Internet video streams, the future?

Friday, 4 March 2011

Watching TV

Tuesday’s item on TV broadcasts and pirate internet streams generated plenty of comments and reaction. It became clear fans around the world appreciate any kind of video.

Did you know many race organisers pay for TV coverage? Whilst events like the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia can name their price in front of the broadcasters, smaller races struggle. It’s not uncommon for the organisers of a minor stage race or one day to pay for the production of TV images, or at least to make a contribution. Some figures I’ve seen put the daily cost of filming at €50,000 a day, a price that includes hefty logistics, the mobile production crew and precious satellite bandwidth. It can be much higher for big races that go to town with high definition feeds and aerial relays.

But many races like the TV coverage, indeed it is essential to attract sponsorship. The promise of TV images changes everything, it lures sponsors who know that even a few adverts on daytime TV will cost them a six figure sum, getting their via race coverage costs a lot less. But one way to boost the coverage and viewing figures, to rope in even more sponsors for a race, is to show the race around the world. That’s been the policy of the Giro d’Italia and I think it’s a winner.

Giro 2010

The whole world is watching

In 2010 the Giro reached an estimated 350 million households around the world, from Norway to Mexico. That dwarfs the still-impressive count of 10 million roadside fans. “Last year, the live stream had an average of 37,000 unique visitors a day” says Lorenzo Giorgetti, commercial director of RCS Sport. The beauty of this is that the TV images exist already for the domestic broadcast, streaming is simply piggybacking this to beam it around the world. The additional costs are tiny yet the reach is huge.

There are issues of “cannibalism”, where people watching the stream might not bother to watch the TV coverage, thus leaving a broadcaster who paid for the rights devoid of all-important viewing figures. But the answer to this is two-fold. First to make sure the stream is acceptable but not glorious High Definition, to make it a poor substitute for TV and thus encourage people to opt for the TV if they can, and only to watch via the internet if there’s no TV. Second to put advertising on the stream itself, something the Giro did last year by advertising the regional produce of Italy, thus making the stream pay for itself.

It creates a win-win situation. Fans around the world get to watch a race and the organiser boosts coverage substantially for only a small additional cost. As one reader pointed out, streaming is becoming big business, and legitimate too. The technology is there, it only takes a revisit of the broadcasting agreement and some motivation to make it happen.

Can it be done? Yes. Will it be done? It’s too much to expect cycling to take the lead here but as technology evolves, the whole concept of sports broadcasting could change. Video streams could well be the saviour of struggling race organisers.

Dennis March 4, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Tour of California provides a nice tracker with a live feed, map and some other info. But I assume it’s not cheap.

James March 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I love watching live cycling and in the uk we only get the biggest races on tv and even then only patchy coverage. So streaming is brilliant and the only way to see most races and all cyclocross. id be happy for it to be ad funded or even subscription based if it was good enough.

Can’t wait for erocica tommorow, just hope I can find a good stream.

qwerty March 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Yes, yes and yes! Put like this it does sound simple and many of us would love it. If only someone could make it happen.

hamncheeze March 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm

The problem in N. America is that access to quality live coverage is very limited. I would love to have the ability to pay on a per-event basis, or per-month basis and receive good quality coverage.

When I factor in what I currently pay for my TV/internet package at home, plus my smartphone plan (both of which are incredibly over-priced in Canada where the gov’t regulates competitors) it is clear that I am not afraid to spend money on “entertainment”. I suspect I am like many cycling fans aged 30+ in N. America – perfectly willing to spend the money to get quality race coverage.

bikecellar March 5, 2011 at 1:01 am

Yes I would pay! Like others that have posted I subscribed to cycling.tv it was great in the early days, the commentary was good I watched live when off work midweek and sometimes sunday afternoon if weather was too naf to be out riding, but the best of it was access to decent length recordings of highlights or “as live” and of course the ability to interact with the commentators during live coverage. However it all went pear shaped, so now its find a stream where you can and you tube/videozone for catch up recordings, still its a great improvement on following the tour via french radio on longwave (with then, no knowledge of the french language) as I did when first a cycling fan in the 60s.

gilbert March 5, 2011 at 11:08 am

we’ll wait for today strade bianche on gazzetta.it meanwhile…

gilbert March 5, 2011 at 11:23 am

it’s incrdible.
yesterday on gazzetta.it there was the presentation of the live streaming on web with ex pro commentator mario traversoni, today it seems that they wouldn’t broadcast it, goodbey chat on pave?

The Inner Ring March 5, 2011 at 11:50 am

Yes, there’s been talk all week of video coverage but it’s been drying up with broadcasters pulling it from their schedules. A shame as the strade bianche would make great TV.

Todd March 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I’m afraid that a lot of the problem boils down to the broadcasting industry (and other industries as well) that don’t quite get digital content distribution and the scale of the world wide audience. This applies to music, movies, and books too.

They are still stuck in the old school control and distribution model and have trouble understanding that people will pay for reasonably priced digital media and that they have a world wide audience with minimal additional cost. It’s an unknown risk for them and they overreact to perceived risks like pirating by over pricing. In addition they have trouble selling the additional distribution and audience to their advertisers as a benefit.

Make it easy and cheap to view and people will pay and watch. Make it easy and cheap enough and good content and most people won’t even put in the effort to pirate.

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