Time’s up F1; how will US watch 2018 season?

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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.

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Junipero

My expectation for this year will be a modest version 1.0 of the streaming package. The entire race weekend for the whole season, plus 1-2 documentaries early on, while you’re waiting for the catalog to build up. I think the cost would be $6-$10 added on to Netflix or Amazon, just like Motor Trend OnDemand. By the time the new regs come around, they’ll introduce the all F1, all the time package a la Sky Sports F1, replete with all the seasons you could watch, in depth looks into F1 as a whole, and full analysis of the race weekend.… Read more »

mrvco

Don’t get your hopes up for the ‘unrivaled quality’ OTT package until later in the season.

subcritical71

I realize that Liberty is a media company, but I have a hard time believing they could do any better than a 1.0 version of OTT this year unless they are passing it through from somebody else. I wouldn’t spend more than $100 on the first year product. But, even if its a 2.0 version I would be hard pressed to justify anything north of $100. I like the idea of $6-$10.

Let’s see some details on where this is heading!

charlie

I can recall one time in the post-ESPN/pre-SpeedVision days when Americans did not learn about that season’s F1 broadcast plans until the week of the 1st race. And if you didn’t have Speedvision(which I didn’t at the time), you had to settle for some type of tape delay on Fox regional sports channel. The holdup here in this situation may be the recent Disney/Fox content deal but I have a hard time ponying up $300 per season for F1

Edward

I can imagine paying $300/yr for an outstanding OTT package. I just can’t imagine an outstanding OTT package arising out of this situation in the near term, anyway. Also, at $300, duh, bit torrent.

sunny stivala

The sports is losing fans not winning new ones, and at a fast rate at that, the more the new owners talk the more people are not trusting them. the figures for race attendance, social media and TV figures all points in one direction.

sunny stivala

These people cannot be trusted, they came in head first and talking, they just kept talking and talking, thier first results turned out to be a first time in F1 shortfall of 2 millions for the teams take, their second result was a kick-in-the teeth for one of their biggest TV following in Europe. They cannot be trusted with the figures the push out “pitpass.co:- about those F1 TV viewing figures. 06/ 01/2018”. They cannot be trusted as to how equally they treat all and sundry, just look at the way they got to you and your site as against… Read more »

Tom Firth

their second result was a kick-in-the teeth for one of their biggest TV following in Europe.

In reference to Italy?

sunny stivala

YES.

ShocksAndAwe

Duh, indeed. Charging a premium for online content is the best way to ensure a vibrant community of digital piracy.

If I pay $15 a month for Netflix or Hulu with all their variety and original content, how can you possibly justify more than that for a one-pony circus like F1?

Schumie Toronto

I’m nervous too NC! Here in Canada, we get the Sky coverage (P2, Quali, Pre-race, Race, Post-race) on TSN (The Sports Network). I’ve already contacted TSN to see (1) if we will continue to get Sky coverage (hopefully!) and (2) their schedule. They replied that they WILL be carrying F1 but that they don’t have a schedule yet. I already pay north of $100 per month just for TV! I’d have a hard time doubling that for OTT, let alone $25 per month! And you’re dreaming if you think we’ll get OTT for $10 per year via Netflix! They’ve got… Read more »

sunny stivala

When LM went on their spending spree I said on here that most probably the teams will have to carry the cost.

Joseph Simmons

Charlie comments are on point! F1 to ESPN is an after thought, Liberty didn’t want NBC Sports probably for money reasons, which NBC would not meet for a mere 1 million viewers. And then there were not viable options but a business relationship favor from ESPN and Bratches. So I would not be surprised by zero marketing efforts for F1 US from ESPN. We’ll be depended on social media or our local listing for free practices, qualifying, and the race from Australia. By the way, what’s the channel for Univision?

Tom Firth

Sky’s F1 channel, whilst strong, though growing stale on race weekends is a hugely expensive waste of time the rest the time. Pretty much because it shows nothing but endless repeats or dead air of absolutely nothing. F1’s OTA platform needs a lot more content the rest of the time.

ShocksAndAwe

Which in theory, they can have (for a price) since Bernie is no longer holding the key to vault.

Forrest

F1 has a great example to follow when it comes to an online motor sport streaming service. They should copy the MotoGP Videopass features as much as possible. You get to watch all official sessions, pick among the different on board cameras, and even watch old races. Their full season price is ~$175 USD(it varies because of the exchange rate). Would I pay $300 per year for an F1 OTT service? No, I wouldn’t. I would probably order the monthly package(if reasonably priced) for the races in Europe and the Americas, but I would’t pay when F1 makes its swing… Read more »

sunny stivala

Might interest some to read. “News round-up new TV agreements finalized: OTT moves closer. Jan 21-2017”. I am not directly effected and have no direct experience of broadcasting in USA and Canada, just repeating what some friends over there says. “LM will charge no less than $20 per race weekend”. “A cost of full coverage of an F1 season will look more like $400”. “Every TV in my house has a windows pc attached to it, and my family streams 100% of our content. We don’t even have a “cable” package, just 200 Mbit internet, (state capitol)”. “If LM objective… Read more »

Tom Firth

Is an ESPN branded internet streaming service coming rather soon this year though that won’t require cable packages so things are changing on that front. Whether it will host F1 is yet to be determined.

Charlie

ESPN already has a branded app that stream much of its on-air content right now with the choice of watching some regional sports. All that may change with the arrival of F1 this year(it may not since most races occur outside ESPN prime viewing hours in North America).

The Captain

So this has been something I’ve been trying to find out about all month. Back in October Burke Magnus ESPNs VP of programing gave an interview with Racer.com that was the typical vague ‘everything is synergy’ garbage without giving any details or refuting any rumors. He did say that they wanted to have the production plans finalized by the end of the year. Well here we are well into the year and they still have not said anything. The only thing I have found other than the rumors going around of ESPN just showing the SKY feed was an interview… Read more »

topgun

However we watch F1 in 2018 I do hope that the announcers are great. Without a good commentator it would be tough to watch.