ARG backing multi-million dollar streaming move
The Australian Racing Group is backing its multi-million dollar move from free-to-air TV to streaming service Stan Sport.
The ARG suite of categories, which includes the likes of TCR Australia, S5000, GT World Challenge Australia and Trans Am, will be shown live on Nine Network's Stan Sport streaming service the year.
The deal, thought to be worth in the vicinity of $20 million over four years, replaces an existing deal with the Seven Network that included more traditional live free-to-air TV coverage.
Apart from the season-opening Race Tasmania event, which will be shown live on one of Nine's TV channels, live coverage of the new-look 'SpeedSeries' will only be available to Stan Sport subscribers.
A subscription is worth $20 per month on the lowest tier plan.
FTA coverage will be limited to a mid-week, primetime highlights package on a Nine channel.
There will also be related coverage through Nine Entertainment's wider network of media outlets, which includes the likes of major newspapers The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald and a nation-wide talk radio presence.
The move from free to paid coverage is unlikely to happen with universal approval, while a short-term drop in number is feasible, as Stan Sport, a relative newcomer to the broadcast landscape, builds its viewership.
However ARG board member John McMellan and CEO Matt Braid are backing their bold move to pay off, both in terms of finances and audience.
On the first point, the cash injection will fund the production of the coverage led by Supercars Media.
It's understood there was no, or comparatively little direct incentive to continue with the Seven deal.
"No one would want to make an easy decision to move from the Seven free-to-air platform." said McMellan following the Stan Sport announcement.
"However, all businesses have to be commercially sustainable, first and foremost, and producing high-quality motorsport TV is expensive."
Braid added: "The commercial consideration is certainly there. For us, it's about long-term sustainability, and about being able to put resources into the categories.
"From this deal we've done we've done with Stan, you'll see the production quality increase."
On the second, there is genuine confidence from ARG chiefs that the end game will be a boost in eyeballs on their range of products.
That confidence is largely based on the results of a recent media content consumption survey by the Australian government, which suggests 62 per cent of people consume screen content via on demand streaming, compared to 58 per cent on FTA TV.
The flip side to that, though, is that the same survey says 67 per cent of people consume sport content on commercial FTA TV and just 25 per cent through what is loosely named as 'sports websites or apps'.
Netflix also dominates the streaming market with a 67 per cent take-up rate from participants compared to 26 per cent for Stan (with the take-up of Stan Sport likely to be lower than that).
Still, McMellan says the overall trend towards subscription streaming can't be ignored.
"The latest data from federal government survey on consumer trends, 62 per cent of people now consume their product from video on demand, not from free-to-air," said McMellan.
"That's an emerging trend that the market will have to meet."
McMellan added that a prime time, mid-week FTA presence, even if the coverage isn't live, may be better than live FTA coverage.
"Don't lose sight of [the fact] the highlights package is a prime time broadcast mid-week," he said.
"Although it's not live, you've always got a free-to-air component, on top of the video on demand component. And that free-to-air component, in a mid-week, prime time slot, arguably from all of the metrics, is far better than an afternoon on a weekend.
"From a visibility and an eyeballs [and] viewership point of view, it's a better opportunity."
According to Braid, some short-term fallout from race fans not wanting to fork out money for a subscription is expected.
"Yes there will be people who will like the consumption of media how it has always been, and the live component," he said.
"But we're already seeing feedback about [how the Stan Sport deal] is great, I can watch on demand when I want, there's going to be more coverage...
"We're cognisant that the change we're doing does impact the fan base. But we're confident that the way we communicate it, and once the complete integrated package comes out, people will see the benefit of it."
And the multi-year nature of the deal, he says, will give those longer-term benefits time to flourish.
"This is not a short term play," he said.
“It was a very considered decision.
“We weighed up a lot of factors, but as we mentioned, this integrated media partnership, it’s going to expand our audience.
“It’s going to track and probably jump ahead of the changing landscape in content consumption, so doing this over the long-term makes a lot of sense for us and arguably helps us future-proof our business and our categories.”
The first of the SpeedSeries rounds will take place at Symmons Plains on February 11-13.
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