Why Formula 1 needs to embrace the internet
Formula 1 is the third most-watched sporting event in the world, behind only the Football World Cup and the Olympics. This can be mostly attributed to the efforts of FOCA and Bernie Ecclestone in the 1980s and 1990s, who turned the sport from a minority interest to a major global event. In fact, the only major market it hasn't been very successful in is the United States, which I suspect is more due to Americans being more interested in NASCAR than Formula 1. However, in the new millenium, Formula 1 has dropped the ball big time. Firstly there was the failure of F1 Digital +, which resulted in a lot of money being wasted for little gain, and also meant that the pay TV market seemed less lucrative than before. In recent years F1's development of ne broadcasting technology has stalled, with 16:9 widescreen only being introduced in 2007, and HD yet to be introduced (although much of the equipment is now HD, there is no HD quality feed ayailable to broadcasters). However the thing that stands out most to me is Formula 1's lack of legal internet broadcasting. Yes, I know the BBC offers lots of content, but the BBC is only available in the UK (without using proxy servers, that is). And I also know that IPTV rights are being handed out to broadcasters such as Spain's La Sexta, Australia's One HD and Finland's MTV3MAX. I will assume that internet broadcasting is, given the trend, being handed out to broadcasters, who then decide what to do with their internet broadcast rights. But this creates the problem of inequality, and will mean that viewers in Country X will get better coverage than Country Y. Also, some broadcaster will exercise the right to broadcast classic F1 races, others will not. Season reviews with 10-minute edits of each race don't cut it with F1 fans anymore, however, as they'd much rather watch the whole race with commentary by Murray Walker. However, there is a way of providing coverage online that will be fair to all. I had a look at the MotoGP website, a fair comparison, given the similarities between them and their shared fanbases, and I was shocked at the difference between it and the F1 website. Both offer live timing and free delayed short race highlights, and that's where the similarities end. Whereas the F1 site will not offer anything more, the MotoGP site offers a range of 'videopasses', which offer everything from live streaming of each session (in varying quality levels) to digitally remastered versions of classic races. I am sure that if F1 were to offer a similar service to fans they would get a lot of money, given that they don't charge over-the-top amounts of money. There is a reason why many fans use YouTube and Justin TV, and that is, quite simply, lack of availability. Sure, some F1 fans would still use it, but they would lose the moral high ground, due to there being a legal alternative. The only issue I can see is that it may be perceived as being going into competition with the broadcasters, but this is a non-issue for MotoGP and fail to see how it could be a major issue for F1. The most likely thing would be that viewers would abandon poor broadcasters, particularly if it is a pay TV broadcaster, but this would be an issue for the broadcaster and not F~0~M. The only other issue is that of the broadcaster having exclusive rights, but this could be solved with appropriate compensation from F~0~M regarding the change. If I were F~0~M I'd also broadcast on mobile phones as well. All that is certain is that at the moment, F~0~M are in a position where they need to embrace new technologies, otherwise they stand to lose viewers, particularly viewers that are of the younger generation.