eXtensions - Sunday 5 March 2018
Cassandra - Formula One Expected to Join the Modern World: but not South-east Asia
By Graham K. Rogers
A couple of things improved the events in the 1970s: the arrival of the irreverent Hesketh team and James Hunt, the March kit-car, the Cosworth V8 engine (the block was developed from two 4-cylinder Cortina engines) and Bernie Ecclestone.
At that time he owned the unsponsored Brabham F1 team - his own money supported the costs - but he did manage to persuade Martini to join the party before he went off to do more things and become a billionaire in the process. He saw that with the show properly run and promoted, television and income from advertising, was the key to the franchise. He milked it for all it was worth, for good and bad. His understanding of media then and the selling of the races as a package to the TV companies made him and many others, a lot of money.
Bernie Ecclestone was (in my view) a product of the 1960s and 1970s when a TV channel was viewed as a licence to print money, but in the time of the internet, all traditional media are learning that the sun is setting. Ecclestone seems to have understood that (in part) and Formula One Management is now run by Liberty Media.
With MotoGP online, and most of my viewing also coming from internet sources, it was uneconomic for me to continue subscribing to the cable TV if all I was watching were the 21 F1 races. I did have the iOS timing app and was able to follow the progress of cars digitally, but I found the BBC Radio 4 commentary less informative than what I had been used to from Star TV transmissions carried here (Martin Brundle and David Croft).
The commentary also had frequent and annoying mentions of other sports (in which I had zero interest) and regular silences as the channel was given over to short reports from other sports for radio listeners. This year, for the first time since that app appeared I did not renew my subscription.
I am not alone in changing loyalties: the traditional channels and their fixed scheduled no longer work for many viewers (newspapers are finding similar shifts). I wrote several times in the last year or two, referring to my experience of the Dorna MotoGP service, that the time was long overdue for Formula One to modernize itself and deliver content via the internet. Well, now it is.
Availability may be a problem for me as Thailand is not listed (certain monopolies may thwart this, at least for now). Indeed Dieter Rencken and Keith Collantine (RaceFans) list the countries and none are listed for South-east Asia.
The cost cited also seems realistic. In my earlier speculations I had expected a series cost of around $200. The release shows a monthly basis of USD$8-$12, with annual rates priced according to market. With a season of 9 months (March to November) the cost could be $72 - $84 with the cited rates if a viewer wanted to watch all races. I most certainly would; and this is considerably cheaper than the cable TV subscription.
With the various viewing options it appears to be similar to how Dorna works with their delivery, although only last season they were still using Flash for browser access. Access on iOS devices was much smoother for me and I mostly always used AirPlay to view content on the television.
I would hope that Liberty Media, although they have considerable experience of content delivery in the USA, have consulted with DornaGP who - while not in competition - are working in a similar field. I also hope that many of the reports that the company wants to make more of a spectacle out of each race - presentations of drivers at the US Grand Prix in October last year, called "glitzy" were much criticised and some teams (notably Ferrari) are uncomfortable with some of the ideas mooted.
I can go and make tea if there are any glitzy bits.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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