Sunday, September 18, 2011

TV Coverage

On New Years Day in 1996 gearheads and motorsport fans got a late Christmas present in the form of an automotive based TV network called Speedvision.  It became the fastest growing cable network of all-time and offered the greatest variety of motorsport events on television.  In 2002 it was relaunched as Speed Channel after a huge deal including FOX.  It was at this point that the motorsport fans who had watched the channel voraciously began complaining - loudly.

I've said before that the largest hurdles for race organizers at The Circuit of the Americas to overcome are awareness of the sport and the lack of interest in road racing here in America.  The Speed Channel is the perfect example of this problem.  Speedvision aired an immense variety of racing series from all over the world including; ALMS, World Rally Championship, V8 Supercars, World Touring Cars, British Touring Cars, SCCA races, DTM and a variety of motorcycle racing just to name a few.  Other programs like Lap of the Gods covered the history of Formula 1 at different tracks through the eyes of the great drivers.  It was exactly what was needed to fuel interest in racing series other than NASCAR.  That was until it became the Speed Channel.

Now the Speed Channel is mostly NASCAR - a sport that's broadcast heavily on other channels.  Their other programs are a variety of boring reality shows that have little to do with racing.  The American Le Mans Series and World Rally Championship are no longer broadcast on Speed.  The majority of Formula 1 races continue to be broadcast but a few races are now broadcast on FOX, even though practice and qualifying for those same races are on Speed.  This leads to confusion and frustration for fans.  In the end the conversion to Speed has done nothing but road racing culture here in America, creating a longer road for the success of Formula 1 in America.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Potential Pitfalls Of The Date Change

Well, it's sayonora to the June race date as the November 18th date has finally been confirmed.  It's great that the date was moved out of the summer, considering the record temperatures we've been having here in Austin this year.  November has far nicer average temperatures than June here in Austin and fans will be much happier.  While I've been hoping to see a date change since the June date was first announced, I do see some potential problems with a later date rather than an earlier one.  

A later date will mean one of two things:  either the race will be more exciting in terms of the championship or it won't have any effect at all.  If the 2012 championship is decided as early as it appears the 2011 championship will be, then the American Grand Prix will draw fewer fans from outside the country.  If this happens then F1 fans hoping to see the race that determines the championship will be less likely to make last minute plans to see come to Austin and see the race.  It will also draw fewer fans from inside the country who might have been swayed to see a race that could determine the championship.  Formula 1 will also have a major competitor in the form of America's favorite sport - football.

One of the big disadvantages to a later date, rather than an earlier one, is that this race will be nearing the end of NFL season and around the second to last game of the college football season.  One of the big hopes for the race organizers is that they could draw people from Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.  With this date change it's less likely that potential new fans will drive to Austin when their teams are playing important games.  Let's hope the Texans and Cowboys will both be playing away games that might allow fans to come to Austin for the day. I wonder if Tavo Hellmund could talk to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about this...

Of course there are some major potential advantages as well.  The later date will allow the construction of the track facilities to get further along and make a big impact on fans.  If the championship hasn't be decided we will be guaranteed an exciting race with great TV ratings.  If we can get new fans and viewers then the better weather, barring rain of course, will allow fans to remember the race and not just the oppressive heat.  If the stars align perfectly then we're in for a great one, but I'd still rather have seen a March or April race date established after the first year.