Until this year, the lack of a streaming service for Formula One was mostly down to a combination of apathy and contracts, as Bernie Ecclestone, who ran the sport for decades, got there by buying up the broadcast rights to each race, eventually packaging them all together in a move that made him extremely wealthy and changed the sport into the polished, glossy, elitist thing it is today. And there was a time when Ecclestone even embraced progress. In the late 1990s, he launched a pay-per-view channel called F1 Digital+, which didn’t take ad breaks and offered multiple video and audio feeds.
Liberty Media has been planning a two-tier service in English, French, Spanish, and German. There’s a free service, called F1 TV Access, with similar features to the previous F1 mobile apps, minus the paywall: live timing and scoring, radio commentary, plus video highlights. The other tier is a subscription service called F1 TV Pro, restricted to regions where Liberty’s contracts permit; among the markets Liberty announced at the beginning of March were “Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, and much of Latin America.”
The F1 TV Pro feed would include all F1 practice and qualifying sessions, as well as feeds from each driver’s car, plus coverage of the support races. Both F1 TV Access and F1 TV Pro would have to be viewed via a Web browser, although mobile apps are apparently in the works for iOS, Android, and Amazon devices. As far as we can tell, that is still the idea, yet if you were hoping to try it out for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, it is now time to find a different solution in order to watch the race. A Formula One spokesperson has confirmed that for the moment the launch is on hold: “We will do a stress test/beta test session during the Melbourne weekend with the aim to be fully operational as soon as possible. It won’t be a public test, it will be an internal test. We will have people spread in various locations in the world, testing the system and functionalities.”
It is an unfortunate misstep for Liberty Media, even more given the fact that the point of a media company taking over the sport was suppose to be its competence in delivering media: “We need to stress test the servers” is something someone should have thought of and said months ago, not on the eve of the first race of the year.