Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The sun always shines on internet TV // Coping with more content than we know what to do with

Published by Mr. C

Jean-Éric Vergne, Scuderia Toro Rosso
Credit: Getty Images/Red Bull

The majority of the month of August inside Sidepodcast HQ has seen us preoccupied with internet television. With little in the way of Formula 1 action to distract us, the August 1st launch of new UK broadcaster BT Sport has brought all manner of interesting new content into our lives.

BT's brand new channels sit alongside familiar international ESPN material and two bonus streams from Eurosport. Having never previously bought into satellite or cable packages, this gives us unprecedented access to live sporting action. Football, baseball, tennis, rugby, plus all manner of alternative motorsport are now accessible live and on demand via this new set top box of joy.

We're up all night for good fun

Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, this same month Sky launched a set top box of their very own. The tiny NOW TV Box brings Sky Sports and Sky Movies to your big screen TV direct over the internet. This competing box of joy offers access to a further six sport channels which happens to include coverage of every F1 session this year.

Accompanying these two new boxes beside our television is the long serving Apple TV, which for the past few years has provided direct access to live and on demand NBA and MLB coverage. We therefore find ourselves in the summer of 2013 quite literally drowning in sea of sporting choice and that's before we consider things such as Vevo's all new 24/7 music channel, or the improbably large library of television and movie content that can be streamed with a Netflix subscription or downloaded through iTunes.

It might be interesting to consider, if such a wide variety of content was as easily available seven years ago when Christine dreamt up the idea for Sidepodcast, would either of us have had time to even start such an endeavour.

Back then if we wanted to watch a film or TV show on demand it required a five mile round trip to the nearest Blockbuster or HMV. In the time since we started this website Blockbuster has completely vanished from the high street while HMV are barely surviving thanks to extended life support. In a very short period of time the habits of many consumers have changed beyond recognition and things haven't even begun to slow down yet.

Recall me baby

The challenge for content owners today is making material, brands and services shine in an ever more crowded entertainment space. Back when I was younger than I am today, I was exposed to the wonders of Formula 1 through the BBC's Sunday sports show. In those days the UK only had four linear television channels, while 'on demand' meant you had to rewind the cassette tape before returning it.

It was relatively easy to stand out from the crowd in the 1980's because there wasn't much of a crowd to begin with. Simply hosting an event worth airing almost guaranteed you a decent slice of market share, showing up to the party was enough. I began following motorsport because there wasn't much in the way of alternatives, and Christine started following it largely because I was already doing so. The obvious question that ought to be being asked right now is, how in the world are future fans meant to start watching Formula 1 today?

Motorsport needs to shout louder and shine brighter than it ever has before

Looking at the choices before us, F1's footprint in the UK is remarkably small. It occupies one channel on one set top box, which we can opt to pay to watch on a day to day basis. Additionally less than half the Grand Prix are shown free to air, where a causal observer is marginally more likely to stumble across a race in progress.

In order to garner attention amongst this seemingly limitless choice, motorsport needs to shout louder and shine brighter than it ever has before, offering consumers unique action, interesting personalities, plenty of rivalry, some headline grabbing controversies and above all unbridled wall-to-wall entertainment.

You're gonna hear me roar

Formula 1 has done a reasonable job of keeping up as the world changes. It could do better in certain areas, but at least on track, thanks to the introduction of DRS and short life tyres, it has been several seasons since we saw the desperately processional races that followed 2010's refuelling ban. Adjustments ought be considered to reduce the chances of another runaway success that will likely crown Vettel champion for the fourth straight year in a row (success ballast, reverse grids, whatever it takes), but there's not a lot wrong with the current format of races.

Beyond the circuit, things look considerably less promising.

Today F1 can just about hold its own against the tidal wave of alternative content, but I truly struggle to see how it can continue to grow its audience and appeal to the next generation of fans. The situation might well be better elsewhere in the world, but here in the UK it surely must be almost impossible to chance upon a live Grand Prix and become a new follower.

Notably nothing I've covered here evens begins to consider the disruption that tablet television brings now or in the future - an area that Formula One Management have barely shown the slightest bit of interest in, yet one that is sure to feature highly in the future of media consumption.

The rules of engagement have changed beyond recognition even in the few short years we've been writing about this particular sport. Imagine how much they might change during the next seven. In the meantime we just need to figure out where to put this gaggle of set top remotes.