Formula 1 have announced their much-anticipated online streaming service, F1 TV. This is a long-overdue development.
I am also impressed at the price point, which will be between $8 and $12 a month (that’s roughly between £6 and £9 at the current exchange rate). This is much cheaper even than the old TV service F1 Digital+, which cost subscribers £12 per race back in 2002.
Less impressive is the fact that, reading between the lines, the service won’t actually be available for the first race of the season. But that seems to be par for the course for Liberty Media’s publicity-hungry ‘announce first, plan later‘ approach to running the sport.
Oh, and please stop calling it an “OTT platform”. No-one knows what that means. I’m a broadcasting geek, and even I had to look it up when Sean Bratches started talking about OTT.
Not for UK fans
Of course, the new streaming service won’t be available in the UK due to the long-term deal with Sky. This is exactly what I meant when I said Bernie Ecclestone’s fixation with TV would be F1’s undoing. With the TV sports rights bubble about to burst, Sky got F1 by the short and curlies by locking it into a long-term deal that will leave British viewers with an inferior service.
With the rise of Netflix and other online streaming services, this is a time of change for broadcasters. Just today, Comcast has bid £22.1 billion to buy Sky. Sky was already in the process of selling to 21st Century Fox. 21st Century Fox itself is in the process of being bought by Disney. All of this is part of a big power play to enable the traditional broadcasters to rise to the challenge to Netflix.
Right now, would you rather be moving to online streaming, or would you rather be locked in to a traditional broadcaster’s platform until 2025? By launching their new service, Formula 1 have made it clear where they think they should be. But thanks to Bernie Ecclestone’s short-sighted deal, they won’t be full players in the online space for a long time to come. Unless Sky relinquish. And why would they?