Is F1 coming to an iPad near you?

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This weekend could mark a milestone for Formula 1. It may not be for on-track action or records broken but it could come at the hands of the support racing series of GP2, GP3, or Porsche Supercup. According to the delightful James Allen, F1 Management and Tata Communications will deliver these support races via their fiber optic and satellite communications platform meaning over broadband.

It’s significant in that the pipe is big enough (has been for quite a while) to handle the amount of data a full broadcast would require. It’s significant because delivering the series via broadband will, perhaps, beget new ways of content distribution meaning direct-to-consumer.

The weekend is clearly a great test for the system prior to moving F1 to the broadband transmission method and while that seems harmless enough in this age what with Periscope, YouTube, Google Hangout and other streaming video service, it’s epic task for Tata and the engineering wonks that work there.

Broadcast encryption and negotiating QOS levels at each venue as well as devising serious redundancy systems is no easy task, trust me. Also, don’t miss the fact that it is a significant investment in infrastructure and broadband leases when you’re racing in far-flung locations around the world that may have slightly less than savory services—hence the satellite systems etc.

Point being, F1 is spending money on its delivery system that may very well be a precursor to what the F1 world says it wants—content delivery as a package delivered to any device they choose to consume it on at any time. Be warned, for those enjoying Sky Sports F1 commercial free, your days may be numbered with injected ads like we Americans endure every 10 minutes.

Can F1 get 10 million people to buy a package for $39/year? If so, that’s nearly $400 million dollars. If 500 million people watch F1 per year and you divide that by 20 races, it’s around 25 million per race…if my math(s) is correct. So if you could get half of those folks to buy a subscription, that’s big money.

That’s asking a lot if I’m honest. Fact is, you still have to keep the value of your broadcast packages for terrestrial TV and many people simply can’t afford that kind of investment when you think of the sport in a global and economic perspective. Also, the value of the content is a real issue.

Bernie Ecclestone has kept a tight lid on his video of past races and any YouTube video that shows up get a stern letter. I agree with him. F1’s video history is a massive asset and you can’t simply just lob it into the public domain or you lose a serious potential revenue source. So the broadcast has to be managed post event to ensure that it isn’t diluted more than it already is via torrents etc.

It’s all a big move but perhaps it is inevitable. F1 needs to be times relevant more than it needs to be road relevant and this is a good first step.

Hat Tip: James Allen

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Paul KieferJr

If this be the case, then the FIA and Bernie are about to learn a new term: “Net Neutrality”.

Tom Firth

I’m confused as to the relation this has to Net Neutrality?

MichaelB

A lot actually… If Net Neutrality isn’t enforced on this – globally, the potentially cost for this goes up, potentially dramatically… The whole Net Neutrality issue is over whether or not ISPs can (or should) charge content providers additional fees to allow their content to travel unencombered over the ISPs’ network to end users… Fees that are charged in addition to what the content provider is already paying to get their content up to the internet in the first place… If FOM has to pay Tata to build out the infrastructure to get the content online, then has to pay… Read more »

Tom Firth

Good answer, thanks :-)

Richard Massey

It works for WEC!
As someone who has suffered for years from Nothing But Commercials sports coverage of f1, Olympics, etc, I am seriously hoping for something like the WEC app for F1.

Daniel Johnson

I think that’s the new model. A big portion of the millennials have cut the cord, and it’d be great to have an option for getting what you want without wasting money on 999 other channels. I’ve been more than tempted to buy V8 supercars just for that reason.

mini696

Oh please get this going, I don’t want to pay for TV just for F1. I am almost about to spend $50 a month just for F1, I would pay $200 a year for it.

Tom Firth

Well when Dorna is charging £122/year for the online package, of a full archive of MotoGP from 1992-2014 + multi screen support, I’d imagine F1’s price would be equally high.

How does it work for television broadcasters though, a majority of those broadcasters also buy the rights for second screen online, NBC and Sky among them, so what happens? Those locations get geoblocked, until the contract is re-negotiated? Then that is lost revenue on this massive platform, right?

MichaelB

I’d be interested in paying for this (or even better an AppleTV Channel) IF four conditions were met: 1. The subscription provided content and analysis that is more than just race video… Give me an extra hour+ of commentary and content like BBC and Sky do – not the drivel that NBCSports provides… There needs to be more than just one person at the track doing the grid walk, tracking folks in the paddock, reporting from the pit wall and garages, and doing post race interviews in the pen… 2. I don’t have to watch the race and ancillary programming… Read more »

runnah

F1 is the only reason I keep my cable. Put it on xbox or Roku and I’ll be a happy/richer man.

peterriva

they had better move fast before Todd uses Periscope in Austin this year. GO TODD!

Ricky Raccoon

I would gladly pay a premium to watch F1 on any device and ad free. Right now our local coverage is horrible to put it mildly. More ads and interruptions to any coverage is not a good thing. We (consumers) are more than happy to pay for the quality of Sky F1’s coverage without ads. Sadly it isn’t available in Australia…..legally at least :)

GaryK

This is great news if it is real. I noticed that there are no URL’s or instructions for accessing the support race content so we wait, we wait, we wait. I would say, “We’ll see,” but I suspect we won’t. At least for a good long while.

Dee

In Asia, Fox Sports / Star Sports is already providing F1 on demand and live… all for $8/year for qualifying + race, with commentary from the Sky Sports feed.
And… without commercials.