There is no denying that Formula 1 live coverage has improved one hundred fold since Liberty Media purchased the sport, the virtual non-existent social media platforms are now being optimised with well-presented content with exciting plans on the cards to continue improving the live digital experience.
While Formula 1 ramped up their social media to a very high level, they also blew life into the old fashioned and staid manner of how live races were being covered.
During the course of 2018, infographics improved dramatically as did the quality of images and camera angles, and there is more in store according to Dean Locke, F1’s Director of Broadcast and Media.
He told Auto Magazine, “We’ve got really dedicated viewers, but we’re also in the business of attracting new audiences to the sport in a competitive marketplace.”
“In the past, we were social media limited. Now there’s a lot of really good content out there which is a bit more bite size. It’s been hugely popular, having content on those platforms. Delivery is changing and hopefully, we’re in front of it.”
“Last year was a big year for developments. The new owners have a different take on the sport – provide more entertainment – and wanted to develop the broadcasts. If we look back at 2017 it’s incredible, what we rolled out for 2018.”
“We had new graphics – they looked a little staid before. We took influences from gaming online, all areas, to brighten them up. Without patronising more learned viewers we wanted to make sure people could tune in halfway through the race and understand what’s going on.”
Locke revealed that innovation will be ongoing, “As you can imagine creating new onboards, and having them connect to our systems, you’re working pretty much a year in advance. We should bear some fruits of that in 2019 with some interesting angles.”
“You saw a couple of little teasers in Abu Dhabi – the Fernando Alonso face shot – and also the thermal overlays onto normal onboards. So we’re pushing really hard on that.”
Formula 1 sound, or lack thereof, is another area which Locke says will be tackled, “It’s a challenging environment, F1 audio. The onboard camera team designed some microphones that go around the engine, mostly the exhaust, to get some of that visceral sound. Parts around the engine are extremely hot, so finding something that didn’t just catch fire was a challenge!”
For the first time last year Formula 1 introduced F1 TV, their Over The Top (OTT) streaming, a great and long overdue concept (following in the footsteps of MotoGP and WRC) but the roll-out was problem packed and the initiative got a bad rap from day one.
Right now it is working fine, but non-live viewership during the offseason is lower than when qualifying and races are streamed live, which is when F1 TV has wobbled in the past and consequently angered many paying subscribers.
Liberty Media chief Chase Carey acknowledged there were problems with FI TV in its rookie season, plagued with technical issues when launched followed by niggles that continued to the last race of the season.
In retrospect, F1 TV was not ready to cater for the paid viewers they attracted.
Needless to say, Carey described 2018 as a “beta year” for F1 TV and believes he knows what is needed to make it a success, “To me, there are three steps in building this out. First, there are the technical platforms, they’ve got to be reliable, customers don’t tolerate glitches. Second, we’ve got to define the content offering.”
“People buy the content, they don’t buy technology. Then we’ve got to sell and market it. We didn’t really do that [in 2018] because we focused on getting things done sequentially.”
F1 TV is a no bells and whistles – Netflix style platform – with great archive footage of full grand prix races dating back to 1981 (at time of writing) as well as older TV interviews and documentaries with a Formula 1 angle.
The service recently exclusively released the well made and entertaining ‘Michael Schumacher: The Making of a Legend’ – an example of how to create new and relevant content by maximising the historical footage at their disposal from their vaults. One would imagine that this is the first of many such productions.
Furthermore, it has been confirmed that nine hours of preseason testing will be streamed, with eight hours live and a one hour wrap up show at the end of each of the eight test days in Barcelona.
As for glitches, later this month live coverage of pre-season F1 testing will allow them to evaluate capacity with many fans sure to be logging in, but the true test will be at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix when the majority of subscribers are likely to log on simultaneously to watch qualifying and the race on F1 TV.
How the service copes during the Melbourne weekend only time will tell, but one would imagine they have the bandwidth and streaming issues sorted out.
This is their second attempt to get it right and avoid getting another bad rap which F1 TV (2.0) can ill-afford. On the other hand, IF all goes well, the future is looking peachy for F1 TV subscribers.
Big Question: Will you subscribe to F1 TV if they sort out the niggles?