Is pay TV killing F1’s popularity?

Today , Hockenheim boss Georg Seiler said his track has given up hope of hosting Formula 1’s German Grand Prix this year after failing to reach a compromise with promoter Bernie Ecclestone.

This would seem a pertinent time to question whether this is simply a matter of not being able to find a commercially viable deal, or whether it is a signifier of something more alarming in the sport that could raise major questions about its future.

Dwindling dedication

Formula 1’s global television audience fell by 5.6% worldwide in 2014, dropping from 450 million to just shy of 425 million. This decline has been witnessed even in established markets like the UK and Germany, where 42% fewer views watched the Monaco Grand Prix year-on-year between 2013-14.

While many cited the retirement of Schumacher for German’s declining viewing figures, they are overlooking the success of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg, as well as the sensational return of Schumi himself as the spearhead of the Mercedes’ all-German team.

Despite this national success, last year’s race at Hockenheim drew a crowd of just 52,000 spectators, even after heavily discounted tickets and widespread promotion.

Paying the cost for Pay-TV

RTL, Europe’s second-largest TV, radio and production company, is set to drop its coverage of Formula 1, leaving only pay-per-view channels airing the sport in Germany – and I believe it is this very model that is to blame for the sport’s waning popularity in established markets.

In recent years, F1 has rapidly expanded into Asia, the Middle East, and even sort to rekindled its on-again-off-again love affair with North America. Yet, in Europe it has turned away many fans by almost exclusively offering access to race coverage through subscription-based TV channels.

This model has increased F1’s UK broadcast income by 110% alone to £65 million, but cost 3.8 million viewers in its first season.

At a time when F1 is actively shunning its fans on social media and opening stating that it is not interested in younger fans, is it not time that the supporters of the sport were listened to? Should the sport continue to turn away those who love it the most, it is not a stretch of the imagination to consider that other Grand Prix will follow the fate of this year’s German event.

I sincerely hope this is not the case.

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