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  • Strong Day, Tough Finish at Sonoma
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  • Brian Wong Returns to NASCAR
    Brian Wong Returns to NASCAR WSR and Brian Wong return to NASCAR competition at Sonoma
  • Brian Wong Impresses at Red Bull Global Rallycross
    Brian Wong Impresses at Red Bull Global Rallycross Check out the race report here!
  • Wild NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Debut for Brian Wong and WSR
    Wild NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Debut for Brian Wong and WSR Check out the race report!
  • VIR cut short for Brian Wong and WSR
    VIR cut short for Brian Wong and WSR See the Race Report Here!
  • Brian Wong at Watkins Glen
    Brian Wong at Watkins Glen See the race report from Watkins Glen
  • Brian Wong Takes Impressive Second in New Jersey
    Brian Wong Takes Impressive Second in New Jersey Check out the action from NJMP!

The (non) Evolving Importance of Television in Motorsports

03-09-TV-Talent-AnnouncementsThe internet and television are merging. Right? It’s something we’ve all heard for years, and of course there is absolutely a lot of truth in it.

Five years ago, Netflix was a service that mailed you DVD’s, Amazon was a place you purchased goods from, and Hulu was, at best, a place to catch old reruns.

In 2016, all three companies are legitimate web content providers. The success of a number of their respective programs has placed them as direct competitors to the premium cable companies of old, such as HBO, Showtime, and beyond. With companies like HBO and Showtime having to literally change their service and business model to accommodate “Smart” TV’s and streaming devices such as AppleTV and Amazon Fire, the argument that internet and television have merged has a clear legitimacy.

However, there remains one key area of television entertainment that still seems remains strong for the cable-loyal, live sports. While the ability to “binge watch” Netflix’s House of Cards or Amazon’s Transparent provides an unparalleled convenience and accessibility to its audience, live sports presents a unique animal.

For the sporting loyal, very rarely is the convenience of watching whenever-you-want a factor, if anything it’s the opposite. Loyal sports fans plan their schedule around their beloved team, rarely the other way around. In such, the ability to see live sports, on television, remains a true holdout in the evolving world of internet streaming, with the health of the NFL’s abundance of cable packages, the proof of that.

FoxSportsNascarThis is not to say that live streaming of sports has not found its way in to the modern landscape, but is more the niche than the norm. A perfect example of this is the world of international figure skating. In these months of February and March, in a non-Olympic year, the International Skating Union (ISU- skating’s governing body) simply does not garner the ratings for any of the major cable networks to justify television coverage of many of the sport’s largest events.

Yet, for a nominal yearly fee, fans can subscribe to “The Ice Network,” and have access to virtually every event around the world. With no other means to watch their beloved sport, the Ice Network boasts a very successful business model and the sport maintains it’s niche audience without much criticism.

So what does this have to do with motorsports?

Simply put, television has become the great divide between the “haves” and “have nots” of motorsport. Those who think they’re making a progressive argument that internet streaming is just as good as television to get their motorsport product out is kidding themselves.

Yes, internet content has a major place in today’s entertainment lexicon, but live sports remains a holdout, and motorsports is not niche enough to justify not being on television.

NBC-Sports-F1This remains true for several reasons:

  • There ARE major forms of motorsport on television. NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula One all have deals to broadcast their entire season live on either ABC, NBC, FOX, NBC Sports of FOX Sports. With a majority of motorsport fans enjoying multiple disciplines, they don’t need to hold out to watch something on the internet when there’s other forms of racing right in front of them. This is why the model works for figure skating, but not racing.
  • Sponsors and Pay-Drivers are not impressed. Until a live webstream can prove the download numbers, data grab, or activation means to truly provide value over television, the perception of a webstream will simply not hold the same merit as being on television. This is not about facts and figures, this is about a pay driver or marketing middle manager being able to impress someone that their event is “live on FOX Sports.” The second you mention a webstream, that appeal is lost.
  • Livestreams only work if you’re looking for them. Part of the appeal to television is the notion of grabbing viewers who happen to be “clicking through.” They may stumble upon a NASCAR race when changing channels, and in theory, discover that they enjoy it. While social media could in theory provide the same opportunity to discover a live stream, the truth is an audience usually joins a broadcast they were already searching for. Therefore, audience growth is theoretically limited.

This is not to say that there isn’t a place for webstreaming. It’s great for a motorsport series who knows they won’t be able to strike a television deal, and simply wants to put “something” out there for families and friends, but the truth is that’s about as reaching as it’s going to be for a while. Until sponsors and marketers within the sport figure out how to truly capitalize on the unique data and information that comes from internet streaming over television, the value simply won’t compare for quite a while.