The deal that changes F1 forever
Innovation
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Feb 2012   |  1:07 pm GMT  |  211 comments

“It’s the most significant moment for F1 since the advent of satellites,” says Eddie Baker, the man responsible for broadcasting F1 TV and data around the world.

Today in London, F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone unveiled a deal which will transform the way live F1 races are broadcast and all forms of digital content are consumed.

It’s the key which opens up a door onto a new era for F1. Satellite TV revolutionised the sport in the late 1970s, by making it possible for millions of fans to watch races live around the world. This was Ecclestone’s first revolution, providing the platform which made F1 a global sport, raising billions in revenues.

This long-term deal with Tata Communications, providing fixed line connectivity, opens the door for endless possibilities, way beyond what satellites can do, including broadcasting F1 on the internet, for interactivity between audience and the broadcaster at the circuit.

Tata has the largest network of undersea cables in the world and using MPLS technology it’s very fast and cost effective compared to previous offerings.

The deal begins with Tata setting up fixed line connectivity at all the 20 Grands Prix for FOM to send its data, such as track maps. The capacity that FOM will start out with is ten times what is currently available. But they have proved out the model to 100x what’s currently available, so within a few years it will be the means by which the world feed TV pictures are broadcast, as there are no delays unlike satellite.

“Formula 1 wants to transform the way it broadcasts the races and we can and will be a big part of it,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Tata Communications.

It will also handle video playouts by all the broadcasters on site, all the communications by the media. It brings a standardisation to the means of delivery of content from F1 races. Basically it connects F1 to the world in a completely new way.

It increases the amount of connectivity time, as it’s always on, unlike a satellite which is on for a matter of hours and it’s bi-directional, which means it allows the audience to interact with the sport, rather than sit back and consume. It means the sport can have individual relationships with fans, can supply content on a global and even individual basis, looking well down the line.

It will also greatly reduce the tonnage of equipment that FOM TV sends around the world as images can be sent back instantly and processed at the FOM broadcast centre in the UK.

I put it to Baker that Ecclestone is renowned for being suspicious of the internet and has been accused of missing opportunities as a result. According to Baker this deal opens the door to endless possibilities,

“It gives him the ability to be able to do whatever rights deals he feels are right without limitations,” said Baker. “That means he can assess every opportunity, he can react to every opportunity, he can move with the times in perhaps a way that we were not able to do in the past.”

Ecclestone himself at the launch quipped that he’d not done a deal like this previously because, “I’m getting old! “. But there’s no doubt that this is a complete game changer for the sport and the way fans receive it. Many will fear that it spells the end of F1 on free to air TV. But their businesses are under threat anyway. As traditional broadcasters like ITV and BBC in the UK and TF1 in France struggle with the changing media model and the ability to afford massive rights deals, F1 will have to look in future to new models. Clearly pay TV deals like SKY TV are one way of doing it, but they speak to small audiences. To maintain its mass appeal live paid streaming on the Internet is another option, as it sponsor funded mass market streaming in specific countries. F1, like any business, needs to find revenue and audience growth and this tool enables them to explore all the options.

Whether he’s the man still doing the deals five years from now when this technology hits its stride remains to be seen. But it’s a deal F1 needed to do and it’s now well set for the future.

Of course this makes F1 more valuable as a business and more attractive to potential bidders, should Ecclestone and CVC wish to sell the commercial rights at some point soon.

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1

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Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam remarks?

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8

Having only read through a small proportion of this thread I may have missed it but I see no discussion of the two way ability of this technology.

If you think adverts on the TV, random SMS spam to your mobile or spam to your email account is a pain in the ar5e then take note, this technology will target you personally whislt you are watching any TV, never mind F1, delivered this way.

In terms of F1 itself, have you ever watched the Superbowl? hours upon hours of meaningless analysis by incredibly uninformed commentators only there to pad the program out for the advertisers.

Call me old fashioned but I have been reading Aurosport, amongst a number of other mags for 40 years or so. I come from a motor racing background so I’m pretty well up on the technicalities of the sport. But that is all secondary now.

F1 was founded on technical and innovative excellence. It was started by manufacturers and enthusiasts who frankly, had no interest in the spectating public; they just wanted to win races.

F1 now operates merely to entertain hence DRS. Under the current restrictive regulations if one has a winning car there is very little anyone else can do to beat it. Radical changes like ground effect, turbo’s, carbon fibre tubs or active suspension can’t be introduced because they create to big an advantage however short lived.

After 40 years I won’t be following F1 with anything more than a passing interest, instead, I’ll be watching club racing, cars or bikes, at Brands Hatch. Much more fun.

9

Absolutely Hilarious. But the kiddies will love it so we can at least make a few more bob.

10

Despite the comments about devaluing traditional broadcasting rights, actually Bernie may have done the sums and seen that having a direct relationship with subscribers, and cutting out the broadcaster middle-men, could, in the longer run, be the way to go.

Until High Speed broadband gets critical mass it’s not really going to threaten the standard broadcasting model, but when it does he has the ability to make the leap into direct subscription.

But for the moment the main benefit is a dramatic increase in the data backhaul capacity from the circuits to the rest of the world, which opens up a whole range of new possibilities.

11

I’m really going to miss Martin Brundle…sniff

12

I think if I directed what I viewed myself I would end up missing half the action because I was looking at another feed oblivious to what was going on

13

What it means to me:

I don’t know if I have to laugh or cry about the excuse that making every single viewer pay because of the rights costs getting too high.

1. All those free-to-air channels will be FORCED to quit broadcasting because of they can’t afford the high rights costs anymore.

2. They (FOM) and his followers make us believe that these high rights costs are inevitable and necesarry to cover the costs.. bullshit.

3. All the free-to-viewers who got through the maze of the fishing net by watching free-to-air channels or online via streaming won’t have this oportunity anymore because of this more advanced technology/contrology and will have no other option than to pay if they want to watch F1.

4. All this above will be disguised in the excuse that it’s for our own good and that we should be happy the high because some new features that in reality are not necesarry.

Fark pay tv channels. I already pay for my cable tv including lots of taxes etc.. I don’t want to pay again for TV channels. Thats like paying 3 times for the same thing. Leeches I tell ya.

14

All sounds good but the issue of content ownership using internet based feeds will no doubt shape future deals and revenue opportunities. Interesting case occurring in Australia regarding AFL who have just gone down this path and found their $$$ deal maybe worth little value.

15

Seems more like marketing stunt to me. I would be surprised if F1 had plain jane VPN connections over the internet.

16

I like the idea of having lots of feeds so that I can choose what I watch and listen to, and how to do it, but I don’t like the idea of it being interactive because it will mean the dumbing down of F1 coverage. This has already happened on the BBC with their obsession with Twitter & celebrities, although sometimes there was some interesting stuff with Crofty on a Friday because the teams often participated.

17

I’m not sure that letting the viewer choose which cameras to view will really work.

For a start the commentry will be refering to what the default camera view is and not necessarily what you are watching.

And secondly the chances are that the experts are going to be a lot better at showing you the relevant action than you are yourself. And if anything happens (Such as a crash) then the world feed switches to the relevant camera very quickly (If its not already viewing it) and will show numerous replays from as many different veiws as they have it.

If you choose the camera views yourself then I suspect you will miss many of the incidents, and wont be able to switch to the correct camera in time to actually see anything interesting.

I suspect many pople will think its really cool for maybe the first 30 mins and then realise that the best way to watch it is how we watch it today.

Also, if there are 2 or more of you watching a race how annoying would it be if one person keeps switching views?!

As for itnernet feeds… My TV screen is much bigger than my monitor and I can watch my TV from a comfortable sofa. Why would I want to watch an internet feed? In fact I see no benefits of an internet feed over a TV feed at all.

18

Bear in mind this move is also not so much for our generation but for the next who we must remember will be born into, fully immersed & interwoven with the on-line world.

19

Interesting read Alan. Great to read stuff about the technical side of covering F1, particularly FOM.

20

I can’t see how sponsored streaming being the sole viewing method for everyone can possibly be avoided. No doubt they’ll try.

The logical conclusion – some way off yet, admittedly – is that everything goes over IP: all broadcast TV is doomed. So, whatever the DRM snake-oil merchants will tell you, that means the only realistic revenue option is sponsorship and advertising: things that F1 is very good at. I don’t know what Bernie’s scared of. Get it out there, let people see it, waive your rights. Sponsors pay for eyeballs. Give them everybody’s.

21

First off, this gives FOM huge bandwidth at real-time speeds to over 200 countries. That means less equipment to lug around and much more data that can be added to the world feed. As mentioned, it will be bi-directional and way more interactive than just pressing the Red button for a few camera angles. It also means a lot more real time data rather than just the live timing and usual stuff that we’re used to.

Look at this as an addition to existing terrestrial TV.

Lets face it, internet, IPTV and interactive content is the future. This will allow a lot more information to be broadcasted worldwide in real time. Ever thought of watching multiple real time on car (or helmet) broadcasts in multiple windows on your PC while the main feed is running on the telly? The possibilities with this kind of infrastructure are simply endless.

This also opens up access to people who’re not in their native country and might want a particular language commentary that’s not available locally.

Another big thing of the future is mobile. Content could be delivered in high quality over mobile in real time and who knows what kind of interactivity can be devised?

This is the future and I’m glad Bernie has done something in a long long time that I’m actually very glad about.

22

I appreciate you leaving a bit of tech talk in there James – the mention of MPLS was surprising to see!

This is exactly what F1 needs. Cut out the middle-men and digitise the broadcast, deliver it directly to fans.

I can’t wait.

24

I know this is slightly off topic…. but I sold out today… after 10 years of saying I’d never do it… I gave in… a moment of weakness… but I saw the adverts for it… and the thoughts of watching the 2012 F1 on a dedicated HD channel were too much temptation… I joined Sky!!! It better be better than the BBC coverage! Roll on March 7, and the launch of the new Sky HD F1 channel! 🙂

25

Yeah Sky knew what they were doing as with the F1 channel being non profit making really due to lack of adverts with uninterupted racing, they knew they would lure plenty people who never had sky into having the £1k whole package seeing they were committed to taking sky to view all the races anyway.

Clever thinking! thats a lot of £500-£1K’s a year nomatter how you look at it! whats the bets within 5yrs everyone has to pay per view regardless of package!

26

being a really big fan and not just being interested on watching the race as it is or being a particular fan of any team or driver and also being interested on how F1 ticks as awhole i think its great!

The Advantages are going to be obvious with so much possibilities more so in respect to how much live streams will be available ie i have visions of having 6 or so tv screens on my wall in a few yrs with the main one showing the main streaming race on race day along with selected others or all following the other action in the garages on the pit entrances continually showing replays of action/crashes post retirement unlimited time interviews etc etc etc the opportunities appear to near limitless 🙂

The downside, Well yes its going to cost somewhat more and more as time goes on probably .

But if you are really in to it you wont mind paying right?? Dont get nothing for nothing in this world unless its undesirable right ?

All sounds great to me, cant wait! 🙂

27

All very interesting. But you, James, have of course moved away from the TV side of things…

…can you tell us who you will be commentating with on 5 Live this year?

very much looking forward to flicking between Crofty/Martin, Ben/DC and you and…. over the course of the season!

28

You’ll find out soon

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