Murdoch eyes F1 crock of gold

What’s the connection between Bernie Ecclestone, BAT and Rupert Murdoch? Answer: Digital television.

All three believe they can exploit the digital television rights to Formula One racing, meaning specifically pay-per-view revenue which, like the proverbial crock of gold, shimmers at the end of the rainbow.

Ecclestone has made great play recently about his altruistic motives for bringing F1 to market.

Cynics are more interested in dwelling on the 30 per cent of 1.6bn which his trust will pocket if all goes according to plan. However, it’s a bit more complicated than straightforward greed. Ecclestone has already invested a substantial sum – some say up to 70m – in building a digital empire and seems in desperate need of further capitalisation. He has within his web of interests, for example, a useful company, Sports World Communications – which specialises in television production – and F1 is currently conducting, for example, a pay-per view experiment with DF1 in Germany.

BAT also clearly believes that pay per view, immensely enhanced by digital technology, is the principal seam of gold. Why else risk 300m over five years in building a do-it-yourself F1 racing team, despite a lack of direct technical expertise? The announcement of its intention will, as predicted (MW November 13), be made on December 2. A few other initiatives, probably including a merchandising company, will also make their appearance. BAT has also let it be known (not officially, of course) that this super team is to be built around Tyrrell Racing – though its founder continues to deny fiercely that any deal has been signed. But the logic of such a deal is compelling. Tyrrell needs the money: it hasn’t won a race in years. BAT, on the other hand, needs ‘respectability’. It could, of course, cherrypick the best of Tyrrell without buying it. But that way it may not receive unanimous acceptance from the constituent parts of Ecclestone’s FOCA company, which will effectively provide the vehicle for flotation. And without that, BAT is highly unlikely to qualify for a cut of the profits.

Which includes any digital TV revenues in the future: if, of course, there are any. Unfortunately the DF1 pay-per-view experiment hasn’t been going as well as expected, according to sources; although it’s early days yet. Then again, a lot of investment is riding on the flotation being successful: but it’s looking shaky and Ecclestone’s unsolicited publicity over the past week won’t have helped matters.

Which brings us to Murdoch. He does have the resources, the expertise and the will to create a successful pay-per-view digital television network. What’s more, he is widely believed to be interested in acquiring a controlling stake in Ecclestone’s business, through BSkyB. Ecclestone has so far turned him down. But he might have to change his tune if the flotation were to bomb. Funny how Times Newspapers has been so well informed on the recent donations ‘scandal’.

Latest from Marketing Week

Influencers, consultancies and the recruitment crisis: The key topics of conversation at Cannes Lions

cannes lions

Cannes Lions 2018: Marketers turned out in force to advertising’s biggest annual event. But away from the usual talk of purpose and creativity, some big issues such as the recruitment crisis, how advertising responds to the #MeToo movement and cleaning up the influencer marketing space were discussed.


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here