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SKY F1 coverage set to move beyond broadcast with commitment to fibre optic

A few weeks after confirming that it has bought the exclusive rights to F1 in the UK from 2019 onwards, SKY TV has announced that it is to distribu...

SKY F1 coverage set to move beyond broadcast with commitment to fibre optic
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A few weeks after confirming that it has bought the exclusive rights to F1 in the UK from 2019 onwards, SKY TV has announced that it is to distribute from now on all its Formula 1 TV broadcast output via a global fibre optic ring, to speed up the transmission of the images.

But the suggestion is that there is more to this than meets the eye as it opens up the possibility of digital experiences well beyond broadcast and hints at what lay behind the big money move to snap up the rights into the next decade.

SKY is in the process of integrating its operations in the UK, Germany and Italy to create a European entertainment centre and the F1 commitment clearly sits at the heart of that offering, alongside its valuable football assets. It already pools resource on the ground at Grand Prix events with shared camera and edit resources.

However, in the UK SKY is locked in a tough battle with BT Sport, which captured the European football rights from SKY this season; both the Champions League and the Europa League are now shown exclusively live on BT Sport, with Liverpool due to appear in the final of the latter next week.

Many in the industry saw the buy up of F1 rights post 2019 as a defensive move against BT Sport.

Sky F1

While clearly part of the strategy, this latest technology development hints at a wider strategy. It should mean that SKY is better equipped for Over the Top services and can explore other exciting new technologies like Virtual Reality further in the future and on a global scale. The future of broadcast is around digital experiences beyond satellite and it's all about huge bandwidth and engagement with the end user, making him/her a protagonist, providing hero moments, as in the gaming space.

Rather than using a combination of satellites and fibre optic, as before, SKY will plug into the Video Connect service, provided by Tata Communications, F1's connectivity provider (and a sponsor of JA on F1), which enables broadcasters to deliver live video feeds from anywhere in the world via a subsea fibre network.

It suggests that a page is about to be turned in the way F1 fans can interact with the sport, well beyond the passive act of viewing and even of engaging with a second screen.

“The integration of our operations in Europe is focused on accelerating innovation and serving our viewers better – and Tata Communications’ global fibre network will help us do just that,” says Keith Lane of Sky. “It’s crucial that we’re able to bring our viewers action-packed, high-quality F1 racing experiences from Grands Prix around the world. And, as the way people experience F1 is constantly evolving thanks to technological advances that rely on superfast connectivity, there is scope for us to tap into Tata Communications’ global fibre network as we continue to drive innovation in F1 broadcasting.”

“F1 is the world’s most popular annual sporting series – but with races in locations as diverse as the streets of Singapore, the hills of São Paulo and the deserts of Abu Dhabi, it is also a hugely challenging environment for broadcasters,” according to Mehul Kapadia, Managing Director of F1 Business at Tata Communications. “Bringing fans brilliant, glitch-free viewing experiences requires more than just reliable, superfast connectivity on a global scale. As fans increasingly want to be part of the action unfolding on the track, we look forward to exploring future game-changing technologies with Sky to drive innovation in F1 broadcasting.”
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