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.

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16 thoughts on “Official – Formula 1 to launch over-the-top platform

  1. Wondering if it will be in 4k?
    Wondering if I can handle 4k through VPN as this will surely not be available in UK.

  2. Just a brief observation – at the bottom of the official page there’s a bit to sign up for emails
    https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2018/2/formula-1-to-launch-f1-tv-a-live-grand-prix-subscription-service.html

    If you choose the UK as your place of residence the page just refreshes after you click submit. If you choose the USA, a message appears saying “Thank you for registering your interest in F1 TV Pro”.

    I’d be interested also in knowing if this is 4k (and HDR) and also what commentary we’d get. Ultimately the UK die hards need to know if it’s worth using a VPN for this until the Sky exclusive contract ends.

  3. Sadly, VPNs don’t always work (see Netflix’s cat-and-mouse game with providers), and this package may require a local payment source, e.g., a US credit card (see Apple for – specific localised – content).

    i.e., possibly a combination of both, not one or the other.

    Considering the amount of money Sky pay F1 for their UK coverage until 2025, we can be sure they’d want this enforced ☹️

    • A nice compromise might be for Sky to give their customers access to this. I mean, certainly if they are already using the Sky commentary. It would be a great replacement for the Sky Race Control app – especially because it’s iOS only and the new OTT service is web/desktop (app later)

      • Sky won’t do that unless they are getting a kickback of some of the sub fees. Why would they do otherwise when they’ve shelled out all that money to keep it for themselves.

      • Sky already have deals with Liberty Media as they’ve agreed rights to use the main Sky feed and commentary for this very service. With Sky Race Control I don’t see why they’d not seek to extend that deal with Liverty to re-badge the official F1 service.

      • Sky aren’t going to allow to allow anyone in the UK to access this, not without some significant compensation from Liberty. If they did, their advertising revenues would drop.

  4. The video they posted to show this off seemed a bit rushed and could have done with a bit more care and attention to detail. At one point they select Hamilton and Bottas, presumably in order to watch a battle on track, however when the videos appear they are on completely different race tracks with no other cars around. Surely they could have mocked it up a little better to show off the potential of such a product especially if they are trying to sell it to casuals and grow an audience.

    Aside from this F1 joins the pantheon of organisations that just don’t get the terrible internet infrastructure in many countries. I find my connection bad enough but I hear that the UK’s is positively futuristic compared to some parts of the US for example so good luck trying to watch a live broadcast seamlessly switching between 20+ live camera’s sometimes streaming two of them at the same time when I can’t even watch Netflix most evenings.

  5. I hope that they are going to put more effort into it than they do the Live Timing app, otherwise subscribers will spend a lot of time watching a frozen screen. App reliability hasn’t been anywhere near the top of F1’s list of priorities so far.

    Surely if you subscribe to the TV Pro app, you would expect that to include live timing and not have to take out a second subscription.

    Another question is about the time lag, assuming there is one.

    • In respect of latency, there has always been compensation and in a digital world this is not new ground.

      How effectively such is implemented for a coherent fan experience is another issue, and will depend on whether individual users are watching and listening via multiple separate platforms.

      For example the professional mixing desks used by broadcasters to mix sound, not only provide time alignment/phase coherence in the multiple inputs addressed to output matrices, but can then provide global compensation to such outputs for visual sync.

      If you mean the timing app alone versus the live footage, again there are solutions available to address this – though whether they can mange to make it sophisticated enough to automatically compensate synchronisation for someone toggling between the 2 apps on one device, is another question.

      It would be unreasonable to expect zero latency between say an AM/FM radio commentary and any of these apps. It is also unreasonable to expect any 3rd party broadcaster to not include latency incurred via their own proprietary distribution networks.

      • I would expect some latency but much has been made of the deal with TATA in the last few years, high speed permanent connections etc.
        Last season the TV lag doubled to just under 8 seconds, presumably due to 4k. SkyGo is just under 30 seconds and the delay with ITV’s app is 50 seconds.
        If the F1 TV Pro app latency isn’t less than that of SkyGo, then that would be bad.
        For me, latency isn’t a problem with live TV if you’re watching outside of the home, but inside it becomes a major problem.
        I’ve used live timing for a few years, last season during qualifying there was no point watching/listening to the TV as it was so far behind. Pausing the TV to sync the two is bonkers, technology should improve the viewing experience.

  6. Very exciting time, I think this is fantastic news.

    This introductory price will increase without a doubt. The price is low and will remain low as they lure in subscribers and try to reach new audiences. Once they break a certain number of subscribers (with their own advertising and hopefully improved spectacle) in each region and certain number of FTA viewers these prices will steadily rise, of course… so that will make up for some of the short fall mentioned vs the SkyF1 deal. Selling highlights and basic live coverage to FTA channels will also help.

    More viewers free or paid will strengthen Formula 1 as more eyeballs watching makes it a tastier platform for sponsors, which is healthier for teams and circuits.

  7. “It is possible that UK fans may have access to the non-live platform, but at this stage this does not appear likely.”

    How come? As far as I can see the “non line” platform is the same as the existing live timing app / website. No?

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