Unless I have my calculations wrong, in approximately 8 weeks or 54 days, the season-opening race in Australia will happen and there are a few test sessions between now and then. I see that Sky Sports F1, Channel 4 and other broadcasters are announcing their calendars and coverage but since last October, I’ve read nothing on ESPN’s coverage or the promised “OTT” streaming service for the US market.
To be fair, even when SPEED and NBC carried the broadcast rights, they would leave it late in the day before announcing their coverage and features so I’ve grown used to this anticipation. Perhaps the thought here is that you don’t want to give people too much time to think about the broadcast package and moan or whine about it. Better to just announce and immediately go on-air and give no room for the shock of it all.
I’ve read lots of fan comments and speculation about what ESPN is going to broadcast for the US market. From a simple world feed of Sky Sports F1’s broadcast to a hybrid version with US-focused announcers to other silly concepts. Unless I am missing some official announcement-and that’s entirely possible-I don’t seem to find anything from ESPN apart from their original comments about how they weren’t sure what they will be offering but that was way back in October of 2017.
Then there is the fabled over-the-top “OTT” streaming package which seems to be a product that F1’s Sean Bratches is working diligently on for the US market and it is supposed to be a combination app and streaming service of unrivaled quality. They’ve hired content and graphics specialists and are touting this as a new era in F1 viewing so I am very excited about that prospect but again, I’ve seen no real news or announcement that unpacks that service even from a high-level view.
Let’s hope Sean has a great streaming package on offer for 2018 and that it, in fact, does take F1 to a new level of broadcast excellence. I am curious about what this new streaming app will cost, though. I am hoping the only thing OTT about it will be the quality and depth of coverage and that the price won’t be OTT.
I was reading Sky Sports F1’s press release today about their 2018 coverage and for perspective, our good friends in the UK are asked to pony up something just north of $25 per month for the Sky Sports F1 channel. There was also the story today about Channel 4’s last year of a highlights and live broadcast package.
On the surface, Sky Sports F1 does a fantastic job for their market but let’s ask US fans if they would like to pay $300 per year for a package like that? Something is telling me that if the OTT package is as comprehensive as Sky Sport F1 channel and a 24/7 stream of F1 activity including all practice, test and race weekends, could F1 feel that this is in the same ballpark from a price perspective? What would a streaming service be worth to the American F1 fan? What would you pay? Would you pay $25/month for the F1 streaming package? That’s how much some folks spend on their total cable or satellite package as it is.
In the end, I think it is time for F1 to start talking about their packages, streaming services and apps. It is also time for ESPN to tell the US audience just what it is they will be doing for their live F1 coverage. Moving from NBC was a big deal and US fans are eager to be overwhelmed with a new F1 broadcast package but the lack of any information about it is starting to make fans nervous and not helping F1’s fan-friendly narrative.