F1 unveils first-ever Strategic Plan

Formula 1 has today unveiled its first-ever strategic plan, giving fans an insight on what the future holds for the series ahead of its 70th year.

The slide deck builds upon what Liberty Media have achieved during their first three years as guardians of the sport.

The plan, released as part of F1’s Corporate Strategy, covers all aspects of the sport at a high level, broken into six pillars:

  • Race
  • Engage
  • Perform
  • Sustain
  • Collaborate
  • Empower

On the broadcasting side, Formula 1 makes it clear the direction that the sport is heading in, with a strong focus on bringing in younger fans through an expansion of F1’s Esports Championship, and through engaging with influencers.

F1 also references ‘exciting new formats’ on the sporting side, but does not offer any specifics on what this would entail. An attempt to bring in reverse-grid qualifying races for three races in 2020 failed to gain the required approval of all F1’s teams.

Interestingly, the slide deck makes no reference to free-to-air or pay television. Instead, the sport says it will ‘reach the broadest audience on relevant linear and digital platforms,’ suggesting that the distribution model will remain different on a country-by-country basis moving forward.

As anticipated, F1 intends to grow their over-the-top platform to, in their words, ‘super-serve hardcore fans.’ Over-the-top is not new, or a surprise, but it is fascinating to see F1 reference this in a public-facing document, something that was unthinkable five years ago.

Elsewhere, F1 mentions the desire to ‘multi-feed’ through a ‘more cloud-based sports broadcasting platform, showing where they see the future to be from an innovation perspective. 5G gets a mention in the slide-deck, with F1 hoping that will enable a ‘hyper-connected car, fan and paddock.’

Sustainability is a key theme throughout the slide deck, with F1 wanting to ‘minimise the amount of equipment and people sent to each race,’ building their facility further at Biggin Hill to support in this mission.

Other key areas on the broadcasting front include sharing content and talent, as well as generally increasing the awareness of Formula 1 through promotional opportunities.

F1 does not offer any timescales on the period that the Strategic Plan covers, but given some of the ambitions that the sport covers, I suspect it covers the next five years, with a view to look beyond that in many of the areas.

At the start of the month, F1 unveiled an amended logo to celebrate 70 years of F1, with activities planned throughout the year to celebrate the milestone.


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Motorsport Broadcasting: Your 2019 Verdict Revealed

As always following the Formula 1 season finale, Motorsport Broadcasting asks readers for their opinion on all things broadcasting, and 2019 was no different.

Thanks to all of you who commented on the article after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December. There were a range of opinions on offer, varying from Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage through to podcasting.

With the Formula 1 television model in the UK changing from the start of the 2019 season, fans sought to find new ways to consume their favourite sport. Matthew Restaino was one of several readers who looked outside of the traditional box.

I’ve started consuming F1 in different ways. I subscribe to at least four F1 podcasts: Box of Neutrals, Missed Apex, Back of the Grid and For F1’s Sake, and listen on a weekly basis. I also watch the six minute YouTube packages of qualifying and the races plus the little best on board videos.

Matthew was not the only commenter who has ventured into the podcast space, with davidd93 referencing Whisper’s On the Marbles podcast and the WTF1 podcast, both of which he enjoyed. Davidd93 also makes the prediction that Lando Norris is going to shine on social media moving forward, taking the opportunity to praise McLaren’s YouTube output.

Other championships also benefited from the change of F1 broadcasting arrangements, as rosswilliamquinn explained.

I watched the whole W Series and Formula E because it was accessible to me, despite not being too big a fan of Vernon Kay, I tolerated him.

Whilst readers gave Channel 4 and Sky’s F1 coverage both praise and criticism, they were less kind when it came to Formula 1’s race direction.

Some of the direction has been abominable. That’s not the fault of the broadcaster but the stories have sometimes been missed to see Lewis driving in clean air. – rosswilliamquinn

There has been actioned missed (sometimes until a couple of days after the race), which is really baffling and frustrating at times, it happened too often. The race director seemed to have a vendetta against [Carlos] Sainz this year, saw little of him but he was such a standout performer this year. – davidd93

The directing was nothing short of appalling this year. Twice – at Silverstone and Monza – the director cut to the crowd whilst we were in the middle of something happening. To be fair to him, Crofty managed to smooth over the Silverstone one very well. – Rhys Benjamin

A sub-plot to the poor direction was the fact that Sky’s commentary now feels and very much acts like the official F1 commentary feed, a view echoed by Rhys Benjamin, who recalls the days when the UK commentary team would actively criticise the race direction, something that rarely happens nowadays.

Elsewhere in the FOM spectrum, the F1 Insights graphics divided opinion. Thomas Pitts saw the additions as “positives” overall, an opinion not shared by Rhys Benjamin.

The general verdict from readers was that Channel 4’s coverage had declined in quality, but given the change of broadcasting arrangements, this was also seen as not a surprise.

The Channel 4 coverage has come across very much as being run because the rules of the game say it must be run. We know the coverage, bar Silverstone, has all been pre-recorded. Exciting moments have been lost and the highlights transition between sections of the races hasn’t always been coherent and clear. [..] Yes, I accept that because it’s highlights there will be stuff to cut out, but there was so much cut from Brazil it was ridiculous. – seanbarlow

The C4 coverage has not been as good this year, but I’m confident this is to do with the restrictions placed on them by Sky, so not their fault. Really like their coverage though taking the restrictions into account. – davidd93

Over on Sky, Thomas Pitts believes that their wrap-around coverage has improved, but did mention the lack of promotion for the remainder of the channel’s offering, a recurring theme through several comments.

Inevitably following the events of early-2019, readers made comment on Ted Kravitz and Karun Chandhok. The general impression was that readers were thankful that Kravitz remained with Sky, if only in a reduced capacity, and that Chandhok was a needed boost to Sky’s team.

Ted not being there for every round was a disappointment but better than the alternative or having no Ted at all. Karun, while ok, doesn’t seem to have the depth of knowledge that Ted does. – Thomas Pitts

Karun Chandhok has been a good addition to Sky’s broadcasting team, it’s nice to get a new face to ‘mix it up’ as it was starting to get quite stale on Sky in recent years. [..] Even if a race is boring the Notebook never is. I’m so glad Ted Kravitz was part of Sky’s coverage in 2019, if we had lost him it would have been so much worse. – Alessio Dimaria

Other comments on the Sky front included a note from seanbarlow lamenting the lack of promotion for the pre-season Now TV offer (F1 Season Pass), with Sean and Alessio Dimaria also believing Sky would benefit from trimming their pre-race build-up, now 100 minutes long end-to-end.

There were 19 thoughts in total, so the above only represents a snapshot of what readers were talking about during December on Motorsport Broadcasting.


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Technical issues plight F1 TV, but platform shows signs of improvement

As we welcome in a new decade, F1 TV and FOM aficionado FOMWatch (@FOMWatch) has been looking at how F1’s in-house streaming service F1 TV has been faring from its 2018 launch to the present day.

At the start of 2018, F1 announced that it would launch an in-house streaming service in time for the 2018 season, entitled F1 TV. Developed in collaboration with third-party companies (including NBC Sports’ Playmaker Media, iStreamPlanet, CSG, Ostmodern and Tata), the platform ultimately launched just in time for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Offering all that years’ F1 sessions live and on-demand, showing the World Feed and all 20 drivers onboards with exclusive live team radio, the service also allowed viewers access to an ever-increasing selection of historic full races and highlights, dating back to 1981, the year in which FOM (or FOCA as it was known back then) first gained a slice of Formula 1’s commercial rights.

Lastly, F1 TV includes access to the live timing features on formula1.com and the F1 App, originally part of the ‘F1 Access’ live timing subscription offered since 2015.

Users in certain countries can sign up to a premium tier, called F1 TV Pro. Restricted due to broadcasting rights currently in place, the tier has both the live action and their respective replays, archive races and live timing features.

A cheaper tier, branded as F1 TV Access, has everything aside from the live streaming and replays of live streams is available in significantly more countries, including the UK.

In 2019, F1 brought three additional content feeds to F1 TV:

  • The Pit Lane Channel (introduced in 2012, and for 2019 featuring exclusive F1 TV commentary from support race commentator Alex Jacques)
  • the Driver Tracker channel (introduced in 2010)
  • the Data Channel (introduced in 2016)

In addition, F1 streamed F2, F3 and the Porsche Supercup sessions live in full via the platform for the first time (with World Feed commentary from Alex Jacques). In 2018, only highlights of the support races were available to watch after the race.

Technical issues plight service
Despite improvements for 2019, F1 TV has not been without its problems, some of which remain. A common complaint from users over on Twitter and Reddit surrounds the reliability of the service, with the service falling to handle high demand during live races, resulting in F1 issuing refunds to subscribers, and F1 CEO Chase Carey admitting that 2018 was a “beta” year for the service.

The quality of the streams itself is below that of othher streaming platforms. While F1 streams live sessions at full HD resolution (1080p), the frame rate on F1 TV is only 25 frames per second (fps). In the Ultra HD era, F1 shoots and broadcasts in 50fps (and prior to that, at the equivalent 25i – both of which equate to 50fps after de-interlacing), and that is what F1 airs on television.

Because of the reduced frame rate, the F1 TV stream looks jerky and less smooth, reducing the sense of speed in comparison to its television counterpart. F1 TV was hoping to have 50fps playback introduced in time for the 2019 season, but this has still yet to be introduced.

Considering other sports streaming services such as BBC online, Eurosport Player, Tennis TV, and Now TV (from Sky), and F1 themselves on their YouTube channel have all introduced 50fps support on their own streaming services, it is a shame that F1 TV is lagging behind in this respect, especially as F1 is a fast-paced sport that would benefit from these changes.

2019 Brazilian GP - F1 TV.png
The F1 angles that fans have access to via F1 TV’s premium tier service. Here, the Pit Lane channel shows two alternative angles of Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Note the list of drivers down the right hand side: clicking on their three-letter abbreviation takes you straight to their on-board camera.

Finally, another criticism is the way F1 TV mixes together the World Feed and the commentary of its broadcast partners. Some broadcasters, such as Sky, frequently cut away from the World Feed during practice to show their own content from reporters down in pit lane.

In contrast, F1 TV shows a single ‘vanilla’ World Feed channel, which does not include the bespoke broadcaster content. When this happens, fans watching via F1 TV will hear the commentary team talking about another topic that the broadcaster is airing exclusively for their audience.

A solution to this would be to either use cutaway-friendly commentators (such as BBC Radio’s commentary team for example), or to instead stream different versions of the World Feed specifically tailored to each broadcaster, to show their cutaways in-vision.

Content improving with more distinctive material
Despite these criticisms, F1 TV has slowly been improving if only at least in terms of its actual content.

The exclusive commentary on the Pit Lane channel provided by Alex Jacques is very informative, making full use of the multi-screen layout of the feed to show alternate angles, replays, and onboard footage, all which Jacques can commentate on.

Fans and pundits alike have criticised F1’s main feed output in recent years for showing too many replays, or not showing enough midfield action, whereas this is ultimately often shown first on one of the picture-in-picture windows on the Pit Lane channel.

In addition, while there have been regular on-demand videos such as session highlights and Paddock Pass posted since the 2018 launch, the amount of exclusive and in-depth on-demand content available to subscribers (most via F1 TV’s lower-level tier) has increased from just one in 2018 to much more in 2019.

A 50-minute documentary on Michael Schumacher and exclusive long-form interviews with Charles Leclerc and Jody Scheckter were some of 2019’s highlights, whilst Formula Two documentary series ‘Chasing the Dream’ starts 2020 on a high-note for the over-the-top platform.

Subscribers to F1 TV Pro also have access to the Weekend Debrief series (produced by FOM and aired on Sky Sports F1 in the UK), as well as Tech Talk feature show for each race in 2019.

F1 has greatly improved the archive content available to all F1 TV subscribers, with all from 1981 to 2017 having at least a ten-minute highlights reel, if not a full race, extended highlights, or season review clip. Now, F1 appears to be going in reverse chronological order, uploading full season’s worth of races from 2017 and earlier, having reached 2009 at the time of writing.

In conclusion, while F1 TV has matured in terms of what is available on the service, it still has a long way to go in terms of reliability, stability, and availability, particularly in terms of its mobile apps. Hopefully FOM will allocate more resources and personnel to ensure that the platform can continue to grow moving forward.

How have you found the performance of F1’s over-the-top service? What would you change to the platform, if anything? Have your say in the comments below.

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Looking ahead to 2020

“Pioneers pushed the boundaries.
Technology gave us speed.
Rivalries gave us drama.
Television brought us closer.
And we gave it home.”

Opening this post with the lines from Sky Sports F1’s fantastic 2019 pre-season trailer feels quite apt as we leave the 2010’s and say hello to the 2020’s. The trailer was quite brilliant, showing how F1 – and motor racing – has transformed over the decades, including broadcasting.

The 2010’s will be remembered on the broadcasting side for high definition, pay television, interactivity through social media, over-the-top, multi-stream and multi-platform. Where motor sport broadcasting will be in ten years is anyone’s guess in an ever changing, ever connected world.

For everything that has changed, many things have stayed the same, and some of the F1 personalities that greeted fans for the BBC’s coverage of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix stayed right through to Sky’s coverage of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

2020 promises to be another interesting year on the over-the-top front. F1 continues to try to grow their platform, but is their subscriber base rising at a fast-enough rate? Will UK fans finally get their hands on F1 TV Pro, as unlikely as that sounds?

More interestingly for me, could we see motor racing’s over-the-top platforms converge? Digital sports consultancy 7 League believes we have hit peak subscription and that “some sports will realise that others are best placed to syndicate their content.”

Will any motor racing series’ wanting to break out roll the dice and live stream their content via Amazon, Netflix, or even turn to F1 themselves?

For UK F1 fans, expect 2020 to bring a sense of stability after 2019’s raft of changes, with Sky Sports locked in until 2024 and Channel 4 until 2022. Nevertheless, there are always talking points in the F1 world, and Motorsport Broadcasting will again be covering those as the year unfolds.

Fans have the second series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive to look forward to, expected to land prior to the season opening Australian Grand Prix. As well as covering McLaren’s return to the podium, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that the series will also be featuring Mercedes’ German Grand Prix calamity in full, giving F1 fans plenty to chew over.

There is the outside possibility that Dorna may announce a UK MotoGP contract extension earlier than in previous cycles at the latter end of 2020. BT Sport signed a three-year contract covering 2019, 2020 and 2021, and it is possible that they may seek to extend their deal earlier than anticipated if they feel Sky could come in to swoop the rights.

The start of 2020 should be quieter than what we saw twelve months ago, but there are bound to be plenty of twists and turns off-track as 2020 revs up for another year of motor racing.


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News round-up: F2 documentary release date announced; UK Christmas scheduling details

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, news on when fans can get their hands on the new Formula Two documentary, whilst fans of the Formula One season review will be getting double the action in this year’s offering…

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #7 (November 3rd): F1 to remain on ESPN in US; Eurosport UK to air British Speedway

ICYMI: Round-Up #6 (October 15th): New Brabham film released; MotoGP moves towards HDR resolution

ICYMI: Round-Up #5 (September 12th): Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

The round-up covers from the start of November onwards, so I have mentioned a few points retrospectively for completeness.

Note from Dave – This is the eighth and last round-up of 2019. As we head into 2020, I would be interested to know if you have found the round-ups interesting and informative this year. The point of the round-ups is to cover news snippets that I would not usually mention in a standalone piece.

It is impossible to mention every little detail, otherwise the round-up turns into a long and unwieldy list, which I want to avoid. If you have found these interesting and valuable, a quick comment underneath or over on the social channels would be much appreciated.

Formula 1

  • There are plenty of Christmas specials coming up to keep the pulse racing.
    • Sky Sports’ 60-minute review is already available to watch via Sky’s on demand service.
    • BBC’s 5 Live special premieres on Christmas Eve at 20:00, with a very special presenter. Steve Rider presides over the festivities as Claire Cottingham, Jack Nicholls, Alex Jacques, Andrew Benson, Jennie Gow and Jolyon Palmer take part in an F1 themed quiz.
    • Over on F1 TV Pro, there is a 45-minute special of the Weekend Debrief, aptly titled Season Debrief. UK fans can watch the special on Sky Sports F1 over the festive period.
    • Further afield, Sky aired highlights of the annual Autosport Awards earlier this month. The same 90-minute package can also be found on Autosport’s YouTube channel.
  • 2020 starts with the new Formula Two documentary series landing on F1 TV. As first revealed by Motorsport Broadcasting in July, the series focuses on the stars of tomorrow in a 5 x 25 minute series. Fans worldwide, including the UK, will be able to watch F2: Chasing the Dream from Thursday 2nd January.
  • Series 2 of Drive to Survive is complete from an editorial perspective. Writing on Twitter on Friday, producer Paul Martin noted that Friday was the “last night in the edit.” Box to Box Films or Netflix have yet to confirm a release date for the much-anticipated sequel.
  • The FIA has amended the 2020 Formula One Sporting Regulations to “prevent teams from covering their cars during winter testing, in order to make these events more appealing to the media and fans.”
    • Not only is this good news for fans attending the tests, but it is good news for fans worldwide, as testing airs live across F1 TV and Sky Sports F1 for the second year running.
  • The official 2019 Formula One Season Review will return to a four-hour format when it is released by Duke later this month, after heavy criticism of the 2018 review.
    • The 2018 review was slimmer compared to previous years, and contained live commentary from Sky’s David Croft and Martin Brundle instead of a bespoke voiceover from Ben Edwards. Whilst the running length returns to the 2017 format, fans will continue to hear Sky’s commentary in the 2019 review.
  • 2019 champion Lewis Hamilton appeared on The Graham Norton Show last month following his championship victory in Austin. The episode, which aired on BBC One, is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until the early hours of Boxing Day.
  • An audience of 5.8 million viewers watched the 2019 F1 Esports Series online, according to figures released by Formula 1, surpassing the 5.5 million viewers that watched across online and television last year.
    • In addition, F1 says that 79 percent of all viewers were below 34 years old. “We are really excited about the progress we have made this year with a 65% increase in interest in the series compared to 2018, our highest ever online audience of 5.8 million and 169 million social media impressions,” said Julian Tan, F1’s Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports.
    • “The massive growth in viewership and engagement is testament to the strength of our esports proposition. I am confident that Formula 1 Esports will continue to grow and broaden the opportunities for the next generation of motorsport fans and brands to engage and invest in this burgeoning space as we continue to break down borders into our sport through esports and gaming – the growth in viewership and engagement this year is a prime indicator of this,” added Tan.
  • The annual Formula Three race from Macau aired live on Formula 1’s YouTube channel last month. For anyone who needs their motor sport fix over Christmas, the race remains on the channel over here.

Elsewhere…

  • The German touring car championship DTM has announced that they are to launch an over-the-top platform ready for the 2020 season. The platform launched in beta mode during last month’s special DTM cross-over event with Super GT.
  • The EV racing site e-racing365 has announced that it is to reduce its Formula E offering from January onwards, citing the current economic environment in the media landscape. e-racing365 has seen record growth, “with a 74 percent increase in unique viewers and a 54 percent increase in page views compared to 2018,” led by editor Sam Smith.
    • Writing on the site, founder John Dagys said “While our editorial coverage has been second-to-none, we’ve fought very hard the last two-and-a-half-years to make it economically viable. It takes significant resources to cover a defacto world championship and without the necessary financial support, we’re unfortunately unable to continue at this level. The motorsports media landscape has continued to change over the last few months and we stand by our principle of being one of the few remaining independent media outlets covering the sport we all love.”
    • “There are a number of exciting all-electric series in the pipeline that we feel will have the necessary interest and support for the site to continue to grow. We’re excited for those opportunities and look forward to helping share the story of the sport’s transition to electrification in the years to come,” Dagys added.
  • The American bike series MotoAmerica is touting record numbers for the 2019 season. The series says that their broadcast audience increased by 134 percent on 2018, largely thanks to a new broadcast relationship with NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 2 instead of beIN Sports. In addition, their social media accounts grew by 33 percent, with impressions up by 229 percent.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that is worth a mention, drop a line in the comments section below.


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