Sunday, 13 March 2011

Online Streaming Should Go Pirate Radio

So Indycar have moved to stop the online streaming of races on their official website….

Now, the role of the internet in broadcasting and journalism in general is a pet topic of mine – wind me up and watch me go, sort of like one of those monkeys with a pair of cymbals, but I digress massively.

OK, let’s gloss over the fact that whenever I happened across the online stream for Indycar races it ran less than smoothly and made the race near impossible to follow. What Indycar had - officially sanctioned streaming is exactly what every sport should be doing to combat worries about the copyright infringement rife when anyone can hook TV to internet and stream coverage for all to see.

There are some people for whom online streaming is the only way to follow a race – or indeed any sport. These are not the people who simply don’t want to shell out for a subscription, these are the people who live in countries where there is simply no broadcast available.

If they wish to continue to follow moving images (when the stream’s actually running half way to decent) of Indycar they will be forced onto sites that offer less than legitimate streams for free.

In doing so Indycar, and its broadcasters, are missing out.

Bring people onto your site for an official, smooth, no-risk-of-the-man-shutting-it-down, stream and you can add them to you viewing figures. They should not be seen as counting instead of TV viewing figures, but counting towards TV viewing figures. If you’ve got an online audience, you could pick and choose which ads they see as the stream loads, or even during standard commercial breaks. The sort of people who watch an online stream are likely to come from a fairly small area of humanity. They’re not likely to be casual fans and they’re going to be tech and computer savvy. That sort of viewership offers a clear audience to go and pitch to advertisers. Money is the important thing here.

Sports broadcasters need to stop seeing internet streaming as the enemy. It has the potential to bring your product to whole new audiences who have no way of otherwise seeing it. Yes, the suits in Network Towers see an overnight TV rating as the be all and end all of everything, but they should be thinking of the potential online audience that they’re not reaching.

There is clearly an audience for online streaming. Watching the aforementioned illegitimate streams of the Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duels ahead of the Daytona 500, there was talk from South America, Europe, even Australia.

If they’ll watch a grainy, laggy feed for three hours, during the middle of the night what would they do if they were offered a proper, official stream during the middle of the night? And once into the official site they can stand up and be counted as those visiting the website and watching the coverage.

The UK Pirate Radio of the 1960s proved popular, so the BBC created Radio One.

Why shouldn’t online streaming follow the same pattern?

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