Liberty Media considering F1 streaming plans

Formula 1’s new owners Liberty Media are interested in offering fans a live video streaming option to watch races in the future, and believe efforts should be undertaken to make it happen.

Liberty Media considering F1 streaming plans
F1 flag
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
The grid before the start of the race
Start crash with Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H, Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Racing RB12, Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB12 and Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09
Chase Carey, owner of Liberty Media
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
Start action: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 Team W07, Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38 and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 Team W07
Start action: Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB12 leads Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
(L to R): Chase Carey, Formula One Group Chairman with Bernie Ecclestone
Sahara Force India F1 VJM09 of Nico Hulkenberg, pushed along the pit lane

Liberty, which owns 19.1 percent of F1 parent company Delta Topco, is currently conducting an analysis of F1 to work out ways it can expand its reach and make it more profitable.

One avenue that has been considered in the past is direct broadcasting to fans over the internet, rather than the selling of rights to television stations.

During an investors call earlier this week, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said that Liberty was aware of the idea of over-the-top (OTT) content being paid for by fans – but equally knew that it would mean a transition away from current rights held by television channels.

“I think we're very excited about the idea to try and utilize the massive amounts of video feed and data that we have in a premium-type product and, given the global nature and extremely dedicated fan base we have, it would seem like an OTT product is something that makes a lot of sense for them and us,” explained Maffei.

“We do have some things to work through on rights. I don't think they're impenetrable but there are things we work through and we also just need to work out relations with the teams and how we handle it all.

“So there's not only some work on the product side but there is some licensing work but I don't think it's insurmountable.

"How exactly the form of any product may take or what we may do I'm not yet sure, we’re still at early days but I agree, there is a lot of potential.”

Investment plan

A shift to offer OTT would help drive revenues for Liberty, and Maffei explained that he was confident his company could earn good profits from F1 as well as make investment in promoting the sport.

“I don't anticipate massive reduction in operating performance. There are some positives coming in, including incremental broadcast revenue in some cases,” he said.

“But I do think we will be making some investments but part of it is in management, part of it is in areas like the OTT product that you just mentioned.

"I don't think those are going to be massively dilutive but I do think we will be making investments.”

Maffei added that he hoped Liberty Media could complete its purchase of F1 in early 2017.

“F1 is an iconic global motor sports business and this was a unique opportunity to own a global sports franchise of which there are very few.

"We see a tremendous opportunity in this business to improve performance on the operating side and the financial side in all segments, whether it be venues, broadcast, or sponsorship, has opportunity to grow revenue and also develop new lines of revenue, especially around digital and merchandise."

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