Liberty Media figures reveal fan engagement boost, hopefully

Just perusing the Q2 figures released by the owner of the Formula One Group, admittedly not quite as expertly as my esteemed colleague Formula Money’s Christian Sylt, who is a noted expert in this area.

I notice Chase Carey, Formula One Group’s Chairman and CEO says: “We are in the process of developing our three to five year strategic plan while focusing on key priorities like improving and building fan engagement that will positively impact the business and build the foundation for long-term results.”

If you remember Carey, the former Vice-Chairman of 21st Century Fox, replaced Bernie Ecclestone after nearly 40 years at the helm of F1.

So, does this mean it’s trying to make the sport more exciting for the fans? Let’s hope so.


Here’s the rest of Carey’s chat at the press conference. I’ve omitted most of the financials (read Christian’s stories about those; they’re quite revealing):

“We just passed the halfway point in the 2017 season as well as the six-month anniversary of the change in ownership at Formula One. And while it’s still early days, it’s been a good start on both fronts. Attendance at our races and television viewer numbers are both up solidly season-to-date.

“Our engagement on digital platform season-to-date is up even more dramatically, particularly on video usage. Most of our senior executive team will be in place when we return from the August break. And we moved into new offices two weeks ago that will dramatically improve our effectiveness and efficiency.

“For the first time, we’ll have an organisation capable of properly managing and growing the sport. Most importantly, Formula One has a fresh energy and excitement among our fans and partners that is providing critical momentum. Our initial market research, as well as great events like our Formula One Live celebration in Central London last month, illustrated our fan’s great passion for the sport and the untapped potential of Formula One.

“We’re in the process of building a strategic plan, another first for Formula One, that will outline our vision and goals over the next three to five years. At the same time, our new operating groups have begun to move forward on key priorities that will be the building blocks for that plan.


“In the sponsorship area, we’re actively engaged with potential new sponsors in a number of previously untapped categories as well as building stronger relationships with existing ones. We’re developing capabilities to provide more uniquely tailored offers that better match sponsors’ objectives and provide us both more inventory and premium values. On the promoter front, we’re working with existing promoters on key renewals and ways to enhance the appeal and value of our events.


“We’re expanding the consumer experience at the track in terms of entertainment, exhibitions and food as well as building new offerings in areas like merchandising. Quite simply, we’re making a lot more fun, interesting and open for fans. At the same time, we’re actively exploring some exciting new locations for future races.

“One area of particular focus related to our events is hospitality. It is increasingly important that we maximise the entire range of consumer experiences that enable us to fully exploit the potential of our most valuable customers. We’re also building stronger relationships with our local promoters and other partners to properly market and sell these experiences.

“In the television area, both traditional and digital, we’re balancing our goals for reach, economic value and growth potential for critical new areas like over-the-top. Our unique premium product positions us well for this expanding arena. We’re in the process of selecting the partners that will help us build our digital platforms and create new exciting content for fans.

“On the motorsport front, we’re addressing key issues like the next-generation engine, cost controls, aerodynamics, track design and other initiatives, all of which are designed to improve competitiveness and action on the track for fans and to strengthen the business for Formula One and its partners.

“This is just some of the activity at Formula One today, and we have many more initiatives like broader engagement with host cities, opportunities in the gaming area and developing Formula One in the US and China. Overall, our priority in the short term is to, first and foremost, improve and build our engagement with fans. Our sport is loved by our fans worldwide, and we have the opportunity to grow that base.

However, in recent years, this work is not delivering on its promise and potential. We now have the team in place to do so and look forward to turning a newly engaged fan base into an exciting business for all of us.”

Bernie out, Ross back… I don’t know


unknownWhat a day that was.

Liberty Media completed its £6.4 billion takeover of Formula One, the deal maker supreme Mr Bernie Ecclestone has been sidelined – to act as an adviser to the board supposedly, but that’s rubbish – Liberty’s Chase Carey has had Bernie’s former role of chief executive officer added to his existing position of chairman, and brought the former Ferrari-Mercedes man Ross Brawn – who had been acting as a consultant to Liberty – back into the sport to lead the sporting and technical side of F1.

Just catching my breath…

Well, if you think the 86-year-old Mr Ecclestone, who’s been in charge for nearly 40 years, is going to drive off into the sunset to partake in a game of bingo at the local retiree’s club, then think again.

Bernie remains an enigma to many. Like many of those of his generation and before, he has seen plenty of death in the sport to last a lifetime. It’s what many forget when they meet him. This kind of experience breeds toughness. To his enemies, he’s a formidable opponent; to loyal friends, he’s a brick. He also has a realistic view of what the sport has become…

Some may say this view of what he thinks the sport should be has now gone awry and we need a Liberty to sharpen things up a bit. We certainly do and some may say he’s met his match in Chase Carey. Then again how many times have we said that over the years.

The fat lady hasn’t arrived just yet.

In his book, The Piranha Club, Tim Collings describes an episode in Ecclestone’s life, recalled by Sir Frank Williams, which encapsulates Bernie, the man:

‘Those who have known him for a long time are full of admiration and respect. Frank Williams recalled him buying Brabham and running the early meetings of the 1970s. He remembered one incident, in particular, at the Watkins Glen Motor Inn.

“He was there negotiating with the organiser from Mexico and the man, literally, excused himself to go to the lavatory…and never came back. He went out of the back window!”

That, as Williams conceded with a smile, stuck in his mind. Of Ecclestone, the achiever, he said:

“In the big picture, we all know, and respect, that Bernie saw Formula One for what it could be. Over 30 years, he has moulded it into the activity that he thought would give it an important place in the world and a strong commercial base for the teams as well as creating a side of the business for himself.

“He has achieved his objectives very successfully. I think he has the admiration of all the teams for that. He really is a formidable individual in every sense of the word and he has created a worldwide sport pretty much single-handedly.”

And, of Ecclestone, the man, he said he had “a gifted business brain…He is intellectually very clever and level-headed. Clearly, he is very determined. He can also be very persuasive, when putting his deals together in the order in which he wanted them to stack up.”

Could anyone else have done what Bernie did?

“Probably, but he wasn’t in this part of the universe at the right time…I’ve always known it is impossible to second-guess Bernard. Like many clever businessmen, you don’t know what he is thinking.”


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