Adverse weather may have had a negative impact on Formula One’s first test in Barcelona this week but headlines were still made elsewhere as it was confirmed that a new over-the-top service will be launched for the sport this year. While this news will come as nothing new to the motor sporting aficionado, it still nonetheless represents a hugely significant moment in the production and broadcasting of F1 – something that will have major ramifications on the way it is consumed.
As has long been rumoured, the service will come in two parts. The main offering, F1 TV Pro, will be a live based on-the-go product showing every session with on-board footage of all drivers, unique camera feeds, and the ability to choose commentary language. The supplementary package, F1 TV Access, will be non-live and will feature highlights of sessions as well as an extensive archive of historic F1 material alongside full coverage of a select handful of races.
It is supposedly the intention of the Formula One Group (FOG) to get the desktop version of the service up and running before the Australian Grand Prix on March 25, however they face a race against time.
An over-the-top service for F1 is a great move and a long time coming. The significance of it certainly cannot be understated for it will bring live streaming, in line with the modern trend of consumption models such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, to one of the world’s truly global sports, changing the way people can view and interact with F1.
In going down this route, the sport follows the example of the WWE Network who launched their own over-the-top platform in 2014. With the unparalleled reach and success of Netflix, Amazon Prime and the like, this service has the potential to take the sport to new heights and reach more people than ever before in a fresh and vibrant way.
It is not all perfect, though. Dig a little deeper and you will find fault with the 58 territories that are reported to be receiving F1 TV Pro when it launches. Although the alleged reach of the service will be at over one billion people, major motorsport markets such as Brazil, Japan and Canada look set to miss out.
Never mind that, there appears to be a complete disregard for the Nordic countries, which is criminal when you consider the motorsport pedigree of Finland alone. It also seems a given that every country with a race on the calendar should receive the service but that will not be the case either. Then, there’s the UK. With Sky Sports possessing exclusive rights to the sport until 2024, do not expect to see the platform for a long time if you’re in Britain.
Therein lies the major stumbling block to an otherwise superb idea, paywall contracts set up by Bernie Ecclestone, and good luck getting any leeway from satellite broadcasters. Ecclestone’s short-term greed has ultimately hampered Liberty’s chances of a comprehensive rolling out of a modern revolution in F1 consumption.