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Revealed: 5 key areas F1's new owners will target

2016-09-09 08:23

NEW ERA: Formula One's new owners, the Liberty Media Group, are set to bring a raft of changes to the sport. Image: AP / Darko Vojinovic

Paris - It may not require an overnight emergency operation, but Formula 1 will surely undergo some serious life-affirming surgery in the years ahead following this week's multibillion-dollar takeover.

A revised and probably expanded calendar that may include more races in Asia and the Americas could see this year's record 21-race schedule enlarged to 25 grands prix.

The teams and fans are expected to be much more involved and micro-targeted in a restructured business that is likely also to re-evaluate the points structure and the racing to ensure a massive overhaul of the sport's entertainment value.

Focus on digital media

F1's current limited activity in social and digital media is also expected to be ramped up to make the sport more appealing to the next generation of fans, amid fears it is failing to get younger viewers on side.

US billionaire John Malone's Liberty Media, which says it has struck an agreement to buy out F1's parent company, wants to do all this without eroding the sport's exclusive brand value.

Chase Carey, named as the sport's new chairman said: "F1 is a key player in the high-growth market for live, premium sports rights. There is an increasing demand from broadcasters, advertisers and sponsors who want access to F1's mass global live audiences and attractive demographics." 

This is unlikely to become a new area of expertise for the sport's long-serving ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, who will be 86-years-old in October, and his authority and influence will wane as the business becomes more corporate under Carey, the 21st Century Fox vice-chairman.

Ecclestone was retained as chief executive and the main office remains in London.

A photo posted by FORMULA 1® (@f1) on

'All partners'

The takeover that values the sport at $8-billion has - crucially - been welcomed by the teams, with McLaren on Thursday (September 8) describing Liberty's move as "a positive step".

Liberty has said it will work closely with teams to ensure their income increases with the sport's growth in popularity.

Paddock gossip at last weekend's Italian Grand Prix made it clear that Liberty had already sold their vision of the future successfully before completing the deal and Carey on Thursday endorsed that impression in a media conference call.

By itself, that simple action - a normal part of American media relations - confirmed how much change was taking place. Ecclestone, who ruled with much secrecy for four decades, was rarely inclined towards any kind of management in that way.

More: ‘I’ll be 89 by then’ - F1 sold, Bernie staying put for years to come

Carey said: "We're all partners in the business. Simply, F1 and the teams should basically grow the business going forward." 

In specific terms, Liberty hopes to develop F1 for the benefit of all of the stakeholders and will focus on five key areas: increased promotion and marketing; enhanced distribution of digital content; a broader range of partners and sponsors; a revamped race calendar; and use of more complementary live events to boost digital income.

Carey said he and Liberty were excited by the prospects in "developing markets" in places like the Americas and Asia. "But," he added. "I want to be clear that, certainly, the established markets - the home and foundation of F1 in Europe - are of critical importance."

And he made clear that development of the Asian and American markets was a long-term goal to be achieved "using digital platforms and some of the tools that haven't been exploited aggressively".

Carey, eased out of power by a change of succession at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, has a proven record in expansive sport-media growth and respected expertise in the value and exploitation of sports rights, notably in the US market and in digital media.

That, added to Liberty's success with the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball (MLB) team, demonstrates where they are heading.


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