Entertainment

Racing F1’s “marriage” to Netflix has even more mileage

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 – Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – December 5, 2021 General view at the start of the race REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

March 8, 2022

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) – The fourth season of ‘Drive to Survive,’ the Netflix docuseries that supercharged Formula One for new and younger audiences, debuts on Friday, with the sport still defying controversy and criticism of ‘marriage’ is obliged.

The 10 new episodes offer a behind-the-scenes look at the 2021 season, one of the most exciting and competitive championships in Grand Prix racing.

“I think it’s a great partnership,” Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, the US-based owner of Formula 1, told analysts on a recent conference call.

“It was a win all round. Our sport has grown significantly, not just in the US but around the world. It’s also a great thing for Netflix. So I hope the marriage lasts a long time.”

Total television viewership in the United States rose 58% in 2021 from the previous year, according to F1 figures, with 400,000 fans making the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas the busiest race of last season.

A second US race in Miami is making its debut in May and US-based sponsors such as Red Bull’s new title partner Oracle are growing in prominence.

The Netflix partnership had its critics, however, as the final showdown last year in Abu Dhabi sparked accusations that the integrity of the sport had been sacrificed for entertainment.

Race director Michael Masi, who has since been replaced, changed safety car procedures in a late move that allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win and denied Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton a record eighth title.

McLaren’s Lando Norris said afterwards he felt it was “made for TV”.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who played a starring role in a series snubbed by Verstappen, who said last year he thought some of the driver rivalries were “fake”, thought the criticism was unfair.

“F1 is still a sport but sport is entertainment,” he told the BBC.

“And you could also argue that in the past two and a half months, more people have been talking about Formula 1 than it would have traditionally been in hibernation.”

Much of that conversation also revolved around what might ultimately be revealed by the Netflix cameras.

However, Formula 1 Managing Director Stefano Domenicali recognized that “Drive to Survive” must remain a “differentiator” as other sports jump on the bandwagon to increase viewership.

Amazon Prime is launching a similar MotoGP Unlimited docuseries on March 14, while Netflix producers have partnered with tennis Grand Slam tournaments, as well as ATP and WTA tours, and are also reportedly in talks with the Tour de France in cycling are.

“If it just becomes a different way of talking about F1 without… adding value to the F1 platform, I think maybe it’s better to renegotiate and see what with Netflix or the other partners could be a way to do something differently in the future,” said Domenicali.

“But for sure, this platform was a crucial point for the growth of awareness, mainly among the young generation and newcomers.”

The 2022 Formula 1 season starts on March 20 in Bahrain.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

https://www.oann.com/motor-racing-f1s-marriage-with-netflix-still-has-more-mileage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=motor-racing-f1s-marriage-with-netflix-still-has-more-mileage Racing F1’s “marriage” to Netflix has even more mileage

Dais Johnston

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