Opportunity knocks for YouTube with live F1 round in seven markets
In a first-of-its-kind initiative YouTube is to offer full live coverage in selected European markets of a Formula 1 round later this year.
The Eifel Grand Prix, which is scheduled to take place at the Nürburgring in Germany from 9 to 11 October, will be streamed in full and for free on the Formula 1 YouTube channel, as a social media exclusive, in the home market, plus Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
The coverage will include the practice and qualifying sessions, as well as the race, with the Google-owned platform also providing previews, highlights and analysis.
The move is motivated in part by the fact that, because of Covid-19 restrictions, spectators are likely to be excluded, or attendance significantly limited, for the grand prix, which would normally have attracted up to 250,000 fans across the weekend.
However, Formula 1 is likely to use the event as an experiment to test the popularity of live online coverage and its appeal to younger audiences, on top of F1 TV, the OTT subscription service, which launched last year and is now available in multiple markets.
There is also an opportunity to gauge the commercial potential with advertisers able to buy inventory in the innovative live stream, in one or more countries.
The Eifel Grand Prix will not be shown live on YouTube in major European markets where the sport currently has lucrative pay-television deals in place, notably the UK, France, Italy and Spain.
Nonetheless, the arrangement builds on a developing relationship between Formula 1 and YouTube, which has enabled the platform to offer additional content, including longer highlight recaps, top driver and team radio moments, and expert analysis in recent years.
This has a driven viewership growth of 130 per cent year on year, with new and existing fans drawn to features such as driver profiles, behind-the-scenes footage and podcast interviews.
With no live racing in the first half of the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1 offered up various classic races on its YouTube channel, attracting 1.2 million views for the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, and will be monitoring the audience for the German round with interest.
Adam Crothers, head of digital media rights at Formula 1, said today: “We are thrilled to be working with YouTube on such an exciting project. As we continue to diversify our media distribution strategy and expand our digital offering, it is imperative that we engage fans who consume mediums differently and YouTube offers us the platform to achieve that.
“Partnering with YouTube also ensures we continue our pursuit of engaging new audiences in new ways to grow the F1 fanbase whilst continuing to innovate our media offering for new and existing fans.”
Tomos Grace, head of sport at YouTube EMEA, added: “YouTube helps sport reach the fans of tomorrow – 70 per cent of Formula 1’s YouTube audience is under the age of 35. Sports broadcasters and organisers increasingly recognise YouTube’s ability to reach these new audiences and generate incremental revenue.
“Formula 1 has always been one of the most innovative brands in sport, as dynamic in their video creation as they are on the track. F1’s decision to live-stream their most premium content on YouTube is further evidence of YouTube’s role as a trusted partner to the industry.”
Although more familiar as a repository for archive material, YouTube has been targeting more live sports content.
In a recent interview with Sportcal, Grace said: "We have seen an increase in the use of a live platform by sports organisations and who knows where that will take us? We would like to do a lot more live partnerships with sports organisations, broadcasters, leagues and clubs. We do a lot now but we would like to do more.”
In recent years, major sporting events have been made available on YouTube including European soccer’s Uefa Champions League final, via pay-TV’s BT Sport in the UK, and North American basketball’s NBA Finals, through its deal as presenting partner of the league’s climax.
Germany was not included on the initial 2020 Formula 1 calendar, but a race at the famous Nürburgring, absent since 2013, has been added to the schedule after various rounds were cancelled because of the pandemic.
The Eifel Grand Prix references the historic Eifelrennen name used for races at the original circuit in the first half of the 20th century.
The season continues this weekend with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which is to go ahead despite Sergio Pérez, Racing Point's Mexican driver, testing postive for coronavirus. He is set to be replaced for the two UK rounds by Germany's Nico Hulkenberg.