I am not sure whether F1 is undergoing rebirth pains or experiencing withdrawal symptoms, if media reports during the past few weeks are anything to go by.
There has apparently been a plethora of meetings between those in power and those with strong vested interests in the sport’s global exposure for the seasons to come.
After the purchase and takeover of Formula One, new owners Liberty Media are set to build an all new experience for teams, sponsors, organisers, circuit owners and fans.
There will be a huge push into the digital media aspect of this entertainment series to bring it in line with other sports.
Remember that former chief Bernie Ecclestone was never a fan of this “new fangled” method of communication, but Liberty believe that implementation of a digital world will benefit all and attract a new audience. I can understand the need to move into the digital world with the aim of capturing a new audience and growing a larger fan base.
But what of those who have been avid fans for many years and are still hoping to view their favourite sport on television?
That will still be possible but virtually every country will be putting the sport behind a pay wall to ensure a guaranteed income.
Strange, when one considers that in the 1980s and through to the 2000s, F1 television viewership was counted in millions per race on a global basis, but from 2008 onwards there has been a steady decline.
In fact, reported figures suggest that as many as one third of those viewers have now turned off.
It is always difficult to assess why this is the case but it appears that sports generally, including soccer, has suffered a similar fate. Putting sporting events on a pay-to-view basis would not seem to be a solution.
After all, from 2008 the world has had economic downturns that have directly affected the expenditure of ordinary people. An increasing cost of living is not conducive to spending money on sports channels.
Liberty F1 commercial head Sean Bratches said: “The relaunch of our digital platform is planned. Today it only costs us money. Fans cannot download exclusive content. That’s going to change.
“We will introduce a direct streaming offer to the fans for both live content and non-live content. The fans will then get access to data directly from the cars. “One will be freely available, while the other for serious fans is behind a payment barrier.”
So there will be internet coverage, but what about television? Bratches continued: “The market has proven that both can be done simultaneously. Other sports are already much further ahead.
“It’s not like we are leaving our TV partners behind. This year we will be offering a new TV graphics platform that presents content in a much more consumer-friendly way.” He also had some comments on free-to-air broadcasting.
“Free TV means reach, but the money is on pay TV. Ideally, 25 to 30% of the races should be on free TV and the rest behind a pay wall. “It works in France and other countries, but there are countries where we should not move to this model yet.”
This last comment is interesting, as a long-running contract between Sky Deutschland and Liberty has just come to an end. Liberty reached an agreement with RTL removing Sky’s exclusivity over F1 broadcasts in Germany.
Bratches said: “Germany is a critical market. They are not ready to break from free TV.“ He added: “I was born in Berlin and a lot of my family lives in Germany.
“My uncle is an avid Formula 1 fan and he would have been pretty angry with me if we had gone too far.” Interesting. Does anyone know if he has a relative in SA?