Further information about ‘F1 TV’ revealed by FOM

Formula 1’s Global Head of Digital and New Business Frank Arthofer has revealed further details about the sport’s new over-the-top offering, whilst speaking to selected media during testing in Barcelona.

According to Auto Motor und Sport (AMuS), the intention is for the desktop version of the service to be up and running ready for the Australian Grand Prix, although it does appear that there is a race against time for that to happen, hence the ambiguous wording of Formula 1’s press release.

For American readers, irrespective of whether there is a choice between ESPN or the over-the-top service come Melbourne, the commentary you hear will be the same. According to Italian website F1Sport, viewers watching with English commentary on the platform will hear Sky’s UK commentary line-up of David Croft and Martin Brundle.

In addition, Canal+ will provide the French commentary whilst, according to AMuS, RTL are understood to be providing the German commentary feed. This does mean that Formula One Management’s own on-air personnel, believed to include Will Buxton, Rosanna Tennant, and Tom Clarkson, will not commentate on the action, but instead provide analysis before and after the sessions, as well as additional live content for social media.

Launch availability
A media note at the test states that 58 territories will have access to F1 TV Pro at launch (largest ten by reach listed below). The territories amount to a cumulative reach of around 1.12 billion people, 14.9 percent of the world’s population according to the latest population figures from the United Nations.

Country Identified as top F1 market in 2017 Potential reach
USA Yes 324 million
Mexico No 129 million
Germany Yes 82 million
Turkey No 81 million
France Yes 65 million
Colombia No 49 million
Argentina No 44 million
Ukraine No 44 million
Poland Yes 38 million
Peru No 32 million

Of the top 20 markets for Formula 1 in 2017, as identified by Formula 1 themselves, nine of them will have access to the service at launch (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and USA), which is a very good starting point.

Formula 1 plans to prevent anyone from using VPN to access the service. Speaking to RaceFans amongst others, Arthofer said “We’re working with our technology partners who are yet to be named – with the exception of Tata – who will be part of the product to put in place best-in-class content security and protection. That’s always been a fairly conservative position we’ve taken from a Formula One perspective. Put another way, we’ve been aggressive in protecting our IP and will continue to do so on this service.”

Arthofer believes though there is a possibility F1 TV Pro could launch in the United Kingdom before 2025, if there is a will from Sky Sports to do so. “In the markets where we haven’t carved the [digital] rights out, like the UK as an example, we’re very open to working with our partners to consider a path to up-selling this product to our broadcast partners’ customer base.”

Elsewhere, F1 TV Access, which will be available to most countries launch, will include a ‘handful of races‘ on both a full and highlights basis, in a similar manner to the way WWE launched its over-the-top offering in 2014.

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Official – Formula 1 to launch over-the-top platform

Formula 1 has officially confirmed that they will launch a new over-the-top service this year.

As widely expected, the service comprises of two products, which both launch early in the 2018 Formula One season, implying that they will not launch in time for the Australian Grand Prix in late March.

Priced between USD$8 and $12 per month depending on territory, the premium offering F1 TV Pro will be available to fans in Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and much of Latin America to begin with. As with most over-the-top offerings, expect the scope to increase significantly over time as and when traditional television contracts dictate.

TV Pro gives fans a level of personalisation never seen with Formula 1, with the sport promising live on-board footage from every car, unique feeds not available to broadcasters, the ability to watch whenever and wherever you are, and multi-language commentary (English, French, German, and Spanish).

For the first time in the current era, Formula One Management are bringing together a complete presentation team in-house to present pre and post-race output, in a line-up that remains unconfirmed. Alongside Formula 1, the Pro package will allow fans to watch live Formula Two, GP3 and Porsche Supercup action, amongst other feeder series, a pleasing addition.

The supplementary offering, F1 TV Access, is a non-live product, and will be available “on a near global basis”, with an entry-price free. As the wording suggests, a small number of countries will not have access to the offering, it is currently unclear if the UK is part of that list.

Access gives fans like what was historically available via F1 Access, with live timing data and radio commentary. The major addition to Access is that fans now have “unprecedented access to archive video content”, and extended highlights of each session. I suspect to start with, whilst unprecedented, there will be a limited amount of archive content on show, with the size and depth of content increasing over time.

Analysis – the jigsaw slots into place
If you have been following motor sport sites closely over the past 12 to 18 months, then there is little new information in today’s release from Formula 1. Nevertheless, it is good to have the over-the-top platform finally confirmed officially rather than information being drip fed through selected media outlets. Certainly, there has been a saturation of news recently, and I think that is a detriment to today’s major story.

Today’s news marks a revolution for Formula 1, a breakthrough into the world of live streaming for the sport that we should not underestimate. The ground work goes back several years, before Liberty Media’s time to 2016 and even before that. As an example, live on-board footage as part of a revamped Formula 1 app was first mooted in October 2016. That is not to say Liberty do not deserve credit, but merely to recognise that this is a multi-year effort and not something that has suddenly moved in the past twelve months.

The most fascinating element for me is the customisation that will be available to fans. The press release refers to “multi-level personalisation”. A goal must be to make every trackside camera available online so that fans can choose, mix, and match what they want to watch. As an example, it would be fantastic if you could customise the Pro version of the platform so that you can focus on a battle using alternative camera angles that the World Feed is not focussed on.

Even at launch, there are several significant markets for Formula 1 to exploit. USA is the obvious one as Liberty tries to break the market. The pricing is reasonable enough for cord cutters to jump on-board I feel and try F1 out, but that requires the marketing to be tailored to the right people in the right places, maybe offering free trials along the way.

I am pleased to see the feeder series included as part of the main package. Whilst the content itself may not be a major draw, it may well convince a few who are on the edge, to committing.

Whilst there may be some frustration that the platform will not launch immediately, possibly until the European phase of the championship, it is important for Formula One Management to get this right, and to get the necessary clearances. I suspect Australia will be a behind the scenes test for the team and the products, before rollout begins to the relevant territories.

For UK fans, the exclusive deal with Sky Sports from 2019 to 2024 prevents fans from seeing the live service until 2025. It is possible that UK fans may have access to the non-live platform, but at this stage this does not appear likely.

In the UK, Sky are believed to be paying £166 million a year from 2019 to 2024. In a very hypothetical situation, that amount is equivalent to around 2 million over-the-top subscribers in the UK alone, an astronomical figure that is near impossible to achieve. With that in mind, do not be surprised to hear that the over-the-top platform is a loss maker in the short to medium-term for Liberty Media.

A second announcement is expected as soon as next week to confirm the personalities involved.

Scheduling: The 2018 Mexico City E-Prix

Following a frantic Santiago E-Prix, the Formula E championship remains in the Americas for the Mexico City E-Prix!

As with Santiago, the E-Prix airs live on 5Spike and Eurosport 2. There is live boxing action on Channel 5 at the same time, so you can understand why Formula E takes the secondary spot for Channel 5 on this occasion. To Channel 5’s credit, highlights of the race are airing on Sunday morning.

For the first time ever in the UK, viewers have a choice of broadcaster for qualifying, with Eurosport also covering the session live.

Elsewhere, the Supercars fire up down under, starting their season off in Adelaide. For UK viewers, the action airs live on Motorsport.tv. And, as widely mentioned, Formula 1 testing starts off this week, for which the schedule can be found here.

Formula E – Mexico City (online via YouTube)
03/03 – 13:55 to 14:55 – Practice 1
03/03 – 16:25 to 17:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Mexico City
03/03 – 17:30 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 17:30 – Preview
=> 18:00 – Qualifying
03/03 – 17:45 to 19:15 – Qualifying (5Spike)
03/03 – 21:30 to 23:20 – Race (5Spike)
03/03 – 21:45 to 23:10 – Race (Eurosport 2)
04/03 – 10:45 to 11:50 – Highlights (Channel 5)

Virgin Australia Supercars – Adelaide (Motorsport.tv)
03/03 – 04:30 to 07:00 – Race 1
04/03 – 04:30 to 07:00 – Race 2

Update on March 1st – A late scheduling change, 5Spike have shaved 20 minutes off their race broadcast, now finishing at 23:00 instead of 23:20.

Jolyon Palmer joins BBC’s 5 Live F1 team

The BBC have confirmed that Jolyon Palmer will join the 5 Live Formula 1 team for the 2018 season.

Palmer, who raced with Renault in Formula 1 during 2016 and 2017, will commentate on all 21 races this season. Jack Nicholls again leads the commentary line-up, but will miss the Canadian round because of his Formula E commitments. Jennie Gow remains with the 5 Live team, joining Nicholls and Palmer in pit lane.

The level of radio coverage, produced by USP Content, that the BBC are providing is like last season. Each race weekend begins with a preview show on Thursday evening, plus the Chequered Flag podcast following the weekend.

As well as his commentary commitments, Palmer will also write regular pieces for the BBC Sport website. Speaking ahead of the new season, Palmer said, “I’ve worked with Jennie and Jack a lot but am more used to being grilled by them! It’s going to be great joining them in the commentary team and to get to ask the questions myself. I’m fascinated to see how the inter-team rivalry plays out and hope I’ll be able to bring my own knowledge of the personalities involved to shed further light on the relationships.”

Adding to Palmer’s comments, Gow said, “I’m delighted to be working alongside Jolyon this year. He has stepped straight out of an F1 car and into the BBC Radio 5 live commentary box. His knowledge of the cars, the politics and the dynamics are unrivalled and as both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel battle it out for a fifth World title he will be able to give us and the listeners a unique insight into the life of a driver.”

“I’ve spent the last few years grilling Jolyon on all things Formula One. It’s brilliant that he’ll now be the one behind the microphone and bringing a unique perspective to the 5 live F1 team. It’s going to be a great year of competition and Jolyon will be with us every step of the way to give even more analysis and insight.”

Given Palmer’s experience with current generation Formula 1 cars, it is a major coup for the BBC to pick up Palmer’s services for the 2018 season. Palmer has previous commentary experience through one-off appearances in both the Sky and GP2 Series commentary box, so is not coming at this completely new.

As of writing, it is unclear whether Allan McNish, Tom Clarkson or Mark Gallagher remain with the BBC’s 5 Live team. I suspect in the case of McNish and Gallagher, we may see them on an ad-hoc basis, McNish now of course team principal of the Audi Formula E outfit. Clarkson is expected to be part of Formula 1’s new over-the-top service, however this remains unconfirmed.

Update on February 22nd at 21:40 – Writing on Twitter, Nicholls has confirmed that McNish, Clarkson and Gallagher will not be part of the BBC’s coverage this year.

MotoGP and BT Sport extend relationship until 2021

BT Sport will continue to show MotoGP until the end of 2021, after signing a new rights deal with Dorna.

The sport has aired on BT Sport since 2014, after leaving the BBC at the end of the 2013 season, heralding a new era for MotoGP live on pay television. BT’s extension covers the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons, their original contract was due to expire at the end of this season. The agreement ends speculation from media outlets about the future of MotoGP’s UK live television rights.

Andy Haworth, BT managing director of content and strategy, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to continue as the home of MotoGP in the UK and Ireland. Over the past four seasons we have given MotoGP fans the very best race coverage ever seen on TV in the UK. The team will bring every single minute of the action from this fantastic sport to our viewers for another four seasons.”

Manel Arroyo, Managing Director at Dorna Sports, commented: “We are delighted to have extended our agreement with BT Sport for another three years. During our current agreement with BT Sport, MotoGP fans in the UK and Ireland have been treated to live coverage of all sessions of all Grands Prix on the BT Sport channels, with a fantastic team of presenters onsite to bring all the behind the scenes news and action from the paddock.”

“We look forward to BT Sport continuing to provide fans in the British Isles with such high-quality coverage of the Championship during the 2019 – 2021 seasons, as well as their promotion of the MotoGP World Championship to a wider audience.”

“We also look forward to cooperating with BT Sport around the newly launched British Talent Cup, which will debut in 2018. This is an example of BT Sport and Dorna working together to support and develop young riders from the British Isles in the first step on their journey towards the MotoGP World Championship.”

Changes ahead of the 2018 season for BT
Ahead of the 2019 season, the 2018 championship will be one of change for BT.

Following Julian Ryder’s retirement from his full-time MotoGP position at the end of last season, Neil Hodgson succeeds Ryder in the commentary box for the premier MotoGP class at all 19 rounds this season. Beyond that, the colour commentator role will rotate around the rest of BT Sport’s team for practice and qualifying. During BT’s announcement on Facebook Live, presenter Suzi Perry emphasised that there is “no direct replacement” for Ryder.

Perry will continue to present BT’s coverage. This year she fronts 14 races, with Craig Doyle presenting the remaining five rounds. Ex-MotoGP rider Michael Laverty joins the team during six race weekends. Laverty is new to the team for 2018, as Laverty juggles both MotoGP off the track, and British Superbike activities on the track.

The Facebook Live stream also revealed that BT’s offering will expand for the 2018 season, with enhanced coverage of Friday practice. The practice sessions will now feature a full presentation team, instead of just the World Feed, with a new bite-sized 15-minute catch-up show beginning on Friday evenings. From Jerez onwards, BT are bringing their version of the Sky Pad to MotoGP this season, with a new touch screen device in the paddock, giving Neil Hodgson and the rest of the team the ability to conduct in-depth analysis.

The start of the British Talent Cup means more coverage of motorcycling on BT Sport, with MCN’s Simon Patterson reporting that BT will air the Silverstone and Valencian rounds of the series live, whilst the other rounds will be covered as part of their MotoGP programming.

Good news continues for BT Sport
The past two weeks have been positive for BT Sport, and have helped cement the broadcasters’ future heading into 2021, with two significant rights agreements now in place. Whilst MotoGP is much smaller than the Premier League, it is important for BT to have good, solid ‘tier two’ content, and the championship clearly fits into that category with 20 hours of coverage for each of the 19 rounds.

Speaking to this site last August, Dorna said that they were “very happy” with BT’s MotoGP coverage, so it is no surprise that the two sides agreed to renew. I think, had the Premier League rights gone in a different direction then we might have seen the trajectory change for MotoGP, but as soon as the Premier League announcement, it felt natural that MotoGP would soon follow on from that.

The increase in Friday coverage is natural progression for BT, whilst the touch screen analysis is long overdue. Bringing in Michael Laverty feels like a wise move considering the hole that Ryder’s departure has left in BT Sport’s line-up. Elsewhere, BT seem to be playing down the fact that Neil Hodgson is alongside Keith Huewen for every MotoGP race this season, given that no one mentioned it in their Facebook Live stream.