#F1 Features: #F1 and #Nascar – Strange Bedfellows (Part II)

This special analysis article is brought to to you by TJ13 contributor Mattpt55

Editors Note: This is The second article looking at how F1 coverage is affected by it’s stateside cousin, NASCAR.  If you missed the first one, follow this link.
IndyCar series 2

Courtesy of NASCARnomics 

It’s not all bad news however; for one thing, being on the same network as NASCAR actually improved IndyCar viewership. Presumably starting in 2015, the same will be true for F1 when NASCAR joins NBCSN and the more open-minded of NASCAR fans might stick around because they are, well, “Euro-curious”, for lack of a better term. Also apparent is the fact that the bigger the starting audience, the bigger the overall viewership. ESPN, for example, is seen in more homes than NBCSN, and costs less to get. By looking at the differential between the losses of viewers, it’s clear that IndyCar lost fewer viewers on ESPN than it did on NBCSN. The addition of NASCAR in 2015 should allow NBCSN to leverage NASCAR’s popularity and negotiate with cable providers to be seen in more households at a lower price, which should then help drive F1’s audience in a positive direction. OF course, it’s also possible that NASCAR (whose own ratings, along with F1’s and IndyCar’s, have been dropping over the last several years) will fall victim to NBCSN’s lower profile. In that case, it will lose along with the rest of motorsport in America as races become harder to see and sponsors begin to re-evaluate their investment based on audience numbers.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is the Danica effect. The presence of a well-known, female driver having previously finished in the top 5 drove ratings far more than anything short of being on one of the big OTA channels. Which means that the broken clock that is FOM’s leader might have been righter than he thought, when pushing for women to join the ranks of F1 drivers. Of course, the Danica ship has already sailed and there is no guarantee that anyone else waiting in the wings (Simona di Silvestra is perhaps best placed, having achieved a podium at the end of the 2013 IndyCar season, in an actual road race, well, OK parking lot race) will have nearly the draw or ability to drive ratings that Danica, a real celebrity on these shores, did. Sadly for Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly, amongst the things that had no discernible influence on IndyCar ratings (compiled by the highly perspicacious Andrew Maness  in his article on IndyCar Ratings, were the number of American participants both throughout the field and among the top 8 in the season long standings along with night racing and schedule momentum.

And tonight’s gonna be everything that I said
And when I walk through that door
I’m just gonna throw that money on the bed
She’ll see this time I wasn’t just talking
Then I’m gonna go out walking
Hey Eddie, can you catch us a ride?

Meeting Across the River, Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA

In a nutshell then, Bernie has in effect sold F1 to the highest bidders, (natch), whose interests may or may not entirely coincide with the interests of F1 proper. From the view of NBCSN, F1 is a niche sport in the US, one that attracts a strong fan base. Those fans have a great deal of appeal to advertisers, which allows them to reap higher than usual advertising rates. From the point of view of F1, it has to hope that the execs at NBCSN know what they are about (potentially dubious) and leaves them in the very odd position of hoping that their country bumpkin cousin from the South, NASCAR, rude, red-necked and loud-mouthed though he might be, can pull the collective danglies of motorsport in America out of the fire. Of course it would help if NBCSN could be bothered to improve their actual broadcasting of races. Between the timing of commercial breaks and the constant kindergarten level announcing (no doubt primarily for the benefit of the execs running the show) there exists no polite vocabulary to properly describe the awfulness that is watching F1 in the States.

Of course, when this deal was done, the plan was to float F1 on the stock exchange, where the enhanced cash flow from pay TV would enhance the overall value of the business, hence the price of the stock itself. The plan most certainly was not to watch the inestimable leader of FOM carted away in chains for financial chicanery of the highest order, as now seems likely. So the loss of viewership short term (as I would wager the plans for NASCAR and better market penetration were part of the discussion) would be worth the higher stock valuation and the bet was long term viewer increase.  Since that worked out entirely as planned, F1 is now stuck with the worst of all possible worlds, one in which the interests of the FOM and teams have entirely diverged (that structural thing I mention earlier). Yes, the teams get 63% of the TV money, but distributed as prize money, which is to say, they don’t each get an equal share of it. In return, they will lose sponsorship, as worldwide ratings will continue to decline with the move to pay TV. Of course, 42% of a team’s budget is sponsorship so let’s do some back of the envelope calculations. Taking the UK as an example, TV money went up from $80 million to $100 million. Supposing they shared that out equally (which they don’t), 63% of the additional $20 million works out to $12.6 million, divided by the 10 = not nearly enough to make up for the loss of real dollars from fleeing sponsors because their investment loses ground every time another viewer changes the channel.

Just ask Eric Boullier, or Martin Whitmarsh, I’m sure you’ll get an earful. Boxing offers up a nice comparison, because they moved to the world of pay-per-view some time ago, and now boxing is a sport that almost no one follows. In fact, even though it has been off the air for years, boxing’s biggest ratings have still come when they returned to traditional OTA networks for one-off events. The dilemma is that the boxers make way less, but the sport does much better. Kathy Duva (interviewed for an article in Sports on Earth puts it in simple terms. “How do you tell the fighter?”

‘Well we can get you $100,000 to fight on NBC when HBO offers you a million? We’re not going to take the million to pay you commensurately because we don’t want to erode our fanbase 45 years from now.’ We absolutely knew what it was happening but there didn’t appear to be any other alternatives.” Except, much like boxing, it’s not really the fighter (teams) that get the money, it’s the whole entourage around them (FOM), leaving the fighter no choice but to take the next fight to clear their debt from the last one.

But are there really no alternatives for F1 in the US? In fact, there are plenty, if the guiding forces behind the sport could just bother to get themselves away from the caviar and champagne long enough to actually make some sensible choices.

1. Put qualifying on the OTA network, live where possible. Speaking as an American, Qualifying is often more exciting than the actual race that follows it. Want to capture a casual viewer? Show them the qualifying from Spa when Lewis turned in that ridiculous lap in the wet to take pole (or substitute your own favorite example, I’m not driver-centric). And, oh yes, possibly give 3, 2, and 1 points for the top 3 positions to make the championship a little more entertaining to us yokels.

2. Figure out that Hispanic/ Latino-Americans are a large and growing demographic segment with increasing economic power and market properly to them. I had no clue until I wrote this article just how big Univision
(which owns UniMás) has become, but anyone following politics knows that they are the most rapidly increasing demographic in our society and that, as time goes on, their opinions will become increasingly important in determining what matters.

3. Show the race live on NBCSN (maybe watch UniMás and figure out what they are doing right, ¡claro!) and then show edited broadcast on the OTA. Not exactly rocket science, putting a carefully edited version where newcomers might find it is probably not the worst idea, truefans can DVR the race. Oh, and please do something about the commercials, because, DAMN.

4. Use teh interwebs to let folks access coverage without subscribing to $170 a month cable service. Because OBVIOUS!!!

5. Girls, Girls, Girls. Clearly we have got it bad for that narrative. So go dig up some decent drivers and get it done already. Somewhere out there is a 17 year-old already good enough. You just gotta find her and convince her it’s worth her time.

6. Stop valuing money over fans. Hate to state the obvious, but if you want to succeed, you gotta be famous, not rich. You can’t go hiding behind layers of pay walls and exorbitant entry fees. And stop taking videos down from YouTube. It’s where everyone goes to find out what’s interesting. Why would you want to stop folks from finding out more about you?

Of course, all those presuppose we are dealing with intelligent adults who are taking the long view in caring for and growing their enterprise. But in reality, your best bet is to crack open an icy Budweiser (not the Czech one *sigh*) put your boots up, work on your yee-haws and hope that Tony Stewart and his rolling gang of rednecks can work an actual miracle and make F1 modestly popular in this country.

21 responses to “#F1 Features: #F1 and #Nascar – Strange Bedfellows (Part II)

  1. Dear Matt

    ” Budweiser (not the Czech one *sigh*) ”

    is it difficult to get REAL Budweiser in the US ?

  2. Depends on where you live.Definitely a specialty item. My personal preference is Pilsner Urquell if I’m drinking Czech beer, though. I’m sure you could turn some up in the beer halls of NYC, but you’d be hard pressed to find it in large swathes of the country. Which is a whole other article, LOL.

    • Urquell is lovely 🙂

      There’s a bar near my mates that only stocks quality European beers – had it on draft there.

      Another lovely Czech beer to try ( if you haven’t already ) is Staropramen.


      BTW – we all know F1 is f*cked and why – and no one cares except the fans – so why not have a drink instead ?


      • LOL thought you’d never ask. I’m in the middle of one right now, as it’s late at night here in the colonies. And, might I add, not my first.

        I’ll give Staropromen a try, the name definitely rings bells and we have an excellent Polish grocer nearby who stocks all kinds of crazy beers.

      • Ding, Ding, Ding !! We have a winner !!

        Now these are two Gentlemen, who know what they’re talking about 😀 Just some background info on the beers you’re talking about.

        Pilsener Urquell is the ‘prototype Lager’, so to speak. It comes from Plzen. In Germany Lager is called ‘Pils’, as Urquell was the first ever such beer. Staropramen is the #2 in the Czech Republic. It comes from Prague. Budweiser comes from České Budějovice. All three are brewed according to the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1487, like most beers in Germany, too.

        If you ever happen to visit Plzen. There are guided tours through the brewery and they have an own pub right next to the factory gates. The beer there is spectacularly good. Two mates and me once got hogwashly bladdered in there. 🙂

        • Oof, sounds like you’ve bested me already for the beer article 😉

          And I would dearly love to visit Plzen, and make a general beer pilgrimage to the midsection of Europe.

          Craft beers and brewpubs have become fairly popular here in the States, and if you’re not careful it’s easy to do rather a lot of damage in a short period of time. So I have some sympathy for you there 😀

        • Dear Danilo

          another wonderful German beer I love – also served on draft at the bar I mentioned – is Erdinger.

          They serve both the Weißbier and Pikantus

          Yum 🙂

  3. The real problem is that F1 is not attracting new fans and is losing the old ones (me). I’m not sure I will keep watching F1, although I’ve been a fan for more than 30 years, attending races in the US and abroad. It’s getting boring. I know I’m not the demographic advertisers want, but so what? I’m about to give it up. FOM has a big problem and is not even addressing it. Sad. If I’m about to bail, what can the potential new fans be doing? They (FOM) are not promoting this ‘sport’ at all. Do they expect money to fall from the skies? Maybe that’s the problem.

    • Yep, in a nutshell FOM expects the circuits/networks to do the publicity to put fans in the seats, because they don’t want to spend the money. At the same time, they refuse to understand the new markets they enter and offer them a reason to watch. But as I said, the interests of FOM and the interests of F1 as a healthy long term enterprise are fundamentally at odds. Your attitude is a symptom of a deeper problem within the heart of the sport itself. If you want to feel better, go check out 24 hours of Lemons or Formula Drift. It will restore your faith in humanity.

  4. While we’re on the subject…… is there any way to make comments available after the blog, instead of having to go back to the top to comment? Maybe a spot to click on comments after reading all the posts?

  5. If you want to see how committed NBCSN is to F1 or even just motorsports in general take a look at there website. Absolutely pathetic! It is sad really, they have so much potential on air and on the web. But from the looks of things 12 year olds are in charge, and it seems even the 12 year olds have something better to do.

      • I have racked my brain to figure out what you mean by DD. But I cant figure it out and it is driving me crazy! I hope it isn’t something that everyone knows and I look like a big dummy. But either way, please enlighten me as to who/what DD is?

  6. Enjoyed Part II even more… Thanks.
    Where I live I have little or no opportunity to follow F1 live and had years ago given up worrying about it… But I now also have to put up with FOM’s absurd (as you say) attitude to YouTube.

    About a year and a half ago I discovered IndyCars on YT which reawakened an interest from about fifteen years ago… and, despite the posts being a week or so delayed, I get more satisfaction from watching these than F1… simply because I am ABLE to watch them – and UNable to watch F1…

    • So why dont you watch live streams on the Internet? Whole of the sky covarge or bcc or Spanish or whatever you want…

    • Hi BJF I’m with @Peter S. I really do appreciate your contribution and the depth of your historical knowledge. But feel free to email me at mattpt55 at gmail if you need “suggestions” as to where to find F1 online. A fellow commenter helped me out and I would be delighted to pass the knowledge on. 🙂

    • Ummm… And your constructive criticism would be?

      1. F1 ratings suck on NBCSN, mostly because it’s expensive to get and hard to find

      2. When IndyCar is on the same channel as NASCAR, it’s ratings improve

      3. The more homes IndyCar and F1 are broadcast to, the better their ratings are.

      4. NBCSN gets NASCAR in 2015. That should be good for F1 because hopefully, like IndyCar, their ratings will improve

      5. Having NASCAR should also help get NBCSN into more households, also improving ratings.

      6. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Might not work in which case bad news for all.

      7. Pay TV is bad for the F1 teams, because fewer viewers = less sponsor dollars, and the increased TV rights won’t make up the difference for all teams.

      8. Pay TV is also bad for the teams because it reduces the audience and keeps new viewers from being attracted to the sport, similar to boxing in the US.

      There, I simplified it for you. 🙂 Hope that helps.

  7. I am intrigued with the idea of having an edited version of the race re-broadcast at normal human hours. However, great care must be taken to choose who and how the races are edited to ensure it has the best visual and emotional impact (aka “cool factor”) to the first time viewer.

  8. Streaming races on the internet would be great, I wouldn’t mind to pay per race weekend. And sponsors could give away log-in codes for a race weekend, although I wouldn’t buy a tray of Red Bull if it came with a code.

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