OCTOBER 9, 1995
Bernie's F1 TV revolution
FOR a couple of years Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has been quietly saying that there is going to be a revolution in the television coverage of Grand Prix racing.
At the start of 1994 Ecclestone told the Benetton Formula magazine that: "I've got something I want to do within the next two years that I won't currently discuss, but it will revolutionize all the things that have happened up to now. It will be a completely new concept."
Since then he had steadfastly refused to talk about his TV revolution, but we believe that he is in the process of sorting out the technology to introduce what is known in the trade as "virtual advertising."
This means that the billboards around the circuits - which appear in every TV shot of a Grand Prix - can, by electronic means, be used to display different messages in different countries. At the moment a billboard is sold to a company and everyone in the world sees the same signage. Virtual advertising means that the same billboard can be used more effectively by sponsors, who can target the audiences they want. Viewers in China, for example, will see a Mild Seven billboard while those in France - where tobacco advertising is banned - will see advertising for the Renault Laguna.
This will mean that local sponsors will be able to buy their way onto the F1 billboards as the prices will be reduced. Ecclestone, however, will not just be able to circumnavigate specific bans on advertising, he will also be able to collect a great deal more money from advertisers as he will be able to sell the same signage around 100 times - once for each country which broadcasts F1 races.
This will raise considerable new revenue which Ecclestone can use to continue his takeover of the televising of F1, the ownership of the circuits or pure profit.
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