As part of SPEED’s coverage of Formula 1 in the United States, four races this year will be going to FOX and their affiliates, who can and do make programming decisions that affect the sport’s coverage in certain markets. Their extended coverage of this year’s Canadian Grand Prix is appreciated by Formula 1 fans across the country, for a race that took the honor of being the longest in Formula 1 history. Having put together over 100 viewing events with our local F1 group here in San Francisco with dozens of them shown on FOX, I can say from firsthand experience it’s not always a sure thing to have a scheduled race shown on the affiliate in our local market.
The nature of this year’s race with several gaps in action due to rain and crashes made for an epic event, especially for those who stayed on to the finish. In a country where commercial advertising makes for several natural breaks during a race, the red flags and soaked track in Canada this year created a different kind of opportunity for fans. Viewers normally worried about missing a return to racing after a regular commercial break took the opportunity during the extended rain delays to jump to laptop or mobile device to contribute to a growing conversation on twitter. Fans were talking about not only the race so far, but also weather forecasts, who was at the race, and even something I was interested in: How was everyone getting on with their television coverage on FOX? I was almost certain part or all of the US would jump to a local sports team on their local affiliate at some point before the severely delayed race was over.
The rain delays also afforded a great opportunity for the SPEED team to engage with the many fans tweeting about the coverage, and during the fill that many broadcasters need to create during an extended break in action it was refreshing to see SPEED taking requests via twitter for highlight footage to be shown during the red flags. Giving the broadcast the ability to sample the stream of feedback from viewers happening live once again showed the opportunity for much greater Formula 1 fan engagement with a new kind of racing fan, one that is connected, engaged, and is contributing to the experience everyone viewing and tweeting is having.
That said, there’s nothing like a live broadcast at a reasonable hour to make it possible for fans and event to come together in a much more spontaneous way as part of the total experience. The opportunities in front of a the American Formula 1 audience this weekend weren’t lost on the celebrities tweeting about the race, from rapper Ice-T (in attendance) to gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, and next year in Austin will only create more opportunities for fans, brands, and racing to come together with something altogether different: A purpose built facility at Circuit of the Americas and a little Texas charm.