The short-term broadcasting deal with ESPN makes the United States a key test bed for Formula 1’s new over the top (OTT) service that will be launched this season.
Following the end of the NBC broadcasting deal in 2017, F1 will be shown on ESPN for the next two years, carrying Sky Sports’ coverage from the UK. Yesterday saw a new OTT service confirmed called F1 TV Pro that will allow users in a number of territories – including the U.S., where NBC is expected to be involved in the service – to stream every session live and gain access to on-board cameras and archive footage.
With the OTT service launching ahead of the Australian Grand Prix and the ESPN broadcasting deal again up for renewal at the end of next season, F1’s head of digital and new media Frank Arthofer admits the U.S. situation will show the impact of the new model.
“Yeah I think that’s a fair assessment,” Arthofer replied when asked by RACER if the U.S. is a test bed for the relationship between OTT and broadcast partners.
“The NBA has its NBA League Pass product which is its OTT product with live games from every game, not just the nationally broadcast games for the most part, available in almost every country in the world. So while this is quite new in Formula 1, this is not new to the world of sport.
“I think there are a number of existing test cases out there that serve as a relevant example for us. But it’s true, I think the U.S. is a good market for us to explore and learn how successful we’ll be there.”
And Arthofer sees the new service as a way of helping drive viewers to traditional F1 broadcasts rather than move them away from television.
“I think the short answer – and it’s true on social and true on digital – the more time people spend with Formula 1, the better it is for all stakeholders in Formula 1. We have conversations on a regular basis – and we don’t do it yet today – about other sports and the value they’ve seen of putting live clips available during a race in social media platforms which actually drives TV audience as opposed to takes away from that.
“So it’s a funny, old school way to think about it to presume that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to deliver an audience from digital to TV but it actually has that exact effect.
“So I think from our perspective this service gives fans a chance to engage more deeply with the sport and that’s a win for all of the stakeholders around it: sponsors, broadcast partners and the teams and Formula 1 itself.”