I’m a pretty big motorsport fan, and have been since I first started being taken out to circuits by my parents at the age of 3 or 4. Weekends were either spent watching bikes or mainly cars dicing at high speed on TV or standing in the cold and rain at places like Brands Hatch and Lydden Hill, and I always loved it – I dreamed of racing and still regret not having quite enough determination and focus as a kid to give it a proper try, or making more of the potential chances I had when I started at Motorcycle News. One of my remaining ambitions is to enter a full competitive race in the next couple of years.
But in the meantime, I indulge myself with taking racing far too seriously in videogames, and watching as much as I can on TV, work and family permitting. So I was pretty excited about the start of Formula One again this weekend.
Well, at least I was. Because this year the coverage is split between the BBC and Sky, meaning that for many weekends, the BBC will be showing highlights packages that are pretty comprehensive, but that’s just not the same as live coverage.
Nevermind, I thought. I’d forgotten to check, but figured that in 2012, there must be a way to purchase live access. Sky obviously have it bundled with annual subscriptions to a load of stuff I’ll never watch or need, so those options were out – £30 for a couple of races per month seemed a bit excessive. So I checked the official site.
And you can buy live timing. You can buy access to highlights videos. But there’s no way to purchase access to live broadcasts.
How to do internet TV right:
When it comes to motorcycling, there are two options. The first is that World Superbikes is available via Eurosport for a more reasonable max of £34.99 for a year, or £3.99 per month, which is far better if all I’m watching will be on two-wheels. I’m guessing their approach and data suggests most people aren’t spending all day streaming, hence the low cost, so I just hope it doesn’t rise as more and more TV-connected devices are in use.
But for years, the premier motorcycle championship has had a great service for those obsessed with two-wheels (which is ironic as it’s also been available free via the BBC for a few years now). At MotoGP.com you can pay 99.95 Euros for a year, and you get HD live and archive video, live timing, interviews and an on-board camera experience, allowing you to control the cameras. I know quite a few UK fans who have signed up every year for probably close to a decade for the live timing and on-board extras, even when they could be watching on TV for free. Plus you can watch via iPhone and Android handsets.
Sadly I can’t find a link to a recent report on piracy in Latin American countries which noted many of the most popular pirated shows were ones which simply weren’t broadcast in those territories. But my instinctual reaction to being unable to legally purchase a way to watch Formula One races online is that someone is bound to be sharing it via a video sharing site – I’d put money on the typical game of ‘whack-a-mole’ which goes on during most large sporting events was taking place on Sunday.
But I don’t want to have to visit 10 different streaming channels to try to find the best one showing the race with the least delay, be part of copyright infringement and risk running out of streams before the race ends.
I’d like to be able to pay a reasonable fee and be able to legally watch decent coverage of a sport I enjoy. The cost/hassle ratio for music and films means I’d rather buy a decent quality download quickly and easily.
The exception to the rule:
There’s one exception to my desire to pay for only what I watch – a free-to-air ad-free service which provides a mixture of content both for me and for the wider benefit of the public. In the UK, I honestly believe the BBC does a pretty good job of this for TV, radio and online, although there’s always room for improvement, so even if the TV Licence wasn’t required, I’d be happy to pay a wider-ranging subscription, but for everything else, just let me pick what I want, when I want, in what format I want.