UK free-to-air broadcaster Channel 5’s decision to acquire exclusive media rights to Formula E has come at a crucial juncture for the series and motor sport in general.
Little details have been released as to how Channel 5 intends to package the series, but has indicated it will air races live and build presence around its social media accounts and online platforms to create an ‘immersive broadcast experience’.
ITV4 had been broadcast caretakers during the championship’s first two seasons, however scheduling issues unfavourable timeslots have been cited for a decline in ratings.
As such, Formula E sought to live stream its races via YouTube and its own website, which themselves proved to be inconsistent in providing access – depending on your geographical location.
Days before the Channel 5 announcement, Formula E’s accounts reported losses of US$68.4 million in its first full year. While it isn’t uncommon for new ventures to record losses during the first 12 months of inception, the new deal to provide free viewing to UK fans should generate much needed advertising dollars through its lucrative 18-15 age group.
It’s a decision that should’ve been made on day one. However, the initial broadcast rights packages that were offered to potential takers were perhaps aiming to high for a series yet to even hold a race. Like any business, Formula E needs to blueprint its monetisation on its scope in the marketplace.
Now Formula E can concentrate on a broader strategy rather than on initial profits. The former then will take care of the latter and should draw in viewers who may then be prepared to pay for more ‘exclusive’ content and position itself more competitively against other categories that have turned their back on their grass roots fan base.
Formula One’s exclusive pay deal with Sky will produce a massive initial windfall, but could be harmful for the sport’s long term financial potential. Unfortunately, it was a decision motivated by necessity as much as it was by gluttony; the brand needed to be an attractive sell to potential buyers and previous rights holders (ITV and BBC) were unable to fulfil the duration of their obligations.
With Formula E now set to fill a gap on the free-to-air market and manufacturers showing more interest in the series, now is the time to push advertising dollars and ensure its long time future.
Better late than never.