Formula One Management (FOM) headed into a brave new world last week with their first foray into live event hosting through its new F1 Live brand. The experiment, which intends to take the sport to the fans, started in London’s Trafalgar Square and was a resounding success overall for what was essentially a live prototype aired worldwide.
FOM streamed the event live across social media last week, with television stations such as Sky Sports F1 also picking up coverage. Given the intended audience, it appears that non F1 broadcasters will have the ability to show the F1 Live events in the future, based on a comment made by David Coulthard during Channel 4’s British Grand Prix coverage.
Live streaming was moderately successful on YouTube, with a peak number of around 35,000 devices. The figure is half the number that watched Fernando Alonso’s first laps preparing for the Indianapolis 500, but you must remember that Alonso’s practice run was only available online, so it is not a completely fair comparison.
F1 Live London averaged 81,000 viewers (0.5%) in the United Kingdom on television from 18:00 to 21:00 on Wednesday across Sky Sports and the local London Live channel according to overnight viewing figures supplied by Overnights.tv, a healthy audience considering the lack of promotion for the event.
Fans were critical about the promotional aspect heading into the event, although the justification was sound given recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. The event might have been jeopardised had the mainstream media revealed details weeks in advance. The 2004 demonstration attracted half a million people to the capital and it was inevitable that security would be much tighter this time around.
Velocity Experience, a new start-up company with David Coulthard and Guy Horner at the helm, led the promotion, branding, and organisation elements of the event. Coulthard’s presence remained throughout the presentation line up, which was reminiscent of the BBC’s 2011 Formula One team.
Jake Humphrey, Martin Brundle, Eddie Jordan, Natalie Pinkham and Coulthard all played their part, with Rochelle Humes also involved. It is important to note though that whilst Coulthard and Humphrey were involved, to my knowledge, Whisper Films (the production company owned by Humphrey, Coulthard and Sunil Patel) were not involved in the event.
The three-hour live broadcast went as well as you could expect, the only noticeable technical problems were brief in the opening minutes. The picture quality on the live stream was ‘blocky’ during the demonstration itself, an issue that FOM fixed later in the broadcast. Luckily, the British weather held out, which is always a bonus! The event was well planned with the live demonstration supplemented by live music, a driver’s parade and various features highlighting the sport.
In my opinion, the balance between music and F1 did not feel right, with too little emphasis on the motor racing side of things. The last 40 minutes turned into a glorified Kaiser Chiefs concert – as a Kaiser Chiefs fan I cannot complain, but others might disagree!
I would have preferred a chat with some of the leading F1 drivers as a substitute for a Kaiser Chiefs song, such as Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who were clearly popular with the audience. It did not make a major difference, but something for Liberty to learn from I feel.
Furthermore, the demonstration did feel slightly on the short side, I guess in a three-hour show I was expecting it to take up more than 45 minutes of airtime. The direction and camera angles were generally good, and following the event FOM uploaded a range of on-board angles online, which showed off some of the more unique angles that you typically do not see during a race weekend.
Coulthard and Brundle were on commentary, a joy to hear the duo back together again. The driver introductions onto stage did make up for the short demonstration, as referenced above. And how good was it to see the F1 Drivers Championship trophy in a public setting like that?
The VTs were one of the highlights of the evening, and a reminder of just why we love Formula 1. It was your typical trip down memory lane, but with an added extra bonus thanks to Tom Grennan’s backing track All Goes Wrong (if you have not yet seen it, I would go out of your way to watch). We need VTs like that to help promote this wonderful sport.
FOM receives some dissension from fans on social media, but this is one occasion where the team thoroughly deserves to be praised. I am hopeful that some of the VTs will be released on F1’s official YouTube channel during the Summer break, so keep an eye out. I imagine Liberty Media and all other involved parties have learnt a significant amount from the first F1 Live.
So, are you ready for the second event?