Liberty CEO targets Las Vegas and Miami as possible F1 venues

Formula One currently races in the United States once a year at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei suggests that Las Vegas and Miami could be potential future F1 venues, but had stressed that expanding the sport in North America would be a long-term project.

Maffei, who will work closely with new F1 chairman Chase Carey, gave some interesting insights into how F1 will boost its three main revenue streams, namely race sanction fees, broadcast rights and sponsorship.

Maffei hinted that the current calendar could be expanded beyond 21 events.

“We’re sitting on 21 venues,” he explained. “I think there’s an opportunity to potentially grow that over time, particularly while we’ve maximized some of those venue opportunities with relatively high venues fees, I think there’s an opportunity to grow in the number of venues and venues that are potentially more attractive to longer-term broadcast revenues and sponsorship revenues.

Miscommunication to blame for track marshal's scary moment in F1 race

“The obvious optionality case is to some degree Asia in the short term, potentially Latin America, and longer term North America, and particularly the U.S., where we really are well under-viewed, under-monetized, under-everything. I don’t think that gets solved in a week, but I think that’s an interesting long-term opportunity.”

Expanding on the US angle, he said: “You think about places where it would have natural appeal I would argue Miami, Las Vegas are very interesting places for the long term. But that isn’t going to get solved in a week. I’d like to hope that being Americans – Chase, Liberty – that we can help with that process. I don’t think as I said this is a quick fix, but for the longer term it’s a large, untapped market with upsides.”

Regarding broadcast rights, he said: “Chase Carey is pretty experienced, hard to think of a better guy whose had the opportunity to manage sports properties or media properties, and the intersection of the two.

“I think there’s an opportunity to grow that broadcast stream. Much of it comes from moving potentially from free-to-air to competitive pay services, that’s for example what happened in the UK, when BSkyB recently bought the rights.”

Maffei was keen to point out that F1 can do much more to exploit official sponsorship deals, citing the small size of Bernie Ecclestone’s sponsorship staff.

“I think we have 17 sponsors, and we have three people working in sponsorship in F1. In contrast at Major League Baseball, a business we have some familiarity with through the [Atlanta] Braves, there are 75 sponsors, just in the US. So I think there’s an opportunity to grow, invest in the sponsorship organization, and grow sponsors.”

He stressed that digital would play a big role in all three main revenue streams, and that gambling will be a major growth area.

“Something that intersects all of these is less than 1 percent of the revenues are from digital, they really have no organized digital effort. I think there are 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 that we have about the races that we are already capturing that we are not in any way processing incrementally for the dedicated fan, or opportunities around things like gambling.

“Outside the United States there is a huge gambling opportunity in the sport, none of which we capitalize on. I think there are a bunch of ways in which digital can play through this, from a service to augmenting other things to providing data that are interesting that we are not capitalizing on, that I think will be a part of the future growth.

“Part of that is much more direct to consumer, D2C kind of experiences. How that augments, and how we work that in with traditional broadcasters, needs to be worked through. But I think that there’s a lot of material to work with there.”