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.