Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Last Minute Deal Brings NASCAR Content Online


Since 2007 we have been describing the stand-off between Turner Sports, the online rights holder for NASCAR, and two of the sport's key media partners, ESPN and FOX.

Veteran reporter Dustin Long of Landmark Newspapers is reporting that Turner and ESPN have made a last minute deal to settle most of those differences. Basically, the agreement involves some good old fashioned horse trading. Click here to read Long's complete story.

ESPN has an online service called Watch ESPN. This allows existing cable customers of Time Warner, Bright House and Verizon FiOS access to the ESPN networks online. It gives devices like laptops, iPads and smart phones streaming of all things ESPN.

What the Watch ESPN app did not have was NASCAR. Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and the daily NASCAR Now program were all blacked-out because Turner held the online rights. Those shows could be watched on TV, but not online.

Meanwhile, Turner has been working hard to expand the RaceBuddy franchise as a part of the online package of goodies that the NASCAR.com website can offer. This year RaceBuddy was available for the six TNT Sprint Cup Series races, all of the truck series races and several non-points events carried by SPEED.

Since 2007 ESPN has been enforcing the TV exclusivity that prohibits Turner from using any live racetrack footage online. ESPN paid a pretty penny for the final 17 Sprint Cup Series races and the door has been tightly shut to allowing any of that content destined for TV to be used for RaceBuddy.

As Long reported, in the agreement scheduled to be announced Wednesday, both Turner and ESPN have made moves that ultimately benefit their own agendas. NASCAR fans just happen to benefit as well.

Turner allows ESPN to stream Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Now show on the Watch ESPN service. ESPN allows Turner to use live race video and audio in a Sprint Cup Series version of RaceBuddy. Ultimately, both sides walk away happy.

NASCAR fans might need a second to sort all this out. Those with existing Watch ESPN service will now get to see that NASCAR content online. Folks who have Comcast or other major cable companies who do not offer Watch ESPN are still out of luck. The Charlotte race is on ABC and is not in this package, just the other nine races.

Meanwhile anyone with online access can get the RaceBuddy application through the NASCAR.com website. The new version will have two mosaic (mix) video boxes with four windows each for a total of eight video sources. Whatever in-car cameras are chosen will also have the team scanner.

This version of RaceBuddy will have a live leaderboard, social media chatting and Raceview's position tracker. It will be similar to the layout used for the TNT races this year. RaceBuddy is a great way to see live video when the race is in commercial break and watch different coverage angles for more track views.

What RaceBuddy does not provide is actual streaming of the finished race program that ESPN viewers will be seeing. None of the eight video sources is the actual "race." This protects ESPN by forcing those without the Watch ESPN service back to the TV set.

In the end, fans do win because more access is great. RaceBuddy is a solid online race companion and Watch ESPN will allow folks nationwide to catch the live video on any kind of handheld device or tablet. Hopefully, positive feedback from both these developments will lead to some additional online content sharing and development between these two parties in the future.

While the timing of this deal may seem strange, it's really not. NASCAR, ESPN and Turner are all standing on the beach and seeing the same thing. There is a huge wave approaching and it is timed to hit on Sunday afternoon. The NFL is back and NASCAR is poised to take a huge hit in the TV ratings.

One glance at NFL Sunday Ticket, NFL Red Zone, NFL Mobile and the NFL Network coming straight at NASCAR's ten little races is pretty good motivation to make something happen. The NFL seems poised for its strongest TV ratings in history.

It's been a long road to these changes. Thanks to all the TDP readers who have consistently made their voices heard on these issues. While there are some additional online and production issues to solve, this is a nice present for a tired fan base watching NASCAR since February.

If any additional details are made public, this post will be updated on Wednesday throughout the day.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

26 comments:

KoHoSo said...

Another victory for Captain Daly and The Planeteers! :-D

Gymmie said...

w00t! w00t! I swear I heard Twitterville screaming with excitement as the tweets came through <3. Such great news. It's going to be awesome to be able to watch Race Buddy or Chase Buddy as they'll call it.

Now to get FOX to join in and hope everyone continues to play nicely together so we can have it all season long.

It's great for fans to have options. I know some folks work on Race Day so this will give them a chance to watch at work. Or even those who may choose the Football game over the race can still keep an eye on the race action while there are various lulls in the game without having to change channels :).

Brian said...

JD, do you know if the "Chase Buddy" will stream to Sprint phones like TNT's does? It is a great feature for sure and I'm glad they are finally doing something for the fans!

Haus14 said...

Great news JD! Thank you for taking the lead in getting this accomplished.

Haus

GinaV24 said...

Wow, at last! this is great news. I have Verizon FIOS - now I'll have to figure out how to get this whole Watch ESPN thing onto my computer, but just having Racebuddy back will be awesome!

gymmie, you are so right, now Fox needs to get on board, too!

Thanks for the info, JD.

Bobby said...

For Monday Fox races, RaceBuddy should include an "Enter ZIP Code" so RaceBuddy can pay-per-click to the local Fox affiliate to make it a "RaceBuddy + local affiliate" where they pay the local affiliate revenue for the enhanced coverage.

Buschseries61 said...

About time! It seems silly it took these two 5 years to work out this issue.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
After spending much time in the dark, NASCAR's media partners found the light switch. The Chase is on - let's roll!
Walter

Andrew S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew S. said...

I wouldn't say they found the light switch, more like they just lit a couple of candles. Still lots of stuff to be "fixed" such as the races on Fox. The Nationwide and Truck series, Sirius NASCAR Radio streaming and more NASCAR coverage in Canada

Bill said...

thanks JD! Well, I guess I can live with RaceBuddy. It's better than MRN on the radio.

My ISP is Century Link, so if anyone else has that service, go to the ESPN3 site and send a request to have it added!

robbiejr said...

Wonder if FOX will follow suit next year? Personally, I wouldn't hold my breath on that happening, but who knows?

Charlie said...

I have Charter as a Cable provider and I just checked and I can get Watch Espn.

Becky [@hightechredneck] said...

It's a start. :)

I tweeted my cable company last nite (CableOne), and of course, they aren't ones that allow the WatchESPN app or online service. :( But ... they tweeted me back saying they're considering the "on the go" apps, including ESPN. So I'm hopeful. Just not real hopeful because it's a crappy cable co ... LOL.

One more thing ... it sucks that they don't have RaceBuddy for the Charlotte race to "protect" local ABC affiliates. My local ABC affiliate won't even air the pre-race shows (if it conflicts with local news OR church service shows on Sunday mornings). :(

Roland said...

Marty Reid out, AB in? Check
Split screen commercials? Check
Racebuddy for ESPN races? Check
Races being available online? Check

This blog is definitely having an impact on their decisions. They are actually listening to us.

Dot said...

Hey JD,

I thought of you when I read about this elsewhere.

Though I am happy there is now another way to view the races, in my case I can't see them online. My cable/net provider isn't one of the golden ones. :( I have COX in Las Vegas. I'll have to check to see if it's available here.

JD, will someone be tracking the numbers on this, TV vs internet race watching? This may play big into the next TV package deal. I don't know how this all works.

West Coast Diane said...

When I saw the first tweet I thought of you JD and told my husband "JD must be doing a dance and shouting hallelujah". One man can make a difference!! Thanks for all you do.

Anonymous said...

The tone of this post is somewhat... depressed! Cmon John some days there actually is success! :)

I second the checklist I saw above. Not sure these changes will help TV ratings any (is it easier to measure RaceBuddy & WatchESPN numbers?) but yes I was one of those crowing victory!

NorCalFan said...

I guess satellite customers like me are still out of luck. As a former Comcast customer, until they improve their pitiful reliability record in my area, I will watch Nascar via Direct TV, its Hotpass and Nascar.com Trackpass. That being said, Comcast Cable isn't even included on the list.

iworkhere said...

Lot's of ways to enjoy live racing now.
Radio
Broadcast TV
Cable TV
The internet
OH and I almost forgot.
Going to the track.
So why not get off the couch once in a while and enjoy the excitement most of you may have been missing and go to a race?
Who knows, you might enjoy it.

DewCrew88 said...

This is a great day not only for TDP readers and JD since we have all been vocal about this, but this is a great day for Nascar. Nascar will finally get the 21st century coverage it deserves and fans will be able to watch and enjoy cup racing.

Now FOX needs to step up to the plate.

Anonymous said...

@iworkhere:
I'm happy for you that, in this economy, you can afford to go to a track.
I'm for you that, unlike so many, you must have a job that allows the time off to do this.
I'm happy for you that you must live close enough to get there.

I'm not happy you put down the many of us true NASCAR fans who aren't so lucky.

If you have a positive point, I am missing it.

I live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Which track should I drive to?

Makiki
Honolulu

robbiejr said...

Anyone think we'll ever hear from FOX, since it looks like their circus is being left behind.

Roadgeek Adam said...

TNT's Wide Open Coverage needs to be expanded to Sears Point, since that's a track where a commercial could be a problem to knowing what's going on.

This is great work by ESPN, now let's see how good the coverage is.

NorCalFan said...

Today I read in the sports section of my local paper that because ESPN will pay about $15 billion over eight years for Monday Night Football and its programming for digital platforms that TV providers are asking Congress and the FCC to push ESPN to allow them to put the sports network on a sports tier to be paid for only by people who want it—like HBO and other premium channels. The American Cable Association, a consortium of small cable companies, say that non-sports fans are subsidizing the cost for sports fans and subscribers should be able to choose whether or not they want to pay for it on a monthly basis. TV providers say bundling packages keep prices lower for all viewers. Maybe there will come a day when TV subscribers can choose all their channels ala carte.

I won’t be surprised when ESPN makes their on-line content a subscription service like Nascar.com does for Trackpass. Even though ESPN currently makes $5a month off every TV subscriber, they will want to increase rates (and revenue) to recoup their $15 billion investment. Nothing is free.

Ken said...

And yet SiriusXM still can't stream channel 90 to paying users.