JANUARY 17, 2005

Who is behind the new US television deal?

The new deal between CBS and the Grand Prix Entertainment (GPE) to show Formula 1 racing on a national network is a huge step forward for Formula 1 and part of a much bigger deal which sees Grand Prix Entertainment now controlling the TV rights to F1 in the US. The aim now is for GPE to conduct "a full-scale Formula 1 brand launch in the United States".

Grand Prix Entertainment is a new company which is a joint venture between DIC Entertainment and the Wasserman Media Group. DIC is a media company which develops, produces, distributes, markets and merchandises animated content for children and families worldwide. It owns around 1500 hours of programming which includes Inspector Gadget, Dennis the Menace, Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog and The Wizard of Oz. DIC says that its programmes are watched by 25m children each week in the US and it recently launched its own network. It also has distibution deals for more than 100 different international broadcasters and sells to 150 countries worldwide.

DIC Entertainment was founded in Paris in 1971 and was acquired by Andy Heyward in 1986. Seven years later it wa bought by ABC and became a subsidiary of Disney in 1995 but in 2000 was repurchased by Heywood.

The Wasserman Media Group owns the Los Angeles Avengers football team, which businessman Casey Wasserman acquired at the age of 24. He is a member of the AFL's executive committee and negotiated the ground-breaking national TV partnership with NBC and a collective bargaining agreement with the players. Wasserman Media also controls Envision, a company which specializes in naming rights and corporate consulting. Since 1997 Envision has secured more than a dozen major naming-rights deals including a deal to name the Arsenal soccer team's new stadium in the UK. The consulting business has ongoing relationships with T-Mobile, Nestle, Perrier, Heinz and The Sports Authority.

Wasserman also runs The Familie, a management firm for action sports athletes which represents a number of stars including Travis Pastrana and others. In addition the business includes 411 Productions which develops and publishes video magazines for action sports, including skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing and BMX. Wasserman also controls DC Music, a music management company which represents Coldplay, Rancid and Eisley.

Recently WMG represented the largest sponsorship in Europe when they closed the $180m naming rights deal between Arsenal and the Emirates Airlines. WMG was also recently selected to handle the high profile naming rights and shirt sponsorship sales for the Juventus soccer team.

Grand Prix Entertainment will develop strategies to expand the F1 television audience beyond its current domestic fan base, aiming for a younger and more progressive audience. The programme will be supported by PR initiatives, on-air promos, print, outdoor and broadcast advertising which will be coordinated by Seth Berman, GPE's director of marketing.

"Andy and I have been talking for a while about the possibility of working together, and I am delighted that we have finalized the deal," says Bernie Ecclestone. "This is an important step forward in our strategy to promote Formula 1 in the U.S. and to reach a wider audience over the coming years. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motor sport, combining speed and cutting-edge technology with glamour and excitement. I am confident that with the expertise and credibility of DIC Entertainment and WMG combined with the wide audience reach on CBS, Formula 1 will build its popularity and a tremendous fan base in the U.S."