For anyone associated with the sport over the past few years, the issue of audience retention is not new.
The simple truth is that F1 is struggling to keep fans happy. Be it ticket sales or TV viewership, audience retention is a really important issue for the new owners, Liberty Media, to address.
Stats show that TV viewership figures for Formula One has fallen to a 12 year low at the end of the 2016 season.
Hamilton not winning the championship and the fact that F1 moved from the BBC to Channel 4 have been named as the reasons for viewership decline. At the start of 2010, 500 million people watched F1 worldwide. Last year, it was 390 million.
I believe the problem isn’t just audience retention. F1 needs to look at audience creation as well.
Photo credit : crash.net
For die-hard fans, it is quite easy to watch a race and know what’s going on, and yet, many fans are switching off because the races are relatively boring. Now imagine someone who doesn’t know much about the sport but is excited to give it a go – he wouldn’t have a clue what’s going on, and would turn off very soon. It’s like an American person turning on to watch Day 1 of a 5 day cricket test match.
We need more audience immersion.
It is hard for even a fan to fully follow and understand a race from start to finish on TV. I believe F1 must provide more race data and race involvement during broadcast for the audience to get invested a bit more. More real time race information leads to more involvement, and higher involvement leads to higher viewership.
The fact that F1 in UK is moving towards Paid TV isn’t helping either. If I’m turning off when it’s free, I’m not going to pay now, am I?
Ross Brawn and Liberty Media do seem to be prioritizing audience retention as part of their plans for the future of F1. The loosening of broadcast restrictions in the pit-lane is a welcome change, but much needs to be changed this season to keep Formula one viewership alive.
– Aditya Bhat.