Formula 1 | How FOM convinced F1 teams to open up to Netflix

How the FOM convinced the (...)

The Drive to Survive series is certainly criticized for sometimes favoring the spectacular, the novel over the true story; but the fact is that its effectiveness in attracting new fans, in the US in particular, but also young people, has been particularly notable for F1.

Ian Holmes, F1’s director of media rights and content creation, is one of the men behind the Netflix project. At a marketing event in London, he returned to the meaning and usefulness of this now successful bet.

Starting at the end: Is the future of Drive to Survive in immediate danger?

“If we’re happy with it, if people want to consume it and watch it, and if Netflix is ​​happy with it, then I think we’ll continue…”

The audience figures, quantitatively and qualitatively (number of women and young people affected), are, it must be said, there.

“It was during the third season that we took the full measure of potential. The first season was very well received, Netflix was happy. They are known for not sharing a lot of data in terms of viewing, but in the chat we had a good idea. »

“The second seasons are never as well received as the first, there is usually a small decline. And that was our case, we had a drop of 5%, which is completely normal. And then for the third season, there was a 50% increase. And that’s when we took a step back and thought ‘this is not normal’. »

“And that is reflected in the audience figures. It’s not just the number of people watching, it’s also who’s watching. This is where the value lies. We found that people were interested in F1, when they didn’t necessarily sit down on Sunday afternoons to watch Sky, Canal+ or ESPN. A lot of them are doing it now, as we’ve seen from our viewing figures. This is the true added value. »

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What is the strength of the Netflix series according to Holmes, in terms of narration, to captivate the viewer?

“What we have seen, especially in the last season, is that team managers seem to be taking a more central role. But really, we’re dealing with 30 people in the sport. »

“And that’s where I think we have an advantage over football. We have 30 people, and that’s it. So you can go pretty far with them and cover the entire grid. So I think our sport lends itself to that. »

“On top of the fact that for years and years there has been little to no behind-the-scenes coverage. »

Operation ‘convince the teams’

If Netflix was ultimately preferred over Amazon for visibility reasons, the main challenge for Holmes and Liberty Media was getting teams on board for this project. Ferrari and Mercedes refusing to participate in the first season. Like Max Verstappen last time.

“We actually reached a deal with Netflix pretty quickly, but the deal was subject to teams participating. So we had to sit down with 10 teams, which took a lot longer, to put it mildly. »

“But again, this was new to all of us. We also ask for new things mainly from the teams, and it is important that they accept this. Yes, Ferrari and Mercedes took a little longer, but they accepted the concept. »

“Because we needed your support, like all teams. We felt that for the series to be successful, it would basically require teams to provide a level of access that we can’t provide. A level of access that has never been provided before. »

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Have the teams ever blocked the broadcast of this or that episode, or this or that excerpt?

“Teams can watch parts of the episodes, but they can’t see the final cut. And that’s basically so no one gets in the way. »

“Certain things here and there have caused some controversy. But it’s a very collaborative approach. There have been requests from teams that may not have strictly met the approval criteria, but if we feel it won’t hurt or dilute the narrative, we’ll make the requested cuts; and I know that Netflix and the production company are also very helpful in making cuts if necessary. Because it works both ways. »

“The way Drive to Survive works is that, by contract, teams have certain very, very defined areas in which they are allowed to request adjustments and changes. That it’s anything that accidentally reveals something commercially or sportingly sensitive, at the time of broadcast, of course. »

However, previously, the FOM, especially in the era of Bernie Ecclestone, was very restrictive on access to behind-the-scenes footage, going after it even on pilots’ social media.

“I’ve read some stories about people in F1 having to write to Lewis Hamilton or whatever, telling them to remove pictures from their social media, and I’ve probably been involved in that myself. » Holmes admits.

However, Drive to Survive has been the most criticized for setting up rivalries from scratch, between Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz at McLaren, for example.

A criticism that Holmes takes on his own?

“I think the answer is no. The truth is that this does not influence the result of a race, a session or the championship. »

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