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MAKE IT HAPPEN

Online Delivery of Formula 1

// Story

Formula 1 is upgrading their technology position in order to support the growing global demand for online access to the sport. Announced this past Thursday, the partnership between F1 and TATA Communications begins with hosting the Formula 1 website on their network. Receiving between four and seven million unique visitors a race weekend, the site's increasing media-centric content is causing demand for improved online speed from all corners of the globe.

Vinod Kumar, MD & CEO, Tata Communications and Bernie Ecclestone, CEO, Formula One groupWith a blisteringly fast 1-Terabit per second network, the TATA communications infrastructure will fuel the future of media delivery for the sport while simultaneously saving money. Joe Saward brings up an excellent point in his commentary on this news, that this partnership may be motivated by lowering the costs of the broadcasting expense of the sport, while simultaneously extending the reach of the F1 and its advertising exposure. Currently, Formula 1 sends it's own broadcasting team to the races to cover the sport, including cameras and editing team. This complex, known as "Bakersville," was started by Bernie Ecclestone in the late '90s as a way to deliver the highest quality digital content directly from the track to broadcasting partners around the world. (Here's a great page from the history books, from inside Bakersville in 1999, also by Saward).

// Future

I am, as both a technophile and F1 fan, thrilled by the potential of this new partnership. Tremendous opportunity exists for F1 to delivery higher quality content and rival the best of American sports coverage. It was only this past year that F1 finally embraced high-definition content delivery to it's broadcasters, six years after NASCAR started HD broadcasting. Though the American F1 community mocks NASCAR for several reasons, NASCAR has F1 beat when it comes to American coverage and interaction.

Watching the (lack of) Daytona 500 yesterday, anyone who showed up on screen, driver or announcer, had their Twitter handle listed just below, along with a new hash tag created just to round up the discussion about the rain delay. This effort by NASCAR and FOX is a major step in the right direction for social media integration, and should be watched closely by Formula 1.

In terms of on the television, if you've watched a race on DIRECTV satellite service, the NASCAR HotPass is a great example of the diversity of programming that we really need. Viewers can choose in-car cameras from the top four drivers, watch the map of the track with car positions, and you can choose from team radio feeds to listen to as well. This might be a tough sell to much of the secretive aspects of the Formula 1 teams, but needless to say, NASCAR has got it right when it comes to fan-immersion.

Can internet TV bring that kind of experience to F1? It's not only possible, it's inevitable.  Like the music industry struggled to grasp the power of internet distribution, Formula 1 has resisted the trend and is now finally embracing the potential with this new deal with TATA.  Though spending a night on the sofa watching YouTube on your TV doesn't exactly sound like a great future for entertainment, the new ways to experience interactive and in-depth content is on it's way. Last night's Oscars brought exclusive camera views of the red carpet and backstage areas via online streaming on their site, and the Superbowl this year was broadcast online as well (albeit a frustrating first try on their part).

Having Twitter and live timing running on the laptop while watching SPEED's coverage of F1 is the norm for the hard core fans these days, but the one-way interaction with the sport is leaving lots to be desired.  Where could this new partnership with TATA take Formula 1? 

He's a list of what I'd like to see come of the new Formula 1 website:

  1. Choose a number of cameras, up to 8 for example, and pick their location and size myself
  2. Listen to pit wall radio feed for any team
  3. Listen to Race control (FIA) radio feed
  4. Watch driver's briefing before race
  5. Live timing built into the interface
  6. Twitter/Facebook chat with others (group chat with friends preferred)
  7. Full driver interviews afterwards
  8. All content stored for viewing later
  9. All 1080p HD, high bitrate codec preferred

It may be a lot to ask for the first try from Formula 1, but if all they provided was a copy of the feed from the track for a monthly fee, I'd be a happy camper for now.  There's tremendous room to grow and a promising opportunity for the sport to engage media and the more connected fan base in the US.  We are accustomed to a more connected lifestyle overall, so we expect a bit more than a singular show with limited interactivity.

If you want a taste of what's to come to your TV, I'd recommend you take a look at what Google is trying to do with GoogleTV.  Built into your TV set or a stand-alone box, GoogleTV brings interactive environments to your living room with a developer platform that affords opportunity to engage rapid growth and entrepreneurial investment.  MSNBC's app for GoogleTV is a great example of the kind of seamless interface and slick package that could be adopted with a dedicated Formula 1 application.  Let's hope Bernie's got some tricks up his sleeve and we'll see something that fans across the world can access, in high quality, without costing an arm and a leg.

"Formula 1 and Circuit of The Americas Ready to Roll"

 

Adding to the positive news from the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting earlier this morning, Circuit of The Americas has issued a press release confirming:

COTA has reached an agreement with F1 Management, ensuring the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix remains on the FIA Formula 1 World Championship race calendar.

Bernie Ecclestone "received his check today" (Joe Saward believes the price tag to now be $35MM).

Construction will resume immediately, ensuring completion for the 2012 race date.

Tavo's vision is referenced but as reported earlier, we do not see his information on the COTA website any longer.

You can read the full release here.

Congratulations to our friends at Circuit of The Americas! We are hopeful that the Texas weather will continue to cooperate so construction can progress at full steam ahead.

We are already reading your mind. You're thinking: "When do tickets go on sale!?" You should sign up for their official email list by clicking HERE.

//UPDATE

Formula 1 adds the news to their front page

Austin Remains on 2012 F1 Calendar

More official reports are emerging that the 2012 F1 calendar has been ratified by the FIA World Motor Sport Council at their meeting in New Delhi. This means the Austin Formula One race scheduled for November 16-18, 2012 officially remains on the calendar. This is also an opportune time to mention that it was never officially removed from the F1 calendar, despite rumors and gossip over the past month amidst what we believe to be heavy negotiations.

Official Press Release from the December 7, 2011 World Motor Sport Council meeting is here.

While we share in the excitement and relief of this announcement, it will be interesting to continue to see what announcements are made over the next 12 hours; it is 5 o'clock in the morning in Austin, Texas and we expect further details to emerge from Circuit of The Americas. What sort of deal was reached with COTA and F1? Was Tavo Hellmund involved? Will construction resume immediately? Is it feasible to complete the Circuit in time for inspection ahead of November 16, 2012? Have local hotel rooms been released for anxious travelers to book up?

As you've come to expect...stay tuned!

Nick Craw meets with Formula 1 United States team members as well as local, city and state officials and gave the project development plan his approval and a strong “thumbs up”. Nick Craw, ACCUS President for the US, Senate President of the FIA; Tavo Hellmund, Chairman of the Formula 1 United States; Peter Wahl, Managing Partner of Tilke GmbH. Taken 21 October 2010.

 

Formula 1 Re-Signs With Austin for 2012

// FORMULA ONE CONTRACT SIGNED

We have recieved confirmation from our reliable sources that Austin is a go for 2012, but there will be some changes with the various partners involved.  These details will likely make their way out in the next 12 hours, so at this point we are still unclear what issues were resolved with the revised contract.

Needless to say, it's been a roller coaster ride the last few weeks with the statements by Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone and Circuit of The Americas, regarding the fate of Austin's future race.  Tavo Hellmund's press conference also made it clear that there were some serious issues that needed to be worked out within the COTA organization, but the parts of the puzzle are still yet to be solved.

//UPDATE 01

Pit Pass is also reporting from their sources the same confirmation.

Stephen Cole Smith at Autoweek also reporting that a deal may be reached.

//UPDATE 02

 Peter Habicht of F1US.co pointed out that the Circuit of The Americas website no longer lists Tavo Hellmund as a partner; he was previously listed as "Founding Partner."  Very interesting...

//UPDATE 03

Andrew Benson (BBC), Alan Baldwin (Reuters) and Adam Cooper are stating that an unchanged 2012 F1 race calendar has been released but not yet confirmed by the World Motor Sport Council. We'll continue to stay on top of this.

//UPDATE 04

Offically confirmed by Circuit of The Americas and Formula 1: Details here

Circuit of The Americas Ready to Deliver $25 Million

Special Delivery for Mr. EcclestoneCircuit of The Americas has issued a bold statement on this Thanksgiving holiday: we have the cash to pay Formula One Management's 2012 race sanctioning fee and we've met the contractual requirements to proceed with our race. Now, it appears that the ball is in Bernie's court to countersign the contract. Here is the release:

Circuit of The Americas Ready to Pay Sanctioning Fee and Offering More
Proposal Satisfies 2012 Request, Accelerates Payments for Subsequent Years


AUSTIN, Texas - November 24, 2011 - Circuit of The Americas has responded to Formula One Management's contract requirements by agreeing to an immediate cash payment of the sanctioning fee for the 2012 United States Grand Prix (USGP). In addition, Circuit of The Americas has offered to establish an advance payment schedule for USGP races beyond 2012. The offer comes after several weeks of talks, and once accepted, will secure the USGP on the Formula 1 race calendar.

 "We have been ready to send Mr. Ecclestone a sanctioning fee check for some time now," said Bobby Epstein, founding partner of Circuit of The Americas. "He hasn't received it yet because the new contract presented to us two weeks ago contained unrealistic and unfeasible demands. We have signed and returned a contract similar to what we anticipated receiving. This race should be a reality, but if we are going to make the 2012 race date, we must receive a countersignature in the coming few days. We believe the teams, fans, sponsors and local business share our enthusiasm and hope that their voices will be heard."

We have been anticipating Bernie to make an announcement about our Austin Grand Prix this weekend, during the last race of the 2011 season from the Brazilian Grand Prix.

What is most interesting to us is that COTA has confirmed the viability to pay the 2012 race sanctioning fee immediately with $25 million in cash. You will recall, that the Comptroller of the State of Texas, Susan Combs, recently retracted her offer to pay Formula One Management its $25 million sanctioning fee in advance of the race. She explains the change of events in an interview with local Austin news channel KVUE; you can watch the unedited version of the video by clicking here.

How will Bernie respond? What role is Tavo playing going forward? With the recent halt in construction, is it feasible for us to finish the track in time for our slated November 18, 2012 race date? These are still real questions that will be answered in due time, but we feel reassured that our investors have answered Bernie's recent demands by committing the payment and contract.

As Will Buxton told us all back in June, we all want the 2012 race to happen, so let's MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Don't forget, we have our last downtown watch party of the 2011 season back at Six Lounge this Sunday. We'll kick things off at 1:30 PM with food from Pluckers Wing Bar and drink specials from Red Bull and Pepe Z Tequila. Come ready to race because Robert DeGroff will have his ever popular iRacing simulator on hand for guests to take for a spin.

Sunday, November 27, 1:30 PM
Six Lounge, 117 W. 4th Street, Austin
Free and open to adults over the age of 21
Facebook Event Invitation here

Hope to see you all this Sunday, and Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends!