Formula First as Formula E announce Facebook Link – with David Hall

Formula E did a lot of things differently in its inaugural season. Top of the list was how it eagerly grasped onto social media and fan interaction. Both teams and the organisers were immediately tuned into both content and engagement, especially on Twitter, but it was the streaming of content that most intrigued me.

Outside of Formula 1 and Moto GP there is a revolution happening in Motorsport. Both have been tied into Pay TV deals as Live Sport becomes key to keeping subscribers. Unprecedented access across multi platforms is at odds with securing vast revenues at the expense of the viewing public. Easy for motorsports biggest players to do. Almost unthinkable for a sport in its infancy when it needs to attract fans. If part of Formula 1’s declining figures, from 600 to 425 million, was down to its switch from Free to Air then surely I wasn’t the only one that glanced nervously at the press release when Formula E announced a renewal of its deal with BT Sports. It remains a deal for “Comprehensive Highlights”. Meaning that ITV and Streaming on the Formula E website are the UK & Ireland’s options for Live coverage.

There is something else to highlight about how motorsport is viewed and that applies to how fans consume motorsport, like anything else, in a modern digital era. The Market Realist graph below shows exactly the kind of revolution that is underway, and being largely embraced by Formula E. Not just Formula E either. Fans of endurance racing, and the Bathurst 1000 would no doubt be equally happy with the sports embracing digital media coverage as motorsport fans are enjoying a new era of streamed content.

TV

In the Market Realist graph we see generations of consumers switching away from the TV screen. Laptop, smartphone and tablet make over 50% share of the TV time. Surely then it would be smart for sports that aren’t tying themselves into Pay TV to embrace this. Well that’s exactly what Formula E are doing with their latest announcement.

My concern when Formula E saw its popularity spike at the season finale in London was that it would get snapped up by Sky or BT. They appear to be heading in a different direction. Further cementing its position at the front of digital motorsport coverage, Formula E announced a new partnership with Facebook, giving users access to exclusive content along with driver and team engagement during the race weekend.

When the season commences in Beijing, motorsport will see a first as Formula E is streamed live on Facebook.

The programme includes:

  • Exclusive near-realtime highlights of key race action and moments during the race and throughout the season
  • Video capturing key overtakes and other exciting race moments to be provided by Formula E and shared by drivers and teams
  • All track action from the opening round of season two will be streamed live to fans in Spain
  • For the first time ever, drivers will provide exclusive live streams from the Facebook Mentions app (https://www.facebook.com/about/mentions) to capture intimate behind the scenes moments

So yes there is a key word in there. If you aren’t located in Spain right now then you will have to stream the race from http://www.fiaformulae.com/en/live-streaming.aspx and “make do” with the drivers live streams, video capturing and near-realtime highlights, but as thin end of wedges go it’s pretty impressive that Formula E have made such a link up with the colossus that is Facebook.

Ali Russell, Director of Media and Strategic Partnerships at Formula E:
“We are thrilled that Facebook has decided to work with Formula E in this landmark agreement. We believe that live streaming the Beijing ePrix to our fans in Spain is a milestone in establishing Formula E as a pioneering digital brand and is the latest in a series of key developments in terms of our social reach. Formula E is a pioneering motorsport championship that is striving to engage a new type of fan, and working closely with innovative and creative partners such as Facebook is essential in establishing the brand across the globe.”

“Facebook is the world’s largest community of sports fans with more than 650 million people connected to sports Pages, and it’s our goal to help those fans connect around sports moments they care about. Formula E have taken a comprehensive approach to offering fans racing content through innovative ways,” said Patrick Chapman of Facebook Sports Partnerships.

“They’ve prioritised new programming formats that are optimised for the way people enjoy content on Facebook. Products and features like Live for Facebook Mentions along with Facebook Media Solutions partners like Grabyo, Telescope and Groovy Gecko unlock opportunities for the Formula E team to grow its fanbase and deepen fans’ passion for the sport.”

Different thinking and a different way of approaching fan engagement. If this is the beginning of the next phase of Formula E and Motorsport’s Digital era then it’s a very exciting one and categories that fail to do likewise could see alienated fans finally start to move towards series that genuinely want to create content for them outside of the “safe” Pay TV structure rather than forcing teams to attempt to do so with one hand behind their back. Formula E appear to be giving their teams every tool needed to attract fans into this exciting Formula.

David Hall

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