I am just a little bit bored now with the furore that surrounds the Bahrain Grand Prix. It either has to be cancelled or postponed, so would someone please, just make a decision and get on with it?
In search of some respite from the seemingly never-ending Bahrain saga, I began idly flitting through the Internet yesterday to see what was going on in the world of technology, and that is when I stumbled across something that may have a positive impact on how we – motor racing fans – consume our favourite pastime.
You see, YouTube announced that they would soon be adding monetisation options to its live streaming platform which includes the ability for publishers to charge for live events.
Essentially, this makes YouTube a pay-per-view service for the streaming video world. Satellite and cable TV subscribers already have a similar service which allows them to view a live event for a one-off fee that is determined by the outfit hosting it. Now, a YouTube eligible content partner can do the same via the Internet.
Producers of such live events don’t necessarily have to adopt the pay-per-view model either, because they can also monetise through occasional advertising during a broadcast in much the same way a commercial television network does at the moment.
The new monetisation option comes a year after YouTube launched their live video functionality, but until now, most of the bigger entertainment and sports companies were unable to get much use out of the service since there was no way to make any money.
The implementation of advertising and paid options for live content should now change all that, and if any motor racing promoter has their finger on the pulse, they should be cranking up their efforts in trying to tap into another income stream by launching live coverage on the Internet.
The biggest benefit of streaming motorsport online is that it would offer greater accessibility and more freedom than a conventional live television broadcast. Through online streaming, fans would be able to enjoy the racing action instantly through their laptops, tablets and various other devices.
They could also watch an event even if they are nowhere near a television – crafty peek at work, anyone? – because all that would be required are either a decent broadband connection, or a smartphone that is capable of running the YouTube app, which nearly all can.
Online streaming also promotes great interaction between fans. The live GT1 coverage on YouTube last weekend, for example, allowed viewers to discuss the race and share opinions and it was obvious to see that over time a huge fan base could be built, which of course would be of a significant benefit to the series in question.
There is also the possibility that drivers and teams would reap the benefits of greater exposure as sponsors may feel more inclined to part with their cash. Sponsorship, as we know, is a vital ingredient in every form of motor racing and it is becoming increasingly difficult to come across. However, add a few thousand online viewers into the mix and negotiations may become that little bit easier.
Actually transmitting events via YouTube shouldn’t prove too problematic either, even for those categories that do not broadcast live at the moment. Take the British F3 and British GT series for example: they currently only show highlights on MotorsTV and Channel 4. So the means of capturing the action live is already present, all it requires is to be uploaded directly to YouTube.
And what about something like the WRC? By its own definition, rallying lends itself to online streaming as traditional broadcasting just cannot give it the airtime it deserves. Plus, like nearly all forms of motor racing below Formula 1, it is a niche, and like all niches it must find a way to market itself directly to consumers.
The question is of course how much are we willing to pay to watch all this? Well, that depends on various factors, not least the popularity of the series and the regularity of its events.
But when you consider that the Eurosport Player costs £3.99 per month and they show – when they can be bothered – WTCC, WEC and IRC, content would need to be competitively priced. Of course, there would always be the option of advertising to help cover any financial shortfall.
With more and more us watching sport online (mostly illegally through illicit feeds) I genuinely believe there is a big enough market to make this a profitable – or near as – business for all concerned.
Madcap idea or brilliant notion in bringing motor racing to the masses? I’ll let you decide on that one. But to all you motorsport promoters out there, give your fans what they want and start making some money from it. Chop chop.