F1 set to unveil streaming service, but will things really change?

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By Bayden Westerweller, Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru


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    Toro Rosso are one of three teams desperate to seal sixth place. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

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    The news Formula One fans having been waiting years for is imminent, with Liberty Media set to unveil a dedicated streaming service alongside content in partnership with existing providers from next season.

    Having existed in the technological Stone Age under the sport’s previous ownership, the realisation of streaming will be a sight for sore eyes as it attempts to recoup ground conceded to other global codes in the post-terrestrial viewing era.

    Yet a majority of markets face waiting several years to receive live streaming, with Liberty intending to honour existing agreements. While this affords time to perfect the service, it risks drawing reduced exposure until existing core viewers can generate the publicity to take the platform mainstream.

    Over-the-top (OTT) services have been pioneered by the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others, with Formula One and its fans long crying for this treatment. Considering the breadth of the sport, it’s little surprise that a bespoke platform will be pursued, allowing flexibility in tailoring content according to geographic and demographic trends.

    Managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches acknowledges the necessity to embrace the concept, remarking to Autosport that “we have an obligation to fans … to ensure that they are able to access our content in any means that they want”, citing that Liberty would be “derelict” to deviate from this plan.

    The particulars of the service won’t be revealed for some time, though it can be envisaged that alongside live streaming of all sessions, material to “engage fans and leverage our assets”, entailing full race replays and other historical content, will be on the table.

    (Image: AMG Petronas Motorsport).

    Where Bratches is clever is in realising the potential of exploiting existing services in unison with its own, particularly Netflix, to “create content that lives outside the grand prix weekends, which has been almost non-existent from digital or linear standpoints”.

    This lends itself to documentaries and lifestyle or leisure-based behind-the-scenes supplement, “which is compelling and tells different stories about what is going on in F1” and in doing so tapping into an entirely new audience.

    Despite the considerable optimism, the notion that Liberty intends to fulfil outstanding contracts with broadcasters, Bratches reasons that F1’s “ability to exploit the digital marketplace will come in deals that are not prospective, rather than legacy deals”, precluding the centrepiece live streaming component for many countries and casting uncertainty over the value of the service.

    A deal struck last year prior to its acquisition of the sport will see pay TV provider Sky Sports enjoy exclusive rights to the sport in the United Kingdom from 2019 through to 2024, an outcome which drew natural derision.

    As for Australians, it’s not quite that severe, though the recent announcement that Network Ten will broadcast only the Australian Grand Prix leaves most viewers in the dark through to 2022, when the current arrangement with Foxtel concludes.

    A tapered service provided in the meantime is a compromise, and an immediate upgrade on the current output, though the absence of desired live streaming through a bipartisan, neutral provider could represent a deal-breaker to those with eyes only for the on-track action.

    For a sport which has moved at a glacial pace, it’s progress, though further patience is yet required.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • October 24th 2017 @ 7:45am
      Aaron said | October 24th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Whilst I have lived in Australia I have condemned myself to staying updated through internet channels. Australian commentators are useless, its now on Foxtel which is a complete rip off in price and still comes with adds. I finally hear potential to a live streaming service and they quote tailoring content to specific regions. Can I say if it has Australian commentators I would still not use, unless Mark Webber was doing it? I would much rather hear from British commentators who understand the sport and can make comments with creditability. So please allow users to watch their choice of region, I am sure I am not alone here

      • Roar Guru

        October 24th 2017 @ 1:55pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | October 24th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

        The Australian commentators are, or more accurately, were thankfully relegated to anchoring and post-commercial break recaps, and now it’s solely the direct simulcast from the UK whether through Ten’s highlights or Foxtel’s Sky feed.

        Mark Webber has been a revelation as a special comments pundit for Channel 4, though there aren’t too many other locals, perhaps Leigh Diffey, who are world standard. I wouldn’t mind a handful of British commentators on the streaming service, though a blend of nations being represented – notwithstanding language barriers, would be far more insightful rather than the conspicuous love in for Hamilton through Sky.

    • Roar Guru

      October 24th 2017 @ 8:57am
      Jawad Yaqub said | October 24th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      “Create content that lives outside of grand prix weekends.” It would be great to see, using the example of the Supercars here, programming such as ‘Inside Supercars’ and ‘Supercars Life’ used in F1 too. Obviously it’d be a lot more difficult as your subjects will not be in the one place, but rather than having partisan service on their 1-hour ‘F1 Show’ bore the daylights out of you, there should be universal FOM team of presenters and commentators that could anchor a show like ‘Inside Supercars’.

      Using more Fox Sports examples, how about F1 and humour? Who wouldn’t love a Matty Johns style Late Show for some laughs about F1? The potentials are limitless, though whilst we here are still hitched to Sky, we will have to patiently wait for liberation.

      • Roar Guru

        October 24th 2017 @ 1:59pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | October 24th 2017 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

        Any programming along those lines would be fantastic. I daresay Hamilton would lend himself towards ‘extra curricular’ content, as much as it might be perceived as cheesy, it’d draw a sizeable audience. The cultural aspect can be exploited through the drivers from varying nations, even if they now reside in Europe, to see how it shapes their daily lives.

        Comedy is an area which has a lot of potential if it can be done the right way, and I’m sure such non-racing content could be freely available to all, it’d just be the Grand Prix weekends which would be off limits for the duration of existing contracts.

        • October 24th 2017 @ 5:55pm
          Cento said | October 24th 2017 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

          Red Bull feature some great videos that are both entertaining and informative with both Max and Daniel. They also provide some insight into the team with “60 second” bios as well as Christian Horner explaining elements of the garage. I’m more into the technical side of the sport so would be interested in knowing more about construction, development and the various factories. An on-the-couch chat show just isn’t “F1” in my opinion.

          • Roar Guru

            October 25th 2017 @ 10:00am
            Bayden Westerweller said | October 25th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

            Whilst Red Bull isn’t for everybody when it comes to racing philosophy, they’re absolutely on point regarding entertainment. Content of the nature you describe would certainly have merit, the more discreet aspects of the sport which are unappreciated.

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