F1 and Trans Am Searching For Better "TV" Economics

By Tom Martin

February 14, 2018

Everyone knows TV broadcasts are expensive to produce. Everyone knows that road racing is a niche sport. Put those two factors together and you have a recipe for problems. Without a big audience, you can't sell the ads needed to fund the giant crew and expensive equipment needed to do live video from huge race tracks. Couple that with the production values (very, very slick) that viewers are accustomed to, and costs rise even further. If it costs $100k to produce a race broadcast (it is more), then you have to sell a lot of advertising to more than cover your costs. If you have an hour broadcast and an audience of 100,000 people, you could sell about $80,000 of ads at standard rates. And you still haven't covered your costs, because you have to buy cable rights etc. So, you need more people or lower costs.

F1 is experimenting with pooling audiences. F1 has traditionally offered a world video feed (for a sport like F1, you can't have 50 sports networks each using their own video equipment). F1 on ESPN will then partner with Sky TV, the British TV network, for their coverage and on-air personalities.

Details here.

Trans Am is also sharing production teams where they can. Trans Am has 12 races, but only 5 will have CBS Sports Network coverage -- when Trans Am shares the weekend with another series that is broadcast. The remaining 7 events will have 10 minute summary videos for online consumption.

Details here

The breakthrough for entry level professional and amateur racing may come with the increasing usability of unmanned remote cameras and simple production boards at the track to feed a live stream. NASA and others have been experimenting with this at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and their national championships. Couple that with 5G mobile service and the revolution may be on.