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A big take-over and a new era of popularity for F1?


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Last month’s news that Formula One is finally under new ownership felt like a fresh wave for the sport. American entertainment conglomerate Liberty Media’s new deal, believed to be up to $6billion, brings a new wave of optimism for the fans of the modern sport.

TV giant Chase Carey has been appointed as Formula One's new chairman, succeeding the relatively quiet Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (of former majority stakeholders CVC Capital Partners), with CEO Bernie Ecclestone retaining his current role for at least the next three years in order to pass on his four decades of Formula One experience to the new owners.

"I am thrilled to take up the role of Chairman of Formula One and have the opportunity to work alongside Bernie Ecclestone, CVC and the Liberty Media team," explains Carey in an official statement from Liberty Media.

"I greatly admire Formula One as a unique global sports entertainment franchise attracting hundreds of millions of fans each season from all around the world. I see great opportunity to help Formula One continue to develop and prosper for the benefits of the sport, fans, teams and investors alike".

Carey's background is particularly interesting for the sport. Having previously operated as CEO for American Television provider DirecTV, the media and entertainment mogul now sits as Vice Chairman for 21st Century Fox as well as working as a director for Rupert Murdoch's British television giant BSkyB. His overseeing of the lucrative Fox Sports NFL deal makes Carey a master of promoting the value of sports and its ability to reach a huge audience. Something that is key to the Formula One’s future as it suffers a period of dwindling TV audiences, poor ticket sales and a gaping hole in major markets such as America.

The only unanswered question is how Liberty Media are going to deliver this content. Carey's precarious links with Murdoch's pay TV service, and the company's clear indication that revenues from the sport can be increased - the future could well lie in further subscription content, forcing fans to find the money or lose the content.

Evolving the current 21 race calendar with new races in attractive markets is a big part of the deal. Liberty Media is clearly aiming to attract new fans, investors and commercial opportunities for the sport by entering new countries and markets. But could this come at a cost to the sport itself?

As the calendar hits 21 races, already above the team's preferred target of 20, how many races is too many? Will teams, drivers and journalists all be able to cope with further race increases, and further charges, to compete year on year in a sport which is obsessed with driving down costs? Could this detract from the quality of the racing and even the size of the grids as teams lower down the field struggle to stretch their budgets to last the season's duration?

The introduction of Liberty Media into the Formula One paddock is an exciting one, albeit one that presents many unanswered questions. Chase Carey has laid down what Liberty are all about and if his promises are delivered, this could be the most exciting deal for the sport in generations.

However, despite this buzz, something doesn’t seem right. If expansion abroad is a done deal it must be confronted in the right way. There is a worry that if Chase Carey and Liberty Media get ahead of themselves and move too quickly with their changes, the media giant could do more damage to the sport than good.

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