Closed-door races sped up transition to remote production says F1’s Al-Kudcy

The Covid-19 pandemic and the need to operate Formula 1 races behind closed doors have sped up the motorsport’s transition to remote television production according to F1’s head of commercial partnerships, Zarah Al-Kudcy.

F1 has been providing a global media feed to all of its broadcast partners since around 2008 to deliver a more consistent media product. But following an announcement that it planned to become carbon-neutral by 2030, it set out an ambition to move to a more sustainable and cost-efficient remote production operation by 2022.

Speaking during a webinar organised by CSM Sport and Entertainment, Al-Kudcy revealed that the motorsport had delivered last weekend’s Grand Prix in Austria remotely and would continue to do so in the future.

“Our broadcast centre normally sits within the paddock at all 22 races and it does the live feed, post-production, telemetry and timing for the teams and our digital platforms, and our plan had been to move that to be a remote operation by 2022. But we accelerated that to get it delivered for this weekend, so we went from two years to eventually two months,” she said.

Aled Rees, managing director, strategy and consultancy at CSM said the Covid-19 crisis and Black Lives Matter campaign had only highlighted the need for rights-holders to have more of a social purpose. He added that having a strong sustainability message would be particularly important in the future for motorsport.

“Brands are going to need to change because they’re going to have to respond to what their customers and their consumers want. And I think they want an acknowledgement that climate change and sustainability, diversity and inclusion are all very serious issues and they expect brands to become more purpose-driven,” he said.

“I was reading recently that IPSOS said 71 per cent of the world believes climate change is as serious as Covid-19 as an issue facing us today, so from a rights-holder point of view, they need to pivot and they need to acknowledge that the brands and fans have new requirements and I think Formula 1 have given us an excellent demonstration of how you pivot quickly and effectively.”

Al-Kudcy suggested the new, streamlined television production operation had provided the motorsport with a new sponsorship asset to sell.

“With that comes a really compelling technology story. That’s a really practical example for us of where we’ve had an opportunity arise out of a challenge.

There are opportunities out there; I think some brands will be in better and stronger positions to be able to take them up and it’s just about listening to them…”