eXtensions - Friday 11 May 2018


Cassandra - Formula One: Online Viewing Arrives (or not) - Updated

By Graham K. Rogers


There was a pleasant surprise in the early morning email today when I found a message from the F1 list I subscribe to about the arrival of online Formula One transmissions. Well, I thought, nice for some folks. The news reports I had seen when this service was floated a few months ago, showed that none of the countries in South-east Asia would be seeing the online transmissions. The reality is different.

With the tight control of televison transmissions Bernie Ecclestone grew the value of Formula One to the teams, advertisers and to his own Formula One Management company in the 1980s and after. Every race was expertly covered and world-wide availability of the live races made this one of the most valuable sporting franchises ever. Then the Internet arrived.

The decline was not immediately obvious, but particularly in the USA where some sports began to provide online feeds, television began to feel the pinch. Fewer viewers means advertisers rethink strategies and income for the TV companies reduces. Newspapers have felt this significantly and television is beginning to follow the same downward spiral.

I ended up cancelling my TV subscriptions. With internet television all my viewing was online, with the sole exception of Formula One and the economics (1500 baht a month for a race every 2 weeks through part of the year) did not make sense. I was already watching MotoGP on the internet by the excellent service provided by Dorna who control the commercial side of motorcycle racing and the case for Formula One following the same path was (to me) really strong.

My hopes rose when Liberty Media took over the commercial rights to the sport, although some of the US-style hoohah introduced has not pleased all fans. Nonetheless, a company that understood modern media types seemed perfectly poised to do what I wanted.

Now they have (but see below). Out of interest I clicked the link in the email and saw the circulation: "F1 TV Access is here". Followed by "Hi Graham, You asked to be one of the first to know. F1 TV Access is here. Sign up in time for Spain and get 10% off an annual subscription." The fees were also lower than I expected at an annual $26.99 ($24.29 with the initial 10% discount) or $2.99 per month. That will rise eventually.

F1 arrives

I followed the link and was surprised to see Thailand in the pulldown list of countries. I reached for the credit card and started to sign up. This was not as straightforward as I expected as I had to register first and then open a separate tab to Subscribe. I used the credit card with no real problem, but there was no PayPal option: normal for many such services. I also had a problem when I looked at the Terms & Conditions and other such links as I was not able to return to the almost-complete Subscribe form and had to start again.

Once done, an email arrived with confirmation, although no message from the credit card has yet to appear. Subscriptions will renew automatically unless cancelled.

Not so fast

TV Access does not apparently provide access to the live races in some countries and this was not really clear when following the link from that initial email. As per the initial reports, the live feeds are not available here. What TV Access provides is some basic data, but for the races I need TV Pro which of course is not available here, although users in many other countries will be able to access this.

The links and the site are not entirely clear about what is or is not available - read the fine print - and apart from feeling let down with the non-availability (I am damned if I will use the cable link here).

Disappointed after early excitement.

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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