Since launching a few weeks ago, the F1 App is already growing, and adding new content. For 2014, there are two versions of the app: a free (lite) version and a premium version for £7.49, the latter of which contains exclusive team radio, live timing amongst other things. The app also comes with BBC Radio 5 Live commentary for the entire race weekend. The app has been brought in house by Formula One Management (FOM) over the Winter break. Having been developed by Softpauer for 2013, this year, a company called ‘Formula One Digital Media Limited‘ (FODM), under the FOM umbrella has taken over the app.
So, what does this mean? To put it simply: FOM can do a lot more with the app, they have more control. And by creating a new company, it means that anything concerning the app can fall under this company. An aspect FOM also promoted was ‘video’, but they never specified what video. Why is this a point of interest? Because already one and a half race weekends into the year, FOM are already increasing what they are offering on the app. The first sign of video content popped up on the official Formula 1 website a few days prior to Australia, with an eleven minute insight into the regulation changes for 2014. That video is also notable for archive footage being featured, the first occurrence of that happening on the website. Video content continued into Australia: a pit lane insight with Gary Anderson, following him parting company with BBC and also an eight minute interview with Felipe Massa and his race engineer.
We’re not even half way through the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend and already there is more video content than Australia. There was a video with James Allen talking about the heat added, whilst a video was uploaded from Thursday with Caterham’s Alexander Rossi doing the track walk accompanied by Bob Constanduros, finishing off with Anderson interviewing a member of the Caterham team. At eleven minutes in length, the amount of detail it has to be said was more than your typical BBC or Sky feature which is normally snipped down to three or four minutes for TV, whereas an app doesn’t have any such restrictions. The best thing about the videos already mentioned is that FOM are utilising Anderson! If a technical row breaks out at all this year, you may find that the best analysis is not on BBC or Sky… but in fact on the official F1 App, which would be quite a turn around considering this is completely new territory for FOM.
The most interesting thing is that a round-up of practice two was uploaded, and not geo-blocked. I’m not sure whether that is surprising or not. At the end of the day though, it is FOM’s footage so they are free to do what they want with it. I don’t think the broadcasters will be too happy if FOM start throwing a lot of World Feed footage onto the app, however it is a very clever move by FOM where the app is concerned, start from the ground up, and then gradually add more videos each race weekend. Arguably this is better than doing everything all at once: see what the customer likes and work from that base point onwards and upwards. I don’t know whether this is the plan for the entire season, but it seems like smart marketing to me.
I’m going to be fascinated to see where we end up with the app come Abu Dhabi, whether they stick to a certain amount of videos per weekend, or whether it will be a constant work in progress. I’ve criticised FOM a lot for failing to see the digital age for what it really is. But this is a brilliant step in the right direction. Yes, social media, Twitter, Facebook needs to be worked on significantly (@F1 has only retweeted once, and it is clearly not fully human yet), as always though you need to start somewhere. And who knows, maybe live streaming via the official Formula 1 website and app could happen sooner than you might expect…