Thursday, November 11, 2010

NASCAR's Online Standoff Continues (Updated)


This is a topic that is near and dear to our heart. It's a topic that has very diverse opinions expressed by those on both sides of the equation. It's time to talk about streaming NASCAR races and other NASCAR video content online.

As you may know, Turner Sports holds a contract to operate the NASCAR.com website that also includes control of online NASCAR video. The current offerings on NASCAR.com include leaderboards, stats and even electronic tracking of cars as they race, but there is no live video.

Each weekend, NASCAR uses a combination of TV partners to originate practice, qualifying and race coverage for its three national touring series. Unlike other professional motorsports, none of that coverage is made available online.

FOX and ESPN have been adamant that any streaming, even of the network's own NASCAR programming with commercials, would undermine their respective network agendas. FOX wants to protect the exclusivity of programming for local stations while ESPN wants to be the sole source of events like The Chase for the Championship.

Click here to see what Time Warner Cable subscribers got recently. It seems that in response to the large amount of consumers using online video sources instead of cable TV, ESPN has changed direction.

In fact, ESPN has gone ahead and started streaming it's networks to TWC customers. Needless to say, that includes NASCAR races and other NASCAR programming. As you may well imagine, this did not sit very well with the folks at Turner Sports.

Having been forced to sit on the sidelines for several years now where NASCAR was concerned, Turner responded aggressively. Registered users and those on the NASCAR.com email list received a surprising note shortly before the Sprint Cup Series race from Talladega began. That is a piece of the email shown above.

Update: The folks at Turner pointed out that the format of the email pictured above is similar to one sent before every Cup Series race. We did not mean to imply that this type of communication was a one time thing.

It was an invitation for computer users to watch the live ESPN coverage of Talladega online at NASCAR.com for no charge. Talk about a shot across the bow.

Sure enough, there was a nice big window with the ESPN coverage. In the blink of an eye, online users had access to a live NASCAR race. Just as ESPN was streaming the race to TWC customers, Turner Sports was streaming the race to NASCAR.com users. ESPN held the TV rights and Turner held the online rights. Both chose to use them. You knew something had to give.

Suddenly, before the race was over the NASCAR.com screen went black. Whether someone from ESPN, NASCAR or Turner pulled the plug is not known. What is known is that the Talladega race never came back online and the next race in Texas never even appeared. The online door had been slammed shut again.

It's pretty clear that there are some discussions going-on behind the scenes that feature NASCAR's biggest TV partner in ESPN and NASCAR's online partner in Turner just squaring off like the two Jeffs on the backstretch.

Turner issued a statement to us that addressed the issue:

One of our goals as a programmer is to make sure our audience receives an optimal viewing experience, regardless of the platform. We continue to have productive conversations with our NASCAR partners to develop opportunities and a model that supports the fans desire to consume content on multiple platforms for the 2011 Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.

That is a very polite way of saying that it's time for ESPN, FOX and even SPEED to wake-up to the fact that making NASCAR content available online should have happened years ago. Whatever the model, it has to happen for 2011.

In this day and age there is no excuse for a sport like NASCAR not to stream every single live telecast for the entire season. There is no excuse for the sport not to offer shows like NASCAR Now and Race Hub online.

Click here for a 2007 offering from the first season of The Daly Planet. It is titled "NASCAR Fans Turn To Internet As TV Networks Fail To Deliver."

In the first year of the new NASCAR TV contract, hardcore fans had no daily show on SPEED, two complete clowns on ESPN2's NASCAR Now and no designated post-race coverage on live race telecasts. SPEED was dark, ESPN was confused and only the Internet provided relief.

Now, four seasons later, we are still fighting to get even one Sprint Cup Series race streamed online as the sport suffers through an incredible downturn in TV ratings, popularity and attendance. That's a sad commentary on the inability of NASCAR's media partners to address the growing reality surrounding them.

Let's hope for the sake of the sport that cooler heads prevail and we can begin 2011 with a fulltime online TV application for NASCAR programming. Streaming may well hold the key to getting fans to return to the sport by making additional cameras, technology and information available in addition to the single channel TV feed.

We should have an update on this topic prior to Homestead. At this point, neither of the final two Sprint Cup Series races will be made available online. In an age of laptops, desktops, and iPads it seems almost amazing that this struggle continues.

As usual we welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

28 comments:

The Chad said...

I wouldn't mind an official streaming option.

I choose not to have cable TV, and because of that, I'm shut out of over half the season.

I've been fortunate to find an online stream that allows me to follow my favorite sport, in spite of how ESPN treats the coverage.

I've had the MLB app on my phone for a couple of years now, and wish there was something like that available for Nascar fans...I know, wrong cell phone carrier. :/

Anonymous said...

I suspect that NASCAR, ESPN, Fox and Turner are just rearranging the deck chairs at this point.

earl06 said...

It defies logic that a sport would deny access to potential new fans by having the sort of rights cluster NASCAR has boxed itself into.

If anything, they should be begging folks to watch online. When NASCAR sold off all their content rights, they gave up control of the sport to entities with differing agendas. Now they are in the situation of having to wait 4 years before they have any say in how the sport is presented. Meanwhile.....

Chadderbox said...

I play Fantasy Nascar on ESPN and other sites. It's fun and easy. I have been doing it a couple years now. It would be cool if Nascar.com could integrate ones (Nascar.com) fantasy lineup with a live stream of the race and then a person could watch how their fantasy lineup is doing in real time and compete against other fantasy lineups either individually or in leagues. This is how it is done for those who play fantasy football on ESPN. It's called "fantasycast" and its very fun for those who play fantasy football.

Obviously they are behind the 8 ball with the streaming of content and they need to get their butt in gear on that one, but there is other things they can do in addition to streaming that would keep a person engaged during the race!

MRM4 said...

As much as I hate to say it, online streaming is something that is growing and here to stay. I say that because I'm traditional where I like to watch my program on my big TV, not a small computer screen or an even smaller cell phone screen. But NASCAR fans will be left out because of Sprint and the TV networks having their own ideas about that. I'm sure this will come up during the next contract negotiations. Still, they need to get with the times.

GinaV24 said...

I would love to have internet streaming as an option. TNT's racebuddy program makes following the race on my computer easy and enjoyable. I get a real time pit reporter and multiple views of the action.

Considering how disappointing the TV coverage has been from both Fox and ESPN because they each follow their own script, being able to view the race another way would be good.

What I'd most like to be able to do is what I used to before the chase and before Fox decided to become the cult of personality telecast - enjoy the race each week as if it is a standalone event. Then all that mattered to me was my favorite having a good day.

NASCAR and all of its broadcast partner and Turner need to pull their collective heads out of the sand and try giving the fans back the fun, instead of the useless yakking and camera shots that have been the norm for the past several years.

Roland said...

All i have to say to this is Justin.tv . Its not official but the races are on there. And if you miss a race live, theres a guy on youtube that uploads HD video of all the races in their entirety sometimes just hours after the races. The streams are out there, you just gotta find it.

GinaV24 said...

One other thing, NASCAR can't afford to wait 4 years for the contracts to renew to offer this to the fans.

When you're bleeding fans like this, you need to take major corrective action quickly

Walter said...

Mr Editor -
Am I mistaken in thinking TNT's Cup broadcasts w/Race Buddy would be 'streaming' ...don't hesitate to educate me on this ...Thx
Walter

racingfool said...

I am gonna be at every race from now on and stream the action LIVE to everyone from my phone.
Oh, you may get dizzy because it will be a one camera shoot.
But, no commercials and no Digger just me drinking beer in the stands with my girlfriend. I even gonna have her wear a Bikini in Miami for the race and from time to time have her do some reporting. I'll even do some announcing myself.I'm gonna mention Sponsor's names, show cars in the back of the pack, but I will not have any replays. By the way, how do you pronounce Keselowski.

Anonymous said...

Turner needs to pay for any content it streams via NASCAR.com. ESPN paid a bunch for the exclusive rights, and they should be compensated for it. No company can survive by giving away its product.

Adam said...

NASCAR needs to realize that people will watch live streams of the races regardless of whether they offer them officially or not.

The question is - would NASCAR rather its fans watch the races on an NASCAR.com live stream or force them to go to sites like Justin.tv, UStream, etc.?

One would think the answer is obvious, but we are living in Brian France's NASCAR. I don't see them getting their heads out of the sand any time soon, sadly.

Anonymous said...

The advertisers pay for us to see their commercials and I will not watch cable because I end up paying to watch adds instead of racing. If NASCAR wants us to watch then they need to make it available for free.I will not pay $100+ a month to watch commercials.

Vince said...

Nascar has to face reality and admit that their business model is broken. From ownership of online content to sponsorship.

Because of sponsor exclusivity they've chased away heavy weight sponsors like at&t, Verizon and countless other smaller sponsors. This hurts the little guys trying to get sponsors.

The whole streaming content online issue should have been resolved years ago. Come on this is the 21st century. We need options to view the races. Be it on our computers, cell phones, iPads or what ever.

Nascar, ESPN/ABC, Fox, TNT, Turner and all other parties involved need to all get together in a room and get the online content sharing issue resolved. This sport is bleeding fans. Opening new venues for multimedia viewing is a must both for keeping existing fans and gaining new fans in the coveted 18-34 year old age bracket. I hate this saying, but it's a no brainer. Come on guys!

Ken-Michigan said...

Anon 10:24 is exactly right. If Turner is going to stream the races, Turner needs to compensate the networks. Networks can't simply give it away after they have exclusive rights.

For me, if it came to a point where I had to rely on watching a race on a computer, I'd find other entertainment. Computer guy & computer girl might feel the need to view the race on their laptop, but why ?? It baffles me.

Are you in some underground bunker that doesn't get TV, but does get the internet?
I realize TV coverage is below average, is coverage going to be better when it's streamed, or will everybody start belly achin' and griping about THAT online coverage too?

If I went down one row of the grandstands at a race and polled 100 race fans, I would bet the vast majority would care less if there was streaming.

What situation do you have to be in to rely on streaming of the race? I'd like to know.

What MORE information am I going to get by watching on the computer?
Computer guy and computer girl has to step up and fill me in.

If I can't watch or DVR on TV, I'll listen on MRN. If I'm in a market that doesnt have MRN....oh well, I'll miss a race.

If streaming every NASCAR race online is going to be an outlet for our U.S. Troops serving around the world to see one of their favorite sports, I respect that and it should be happening already if it isn't.

Finally, on this Veteran's Day, I say thank you to the brave men and women who have served our country & to those who are serving today.

My American Flag is flying today & it flies everyday in your honor.
**(if i knew how to stream it online I would)

Vince said...

To Ken in Michigan. It's not just "computer guy or girl". For me it's making a choice of not paying my cable company $80 a month or there abouts for a bunch of channels I don't watch or want. Why should I pay $80 a month to watch 10 or 12 channels. Being retired in this economy I have to make choices and I choose to have Internet access and spend the $80 I'd spend on cable for more pressing things like food, electric, insurance, gasoline, etc. And I'm not alone in this. I just doesn't make sense anymore to pay for a boatload of channels you don't watch or want. I don't know about you, but I have better things to do with my $$$.

Buschseries61 said...

Ken-Michigan: It's simple, there are many people out there that do not have cable tv. The economy is tough and sacrifices have to be made. If these people can't watch TNT or ESPN, they would be able to watch online.

I know many people that have given up cable tv, tired of paying the same rate while channels continue to be taken away.


I don't think the issue is whether the coverage will be better in the internet. The issue is making the sport more accessible.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR has failed to keep up with the times with the development of it's race cars as in engine designs no longer available, 4speeds? , ancient suspension systems and....... So why be concerned about advances in the way we view the race? And by the way, how about putting some new technology on the race cars as in tire pressures and fuel etc. and stream it to the pits for better decisions to keep cars competitive for better racing on the track.

Anonymous said...

An internet connection is not free either--especially one good enough to stream TV. Just making the point that it costs $$ just like Tv does. And Ken, you can actually connect your PC to the TV to watch it big. I suppose for some that makes sense.

I can't imagine why anyone would watch on a phone, however, unless one is in an airport or traveling somehow.

Anonymous said...

I think it is great that there is technology for those who can afford it or receive reception and get the on line stream. However, not everyone has computers or cell phones at home to sign on and watch so they have to rely on work computers if their boss allows. Many people are on budgets cannot afford to have those items even if they would work in their area so tv is the only option because they live in areas where they can't get reception.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a free lunch. ESPN gets money through subscriber fees as well. People dropping cable lowers the amount of money they get in that respect.

As some people already commented, they've been dropping cable, put still want to see the races.

Somebody has to pay for that, as the content isn't free. Like in the cable model, advertising just doesn't cover all of the costs.

Anonymous said...

A lot of good points have been made here, but I don't see anything being done until the water is circling the drain.

Anonymous said...

interesting - and perhaps related - is that there is a NFL game on NFL network tonight - and during their respective seasons NBA, NHL, MLB and Golf (Did I miss any?) all have a league owned cable network and they broadcast games. where is the NASCAR TV Channel?

Is it related? Point is NASCAR needs to take control once again.

Finance Guy said...

I am a Sirius subcriber and find it idiotic that I cannot listen to to the Nascar Radio station online ANYWHERE.

Don said...

I have basic cable. Like others, I refuse to pay big money for three or four channels that would be enjoyable.

I pay for internet because it gives me access to much more than three or four extra sources of entertainment. In most cases, I can find the programs that I'm missing on cable so there's no need to pay for both.

I would miss most of the NASCAR season without cable except that one can find free broadcasts on the web. I'd pay a nominal charge for streaming NASCAR, but I won't pay for ESPN because I don't follow baseball/football/etc.

I'm getting used to free NASCAR broadcasts, Brian France better find a pay solution before I EXPECT to pay nothing.

GinaV24 said...

Walter, you asked about racebuddy -- that is only available when TNT has the race broadcasts for Sprint cup and since nascar.com is managed by Turner, they provide it as an online stream to the fans, but only for those 6 races.

Hope that helps.

GinaV24 said...

No one is saying that it should be offered for free. I don't have any problem with paying for a service whether it be cable TV, sirius radio or a broadband internet provider. What I do what are options for being able to follow the sport. If the race was offered through various media, I could choose which worked best for me as a consumer.

Of course, it would be REALLY nice if the product that was being offered was worth paying for as well.

Right now, I have the worst of all worlds. If I want to watch, I pay for cable and am frustrated and limited by the TV broadcast, if I want trackpass so I can follow what MY favorite driver is doing, I pay for internet and a fee, if I want to hear MRN/PRN, I pay for Sirius (yes, I know the race is available on trackpass, too, but I listen to my driver on that feed), so this is a great deal for NASCAR and the cable companies, not so good for the consumer

jiminkc1 said...

Will someone please wake up! Is it NASCAR or the Network, but someone needs to wake up and see what is really going on. Television ratings are down. Attendance at races for the most part are down. What is the cause of this? It is not because Dale Jr. is not winning, nor is it that Jimmie Johnson has won four championships in a row. The reason for the fall is the poor economy in the United States. It is the same reason that RPM is having difficult times.

What does NASCAR and ESPN keep doing? They continue to show their PLAYOFFS on cable TV. People have made a choice to spend what money they have on other things than NASCAR Tickets and Cable TV. Some people have chosen to have the internet in their homes. Why doesn't NASCAR try to get those individuals involved in watching the races. Commercials and advertisement can still be sold to reach those individuals on the internet. Come on NASCAR and ESPN wake up, do not let this sports fall behind like the IRL. Look at the IRL they now show their races on Versus. VS is not a basic Cable network.

I would like to challenge NASCAR to make their product available online so that the sport can continue to grow and thrive like it once did.