Monday, December 14, 2009

Off-Season Priority: Online Streaming Of SiriusXM Channel 128


After the television disaster that was the 2009 Chase for the Championship, it's very clear that solutions for bringing fans back to the sport in 2010 have to include more options than just TV.

Click here to view a copy of the press release announcing the extension of exclusive online rights to NASCAR content. It was January of 2008 when Paul Brooks, the president of the NASCAR Media Group, chose to continue down this road.

All online NASCAR content was licensed to an outside group. That one decision has brought all kinds of interesting consequences where the sport's worldwide Internet exposure is concerned. While this rights deal also includes video distribution, our topic here today is an audio issue.

"Time to get Sirius NASCAR content online" was the title of a TDP column in early August. It was clear at that time that all three of the major NASCAR series had problems. One simple change would have meant more exposure for the sponsors, drivers and the sport in general. Unfortunately, it never happened.

Currently, SiriusXM Satellite radio has a streaming option that is easily available. For a fee, users are allowed to stream content on desktops and laptops through a simple player. Due to the online contract referenced above, NASCAR content is not allowed.

"No Sirius NASCAR channel on iPhones" was a TDP column from June of this year. A new app for iPhones that streamed SiriusXM was rolled out but received bad reviews. It was not for the technology, but for the programming that was not included. NASCAR was right at the top of the list.

SiriusXM works best when installed in vehicles. The portable receivers work only when attached to a designated satellite antenna. The signal does not penetrate buildings and has proven to be impossible to monitor live even when walking through the rooms of a normal house. Like DirecTV, the SiriusXM signal is from a satellite. This technology is not going to change.

SiriusXM was recently saved from bankruptcy by a third-party investor who arrived at the last possible moment. The hazy subscriber numbers are possibly slightly less than the 19 million quoted by Yahoo! Finance. True subscriber numbers are impossible to obtain.

The weekday NASCAR programs on SiriusXM Channel 128 are produced in a studio right up the road from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. Most of the on-air and production staff are affiliated with NASCAR's own MRN Radio Network, which gets paid to provide the programming.

That shows just how murky and interconnected the NASCAR media world really is behind the scenes. Basically, SiriusXM Channel 128 is not streamed online because NASCAR sold its own Internet rights for profit. Now, the company that holds those rights wants money to allow that to happen.

Click here for a November blog post from Bruce Simmons that references this topic. SiriusXM veteran Dave Moody has often had to recite this answer to angry callers.

The only person who can solve this problem is the man who created it, Paul Brooks. Regardless of how a solution occurs, not having the SiriusXM NASCAR channel available online in 2010 would be a strategic loss for the entire sport at a critical time. A very critical time.

The line-up of NASCAR and media personalities who flow through SiriusXM on the weekdays is unmatched by any TV series or website. Events that happen at the racetrack are discussed by fans, reporters and the personalities who were actually involved. It's not uncommon to have a NASCAR personality hear something on SiriusXM and call-in to address it directly.

Don't try to make the argument that fans should go and buy a SiriusXM receiver. NASCAR fans are interested in only one channel. Whether Channel 128 is streamed online at NASCAR.com or the Sirius.com website makes no difference. Races may not be included and that is understood. NASCAR.com has its own agenda on race day.

Let's focus on just one thing. Getting this done. Brooks has to lead a task force that will get everyone to the table with the single agenda of sorting this out. Revenue sharing from subscription fees, NASCAR lessening rights payments or making NASCAR.com the only source for the service are three topics that have already been suggested as the pathway to a solution.

If this does not happen before the Daytona Speedweeks, the sport will have missed out on a key opportunity to extend a valuable weekday service to what appears to be a rapidly shrinking fan base.

TDP welcomes your opinion on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

36 comments:

Photojosh said...

I have lost all faith on this sort of thing as far as NASCAR is concerned. They have no clue about the "web media delivery age" concept and they sure have no clue about the concept of an independent media.

More than anything, this is the one issue that is turning me off from NASCAR as the years go by. Its a sad state of affairs.

Keith said...

I think there is huge fan support for this. So much IMO, that most would probably pay an additional fee of a $1 or 2 per month to get it.

Joe said...

I know it is against the rules,but why is NASCAR any different than say the MLB or NFL fan, that pays for Direct Ticket or MLB Package. You pay extra to see all games, I see this like the NASCAR fan paying for the SiriusXM, just for the one channel and getting that extra coverage. We should not feel entitled to have everything given to us, if there is extra coverage available ie.SXM, why not ponyup for it?

Donna in FL said...

Do I like the programming? YES. I'd like to be able to stream 128 online from any device.

earl06 said...

This has been an issue for years and yet NASCAR did not do anything about it 2008 when they resold the internet rights. I remember the hosts on 128 saying there were discussions about getting the channel streamed back in 2007, but no agreement was reached.

It will be a question of how bad does NASCAR want 128 on the internet. All they have to do is pony up the cash (or basically take less in payment). Do you really see them doing that?

GinaV24 said...

I would love to see this happen. I happen to be a subscriber to SiriusXM and have a receiver that I listen to while in the car and I even invested in one of the portable boombox things so I could listen to it in the house. The boombox option is a pain in the neck since you have to stick the antenna wire out of the window AND make sure it faces the proper direction to pickup the satellite, but it does work.

However, being able to stream it through my computer would be far and away a much more effective option.

If NASCAR is as interested in getting the fans engaged as they keep saying they are, then they need to stop posturing and actually DO something.

They made one change - consistent start times that will help at least know when to tune in and I really hope that the 1 p.m. and whatever the "night race" start time option is will actually be the START time, not some bait and switch deal to try and get the fans to watch the pre-race garbage, but they need to find a way to get the fans more interested and able to follow the sport easily WITHOUT having to spend additional money to do it. In my opinion, that is a big deal right now -- the fans, at least the ones I know, aren't interested in adding any more $ to their budget. Mr. Brooks, please find a way.

KoHoSo said...

All of the involved entities need to take a lesson from what happened when the music industry failed to recognize the power and diversity of the Internet and a fan base becoming more accustomed to it. If they fail to provide what consumers want, people will more and more find the illicit ways in which they can gain the content as the more Web-savvy in the NASCAR fan base will find ways to provide it either through illegal streams or downloads.

If NASCAR, Turner, and Sirius-XM meet this need at a time of demand, they will head this possibility off at the pass and keep "bootlegging" only to the small percentage of people that refuse to ever pay for anything in this digitized world. If they don't...well, I point to the recent SI.com article where a sportswriter openly admitted to going to an infamous video streaming site in order to be able to see the end of the exciting and important Oregon-Arizona college football game, all the while lamenting that Disney/ABC/ESPN failed to provide it to most of the country and thus "forced" him to be a criminal.

To anybody working for NASCAR, Turner, or Sirius-XM reading this...there are already a couple of "underground" networks of fans I know of personally that share certain streaming links along with instructions so that even the most computer illiterate of fans can use them. This is happening because you have all failed to offer fans any good choice and/or have given folks the feeling that you have stabbed them in the back. Don't wait until it's too late. Get this pie divided up quickly in a fair manner and an overwhelming majority of fans will pay a reasonable price for it. If you continue to drag your feet...well, just ask a Net-savvy member of your staff how well the RIAA has stopped music piracy. In a world where your desired demographic is mostly laughed at now for ever paying for music, the answer should give you more than a little motivation to get a deal done.

Anonymous said...

Sirius (stock symbol SIRI) is currently trading at 60-cents per share. In January of 2008, SIRI was at $3 per share... and since then they have had a 10-1 reverse split(!) so that is the equivalent of $30/share.

What a company plans at $30/share, it cannot be expected to stick to at 60-cents/share. Sirius is trying to hang on through some tough rounds of financing and debt repayment in the next year. They have an expensive, protracted negotiation with both Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey to re-negotiate deals they cut several years ago. The company is also looking to ditch its Manhattan offices and completely relocate.

In other words, asking them to start giving away NASCAR on streaming internet audio, where we all know it is so easy to pirate, is ridiculous. You and I can see that the timing is right in the NASCAR world for this move... but in the bigger picture of Sirius' financial situation, it makes no sense and will not happen. Period.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:01AM,

Nothing in my column even hinted at SiriusXM giving away anything.

Streaming the single NASCAR channel 128 alone could be a source of untapped revenue for both SiriusXM and the party that currently holds the online rights.

Perhaps you are confused, as one possible solution to this issue is for NASCAR to lessen or refund fees to the rights holder in order to make the deal work.

At no time was there any suggestion in my column that this service be provided free or that Sirius not be fairly paid for providing the channel online.

Hope that helps with some perspective on the topic.

JD

Anonymous said...

I know you don't want to give it away for free, but subscriber fees are not enough to make a significant dent in SIRI's financial situation. They currently have to re-nego a $2.2 billion loan (yes billion), and that is one of three major financing hurdles they have to get over this year.

Let's say Sirius, which has a total subscriber base of 11 million, adds NASCAR to streaming, and lo and behold, 2 million fans sign up for it. Wow - a 20% increase in subscriber base. At about $7/month for a subscription, that would generate $14million a month or $about $160 million a year in new revenue. Yes, that sounds good.. but no, it is not significant on the SIRI balance sheet.

In other words, there is no urgency in the offices and no recognition that this helps anything except extend the brand, especially since a 2-million subscriber pick-up as I hypothosized is wildly aggressive and inflated.

Sorry, NASCAR fans, SIRI has too many other fish to fry right now.

Anonymous said...

needed 2 have already happened. i would pay the extra fee 2 listen online

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:21AM,

Not sure that 2+2=5. Simply working a deal to get channel 128 streamed online does not have to be connected to the overall company agenda.

This one agreement is not intended to bail-out SiriusXM or solve a longterm problem not related to NASCAR content or the sport.

JD

Anonymous said...

Not sure that 2+2=5. Simply working a deal to get channel 128 streamed online does not have to be connected to the overall company agenda.

Well, then you don't understand business. No offense, but it DOES have to be connected to the overall company agenda. Mel Karmazin isn't the type of CEO to do anything except that.

I understand: to us NASCAR fans, it is easy to think "Hey, Sirius: flip a switch, let this stuff get online and you will only benefit by new users." But it isn't that simple, especially with a company that is struggling to stay afloat (60-cents a share is like being on life support). There is no way SIRI will change a single solitary term of their NASCAR obligations until they do a new deal. Especially not in this current economic climate.

Anonymous said...

I have a question: Wouldn't SPRINT have something to say about this? Their entire advertising campaign is based around being able to use their phones to follow the race action "exclusively on the Sprint Network."

Wouldn't it be a nightmare for them to suddenly have competing commercials that show users listening to NASCAR content on their AT&T-powered iPhones?

I bet that even if Sirius wanted to stream NASCAR, Sprint as the name sponsor of the entire circuit would have something major to say about it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:53AM,

Perhaps, what you mean to say is that your opinion is different than mine.

I am well aware of the business dynamics in play and the issues within that corporation.

Your limited scope is forcing you to revolve this issue around stock prices and SiriusXM's own agenda.

Should NASCAR ease the rights fees charged to the current online rights holder, the daily channel 128 content could be added to the streaming feed just as you described...with the flip of a switch.

I appreciate your opinion, but understand this topic has been the source of much discussion and debate over the past several years. We are well aware of the issues involved.

Anon 12:00PM,

That is the reason that this column addressed the SiriusXM channel 128 content produced during the weekdays from the Concord, NC facility.

The tentacles of the Sprint deal come into play during on-track activity. Thanks for the reminder to make this point.

JD

Anonymous said...

All, Turner broadcasing has the internet rights to NASCAR. They have several products such as Track Pass and Race View that they make us pay for. The pressure has to be put on Turner to come up with an answer and to allow this. We all need to put pressure to put out a product we can get off the internet for just the audio feed. I for one would like more audio feeds to be avalible as I have family and friends on teams and I try to listen to their teams each week but am limited by the current track pass product. come on Turner, step up to the plate, you might actually make more money!!

Mike said...

I have 2 lifetime subscriptions to Sirius, (Not sure how long that's going to last given the current financial condition of the company but I have had them long enough so that I am ahead anyway) I understand not broadcasting the races because of the Turner deal and even the PRN/MRN deal might have something to do with that. There is no reason that they couldn't put morning drive or the other shows on unless Nascar has sold something they don't own again like the ATT and Verizon team sponsor bans. I shouldn't have to pirate what I pay for and this is Nascar's mess that they have made again that we all have to pay the price for.

Ken said...

SiriusXM is being sued right now for a lot of money for raising rates (see Orbitcast.com) when they promised they wouldn't. They also added a fee for the online access to content. I don't have a problem paying for the online content, but I am going to cancel a second receiver when I do. But neither is going to happen until 128 is available via the Internet.

I also tend to agree that this is not high on SiriusXM's to do list. If they had the licensing dollars to make these types of agreements happen, then Sirius users would be able to heard MLB games, which MLB is holding ransom from Sirius and Best of XM users for increased fees. I am pretty sure that MLB games are a higher priority then the NASCAR talk shows.

I don't see the races being streamed. I am OK with that given Sprint's agreements with NASCAR (and I have Sprint :-) ).

It isn't going to happen unless NASCAR itself renegotiates their contract with Turner, and I don't see that happening.

What I find odd is that only Sirius Speedway is an MRN production. TMD and Tradin Paint are both Sirius produced. I am unsure why these programs cannot be streamed.

Ken said...

John,

Has anyone from NASCAR, SiriusXM, or Turner replied to this column? Or the others?

- Ken

Daly Planet Editor said...

Ken,

I want to make a couple of points to keep this discussion on the right track.

Sirius does not have this on the agenda because they have no cash. As one poster mentioned several times above, the issues internal to that company make putting this topic on the front burner impossible for them.

The rights holder is stuck as well. Unable to gain income from the very rights for which they paid the sanctioning body in 2008.

The single person to solve this problem is the very silent man in the middle of it all, Paul Brooks.

Without his direct involvement and leadership, there will be no change. The problem is that the sport is in a skid and another season of no SiriusXM online will contribute to that decline.

I point directly to Brooks as the head of The NASCAR Media Group to get this situation solved before Daytona.

With new topics from Danica to Kyle B's truck team and stories like Brad K in Cup and Steve Addington joining Penske, the issue of getting daily weekday live NASCAR radio streamed online is paramount.

Without it, fans have only two non-interactive TV news shows on weekdays. Huge difference.

Unfortunately, in the corporate world where ongoing contracts are concerned, the legal dept puts the whammy on blog comments.

JD

allisong said...

I'm glad to see you've backed off of your position of the summer, where you were advocating giving free access to Channel 128 to any and all, non-subscribers included.

That being said, I want to make the point that it is not impossible to use one receiver, in-home and in-car. This works quite well for me. I have a plug-and-play receiver which I bring in the house on weekends for race programming, and leave it in my car during the week. My home antenna just sits on a shelf in front of my kitchen window and I use a home dock for the receiver and my own radio.

But let's say that they "flip that switch", and suddenly the channel is available on both the SIRIUS online site and NASCAR.com. What do you envision happening? In my view, people who listen now are already NASCAR fans, probably avid ones at that. So they're likely already watching races. Same goes for people who would discover the service through NASCAR.com.

In other words, how would putting a channel which is of interest to hard-core fans on a website also geared to existing fans, increase interest in the sport among non-fans?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Allisong,

Just as you purposefully misrepresented my position during comments this summer, you are here to try and do it again.

Allowing potential online customers a trial run is currently the policy of SiriusXM with other content.

As a person who has negotiated many contracts in and out of the media, there is no thought to offering content for free that leaves a rights holder without payment.

Fair pricing of a SiriusXM Channel 128 online feed is the only focus of this column.

As you may remember from the August column, ESPN has just taken over the Cup TV and the fans were screaming.

Having just come off the highly interactive TNT telecasts that featured an entire online application, ESPN was walking into a mine field.

My suggestion at the time was that getting Sirius online was now a priority for the overall good of the sport during this time of crisis.

As we all know, the TV crisis continued during the Chase. What viewership or audience is left to begin 2010 depends on whom you ask.

Streaming applications would work on desktop, laptop and phones. It would mean access to live and interactive NASCAR content during the weekdays.

What website is chosen as the site for fans to access this feed needs to be determined in the deal.

If Turner wants the traffic, then fans may have to go to NASCAR.com to get the streaming feed.

If it makes more sense for Sirius to simply bundle it with the existing streaming software, that that may be the direction.

I appreciate that you have SiriusXM, but perhaps you could envision the fans at work, at home or on the road who would like the same access. That cannot happen unless a satellite antenna is with them and a designated SiriusXM receiver has been purchased.

Thanks for your comments, your perspective is always interesting.

JD

Anonymous said...

I was at BestBuy two weekends ago lookin for Sirius radio receiver, after realized that NASCAR channel 128 was not on the online channel lineup, I gave up on purchasing the equipment.

I am sure if channel 128 is available online, SiriusXM will gain huge amount of loyal subscriber, including myself. It's thier loss that they don't have channel 128 online.

Photojosh said...

I say let SiriusXM burn.

What is the point in this day and age? They are company that can't stay afloat. They should have come into existence in the early-mid 90's like direct TV and other satellite providers. But in the age of the internet, podcasts, and streaming over cell networks, what is the point of a hugely expensive satellite network that overpaid for everything it bought?

Let the beast die and force all that content onto the internet. We'll all be better off.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Sirius in my home or office... let's just say that I'll pass on listening to truck drivers comment, ad naseum, on Dale Jr.'s problems or Danica's impending failure as a NASCAR driver. The drone just goes on and on and on and on and on. Reminds me of a Pocono race...

Anonymous said...

I agree, JD. I'd like to have the access even without races included.

I recently had to stop my Sirius/XM service, and the one channel I miss the most was the NASCAR channel. It was, in fact, the reason, I had it in the first place.

128 carries commercials. Why NOT give away the service with the idea that more listeners would hear them?

Anonymous said...

That being said, I want to make the point that it is not impossible to use one receiver, in-home and in-car.
...unless it's built-into your car's dashboard, that is.

Richard in N.C. said...

I would be real intrigued to be able to pick up Sirius-NASCAR online, for a reasonable fee - but getting 3 large organizations and their lawyers to agree would not necessarily be simple. For instance, Time Wormer subscribers still cannot get the NFL Network.

Dot said...

Why does channel 128 carry commls? Is this true of all Sirius radio channels? If you're paying for the service, wouldn't that mean no commls?

GinaV24 said...

Dot, I think some of the other "sports" channels, like the NFL channel, does commercials as well although I'm not 100% sure because I only listen to music and NASCAR on my receiver. The reason I think that is that those channels advertise on the NASCAR channel, too.

I know that when I first got my receiver I was a little unhappy at getting ads on Sirius 128 because IMO since I was paying for this radio service I was expecting to NOT have to listen to commercials. I deal with them the same way as I do on TV anymore, I change channels as soon as an ad comes on.

I still don't know if the ads are a NASCAR deal on this channel or if it is something else. Maybe JD knows?

Vicky D said...

Dot, I remember years and years ago when cable was coming into existence, they told us since we were paying for the service we wouldn't be watching commercials. We are watching commercials during all the shows now.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Commercials are included....

JD

Dot said...

@ Gina, thanks.

@ VickyD, I thought of that when I was typing my first comment. If we're paying, why are we seeing commls?

The entire telecommunications field (TV, phones, net) needs a congressional probe or a real big class action lawsuit. Not that I'm advocating this but, consumers are getting the short end.

Sorry JD if I went OT. BTW, does Paul Brooks have the power to change anything, if he wanted to?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Mr. Brooks is the person who put these deals in place. He is the one person who can make the right decisions and solve this issue.

JD

GinaV24 said...

But apparently Paul Brooks would rather do the deal with Showtime!

Anonymous said...

It just seems to me that NASCAR signs contracts so they don't have to worry about anything but the product on the track. The funny thing is a company that is driven on Marketing has to be aware that they need to control everything tightly and not outsource it so they have no control of how their own product is presented to the fans. Not sure they can or want to figure it out..