Formula One CEO Stefano Dominicli talks about US media rights talk, TV ratings

Formula 1 returns to the familiar turf at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend, a glamor-wrapped race that has been a fixture since 1929.

Although many track contours and the Cote d’Azur Vista have changed slightly, the automatic racing circuit itself has undergone a steady reform. Earlier this month, it made a splash debut in Miami, the latest stop of its U.S. expansion, which will take it to Las Vegas next year. That bow came after the arrival of the latest season of the Netflix Doku hit Drive to surviveThe show adds a touch of pop-culture to the negotiations for a potentially lucrative new US media deal.

“The American market is ready for F1,” Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula One Group, told Deadline in an interview before today’s race. “Being prepared means we have to keep working with our fans in the United States, we have to keep working, we have to speak the same language, we have to give context.”

The Miami event provided the latest template, as celebrities such as Tom Brady, Matt Damon, Serena Williams and Bad Bunny mingled over the weekend with a cross-section of corporate dealmakers, brand sponsors and others around the city. On Sunday race day, 2.6 million viewers tuned in to ABC, making Miami the most visited F1 race in the United States.

Dominicali, of Italian descent, replaces former Rupert Murdoch Lieutenant Chase Kerry as Formula One CEO in 2020. He previously led sports car maker Lamborghini and served long-term at Ferrari. Formula One Group is part of the billionaire media investor John Malone’s Liberty Media portfolio. It is the core of the Formula 1 circuit, which is a wholly owned subsidiary and has a minority interest in various other holdings.

Formula 1 dates back to 1950 and its current World Championship season runs from March to November, with 23 races spanning 21 countries on five continents. Inspired by the Miami tune-in, TV ratings have jumped 49% from 2021 levels so far this year.

Dominicali says Miami has the “right energy”, pollinating traditional sports, such as F1, with fashion, music, technology and other fields. “This world is leaving us if what they see is interesting,” he said of the event’s bold names. “Otherwise, they do other things.” The executive added that it was “very, very significant that business leaders were there,” noting that the Miami race followed a successful reboot from the Austin Grand Prix several years ago as part of the F1 World Championships. It had 400,000 attendees in the last fall of Texas.

Media observers wonder what all of this momentum might mean in the context of the ongoing rights debate. F1’s current U.S. contract, extended by ESPN in 2019, is due to expire at the end of the year. A recent report suggests that the circuit may ask for 75 million a year, but many variables remain, including the nature of the bidding and the length of the term.

Dominic prefers not to talk to numbers or specific suitors, emphasizing that many possibilities are still in play. He acknowledged that the popularity of Netflix, despite past promises not to play live, could be tempting due to its popularity. Drive to survive, Which it has recovered for two more seasons. Due to their aggressive approach with the NFL and Major League Baseball, fellow tech titans Apple and Amazon cannot be discounted as potential home only for streaming. New streaming players like Peacock and HBO Max have also been added to the list of those who want to make some share of the sports market, especially through an asset with an extra lifestyle dimension of F1.

“We’re exploring all the opportunities,” Domenicali said. “We’re not in a hurry to make a decision.” He also went out of his way to praise ESPN’s production work and commitment at an important early stage in the development of the F1.

In a Liberty earnings call last February, executives were asked by a Wall Street analyst if they wanted broad exposure if the value of the rights deal dollar was not skyrocketing, as opposed to a path similar to the UFC. Subscription service via ESPN + (whose listeners are a fraction of ESPN) but at a hefty premium. Liberty CEO Greg Maffei said the company had decided to take “extensive coverage on money” in a recent deal, “and I think it has been paid off.” In the current assessment, he added, “We will weigh what we have. And I don’t think you know it’s a complete trade off. There will be degrees of access to coverage and degrees of money. “

Population, not just rating momentum, seems to be another factor for F1 as advertisers are increasingly looking for ways to reach well-defined goals.

“If you compare the populations of F1 and NASCAR, our population is much smaller” and more female, says Domenicali. From 2017 to 2021, the company said its female fan base in the U.S. grew 8%, reaching 40% of the total, while the number of fans aged 16 to 24 increased from 6% to 22% of the overall mix.

It should also be noted that the US market is just a sliver of the total, last year F1 attracted 500 million fans and 5 billion TV viewers worldwide. The average age of these fans worldwide has dropped from 39 years to 37 years from 2017 to 2021.

Netflix’s global footprint has been a good match for F1’s network of far-reaching supporters. Drive to survive Using an unusual degree of in-season access to the crew, crew, owner, sponsor and other stakeholders to create an episodic drama from the previous season, increases the appetite for the upcoming one.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos spoke about the series in a recent earnings interview with the company and declined to cancel a rights bid, although he said it was not the primary focus, especially the company’s focus on demand and not live. Programming “I’m not saying we’ll never play sports,” he said, “but we have to look for ways to increase a big revenue stream and with it a great profit stream.”

The streaming giant has been “very important to our growth,” says Domenicali. “On the other hand, we were very important to them. … As always, you have to be two to be happy in a marriage, otherwise there are problems. “

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