Formula 1 plans to launch an online live streaming service for fans in 2018 as part of a radical overhaul of its digital and broadcast strategies.
With F1’s new owners Liberty Media having spent the last 12 months analysing the sport, bold plans are being put in place that will change the way fans can watch grand prix racing.
With a big effort being made to expand its digital presence, a live streaming service from race weekends, plus another offering in between events that offers extra data and behind-the-scenes footage, are set to be rolled out for the start of next season.
Although the plans have not yet been formally announced, F1’s commercial chief Sean Bratches has told Motorsport.com that the sport had no choice but to pursue an OTT offering if it was going to attract bigger audiences in the future.
“We have an obligation to our fans, quite candidly, to ensure that they are able to access our content in any means that they want,” he said. “And I think we would be derelict if we pursued a path for anything other than that.”
While there have been rumours that F1 could use platforms like Netflix or Amazon for a live stream offering, Bratches is clear that it will be done entirely in-house.
“Our objective is to create platforms in the direct to consumer arena that engage fans and leverage our assets – whether they are live races, whether they are archival, whether they are data,” he said.
Bratches is looking at opportunities to work with Netflix and Amazon, though, to create more content that is suitable for them.
“What we are trying to do is we are trying to create content that lives outside the grand prix weekends, which has been almost non-existent from digital or linear standpoint," he added.
“Our objective is to engage with the Netflix of the world, the Amazons of the world, and create content that fans can consume, which is compelling and tells different stories about what is going on in F1.”
Live stream offerings will only be made available in markets where it does not clash with pre-exiting television deals that have guaranteed exclusivity.
The launch of the live stream service was one of the reasons that United States broadcaster NBC shied away from renewing its rights deal – because it did not want to face competition from the sport’s own promoter.
One market where a live streaming service is unlikely to be offered is the UK, with Sky having agreed a lengthy multi-year exclusive contract that precludes a rival service from going up against it.
Asked about whether a live stream offering was possible for the UK market, he said: “I don’t want to get into specifics of any given contract, but generally speaking, our ability to exploit the digital market place will come in deals that are not prospective, rather than legacy deals.
“There wasn’t as keen a viewpoint for the exploitation of digital in the existing deals that have been done.”
Beyond the live streaming offering, F1 is also planning a revamp of its television offering to help improve what fans get to see at home.
“We are going to next year have a brand new graphics package,” added Bratches. “We will have a whole new production point of view – in terms of how we go to the marketplace. This is a window of time where everyone is benefitting. It is unique.”
There are also plans to tailor the images that are available in each market so they are better focused on local interest – whether it is through focusing on a driver or team that is of most interest, or well tailored graphics and commentary.
“The genesis of that was my frustration at watching grands prix in the USA where I had to watch in kilometres per hour,” he said. “That is not how we live here.
“We are going to put unique feeds into territories next year that reflect the metrics that are adopted by the specific territories.
"We are looking at a number of things in relation to world feed that relates to commentary, that relates to appropriate graphic language and things of that nature.”