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Has NBC/Comcast Lost the Plot? A Warning for IndyCar.

March 13, 2011

No streams for IndyCar in 2011.

To think things were going well. Then an announcement popped up earlier that made my skin crawl with sheer embarrassment.

With immediate effect, indycar.com will cease live streaming of practice, qualifying and the races for all IndyCar and Indy Lights events. The decision has come from executives at Comcast / NBC.

Have they lost their minds? As someone who has worked in the music industry for a long time, I can tell those folks now that this will backfire badly.
Randy Bernard was quoted as saying:

“…we’ve known this change was coming for a while. I understand their goal here, and it’s to drive more people to watch the broadcasts on television–to get the ratings up. That’s everyone’s goal.

Really? That’s sounds just like outdated rhetoric from people with no concept of modern media, desperately trying to wield the ageing hand of disapproval.

Here’s a clue for the folks at NBC. You really count TV and Nielsen ratings?? Get over yourselves – you either start counting the people on the internet as legitimate audiences or the digitised folk of the world will just take your product when you’re not looking.
Worse still, those on the web may just not bother with you at all. There you go and there’s the scrap heap – simple. Very, very simple.

This idea that viewers will automatically switch back TV now that streaming is no longer available, is blinkered nonsensical garbage with little basis in reality. Audiences started diversifying a long time ago and that is not going to change any time soon – television companies desperately, desperately need to grasp that reality.
Will this drive more people to the likes of Justin TV and filesharing torrents. Absolutely and why wouldn’t it? The quality can often be found there and ironically enough, IndyCar’s HD broadcast will most likely make the illegal streams very watchable indeed.

Advertisers and executives… If you want to find people utterly clueless about their own product, just seek out its advertisers and executives.

Bernard also said:

“…I know we have a lot of fans overseas that have used our web streams to watch our races live, so we’re talking about what can be done to maybe offer the races online after they’ve aired first on Versus.”

Randy, by the time a race is on indycar.com or Versus.com, everyone will have already seen the streams or downloaded the files.
That’s how the internet works. Imaginary lines on a map will not halt the internet (unless it’s forced; see despotic regimes for examples) and they will not stop ripped online broadcasts. NBC may be scared about the numbers they need to sell to advertisers, but their blindness may be more of a problem.
Just ridiculous in this day and age.

The quotes can be attributed to Marshall Pruett’s article on Speed TV.com, which can be found here.

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From → INDYCAR

19 Comments
  1. terrible news, this move has screwed any hope we had of following indycar this year. our 2011 interest has been nixed in one swift announcement.

  2. Just an insane decision. The only way this will work is if there is a currently-secret plan for Versus/NBC to stream it themselves, which they don’t do internationally for anything else.

    Not only can I not afford Sky Sports I’m not even sure I’m allowed to have a dish.

    • Sky’s streaming only works if you are a subscriber I believe, which is the most self-defeating thing I’ve ever heard.

  3. Steven Roy permalink

    I thought Randy Bernard was going to be the guy to sort out Indycar but it turns out he is as out of date as Bernie Ecclestone.

    understand their goal here, and it’s to drive more people to watch the broadcasts on television–to get the ratings up. That’s everyone’s goal.“

    WRONG!

    Is it the sponsors goal to be seen by fewer people than they have now?
    Is it the teams’ goal to offer their sponsors fewer eyeballs?
    Is it Indycar’s goal to offer a worse fan experience than last year?
    Is it the goal of the tracks to have fewer people reading trackside adverts?

    I can see it is NBC/Comcast’s goal because they are a TV broadcaster and TV broadcaster’s like newspaper publishers andtheusicindustry think they can make the internet go away if they wish hard enough.

    “…I know we have a lot of fans overseas that have used our web streams to watch our races live, so we’re talking about what can be done to maybe offer the races online after they’ve aired first on Versus.”

    TAPE DELAY?, TAPE DELAY?, ARE YOU SERIOUS?

    What decade do you think we are in Mr Bernard? The days when tape delay was an option have gone. Why would I watch a race whenI know the result? And there is no way in this day and age that I would not know the result. So I have two options; either watch an illegal stream or not watch Indycar at all. Maybe I will watch Nascar instead. Is it Indycar’s goal to have the people who cannot watch the races on TV to watch Nascar instead?

    You would need to be crazy to drive people who want to see your product to the biggest threat to your audience. Oh wait. You just did that.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      I wonder how much Randy had a say in this one though. Whereas the “Lucky Dog” was indeed a silly suggestion, I do have a feeling that this may be outdated NBC executive putting pressure on this series.

      But, yeah… this is one good solid way to lose audience numbers. Do I – as someone that watches programming on the internet – not count because I don’t use a TV.
      In this day and age, that’s just bollocks.

      • Agree with everything you said here, Leigh. I don’t think anybody can blame Randy for this, since it’s apparently an enforcement of a TV contract that predated his arrival in IndyCar by a full year, but it’s extremely short sighted by NBC/Comcast. We all talked about this over at GrabBag, but I think that Allen’s two ideas are the only two truly sane ways to go:

        1) Charge subscriptions. Maybe $19.95 or $24.95 US for the season. This way, you can track who’s watching AND pick up some revenue for a service that you are already capable of providing at basically zero extra cost.

        2) Sell ads for the online stream. A little trickier, I suppose, but you can offer an advertiser solid, indisputable numbers as to who is watching.

        Anyway, a huge disappointment, even to those of us who already have Versus.

  4. I’m very surprised with this decision. But what surprises me most is that NBC made the decision, not IndyCar. Bernie may be outdated, yes, but I think he would’ve never, ever let the TV stations make the decision for him.

    Looking at it from Comcast/NBC’s perspective, this makes sense. Internet viewers do virtually nothing for them – if IndyCar becomes popular because of people watching it online, majority of the new viewers they’d attract would also decide to watch it online. Which leaves Comcast/NBC in a difficult spot.

    So it goes back to the original question – how is it that such a big decision like this ended up with the TV bosses instead of the IndyCar boss? This decision hurts IndyCar a LOT more than Comcast/NBC – if this fails, they have other sports to fall back on anyway.

    That said, there is one thing potentially going in IndyCar’s favor – with the NFL entering a lockout and the NBA potentially entering one later this year, there will be viewers looking for another sport to watch. Baseball will get a good chunk of that, but IndyCar may get a significant bump in viewership too.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      “So it goes back to the original question – how is it that such a big decision like this ended up with the TV bosses instead of the IndyCar boss?”

      …and that is a very good question. I suppose it could be argued that F1 is a global commodity giving it leverage over individual stations, whereas IndyCar is still struggling badly for an audience.

      • That’s the most likely explanation I see, but if this backfires and NBC decides to drop out, IndyCar has no safety net. The fact that Randy has effectively no control over how his series is broadcasted and distributed is a very troubling sign for IndyCar.

        One point on the Lucky Dog idea: could it be that it was NBC that floated that idea to Randy? After all, the Lucky Dog concept, one can be argued, was made to keep audiences (most of them on TV) interested and less likely to change the channel. If I’m right on that one, it’s another worrying sign for IndyCar – that they’d do anything for ratings, and they’re not even doing the right things.

        • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

          Not sure. As the “Lucky Dog” comes as part of the rules package, that would be closer to Brian Barnhardt’s arena, but again I have no idea what pressure – if any – was being exerted on IndyCar.
          Certainly not the most successful of weeks for the boys in charge.

  5. NBC needs to realise just how people consume media these days.
    This withdrawal of Ilve internet video is ignorant.
    Sure, make it a subscription service but to eliminate it removes the possibility of…..the holy grail of commerce….Growth.
    Jp

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      Exactly. Surely it can’t be too difficult to put into the place a solid pay-per-view scheme for the series only? The guts of the project was already there – with investment, it could be a real boon in the long run.

      We must also remember that for all the complaints of occasional buffering on indycar.com in the last couple of years, speeds are only going to get faster and competence in online streaming will improve.

      To remove that future is short-sighted.

  6. Tony Joseph permalink

    On behalf of those of us over the past few months who tried to tell certain “internet experts” in blogs or on message boards that the NBC/Comcast merger was not guaranteed good news for INDYCAR, would you like to apologize to us for being wrong now or do you want to wait for more bad news to surface before you do the right thing? Some of us knew that NBC would come in and try to cut expenses on their 0.3 rated product in order to find a profit. Unfortunately, others, who apparently ride around on unicorns every day with a happy song in their heart, actually convinced themselves that NBC would choose to spend MORE money on INDYCAR. Welcome back to reality, folks.

    BTW, if Randy Bernard/NBC/Comcast really does want to keep Danica Patrick after this year, is telling her primary sponsor, an Internet registrar/services company (Go Daddy), that they intend to do LESS on the Internet this year a good idea? Hey Go Daddy. Why don’t you come and spend more money to get even less ROI than before?!?!?! Bob Parsons may be perverted, but even he isn’t THAT stupid.

    If this step backwards didn’t make them fall over the cliff, INDYCAR sure got a lot closer to the edge.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      “On behalf of those of us over the past few months who tried to tell certain “internet experts” in blogs or on message boards that the NBC/Comcast merger was not guaranteed good news for INDYCAR, would you like to apologize to us for being wrong now or do you want to wait for more bad news to surface before you do the right thing?”

      Wrong site for an apology. At no stage on this site have I ever pumped the NBC / Comcast merger.

      However, the point of this post wasn’t about budgets, but rather acknowledging the inability of the TV execs to see past their own blinkers.

      • Tony Joseph permalink

        I know that you may not have pimped NBC, but plenty of your readers (aka “internet experts”) on various other sites have. Notice that I didn’t name names and only spoke the truth. The violators know who they are and currently have disappeared from the spectrum. FWIW, I have had a tendency over the years to get banned from certain INDYCAR centric message boards for daring to prove their resident “insiders” wrong. Unfortunately, that makes posting directly to the offenders, in most cases, impossible.

        Frankly, it’s good to see that somebody in the INDYCAR media (professional or amateur) doesn’t have his lips firmly placed on Rodeo Clown Bernard’s backside while still managing to reasonably support the series. Keep up the good work and NEVER discount the truth, Leigh. 🙂

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