How the mounting popularity of Formula 1 relies on continuous innovation in the live broadcast experience

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  • The last two years have seen record-breaking growth for Formula 1, as global viewership soared.
  • The delivery and quality of the live broadcast experience are now more vital than ever.
  • Broadcast connectivity partner Tata Communications leveraged its substantial expertise to rise to the challenge.

Following a two-year break due to pandemic restrictions, the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 race calendar at the start of October, attracting a crowd of 302,000 — the highest attendance in the race’s 13-year history.

But it wasn’t just spectators trackside that were breaking records: TV audiences across the globe also reached new heights. In the US, broadcaster ESPN reported a huge rise in local viewers, with just over 1 million fans tuning in to the Singapore event, representing an 80% increase from the last time the race was held in 2019. 

These numbers reflect F1’s continuing growth in popularity, which has seen TV audiences skyrocket in recent years. For the 2021 season, the cumulative TV audience for the 22-race schedule was 1.55 billion — a jump of 4% compared to the previous year, continuing an upward trend for the sport.  

The surge in audience numbers is no doubt in part due the continuing expansion of F1 into new markets and new demographics. At the same time, however, continuous improvements in the quality and delivery of the live TV experience are fast becoming a game-changer for armchair viewers, and have helped F1 emerge from the pandemic as one of the world’s most exciting live broadcast franchises. 

This is where Tata Communications is able to flex its expertise. The global digital ecosystem enabler has been the official broadcast connectivity provider of F1 since 2012, and is responsible for the complex tech operations that underpin the delivery of live race content to many millions of homes around the world.

Amur S Lakshminarayanan in a suit and red tie in front of a gray background
Amur S Lakshminarayanan, MD and CEO at Tata Communications

According to Amur S Lakshminarayanan, MD and CEO at Tata Communications, this combination of sporting spectacle and technological innovation is a clear win-win for race fans. “We will be empowering Formula 1 to transform how content gets produced and delivered, and secondly, it will also support Formula 1’s drive of agility and sustainability.”

Tech credentials powering broadcast success

Given the scale of F1 operations and the challenge of working from a new geographic location for every race, making sure each live event is broadcast seamlessly, in real-time, and without any hitches is a complex feat. 

Tata Communications transfers more than 100 video feeds and over 250 audio channels from race venues to F1’s UK-based production centre, then to viewers’ TV screens — all in less than 200 milliseconds.

“The F1 and Tata Communications partnership is an improbable feat of engineering that brings the magic of race day to our screens,” said Amitabh Sarkar, Tata Communications’ vice president and GM for Asia Pacific, Japan, and China. “The brilliance of the F1 broadcast is that the viewer never has to think about the technology. But behind the scenes is an operation of immense complexity, ensuring race fans enjoy every millisecond of this high-octane sport without missing a beat. All of our customers are quite exacting in their requirements and our delivery capabilities with F1 demonstrate the depth of our capabilities and our willingness to build for our customers’ digital ambitions.” 

It is a mammoth task for sure, but one made easier by the company’s impressive credentials. 

Tata Communications is one of the world’s leading players in the fast-growing digital economy, with a customer base that includes over half of the Fortune 500 firms. In addition, it operates the most advanced subsea fibre network, carrying around 30% of the world’s internet routes, and is responsible for connecting four out of every five mobile subscribers globally. 

Amitabh Sarkar stands in a suit jacket and striped shirt and smiles at the camera
Amitabh Sarkar, Vice President and General Manager at Tata Communications

The company has deep live sports broadcast experience, thanks to its Media and Entertainment Solutions division — an end-to-end media ecosystem which provides a comprehensive range of solutions for broadcasters, content owners, and video streaming companies. 

Aside from F1, Tata Communications also partners with numerous other sports and entertainment franchises. For example, it works with the Indian Premier League (IPL) to deliver one of the most-watched sporting events in the world — 60 live cricket matches taking place in nine cities over 50 days. The company has also been powering the MotoGP World Championship live broadcasts since 2017, helping to deliver over 28,000 hours of live broadcasts per season. 

“Our specialist team of experienced media services personnel integrates seamlessly with sports production crews across the world, supporting live events that reach hundreds of millions of fans,” said Lakshminarayanan. “We bring together a range of global technologies and cutting-edge expertise to provide a tailored service based on the needs of our customers.”

How tech innovation is delivering a more sustainable F1

Earlier this year, Tata Communications and F1 announced a new, multi-year strategic collaboration, which will see the partners continue to evolve the TV experience for global fans.

“We were delighted to welcome Tata Communications back as a partner following previous successes,” said Stefano Domenicali, president and CEO of Formula 1. “They have been an integral part of our growth journey over the last decade, and we completely trust their expertise and abilities to deliver what we need for our fans.”

Tata Communications’ suite of innovative media and tech solutions will be crucial not only to the ongoing success of live F1 race broadcasts, but also to the health of the planet.

In 2019, F1 launched its first-ever sustainability strategy, with the ambitious target of having a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030. The initiative will cover the Formula 1 cars and on-track activity, as well as wider race and broadcast operations, which includes the new collaboration with Tata Communications.

Key to this is the 2020 introduction of a remote-broadcast model, whereby much of the production work is offloaded to a permanent, UK-based site. Previously, the production hub travelled with F1 to races around the world, which was not only a logistical challenge but also a significant addition to the operation’s carbon footprint. 

Tata Communications’ new broadcast model has delivered around a 34% reduction in the organization’s travelling freight, which has lessened the environmental impact. 

“Tata Communications’ connectivity continues to support F1’s drive for agility and sustainability, with remote production introduced in 2020 — part of our aim to be net-zero carbon by 2030,” said Domenicali. “We’re excited to grow together in the future and share the incredible journey Formula 1 is on.”

Find out more about how Tata Communications is bringing the F1 experience to fans worldwide. 

This post was created by Insider Studios with Tata Communications.

Read the original article on Business Insider