The kickback on Sky getting the exclusive live rights for Formula One starting in 2019 has been quite extraordinary. For years Formula One has been available on terrestrial television in the UK, free to watch for anyone who has a television and a television licence either on the BBC, ITV or now Channel 4.
Over the years the level of access brought by these channels has increased. I remember a time when not all races were live on television at all, let alone on terrestrial, to a point where we are now able to see every session with detailed analysis around those session to enrich the broadcasting. This comes at a cost, and only Sky has the deep pockets to be able to make that sort of commitment, even coming with their own dedicated channel, and unfortunately that comes at a cost to the end consumer.
That will leave highlights only and the British Grand Prix available on terrestrial, I would presume with either ITV or Channel 4 taking the coverage for the season. If this is done correctly, I believe this will still be a success. There should be a criteria for this better than what is currently offered of two hours for early morning flyaways and ninety minutes for European, the minimum should be two hours. Time slots should also be consistent – so if it is a flyaway its shown at something like 1pm, or European at 5pm – it gets people into a routine, just as Match of the Day does with football on a Saturday night.
There is a wider reaching shift though in the way people are viewing video content, and that is away from televisions onto devices like an iPad or iPhone – or other streaming device like a Roku. Streaming looks to be the future of television, you only have to look at services like Netflix or Amazon Prime to see the way in which these are taking off, they even won the deal to get the former hosts of Top Gear to put their new show on there.
Yes, granted, Sky do have their own service called NowTV, which has their own streaming device and you can watch on tablets, but F1 could do this themselves and become the aggregator for the services.
Formula One already has an app, which they have to put their own content and features onto. Why not outsource that to the rights holders who will do a much better job, and saving money – but with the proviso that the content should be available as ‘Formula One’ on the app or website. Some of this content should be free, but the rest should be behind a paywall – as we have now at a certain amount per year. For this subscription you would get the live timing you get at the moment, as well as new features as achieve F1 races and the ability to watch live F1 sessions with your preferred rights holder, from anywhere in the world – yes, unbreak the geo-blocking.
In order for rights holder to make an income out of it, the revenue should be shared between FOM and the rights holder with options of dipping in and out of the coverage – so you could buy a one race pass for example, whatever it is, it needs to be flexible. The idea that you are going to have a wide audience that sits down in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon (or whatever time it might be in your time zone) is outdated. People travel more and get content from different sources now, not just the establishment or the tradition.
Yes, I’m sorry, this is going to mean you are going to have to spend a little. Really, I wouldn’t mind that if I am getting a service which is truly personal to me, in a way that I want it delivered – be in on television or not.
The archaic structure needs to change, otherwise the numbers will continue to fall.