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Liberty sees new reality in F1 future

An increased push towards broadening F1's appeal through gaming opportunities will be high on new owner Liberty Media's to-do list when it completes its takeover in 2017.
Formula One may be at the cutting edge of technology on track, but new owner Liberty Media has acknowledged that it has much ground to make up elsewhere.

The US-based cable TV giant acquired an initial 18.7 per cent stake in the sport from controlling stakeholder CVC Capital Partners between the Italian and Singapore grands prix, with plans to complete its takeover early next year, but has already revealed ambitions to move F1 forward in terms of technology that would both bring the sport to a wider audience and enhance the spectacle for those already immersed in it.

Naturally, those ideas have an income-generating potential for Liberty, which recognises that F1 under the direction of current czar Bernie Ecclestone has neglected digital advances away from the track.

"Less than one percent of revenues are from digital," Reuters reports Liberty chief executive Greg Maffei telling the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investment conference in New York, "[F1] really have no organised digital effort, [but] I think there's a lot of things that can be done around gaming, VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality).

"There's an enormous amount of video feed and data about the races that we are already capturing that we are not in any way processing incrementally for the dedicated fan.”

Maffei also said that, while revenues have grown via the switch to pay-to-view television coverage, as well as through increased sponsorship and a larger calendar, building on as-yet-untapped digital revenue streams will be a priority for the new ownership, as will the potential to expand into other growth opportunities such as gaming, which has taken off in every other major sport.

"Outside of the United States, there is a huge gambling opportunity in the sport, none of which we capitalise on," Maffei pointed out, “I think there are a bunch of ways in which digital can play through this, that I think will be a part of the future growth. Part of that is much more 'direct to consumer' kind of experiences. How that augments needs to be worked through, but I think that there's a lot of material to work with there.”

Unsurprisingly given the interest in optimising gaming opportunities, Maffei emphasised the potential of increasing the USA's F1 footprint, adding Las Vegas – already an Ecclestone favourite - to the list of potential American cities – comprising Los Angeles, New York and Miami - that new F1 chairman Chase Carey suggested could be added to an expanded future schedule.

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