Looking ahead to 2020

“Pioneers pushed the boundaries.
Technology gave us speed.
Rivalries gave us drama.
Television brought us closer.
And we gave it home.”

Opening this post with the lines from Sky Sports F1’s fantastic 2019 pre-season trailer feels quite apt as we leave the 2010’s and say hello to the 2020’s. The trailer was quite brilliant, showing how F1 – and motor racing – has transformed over the decades, including broadcasting.

The 2010’s will be remembered on the broadcasting side for high definition, pay television, interactivity through social media, over-the-top, multi-stream and multi-platform. Where motor sport broadcasting will be in ten years is anyone’s guess in an ever changing, ever connected world.

For everything that has changed, many things have stayed the same, and some of the F1 personalities that greeted fans for the BBC’s coverage of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix stayed right through to Sky’s coverage of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

2020 promises to be another interesting year on the over-the-top front. F1 continues to try to grow their platform, but is their subscriber base rising at a fast-enough rate? Will UK fans finally get their hands on F1 TV Pro, as unlikely as that sounds?

More interestingly for me, could we see motor racing’s over-the-top platforms converge? Digital sports consultancy 7 League believes we have hit peak subscription and that “some sports will realise that others are best placed to syndicate their content.”

Will any motor racing series’ wanting to break out roll the dice and live stream their content via Amazon, Netflix, or even turn to F1 themselves?

For UK F1 fans, expect 2020 to bring a sense of stability after 2019’s raft of changes, with Sky Sports locked in until 2024 and Channel 4 until 2022. Nevertheless, there are always talking points in the F1 world, and Motorsport Broadcasting will again be covering those as the year unfolds.

Fans have the second series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive to look forward to, expected to land prior to the season opening Australian Grand Prix. As well as covering McLaren’s return to the podium, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that the series will also be featuring Mercedes’ German Grand Prix calamity in full, giving F1 fans plenty to chew over.

There is the outside possibility that Dorna may announce a UK MotoGP contract extension earlier than in previous cycles at the latter end of 2020. BT Sport signed a three-year contract covering 2019, 2020 and 2021, and it is possible that they may seek to extend their deal earlier than anticipated if they feel Sky could come in to swoop the rights.

The start of 2020 should be quieter than what we saw twelve months ago, but there are bound to be plenty of twists and turns off-track as 2020 revs up for another year of motor racing.


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F1 surges towards MotoGP in the social media stakes

Motorsport Broadcasting has dissected social media figures over the past six years, looking across the landscape at what has happened, and what we should be looking out for next.

As always when analysing social media data, it is not about the month-by-month changes, but rather looking at the longer-term trend across the year, and in some cases several years. Across the social platforms, the trend from a motor sport perspective remains the same: Instagram is ever more important, Facebook is stable, whilst Twitter is on the decline.

How well are stakeholders reacting to the change? We take a deep dive below the headlines to see what we can find…

A little health warning to begin that the three sections below use different time periods for the comparisons:

  • Championships – comparing data from December 20th, 2018
  • Teams – comparing data from July 1st, 2018
  • Drivers – comparing data from April 6th, 2019

We use publicly available data for this analysis, such as the number of followers. Whilst the figures presented do not give a reliable indicator as to the engagement per series, the figures do give an idea as to whether a championship or team is attracting a new audience, which is critical for the growth of the sport moving forward.

F1 set to overtake MotoGP in 2020
The big news is that Motorsport Broadcasting predicts that Formula 1 will overtake MotoGP to become the biggest motor sport series on social media in the latter stages of 2020, a remarkable achievement considering how far F1 has come in recent years in comparison to the bike series.

In the past year, F1’s following across the three main social media platforms has increased by 28.9 percent from 16.73 million to 21.56 million followers. In contrast, MotoGP’s following has increased by 11.5 percent, from 22.20 million to 24.76 million followers, which is still strong in isolation.

MotoGP’s following skews towards Facebook, whereas F1 is more split across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. F1 is clearly hitting the right buttons on social media, attracting a new audience to their social channels, and rightly so given the amount they are investing in it.

The challenge for MotoGP is to adapt their social media offering. F1’s social media offering in 2019 is distinctly un-corporate, almost making MotoGP look old school which is not an observation you would make even two years ago.

Second best is not a bad position to be in, and MotoGP would be far ahead of every other motor racing series in that scenario. But, now is probably the time for the leading bike series to overhaul their offer heading into the 2020 season. The same statement applies for NASCAR…

Social media - December 2019 - F1 vs MotoGP vs NASCAR.png

2019 has been another excellent year for the World Rally Championship, with their reach increasing by 15.8 percent, from 3.59 million to 4.16 million followers. An increased focus on Instagram helped their audience swell by 59.5 percent to 1.17 million followers, pushing the championship ahead of NASCAR on the image-sharing platform.

Formula E also gained massively during 2019, jumping by 47.8 percent from 1.65 million followers to 2.44 million followers, overtaking World Superbikes, the World Touring Car Cup, and the IndyCar Series.

However, Formula E’s following has stalled at around 1.6 million likes on Facebook (unusual considering the significant growth directly preceding it), although Instagram continues to grow solidly for the electric series.

The series has made significant noise in recent days with the announcement that they are teaming up with South Korean boy band BTS.

A tweet announcing the collaboration generated over 80,000 retweets and 150,000 likes, by far the largest ever motor sport related tweet. It will be interesting to see if the announcement results in any new followers for Formula E.

Further down the pecking order, Formula Two had a good year on social media, but there is a sad explanation behind the gain.

The F1 feeder series has seen their following double from 265,000 followers to 536,000 followers, but additional analysis from Motorsport Broadcasting shows that traffic towards their channels surged following the death of Anthoine Hubert during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend in August.

Williams and Racing Point on-track struggles hurt social performance
A poor year on-track for the Williams and Racing Point Formula 1 outfits has continued off the circuit, with little social media growth, despite Poland’s Robert Kubica returning to F1 for the former.

The teams, based at Grove and Silverstone respectively, have seen their portfolio of channels grow by just 400,000 followers (or 19 percent) across the past 18 months. As a result, Racing Point have dropped behind Toro Rosso (soon to be re-branded AlphaTauri), with Alfa Romeo now snapping at Racing Point’s heels.

On Instagram, Racing Point’s growth is the lowest of the whole grid, whilst Williams hold that stat over on Twitter.

It is unlikely Toro Rosso could overtake Renault any time soon however, as Renault sit in Class 1.5 on their own, six million followers behind the top four, but over two million followers ahead of Williams.

Social media - December 2019 - F1 teams.png

The gulf between Class 1 and Class 2 shows no sign of slowing, with Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren continuing to record healthy social media growth. The four teams have each increased their total following by between 2.5 and 3 million followers in the past 18 months, dwarfing the rest of the field.

What is fascinating is the profile of the four teams across social media. On Facebook, Mercedes is comfortably king with 11.31 million likes, but Red Bull continues to record sizeable increases, jumping from 9.05 million likes to 10.24 million likes since Summer 2018.

Over on Instagram it is McLaren setting the standard, increasing their following by 91.8 percent, jumping from 2.60 million followers to 4.98 million followers, numbers undoubtedly helped by both of their drivers having a large presence on the platform.

Hamilton continues to reign supreme
Threatened by lawyers in the previous era, one driver continues to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

Since April, Lewis Hamilton’s Instagram following has jumped by 3.26 million followers, from 10.47 million to 13.73 million, a simply staggering amount of growth.

Only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc could claim to be remotely close in terms of raw growth (from a much lower base too), moving the needle from 1.01 million to 2.60 million followers, an increase of 1.59 million.

In his second season, Leclerc is already the fourth most popular driver on Instagram, behind Hamilton, Max Verstappen, and Daniel Ricciardo, with much more growth possible for the Monegasque driver.

Across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Hamilton’s 23.56 million follower tally is greater than the next seven F1 drivers combined, covering Ricciardo, Verstappen, Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz. It is ever more pertinent that rivals challenge Hamilton harder than ever for his crown in 2020.

Instagram is the main contributor to Hamilton’s social media growth, with little gains for the six-time champion on Facebook or Twitter.

Social media - December 2019 - with and without Hamilton.png

Leclerc is the fastest growing driver on Facebook, but with an increase of only 91,000 likes since April, whilst McLaren rookie Lando Norris takes the honours on Twitter, increasing by 211,000 followers. Intagram is clearly the place to be for personality driven content, as the figures show.

Moving forward, Norris and Leclerc are the drivers to watch, having grown in total on social media by 1.12 million followers (or 280 percent) and 1.89 million followers (or 144 percent) respectively. Both are very young, and immensely popular with their fan bases on Instagram.

In comparison, Verstappen’s following has increased by 941,000 accounts. Whilst consistent, Verstappen’s growth is way behind the brand that Hamilton has built up over the past ten years.

Hamilton’s brand is awesome for F1, but could become detrimental if he retires on top, devaluing the rest of the competition in the process. In my view, dethroning Hamilton is important to elevate someone beyond the glass ceiling in the eyes of the wider public.

2020 looks set to be a fascinating year on the social media front, with F1 set to usurp MotoGP on top, Formula E continuing to make strong gains, and the new generation making an impact on the F1 front. It is all to play for…


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F1 to stream Mexican Grand Prix on Twitch in selected territories

Formula 1 has announced that it is to stream the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix on Twitch in selected territories.

The weekend will air live and free on the streaming platform in Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in addition to F1’s usual offering.

However, the World Feed will come with an additional layer in the form of interactivity and gaming elements. An influencer will “co-stream” each session, with German influencer PietSmiet getting in on the act in Germany, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.

In addition, F1 will ask fans to predict the performance of drivers during 10-minute segments which they say will provide an “interactive gaming element to the broadcast.”

Frank Arthofer, F1’s Director of Licencing said “Twitch has incredible reach, a unique creative spin on sports media coverage and an engaged digital audience; they are a perfect partner for us to be working with on this project.”

Farhan Ahmed, Twitch’s Strategic Partnerships Manager added “We’re thrilled to partner with Formula 1 to bring exciting motor racing content to our community in a way that’s unique, shared, and interactive.”

“It’s a pleasure to work with a partner who embraces our community experience, creating something truly exciting, enhanced through co-streaming and extensions.”

> Insight: The over-the-top challenge facing motor sport

Formula 1 meets Voltage, sort of
Influencers? Tick. Live action? Tick. High-profile motor sport? Tick.

To regular readers that all sounds very familiar considering it was just under a year ago that Formula E announced their attempt to enter the influencer space in the form of Voltage.

Formula E entered a partnership with YouTube and GOAT Agency, with the likes of KSI appearing on Voltage from YouTube’s Space Station.

A trailblazer maybe, but Formula E axed Voltage after just six races (although there is some speculation making the rounds that Voltage may be returning for the upcoming season in a different format, we shall see).

The electric series clearly struggled to get the traction they were looking for with Voltage for a myriad of reasons, and made the decision to stop the experiment early on.

Considering Formula E’s Voltage failure, it makes sense for F1 to do a one-off experiment to begin with on Twitch, seeing what works with the possibility of expanding further into 2020.

It is the first time a major motor racing championship (outside of E-Sports) has streamed live on Twitch, although the geo-blocking in place will restrict the amount of people F1 can reach.

Twitch has made the waves in recent months from an F1 perspective with both Lando Norris and Max Verstappen regularly streaming on the platform.

Norris’ Twitch following has tripled since July, moving from 46,000 followers to 143,000 followers, the growth helped by his and Verstappen’s victory in iRacing’s Spa 24 Hours earlier this year.

Clearly F1 has recognised the obvious overlap and is now making in-roads into that area.

There is a good chance that Norris’ typical Twitch viewer does not consume traditional methods of television viewing, hence why F1 wants to experiment with live streaming on Twitch.

Influencers is less of an issue here for me than it was with Formula E: fans watching F1 on Twitch will have specifically chosen to watch it via that platform, whereas some fans watching FE’s Voltage on YouTube had no other choice of platform to watch it on.

Although YouTube is more popular than Twitch on the whole, the opposite is true from a live-streaming perspective, with Twitch outstripping YouTube massively, no doubt influencing F1’s decision making (and may also explain where Formula E went wrong with Voltage).

The move says a lot about F1’s and Twitch’s strategy moving forward. F1 wants a younger audience, Twitch wants to move beyond its roots.

Both brands are at cross-roads in their journey, which is why it is a perfect partnership for the two.


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News round-up: Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, news emerges of potential upcoming changes to Formula 1’s leadership team.

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

ICYMI: Round-Up #3 (July 1st): Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

ICYMI: Round-Up #1 (May 13th): Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

Formula 1

  • Earlier in the season, news outlets revealed that Netflix’s cameras would be getting up close to Mercedes during the German Grand Prix weekend, as part of filming for series two of Drive to Survive. Unfortunately for Mercedes, race day turned into a bit of a disaster.
    • The Press Association reports that, after the Germany disaster, Mercedes invited Netflix back for the closing phase of the Hungarian Grand Prix one weekend later. The race saw Lewis Hamilton come from behind to take victory away from Max Verstappen in the closing laps.
  • According to RaceFans, Formula 1 and Sky are rumoured to be working on a multi-part documentary to be released in Summer 2020. The series will coincide with Formula 1’s 70th anniversary, although no details have been officially confirmed as of writing.
  • Sean Bratches is set to leave his role as F1’s Managing Director of Commercial Operations at the end of the year, the BBC’s Andrew Benson is reporting.
    • Bratches joined F1 following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the group in 2017, and has spoken in recent times about F1’s free-to-air and pay TV mix.
    • Benson also reports that Chase Carey and Ross Brawn are set to remain in their existing roles.

DTM / W Series

  • The DTM touring car series is holding a joint event with Super GT at Fuji in November, in what both are billing as a ‘Dream Race’. The joint event presents many decisions about which drivers will take part.
    • However, speaking to Autosport last month, Audi motor sport boss Dieter Gass said that having drivers’ share duties is unlikely as DTM believes there are “complication[s] in explaining the rotation to TV audiences.”
  • As of last month, there was no word on where W Series’ documentary will air. I understand that series bosses are flexible as to where the series eventually ends up, and in what format. Production company Whisper filmed documentary content throughout, from the first driver selection test through to season finale.

Formula E

  • One of Eurosport’s leading figures is to join Formula E, e-racing365 reports. Sebastian Tiffert, who was Eurosport’s former executive producer for their Olympics Games offering, is to join Formula E as the head of their media content department. Tiffert is set to “manage the broadcast, social and digital media elements” of Formula E.

MotoGP

  • Vislink Technologies have extended their contract with Dorna to be MotoGP’s official RF systems supplier. Vislink, who have held the contract since 2002, will continue to partner with MotoGP for the next three seasons.
    • “The continuation of our engagement with Dorna is testament to our leadership in live sports broadcasting, and delivering reliable, crystal-clear video to MotoGP fans around the globe,” said John Payne, President and COO of Vislink.

Elsewhere…

  • Dieter Rencken reports that negotiations are ongoing to sell Motorsport Network.
    • Billionaire Mike Zoi leads the group, which owns the likes of Motorsport.com, Autosport and F1 Racing, as well as a stake in Formula E. Other stakeholders within the group include McLaren boss Zak Brown (chairman) and James Allen (EMEA President).
    • Rencken adds that Dmitry Mazepin, whose son Nikita Mazepin races in Formula Two, is in the running to purchase the group.
  • The promotor of the World Rallycross series is reporting strong interaction figures over on Facebook. Using figures from Crowdtangle, IMG’s Vincent Haas notes that the series has the highest interaction rate of any motor sport series on the social media platform, as well as over 50 million video views.
  • Netflix subscribers will soon be getting a slice of NASCAR action, but maybe not in the way they expected. The two parties are collaborating on a new comedy series starring Kevin James.
    • The Crew sees the action play out in a NASCAR garage, with James acting as crew chief.
    • NASCAR’s Matt Summers (Managing Director, Entertainment Marketing & Content Development) and (Senior Vice President & Chief Digital Officer) will serve as Executive Producers from NASCAR’s perspective.

See anything else worth mentioning on the news front? Drop a line in the comments section below.


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In conversation with Ellie Norman

Over the past two years, Formula 1 has undergone a digital transformation since Liberty Media acquired control of the sport.

Last week at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, Motorsport Broadcasting caught up with one of the faces leading the effort to bring F1 into the modern world. Ellie Norman (@ChikinCS) is Formula 1’s Director of Marketing and Communications, and we got her view on how things have gone so far.

Before Formula 1, you had stints at both Honda and Virgin Media, just talk to us about what you were involved in there.

I first spent five years on the agency side, where Honda was my client, and then directly with Honda for eight years, always in a marketing and advertising role.

Through that period, it was always about building meaning and value in the Power of Dreams brand. It was about elevating Honda at that time in the UK and Europe where the perception was that they lagged behind the more established European brands.

I spent five years in between Honda and F1 at Virgin Media. My focus shifted into being one market specific in the UK, so it was great to deepen learning versus working across international markets.

Interestingly it is an entertainment company, so they’re really understanding the landscape of TV consumption, the role that entertainment plays, cord cutting, the involvement of digital platforms, direct to consumer. Moving to F1 is a perfect combination of both automotive and entertainment.

Honda and Virgin Media both have huge marketing teams, yet you join F1 and find that is greenfield in nature, with little marketing, which was quite a culture shock I imagine!

F1 is such an incredible brand with a huge history. Bernie [Ecclestone] did an incredible job to build it into the business that it was, but my perception was that it had been underutilised, and that there was a role marketing could play.

Part of the appeal was having the ability to come into what is close to a 70-year old start-up and to be able to establish marketing from the ground up, agreeing what the infrastructure needed to be, shoring up the fan base, bringing in new fans. And that was exciting, too good of an opportunity for me not to take.

How difficult has it been in your role to attract new fans into F1, without alienating the existing fan base?

You are always treading a balance between holding onto your current fans, knowing who you are and what you stand for, but also needing to adapt and be contextually relevant to the fans of tomorrow, understanding what their motivations are, what platforms they are on and how they can be engaged, and bringing them into your sport.

Ultimately, we are a means of entertainment. The appeal of Formula 1 is that we have an ability to bring large groups of people together around live events. The on-track product is vitally important, but it is the entertainment that surrounds that as well.

15 to 20 years ago, there was one entry point for new fans, in front of the television, whereas now there are many different entry points. Does that make the job more complex?

It is very, very complex, the marketplace is fragmented.

The one thing I think we’re very fortunate with is that live sports is one of the last bastions that does bring millions of people together around a fixed time.

What can you learn from other brands, such as NASCAR, or non-motor sport brands, like the Premier League or Netflix?

It’s always interesting I think to look outside of your own echo chamber. Aside from other live sports, I’m always fascinated to know how entertainment properties operate, for example music festivals such as Glastonbury.

How are they engaging with fans, at a digital level in terms of insight, access, experiences that bring them closer? We can take learnings from that and pull that into Formula 1. I think part of the mentality needs to be an openness to try and to test things.

The fan festivals are a great example of where you can take the richness of the sport out of a race track and into city centres. It’s a visceral sport, the closer that people can get to seeing teams, drivers, hearing and smelling the cars, it moves you, and that’s what we know people love.

You did the ‘Engineered Insanity’ promotion last year, and have continued that this year.

‘Engineered Insanity’ is our brand positioning. It’s man and machine pushed to their limit; it’s opposing forces working together in harmony. We launched that brand platform and positioning in 2018, and this year we continued that work.

We brought it to life this year through a partnership with The Chemical Brothers, which was again a way to look outside the echo chamber of motor sport and to work with renowned musicians in their field, who are renowned for engineering their music and to bring those two audiences together. We knew there was an overlap of passion between a Chemical Brothers fan and Formula 1.

It’s interesting when you look at actually where people, and what they’re passionate about, it shows up through gaming, through music, food experiences, and there’s a way where Formula 1 can partner with many different brands within the wider world to take Formula 1 out to that fan base, and be relevant to them.

You cited Netflix earlier as a competitor of someone’s share of time. The Netflix series has been incredibly popular for us, and that was a way for us to reach a light, lapsed or a non-F1 fan through engaging long form content.

E-Sports is massive. We know younger audiences spend an awful lot of time within an E-Sports environment. Now, whether that’s watching it or playing it, Formula 1 is very closely aligned to E-Sports. You’re sitting in a seat, you’ve got your pedals, your steering wheel. We know all our F1 drivers spend hours and hours perfecting their laps within a sim.

So, this is how we can converge those worlds together.

Have you seen the demographics on your social media platforms change because of E-Sports?

Social media has grown ferociously. In the last two years, Frank [Arthofer] and our digital team have grown that to over 23 million people, a 54 percent year-on-year increase, making us the fastest growing sport across social media.

75 to 80 percent of the audience watching E-Sports is below 34 years old, so it’s really shifting the dynamic. We’re taking Formula 1 out, and showing a different side of Formula 1 to these audiences in places they’re already passionate about.

You’re now starting to scrape the surface of both of Formula 1’s feeder series, Formula Two and Formula Three. People may not realise this, but both are Formula 1 properties. [Note from David: this interview was done prior to Anthoine Hubert’s fatal accident at the Belgian Grand Prix]

They are incredible series, very competitive racing, wheel-to-wheel competition, you always have the interesting sprint races, for example with reverse grid in F2. And what we see is a lot of our Formula 1 drivers coming through the ranks of having either raced in Formula Two or Three, and there’s some really interesting characters and stories within those series.

Again, this is about us demonstrating the journey that racing talent goes through to get into Formula 1. There’s much more focus internally on what we can do with Formula Two and Formula Three to bring those closer to Formula 1 and to give them their own spotlight.

It’s F1’s 70th anniversary next year, is there anything in the pipeline that you can tell us?

We are busy back in the office, we have a range of ideas that we would love to see next year. All I can say is watch this space!

My thanks go to Ellie Norman for spending the time with me on the above piece.


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