Summary:

When the BBC last showed Formula One racing coverage 12 years ago, most people had dial-up internet connections and very large mobile phones…

imageWhen the BBC last showed Formula One racing coverage 12 years ago, most people had dial-up internet connections and very large mobile phones. So when the sport returns to the Beeb on Friday it’s a good test of the broadcaster’s 360-degree, multimedia content strategy. Auntie’s coverage promises to be “the most comprehensive in the history of the sport”, with TV, radio, red button, broadband, catch-up via the iPlayer and mobile — sort of — all catered for. Release.

The BBC scored a massive hit with its coverage of the Beijing Olympics, despite the anti-social time difference, and amassed 50 million video views during the fortnight. The corporation’s online leaders have spoken of sport as a key part of its public service remit of investing in new media technologies — head of BBC Sport interactive Ben Gallop predicts the 2012 London Olympics will be a major watershed moment in the UK public’s viewing habits. But there’s still some way to go before license fee-payers have a truly cross-platform viewing experience.

One thing you do lose if you only watch online: Fleetwood Mac’s iconic hit The Chain which makes a return as the BBC’s F1 theme tune, and will again accompany images of cars flying through chicanes in the opening sequence.

Online: The Beeb says it already has a good F1 site without live rights, but from next month its will be relaunched with live streaming video of every race and qualifier — and Beeb claims it’s the first time it’s shown the “near-televisual quality” video currently seen on the iPlayer online. As well as that, race fans get live text commentary, VOD highlights via the BBC’s embedded widget, a diary-style blog of events, interactive guides to courses and online-only video reviews and text articles from long-standing F1 commentator Murray Walker.

TV Red Button: All 17 races and qualifiers will be live on BBC1 and BBC2, with a choice of commentary via the red button. A split-screen option gives a mixtures of the main race feed, an in-car camera and a race leaderboard. A red-button, one-hour analysis programme will be shown after each race.

Mobile: Here’s where you hear the screeching of brakes in the BBC’s multiplatform sports strategy: mobile users will get the “latest news, results and standings”, and text coverage of races and video highlights. But that last bit comes with a proviso: only some mobile networks will get highlights and even that is “to be confirmed”. But what about smartphones? Though there isn’t live streaming on the iPhone or iPod Touch yet, those devices can already download iPlayer highlights and much of the online content will be fine for them over a wifi connection — so why is the Beeb not publicising that? And why strike a deal that only allows highlights via a selected number of operators? So far the BBC has yet to answer our questions on the matter.

(Photo: Two Big Paws)

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