Liberty Media Looks To Launch Streaming Service For Formula One Racing


Don’t be surprised if Liberty Media introduces a direct-to-consumer streaming service featuring Formula One racing once the the John Malone-controlled company acquires the league.

Liberty’s “very excited about the idea,” CEO Greg Maffei told analysts today in a quarterly earnings call. A streaming service “makes a lot of sense for them and us.”

It might take time. There are “things to be worked through” to clarify the rights that are available from the pacts that Formula One and its teams have with broadcasters. But “I don’t think it’s insurmountable,” Maffei says.

Liberty recently bought 19.1% of Formula One, in a deal that will give it full control next year.

Liberty already owns the Atlanta Braves, and Maffei says that baseball is “much more complicated” when it comes to sorting through different rights held by the teams and Major League Baseball. Also, the sport is probably “the most advanced in terms of getting an over-the-top product.”

Maffei says that Live Nation — the live entertainment company in which Liberty owns a 34% stake — “can be helpful to Formula One.” For example, it could sell tickets through its Ticketmaster subsidiary, help set up venues, and stage concerts around races.

Broadly speaking, the CEO says that streaming services are “seeing some traction” although “we don’t yet see wholesale substitution” for traditional pay TV.

All eyes are on AT&T, which is about to launch DirecTV Now — a streaming service that will have more than 100 channels and cost $35 a month, far less than most cable or satellite subscriptions.

But it may not have all of the major broadcasters, “so that will reduce some segments of the market,” Maffei says. And with the costs AT&T will have to pay for programming, it probably will see “not much [profit] margin.

That’s why he wonders whether “maybe they’re achieving some other strategic goal.”

AT&T recently agreed to pay about $85 billion for Time Warner, and is eager to persuade government regulators that the deal won’t raise consumer costs — and might lower them.

Maffei and other execs will have more to say on Thursday when Liberty holds its annual Investor Day gathering in New York.

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