“Because of network TV contracts, live streaming video of IndyCar Series practice (outside of the Indianapolis 500), qualifying and races won’t be available this season.”
To say this development is shocking would be a lie; NBC is the same organization that thought it was a good idea to cut away from the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremonies so they could show the pilot episode for “The Marriage Ref.” A tactic that backfired, not only in tons of anger in social media but also negative big-media press, plummeting ratings and the show seemingly disappearing from air anyway.
Even as this decision to kill off ANY race related streaming in IndyCar goes, it’s not a new concept; we’ve seen this exact tactic before:
TRG (who kept fans up to date via a chat box) noted an ongoing struggle with SPEED who shut them down. SPEED cited that it interfered with broadcast rights (which it did). But in the agreement they came to, TRG would be allowed to go back live once the race was off the air… only it never did. SPEED actually instead made sure TRG never went live again, threatening legal action, even though SPEED wasn’t showing the race or any coverage at all during those 9 hours. All TRG could do was change it to a refreshable picture from the pit-cam. Thusly fans got NO INFORMATION about the race except from Grand-Am’s (much underrated) timing and scoring application.
Now it’s 2010, and TRG was still trying to be at the forefront of technology and fan-connectivity, so they devised an idea that shouldn’t go against SPEED’s broadcasting rights. TRG’s plan: set up a web-cam not showing the track in any way. This year instead, the webcam faced a table and 2 chairs with a white background showing their team logo. the video was crap, and the audio wasn't perfect either, and if it weren’t for hearing cars in the background you’d never know it was at a track. In one chair sat one of TRG’s PR reps on a headset, and all they did was answer questions in a fan chat box embedded in the page. It was nothing short of great fan interaction.
TRG and SPEED came to an agreement and TRG was allowed to go back live, but with 50 corporate logos of SPEED or TaxSlayer all over the white tarp backdrop. Because neither company had anything to do with TRG’s web-cam, all it did was gave SPEED more bad publicity with fans.
Now in 2011, SPEED has cut their broadcasting back by 2 hours, meaning they give fans even less coverage. TRG, meanwhile does the same awesome behind-the-pit webcam, bringing in drivers to talk directly with fans during the race, and in no way attempting to cover the on-track action, and they do it for the FULL 24 hours and it’s great.
In the end TRG has increased the amount of behind the scenes coverage they do each of the last 3 years, Twitter has boomed meaning fans can follow all the drivers, teams and media for real-time updates, JustinTV and many other illegal online streams have boomed, and things like GrabBagsports’ very own Blogathon give fans immediate information and analysis of 24 Hours of Daytona.
The way SPEED (and now NBC) act/react to new technology mediums, you’d think it’d be the death knell for the broadcasts… well apparently not:
In 2010: “In total, 2010 Rolex 24 viewership was up 22 percent over 2006,”
In 2011: “SPEED's coverage racked up some impressive TV viewership numbers, with an average of 443,000 viewers tuning in - a four percent increase from 2010.”
You can’t fault the IndyCar regime; most TV networks require the all-inclusive broadcast clause, in-fact give props to them for breaching the contract for the last 2 years to continue their online offering. But IndyCar better be trying to change NBC’s mind, because the world is changing and NBC clearly isn’t paying attention.
watching multitudes of college basketball online as the NCAA March Madness tournament begins. CBS is smart, rather than allowing the NCAA or illegal streams to take charge, they take care of this rebroadcasting themselves and they sell advertising for it.
In fact, here’s just a quick list of sports I can currently watch LIVE online (some free, some paid): National Football League, Major League Baseball, NCAA basketball, NCAA baseball, NCAA football, practically every professional soccer/futbol league in the world, professional rugby, the Olympics, NCAA track and field, The X Games, all events on the ATP Tennis World tour, PGA and LPGA Golf, and now the American LeMans Series.
By not jumping on the technology and continuing to do their own stream, IndyCar/NBC will not create a ratings boost; that’s just as silly as the RIAA’s thought that suing/killing Napster etc. would boost music album sales. Instead, international and non-Versus able fans will simply find their way to illegal streams. This means it’s now a lose-lose for broadcasters, not only do ratings not go up, but they also don’t reap any advertising revenue.
Why NBC/Versus/ESPN3(ABC) wouldn’t take the opportunity to sell more advertising to IndyCar fans is beyond me as a marketer. The cameras are already monitoring the track, there’s already a radio feed, so the only extra person to pay is the one combining those and sending the feed to the internet; and frankly advertising revenue should more than cover that.
CBS has been doing this for the basketball tournament for over 5 years now, ESPN is starting to throw any sport they have onto ESPN3 and yet their ratings rise every year on TV. Clearly online streaming is a net positive; not only for the bottom line, but in finding, converting and increasing the fan base.
As to the possibility Randy Bernard laid out for trying delayed online broadcasts...
had been eliminated from the NHRA Gatornationals. Any opportunity for people to view this (outside of attending) won’t occur for more than 5 hours later on ESPN; and Kurt Busch, NASCAR and driver cross-over fans won’t be watching; we'll already be over it and NHRA loses potential eyeballs to convert into fans.
Sports are not scripted, people don’t watch to see how an ending was set to happen, they watch to see a contest bdecided at the moment it is being decided. It’s all about real-time action and results, it’s why we watch; its why there are 3+ 24-hour live news networks. Newspapers aren’t dying because people stopped needing news, it’s because we the consumer found a way to get news with the same accuracy quicker and within a more relative time-frame.
IndyCar fans have already tasted and feasted upon live real-time practice and qualifying and they know how great it tastes; they won’t go back to tape-delay; they’ll just go elsewhere.