Formula 1 launched F1TV this week ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix as they said they would. Initially the sign-up window opened last weekend but there was no content on the website but that’s been remedied as archive footage and current season races are all there. Live races are ready to go starting with this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
There’s not a lot of explanation on how to use the service apart from a few menus and nice graphics and race labelling. I have a few initial thoughts on the service—not as outrageous criticisms but as mere suggestions for F1 as they move forward with their service.
The service is in its initial launch phase and I suspect just getting it up and running was task enough so spending thousands of hours on a fantastic user interface (UI) to deliver an exceptional user experience (UX) was not something F1 had the luxury of doing.
I think we can expect some changes over time to the UI and my recommendation would be to stick with what they have initially done with simple, intuitive buttons and look. Don’t overcook it.
Remember, F1- Big gains are not made through technology innovation per se, they are made when you link that innovation with the elements your customer values most. Right now, there are several elements your customer value the most that you are not linking this technology too. Big areas of opportunity for you here.
The quality of the video is good. I did not check it on my large-screen display but on my 32” monitor, it looked very nice.
The archive races seem to run back to around the late 90’s from initial inspection but there may be some farther back, I might have simply missed them. They did include Spa 98 which is obviously a must if you are a long-time listener to our podcast.
There are several “race in review” videos and some full race videos so I would assume that in time they will have all the past races available but right now, there are a lot of review videos. If not, I am not sure what would determine if a race is just shown in review or in full but I suspect most fans will want the full race versions as well.
The current season race replays are equipped with a sidebar where you can select the onboard camera for any driver you like and this is kind of fun when there is an incident or pass or a driver is struggling as you can go watch what was happening in their car.
I noticed that the most recent race in Baku was not posted yet. I was keen to go look at Max’s onboard camera during the collision with Dan to see his steering wheel input.
Timing and Scoring:
One feature I think F1 might consider is syncing the timing and scoring in the sidebar. A tall order I am sure, but I have been saying this since forever on replays of F1 races. Timing and Scoring is a critical part of watching the race and as they have a very large sidebar on the right-hand side of the screen with each driver, it would be good to have sector times, tire compounds and sync’d T&S for on-demand viewing.
Right up front, the sidebar with each driver would be much better if they were linked with T&S and listed in the order they run. The sidebar space with each driver could be developed to be a complete information center with T&S associated with each driver, color-coded to show tire compounds and when you select a driver, the onboard camera comes up on screen.
It would be more intuitive to look for the driver in the order they are running. Instead, you have to look at the on-screen data and then look at the sidebar and search for the driver. A bit of a disconnect.
Timing of On-Demand:
The biggest key to the success of the service will be how quickly they get just-ran races up on the website for a full-race replay…or as I like to call it, On Demand. The fact that the Baku race replay is not up yet has me a little concerned. People are cutting cords and will be relying on this service to watch the race.
A real-world scenario for American fans: The races may be in Europe and could be on at 5am in California. Many fans will not wake up at 5am so when they do wake up, make a pot of coffee, get some toast with Smuckers grape jelly and blunder in to the living room to watch a race, it may be 8am. If it takes F1 a few days to get the race replay posted, that will not work at all.
As soon as the race is over, it needs to be posted. Period. You can work on your highlights review package later but the actual race needs to be immediately posted. It is critical that they get the race up immediately after it finishes. This is huge, don’t miss it, F1.
The races I watched were the world feed with no voice over or commentary team and I am not sure if that will change from Spain onward or not. We haven’t had a live race so I am unclear as to if they show the feed live with a broadcast team or not but the replays have none.
I have to think that will change because this is F1’s big move into broadcasting and surely they will produce their own broadcast package? There’s a challenge there too. The commentary has to be absolutely top shelf. If it is not as robust as Sky Sports F1, then I would be hard pressed to understand why anyone would purchase the service instead of sticking with commercial-free ESPN using Sky Sports F1’s commentary team.
I know Will Buxton and Jason Swales work for F1 and they know what it takes to build a full broadcast team and the challenges that entails. Perhaps they will have a team assembled for commentary for Spain but if they don’t, they’ll need to eventually have a complete team and create the types of content that Sky Sports F1 does. That is their competition. Spend $99 for world feed and no VO or spend $0 and get ESPN commercial-free on demand with commentary from Sky Sports F1…you be the judge.
My initial impressions are positive. I believe they “got the service up and going” and there is a lot of room for improvement. This doesn’t feel like a complete “Over-the-top” service if I’m honest. It’s good but Sean Bratches promised a viewing experience like no other. Right now, it’s going to struggle to hold pace with a free ESPN feed let alone Sky Sports F1. It’s early days. We haven’t even seen a live race yet and there could be much more to come this weekend so I don’t want to be a complete jerk about it. It’s a good start and everything has to start somewhere. I may have missed a few things or could be wrong on other so let me know what you think in the comment section below.
Here again, what I have had issues with from the start is Bratches and team’s OTT statements about the service, how they positioned it, what they haven’t said and when they did speak, they set the expectations much higher than what is currently on the website of F1TV. Again, early days but let’s see what they develop it in to. I have a lot of positivity about it and F1 and I want this to be a raging success for them as a terrific revenue stream to add to the overall health of the sport…that’s why I purchased it.