Martin Whitmarsh, team principal at McLaren, has suggested that although Formula One has benefited from its exposure on television under the sport’s commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone, the changes in technology and media consumption mean that it now needs to reassess how to monetise the new opportunities.
Whitmarsh told the sport’s official website, formula1.com, that there were only two global sports: soccer and Formula One,and noted that Ecclestone and commercial partners had done well in the past.” And of course we can do better and we always should be open to embrace new technologies, opportunities and new challenges,” suggesting that F1 was probably better off doing this with people it knew than suddenly saying it must go off in a different direction.
Referring to News Corp’s interest in acquiring the sport, Whitmarsh said that he didn’t think that Formula One needed to “rush into their arms. I think we should be open-minded looking at what is in the best interests of the sport in the long term. There will always be controversies in and outside our sport so we have to be balanced and look at how we can promote, develop and sustain our sport.”
Whitmarsh said that the sport had to change “because none of us will be here in 20 years’ time … so I think we owe it to the sport that we find a positive and good way to move forward. Media is much more complex these days. If you take the young generation, they don’t just watch television – they probably have the TV on, then they have probably something different running on their iPad or on their phone or laptop. We grew up with television and for a moment thought that email was cool – but kids don’t email anymore. They are definitely on a much more advanced level than that. The power of these new media outlets is enormous, but how do you monetise that,” he asked.
Noting that Ecclestone’s “great trick” had been monetising the media exposure of Formula One, Whitmarsh said that nowadays, it was a much more complex media environment. “With fourth generation telecommunication systems, full television will be on phones soon and the phone can then Bluetooth to a monitor. So the question is how are you going to control that and how are you going to monetise it?”
He described Formula One as a world sport, which was data-rich, “and in this digital arena we can populate this digital environment with much more data and information than tennis, soccer or any other sport, so I think it is a huge opportunity that we have,” he said. “Sure there will still be people watching terrestrial television, but for the generation below us that’s not good enough any more. They want more information and they want to interact. They want to have communities going – and that’s the challenge: to find ways to monetise this as Bernie has done with television. He made sure that the revenues for the sport were very high. You can’t hold new developments back, so we need to bring in expertise that probably doesn’t exist in Formula One today,” he concluded.