F1 to launch two over-the-top products in 2018

Formula 1 has confirmed that it is launching two over-the-top products in 2018.

Speaking during the live F1 ESports Final broadcast, streamed live across social media, F1’s commercial chief Sean Bratches said “We’re going to be relaunching our digital platforms next year, with brand new responsive web, social capability.”

“We’re going to launch a live and a non-live OTT product. We’re going to continue to foster a greater environment around ESports. We’re going to launch four fan festivals in cities around the world.”

The idea that F1 would be launching two products in 2018 has been mooted for some time with Bratches speaking at industry events, but this is the first time that the news has been confirmed during a Formula 1 broadcast. Of course, this is fantastic news and many, many years overdue.

Formula One Management (FOM) have yet to release an official press notice to media and fans, meaning that there are many, many questions to be answered…

1 – Will the live over-the-top service be geo-blocked? I would expect the live service to be geo-blocked in many countries where Formula 1 airs live on pay television, such as the UK. Would a non-live service also be geo-blocked? It depends on what such a service would contain. For example, a non-live service which opens up FOM’s archives might infringe on Sky’s current offering.

2 – Which personalities will be part of F1’s live offering? Anyone who has worked with FOM on their digital media platform within the past few years has put themselves in the best position to be part of their future offering. For that reason, expect the likes of Rosanna Tennant to lead the line-up.

Assuming FOM does not use Sky’s commentary for their over-the-top product, Alex Jacques may find himself in pole position as Formula 1 lead commentator thanks to his work covering Formula Two and GP3 with Davide Valsecchi. The likes of Will Buxton and Jason Swales should also be mentioned, maybe fans in America will still hear their voices on ESPN after all…

3 – Will Formula Two and GP3 be offered as part of the live service? If Liberty Media wants to promote the two championships under the “Road to Formula 1” banner, the answer here must be a yes. If a live service is to be popular, it needs to be an all weekend offering, encompassing all on-track action. Back in 2002, F1 Digital+ only covered Formula 1 action despite fans paying £14.99 to watch the weekend.

4 – The pricing options. With two different products, I suspect you will see three different tiers of pricing. Entry level for the non-live product, a medium level for the live product with a high-end level covering both products. There’s little point talking about the UK here, but prices need to be reasonable to entice fans in. A steep entry price will turn fans away from buying.

The pricing also needs to be simple. There might be a temptation to have different pricing ‘levels’ within the live offering. For example, a live offering for just the World Feed, and then a live offering with all the added extras as was rumoured for this year. But at which point does the pricing become complicated. FOM need to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) with all aspects of the product, including pricing.

I think the live product will launch before testing, especially when you consider comments made during Sky’s coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which indicated that testing will air live. There is not long to go before the New Year, meaning that an announcement regarding the content of both over-the-top platforms should be with us sooner rather than later.

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4 thoughts on “F1 to launch two over-the-top products in 2018

  1. Given Channel 4 will lose their coverage at the end of 2018 anyway, could their commentators/presenters be involved in the over-the-top coverage? I seem to recall that David Coulthard has done some work for the F1 YouTube/Facebook channel, and I believe his and Ben Edwards’s commentary is already used in some other regions.

  2. There’s nothing really to stop FOM launching in territories where they have traditional TV deals. Either they’ll have a clause in the contract to make provision for this, or they’ll just do it and renegotiate with incumbents like Sky.

    It’s in Sky’s interests to retain some sort of deal, they’re heavily invested in the sport. While they do use the archive, it’s only a fraction of what is theoretically available. Plus Sky sell commentary to various broadcasters, and are likely have some kind of reciprocal deal to provide commentary for the archive (as ITV and BBC did).

    People are just going to have to knuckle down and make some new deals. That’s business…

    • It will be in Sky’s interest to retain a deal. Unfortunately for us they won’t have to negotiate a new deal for several years yet.

  3. It will be interesting to see if and when any live OTT coverage comes to the UK. If Liberty want to introduce live OTT coverage then a broadcaster such as Sky will want to pay substantially less, Liberty won’t want a drop in revenue either so pricing will be key and they could just ignore OTT for certain countries.
    They will have a crude idea by the number of F1 Access subscribers in each territory, it would be interesting to know what the numbers are.

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