The above video from Athletic Interest was recently published about this digital transformation of Formula 1 and was partly the inspiration for this article. YouTube plays a very important role in this transformation. What can other brands and publishers learn from this?
NO FEAR OF CANNIBALIZATION
From my own experience, I can tell you that many big media companies have a (false) fear of cannibalizing watchtime. They think that every view you generate on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram comes at the expense of views on your own VOD platform, which can generate higher ad revenue. So it seems to be a shame to put too much content on YouTube. But this notion is wrong. YouTube is used by consumers in a different way than Netflix, NPO Plus, Amazon Prime Video or Videoland. The platforms differ in the intent and duration of user sessions. With YouTube, you tap into new audiences that you can’t reach through your own channels, and you increase your current viewers’ willingness to watch more often.
An example from my own experience: I’m a big fan of Veronica Inside and regularly watch clips and recaps of ‘Gijppie’ and the other gentlemen. This YouTube viewing behavior leads me to watch the linear show on Monday and Friday nights more often instead of less often. YouTube and TV complement rather than cannibalize each other: A well-considered use of YouTube can actually strengthen its own linear or online audience.
Formula 1 has recognized the power of YouTube and social media and is using them to reach new viewers and retain existing fans. Sky Sports also takes this view with the Premier League and uses YouTube to generate awareness, revenue and traction for its own platforms.
DATA RESEARCH FORMS THE BASIS OF THE YOUTUBE STRATEGY
In contrast to former owner Bernie Ecclestone’s approach, which was based on gut feelings and personal preferences, Liberty Media began with large-scale data research. The first three months after the acquisition were largely spent researching the target audience, desires and interests. This gave them sound input for audience, channel and content choices. These decisions have made Formula 1 the fastest growing sport on YouTube over the years. The channel has grown from less than one million to nearly six million subscribers and generated more than 840 million views last year.
A SOLID AND DIVERSE YOUTUBE CONTENT STRATEGY
If we zoom in on Formula 1’s content strategy, we see that it is very varied. It is built on different pillars:
Highlights: Summaries of the (qualifying) races form the core of their content. These are published shortly after the races, are between five and eight minutes long and invariably generate millions of views per summary. The other race formulas, such as F2 and F3, also have their highlights on the channel.
Onboard footage: in addition to the regular recaps, they publish compilations of onboard footage per race from the perspective of different drivers.
Listicles: after highlights, listicle videos generate the most views. Think about ‘Top 10 moments of pit lane drama’, ‘5 feel-good moments in Spain’ or the ‘Top 10 funniest F1 press conferences’. They cleverly use a combination of archive and recent footage. In addition to the lists, they also publish shorter clips, such as spectacular crashes, separately on the channel.
Backstories: After almost every race, they also highlight a specific driver with a story about how they performed and experienced the race. In this way, they capitalize on the popularity of each driver and build on it. They also regularly publish longer documentaries about specific riders from the past or future. They are not afraid to release longer content, for example this documentary about the rise and struggles of Roberto Moreno is almost an hour and a half long. The video below about rising star George Russel is less long, but at 20 minutes+, it’s also longer than the average video.