Maffei looking to ramp up TV deals


If Greg Maffei's comments on NBC are anything to go by, Liberty is looking to drive up the cost of TV deals.

In fairness, Liberty Media has made no secret of the fact that is looking to drive up profits from its new purchase, it has to; not only are there shareholders to think about - including the teams - but all those loans have to be paid off also.

Along with an expanded calendar, betting, online streams and various other means of raking in the dough, the American company is looking to increase the revenue from TV.

From 2019, Sky will have sole broadcasting rights in the UK, with all races shown live only on the subscription channel, leaving free-to-air fans with no live coverage of their sport.

The deal, thought to be worth $150m a year, is twice the previous deal which saw free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4 get the rights to ten live races each season.

Liberty Media’s chief executive Greg Maffei has admitted that the fee from Sky for exclusive coverage of F1 in the UK, was helped in part by pressure from rival broadcasters who were keen to secure the rights.

“What drove the UK?" he told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco. "You had BT and Sky and beIN all looking at it.

"That’s what you need," he continued. "You need multiple guys finding it important to their business and then you’ll see a good result.

"So some of it is our ability to create a great product but some of it is also the competitive environment in those respective markets for who wants these rights.”

BeIn, for those of you not aware, is global network of sports channels owned and operated by beIN Media Group, a spinoff of the Al Jazeera network. Though it doesn't (currently) have a presence in the UK, in 2015 it was in the bidding for the rights to cover the Premiership (football) but lost out to Sky and BT. Clearly, judging by Maffei's comments in terms of the UK F1 deal, it hasn't given up.

America has had a troubled relationship with the sport. Though F1 has a hard core of fans, over the years they have been treated shamefully by the sport they love, be it temporary tracks, irregular TV coverage, lack of a home team or driver to support and long periods when the sport didn't even deign to include America on the calendar. And as for Indianapolis 2005...

Finally, as Americans have their own team to cheer on and the sport is bought by an American company that is seeking to grow the sport in the home of the automobile, fans are beginning to see the light, even the TV coverage is slowly improving.

However, at a time it has been revealed that F1 viewing figures in the UK have fallen to a 12-year low, Maffei appears to biting the American hand that is helping to feed him.

"The US is, you know, it’s a popcorn fart. It’s nothing," he said of the $3m that NBC acquired the rights for. "The opportunity is good, certainly in percentage terms, not in absolute Dollar terms. It is very low. It is with NBC, and it’s not on the main NBC, it’s on their sports channel.”

Popcorn farts aside, surely as the sport attempts to reconcile with America after the hard time F1 has given it over the years, Maffei should looking to make the sport more attractive - dare we say welcoming - by improving the package, the spectacle, rather than looking purely at which broadcaster will pay the most. After all, certainly in the US, broadcasters are hardly falling over themselves to cover F1.

In the UK, it remains to be seen how F1 will fare once Sky becomes the sole live broadcaster. Other than the fact that many do not want to hand over their hard-earned to Rupert Murdoch, many begrudge the fact that the F1 package is lumped in with a sports package to which many are indifferent, having to pay for football, cricket and the like when they only want to watch 20 live races a year.

At a time the TV audience is already falling, should Sky seek to raise the price once it has exclusive live coverage those numbers could go into freefall.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 06/03/2017
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