Monday, January 31, 2011

Sprint Cup Races Still Missing Online Component

As we move into the new racing season, the Turner Sports folks have already announced that the Camping World Truck Series will be the first to have a full time online application. Called TruckBuddy, every race will have extra race cameras, in-truck views, scoring information and more available online at no charge. The truck series races are televised by SPEED.

This brother of the original RaceBuddy was introduced at Martinsville last year to positive reviews. All of these online applications are hosted at the website. Turner Sports runs and also holds all of the online content rights for the sport.

FOX begins 2011 Sprint Cup Series coverage with the Daytona 500. Unfortunately, no announcement was made concerning RaceBuddy for the FOX races this season. The difference between FOX and SPEED is easy to understand. FOX is an over-the-air broadcast network, while SPEED is distributed directly by satellite and cable TV.

Current SPEED honcho David Hill is the former president of FOX Sports and always said he would not allow online streaming in order to protect the exclusivity of the telecast for the FOX affiliates. The issue on the table is that online streaming of the race itself and use of the RaceBuddy application are two completely different animals.

Turner Sports designed "Buddy" to be offered as an addition to a NASCAR TV telecast. The actual feed of the TV program, including the announcer audio, is not included. Used on the Gatorade Duels, the trucks and TNT's Sprint Cup Series races this online concept has encouraged fans to get more involved in creating their own race experience.

It's certainly not clear why any FOX local station would have a problem with two individual cameras, an in-car feed and an aerial shot being streamed online. In fact, there are several very positive elements that RaceBuddy provides to actually support the TV telecast.

One of the biggest fan frustrations is the inability to see the race as it continues during frequent TV commercial breaks. Once again this season, NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series TV networks have been unable to make the side-by-side commercial format work for the race telecasts. That means approximately one-third of each race will be lost for TV viewers.

RaceBuddy allows fans to continue to watch the telecast during commercials but also keep an eye on the live action. The battle-cam, pit road cam and aerial views allow fans to see what is going on and anticipate the return of the telecast after the commercial. When the live telecast resumes, the focus shifts back naturally to the TV and the full production of the race.

Also lost in the shuffle is the fact that RaceBuddy offers a location for fan chat and customized scoring information. Currently, fan chat is scattered across the Internet and social media sites. Scoring is provided by a silent ticker that traces across the top of the TV screen.

One of the thrusts of NASCAR's agenda this season is to reach out to the younger demographic that used to comprise a key element of the sport's fan base. Unfortunately, NASCAR telecasts ask young fans to sit for three hours watching on a machine with the only option being a volume control. In a world of interactive and online youth, the result has been predictable.

The bottom line is that RaceBuddy gives younger fans who are used to being interactive with their media that chance without compromising the integrity of the television presentation. These two elements can exist together in a cooperative environment that actually strengthens all of the parties involved.

TV gets something that can take away fan anger about commercials without costing the networks a dime. Turner gets to sell a RaceBuddy sponsorship and move forward with the long-neglected online development of the sport. NASCAR gets an online application that offers younger fans a new level of interactivity.

If FOX, Turner Sports and NASCAR cannot work out a deal it does not make a bit of difference what ole DW says, how fast the cars go or who wins. In 2011, a major professional sport like NASCAR is simply not going to thrive without a focused online application for every live event.

NASCAR should be scrambling to make sure that the Daytona 500 is seen on RaceBuddy around the online world in a manner that will make Internet users want to find and watch the full TV coverage. For a company deep into its own online ventures, the FOX attitude on this topic is hard to understand.

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.


racingfool said...

JD, you are dialed in brother! Great story!

Chadderbox said...

JD, I agree with your comments. The biggest disappointment for me so far in 2011 is the fact that Fox (and ESPN) will not offer an online application. Being an NFL fan, on Sunday I watch the Direct TV Red Zone Channel and have my laptop open with the Fantasy Football application scoring in real time. In addition, the broadcast of the game is good too! Nascar could have all of this or something like it and more. It gets the fan base engaged on many levels and provides entertainment.

earl06 said...

Anything short of full race telecasts being offered online is of no interest to me. Innovate or die...

OSBORNK said...

Seems to me like both NASCAR and Fox are in a time warp. NASCAR hasn't endorsed the use of fuel injection after it has been in common use for many years and Fox hasn't endorsed the online world years after it has taken over the world. It appears both need to be taken over by a more youth oriented management team.

bryan said...

It'll be interesting to compare the CWTS ratings to the other touring series. For many of us it was already the more watchable one, but with Buddy it'll be just amazing and I bet much more popular.

GinaV24 said...

Awesome again, JD. The racebuddy application is really good and adds so much to the race broadcast.

If Fox and ESPN are going to continue to both load the broadcast with commercials AND annoy me with their commentators, at least with racebuddy I can see what I'm missing during the commercial breaks and get information from the on site pit reporter.

As you say, the demographic they are trying to attract is the 18-34 crowd who are NOT going to sit and watch 4 hrs of racing as it is currently produced.

I am not part of that demographic and I will not sit and watch a race on TV the way it is currently being broadcast. I've relied for a long time on trackpass to know what the heck is REALLY going on with my driver and the racebuddy app during TNT's time enhances that. Kudos to Speed for bringing RB online for the trucks. It is a really nice addition to the coverage.

Angie said...

Good thoughts that NASCAR and Fox need to pay attention to. I am one of the fans that have been asking for online content for years. When I am away from a tv screen during a race, I rely on online content and would tune into a network site for the information if they would supply it. But, if they continue to take away so much of the race due to commercial time, I tune it out and rely on people on Twitter and Facebook instead. Not good for getting me to watch commercials and pay attention to sponsorships!

Ty said...

This is a bunch of crap, just like not being able to listen to SIRIUS NASCAR 128 online. C'mon people, it's 2011. And the way ratings are done needs to be tweaked as well to include online viewing. I know many out there aren't near a TV, but watch on their computer because that is all they have at the time.

AncientRacer said...

I just think it is a money thing. I cannot see Rupert (Arrrrrrrrr) being willing to put out what TNT would want. It be not aboot the fans, Jack Sparrow. Arrrrrrrr.

Anonymous said...

If the networks don't have the confidence that they've got the best product for viewing races, then a second source is probably viewed as competition that they don't want to have to work against. If done right, it could absolutely be a compliment to the existing telecast allowing the nessasary evil of ads, yet not dropping any coverage for the die hard fans. A win for everyone involved.

Given the lower ratings last year, I'm guessing everyone's confidence is shaken. Best way to fix that is to fix the telecast so your audience can't get enough of it. Easiest way, choke off the competition.

LVI56 said...

Good article. Racebuddy adds so much more and i really enjoyed truckbuddy. I am very happy to hear that we will have truckbuddy for the entire season, as I don't get Speed with my current TV package. Saves me money.

And while there are things I am unhappy about with the race broadcast, I'm still a fan and will still tune in. Though, I'll always have one eye on Twitter to pick up what the network misses or ignores.

I hope that with the success of the testing streaming and the great use of social media with it will get the Fox guys re-thinking their stance on streaming race weekends.

Anonymous said...

I think a simple fact is being overlooked here, Advertisement income to the network.

If you provide another venue to watch the race, who will watch the commercials? Isn't that how the network makes it's money to pay for the rights to broadcast the race and hopefully make a profit?

Call me cluseless, but what am I missing here? Aren't the networks broadcasting races to make a profit?

" J.T." in L.A.

uncredentialed said...

My guess why FOX doesn't want even in-car streaming is that viewers would not be watching their commercials during the breaks.

Although from a ratings perspective, so long as the TV is still on the channel they would never tell whether you are paying attention to your TV or your computer.

Dan said...

Meanwhile, the NFL - the league that Nascar wants to be - is actively advertising the fact that fans can watch its product on any type of device, anywhere (Youtube has copies of the spots). While I personally don't think that mobile video is the magic bullet to reverse the declining viewership, the fact that we're having this discussion is a pretty good indication that the folks in Daytona are not doing everything possible to stop the decline.

RFMjr said...

There you go again, JD. You know better than to use facts and reason in a NASCAR media discussion. Those things are clearly banned from use under the terms of the media partners' contracts.

Get with the program.

Newracefan said...

So does this mean we finally get timing and scoring on line with Truck Buddy, if I remember right there was none last year. That alone would be huge.

Someone here mentioned no one would watch the commercials and I think that is a big part of the equation. Obviously the networks are not getting enough money because besides the commercials, we have race breaks, tech garages, such and so bumpers etc etc. Unfortunately it's all about the money and the fans lose out. If they would just see that it makes people less likely to channel surf because they are already multitasking using the computer or more likely to turn back to the race because they see some action on their laptop. Of course that implies the TV coverage is actually following the action but that is an entirely different issue.

Hot Rod said...

they are going to have to do better with the technical details. I remember trying to log into the the computer "simulcast" during the duels (while watching the race live) and gave up after 1/2 hour of several failed attempts to log on.

Dave in Ohio

Anonymous said...

Now that we are used to "free" internet content, should we believe radio & TV commercials are nothing more than an avoidable nuisance?

Without commercials, who should pay the huge production costs and mammoth rights fees to broadcast these races?

If you think you "deserve" commercial-free uninterrupted coverage, come to the track and buy a ticket!

KoHoSo said...

I think this shows yet another piece of evidence that Fox (as well as ESPN) are not true telecast "partners" with NASCAR in the true sense of that word. Instead, NewsCorp and Disney are only interested in squeezing what they can out of our beloved sport with no thought of how they could prosper together beyond the current contract.

JD is absolutely correct. Some people here might not appreciate it but, with the younger generation, the days of network affiliate exclusivity are over. Somehow, Brian "Flounder" France needs to find the leadership abilities to get a deal done between everybody involved to give all fans the additional online content that people both young and old crave. Otherwise, the sport will be even more behind when 2014 rolls around than it already is on these issues.

I would also like to add that I believe a big aggravating factor is how repetitive the commercials are these days and how offensive a significant portion of them are to NASCAR's many conservative-minded I still cringe thinking about how many left going all the way back to the Son of the Beach promos when some races were shown on FX.

Anonymous said...

While Racebuddy is currently free, I don't think he said it would all have to be commercial free. One could have banner ads, and/or make you watch a commercial before you could connect as some sites do. For that matter, I think people would also be willing to *pay* a modest fee for Internet race coverage if it offered enough perks.

Jonathan said...

and the beat goes on! Nascar, Fox, ESPN there all missing the boat here! Its the same old story different day! its getting old and quick.... I dont understand why Nascar dosent wake up and change this.... Thank God I have direct TV and HotPass so I honestly already have my split screen when needed! For those it must suck big time. The younger demo needs more than just a TV!

Anonymous said...

I used Race Buddy and I didn't like it. If something happened, there was no rerunning of what happened. It is just live coverage.

Anonymous said...

Good article. If the NFL and MLB can do it, even on espn no less, it does not make any sense nascar would not do it - unless management.... MC

Nick Doyle said...

JD --

While they won't do it, NASCAR and the various and sundry networks that "telecast" the Cup races should take a look at the coverage of the 24 Hours at Daytona that Speed provided over this past weekend.

A much tougher course to cover -- but done far better than any Cup races last year.

Professional announcers -- unlike the shills and pimps that we usually have to tolerate during Cup races.

Minimal commercial interruptions -- unlike the every 10 laps during Cup races.

I'm a long-time Cup fan, but I'll watch any kind of good racing with good coverage.

Speed's coverage was so superior to the past few years of Cup coverage that it was in an entirely different league. And I didn't even have to listen to or watch "human interest" segments on the top three drivers in points every time they went to commercial.

A genuine breath of fresh air. Would have been perfect it they'd been Cup cars, but I enjoyed all the hours I watched.

Cheers --


Anonymous said...

As someone who cannot really afford the 'basic' cable TV package for access to ESPN and TNT, I would love races to be broadcast online. I enjoyed RaceBuddy for what it was - I didn't expect all the bells and whistles of the TNT broadcast if I didn't pay for them. However, ESPN offered almost all of their exclusive college football bowl games online on - why can't NASCAR races (especially those in the Chase) also be available? I think it makes a lot of sense to grow interest and viewership by making it available on as many platforms as possible.