Maffei "enthused" by where F1 is and where it's going


Liberty Media CEO, Greg Maffei, pictured here with Stefano Domenicali and Elon Musk in Miami, says the sport's owners are "very enthused about where Formula One is now and about where it's going".

His words come in the wake of the Miami Grand Prix, of which F1 is co-promoter, the Liberty CEO, insisting that the event was a great success.

"Tom Garfinkel at our partners, the Miami Dolphins, did a great job," said Maffei at MoffettNathanson's Inaugural Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference.

"Last time there were some criticisms of some of the hospitality, security and some of the track issues. They took all of them to heart and I think it was a great experience, a great track," he added, though Sir Jackie Stewart might disagree in terms of the security.

"I hope if anybody else was there you had the same kind of thing but we got very good feedback... there were 90,000 fans a day and 270,000 fans over the weekend so capacity was up substantially and prices were up substantially. So pretty good for them too. The gate was up about 25%."

Impressive stuff, so too was last week's press release from ESPN, which proudly boasted that the "Miami Grand Prix on ABC attracted 1.96 million average viewers during the race telecast window (3:30 - 5:15 p.m. ET), the second-largest live TV audience for an F1 race in U.S. television history.

"The only race with a larger audience was last year's inaugural Miami Grand Prix," it helpfully added, "which attracted 2.6 million average viewers during the race window."

Again, impressive... that's until you do the maths and realise that a 2.6 million average in 2022 and 1.96 a year later is a worrying 24% drop, surprisingly close to that 25% increase in the gate Maffei mentioned, even though the numerous half-empty grandstands suggest otherwise.

Furthermore, ESPN revealed that this year's audience peaked at 2.2 million at between "4:45-5p ET", which seeing as the race actually ended at 4:57:38.242 ET, means the biggest audience was for the final 12 minutes of the race, not the start and certainly not the LL Cool J, shambles.

That aside, and ignoring all criticism of the product, even from drivers and team bosses, Maffei is delighted with the current state of the sport.

"We are very enthused about where Formula One is now and about where it's going as well," he said. "You look at the big revenue streams there, all have good direction.

"Broadcasting, we have increased the number of fans and we have increased the number of distributors who want to push the product, including new digital distributors and the like.

"We have promoters, who are our partners... I just told you how much I thought the gate was probably up in Miami - that's not unique.

"They are selling out everywhere," he continued, somewhat ironically, "particularly the high-end experiences, the Paddock Clubs, all at better prices. So we are able to get upticks in what we get paid.

"If you look at who our sponsors are, people like Rolex, beer brand Heineken, we definitely have high-end sponsors who appreciate quality.

Sponsorship has grown dramatically," he added. "We have opened up the number of global sponsors. I think we've gone from 5 to 12 of our biggest sponsor types.

"We continue to see traction there and I think we're well-set-up. We have a new opportunity with what we're doing in Las Vegas where we will be the promoter and we have an opportunity to learn about something and hopefully set the bar.

"One of the great things about having promoters now is that when something goes wrong I can sit there and say 'Those guys in XYZ screwed it up', when it goes wrong in Las Vegas I am going to have to look in the mirror and that's a problem but hopefully will a high set bar," he said, clearly not realising the possible Freudian slip.

"A night race down the strip is going to create a whole new level of visibility in the United States and around the globe for Formula One and there are other places where we can continue to push on our revenue streams like hospitality and sponsors."

Referring to speculation over the potential sale of the sport, Maffei insists it's a case of 'No Sale', though the reason for this is strange, indeed dubious.

"F1 sits in a tracker," he said. "Is there any chance we're going to sell this thing and incur corporate level tax?

"That should stop any discussion that anyone says our friends the Saudis are going to buy it next week or something like that. If anybody knows us they should know that's just not on our cards."

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Published: 17/05/2023
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