Is it time for a broader view on broadcasting?

 


"Former Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore is to be involved in a new working group being set up by Bernie Ecclestone to look at ways of making the sport more popular." - Autosport. You couldn't make it up, could you? It's something we may wish was just made up, but alas, that appears to not be the case. Leaving politics aside for a second - is this something that the sport actually needs? Do we need to improve 'the show'? Do we need to make the sport more popular? Maybe, just maybe, it should be about improving the experience for the most important section of the sport - the fans?

The racing is great, arguably some of the best in recent times. Yes we've had one team dominating for large parts of the season, but that's often the case. The victors understandably grab the headlines, and to those watching from a distance it would at times appear the races must be a little 'dull' if the same couple of drivers win every other weekend. But the battles we've seen this season - particularly highlighted by the recent Red Bull vs Ferrari duels - has been nothing short of a joy to watch. Racing side by side at almost 200mph without contact is something only the very best, the most skilled can do. We're lucky to have such a vast array of talent right in front of our eyes.

There's a long standing desire within our sport for constant change, whether that be little tweaks or major rule changes. Wouldn't it be nice, just for once, for the racing to be left alone? For the drivers to fight their battles on track on a level playing field - for a season at least! Too much change can often be as bad as not changing at all. Too many alterations and you risk damaging the sport, the racing and ultimately the fan base. Surely we should be trying to educate the audience, improve the experience for them? Not confusing them.

For a sport that's at the forefront of technology, Formula 1 can sure appear to be 'backwards' in its approach to catering for the world in which we live today. Whether that's its social media stance, the reduction in free-to-air coverage or not embracing new broadcasting techniques; the sport risks further losing its backbone - the fans.

It's not as if this is a specific issue for motorsport. Other series have shown how adapting to modern technologies and lifestyles can not only help maintain a strong following, but help to grow it as well. In a world where we crave more information, more access and more coverage, why should the 'leading' motorsport series be so slow in changing? It's like F1 is having to start from the pit lane, waiting for all other cars (series) to clear the first corner.

The world's viewing habits have changed. Many of us watch on with a second screen - usually in the form of a tablet or smartphone - to enhance our viewing experience (or because what we're watching isn't great - not the case here!). We like to get 'social', we like to watch extra video clips, or check the live timing. Things are not like they were 5, 10, 20 years ago. Just as the sport, the cars, the drivers aren't. So why hasn't the viewing experience followed suit?

It'd be crazy of me to suggest F1 should follow the likes of DTM and the Blancpain GT Series and have a live feed of the race on YouTube - I'm sure commercial contracts etc. would never allow for a such a deal to be put in place. But what about at least a channel? One where highlights, interviews and insights we couldn't get elsewhere were made available online for all to see? No country restrictions, no legal restrictions. Accessibility is essential to not only the sustainability of F1, but the growth as well.

An increase in accessibility doesn't have to be limited to the home or online audience. The fans at the tracks who've spent their hard earned cash to follow their passions and heroes; they too deserve rewarding. Ticket prices at some events are through the roof, unjustly so. What about greater pit lane access to the fans who turn up on a Thursday? (Those without a fancy sponsor pass, et al.) Christian Horner himself said that the fans need to feel connected to the drivers. What better way than allowing them to interact - in a controlled environment - prior to a race weekend? The connection between the drivers and the fans is what keeps the sport alive. It's what drives the next generation to enter this crazy, often baffling world of Formula 1.

And that phrase seems an apt one for this particular topic. It is baffling that it's so slow in adopting 'new' technology to improve the experience. At a time where the sport seems intent on artificially affecting the show, whether that's through double points or major car changes mid season, why not give something back to improve the show for the fans? The technology and resources are there, but is the desire from those at the top?


Paul Godley 27/07/2014

Image source (and all image rights): Daniel Ricciardo...smiling - sbs.com.au

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