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Formula 1 Plans to (Finally) Launch Live Streaming Service

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Formula One is a little bit behind the times when it comes to digital. If you don’t have cable, you can count yourself out of luck if you want to watch a race; and even if you do have cable, not every race might be covered depending on where you live.

When Liberty Media bought the rights to the sport at the start of 2017, many hoped they would bring about a new era in F1—and so far they have been mostly on the right track. Commercial director Sean Bratches expressed his desire to turn each Grand Prix weekend into a full-blown festival and the official F1 YouTube channel has been regularly churning out fresh content that we would never have seen before under Bernie Ecclestone.

More recently, Bratches revealed that F1 intends to roll out a standalone streaming platform for broadcasting races and more—finally! “We have an obligation to our fans, quite candidly, to ensure they are able to access our content in any means they want,” he told Autosport.

He added that the platform would be “over-the-top” in what it offers, though to what extent exactly the company is still in the process of determining. Earlier in the month, it sought input from the F1 reddit community regarding what they would want out of a streaming platform.

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Bratches is also keen on providing digital content that goes beyond just racing. “We are trying to create content that lives outside the grand prix weekends, which has been almost non-existent from digital or linear standpoints,” Bratches explained. “Our objective is to engage with the Netflix of the world, the Amazons, and create content that fans can consume, which is compelling and tells different stories about what is going on in F1.”

In fact, Bratches also announced that F1 had been in talks with Netflix about a collaboration from 2018 onwards. Building an entire media platform from scratch may be a tall order, especially in such short time. Working with an existing platform like Netflix makes the entire ordeal a lot easier.

However, it’s unlikely that a deal for live broadcast rights could be made, at least not initially. “Liberty will not trample on the toes of existing media partners in possession of exclusive TV rights deals by offering a competing service,” writes The Drive’s James Gilboy. “The UK is among these markets, with SkySports owning exclusive rights to broadcast the sport until 2025.”

On the other hand, the United States—where Liberty Media has been keen on expanding F1’s presence—may very well be one of the launch markets for the new streaming service. According to Reuters, 2018 coverage of F1 will be split between ABC and ESPN, which means there should be no exclusivity rights preventing the service from launching there as soon as it goes live.

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News Sources: Autosport, Autoweek, The Drive, Reuters, reddit