Formula 1 is the self-appointed pinnacle of motorsport. So why, oh why, does its streaming offering suck so much, particularly when less-prominent series that garner fewer eyeballs do things so much better?
This is an issue that has bugged me for some time, though it recently returned to the forefront of my attention during a chat with the rest of the staff. Rory was singing the praises of the WRC+ service, while I was remarking on how great the MotoGP app is, as I relied upon it to watch last year’s nail-biter of a season.
For whatever reason, every other year I’ll have to briefly subscribe to F1 TV for a month or two to watch a race. Typically I’ll use my parents’ Dish Network login to authenticate via ESPN and stream that way, but when my family nixed ESPN from their plan last summer, I ended up turning to F1 TV in a pinch. And immediately, I was shocked to find missing a feature that I consider crucial.
F1 TV has had two full seasons to get good at this point, yet it’s still pitiful. While you can access the F1 TV app via iOS, Android, the web or a Roku streaming device, there are still no native apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire or Google TV. That’s disappointing, though it wouldn’t quite so infuriating if there was a way to cast F1 TV content from a phone, tablet or computer to those TV platforms — so I could watch them on, you know, my TV, instead of on a 6-inch iPhone screen. Not like it’s in the name of the service or anything.
Lest you think I’m the only one annoyed by this, a cursory search of Google and Reddit presents various threads of customers annoyed at the very same shortcoming, including one from as recent as September.
This doesn’t seem like much to ask for, particularly when so many streaming apps support casting in some form or another, including those aforementioned racing series that offer far superior streaming products than F1's. Because I own a Chromecast and not a Roku, I can’t watch races on my TV via F1 TV unless I sideload the Android version of the app through a complicated process that nobody who pays $10 a month should ever have to go through.
There are other workarounds. I could — and have — connected my laptop to my TV via an HDMI cable to watch races through the F1 TV website. There are also some third-party casting “solutions” out there, or the screen mirroring offered within the desktop Chrome browser, though those have never been anything other than extremely choppy in my experience. I’ll say one nice thing about F1 TV, which is that I’ve never observed the poor or inconsistent streaming quality that customers complained about in the service’s early days.
Look, it’s bad enough F1 races tend to be total snoozefests without the drama of a slippery track surface. It’s bad enough the fast teams with the most money only ever get faster, and repeated attempts to implement a budget cap almost never come to pass cause the rich teams want to maintain their advantage. It’s bad enough that when a team with exponentially less to spend than Mercedes or Red Bull turns up in a fast car with copied elements, it’s immediately objected to by every other, worse-performing team that wishes it could’ve been as shrewd.
It’s bad enough F1's actual product sucks more often than it doesn’t. But it’d help if the app sucked a little less, too.