When the 2018 Formula 1 season got underway in March in Australia, its long-awaited streaming service was conspicuously absent. Embracing the 21st century and adding an Internet streaming option was a major goal of Liberty Media, the sport’s new owners. But that was easier said than done. Under the previous regime, the same broadcasters who carried the races on TV also got the local streaming rights. These were all geofenced, and they precluded the sport from offering its own competing product.
But as those contracts expire, Liberty has been working to fix things. New broadcast contracts no longer include local Internet streaming rights—a major reason NBC dropped the series here in the US. As each region allows, Liberty will offer two different streaming options: F1 TV Access, which is free, and F1 TV Pro, which will cost between $8-$12 a race depending on where you live. It’s unclear from the announcement whether there will be a race-by-race option or if you must sign up for a whole season—which would cost between $70 and $150.
The free service will include live timing and audio commentary, as well as extended video highlights. F1 TV Pro will have full video of every race, including video feeds from all 20 of the cars. And now we have a launch date: after missing the first few rounds of the championship—it seems the company needed time to stress-test everything—the service will launch at the Spanish Grand Prix, running May 11-13.
For the time being, both F1 TV Access and F1 TV Pro will require a Web browser, although Formula 1 says that iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire apps will be available shortly. By this summer, the service also promises apps for the Apple TV, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV. Interestingly, although NBC refused to sign a new broadcast contract with F1 over the streaming service, the corporation will still be involved—NBC’s Playmaker Media (along with iStreamPlanet) will be responsible for systems integration and video streaming.
F1 TV will be available in Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, and much of Latin America, with other countries being added as and when the contracts allow.