Red Bull Says Vettel’s F-1 Success Won’t Scare Away TV Audience
Red Bull isn’t worried about Formula One becoming a turnoff for fans after Sebastian Vettel won a fourth straight title, manager Christian Horner said.
Vettel was jeered at races in Belgium, Italy and Singapore, and average television audiences have declined 5.4 percent in his native Germany this season, according to RTL Group SA (RRTL)’s German unit. His team, bankrolled by billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz’s energy drink maker Red Bull GmbH, has won 47 out of 165 races since entering the series in 2005.
“From a selfish team point of view the more boring and the more races that we can win the better,” Red Bull team principal Horner said in Sao Paulo, just before Vettel won a ninth straight race. “But of course we need to compete, we want competition.”
Formula One, which gets about one-third of its $1.4 billion annual income from television rights, risks “killing the show” should Red Bull continue dominating, according to Lotus team manager Eric Boullier. Lotus was fourth of 11 teams in the constructors’ championship, 281 points behind Red Bull.
Germany’s RTL network said in an e-mail its average race viewership dropped to 5.28 million because of falling audiences in the last three races after Vettel clinched the title early. In Spain, the average race audience on Antena 3 television plunged by 49 percent to 3.4 million in the last four races, compared with last year, according to the Madrid-based As newspaper.
Last year, Vettel clinched the title in the final race, fighting back the challenge of Ferrari’s Spanish driver Fernando Alonso.
Formula One has maintained a steady global race audience of about 50 million over the past decade, outperforming other sports including tennis, according to Kevin Alavy, managing director of New York-based Mediabrands’s Futures Sport + Entertainment.
The British Broadcasting Corp., which shares race broadcasts with British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, said its cumulative viewership for people watching its Formula One coverage for 15 minutes or more this season increased by 1.4 million to 28 million.
The series has struggled to win new fans outside its European heartland. It had falling television audiences in China, Russia and the U.S. last season, according to an internal Formula One broadcast report.
McLaren manager Martin Whitmarsh, whose team has been in Formula One since 1966, said Red Bull’s arrival has “distorted the sport” because of its level of spending. He said a claim by Horner that his team isn’t the biggest spender in Formula One is misleading.
“You’ll see that’s just rubbish but everyone knows that and they know it as well,” said McLaren, which had a full-year loss of 3.1 million pounds ($5.1 million) on sales of 165.8 million pounds through the end of 2012.
Red Bull Technology Ltd., a company that designs and manufactures the championship-winning car, had sales of 231.9 million pounds and costs of 201.3 million pounds through the end of 2012. Red Bull Racing Ltd., a subsidiary that manages the team, had sales of 176.3 million pounds and costs of 170.3 million pounds.
“I can see why people get perhaps frustrated with it but I think that the racing has been very good,” Horner said. “The fastest way to become unpopular is to start winning. And we’ve done a lot of winning the last few years. It’s inevitable that doesn’t sit too comfy with some teams.”
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