Can fast cars, glamorous locations and superstar acts establish a global live-music TV franchise?
Universal Music Group International and Formula One Administration are banking on it as they prepare to launch their F1 Rocks concert series this fall.
All the Worlds, the live event joint-venture company owned by Universal and brand marketing veterans Paul Morrison and Becky Morgan, is teaming with Formula One to kick off F1 Rocks at the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix in September. They eventually will stage concerts at every other Grand Prix event, with six to eight shows planned around the world in 2010. Formula One is negotiating with its broadcast partners to televise the shows.
All the broadcasters said the same things, All the Worlds CEO Morrison says. They'd been wanting this for years because all they get off F1 is the race, and we're 'everything but the race' -- we can get backstage access . . . with all the drivers and the pop stars.
Morrison says All the Worlds will produce two TV programs around the Singapore event -- a backstage lifestyle show designed to air before the Grand Prix and concert highlights that will air after the race. Hamish Hamilton, director of the MTV Video Music Awards and the Europe Music Awards, will helm the TV coverage of F1 Rocks. All the Worlds will executive-produce the F1 Rocks concerts and telecasts, while Formula One will handle sales of the TV shows to broadcasters.
For Universal, the shows promise global exposure for artists, as well as a share of the revenue generated by ticket sales and broadcast fees. For Formula One, the TV shows offer the sport a chance to expand beyond its traditional male demographic and attract new, female-friendly sponsors, Morrison says. (LG Electronics is F1 Rocks Singapore's title launch sponsor.)
F1 Rocks' global booking agent and promoter is the Solo Agency in London, which promotes Madonna and the Rolling Stones. Solo founder John Giddings describes the event as a festival on wheels, saying his company will either handle events directly, hand promotion over to local firms or enter joint promotional partnerships.
The potential audience for F1 Rocks is impressive. Formula One is one of the few truly global sports brands, with 17 annual Grand Prix races in territories from Brazil to Japan, although it doesn't currently feature a U.S. Grand Prix. The racing series claims that 600 million TV viewers around the world watched its events during the 2008 season. The territory with the biggest share of that total was China with 119 million, followed by Brazil with 110 million. All the Worlds will produce 26 versions of the inaugural F1 Rocks telecasts -- either locally hosted, dubbed or subtitled -- for various territories.
The Singapore shows will be staged September 24-26 at the 10,000-capacity Fort Canning Park ahead of the September 27 Singapore Grand Prix and will feature Beyonce, the Black Eyed Peas, ZZ Top, N*E*R*D and Chinese pop star Jacky Cheung. They will be the only live shows for the 2009 season, which runs from March through November. Tickets for the Singapore shows, which range in price from $150 to $210 Singapore ($105-$145), are available only from the F1 Rocks Web site (www.F1Rocks.com).
All the Worlds and Formula One plan to stage shows ahead of a typical Grand Prix race weekend, which usually includes practice sessions and a qualifying race before the main event on Sunday.
The template will involve two main nights, probably Thursday and Friday, Morrison says. Most people tend to show up on a Friday, so it'll be good to give them a reason to come in a night early. That keeps all the host countries happy.
Morrison says Universal Music Group International chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge was adamant that the project shouldn't focus solely on promoting Universal's roster.
Lucian's taken the big picture on this, he says. This is a music initiative. He wants the best show we can put on, and he's able to say to Sony or Warner, 'Come on, guys, we've got a platform, let's all work with it.'
During an August 4 press conference in London, Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone said racing and pop music make a natural combination.
It's exciting, something I have been thinking about for a long while, he said. Drivers are rock stars . . . Musicians love racing and drivers love music.
(Editing by DGoodman at Reuters)