F1 plans OTT service for 2018

Formula 1 has revealed plans to launch an online live streaming service in 2018 as it reviews its digital and broadcast strategies.

While the sport, under the previous management of Bernie Ecclestone, was wary of embracing new platform technology, new owner Liberty Media is keen to exploit digital opportunities, with a live streaming service from races set to be rolled out for the start of next season.

F1’s commercial chief Sean Bratches has admitted the sport needs to provide an ‘over the top’ offering if it was going to attract bigger future audiences. “We have an obligation to our fans, quite candidly, to ensure that they are able to access our content in any means they want,” he told Autosport F1 writer Jonathan Noble. “We would be derelict if we pursued a path for anything other than that.”

According to Bratches, the aim is to create platforms in the direct-to-consumer arena that engage fans and leverage F1’s assets – whether they are live races, archival or data.

The live OTT offerings will only be available in markets without pre-exiting television deals that have guaranteed exclusivity.

Equity analysts at investment bank Exane BNPP has reminded investors in a note on that it has long held the view that the new broadcasting disruptors would be exerting considerable pressure on established pay-TV operators.

The bank says: “F1 is quite unique as it’s one of the few sports that have truly global appeal. Thus, it would make a good fit for Netflix…. Netflix Sports next up? Liberty Media would partly hurt Sky by doing this as Virgin is its big UK competitor to Virgin.  But it is Amazon that we see as the nearer-term threat to bid on sports – I noticed last night that Prime video is now the lead sponsor of the NFL Redzone channel and in Europe we see Amazon as a risk to bid on EPL rights at the next auction opportunity. English football appeals to a key demographic they lack and is the kind of differentiated exclusive content that will attract a critical mass to its platform.”

“We believe sports right inflation will continue in the next  5 years driven notably by telcos, a trend already well engaged, but  also  increasingly  by  streaming  players – with Amazon in a “prime” position to do so,” adds the bank.

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