Formula E are looking for ‘channel consistency’ and audience consolidation in future television deals, series organisers have told Motorsport Broadcasting.
Since the electric series launched in 2014, Formula E has aired across five different broadcasters in the UK.
Currently, the series airs live across BBC’s digital platforms, with live coverage also airing on Eurosport, but both deals end following the 2020-21 season.
Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting on the eve of the New York E-Prix weekend, Formula E’s chief media officer Aarti Dabas said that the series was exploring making it ‘simpler’ to watch Formula E moving forward.
“When you drive a message, with the clutter that’s around, you want a simple message, watch it on this channel, live,” Dabas believes. “You don’t want five different channels over there and five calls to action.”
“It’s a good question because we’re definitely looking at a more consistent channel strategy in the UK and other markets. And when I think of the channel strategy, I know that every race currently we are like, is it on BBC Red Button, is it on network, is it on Quest. It’s hard.”
Dabas, who joined Formula E in June 2020, believes that channel consistency, along with localised content, are both key if Formula E is going to become a tier 1 sport in key territories.
“For us we are aiming to be a tier 1 sport, and channel consistency is going to drive the numbers,” Dabas says. “We are looking to see how we can have consistent channels whether it’s with BBC, or with any other channel that we go with.”
Sat.1 deal in Germany an early success story for Dabas
Citing her previous role, Dabas notes that cricket saw a 50% jump in audiences in India following the creation of a localised feed, instead of the Indian coverage taking the English language feed.
Dabas’s team are trying to replicate that approach in Formula E, with their deal with German station Sat.1 an early success story.
Sat.1 airs a one-hour bespoke pre-show, with a dedicated on-site crew producing coverage for German viewers, featuring the likes of former racer Daniel Abt on commentary.
“It took a while to do and draft the deal [with Sat.1], because both from their end and ours, we wanted to work on something that helped them grow their audiences. Eventually they want younger people to watch their channel, and Formula E is the right fit.”
“They’re [Sat.1] actually owning the product with language, relevant talent, so it doesn’t look like they just take the World Feed.”
“I think ultimately that is the model we want to replicate in most key markets because that is what’s going to build audiences for us.”
“The second New York race is on CBS [in the US], a big free-to-air channel. There’s marketing support on the This Morning show on CBS which is a huge crossover from sport into entertainment.”
“We have to look at growing holistically rather than actually ‘here’s a sport, here’s a feed’, put it on and people will watch, those days are gone I think.”
Formula E is taking a long-term approach on the rights front, aiming to build their audience first, with the hope that revenues will follow later.
“It’s a hedge bet, placing 3 million for three years in a territory for rights. But in those three years, if that sport is not performing and building audiences, you’ve actually taken the sport backwards,” Dabas tells me over a Teams call from New York.
“I think, rather than focus on revenue first, you focus on audience first, and then the revenue follows. Those are the sports that will see growth, rather than sports that are looking at short term revenue versus long term growth.”
Formula E re-assessing social media content strategy
The championship is also re-assessing their social media content strategy to help them grow audiences further.
“When I joined, I could see that the Formula E content was all over,” Dabas recalls.
“It was everywhere, the teams were putting it out, partners, broadcasters, YouTube, but ultimately did that actually grow the audience? I think for us it’s about working with partners and adding value, otherwise we’re simply just putting the content on YouTube.”
“Avid fans will probably love it because they can see it for free, but we have to go beyond those fans and I think hopefully in two or three years we can reach a position where we reach the fans who don’t yet know us.”
“And then for our avid fans we have something else to give to our digital products. Avid fans should be actually looked after and rewarded for being avid fans, and right now all we’re doing is putting it out on YouTube.”
Dabas believes the content across Formula E’s platforms, whether it is the championship-led channels or the team channels needs to have a narrative.
“There has to be a narrative and we should cross promote each other, rather than all of us trying to be on top of each other, diverting attention and fragmenting audiences.”
“So, I think when I talk about the consolidation audience approach, I think there is also about complementary content rather than competing content that we need to look at.”
Formula E’s UK broadcast plans for the London E-Prix weekend, which takes place on July 24th and 25th, will be announced shortly.
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