Liberty Media boss criticises NBC's Formula One TV rights deal and vows to squeeze more money from US broadcasters

Maffei has vowed to squeeze more money from US broadcasters in upcoming contract talks

Liberty Media boss, Greg Maffei, has criticised the 'lowly sums' paid by US broadcasters such as NBC for the US TV rights to Formula One and indicated that it will look for a significant boost when the current deal expires at the end of 2017.

The chief executive of Formula One’s new parent company was talking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco recently where he described the revenue from NBC’s current TV deal as a “popcorn fart”.

“The US is, you know, it’s a popcorn fart." said Maffei. "It’s nothing. The opportunity is good, certainly in percentage terms, not in absolute Dollar terms. It is very low. It is with NBC, and it’s not on the main NBC, it’s on their sports channel.”

The US broadcaster reportedly paid around $3m (£1.94) in 2013 to acquire the rights to F1 in a four-year deal with then owners Delta Topco.

Maffei comments come as Liberty Media looks to vastly increase the popularity of Formula One following its £6.4bn takeover.

Making the sport available on free-to-air television in the US would help broaden the appeal of the sport, however Liberty Media appears to be instead pursuing its growth ambition through partnerships with pay TV broadcasters, who are more likely to outbid their free-to-air rivals if it helps boost their subscriber numbers.

Last year Sky agreed a three-year deal with Formula One to become the exclusive UK broadcaster from 2019, valued at around £35m a year, however Maffei argued that a lack of competition between US networks was preventing the sport from growing.

“What drove the UK? You had BT and Sky and beIN all looking at it. That’s what you need,” he said. “You need multiple guys finding it important to their business and then you’ll see a good result. So, some of it is our ability to create a great product but some of it is also the competitive environment in those respective markets for who wants these rights.”

With NBC’s contract expiring at the end of the 2017 season, Maffei, vowed to increase the revenue in the upcoming contract discussions.

He said: “We are going to do far better on those renewals to the degree a couple of things happen. First, we have passion, viewership etc and two, the extent there’s competition.

In addition to broadcast deals, Maffei, talked up the long-term digital sponsorship opportunities around Formula One with things like gamification and virtual reality.

Liberty Media’s acquisition of Formula One marks a new dawn for the sport, one which investors and sponsors will hope can transform its antiquated commercial model to one more befitting of the most technologically advanced sport in the world.

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Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

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