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Liberty Media's Greg Maffei has revealed the areas F1's new owners are looking at in order to increase revenue
Whilst Mercedes tests the new (wet) tires that it is hoped will go some way to giving the sport a much needed boost, and Fernando Alonso insists that he will quit if the new regulations don't deliver, Liberty Media chief executive Greg Maffei has been revealing other areas of F1 that it is felt need some serious work.
Naturally, when you're talking about a deal said to be worth around $8bn, the talk isn't of wide tires, increased downforce or higher lap speeds, rather ways of increasing revenue.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York – ironically just 24 hours after Formula E revealed it had beaten F1 in terms of hosting a race in the iconic city – Maffei revealed some of Liberty Media's plans for the sport… and perhaps diehards should look away now.
"There are a bunch of opportunities to grow the business," he began. "Starting with broadcast revenue, the largest source of revenue.
"Chase Carey is pretty experienced," he continued, "and it's hard to think of a better guy who's had the opportunity to manage sports properties or media properties, and the intersection of the two. I think there's an opportunity to grow that broadcast stream. Much of it comes from moving potentially from free-to-air to competitive pay services, for example what happened in the UK, when Sky recently bought the rights."
For those that already believe the sport has sold its soul, Maffei insists that in terms of sponsorship the sport has barely scratched the surface.
"I think we have seventeen sponsors, and we have three people working in sponsorship in F1," he revealed. "In contrast at Major League Baseball, a business we have some familiarity with through the Braves, there are 75 sponsors, just in the US. So I think there's an opportunity to grow, invest in the sponsorship organization, and grow sponsors."
And mindful of the Pitpass mantra that the calendar should be about quality not quantity, at a time teams are already wilting under the pressure of the busiest season ever, Liberty will be eyeing more races.
"We're sitting on twenty-one venues, I think there's an opportunity to potentially grow that over time, particularly while we've maximized some of those venue opportunities with relatively high venue fees. I think there's an opportunity to grow in the number of venues and venues that are potentially more attractive to longer term broadcast revenues and sponsorship revenues.
"The obvious optionality case is to some degree Asia in the short term, potentially Latin America, and longer term North America, and particularly the US, where we really are well under-viewed, under-monetized, under-everything.
"I don't think that gets solved in a week," he admitted, "but I think that's an interesting long-term opportunity."
Expanding on the idea of more races in the United States, he said: "Think about places where it would have natural appeal, I would argue Miami, Las Vegas are very interesting places for the long term. But that isn't going to get solved in a week. I'd like to hope that being Americans – Chase, Liberty – that we can help with that process. As I said, I don't think this is a quick fix, but for the longer term it's a large, untapped market with upsides."
With Liberty's expertise in digital it was to be expected that this would play a part in the game-plan, and again Maffei's vision of how things will be is sure to send shockwaves.
"Something that intersects all of these is less than one percent of the revenues are from digital, they really have no organized digital effort. I think there are lot of things that can be done around gaming, VR and AR.
"There's an enormous amount of video feed and data that we have about the races that we are already capturing that we are not in any way processing incrementally for the dedicated fan, or opportunities around things like gambling.
"Outside the United States there is a huge gambling opportunity in the sport, none of which we capitalize on. There are a bunch of ways in which digital can play through this, from a service to augmenting other things to providing data that are interesting that we are not capitalizing on, that I think will be a part of the future growth.
"Part of that is much more direct to consumer, D2C kind of experiences," he concluded. "How that augments, and how we work that in with traditional broadcasters, needs to be worked through. But I think that there's a lot of material to work with there."
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