F1 TV launches: Initial thoughts

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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.

UX:

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.

Video:

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.

Archive:

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.

Current Season:

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.

Sidebar:

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.

VO/commentary:

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.

In Summation:

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.

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Ian Robinson
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Ian Robinson

I’ll be interested in what happens during the live race, We dont get it here yet but i can pay for the live timings and commentary??? I so want this to work as the Sky package here is an outrageous cost.

Jimmi
Guest
Jimmi

I bought a Eurosport subscription for the Giro d’Italia and noticed that it had the WEC Spa race available. So I checked that out as well. There was no VO for the Spa race. While this was strange for awhile, I am an experienced enough race fan that I soon realized I was missing very little. The director did an excellent job of telling the story visually and with ambient noise. I kind of liked it. Still, I am pretty sure no commentary during an F1 race would (will?) be a big dud for most fans. All of these OTT… Read more »

Mirko Akov
Guest
Mirko Akov

Quite a lot of buffering for me watching the first practice… not happy so far :)

Mat
Guest
Mat

Me too. Pixelated and dropping out for the first couple minutes, but after that it did ok. And I know it’s not my connection.

ColoradoSTi
Guest
ColoradoSTi

To hear the commentary, Change the audio feed by clicking on the language button. On the iPhone, it’s on the bottom right and looks like a speaking bubble. I know there was one on my Safari window as well, but I’m not picturing it’s Location in my head now. (Random capitalization bright to you buy Apple autocorrect 2018)

rbunce
Member
rbunce

So far so good with FP1. Started watching the replay at 7:30 am EDT so it was available quickly. Will see for FP2 at 9am EDT if it is available to come in a little after it starts but pick up from the beginning. That would be good. First minute or two was a little ragged by has been rock solid since. No commercial break so Sky broadcast must accommodate no commercials for Free Practice. Probably go back to Sky for Qualification and Race to see pregame shows.

rbunce
Member
rbunce

So when FP1 clock read zero, the video stopped. Started FP2 about 9:10 am EDT but could get no video. Switched to ESPN 3 and could get live video but could not scroll back to start. Reverted to DVR to watch recorded ESPNU FP2… still a few things to work out. Will have to plan my watching a little more carefully. Good news is ESPN 3 has the Formula 2 sessions this year and the first two sets of races have been pretty good… little aero blocking.

rbunce
Member
rbunce

F2 race 1 on ESPN3 now… NO aero blocking to be found.

Watched FP3 DVRd from ESPN2. Watched Q and pre Q shows on Sky.

Getting some real options this weekend. Like the seemingly 1 hour later start time on Q as well… pretty easy to get FP3 viewing in before live Q including pre Q show.

rbunce
Member
rbunce

Q replay on F1 TV seems to play OK… streaming services seem to have live problems early.

rbunce
Member
rbunce

How about during the August break they hold a race with F1 drivers in F2 cars?

rbunce
Member
rbunce

August Podcast topic suggestion… talk to someone knowledgeable about F2 aero changes for 2018… maybe IndyCar aero changes for 2018 too.

Steve Ford
Guest
Steve Ford

Buffering is terrible in Live Practice 2. My pictures updates once every few seconds. I’ve tried the live picture, and on-board cameras. This better get fixed for the race! The picture is very low res too. I am not happy right now.

Steve Ford
Guest
Steve Ford

I’ve found, I can get the on-board camera to work for Haas, and Mclaren, but not for the Mercs or Ferarris. Sometimes for Red Bull. The live feed is still not working, but I can hear it when watching the on-board feeds if I switch away from team radio. Maybe the more popular teams have more people watching them.

gino
Guest
gino

I paid the $89 and all I get is live timing and commentary. My email said thanks for buying F1 TV pro. Is there another app I’m supposed to download?? When I click on my account its trying to sale me the tv pro package again.
Is anyone else have issues when trying to sign in.

The Captain
Member

Thanks for the rundown! Even though I’m one of the ‘never will buy it’ crowd I’m glad it’s at least up a running for ya’ll. You’re right Todd, the On Demand and Broadcast crew are going to be the make or break of the service. sunday’s gonna be interesting. If they are in this for the long haul then they do have some time to work out those kinks. My back of the bar napkin calculation gave me an estimate of around 12,000 U.S. subscribers back before the service was delayed. I would revise that down a bit now with… Read more »

Steve Ford
Guest
Steve Ford

Watching qualifying, and it’s not looking good. Lots of buffering and stuttering and low res pics. Chatted with tech support and they said, “the tech team is trying their best”. So…not great.

mrvco
Guest
mrvco

With Tata involved, I can’t believe they aren’t letting them use this technology:

Ultra Live VDN

Jimmi
Guest
Jimmi

That which is promised on a corporate website and Powerpoint stack is not necessarily any more than a dream, and dream is a wish your heart makes. And Tata is, hmm, not so very fresh from what I know.