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Summary:

The Indianapolis 500 was streamed for free domestically for the first time this year. But it didn’t see quite the demand that other major sporting events have received for their free online offerings, in part because of efforts not to undermine broadcast TV rights agreements. Indy […]

The Indianapolis 500 was streamed for free domestically for the first time this year. But it didn’t see quite the demand that other major sporting events have received for their free online offerings, in part because of efforts not to undermine broadcast TV rights agreements.

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Indy 500 race day on May 24 merited 36,514 streams, a new record for its production team, including 8,000 concurrent streams for the majority of the race. But by comparison, NBC and USOpen.com had more than 4 million streams of the U.S. Open in golf last year, and CBSSports.com and the USOpen.org had 300,000 users for last year’s tennis final (both events were helped by being on a Monday, when people were at work). The web broadcast of March Madness had 7.52 million unique visitors this year.

We talked with Jarrod Krisiloff, director of multimedia platforms at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Productions, to get a better idea of Indy 500′s approach to the web.

Since the race was shown for free on broadcast TV on Memorial Day weekend, the Indy 500 webcast didn’t exactly fill a massive unserved need. The webcast itself was a poor man’s version of the broadcast production, however. Where the broadcast utilized 65 cameras, including 12 in-car, as well as commentators, pit reporters and graphics, the web version had four in-car cameras and a helicopter view of the track. “The user really drives the experience,” said Krisiloff (who of course would choose that metaphor!). But he admitted, “It’s difficult for people to understand the broadcast rights. “The fans think the fans should be served.”

In past years, a company called MediaZone bought rights to stream the race for a $9.99 fee, but Krisiloff said IMS was forced to look elsewhere when MediaZone went out of business (according to the company’s former PR firm it slimmed down its offerings and moved to South Africa). This year, IMS used a pieced-together solution that included encoding from Inlet Technologies and streaming from Conviva for four races (so far) including the Indy 500, as well as other events such as press conferences and banquets.

“It was by far the most successful event we had for the application,” said Krisiloff. But since the streams were offered for free (with registration) and did not feature advertising, success just meant no conked-out feeds, video encoding issues or major lost data from cars. The only hiccup was when car telemetry was lost after antennas broke in an accident. And stuff like that just adds to the feeling that you’re in the thick of the action.

  1. This was indeed a successful event, yet clearly the fan base is substantially smaller than that of the NCAA or PGA so to presume a comparable online audience makes no sense. Questioning the success of the technology which made the broadcast happen as well is off base. Just like anything else, we must look at the potential audience, audience need (do blackouts exists), promotion of the online experience, etc.

    The key point is that the reach of the race was extended to an online audience, allowing them to experience the race in a new way without disturbing traditional broadcast models. That’s one of the many objectives of delivering high-quality content online to complement existing broadcast content.

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    1. @ Neal – the comparisons were just to give context. I know car racing has a pretty huge audience, so I don’t think it’s unfair. But what do you mean about “questioning the success of the technology”? In the story I quote them as saying that this was the most technically proficient event they’ve had so far.

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