There’s an old axiom: shoot twice and aim once. In some ways, that’s what it seems like Formula 1’s new owners have done. Look, there is certainly that understandable moment when some folks buy a company and come in scratching tree trunks to mark their territory. There’s a new sheriff in town…etc.
Piecing together that last 12 months of press releases and comments in the press, I would be daft to suggest that some things Liberty have done, and are trying to do, are not positive or at least met with a positive energy by the teams, fans and stakeholders in F1. There are also decisions being made that seem strange while some are simply off the mark completely.
F1 TV launched last weekend and I won’t mince words here, it failed miserably. F1 sent an apology email to subscribers and I found it interesting that the man in charge isn’t the one speaking to the press about the difficulties. Instead, technical guru Ross Brawn was sought for a quote by the F1 press.
“Apologies to our fans, but we are dragging our sport from a place where none of these initiatives previously existed and we will get there,” added the former Honda, Brawn GP and Mercedes team principal.
“In some ways that’s what Formula One is about, a sport where things are developed on the move and on the track with technology that is always cutting edge” said Brawn.
I have a lot of time for Ross but let me use the most basic F1 analogy to shed some light on how paying customers might feel about F1 TV’s launch.
In F1 it is often said that a driver is ultimately measured and compared to his teammate. Lewis vs Valtteri, Fernando vs Stoffel etc.
The same is true with content creators and delivery systems. For cord-cutters, the F1 streaming performance will naturally be compared to other services they enjoy such as Netflix, Amazon, DirecTv Now, Sony VUE etc. If there is lag, buffering, black screens, constant stoppage and simply no loading, that’s not what the customer experiences, generally speaking, with their other services.
F1 TV was unwatchable last weekend with poor streaming quality, lag, buffering and other issues. There was something else missing too. A series of features they had originally touted and others that fans have been asking for all along. The content wasn’t up to par and neither was the actual performance level of the streaming service.
I appreciate Ross’s sentiment about F1 constantly developing but that’s not how you run a content streaming network. In F1 terms, what F1 provided last weekend was a HALO wing and mirror combination that should be immediately banned.
From content delivery to Content Creation
What caught my attention over a year ago was John Malone’s comments about Liberty not wanting to be just a content delivery system. He knows the money is made in content creation and that’s why they purchased F1. Netflix and Amazon know this too. They didn’t remain as content streaming services for long and now create a lot of their own content. Now they own the complete ecosystem—creation and delivery.
Sean Bratches, once again, called F1 a media company, not just a terrific sport. That supports Malone’s comments as well. As such, it seems they are ushering in several half-baked concepts on content creation and a half-baked content delivery system. Much of it doesn’t seem ready for prime time and some would argue that they should slow down, work on the complete package and shoot for 2021 when the regulations change to make their big moves.
Others might argue that they don’t have the luxury of waiting that long for a host of reasons. Losing viewers in significant numbers, a stagnant set of regulations that a large portion of fans don’t like, processional racing (or at least Merc dominated racing) and employment contracts for both Sean and Chase might all play a part in trying to change F1 sooner than later.
I’m unclear on what F1 as a media company means beyond improving and broadening the reach and footprint of the series. What F1 bosses have continually referenced is other sports and I appreciate that for all the right reasons, but wouldn’t it be better to have all other sports trying to be like F1 instead? Why buy F1 and spin your wheels with failed launches and other cheap parlor tricks trying to play the game? Why not just change the game?
Right now, the F1 TV service failed to remotely get close to simply equaling the NFL or other services in order to play the game so maybe actually having the resources to change the game completely is unrealistic. Sure, you have to start somewhere and perhaps just getting a decent stream up and going is a good first step.
I’ll be honest, if what F1 TV is shooting for is the Sky Sports F1 broadcast commentary with the ability to change onboard cameras? That’s not a game-changer and not worth $99. The archived races? That’s great but not all of them are on the service.
There is a lot of work to do and I’m cheering them on because I want it to work. There are a host of tings I believe should be added and changed in order to make the $99 worth the price of admission. Right now, I feel like Mr. Bratches is taking the watch off our wrist and telling us what time it is.
I thought the F1 TV Pro package would have its own commentary crew, all-new camera angles and graphics taking us deeper into the sport, superior video and audio quality and on-demand replay with synchronized timing and scoring so fans could experience the entirety of an F1 race whenever they wanted. We are a long, long way from my expectations and I fear I’m not alone in these expectations either.
Hat Tip: Reuters