Formula One (FWONK), in collaboration with Tata Communications (NSE: TATACOMM), has launched F1 TV; a mobile application that will enable Grand Prix race fans to “create their own unique, immersive motorsports experiences.” The subscription-based OTT service, powered by TATACOMM’s Ultra Live Video Delivery Network (or VDN), will carry commercial-free live race streams (beginning with the start of 2018 season on March 25th), live video from 20 in-car driver cameras, coverage of qualifiers, practice footage, highlights and press conferences. Liberty Media plans to offer the service in “light” ($70/year) and “premium” packages ($120/year); the premium service will only be offered in F1’s most popular markets (Germany, France, Spain etc.).
Howie Long-Short: Formula One estimates that the sport has 500 million fans worldwide, with “conservatively” 1% of that audience considered to be a “super avid hardcore fan.” If Liberty’s estimates are correct and they can convert those “super fans” into $500 million/year in new revenue (they won’t be able to in short-term due to existing agreements with traditional broadcasters), it’ll boost the FWONK revenue 28% (generated $1.784 billion in ’17). That will be welcomed news to the teams, as the collective payment declined $47 million (to $919 million) in the first year under Liberty Media ownership. TATACOMM, which delivers 25% of the world’s internet routes, isn’t new to Grand Prix racing; the company has been the Official Connectivity Partner of Formula 1 for the last 6 seasons. Shares of the company are down 18% (to $9.40) over the last 12 months. The concern? The time frame for the company to become profitable. It will be 2019, at the earliest.
Fan Marino: Liberty has hired Brian Tyler (an all-time Top 10 grossing film composer) to compose a theme song for the sport. Assuming Tyler is being compensated, I wouldn’t classify that as a responsible expenditure; certainly, not after watching 2017 revenues decline. While Tyler will likely do a great job, who cares? Not the “super avid hardcore fan” that’s paying for the OTT service. While the decision is unlikely to make a difference to the fans, it has the teams upset; they believe Liberty should be picking up the tab on this project.
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