Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Formula E World Championship: A new way of watching motorsports live

As India recently hosted its first high-level electric motorsport, the Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix Round 4, Tata Communications' tech-enabled live broadcast also enabled cost efficiency and sustainability

Samidha Jain
Published: Feb 17, 2023 03:57:38 PM IST
Updated: Feb 17, 2023 04:22:02 PM IST

Formula E World Championship: A new way of watching motorsports liveIn this handout from Jaguar Racing, Rene Rast, NEOM McLaren Formula E Team, e-4ORCE 04, leads Sam Bird, Jaguar TCS Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 6 drive during the ABB FIA Formula E Championship - 2023 Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix Round 4 on February 10, 2022 in Hyderabad, India. Image: Handout/Jaguar Racing via Getty Images

Outside the track around the Hussain Sagar Lake and by the NTR Gardens in Hyderabad, the audience jostled and shouted, vying to get in. Inside, the atmosphere was intense. 

The 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E Championship made a historic debut in India on February 11 with Hyderabad playing host to Round 4 of Season 9. India's inaugural street circuit hosted the fourth race of the season, encircling the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake. The event marked the comeback of top-tier FIA World Championship motor racing to the nation after a decade-long hiatus, and also introduced India to high-level electric motorsport for the first time.

All the crazy fandom and the audience’s eagerness to enter the venue was probably to cheer for the home team Mahindra Racing with 2016/17 Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi and teammate Oliver Rowland in the cockpit for the Indian squad.

Formula E World Championship: A new way of watching motorsports liveJean-Eric-Vergne of France DS Penske driver, Nick Cassidy of New Zealand Envision Racing driver, Antonio Felix da Costa of Portugal Porsche driver on podium during the Hyderabad E-Prix on February 11, 2023 in Hyderabad, India. Image: Akhil Puthiyedath ATPImages/Getty Images)

The Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix Round 4 was the fourth race in the series to be broadcast live via a brand new broadcasting set-up, the first one being in Mexico in January. On the day of the Hyderabad race, Tata Communications, a global digital ecosystem enabler under the Tata Group, announced a strategic multi-year relationship with Formula E becoming the Official Broadcast Distribution Provider for the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

With the new set-up enabled by Tata Communications, the race was broadcast live to about 400 million viewers worldwide, with a processing lag of just 2-3 seconds. This was made possible with technologically advanced, software-defined media edge platforms that delivered more than 160 live video and audio signals from the Formula E race across continents within milliseconds, using 26 media edge locations across North America, Europe and Asia.  

This broadcasting technology will be used at all the remaining races this season as well.  

How it works  

The race is shot live at the location and is transmitted to Formula E’s broadcasting center in London via connectivity provided by Tata Communications, and the final product is then relayed from London to the rest of the world.  “We make use of high-end technology and connectivity for which we have partnered with Tata Communications to broadcast the race live. It’s really challenging and we’re grateful for a supplier like Tata Communications that brings the expertise and size and the experience of a network, and gives us the availability of connection we need because if those connections don’t work, we really don’t see anything. So it’s a key supplier for us to make this entire broadcast work and to show the world this magnificent race,” says Eric Ernst, technology director, Formula E.  

According to Ernst, the new broadcasting set-up has proven to be very cost effective and much more sustainable. “This set-up gives us a lot of benefits, one of which is that our footprint got smaller, which means less power, fewer people, fewer logistical challenges, and 50 percent less freight. This has given us really good flexibility and a solid base to start scaling our product. The overall cost of setting this whole thing up has come down by 45-50 percent.” The set-up has also proven to be more economical as it helps the organisers save on space, infrastructure, and movement of larger groups of people from one country to another. 

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“Putting up a pop-up racetrack in 10-15 cities around the world is a big logistical challenge. With our broadcast center in London and working with Tata signals here, we can do it all remotely. It is a big reduction in costs. It has also increased efficiency and the emissions have come way down as well,” says Jamie Reigle, CEO, Formula E.  

With the new arrangement, viewers around the world could follow the action live as 22 drivers from 11 teams including Mahindra Racing, Jaguar TCS Racing, Maserati MSG Racing and NEOM McLaren Formula E Team competed in the 2023 Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix. Eighty-five cameras captured the event and the power of the internet was leveraged with dedicated media cloud and edge computing capabilities. “One of our mantras has been to figure out how to make the internet fit for business and if you look at what we’re doing here, it is fully on the internet and is one of the very novel and innovative things that we have done to bring the internet to deliver on a scale at this level,” says Amur Lakshminarayanan, MD & CEO, Tata Communications. The Tatas have had a long-standing relationship with Formula E and recently renewed the relationship for another five years, according to Lakshminarayanan.  

Who makes the magic happen?

The crew to put together this race and broadcast it requires 100 people. Pre-Covid, the entire team of 100 with 50 people working on ground, and the other 50 handling the broadcast would travel across the world for the races. Thanks to the new broadcasting model, now only half the team travels, while the broadcasting team remains in London.  

“We view ourselves as the case study of a traveling circus while we go around the world. We came here with the whole set-up from Saudi Arabia and as soon as this race is over, we are off to Cape Town, then to Brazil. It’s really a global business. This model helps us be a much stronger and better workforce overall,” Reigle says.