Ecclestone bemused


Bernie Ecclestone has done a Q&A with the fans of Formula One, facilitated by F1 Racing. The questions were wide ranging, including ‘when are you going to retire?’ and ‘what did you think to your sign that was altered in Germany to ‘’Bernie says think before you bribe’?

Yet there is a stand out section where Ecclestone was asked by Kristian Soderberg of Finland, ‘What is the strategy to attract new fans to the sport?’

Here is his response:

“I don’t know. Maybe someone else should answer that. What is it that attracted fans to this sport 30 or 40 years ago, and what’s changed? That is the bottom line.

“Maybe other forms of entertainment, because of television, have taken away a big chunk of people, who would have watched F1 and are now watching something else.

“These other things are now accessible; before, they weren’t. Football is big, big, big. Thousands of games. We have 20 ‘games’ per year. Just think of the number of football games in each country that people can watch.

“And sponsors – they come to us if they want to position their product in F1. We can offer them 20 different variations of where they can go and how they can appear, but with football… think of how many games they play on a weekend, in every country. The world has changed”.

Of curse the quick observation is that the loss of F1 on free to air broadcasting has been the biggest culprit for the loss of the TV audience. However, Ecclestone’s response appears to be that of a man who genuinely has no answer to what is happening.

Bernie is stating the obvious, but there is no characteristic quick-witted response, or even a vaguely mad idea of how the problem can be solved.

Add this to the answer to the next question, and maybe there are signs Ecclestone recognises his time is coming to an end.

Ricardo Quinonez asked, “What advice would you offer to your eventual successor?”

Well, I don’t think there will be one person. There will be a group of people all doing different things. Maybe that’s better. Maybe that is a better way”.

The world has indeed change over Bernie’s 40 years of Formula One management, and he must yearn for the days when his word was law.

Now Formula One has the strategy group.

18 responses to “Ecclestone bemused

  1. And whilst he makes the noises to say he’s going to retire we see no actual evidence of this happening.

    Bernie knows exactly what is wrong but the way his business model is setup and how he earns his money means there is very little he can do to change the way the sport is going. It will take a new management at the top to change the culture that is currently in place in F1 which is that money comes first, second and third with the actual sport brining up the rear.

    And, of course, this is how every business operates. But I believe that F1 has got to the point where it’s business model actually is detracting too highly from the product that it’s killing it slowly. It’s time to think about how they can monetise new media, bring more crowds to the circuits with lower ticket prices but who with a bigger draw of people you should then be able to subsidise the loss in ticket prices with mass and add-ons when at the event (food, merch etc.)

    Interesting times ahead.

  2. The difficulty with getting the same number of viewers F1 had in the past is that every knows that you should bring F1 back to free to air TV stations but nobody has any idea of how to bring F1 back to free to air TV stations and keep the same income F1 receives from the pay TV stations. My suggestion would be to have a requirement that if a pay TV station has the F1 rights they also have to accept that a free to air station shows their race + qualifying feed (race: 15 min before start till podium ceremony. qualy: start of q1 till end of q3). The pay TV station would receive free advertisement for their extended coverage programs in return. In order for this to work the viewer would have to get the idea that they are gaining significantly in the quality and amount of coverage for paying for the pay TV package. So that means the free to air stations should not be allowed to have a pre or post show or show the free practice sessions, it is free but it doesn’t have any extras. It also means that the free TV version is likely to have commercial interuptions. And to make sure the pay TV customers feel that they get good value for their money the pay TV stations should be required to show the free practice sessions but also have a pre and after show and have extra items about F1 during the week (a bit like how Sky SportsF1 presents F1). I think this strategy could mean that FOM can charge 2 TV stations per country top dollar for the TV rights and increase the number of viewers. F1 is a sport that has to be watched live in order to have a casual viewer see what all the fuzz is about and turn into a fan. Once they’ve become interested enough there comes a point where the incomplete and commercial interupted coverage is not enough any more and they will want to go for the pay TV version. And I believe that it is the ability for a casual viewer to see the race live that is vital for turning those casual viewers into fans.

    • It sounds good, but if that were true, wouldn’t the majority of existing have migrated to SKY already? Instead the viewership has significantly dropped off.
      You cannot limit pre and post race shows, sure the content can be restricted, but the actual show cannot.
      The main point would be getting a pay to view company to spend big money for essentially hoping to attract viewers with just the extras.

      • The reason why I believe the mass migration of fans to Sky hasn’t happened has 2 main reasons. The first is that the Sky package is just too expensive, having to pay 500-600 pound for just 20 race weekends a year is simply too expensive for a lot of people. With football you can watch at least 20 games per weekend and because of that having to pay that amount of money does not seem that expensive. If the TV package was cheaper, for instance by only having to pay for F1 and not for all the extra crap these subscriptions normally give you, it would certainly entice more people to have the pay TV package. The second reason is that the BBC coverage is simply too good. If it was a lot worse a lot more people would be enticed to switch. I live in the Netherlands and almost everyone that I know who watches F1 either watches the BBC or go to a streaming website. I think I know of about 15 people who follow F1 and of those 15 there are only 3 that have the pay TV package (and two of them got the pay TV package because of football/US sports). I even know of someone who pays for the Sky subscription and manages to watch by tricking Sky to think that he lives in England, why would anyone go that far? He is clearly prepared to pay for F1 because the SkySports package is around 5-7 times as expensive as the Dutch pay TV package, but why not go for the Dutch TV package? The answer is actually not that difficult it’s the quality of the show shown in the Netherlands, it simply can’t compare to the Sky show and the BBC does deliver the wanted quality but does not show all races. The quality of the BBC F1 show results in that people don’t have a need to switch. And Bernie can certainly demand what is shown during the TV coverage but it does influences the price he can get from a TV station (it’s because content producers can demand this we have X-Factor in almost every country in Europe and the Americas and they all look and work the same). With this strategy it is FOM’s responsibility to make sure that if fans pay for watching F1 they get the quality they pay for and they have to make sure that the quality difference between free and pay TV is big enough to make it worthwhile to switch.

      • That’s absolutely true. The whole point of my argument is that if you want to have 2 TV stations per country pay for F1 you have to make sure the difference in quality of the show has to be big enough. The BBC show is such a high quality that for many even having only half the races the show is good enough to persevere. The high lights show is not enough to get the attention of potential fans because you miss the magic and excitement you get when watching F1 live. For a sport that only has 20 matches a year that excitement and magic is vital to capture the attention of a potential fan

        • However, for those that can’t afford the £30+ a month for Sky?

          Whilst I’m a huge fan I just can’t justify spending this amount of money to have all the Sky sports channels to only watch 20 races per year – I just have no need for any of the other sports!

          By making the free to air of a poorer quality all you’re going to be doing is pushing those long term fans out in a similar situation to myself.

          • This strategy I proposed is put together with 2 objectives in mind, first increase the number of viewers and second do it a way that FOM doesn’t receive less money. The first objective is self explanatory but the second is an objective that is needed to make the strategy realistic. Whatever strategy’s other people might think of if they don’t have that second objective there is no realistic chance FOM will ever adopt it.

            Off course FOM could and should add something to the TV station contract that forces the TV stations to have a F1 only subscription to alleviate the burden on fans like you BuhSnarf (and me too since the only sport I watch is car racing) but realistically that can only be done by the TV stations that have a F1/racing only channel or accept that you can only have an online subscription (this solution is what Sport1 in the Netherlands offers for E9,95 a month). An even better solution would be if FOM starts to offer internet streaming subscriptions where they show the pre and after show from the country of your choosing alongside the normal FOM feed (I doubt this will be cheap though).

            Let’s be honest if you can watch the race and the qualifying but not the pre or after show you would still watch. Yes the experience is not as good but you would still be able to see every race and qualifying session live. When you look from the point of view of SkySportsF1 you realize that even though they have paid top dollar to broadcast F1 and the BBC only shows half of the season the BBC still has more viewers per race, wouldn’t you too have a feeling that you’ve paid far too much if you were in the shoes of SkySportsF1? The BBC show is just too good for a lot of people to feel the need to change, this eventually results in SkySports wanting to pay less for the contract or reduce the quality of the show (resulting in less viewers and further need to reduce the costs of showing F1, etc.) and eventually both routes would lead to FOM not earning as much from the contracts as they do now. This contradicts the second objective and is therefore not a realistic option for FOM. I wouldn’t be surprised that when the Sky and BBC contracts have to be renewed Sky will ask FOM to reduce the the BBC coverage even more because it costs them too many potential viewers 😉

  3. In fairness, they have stopped Vettel continuously changing helmets, which was the only reason people would have been switching off…therefore problem solved…NOT

  4. Personally, im a fan of old Bernie. We will miss him whens hes gone, and careful what you wish for, you may find the alternative less palatable.

    • “and careful what you wish for, you may find the alternative less palatable”. – Danielsussex

      Yes true, but that line of thinking could apply to anyone (and anything)… even Mugabe.

      F1 needs drastic change, and needs it now. The biggest hindrance to change is Bernie.

        • He continues to stop the teams from uniting. His ‘divide and conquer’ approach – whilst weaker now thanks to Todt – continues to hold progress back.

          The sport can’t evolve because of that; either in terms of how it markets itself, or improving how it distributes revenue, or taking a more sustainable position on deals with circuits, etc. The sport should be worth more than it is, the teams should be healthier than they are, social media and marketing should be yielding more bums on seats at more relevant circuits… I could go on, but you get my point.

          The 100yr contract needs to be undermined somehow. That’s where my focus would be.

    • I’m not a fan, but I agree with “devil you know” principal to an extent.
      I also firmly believe that it is naive to think Bernie is allowed much slack in his leash. CVC would marginalize Bernie if he wasn’t doing his job, and I don’t mean what we, the fans, think of as his job either. He might go off script occasionally, but with regard to the fees and contracts, one cannot imagine he is not in line with CVC.

  5. Wow! Pathetic answers. Imagine instead the answers if…

    What if F1’s promoter (currently Bernie and FOM) had to tender a bid to the FIA to continue every few years, such as what we have for the tire supplier(s)?

    Technically, F1 is owned by FIA, not FOM. FOM has Mosley’s gift of a 99 year lease to promote the series. So, if that lease was somehow broken due to contract violation, or violation of contract / business law, etc., then what?

    What if we had multiple promoters (similar to a tire war, a promoter war)?

    Or perhaps a TV vendor, and on-line media vendor, and two different race promoters promoting various races around Europe and the world?

    Imagine all of these promoter contracts come up for open bid renewal periodically? How different would the answers to these questions be then? I’ll guess the answers would be significantly different, and much more intelligent!

    • That would be one way to crush the profits of F1, and the little teams would feel it first.
      You’re also making one very large assumption and that is that the FIA want change. Perhaps they are quite content with taking their sizable yearly payment for relatively little effort. All of this contract negotiations would add considerable cost and effort to the management process.

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