Formula 1 To Stream Online For 2018, But In Limited Markets
Our prayers have been answered... almost.
Saturday, October 21. Sean Bratches of Liberty Media has spoken with Autosport, and confirmed that the new commercial rights holder of Formula 1 intends to roll out an "over the top" standalone streaming platform for broadcasting races and more. "We have an obligation to our fans, quite candidly, to ensure that they are able to access our content in any means they want," said Bratches to Autosport, "we would be derelict if we pursued a path for anything other than that. Our objective is to create platforms in the direct-to-consumer arena that engage fans and leverage our assets, whether they are live races, archival [or] are data."
In spite of Bratches considering a partnership with Netflix for a broadcast of the 2018 United States Grand Prix, Liberty will pursue an independent service of their own.
There remains a big but, we cannot lie: Liberty will not trample on the toes of existing media partners in possession of exclusive TV rights deals by offering a competing service. The UK is among these markets, with SkySports owning exclusive rights to broadcast the sport until 2025. We suspect that the United States will be one of the launch markets for the streaming service, as domestic TV coverage will be split between ABC and ESPN in 2018, according to Reuters, as there should be no exclusivity deals barring the service from launching here on day one.
The Drive reached out to Liberty Media regarding which markets will see the launch of the streaming service in 2018, and which will have to wait, but no response has been returned yet.
As for what the streaming service may offer, Bratches' comments to Autosport above are plenty revealing, as it suggests live race streaming will coexist with on-demand archival footage. Bratches also hints at filling the gap between Grand Prix weekends with additional content to be consumed at the viewers' leisure, some of which will grant additional insight into the world of F1.
"We are trying to create content that lives outside the grand prix weekends, which has been almost non-existent from digital or linear standpoints," stated Bratches to Autosport, "our objective is to engage with the Netflix of the world, the Amazons, and create content that fans can consume, which is compelling and tells different stories about what is going on in F1."
Some further idea of what the streaming service may offer can be gleaned from a reddit post, in which Liberty gathered information on the desires of the F1 community, and what they want to see from an F1 streaming service. Important features requested by users—and acknowledged by Liberty's research staff—include varying price tiers, personal stream customizability, and the ability to host individually curated streams, where users can broadcast their own commentary over top of the race.
While there is no confirmation of these features being part of the service yet, the fact that Liberty has listened to F1 fans means that these are ideas are, at a bare minimum, in consideration. That'll be good news for the fans who are tired of the commentary offered by personalities like SkySports' David Croft, or those who just wish to have some peace and quiet with their racing.