Pay-per-view hits F1 viewing figures, admits Carey

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Formula 1 boss Chase Carey has admitted that a move toward increasing pay-per-view access to the sport is hitting television viewing figures.

F1 recently confirmed a four per cent fall in global viewing figures for the sport since Liberty Media took over.

But Carey said that this was almost entirely due to coverage in Italy switching from free-to-air to subscription services.

"[The drop] is largely due to our move from free-to-pay television in Italy," Carey told investors during a conference call this week.

"Excluding Italy our television viewership is up three per cent year-on-year," he pointed out. "And our Saturday viewership for qualifying is up even more."

A change of broadcasters in the United States seems to have had a positive effect on the sports popularity there. Viewing figures in China are also up.

And live race attendance has also been boosted in the last 12 months, Carey reported.

"Live attendance in aggregate is up four per cent year-on-year at the ten tracks where we raced last year," he reported, referring to the first half of the 2018 season.

Of the 12 races before the summer shutdown, France and Germany were back on the calendar after absences. Malaysia bowed out of hosting F1 following the 2017 event.

"Attendance at the two tracks we did not have in 2017, which are France and Germany, was well in excess of expectations," Carey said.

"In Germany, the promoter even had to build new grandstands to meet demand."

Carey was also keen to point out that fans were more engaged with this season's championship battle.

"44 per cent of our average fans are more interested in the 2018 season than they were in 2017 versus only seven per cent a year ago," he said.

"66 per cent of fans believe F1 has improved versus two years ago, just 15 per cent say it’s worse.

"And 67 per cent of fans say F1 is in good hands with Liberty, while 10 per cent disagree."

The sport's revenues are down $28m this year, although hin part that's due to the lucrative Russian Grand Prix being held later in the year.

Liberty is also putting more money into the sport, as it seeks to invest in building up F1 after years of perceived penny-pinching under Bernie Ecclestone and the previous owners.

But for all the extra money going into promotion and digital media, Carey had admitted that it's the drivers who are the biggest draw as far as fans are concerned.

"You have strong brands and important teams, but in the end, it's all about the drivers as the main characters," he told Gazzetta dello Sport last week.

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