On Monday, Smoky Mountain Speedway owner Roger Sellers took to his track’s Facebook page in a post titled “The Great Decline” to voice his concerns over the proliferation of streaming options for fans of Dirt Late Model and other forms of racing. According to the post, tracks are not receiving much, if any, compensation for the broadcasts generated from their facilities.
As Sellers points out in his post, he has long been vocal about the lack of revenue sharing from the streaming services to track owners. He says that he, like many others, enjoys watching the streamed events. At the same time, he asserts that Smoky Mountain Speedway is not alone in its stance regarding the financial model used by services such as FloRacing.com(which has taken up some of the programming offered by MavTV.com), DirtVision.com. raceXR.plus and others although others may not have voiced their opinions in the same way.
For their part, the streaming services declare that their programming actually benefits tracks by showing fans particular venues and drawing attention to races in such a way that fans may wish to visit those exposed tracks in the future. Further, the claim by these services is that by placing Dirt Late Model racing in the living rooms and on the screens of patrons, the entire sport will benefit. The argument that a rising tide lifts all boats would apply here according to these companies.
On the other hand, Sellers, who has a long history in drag racing and also owns the Double Down Motorsports team for current Dirt Late Model driver Hudson O’Neal, says in the post that the unseen work and expense to actually put on a racing show is not being fairly rewarded.
Here is the text of the SMS Facebook post:
“The Great Decline
On any given Friday or Saturday night across this great country, there is probably a dirt track around each of us that is attempting to bring entertainment and put on a good show for the fans. We do this because we have a passion for a sport that we truly love – with the hope of making a few dollars to pay our insurance, utilities, ambulance, fire department, EMTs etc. – and have a little left over for our workers and ourselves.
What most will never see are the endless hours that we spend mowing, cleaning, painting, and making repairs to our equipment and facilities to make it as enjoyable as possible for our fans. A person that has never been directly involved with the daily operation of a dirt track more than likely has no idea of the amount of time it takes to run an operation like this and how much it takes us away from our families or other pleasures that we have in life.
I say all of that to get to my point. As a track owner or promoter, we can take a quick look at our grandstands and know whether the crowd is up or down. We have several factors that can determine a good night or a bad night. The weather, other area events going on, a poorly prepared racetrack, a facility that is not fan friendly, or a lack of proper promotion. Certainly, all of these can be a factor.
Unfortunately, in my personal opinion, the biggest decline in fan count is rarely mentioned and the reason it is never mentioned is because we all love it and have grown accustomed to it – myself included. It’s live streaming. There’s nothing more convenient than to sit at home in your man cave with all of your buddies with your pizza, beer, or whatever, and when the race is over – you’re already home. I’m sure fans assume that the tracks are being compensated for the revenue lost by streaming, but I assure you that is not the case.
This is the greatest thing ever and I love it too. But what about the tracks that bust their butts for weeks leading up to an event only to look up from the infield to see half-empty grandstands and know they have lost money?
As I’ve already mentioned, I’m as guilty of having all of these streaming options as the next guy. It’s too far to drive, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, or it looks like rain are all reasons fans will stay at home and watch the broadcast from the comfort of their own living room. I mention all of this to say it is time for us as owners and promoters to stand together and demand part of the streaming revenue to help us continue to operate.
Presently, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series is the only series that shares the streaming revenue, however the other “big” series is currently giving it consideration. Several regional series have decided to sign long term contracts with streaming providers without considering the loss of income to the tracks. This is the reason those series have not been and won’t be on my schedule.
I have expressed my concerns multiple times with one of the largest streaming providers only to be told that I’m the only one to complain and that streaming is good for dirt racing. Don’t compare us to Fairbury, Bowman Gray, Eldora, etc. We’re not the Kings of dirt racing but we are the backbone.
I know I’m not the only track that is unhappy about this. When I travel across the country, I make it a point to introduce myself to the owner or promoter of every track that I’ve been to. I’ve developed some great relationships with many of the other track owners. I have never had one tell me how it helps them – everyone says that streaming is hurting them.
Remember that for every streaming view gained, our crowd drops and this is just the beginning.
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