Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ever Wonder Why The ALMS Has Done What They Have Done With TV?

I for one am a follower of Tom Kjos and his friend Murphy the Bear . This is the ALMS fan base version of JaySki, even though JaySki has mostly stuck to reporting the facts or rumors that are general paddock knowledge not anything really "juicy" anymore since he was brought out by ESPN Networks a few years ago.

Can't out scoop the boss can you?

Anyway Tom has explained several times how the ALMS does what it does and why. Some of the fan base however regard his reporting as all doom and gloom. Well friends, Tom loves the ALMS as I do but he's not about to blow sunshine up your rear end.

Neither will I...

Let's face facts for a second. The ALMS has seen a stead decline in revenue and ratings since their peaks in 2006. 2006? You say. Yes 2006 at the start of Porsche and then 2007 Acura's involvement in the series LMP2 class, giving us some of the best racing this series has ever seen. Penske-Porsche' very public ass kicking of Audi throughout the 2007 season and their triumph over Audi at Sebring in 2008 was just the icing on the cake. It shook Audi's falsely built up self confidence since they've never really be challenged since perfecting its R8 now R10 race car. They got punched in the mouth by one of the best prepared teams in the world with the support of one of the most ruthless sports car builders in the world. It shouldn't have come to no ones surprise but that didn't translate into higher TV racings. It did translate into more fans than every attending races.

Now I personally don't have any theories on that, Tom has a few but I really don't think its the element of danger has been removed from racing. That's implying the casual fan base just wants to see crazy looking accidents/death. He might be right, but the hardcore fan base has never been that way.

So with a viewer ship steady at about 500,000 homes in America. It is no surprise at all that the ALMS had decided to partner with ESPN2/ABC and ESPN3. They figure the majority of the fan base is loyal enough to follow the series to the internet. I tend to agree. The casual fan might still regard streaming video as not ready for prime time, likely because its not something widely available even on TV's with built-in connectivity. But I would say a majority of the hardcore fan base is technologically oriented, educated and in some cases affluent. So its likely they already have some form of high speed internet. But like most people they aren't taking full advantage of the speeds they get. You can easily cut the cable bill with download speeds of 10MB or higher. That's good enough to get 720p content on a standard sized LCD or Plasma TV. In fact if you have Verizon FiOS or AT&T U-Verse (which is what I have for Internet) TV then that is actually streaming or IPTV.

I also based this assumption over the arguments I have been having on ALMS Facebook Page and Ten-Tenths forum. Most of the griping about this decision is coming from the veteran part of the fan base shall we say. I wrote the primer to specifically get people up to speed on the technology that's available, some people already own something they can get the ESPN3 stream with. I can confirm that with the PlayOn Media Server, Nintendo Wii and Boot Camp on a recent MAC computer will allow you to stream ESPN3 through your Wii and onto your TV. So even if you have MAC you can do this (as long as it runs on Intel hardware). I believe the majority of the fan base is enterprising like this or willing to listen to advice instead of gripe about how their traditional methods of watching the racing has gone the way of the dinosaur.

I would argue that when the Versus Indy Car TV contract is up that Versus will opt not to re-up and Indy Car will find itself in nearly the same position. I do believe moving to a new chassis and having a few different engines will be a boost to the series in 2012 when the playing field will be leveled. But what happens with the Ganassi's and Penske's start shutting out all the other teams from victory again? They might see a slight rating boost from the excitement in 2012 but by 2014 they might find themselves back in familiar territory, a series no where near as popular as Sprint Cup and almost neck and neck with the American Le Mans Series in terms of popularity.

To Indy Car's credit they are already streaming races at the same time they are being shown on Versus or ABC.

As I keep telling anybody that will listen about the ALMS decision, the landscape of TV is about the change forever and will be drastically different by 2015.

Shows too expensive to do for normal linear TV which includes Cable/Sat TV will just move the internet, it has already started...

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