More details have emerged about the new F1 Live OTT platform, as outlined by F1’s head of marketing Ellie Norman, who describes the boldness of the project as ‘pretty insane’.
Typing the words ‘F1’s head of marketing’ still feels slightly strange, seeing as for decades it was the only global Tier 1 sport that did not even have a marketing department, let alone a head.
Bernie Ecclestone used to rely on manufacturers, race promoters and sponsors to market the sport of Formula 1 for him. This kept the overheads down on the F1 Management side, while Ecclestone gleefully whipped up regular media attention by lobbing in regular hand grenades, which the newspapers gratefully jumped on.
Now it’s all rather different, although the infrastructure to make the new F1 Live OTT platform was all put in place by Ecclestone. He just chose not to use it for that, as he was all about protecting the rights of his broadcast partners.
Norman was previously at cable TV supplier Virgin Media and believes that the nature of the modern consumer who has a passion point is “… that passion tends to overrule the rational side of things; it is not uncommon if you have a pay TV bundle that you will have one or two of the top subscriptions. I think that with consumer behaviour and the desire to buy things you love, consumers are making that choice. If you are interested you will pay.”
That is the calculation; that of the potential audience for F1, identified at 500 million sports fans around the world, even if 1% of them paid their $8 a month for the OTT service, that would yield $40m a month, or almost half a billion dollars a year.
There is also the opportunity to upsell the packages in future; a Lewis Hamilton fan in Delhi could access more rich content about Hamilton and he could take a revenue share. There is also great value to F1 and its partners from the data that would be gathered about the consumers.
But for now it’s all about going direct to the fans and to make the fans’ access to F1 as frictionless as possible.
“Everyone is offering fans more direct access, we are incredibly fortunate with the access that we have through our sport,” Norman (above) said in an interview with digital media title The Drum. “We are going direct to the fan so we are then able to give them the best experience possible,” she told The Drum. There is nowhere else out there with 24 livestreams coming into the app and that is pretty insane – I don’t think that has been done before.”
“It is a very strategic sport and for that hardcore fan, they really understand the excitement but the strategic elements, having the ability to personalise how you watch it and being able to select favourite drivers and view that side by side, these are all elements where we can better serve our fans.”
The F1 OTT service will be rolled out in about two dozen countries, including USA, France, Germany and some Latin American markets – those where F1 has not ceded the digital rights to TV broadcast partners. That is the case in UK and Italy where Sky has the rights. F1 is talking to Sky about bundling the OTT rights.
Formula E is trying an experiment, streaming its final races of the season on Twitter to fans in Japan.
FE CEO Alejandro Agag told Autosport: “We want to use it as a bit of an experiment, see how it goes there.
“We are definitely exploring new ways of broadcasting, of getting the races to the fans.
“It’s a priority for us now, and not only for us – you’ve seen Formula 1 announce a new OTT platform, which is something brilliant.
“All of us, we need to make an effort to really adapt to the new technologies.
“FE has been a leader in that since the beginning and this is another example.”
* Elsewhere in the industry, social networks are getting more entrenched in live sport in the USA; the US soccer series Major League Soccer has announced a streaming deal with Twitter. The social network will show at least 24 live matches per season, with the games to be made available in the US via the @MLS and @UnivisionSports Twitter handles. And Major League Baseball has done a streaming deal with Facebook.
None of the tech or social media giants came in so far in the bidding round for the English Premier League. F1 is supposed to announce a behind the scenes documentary series with Netflix, but this has yet to be confirmed.
What do you think of the F1 OTT platform and if you live in an eligible country, will you buy it? Leave your comments below