CJ's typical setup in the media centre on a race weekend. This year we add a tablet
Opinion: A Lack of Speed or does Speed really matter
Customers of Rogers Cable Systems woke up this morning, flipped on SPEED and saw a big red screen saying thanks for watching but you can bugger off elsewhere now. Now it’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. Rogers announced on screen during the Rolex 24 broadcast the decision to drop SPEED TV from its lineup as of March 1st. Viewers had a month to prepare and make choices so one has to wonder – after the initial outcry in social media, why the big deal about this morning’s red screen of death.
One word …. “Sebring”
OK, despite the fact that Rogers cable customers will not get to see the 12 Hours of Sebring on television, let’s have a look at some of the other comments regarding what else is carried on SPEED TV (Canada) since it was emasculated following the takeover by Fox Sports. SPEED (Canada) had been reduced to endless loops of marginal redneck (yes, I said redneck) shows appealing to people whose lips move when they read. We got a steady diet of Pinks, Are You Faster Than a Redneck (see, even they use it), Dumbest Stuff on Wheels plus the same group of commercials ad nauseum occasionally punctuated with repeats of some long-past NASCAR event. All that so we could patiently wait for the next round of the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship event.
To my point, a lot of the outcry was strictly for not being able to see future TUDOR series events while most comments, tweets and posts railed against the otherwise useless programming. So what’s your problem? Hate watching stuff online? Face it, that is the way of the future – but more on that in a minute (or should I say “in a paragraph or two”).
Rogers’ decision was purely economic. Let’s be real, if the viewer numbers were there the channel would have stayed. And think, if Rogers did any checking of social media posts and group forums all they might have seen was stuff like “Pinks sucks” or “Geez that Fast than a Redneck really sucks” etc, so why not kill a channel that people are either not watching or always complaining about. Now of course a lot of their customers are making comments like “It’s time to move to a new service” – in this case Bell or any of the regional cable providers who have (so far) kept the channel. I say ‘so far’ because I really do expect the rest to follow suit and drop the channel before the end of the year for the same reasons as Rogers. The impetus for the customer of course is “let’s speak with our wallets and take our business elsewhere – we’ll show Rogers”. Well in my opinion - no you won’t.
Just an FYI here – while writing this I am also engaged in a “spirited discussion” with RaceCanada’s editor on the subject – but I am writing the piece anyway. Hey, it’s my job to poke snakes with sticks!
Okay, why won’t you make a difference? For the same reason the company dropped the channel – there just aren’t enough of us to make that economic difference. That, and if truth be the factor, the motorsport community is just not vocal enough for anyone to care. This whole episode (and others leading up to it) reminds me of a conversation I had with the late Dennis Morgan – he who started the very popular Wheels section of the Toronto Star many decades ago. Dennis had to push very hard to get this auto-centric division of the publication started and over the years it has served the motorsport community very well, but even its impact in print has waned over the years. Anyway, the story as Dennis told me was that one day, the paper’s editorial staff decided to cancel coverage of curling (“Who the heck cares about curling?”) and subsequently, one Monday morning there were no longer any curling stories in the paper. Dennis said the outcry was immediate and massive. Curling was back in the paper before the end of the week. Cut back on motorsport coverage? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We just don’t speak up.
Now of course plenty of you have said you might switch providers and many called the number Rogers provided and sent emails following the original notice – but how many of you followed through. Now with Sebring set to air in just ten days, the anger starts again.
But here is something to consider ... IMSA announced the broadcast schedule yesterday for this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring: The first three hours will be broadcast of Fox Sports 1 but “the remainder of the event will be streamed live on IMSA.com and through the FOX Sports Go mobile app.” That means even our motorsport friends south of the border will need to adapt to the new way of watching sports car racing. Yeah baby, it is all going online.
Over the last few years I have become accustomed to the fact – whether I like it or not – that watching the racing I most enjoy must be watched via live stream. What I didn’t like of course was watching it on my small computer screen while the 52” DLP sat in the corner. Well, that was just me be lazy actually and not hooking the computer up to the television, but also because in the early days the net broadcasts were not necessarily all that great. That has all changed.
Over the last two years I have watched both DTM and World Challenge events online. The production and quality have been first rate and each features commentators we are familiar with and who know their stuff. I now finally have a reason (and the adapters) to make this a more enjoyable experience by hooking the computer to the big screen. Of course the one drawback some might cite is the ability to PVR the race for later viewing (an important feature for me – but more on that in a bit) but in the case of both DTM and World Challenge, the races are available for viewing later. In fact, DTM has their own YouTube channel (really decent quality) where you can view many of the past races (including qualifying sessions). Think about it – how long do you keep a race on the PVR especially if you are running out of space. As far as I am concerned, let the series archive it for me to watch any time I please. You will notice now that the TUDOR series is now also archived.
This current ‘predicament’ we find ourselves in with SPEED (Canada) being dropped speaks to another article I was considering about how I actually watch racing. For the last seven years or so, most of my time on race weekends is spent in a track’s media centre and involved me either working on behalf of a team and now for RaceCanada. We have televisions in the media centre showing the broadcast and when working for the team, this was great because it allowed me to follow the action as it happened without having to be out around the track. However between keeping track notes, monitoring team communications and trips back and forth to pit lane, I never really saw the race. I would always PVR the broadcast and watch on arriving home. Of course this was for post-race analysis and copy always provided to the team for same. Any other races that weekend did not matter. But then I switched gears and every race everywhere (featuring a Canadian entry) became important.
So now I am in a media centre for a TUDOR series race yet conflicting schedules means a Canadian team or driver is racing in World Challenge. Not a chance in the world this facility will broadcast a race from elsewhere but that doesn’t matter. Because World Challenge is online I can still watch. As the picture shows, I don’t go anywhere without two computers for just that eventuality and now I also carry a tablet which provides even more flexibility. It also means that on a weekend that starts with a DTM race featuring Bruno Spengler and Robert Wickens, I get to watch them race live from the track (because even some of us media hacks arrive at the track bloody early) and report on it immediately. If having everything online allows me to perform reporting duties faster and more efficiently, bring it on.
In the end it boils down to a personal decision and personal experience on how you like to watch racing. If you are willing to endure the repetitive commercials and the mindless shows in between the races you watch, so be it. Write, call, complain or switch – but I’d really suggest switching to the future. When it comes to Rogers, SPEED and motorsports, the only speed that matters to me is data transfer rates.