Turn 2 Blog: Paying extra for crown jewel PPV streams

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*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.

The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.

Richard: This past weekend we saw an interesting situation play out in terms of the streaming coverage of Dirt Late Model racing is concerned. DirtVision.com has the rights to cover all of the events that fall under the umbrella of the  World Racing Group which includes the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series. Over the three-day stretch of Thursday through Saturday, one of that national touring series’ biggest events was contested with the running of the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

However, the event didn’t quite play out as other races shown by DirtVision.com.

Unlike the recently aired Prairie Dirt Classic held at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Fairbury, Illinois, which was aired live by that streaming service, the USA Nationals required an additional fee on top of the regular subscription price required to take advantage of the DirtVision.com broadcast. It appears as if the Knoxville Nationals race weekend for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series from the Knoxville(IA) Raceway will be aired in somewhat the same way with a higher level subscription being required to watch that event.

This was not the first time for such a broadcast as the USA Nationals have been shown in this same way before. However, it is necessary to point out that a number of the bigger events still come as part of the regularly priced packages for these services.

We have witnessed over the past few years a significant proliferation of these types of services with Dirt Late Model shows being aired routinely by not only DirtVision.com but MavTV Plus, FloRacing.com, Speed51.com and others. All of those require a subscription fee for viewing.

Streaming coverage is definitely changing the landscape of Dirt Late Model racing in particular and all forms of dirt racing in general. But the problem for the sport as a whole would seem to be in the revenue generation area as many tracks receive little or no compensation from these airings. As a result, they gain nothing from the fact that their events are being shown to a much wider audience. Other than a bit of increased exposure which doesn’t add another to the bottom line, the tracks receive little.

Obviously, I do not have access to the contracts in place between DirtVision.com and the tracks but it appears as if either Cedar Lake Speedway was not okay with that arrangement or the streaming service simply tried to make a little extra cash off of a crown jewel race. If the second of those options were true, though, it would seem as if they would have also charged an additional fee for the more popular PDC.

Two questions kind of rolled into one come to mind here. First, are the tracks going to start demanding some piece of the pie for the showing of their events by streaming services? And, if additional fees start becoming more of the norm, will these services eventually price themselves out of business?

Michael: To answer the first question, tracks are already demanding a piece of the pie. I have spoken to a few track owners about this subject. Their response has been the same. The PPV deals aren’t making them any money because so few of the services share any of the profits with them. And if fans opt to stay home to watch a race instead of attending in person, those are ticket sales they are losing. Several of these series decided they want to have their races on some sort of streaming service, but never consulted the track owners.

I don’t know of any situation where a business can set up something to make money for themselves without asking those that have the most at stake. This would be like Bristol Motor Speedway having their races untelevised (on purpose) and someone showing up one day to broadcast the event without handing over a dime to the track. BMS officials would quickly run them off the property. But many of these series have it in their contracts that the races will be streamed events. If a track owner doesn’t want that, their date goes to someone else.

On the additional fees, I think these services are going to have their hand out too many times or for too much money and many fans will finally decide they’ve had enough. Just imagine every marquee or crown jewel race decides they want more of the streaming money and decide to have their event be an added service. Fans will eventually get tired of it.

Richard: There is benefit from the exposure the track receives from the broadcasts. But you’re right, that tends to be outweighed by the number of people who may decide to stay home instead of making a three-hour drive with the chance the race could be rained out or run very late. And of course, when the fan stays at home they don’t have to pay for food and gas either.

If someone has already invested in a subscription to a streaming service it would be counter productive to go watch a race that is already being paid for. Of course, there is nothing quite like the feeling of actually being there at the track.

The real deciding factor will be how many PPV broadcasts were sold for the USA Nationals and any other major races for which there will be additional fees charged. If this was successful, there will be more broadcasts like this. If not, the streaming services and the tracks will have to go back to the drawing board.

These streams for the national tours aren’t going to go away. The series are making money or else they wouldn’t be doing it. Furthermore, the national tours know they have a product that is desired by the tracks and the fans which gives them greater bargaining power.

Do you foresee a major change in the current setup?

Michael: Unless they start jacking up prices, I don’t see any changes to it.

Look, I’m not anti-streaming/PPV. If there is a race in Illinois or Florida that I want to see, I’m glad those are on for me to watch. I’m not going to be traveling to those places to catch their races. It also exposes me to a track that I’ve never seen before and could cause me to think I might make a one-time trip to one of those someday.

The problem is going to be when these folks get greedy and ask for more money from the paying fan or have huge increases on the current subscription prices. That is when the trouble will start.

Richard: Since we’re on the topic of big races, the topic of what actually makes a race a crown jewel recently came up on my Twitter timeline. We are currently in a stretch of races that many consider to be the crown jewel season. The Prairie Dirt Classic, the USA Nationals, the North-South 100, the Topless 100, and eventually the World 100 run within very close proximity of each other.

Some seem to believe that there can only be one crown jewel race within each discipline but I’m not nearly that strict. And of course, these are just arbitrary labels anyway. But my rule of thumb for me has always been that if a race has some history behind it and pays at least $40,000-to-win, I’m good with calling it a crown jewel. I would even go so far as to call the Show-me 100 and the Firecracker 100 crown jewels and they each pay $30,000.

However, one valid argument I have heard is that if a particular race is sanctioned by one of the major tours and the other tour schedules up against it, it might not be worthy of such lofty status. Again, though, I tend to be pretty generous with the label.

What sort of standards do you place on the term ‘crown jewel’?

Michael: I have seen and heard a lot of debate on this subject. I don’t believe all these high paying races should be called a crown jewel race. When they ran the Dirt Million, pundits were quick to label it a crown jewel even in it’s first year. Of course, that race only lasted two years.

For me, a crown jewel race should have a really good purse, have been around for some time, and an event that most of the top drivers race in and really want to win. Using that criteria, there aren’t very many races that fit that bill. I have started using the term “marquee event” when talking about a high-paying race that might not have the history or doesn’t draw most of the top drivers.

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