FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
NBC SPORTS GROUP 2013 MOTORSPORTS CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Operator: Please stand by. Good day and welcome to the NBC Motor Sports Conference Call. Today’s conference is being recorded.
At this time I would like to turn the conference over to Chris McCloskey. Please go ahead sir.
Chris McCloskey: Okay, thank you everyone. This is Chris McCloskey, VP of Communications for NBC Sports. Thanks for joining us today for our NBC Sports Group 2013 Motorsports call.
This year NBC Sports Group is going to air more than 200 hours of motor sports programming across NBC and NBC Sports Network, including our first year with Formula One. As everyone knows, we’re going to have four races this year that will be live on NBC; Monaco, Montreal, Austin and Brazil. And, of course, we’re going to have the most IndyCar races that we’ve ever had in our history, roughly 13 of those.
In a moment, we’re going to hear from Leigh Diffey who is our host for both F1 and IndyCar coverage, F1 analyst David Hobbs and Steve Matchett, IndyCar analyst Wally Dallenbach and NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood.
Before we get started, just a few quick reminders here. There will be a transcript of this call posted on the NBC Sports Media site which is NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com around 5:00 pm Eastern today. We’ll also have a replay of the call in a few hours. That number is 719-457-0820, pass code 4547765. I will re-read that at the end of the call.
Each of our speakers is going to make a brief opening remark and then we’ll take questions. Up first with an opening remark is Sam Flood.
Sam Flood: Hey, everyone. We’re really excited to get going with the season. We had the F1 group in Stanford, Connecticut, in our studios a week and-a-half ago to tape the preview show for the season. It was just great to see the team working together as one, having fun on the set and telling the stories that make this auto racing world so unique – the open wheel world and the mystery of F1.
So it was good to have the team together for the first time. I know they’re all eager to get going starting with the first practice on Thursday; a lot of fun things ahead there. The IndyCar group was together this past weekend.
And looking at the travel schedules for our group, the F1 gang got to hang in Barcelona, testing there, so they had a great trip, got to overlap with the drivers, got everything going. And then the IndyCar group didn’t have to use their passports, they traveled down to Alabama and spent a good day – two days with IndyCar drivers.
So our guys have been out on the road hanging, having fun, getting to know the drivers, getting the stories they’ll need to tell on the air. And Leigh Diffey got to make both trips.
Which was more exotic Leigh?
Leigh Diffey: Definitely Alabama, Sam.
Sam Flood: As expected. Leigh, I hand if off to you.
Leigh Diffey: Thank you very much and hi everyone, pleased to be on the call and converse with you.
I think both have been using Barcelona and also the IndyCar tips. One of the most common questions was “How committed is NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network to motorsports?”
And I think what Chris highlighted earlier really underscores the commitment to motorsport and Formula 1 and IndyCar, and that’s certainly not the only forms of motorsport that you’ll see on the network this year, so very exciting times. It’s the first time in more than a decade that a network has been the destination for open wheel racing to both Formula 1 and IndyCar.
There was some concern from the IndyCar side, from an IndyCar family, that have it on the network would take away from them. And I think they have since learned that it’s going to be a huge compliment to the IndyCar family. So for people to know exactly where the destination is to go for Formula 1 and IndyCar is very convenient, and they’re both going to complement each other. There’s going to be quite a nice crossover.
Strictly speaking on the Formula 1 front, I think that we could not have acquired this property at a better time. Last year the big headline was the first time in history that there were six world champions on the grit. Well, with Michael Shumacher retiring for a second time, it’s still pretty good with five world champions and the youngest triple world champion ever in Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton created the biggest news in the off season with moving from his natural him of McLaren Mercedes to the works Mercedes thing, and all eyes will be on Hamilton this weekend to see what he can do.
There are so many wonderful story lines that ripple throughout this 2013 season with a healthy crop of five rookies. Again, we’ll have a U.S. grand parade in Austin later in the year in November, and it’s very exciting times.
Chris McCloskey: Thank you Leigh. Next we’ll hear from David.
David Hobbs: Well, I think the commitment that NBC is making to open-wheel racing was exemplified by the fact that we did send all of us over to Barcelona for the middle test. And a big crew of 30 odd cameramen, audio engineers and other people came along too to make a great start to the season.
The season is going to be very, very interesting. It’s the last season before a massive role change in 2014. But despite the fact that every car is pretty much the same as it was last year, they were all new cars on site at Barcelona and of course the driver shuffling has been quite a bit feature off season.
The two main contenders, Red Bull, still (Vettel) and (Webber) and of course (inaudible) are still the ones that need to be their master. The clan had a big change because young (Vergne) of Paris, the Mexican coming in to replace (inaudible) has dumped the Mercedes.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Mercedes puts up with Lewis Hamilton. I think he will prove to be very, very fast. I think the clan will miss Hamilton, but it will be interesting to see how impressive on the (Williams), he’s got one of the rookies he was talking about. How ((inaudible)), Swedish driver, who is going to be – finished driver – who’s going to be very quick I think.
We’ve got a couple of new guys ((inaudible)), (Nicko) ((inaudible)), (Nick Hulkenberg) who did so well towards the end of last year. So with ((inaudible)) has now moved to ((inaudible)). (India) has got the agents who ((inaudible)) back. So a lot of driver shuffling about and of course, one of the things that they’ll have to contend with is all the rules didn’t real change much this year.
One of the things that has changed significantly is the tires from (Pirelli) which (Pirelli) is supplying. And I think no one could be better to go tell you all about the tire situation and any technical details of the cars than my company-analyst Steve Matchett.
Steve Matchett: Well, thank you David. And thank you for the invite to join and talk to the press today. It’s a real treat to talk about F1 on the new home, NBC Sports.
For me personally, absolutely thrilled to be able to continue my TV career working with Leigh Diffey and David and Will (Buxton) and all the rest of the guys.
I was in two minds of what to do over the off season before Sam invited me up. Sam Flood and Rich O’Connor invited me up to Stanford to talk about what may or may not be able to unfold in the future.
And it only took about a 10-minute conversation before I very quickly realized that NBC Sports sounds a lot richer, kind of the Formula 1 guys that the team that they were putting together were going to do Formula 1 all the justices it deserved. That was very clear from the outset and very soon we ((inaudible)).
And I’m very pleased to continue working with guys that I’ve known now, believe it or not, 2013 will be my fourteenth year in television in the United States covering Formula 1. It seems to go in absolute fraction of a second to me. I mean, it’s been such fun all the time, and it’s certainly going to continue to be fun; there’s no question about that.
We got along very, very well together in the preview show, and I think that was the port end of the fun that we’re all going to have throughout the next four years and hopefully much further than that.
Lee and David have really, you know, they have really set the scene as far as the Formula 1 season in 2013 is concerned. Very few role changes means that the top runners, the guy that will ((inaudible)) be fighting for the drivers and constructors championship are if anything, closer now than they’ve ever been, quite frankly, over the last few years.
Great news for Ferrari and Ferrari fans around the world is the fact that the 2013 Ferrari does seem to be on the pace from the very first test down in (Hareth).
And that has got to be a big worry to the likes of the reigning constructors world champions, Red Bull, and the reigning driver’s world champion, Sebastian Vettel, because Ferrari are always a threat. And they quite clearly could have taken the championship last year if the equipment had been reliable and had the performance from the first race. Now going into the 2013 season, I think that’s exactly what they’ve got.
So Red Bull, Ferrari – as Lee was saying and David was saying, with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, it’s going to be a three-way battle I think. It’s going to be a real treat for everybody.
Chris McCloskey: Thank you Steve. And finally we’ll hear from Wally Dallenbach on IndyCar.
Wally Dallenbach: So thanks guys. So you know, this is IndyCar series to me is probably more personal than anything. I’ve been going to IndyCar races since I was about five years old when my dad was driving IndyCars. So I certainly have a passion for the sport.
And you know, happy to be a part of the NBC family since 2001. In fact I remember a car ride with Sam Flood from Atlanta that had a (inaudible). And I remember talking to him. I said, “You know, we need to go ask for IndyCar.” And a couple of years later wound up with it.
The series is just been a lot of fun to call the last of years. Very competitive, I mean just at Barber, you know, between first and 20th second covered the practice times there. It’s very, very competitive. There’s a strong field.
You know, somebody’s going to ask me in ((inaudible)) to get most of the attention because they’re the two teams to beat. But last year, it went right down to Fontana with Andretti Motor Sports stealing the champion away.
And I think there’s a lot of talent in IndyCar series right now. There are a lot of drivers and teams I feel that are going to break out that were knocking on the door last year. Yet you know, (Passiono) was there and (James Henchcliff) is going to be winning some races, I feel that. I think it’s just going to be very competitive.
Not to mention (AJ Almazinger) is going to be involved in the series this year. Not sure how many others than Barber and Indianapolis, but I think there’s a lot of buzz about (AJ) being back in the sport. And I think it’s going to be kind of fun to see how he winds up doing with the Penske Team and if possibly it could turn into some more races.
So I just think the IndyCar package is a great package. I think, you know, like I said, the racing is great. They’ve made some changes which I was certainly in favor of which was getting waste from some of the fuel mileage races which I, you know, I think there’s huge plus giving these guys the fuel they need so they’re not driving to a number when the green flag drops. These guys can go 100% now, and I really think that’s going to make the racing even better this year.
Sam Flood: This is Sam, just one last thing. Wally is obviously excited about all of the IndyCar stuff and that’s why we have our people go out to their tracks each week.
And we decided to send the F1 group to Monaco because we’re going to take that race live on NBC 7:30am on the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend. And since Barcelona was, you know, a good location for the F1 (Talent) team, we thought sending them all to Monaco to handle that race there was important.
We think it’s as big a day as there is in racing. It kicks off a day that includes the Indy 500 and the Coke 600, but it all starts in Monaco. And we thought it was critical to be there, to be a part of it and to celebrate what is an amazing place and how important it is to the sport of F1.
And we’ll take advantage of that at the NBC platform and showcase it and make it bigger and better than ever. And we’re very excited about taking a show and taking the talent team on the road with the production team from Monaco for that race.
Wally Dallenbach: Well I would like to add too Sam, that we just are very ((inaudible)) team here. I believe I don’t have anything going Memorial Day weekend. So if you wanted to send me over to Monaco, I’m sure we could work that out.
Sam Flood: I would expect some smart IndyCar owner is going to put you in a car for the 500 this year Wally, so don’t worry about it.
Wally Dallenbach: Okay.
Chris McCloskey: All right, well thank you Sam, thank you Wally and everyone else.
At this point Operator, (Yolanda), we would like to open it up for questions from the press.
Operator: Certainly. If you’d like to ask a question today, please signal by pressing star 1 on your telephone key pad. If you’re using a speakerphone, please ensure that your mute function has been turned off to allow your signal to reach our equipment. Again that’s star 1 if you’d like to ask a question today. And we’ll hear first from Jim Williams with The Washington Examiner.
Jim Williams: Thanks very much. I have a question to the F1 guys and of course one for Wally as well.
With the moving to NBC Sports Network and the commitment that Sam and the entire team has put in there and you guys are getting ready for the first one with Australia this week, are you going to spend any time or work in any way to give fans – to educate them I should say more on the differences between the open wheel you know F1 car and the IndyCars?
David Hobbs: Well I think the best bloke to answer that of course is going to be Leigh Diffey because he’s going to be doing both series, so if he’s going to be up close and first hand to see the difference. And there are obviously a lot of differences, but I’m – to the viewer, the cars do look very similar. There’s no doubt about it.
But obviously there are major differences in power units, gear boxes, and everything else. The Formula One cars are lighter. That’s the key thing is they’re lighter. They’re a bit more powerful. And they’re a more nimble machine than the IndyCar. And that’s really the only difference.
I mean in terms of top speed, you know the IndyCars will do 230. A Formula One car does about 200, but of course they don’t have a – you don’t have an Indy – a Formula One car on the Indianapolis Speedway. Obviously you could feather the aerodynamics off and get that sort of speed out of them.
But their average speed is what gives the Formula One car the edge you know when we go to Monte Carlo, and we’re all there. I mean they’ll be averaging; it’s only about 2 1/2 miles around there, very narrow, very tight, lots of slow corners.
And yet in spite of that, they’ll average 100 miles an hour, which around those streets of Monaco is absolutely astounding. And the reason they could do that is because they are so light and so nimble.
Leigh Diffey: I think that’s a great question and to answer it in short, yes. You know we will do our utmost to help educate, because I quite often use my neighbors as a litmus test and that is quite often a question. Well what is a Formula One car? Is it like an IndyCar? Because everyone always defaults to what they know the best or the most.
And that is certainly one of our big ticket items is not only to talk about F1 in IndyCar and IndyCar in F1, but also during those broadcasts. It’s a really delicate balance to satisfy the hard core fans and also engage the casual or occasional viewer.
So that’s certainly something that Sam and all of us and (Rich O’Conner) and the production team have discussed. And each and every year, that’s almost point number one of what you hope to achieve in a year’s worth of broadcasting is to satisfy, keep and maintain the hard core. And also attract some new viewers and grow those ratings.
Jim Williams: I also assume that the F1 36 will help a great deal in getting people to understand better the F1 ((inaudible)).
David Hobbs: Yes for sure. I mean the IndyCar 36 series was extremely popular and very, very well received. The big challenge with F1 36 is purely an access point, which Sam and Rich have discussed with the Formula One team in the various communication directors and PR people.
It’s not like IndyCar at all where IndyCar teams, team owners, drivers are waiting there with open arms. F1 is very much a closed door shop, and it’s a matter of being patient until you can pry those doors open and work with the teams and – but that’s certainly on the agenda.
Jim Williams: Thank you. My next question real quick to Wally for the IndyCar series this year, I was talking the other day to Will Power and he said that the – he thinks they’ve got a great team this year. But he said no matter how good the car is, there always seems to be competition and that goes to what you were saying earlier.
Does the Andretti Group and the Ganassi Group and the Penske Group or – is – do you expect a driver championship out of one of those three shops? Or is there a possibility it could be a wild card?
Wally Dallenbach: Well I certainly think there’s always the possibility of a wild card. Because you look at what happened last year, and you know – and the Andretti team was – they did what they needed to do. And they got down to the last race and you know – and Will Power, let’s face it. I mean he’s – he has struggled at Fontana or the last race of the year, which is an oval.
Jim Williams: Right.
Wally Dallenbach: Many times. I think he is going to want to try to get this championship done before the last race of the season this year. But you’ve got some interesting combinations out there this year.
I mean you’ve got you know Takuma Sato with A.J. Foyt, which is going to be a lot of fun to watch. But you know Sato has been very fast.
There’s been a lot of guys that have been really, really fast and I just think that you know it’s always going to be Penske and Ganassi. They’re teams seem to the have the most resources. But they obviously can be beat. And it was shown last year.
And I think it brings a lot of you know life into the series with some of these guys that say, hey you know these guys can be beat. So and like I said, the times and when you look at the lap times, it is close. I mean they’re very, very competitive this year.
I mean with a second covering top 20 cars, I mean that’s what you normally see in NASCAR. And I just think that there’s going to be – I think there’s going to be a lot of different winners this year. I think it’ll be the most competitive season we’ve seen in IndyCar for a very long time.
Jim Williams: Thanks very much guys and we’ll be watching. Not necessarily at 2 a.m. in the morning, but a little later in the day perhaps come Sunday.
Leigh Diffey: Thanks ((inaudible)). We’ll be there.
Steve Matchett: You know Jim just to echo a point that Leigh was making earlier on. I think one of the big challenges that we’re going to have is always to encourage new viewers to Formula One as the market grows. As it certainly will do now on NBC Sports Network.
But you know the Formula One fans that are in America are very knowledgeable and very passionate about their sport. They have to be because of the quirky times of the races quite frankly in the United States. You know some of these guys are getting up at 2 o’clock in the morning, 5 o’clock in the morning to watch every session.
And a lot of the Twitter traffic that I tend to see is always about toeing that very fine line by explaining the nuances as David was alluding to earlier on, the differences between IndyCars and Formula One, why the technology is different.
And also doing that in a way that encourages new viewers in, but doesn’t alienate the experienced knowledgeable fan base that we already have in the States. So I’m sure once we get into the season, and the season starts to unfold, we will see a lot more of that interaction.
Some people will say, hey you know why do you keep talking about the tires, Steve? We already know about the tires. And my answer is going to be, well you do know about the tires and I’m thrilled that you do know about the tires.
But remember we have so many new viewers that want to understand why we’re using different compounds, why we’re using different constructions, why the engineers and the drivers are complaining about the Pirelli tires, when they’ve used Pirelli tires in the past.
You know it’s that. It’s pulling everybody in and hoping that everybody eventually will follow along and have a good time watching the broadcast. But that is the biggest challenge I think that we’re going to face is with a new audience, growing audience. Educate that audience as best as we possibly can. Share our knowledge and then increase the fan base that way.
Operator: And as a reminder that’s star 1 to ask a question at this time. We’ll move next to Jenna Fryer with Associated Press.
Jenna Fryer: Hi guys. Thanks for having the call. My first question I’m going to start with Leigh, you said it right at your opening. You said down at Barber, the reaction from the IndyCar, there was some concern from the IndyCar family that having F1 would take away from IndyCar. So I take it that didn’t take very long for you to gather that sense from them.
What did you have to do to alleviate that concern with I assume it was drivers you got that from?
Leigh Diffey: Yes, Jenna, it was mainly drivers. And it was probably even not necessarily Barber, but even stretching back to the last test at Sebring last year. And I think it probably – and naturally just a first reaction. You know because the IndyCar family is interested about their own interests at heart, first and foremost, which is completely understandable.
And I think it’s just a matter of articulating, hey, there’s no time zone clashes. You know it’s – you know if you’re an open-wheel fan, you’re going to be up early in the morning watching Formula One.
And generally as the day goes on, you know between the end of a Formula One Grand Prix broadcast and the beginning of an IndyCar broadcast, it might give you a couple of hours to spend some time with family or mow the lawn or do whatever you got to do. And Sunday can be a terrific day, as it is for NASCAR Sprint Cup fans.
Race day is race day. Well if you’re not into NASCAR or stock car racing or open wheel is your flavor, then Sunday is going to be your day. And on some Sundays you’re going to be able to watch both Formula One and IndyCar. And it was just talking to guys. You know it was talking to the guys on a very personal level, and they kind of said, yes. Okay. We see that.
And you know we’ve already had discussions within the production team about how we could get that crossover happening. You know maybe getting some of the IndyCar guys that have a direct line to F1.
You know Scott Dixon and (Mitchell Williams). Dario Franchitti, whose cousin is Paul di Resta. Sébastien Bourdais who drove for (Tora Russell). You know if they have a free weekend, there may be a way that we could integrate them onto the set of a Formula One broadcast. I’m just speaking hypothetically, we haven’t set anything in stone.
But that’s a possibility where that cross pollination can continue.
Jenna Fryer: Now shifting to Sam, sort of the same topic. I know that you’re aware that I guess IndyCar is sensitive to the addition of Formula One, and not only that but sort of their place in the motor sports world and where they maybe fall. How do you guys handle that as a network?
Sam Flood: First of all, I don’t think they’re concerned. I think it’s exciting for everyone because more attention for open-wheel racing to be working off of one platform. So, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for IndyCar and for F1.
Both sides win because people are going to be paying attention to open wheel. We’ll be able to drive audience back and forth and promote to people that are passionate about this form of racing. So there couldn’t be a better situation. There couldn’t be a better time for this, and there couldn’t be a better group to execute it.
So in all if they – anyone sees a negative in this, then they’re glass half-empty people. This is a glass full-full. There could be no better situation for open wheel racing. And there could be no better situation for IndyCar racing. And there could be no better situation for F1.
So if someone has got that empty glass, they can throw it away. There’s no need for it. We’ll fill it up.
Operator: Thank you. And again that’s star 1 if you do have a question at this time. We’ll move next to Brandon Costa with Sports Video Group.
Brandon Costa: Yes thanks for taking the time guys. Sam, question for you. I mean I assume you’ll be picking up the world feed for the actual live races. What other production facilities or gear or personnel are you going to have to bring on site you know for live race days?
Sam Flood: Will Buxton will be on site. He’ll have his own camera, he’ll have his own access, and he’ll be integrated throughout the show. As you know with F1, you’ve got to take their race feed once the race begins.
Brandon Costa: Right.
Sam Flood: And there are very specific rules about what you can and cannot do. So we think we’re better served to play the game the way we plan to. In addition we’ve got the group going to the race in Montreal and Monaco and down to Austin.
So we’ll be on site for the ones that make sense. And as I said earlier, we’re going to really celebrate Monaco and take advantage of that opportunity.
But we’ll have the onsite presence that we need with Will and he’ll be taking advantage of all his connections and all his ability to mix and mingle and tell those stories that make this sport and this form of racing so special.
Brandon Costa: Cool and just a last question real quick. What’s the digital presence going to be like? What kind of things are you going to use to supplement online?
Sam Flood: For our digital team?
Brandon Costa: Yes.
Sam Flood: We’ve launched MotorSportsTalk.com as part of our Sports Talk app, which has been incredibly successful. ProFootballTalk had more than 6 million page views yesterday and more than a million uniques. So it is a destination for sports fans and the Motor Sports Talk will work off of that. We’ve got a dedicated staff that’s writing for it and we’ve got a group of fairly aggressive tweeters in (Meshers), Diffey, Hobbs, Matchett, Buxton and we’ll even see if Wally can start tweeting. I don’t know if the world is ready for that, but we’re after it.
Wally Dallenbach: I don’t think NBC’s ready for that but…
Sam Flood: We’re all in here.
Operator: Thank you. And we’ll take our next question from Dave Doolittle, Austin American Statesman.
Dave Doolittle: Hi guys. Thanks for the call. I guess this is a question for Sam. For the most part, NBC is going to televise free practice two and then stream practices one and three I guess online. Speed did the same thing for the past few years and I’m wondering because of the similarities, is that schedule part of a contract with the SOM or is that a network decision?
Sam Flood: It depends on where we’re at. Sometimes the first practice is not a big deal and not many cars doing any worth watching. So we’re making decisions based on what we think is going to be good programming, for example, we’re showing the first practice and the second practice back to back Thursdays, midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific, the first practice will air.
And then at 1:30 am, we’ll have the second practice live, so we’re going to do it on a case-by-case basis and we’re going to show the events and when the cars are rolling and it makes sense, we’ll get them on the air.
Dave Doolittle: Sure. And are there any special features planned for the Austin race or additional programming, anything like that?
Sam Flood: We will definitely have additional programming and we’re going to take advantage of the space. There was a group of us out there walking around on, boots on the ground, checking it out. We’re going to meet with the group in Austin who, some of their leadership used to work with us when they were at Churchill Downs, so we’ve got a long history of creating big events.
When we took over the Kentucky Derby and almost doubled the ratings from where it was under its previous group, it was all through a joint partnership with our friends at Churchill Downs and some of these same folks are now in Austin. So we really intend to take advantage of our experience working with them and teaming with them to make an event bigger and better.
Operator: We’ll take our next question from Larry Cornwell, Speed Racer Syndication.
Larry Cornwell: Hey guys. How are you all doing?
Larry Cornwell: Hey, Leigh and Steve, I don’t know if you guys will recall or not, I’m the guy in Charlotte who organized the (Cine) premiere event that you guys attended a couple years ago.
Steve Matthews: Yes, I remember, Larry, it’s very good to talk to you again.
Leigh Diffey: Yes, yes.
Steve Matthews: It was a great evening. Thanks very much for the invite after that. What an evening.
Larry Cornwell: No problem. And I’m actually looking at doing a much bigger event for Rush when it comes out in September so if you guys are in Charlotte, you guys are invited to that as well.
Steve Matchett: Thank you.
Larry Cornwell: But I’ve got three questions. Two questions are primarily focused on fans that are not – currently not Formula One fans and the third is a driver question. What – the first question is what would you say to viewers that are not watching Formula One to convince them to start following? What could you say to convince them of the passion and the enthusiasm that you and all of us Formula One fans have for the sport?
Leigh Diffey: Do you want me to go first, Steve?
Steve Matchett: Absolutely. Yes, go ahead, Leigh.
Leigh Diffey: I often say this – and again, I mentioned on the call earlier, I use a lot of my neighbors as I guess test dummies and I’ve had a very good success rate of converting them.
I mean, if you just want to look at some bullet points, if somebody’s a car person, everyone wants to know about speed. Formula One cars accelerate from 0 to 100 miles an hour and back to 0 in seven seconds.
You know, if somebody doesn’t find that impressive, well, it’s pretty hard to impress them. The technology is leading edge and what technology is being driven in Formula One eventually filters down to the customer market, to the road car market and you can eventually be found in soccer mom’s mini vans.
You’ve got the youngest three time world champion ever. You’ve got the youngest world champion ever. You’ve got a world champion who’s dating a rock star. You’ve got rock stars, the movie stars, who want to be seen at these events.
They���ve got glamorous tracks. They’ve got unbelievable destinations. You know, the list goes on and on and on. You’ve got the highest paid sports person in Spain. You think about how good that nation is at the sport and the highest paid athlete is in Formula One.
There’re so many trigger points and so many key points to make this interesting, not just about cars, engines, tires, et cetera. And if somebody, you know, not from the US but from overseas or whatever, just look at the global interest and the global involvement, just take Infinity Red Bull.
So it’s based in England. The car is made in England. It’s owned by an Austrian and it’s an Austrian entry. It’s got a French engine in it. It’s got an Australian driver and a German driver. I mean, you couldn’t get more international than that.
And I think that that responsibility falls on our shoulders to continually hitting those bullet points and key points and interesting points about the sport, then outside the Olympic games and the soccer World Cup, Formula One is the most watched sport in the world.
And there’s no arguing that. That’s a fact. And again, it comes on our shoulders to keep reminding our viewers and even the fans, you know, the fulltime and the hardcore viewers to tell their friends. If something’s interesting, you tell your mates about it. And, you know, that’s certainly priority number one for us.
Steve Matchett: I absolutely agree with you, Leigh, 100%.
Leigh Diffey: I think one of the biggest things I’ve noticed, certainly with Twitter traffic and email traffic, is the feedback from viewers when they say, “I introduced a new friend to Grand Prix racing last year and they were immediately hooked,” and I think that’s the key of it.
And Leigh has just alluded to that as well. It’s spreading the word. And as soon as people start to watch Formula One, they so easily get sucked into it and all the Formula One microcosm, if you like, around the world, becomes – it isn’t just the drivers, it isn’t just the cars, it isn’t just the speed or the technology.
It’s everything else that revolves around, if you like, gravitates towards the center of that little universe. It’s the soap opera and the stars and the drama. You know, the big names that we hear around the sport – Bernie Ecclestone, the star of Formula One and how he’s always interacting with the teams and how these, you know, the rivalry between McLaren and Ferrari.
Somebody tweeted the other day that they thought that the rivalry between McLaren and Ferrari must’ve been painted on a cave wall many, many hundreds of thousands of years ago. It seems to be such a long running thing in Formula One.
Once viewers become exposed to that, I mean, boy, it really does, as Leigh suggests, it just drags new viewers in and it becomes a great passion. There’s no question. As we just took ((inaudible)), you know, the well-established fan base in the States, are so knowledgeable and so passionate about the sport because they’ve seen it, because they’ve become a part of it.
And that’s how you encourage new viewers to come along and watch it. Hey, why don’t you come around on Sunday morning, sit down with us, have a coffee and watch a race and see what you think? They’ll be hooked.
David Hobbs: Well, I think the other thing, too, is people, like – they like glamour and they like money and Formula One’s got it all and it is painted on the global canvass. And, you know, I mean, the first race is through the streets of Melbourne which is a beautiful town set in south Australia.
And then you go to Shanghai and then Malaysia and then, of course, there’s obviously Monte Carlos which is an incredible event. And the Singapore night race is just so outstanding visually and of course, Dubai is the same. These are a couple of the fastest growing (corners) in the world.
And they want Formula One there because they realize that it is massively popular. As Leigh said, it’s the most watched sport in the world, other than soccer and the Olympics. But unlike the Olympics, it’s on 19 weekends a year.
And the people involved are all extremely glamorous and very rich. And people like that. If you’re going to go to a bookstore and seen the magazines that are absolutely totally devoted to glamour and richness and wealth, and Formula One’s got it. And it’s a very exciting sport in the mix.
Operator: Thank you. And our final question today will come from Jenna Fryer with Associated Press.
Jenna Fryer: Hey, Sam, I know this isn’t ultimately your decision but – and there are negotiating rights windows that aren’t open yet, but having been involved in the NASCAR coverage before, is that something you’d like to see NBC back involved with?
Sam Flood: I can’t speak for the business side of it. On a production side, I love NASCAR, love – and I love racing, so any form of racing is good for me. You know, I’ve always been a big fan of what NASCAR has done when we work with them. But it’s always – the money guys make those decisions. I just get to play with the toys once they’re in the shop. So I like playing with a lot of toys.
Jenna Fryer: All right. You know, if you add – if you were able to add that, in addition to Formula One and IndyCar to the network, I mean, that would be a pretty big destination network for motor sports.
Sam Flood: Well, the level we have right now, I think the combination of IndyCar and F1 is going to be an exciting challenge for the coming year and if that – more opportunities come down the road, we’ll see what the money guys say and the production guys are always eager to take on more. Put it in the shop and we’ll produce the hell out of it and make some great television.
Jenna Fryer: Great. Thanks Sam.
Sam Flood: You got it.
Chris McCloskey: All right, thank you everybody. That was our last question. Appreciate everyone being on today. As I mentioned earlier, we will have a transcript of this call available on nbcsportsgrouppressbox.com around 5:00 pm Eastern today.
There’s also a replay in a few hours. You can call 719-457-0820, passcode 4547765. Please tune in this weekend for the beginning of our Formula One coverage and next weekend for the beginning of our Indy car coverage. Thank you everyone for participating. Bye- bye.
Operator: That will conclude today’s conference. Thank you all once again for your participation.