecclestone does not have room cool enough for drink with Flavio Briatore …

3) Ticket prices – While I understand that organizing Formula 1 race costs money, charging close to $1000 per ticket is mad. Unfortunately organizers do not have that many other options to recover their payments to Mr. Ecclestone …

4) Formula 1 merchadise – If someone looks for a definition of “ridiculous” when it comes to prices, the best place to go to look for a benchmark is the official Formula 1 store on Formula 1 website.

And now few of those fresh thinking suggestions:

1) CVC should get rid of Bernie Ecclestone sooner rather than later. Despite popular belief Bernie does not own the Formula 1 circus. He did his bit, now it is time to go fishing. Ross Brawn may be willing to give some tips for good fishing spots.

2) While I understand that the exclusivity and glamour is part of the Formula 1 attraction, F1 will be nothing if the fans run away. The more fans, the more revenue sources. Now the revenue comes only from people willing and able to spend a lot. Those who are not willing or can’t afford to spend a lot, spend nothing, because there is nothing to spend ‘not a lot’ for. OK, keep the carbonfibre keychains and mousepads in your merchandise lines for those few who wish to have them. But have something ready also for those who wish or can spend only a dollar or two or five. It should not be that difficult …

3) We live in 21st century and whether F1 likes it or not, web rulez ! F1 however still did not get it and tries to rule the web. Please wake up, it will not work ! The main reason why there is so much ‘illegal’ F1 video footage on the web is … guess what … no legal video footage. Free race highlits released by Formula 1 would not kill Formula 1. It would make the fans happy. Broadcasts from testing, Friday and Saturday practice sessions over the web would make many fans happy even more. There would sure be quite a few willing to spend that reasonable ! buck for pay-per-view online access or for season long package. The next step - full race video downloads. Technically these could be available the day after the race. If some TV rights holders do show replays in a day or two after the race, then OK, wait till Wednesday before releasing the race for download. But do it !

4) TV coverage is … very basic. TV coverage is mostly on free to air channels (although not here where I watch …). Keep it that way and available for everybody. But create a premium option with features similar to handheld Kangaroo TV (available at some tracks). The footage is available, release it to viewers, let them choose what they want to see, let them follow the drivers they want to follow, let them get the race data they want and anytime they want. And let them go for their bathroom breaks when they feel they need them. Do not force us to go when TV decides to show us Renault drivers in roles of ING private banking advisors or McLaren drivers as fighter jet pilots.

And final note – Do not spit into fans’ faces by getting rid of tracks like Silverstone, Monza, Spa … Yes, we want Formula 1 to make it to the 21st century finally, but some things have to stay !

10 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Dan BrunellNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for picking up on this…

    Something else I would suggest for the CVC group is to be more liberal with their licensing rights.. or at least lower the cost, the hassle, and get rid of exclusive rights for things.

    For example, EA would really love to do a proper full on F1 game again. Matter in fact, I believe they already sign Lewis Hamilton to be the cover boy and market it. However, since the FIA, FOM, and FOA believe in “exclusive rights” EA has to wait till Sony contract runs out and then they would have to bid on it.

    On top of this, from what some of the former programmers at EA told me, Formula One was the worse sport organization to work with by far… they wouldn’t allow many features that you would see in normal games like create a car, diver, or team. Plus they were such as stickler for things, it drove the development team crazy.

    This is just one of many examples. If they would stop being a stick in the mud about these sort of things, more people would be exposed to the sport.

  2. sidepodcastNo Gravatar says:

    “from what some of the former programmers at EA told me, Formula One was the worse sport organization to work with by far…”

    oooh, didn’t know that. do you have any more info on this? be interesting to know what sort of things they had issues with.

    sidepodcast’s last blog post..Episode 53 – They’ve Got the Drivers, They’ve Got the Money, What Can Go Wrong?

  3. F1Minute.comNo Gravatar says:

    Your third fresh thinking suggestion is the one that really matters.

    F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of technology, yet the people in charge can barely use a photocopier.

    So many other series are doing it better, when will the official F1 website catch up?

    F1Minute.com’s last blog post..24-Feb-08: Hamilton Leads the Way at Final Test

  4. F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the EA insight. Did not even think about game …

    Pinacle of technology – 5 year engine freeze, restrictions on materials, restrictions on everything :-) and as it looks also restrictions on F1 management brain capacity

  5. Dan BrunellNo Gravatar says:

    F1 Minute… I am assuming Christine or me…

    Here is what I know and how I got to know it in this, warning it a little bit of story…

    I was up in Seattle covering a regional software convention a few years back (I think 2003-4ish) writing a story for our state chamber magazine that I help put together.

    It was one of those typical meet, greet, and drink sort of functions. EA used to have an office near Seattle, so some of reps and software people were there. I went up to them initially to try to get them to join our chamber. However our conversation drifted towards their games. I mentioned that I really missed their F1 game.

    One of them responded in a smart ass sort of way, “yeah we don’t.” They went on how they and the developers they contracted (Image Space out of Michigan ((the same people who do rFactor)) and some place out of England) had a rough go at producing a F1 game.

    I know this four years ago and from a couple of their staff in not related to the actual F1 games, but what they said back some general statements, but fit in pretty well knowing the FIA, FOA, and FOM management style:

    1: The usage agreement (the guidelines that companies, in this case sporting bodies, give for logo usage and other copyright material within a media such as a video game) were some of the harshest of all the sports governing bodies they dealt with.

    2: In this same regard, the F1 people (according to them) were really hard to work with, controlling and demanding that it was their way on how their sport was portrayed.

    3: The cost of the exclusive contract they had with F1 was excessive and the production costs really didn’t make the game appealing enough for EA management to continue or to fight for the bid against Sony. I don’t know if this was sour grapes from losing the agreement to Sony, but they sounded pretty disgusted how things went.

    I think it is stupid for the FIA, FOA, and FOM to think this way. Why create a barrier to something that will help expand the base and exposure of F1? The NBA and MLB have multiple games out? Look what the Madden games did for the NFL? It absolutely insane. I’ll stop before I get even more frustrated.

  6. rajNo Gravatar says:

    Well a lot of fresh insights! especially about the web, if only they start listening earlier than latter…

    raj’s last blog post..Hamilton quicker than Schumacher

  7. F1 BettingNo Gravatar says:

    A great rant that! but lots of good points and I wholeheartedly agree about F1 needing to expand its image and ‘brand’ better. The TV coverage point you make is interesting and I’m surprised that with the digital technology available that there isn’t more of an interactive way of watching races these days compared to what other sports on TV do. F1 would be the perfect sport to experiment with different coverage, angles etc available to the viewer but it seems coverage is stuck in a bit of a time-warp.

  8. francoisNo Gravatar says:

    Not the first time either that they haven’t really understood the capabiltites of the Internet.A few years back now but they were really reluctant to even allow a internet F1 site.

    Gale Force F1 were quite ahead of their time when they set up in 1995 with live timing and race results data.However ,the FIA made it difficult for them by denying one of the authors there any press accreditation (weren’t interested in the internet) and then subsequently claiming copyright infringement by having “F1″ or the like in their domain name.

    They did have a premium F1 pay TV channel over here in the UK a few years ago where you could choose all sorts of angles on the action and have telemetry.It flopped quite badly though and I don’t think Bernie would repeat that venture anytime soon.

    francois’s last blog post..X10 troubles…

  9. Black ZeddNo Gravatar says:

    This is a great conversation :) Yeah I agree with the pricing part, they’ve put a great limit on the demand side by charging exorbitant amount for…everything!

    100 people spending $5 is a lot better than 5 people spending $50..

    Black Zedd’s last blog post..How To Not Get A Promotion

  10. F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

    sometime companies come with new stuff earlier than the world is ready for it. but that does not mean the idea or project is wrong. it might be it is just few years ahead of its time. these days the premium channel would be much cheaper to set up and distribute that few years back. and if they are worried, they can test it first through internet. one example – the Champions League Football. Here in Hong Kong we have at the same time 4 matches live on 4 different channels on cable. But you can buy a package for very decent price that allows you to watch any game live online and replay it. This is great especially for the group matches and for the fans following some of the lesser teams. the feed is there, juts someone found a way how to made it available to viewevers.

    when you are on a race track, the whole practise sessions are live on the screens, with commentary. how many TV channels actually broadcast it live around the world ? sure there may not be enough audience to justify the TV time, but there sure would be enough fans tuning to Formula 1 website watching. just see how many formums have “Free practice threads” …

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