Thursday, October 20, 2011

NASCAR Limping Toward Convergence


Another slow step by NASCAR toward joining the modern world of technology was announced this week. Sprint will make the six in-car camera views that fans can see on NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy available on smart phones.

The live video with in-car audio will appear on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile service for the final five Chase races. The service comes free with any Sprint Everything data plan. It's painless to use and has a lot of interactive features. Sprint continues to be the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series.

Here are some details from the company:

Accessed by more than 2.5 million unique users in 2010, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile is a wireless application that provides unique access into the world of NASCAR at no additional charge to Sprint customers with any data plan on capable devices. To download the application, existing customers can text NASCAR to 7777 (standard rates apply) or visit sprint.com/speed.

This move comes only weeks after the giant glacier of ESPN creaked and moaned and actually moved one inch. The result was a trade of content between Turner and ESPN. Happily, it was NASCAR fans who benefited.

The Watch ESPN service for laptops, tablets and smart phones got live NASCAR racing access while the Turner folks got ESPN's live camera views for NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy Chase edition.

All of this is part of a much bigger technology shift now in progress called "convergence." Click here for a TDP column on this topic from back in January of 2008 when it first arose.

At the time, SPEED was rolling out it's new website that was loaded with all kinds of video access, including a 30 minute weekly Wind Tunnel Extra that has developed almost a cult status. Kevin Annison, SPEED's online guru had even bigger things in mind.

"This is just the beginning in the evolution of SPEEDtv.com and SPEED Interactive," said Annison. "Where the environment is more conducive to broadband vertical initiatives and digital brand extensions for the linear network."

Got all that? There may be a quiz later. Here is an explanation of all this technology stuff from the 2008 TDP column.

Step back for a minute and look at sites like ESPN.com, NASCAR.com and SPEEDtv.com. Think about what they have in common. Look at the direction in which they are going and what they are investing time, money and technology in building. If you squint your eyes, it's easy to see. They all want to be your TV.

The term for this is "convergence." The definition of a technological convergence is "the modern presence of a vast array of technology to perform very similar tasks." We have websites wanting to be your video source, TV networks asking for your email, and telephones and hand-held devices that you can use to watch the entire technology battle unfold while group texting your fantasy racing club.


While ESPN paid to provide the "finished" television coverage of the Chase races, the desire of many fans is to have more online interactive options available. More camera views from on-track, in-car cameras with audio and live timing and scoring are the most popular discussion topics.

Ultimately, no matter how it is divided, the bottom line is that NASCAR needs the same kind of technological integration as other professional sports. A single TV network feed and a single radio broadcast is simply not going to allow the sport to grow.

One of the biggest complaints since 2007 has been the complete lack of Sprint Cup Series races available for live online viewing. Fans don't care who produces them or whether they contain ads. The desire is to utilize laptop, tablet and smart phone technology to enjoy racing where ever and when ever the consumers want to do it.

This season NASCAR Chairman Brian France and the ESPN public relations department have been promoting the fact that the first five Chase races attracted almost five million viewers each. Here is a point to consider with that in mind.

A recent survey from the Wireless Association concluded that in the last year the number of active smartphones (and PDA's) was over 90 million. There were also 13 million laptops and tablets in use with this category skyrocketing in popularity.

Think how many millions of connected consumers could be "watching" this year's Chase for the Championship if it was made available online. As the laws of "convergence" preach, ultimately we will have multiple devices that can access the same content throughout our day, our lives and the world.

For now, it's just six in-car cameras on a Sprint phone. As a wise man once said, every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. As NASCAR fans it may be a single step but our journey is normally half that distance. Here we go.

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

17 comments:

earl06 said...

This is a step, JD, but it won't lead anywhere. Excluding all non-Sprint smartphone users from mobile content isn't promoting the sport, and the ESPN mobile deal excludes far more than that.

It is almost 2012, I have no access to NASCAR mobile content, and the best NASCAR app available is a Twitter feed. It seems more like NASCAR wants to make it as difficult as possible to follow the sport, and that's a huge turnoff for most fans and more importantly, potential fans.

GinaV24 said...

so unless I have Sprint as a provider, I don't have access. Sorry but unless Sprint was the LAST mobile phone service on earth, I wouldn't switch to them.

I may try the watchespn app on my computer though. This version of racebuddy is useless, nothing as good as TNT's.

I appreciate that the partners are finally making the effort - it's about darn time, but glacial speed is accurate in the way they make changes.

TexasRaceLady said...

What good is this technology if you live in an area that doesn't have Wi-Fi access? Believe it or not, those areas do exist --- right here in rural East Texas for one.

Ordinary cell phone service is "iffy" at best.

Anonymous said...

Sprint Cup Mobile is limited only to Sprint customers.

The Watch ESPN service for live streams of ESPN's networks is only limited to subscribers of a couple of cable companies. This is NOT the same thing as ESPN's ESPN3 content, available to most internet providers.

Yeah, stuff may be out there, but not many people can get to it.

larry said...

I think NASCAR is doing this too late for me. I'm in the demographic that they want to forget (original fan from the 50s). The racing has got so bad that I've mostly lost interest.

I check twitter occasionally during the race and then this blog after the race to see if I need to check the DVR.

I have just deleted the last 2 races and will probably do the same in the future. I tried to stay a loyal fan, but NASCAR and TV have shut me out. The top-35 rule was the beginning, and all the rule changes since then have discouraged me from setting aside time to watch or attend the races.

Anonymous said...

My friend has the Sprint thing. It was kinda fun to be able to watch some things on it while traveling. On the *tiny* little screen. But I don't want a $70 a month cell phone bill either (and I think that's on the low end.)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Pretty much the EVO style phones are to gain live sports video access when a TV or laptop/tablet is not available.

Sprint got the deal as title sponsor, I hope this app becomes available to iPhone users with Sprint plans soon!

jason @ motorsport sensors said...

To coin a cliche "Stable door - horse bolted"

Too late really but it will get a few people signing to Sprint. Part of their plan I presume but it won't be as popular as they think

anon 11:13 said...

I might add, it certainly wasn't what made my friend sign up. Just a bonus. Her boyfriend wanted to play games. And they got some deal.

Charlie said...

I worked the Census and we had hand held computer to use. The Census picked Sprint to use for uploading information we entered on the hand held computer (HHC). What the Census found out was it did not work. Sprint does not have the coverage in the United States that they thought they did. I know Sprint sponsors the cup races and that is probably why they were picked but sprints coverage is limited. Where I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Sprint does not work that well or not at all.
At least this is a step in the right directions but it only lets a certain group have access to this new app.

The Mad Man said...

Considering Sprint may soon be heading for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, I wouldn't want to waste my money on any Sprint apps until this situation is settled. Plus there's no guarantee afterwards that Sprint will still be an official sponsor/service provider of NASCAR once they come out of bankruptcy. With Sprint stock hovering around $2 a share, better to err on the side of caution.

SD80MAC said...

I live in the Sprint Black Hole known as rural Southwestern Ohio. Verizon is the only act in town. AT&T works marginally if you go stand in that "magic spot" out in the yard. Until this product is made available to all mobile service providers, NASCAR is just blowing smoke in the face of fans that do not have access. Sprint phones are OK if you live in the big city or within eyesight of a tower that is close to a major highway. I have no use for a mobile phone that only works when I drive 6=7 or 8 miles to the west of south.

Dot said...

@ The Mad Man, I read a blurb not too long ago about Sprint being in some sort of financial trouble. I don't remember the details, but I was wondering what would happen if they couldn't sponsor Cup anymore. From what I remember reading here at TDP, they can only change their name once, which they did (from Nextel). I'm curious to see what happens if they go belly up before their contract is done. JD, do you know?

I want to know why Race Buddy is so bad for Cup, but is great for trucks. I tried watching RB when I didn't have a TV to watch. What a waste of time. One camera view only. At least when they show the trucks, you can choose the battle cam. Is BSPN afraid RB would show better racing? SPEED doesn't seem to care. Maybe because they tend to show more going on other than the golden drivers.

nascar better open things up for all smart phone users. Yeah, I really want to change phone providers, pay the early termination fee to sign up w/Sprint. Only for them to go out of business or be bought out by another company. Oh the irony if it was AT&T, previously known as Cingular. LOL

Doug said...

Yeah, that's awesome for us Verizon customers. Thanks NASCAR for not including a cell carrier with more customers than Sprint. #SMDH

Anonymous said...

wow
pretty soon they telecast in color too.......

Ken said...

Now if only NASCAR could figure out a way to get SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on the Sirius Mobile app I would be pleased.

Anonymous said...

Sure, you can make convergence sound like a good thing; but if it doesn't play my 8-track tapes, you can count me out.