Despite the Unprecedented Boom in the U.S….Fears of “F1 Departure” Spreading in Japan
Unprecedented "F1 Boom" in the U.S.
The long-awaited season has arrived for F1 fans.
In the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix held on March 20, Ferrari, which has been suffering from poor performance in recent years, finished on the podium with a one-two finish by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. Also, Japanese driver Hiroki Tsunoda of Alphatauri made a threatening comeback from 16th place in qualifying to finish in 8th place.
Following the trend of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen winning the world championship last year, there are signs of a change in the power structure from the “Mercedes monopoly” era.
After the first race, many Japanese motorsports fans expressed their wishes on social networking sites for the return of terrestrial broadcasts, and with the announcement on January 20 that “SUPER GT+” (TV Tokyo), the only program dedicated to SUPER GT on terrestrial wave, would be terminated after its next broadcast, there has been a “shift away from motorsports. This may be due in part to the growing concern about the “new wave” of “newcomers” to the market.
Following last year, this year’s F1 live broadcasts will be available only on a pay-per-view basis (distribution), and will be watched via “DAZN” (with some free periods) and the CS channel “Fuji TV NEXT Live Premium”.
Last year was a memorable season for Japan as it was Honda’s last year as a works company in F1 and Kakuda became the first Japanese driver in seven years to compete in the championship. Despite this, the fact that the Japanese GP could not be held due to the new coronavirus is nothing short of regrettable.
Fuji TV must be aware of the high expectations of the fans, but it is unlikely that they will resume terrestrial broadcasting unless something serious happens.
Pay-TV broadcasting has become the mainstream worldwide, and Fuji must maintain F1 broadcasts as the centerpiece of its pay channel. It seems that the station’s F1 pay-per-view broadcasts play an important role, including the separation from the online video distribution service FOD.
When one thinks of Fuji Television’s F1 broadcasts, one is probably first reminded of the impressive direction, such as the famous live narration by Itiro Furudate and the CG opening of the race with “TRUTH” by T-SQUARE (THE SQUARE) playing.
Of course, today’s pay-TV and CS broadcasts are also devised to create a sense of realism, but many believe that they cannot match the momentum of those days.
While the global “pay-per-view” trend for F1 coverage continues, the U.S. is steadily gaining fans, and the U.S. Grand Prix, first held at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in 2012, has announced that it has extended its contract through 2026.
Since Liberty Media acquired the F1 business in 2016, F1, which was on the verge of becoming an unpopular sport, is undergoing an image shift toward content that appeals to young people. Also, Netflix’s F1 documentary “Drive to Survive” has been a huge hit.
Last year’s U.S. Grand Prix was attended by 400,000 people, and tickets for this year’s race were sold out immediately after they went on sale, even though it was held in October. Promotion by U.S. companies is also accelerating, with Google becoming a sponsor of the McLaren F1 team.
While automobile races such as NASCAR and IndyCar have long been popular, the fact that more and more young people are becoming enthusiastic about F1 is truly the result of media strategies,” said a reporter from an automobile magazine.
In order to attract even more F1 fans in Japan, in-depth media promotion will likely be necessary.