Formula 1 which is hosted across 20 odd circuits around the world and enjoys TV viewership from 400 million people, making it one of the most followed sport series globally. Broadcasting the F1 races works quite differently than other sports, where the operations are undertaken at the Formula 1 Technical Centre located at Biggin Hill, England with very little or no production taking place at the circuits. This rather complicated method of content delivery meant that its distribution was limited to a few select outlets, something that Tata Communications plans to change in 2017 by making the sport more accessible to their fans.
Tata Communications is the Official Connectivity Provider for the series since 2012, providing infrastructure, services, and support to Formula One Management (FOM) which produces the content that is broadcasted live. The company owns the largest subsea fibre optic cable network (named the Tata Global Network, TGN), that carries the live signal & data from the race track to the F1 Technical Centre in England where the production team works on the content and releases it to TV companies which then beam the content live to viewers.
From 2017 F1 will offer an Ultra High Definition feed (UHD or 4K) to viewers in the UK. This follows a successful trail broadcast during last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. UHD broadcast has been enabled using Tata Communications’ ‘Video Connect’ service. Furthermore, as Tata Communications demonstrated at the Singapore GP last year, ‘Over the Top’ content delivery which entails direct feed of races bypassing a broadcaster to viewers using platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. We may eventually see Formula One Management develop an OTT platform that hosts F1 content exclusively that fans may access continually and not just during race weekends. Direct access can also mean better content to passionate fans since the need to advertise may be minimised.
Other gains from the F1- Tata Communications partnership include a significant reduction in personnel at racetracks and freight to be transported across tracks. The technology in use here has evolved so much that the team based in the F1 Technical Centre can operate a trackside robotic camera sans the camera operator! It also means that the age-old trackside ‘Broadcast Centre’ where much of the race weekend was produced and transmitted has been discarded. Today, setting up TV operations at an F1 track essentially entails ensuring optimal placement of cameras which are then plugged into the Tata Global Network.
Liberty Media, the new owners of F1 have indicated that they intend to bring the sport closer to fans and improve content delivery. While UHD transmission is a step in the right direction, OTT content delivery using the capability demonstrated by Tata Communications may be the game changer that F1 needs.
Image source – Tata Communications