Friday, October 12, 2012

NASCAR Classic: Field Of Streams

The murky world of online video streaming has been something that NASCAR had avoided. From the start of the existing NASCAR TV contract in 2007, online streaming of actual races was simply not allowed. NASCAR went for the money and sold all the digital rights to the sport, including the ability to stream content online, to Turner Sports.

Over the past several seasons some limited video offerings like RaceBuddy crept into the picture but actual races were never shown, only isolated cameras. ESPN offers the WatchESPN app, but all that does is allow existing ESPN subscribers access to the network's various feeds online.

Now things are about to change. The new guard at NASCAR bought back the digital rights this January, several years before the existing contract was about to end with Turner. While NASCAR may have been several million dollars lighter in the wallet, the move was long overdue. NASCAR will launch a new official website and an entirely new digital strategy in 2013.

A key part of this rollout will be complete NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races streamed online. But how these races will be made available is the issue. Click here for a recent USA Today article where new FOX Sports Media Group executive Eric Shanks says that FOX will begin streaming its Sprint Cup Series races next season.

While ESPN and TNT are cable networks to which viewers must pay and subscribe, FOX is an FCC regulated over-the-air broadcast network that operates with local stations nationwide distributing its content. The issue has long been that live streaming of races, even if controlled by zip code only to the US, would not be able to carry the same commercial inventory sold for TV.

Former FOX Sports chief David Hill said the local TV stations would revolt if the NASCAR product they carried was also available online. He also said it would ruin the ability of FOX to make back the money it paid to get NASCAR through national TV ad sales.

Having the new management group at FOX confirm streaming for 2013 in whatever form is one of the most significant improvements in terms of digital technology the sport has ever seen. Finally, the Daytona 500 on your iPad or android phone. After all these years of digital disaster, the sport is waking up.

If Shanks is kicking the door open, it is going to be up to NASCAR to decide if another audience is going to be served. There are folks who would pay a small fee to view a Sprint Cup Series race online from start to finish without commercials. NASCAR currently provides such a feed for TV viewers outside of the US called the world feed.

Since US commercials cannot be shown in other countries for obvious reasons, there has been a world feed for several years originating for Cup races. The idea would be to package the commercial-free races either as an entire season or a la carte for digital users to access. It would be no different from the current Trackpass and Raceview packages now offered by NASCAR, but this time it would be actual race video.

What this does is open the door to a new group of fans who want to interact with more than just a three hour live TV telecast where perhaps a bored announcer reads some fan tweets on the air. The younger set wants all the digital technology bundled, a social media-friendly platform available and the live video with no commercials.

As the off-season begins, details of what NASCAR will offer next season in terms of online video will certainly emerge. Hopefully, there will be a full slate of offerings outside of the content controlled by and limited to the existing TV partner websites and apps. It will be important to get as much news and "support programming" online as well. Imagine the Friday activity from the tracks streamed for free to build interest for the weekend races.

It probably should have happened years ago, but give NASCAR credit for taking control and working to get the digital side of the business organized. This story will continue to unfold over the next three months leading up to Daytona.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.


OSBORNK said...

I have always said I would not pay for NASCAR coverage on a computer. However, I have a recently purchased Dell laptop with WIDI that transmits to a $30 adapter I installed on my new 60" HDTV. It shows whatever is on my laptop better than it looks on my computer. It would be great to see a commercial free race on the large screen with my home theater turned up to make it sound like I was there.

Technology has come a long way since this old Medicare user started listening to NASCAR races on the radio before FM. I remember when I started rooting for Fords. It was when Ford introduced the 63 1/2 Ford Fastback to improve the aerodynamics for racing. I figured anyone that would change the roof on their car for a racing advantage was serious about the sport. GM did the same thing with the Monte Carlo many years later but that was a copycat move.

Phil Lee said...

As a regular viewer of the world feed on Premier Sports in the UK, the main thing it needs is commentary. When the US broadcaster goes to commercials we typically get a two camera, split screen view, one of the leader and the other showing an in-car shot from another driver. There are no graphics showing positions. The coverage was better this weekend due to the non stop coverage on ESPN. The race continued to be shown, just without graphics and commentary.

Sometimes this is interesting but most of the time is is monotonous without commentary. I usually fast forward through these parts on my DVR.

If NASCAR are planning to sell this package to the US market they need to add commentary to make it worth watching.

Buschseries61 said...

Internet streaming would be something I'd pay for. It's a way to retain fans in the boring summer stretch. You could take the race with you anywhere you go and enjoy the weather and race at the same time.

Fed UP said...

Digital Streaming is the new now, now. Depending on the cost, they might get more paying subscribers. But, it won't be me.

I am still cell phone free...have no interest in an ipad, nor do I want to be "available" 24/7...

But this doesn't change if they fail to show what is actually happening at the races. You can dress up a pig in lipstick with an ipad...its still a pig in lipstick with an ipad. SHOW ME THE RACING.

17972 B. C. said...

Unrelated but a wow that NBC/NBCSN outbid Fox/Speed for F1. Does that increases the Fox need for NASCAR programming,and to ties this into the subject, online and streaming material.

GinaV24 said...

Interesting. I would PAY to be able to stream the race online IF I can get it commercial free AND choose my camera views, not have it dictated to me by any of the TV providers.

I'd also like to have the scanner feeds as part of this.

I've also bought a TV that allows me to plug my computer in and show what I'm looking at on it as well as deal with twitter and other online pieces.

It will be interesting to see how this will all work out

Charlie Spencer said...

I'd pay for a commercial-free feed that offered the MRN / PRN audio synch'ed with the TV picture.

mjmpgh said...

Leave the commercials & stream it. I'm not paying for sh*t. They don't need my $....or yours.

mjmpgh said...

Leave the commercials & stream it. I'm not paying for sh*t. That's why sponsors pay.

mjmpgh said...

Leave the commercials & stream it. I'm not paying for sh*t. They don't need my $....or yours.

Anonymous said...

For me, streaming is useless since I am not interested in watching the race on my phone or ipad. What I want is better racing and better coverage of the race by the networks.

Alex Jordan said...

Nascar was behind the eight ball when it comes to streaming races online. It probably should have happened years ago. You have to give Nascar credit though for changing this. It will be interesting to see how the streaming of the races is done and where they are streamed. It will also be interesting if and how this affects Racebuddy.

Anonymous said...

17972 B. C. said...

"Unrelated but a wow that NBC/NBCSN outbid Fox/Speed for F1. Does that increases the Fox need for NASCAR programming,and to ties this into the subject, online and streaming material."

I would think so. It's another 60+ hours (If NBC does qualifying) that needs to be filled.

Of course, Fox could counter program with Poker of Bridge tournaments instead of racing.

Bucky Butler said...

Not for me. I pay enough to watch television. As long as MRN/PRN streams for free, I really don't to pay for pictures.

I like motorsports on the radio.

AncientRacer said...

Hmmm. I will wait and see. A zeal to embrace something -- anything, really -- The Palace proffers as the very Bestestly Besty Brand New Big Best Thing is within me no longer including their stupid Chase which for me ended with the broken accelerator return spring bracket.

None of my TV's, computers, pads or smart phones have been tuned to any broadcast, feed, service, etc. except during the one race where I was physically present and none will be until next year.

Whatever actually does come forth then I have this sneaking suspicion will see them wanting more of my loot though, objectively, I contend they get enough of it now.

17972 B. C. said...

A bit curious where Sprint figures into the stream future.Verizon is very proprietary with their licensed info, pretty much killing IndyCar from creating an app,is their a chance Sprint could flex some muscle to keep some stuff to Sprint only devices and plans?

GinaV24 said...

ancient, I share your pain! The debacle at CMS this weekend made it feel even worse.

I said in my first post that I would pay for it. However, on further consideration I may take a wait and see POV and not do it the first year to see how well all the "new" works and what is really offered before I buy in.

StreetDreamer83 said...

My hope is that this streaming coverage will be similar to Race Buddy where I can listen to my favorite driver's in car audio instead of the nonsense from the announcers in the booth.