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Refunds to be issued as F1.TV makes "unacceptable and pathetic" debut


Introduced in mid-2009, the official F1 live timing app, now in its ninth full season, still has issues. As late as last year's Italian Grand Prix an update to the app which meant it didn't re-set at the end of each phase of qualifying made following the times almost impossible. This year also has seen issues, including showing the incorrect tyre information or no tyre information at all.

Therefore it was widely expected that F1's new, bells and whistles live streaming service F1.TV would have its 'issues'.

Originally intended to be introduced at the start of the season, with little notice the launch was delayed in order that further beta-testing could be carried out.

With remarkably little fan-fare the service finally went live at the weekend, F1 boss Chase Carey, according to Forbes, admitting that it remained a "work in progress."

"This week, we will launch our inaugural live Grand Prix over-the-top product called F1 TV Pro," said Carey. "This product is a work in progress, and we will continue to add features like Formula 2, Formula 3, expanded data and archives. We're very excited to move forward with this important new dimension to our business."

From the outset the issues were numerous and wide ranging, including lack of audio, lengthy time lag, constant buffering of the stream and warnings that the subscriber had too many devices connected when in fact they had just one.

At $89.99 annually in the United States, fans who have already had their faith in the sport shaken by ESPN this year, were far from happy.

"Many features are absent," tweeted one fan, "the actual stream is choppy and laggy, the archive of classic races is laughable, and they still have the nerve to charge you $89.99 a year for it."

"Completely missed qualifying on #F1TVPro #F1TV thanks to buffering and initializing," wrote another. "@F1 This is completely unacceptable and pathetic."

"In conclusion, the first day of #f1tv is a complete failure," tweeted F1 journo Brad Spurgeon. "It is the first time in my life that I have paid anything - let alone 170 euros - to do what amounts essentially to beta testing of a product."

"My attempt to use F1TV today was a failure," wrote Pitpass reader William Hoke. "Firstly, F1's payment transaction from London was rejected by my American bank. (I live in the US.) After contacting my bank to resolve that and join the race 10 minutes late, the video stream rarely worked, mostly displaying a spinning wheel and "buffering", or just a black blank screen. Occasionally I saw a second or two of action... just enough to confirm my sense that I was missing something. I cancelled my subscription."

The problems weren't limited to the United States however, with fans from around the world, at least where F1.TV is available suffering similar issues.

To make matters worse, in the midst of the twitter storm, aware of the problem on its hands, F1.TV issued the following message.

"Unfortunately we are unable to offer live coverage of today's race. The full race, with unedited team radio and all on-board cameras will be available to watch on demand soon after the race has finished".

Ignoring Sean Bratches claim that F1 is aiming to be a "a fan first focussed entity", one has to ask, based on the official statement above, what part of "live streaming" don't they get?

Inevitably, feeling totally let down and out of pocket by the experience, some started calling for a refund.

"Will there be a refund for the 1st disastrous weekend," tweeted one.

"What exactly is meant by 'a problem with your connection'? Clearly it is not my connection, but rather your service," added another. "Your website also states 'some customers are seeing buffering issues', but searching 'F1TV' on Twitter shows that it's a system-wide issue. #F1TVrefund.".

F1 reacted with the following statement on its website:

"Following the launch of F1 TV this weekend, we're sorry to say that we have experienced a few technical difficulties with F1 TV's live broadcast this afternoon. We're aware that this has impacted customers with an F1 TV Pro subscription and while we are working hard to fix these issues, we wanted to let those impacted subscribers know that we will contact them by email shortly to address this with a partial refund.

"Please note that these issues only affected customers during live playback and all sessions from this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix are now available to enjoy on-demand including all on-board cameras and full team radio. Full replays are available to F1 TV Pro customers, or F1 TV Access customers in selected territories."

Note once again, this only "affected customers during live playback", so that's alright then. On the other hand, in view of the processional nature of the race, fans might want to give the replays a miss.

Fans were subsequently notified that the refund would consist of "two weeks of their subscription" which would be credited to the credit card they used to pay for the service - this being another gripe, fans unhappy that paying by credit card is the only option available.

With an eye on the fact that the F1 Timing App is still wobbly after all these years, it is highly unlikely that F1.TV will be fault-free by Monaco... or even Monza. Consequently one has to ask why the service was seemingly rushed through. Why, following the issues clearly encountered at the start of the season, wasn't the launch delayed still further. And also why money was being taken for what Chase Carey admitted is a "work in progress".

While Sean Bratches salivates at the thought of F1 heading to Miami, where the "celebrity, glamour, fashion, art, digital and technology" make it the perfect fit for the sport, the powers-that-be really need to think long and hard about those fans who have handed over their hard-earned cash for a service that wasn't ready and therefore didn't do what it was supposed to do.

While the sport made much of its efforts to track down the little boy seen crying his eyes out as his hero Kimi Raikkonen crashed out of last year's Spanish Grand Prix, what about the thousands of slightly older, equally disappointed fans around the globe after this weekend's fiasco.

If nothing else, even in the midst of their understandable frustration, as is so often the case, fans found humour in the situation, with Michael Arietta surely deserving recognition for his tweet of the weekend.

"I hereby give Liberty Media permission to spend my $89.99 on a vat of moustache wax for Chase Carey. At least I'll know my money is being spent on a functional product. #SpanishGP #F1TV #F1 #FIA #FOM #LibertyMedia @fia @F1 @f1tv1"

Finally, considering the enthusiasm of some sections of the media for the service when first announced, it seems odd to see so little coverage of its launch at the weekend... or the issues that ensued.


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1. Posted by C5, 15/05/2018 22:11

"@ClarkwasGod, I can maybe help you with that :-)

The issues I have with ESPN - once they, to their credit, ditched the leeengthy ad breaks - are, mainly:
1) The don't cover all sessions,
2) They don't have a post-session studio show, so there's no scheduling buffer for delays. Thus, the DVR misses the end whenever the session is stopped, which it has been quite a few times this year.
3) There's no meaningful post analysis of anything - and no, you also can't do "meaningful analysis" while standing outside in front of a not-even-very-large TV,
4) - this it the big one: What you consider "good commentating" I consider "yapping nonsense". Totally fair you like it, we don't.

The commenting team - aside from a quip to two, probably by mistake, by Brundle - has no discernible sense of humor, so they are definitely not entertaining. Christian Horner comes across as the life of the party in comparison, for Christ's sake!

They also provides no useful insight that I can't see for myself. I KNOW who's behind who, and by how much, and if they're gaining or not. I can SEE that right there, on my screen. Despite that, they never - ever! - pause blabbering for even a second. And whenever two cars are getting near(ish) each other, the yapping becomes an unbearable high pitch scream that I'm sure is capable of repelling dogs. In our household the poorest half of the commentating duo - i.e. not Martin - is known as "(having a) Crisis-Croft".

EVERYTHING the Sky team does is a billion-trillion miles below the standard we're so accustomed to from the Four Amigos and the NBCSN production team. In our desperation, we've gotten around to simply turn down the volume, making the droning be just a background buzz. We'll turn it up a bit the Paul di Resta or Ted Kravitz are allowed a few words in edgewise, but that's about it.

I understand they use the same soundtrack for the app. Great. That makes my life a lot easier, not having to consider spending even more money to watch TV, or worry about perpetual buffering issues. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Ah! It felt pretty cathartic just writing this. Thank you for giving me the opportunity! :-)

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2. Posted by ESTM PRFT, 15/05/2018 18:15

"I've never had issues in the past and was happy with the coverage and information I received. Now, it's a question mark. If it's not broken, don't fix it!"

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3. Posted by Insane Reindeer, 15/05/2018 14:11

"Until Pitpass gives this service a completely positive review I will not be signing up to it. Hopefully by then I will be able to use PayPal to pay for it too. Actually, hopefully, by then the sport will have new owners and it will be back on the free-to-air channels here in Finland. "

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4. Posted by TedS, 15/05/2018 13:40

"For my use case it worked fine.

I'm rarely able to watch a GP live, so in the past I would DVR the race. Well I cut the cord and started watching on Univision/Unimas (OTA DVR) and loved it.. but that has been taken away.. so I tried the new F1TV.

For watching the race delayed it worked flawlessly. I was able to stream it, pause it, rewind etc without errors.

Signing up was a PITA as I had to use an older version of FireFox (Chrome on Win7, Win10 and ChromeOS all failed.. go fig).

But I liked it.

I think your milage may vary. But for me it was wonderful and well worth $4.28 a GP to watch when I want, well worth it, and something that old codger Bernie would never have done."

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5. Posted by Joop deBruin, 15/05/2018 13:11

"Tata, that paragon of cheap Indian IT talent can't be expected to deliver anything of value."

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6. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 15/05/2018 12:52

"I still don't understand what problems people have with ESPN's (use of Sky) coverage? Uninterrupted coverage of all qually sessions, and the full race - good commentating - and if I can't watch on TV, I can use the ESPN app which works perfectly providing the same TV feed."

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