How a TV series made young people rekindle their passion for Formula 1

Until a few years ago, the stages of the Formula 1 World Championships held in the United States were experienced in a completely different way from the European ones. These weekends have been quieter than usual for both managers and drivers: fewer sponsors and fewer fans to entertain between Friday’s free practice, Saturday’s race and Sunday qualifying.

Since Netflix released the first season of the series campaign to survive In March 2019, things changed. Prior to that time, Formula 1 was in States It was a niche sport, with a loyal but limited audience: the audience on Espn Sports recorded about half a million spectators per race, compared to nearly four million spectators for Nascar and more than five million at the Indianapolis 500. There was only one US Grand Prix each year , in Austin, Texas, but public interest over the past decade has been steadily declining.

After exploiting the series produced by the Californian giant, within three years, ESPN ratings nearly doubled. Not only. The total turnout recorded for the October 2021 weekend in Austin was among the largest in motorsport history: 400,000 fans in three days, with 140,000 for Sunday’s race. This year Miami was added to the schedule as the second US stop and in 2023 there will be a third stop in Las Vegas (New York and other cities claim their own race). Incredible, considering also that no other country in the world can boast more than two Grand Prix races within its borders.

As if that wasn’t enough, last June ESPN signed an agreement That’s $75-90 million a year for TV rights in the US (for a long time the figure was 5 million). Everyone, from old reporters to belated fans, owes that success to the Netflix-produced series. Although the broadcasting platform is notorious for secrecy regarding its audience numbers, according to the official regulation of Formula 1 in the fourth season of campaign to survive It became the most-watched Netflix production in 33 countries – including the US – and, According to several pollsOver a third of Austin 2021 viewers cited the series as a reason for their participation in the event.

But what is the secret of success? campaign to survive? The show builds its episodes around emotional intrigue and puts the events (and contradictions) related to the competitiveness of drivers and team managers in the spotlight. However, this boom came thanks to an overabundance of spectators hungry for competition during the first pandemic wave, an occasion when Formula 1 finally established itself in the mass market, not only abroad, but also in Europe.

This year, after the release of the fourth season, viewers in a few days They clocked 28 million hours of watched from the new series. within a week campaign to survive It became one of the 10 most-watched TV series on the platform in 50 countries, many of which are European, such as the UK and Ukraine. Data that testify to a new emerging interest not only from a geographical point of view, but also from a personal point of view: if in the past 20 years Formula 1 has not been able to excite the new European generations, then Netflix has decisively contributed to this expansion of the audience (the decline occurred In Italy above all after the end of the golden age of the Ferrari-Schumacher pairing, in the mid-2000s).

However, if on the Old Continent we had witnessed some kind of revival, then on the American front it was a real break with the past. For decades, in fact, the world’s most avant-garde car championships have struggled hard to establish themselves in the star and tape market. Since its inception in 1950, at least one US Grand Prix has been held in most years and sometimes there have been two. From 1961 to 1980, a stage of the World Championships was held on a track outside the village of Watkins Glen in New York State. However, the sport was treated as little more than a smug European pastime of only minor importance during a brief interlude in the 1970s, when American driver Mario Andretti switched from Indy racing (the American competition on oval tracks) to Formula 1, becoming one in the scientist. a hero.

Things began to change in January 2017, when John C. Malone’s (Colorado-based) Liberty Media paid $4.6 billion to purchase F1’s (formerly F1 sponsored) television rights. Golden opportunity. And so the domino effect began: As Ecclestone’s heir, Malone hired Chase Carey, a television executive. Over the course of a long career, Curry helped secure the NFL rights to Fox and ran Fox Sports himself. To manage the business side of the property, Curry, in turn, turned to Sean Bratches, the former ESPN executive vice president. At this point, the Bratches reached out to a former teammate, Erik Barmack, who has meanwhile become a big shot on Netflix, talking to him about the idea of ​​a series dedicated to Formula 1. there he is. Intriguing detail: By their own admission, neither Curry nor Bratches had seen a Grand Prix before.

Of course, the growth in global interest has had a noticeable positive impact on the marketing associated with Formula 1. It has attracted new sponsors – such as Oracle, which is now a partner of Red Bull – and for the environment it has been a godsend: not randomly, after assuring teams that he will discuss With Netflix Narrative Ringtones campaign to survive (The series has generated some controversy due to the show’s over-hyped show in some situations), Formula One Group CEO Stefano Domenicali has signed on to make the fifth and sixth seasons come true.

However, there are still some unknowns. It is not clear how much those who have moved closer to Formula 1 thanks to this new wave are interested in the sport itself.