Formula 1 Owner Liberty Media Is Serious About Boosting the Sport's Popularity
More fan-oriented events and a stronger social media presence are part of Liberty Media's growth strategy.
When Liberty Media bought out Formula 1 from CVC Capital Partners to the tune of $8 billion, they had different plans in mind for the sport than CVC did. With old timer Bernie Ecclestone at the helm, every dime was being wrung from the sport, and everyone was feeling the strain. Venues were being charged astronomical sums to host races, to the point where even classic circuits such as Britain's Silverstone and Italy's Monza were considering terminating their relationship with Formula 1; hosting had just become far too costly.
As a result, ticket prices went up, and attendance took a nose dive. TV viewership has taken a tumble too, with rumpus room followers seeing a drastic decrease since 2008. Ecclestone and CVC's plan was to inflate the short term value of Formula 1 as high as possible before selling it off to the highest bidder, regardless of the mess they would leave in their wake.
Liberty Media's plan is to develop the sport into a long term investment. One part of this process is by modernizing the channels through which Formula 1 is broadcast. This will be done by prioritizing internet streaming over traditional TV broadcasting, which will cut out telecom middlemen, who are partially guilty for the decreased TV viewership due to the modern trend toward stuffing as many channels as possible into a package at a markup. The social media presence under Liberty has increased too, and Formula 1 now has the fastest growing social media following of any motorsport.
Today, Liberty kicked off a plan to boost ticket sales by giving attendees better value for money, with the introduction of the Fan Fest. During this event, there will be a live broadcast with interviews from the paddock, a lengthy 200 meter zip line, racing simulators, pit stop challenges, and live DJ performances. There are several competitions that will run, some of which are likely linked to the pit stop challenge and racing sims, where the best performers may be eligible for prizes, which include paddock passes, photo opportunities with teams, and even a ride on track in a converted two seater Formula 1 car.
Whether or not this Fan Fest strategy will be replicated at future Grand Prix events remains uncertain. If the ticket sales look promising, this type of support event may be added to the rest of the events on the calendar.