INDYCAR and NBC Sports’ foray into paid streaming reflects an ongoing trend in the the larger media landscape and places the value proposition of premier North American open-wheel racing front and center, giving fans the chance to put their money where their interests lie.
The idea of paying for entertainment isn’t new. Movie theaters have existed since before films had sound and, while prices have have increased, few balk at spending $20 to see the latest superhero adventure.
More relevant to NBC Sports’ INDYCAR Pass are the multitude of streaming services, all of which come in at around $10 a month. For those interested in consuming media at home and on the go, subscribing to one of these services is normal while subscribing to many is growing more common.
According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report from the first quarter of 2018, Americans spend an average of five hours and 57 minutes per day consuming video content. One hour and 11 minutes of this screen time is consumed digitally through television-connected devices, computers, smartphones and tablets — an astounding 432 hours per year.
Illustrating a clear industry trend, digital video consumption increased by 15 percent between September 2017 and March 2018. While time spent on traditional live television also increased over the same period, the growth of digital delivery coincides with the rise of cord cutting. It also suggests that consumers expect content to be available via a variety of delivery channels, indicating the market is ready for content previously confined to broadcast and cable television to be made available via different delivery methods.
No such service comes without a cost, but digital subscription options are priced competitively and, regardless, are increasingly popular. If the typical American subscribed to only one digital content delivery service at $10 per month and consumed the average volume of content, the cost over the course of a year is 28 cents per hour.
INDYCAR Pass debuted on Jan. 7 with an introductory annual price of $49.99. The subscription promises more than 200 hours of original INDYCAR content, including livestreams of practice and qualifying and same-day replays of races. Using a conservative figure of 200 hours, the cost is 25 cents per hour — less than the going rate for digital media consumption.
Some may argue that even if the cost is in line with other streaming services, the true expense lies in the move away from freely available streaming through services like YouTube, Facebook and Periscope to NBC Sports Gold’s paid model.
While it’s true that the major social video platforms are free to access, payment is indeed exchanged. Visitors to these destinations are paying with their attention and behavior which is then used to deliver targeted advertisements. In YouTube’s case, the value of these ads is easy to quantify because the service offers a way to turn them off for $11.99 per month.
Previously, INDYCAR made use of these ad-supported services to deliver what some might consider free streaming. While the access was free, fans were subjected to invasive tracking in order to consume content. With the move to a paid model, NBC Sports — INDYCAR’s exclusive media partner in the United States — has elected to remove ads and instead asked fans to pay a fair price.
There are those who would rather give up their personal information for freely accessible content. For them, INDYCAR Pass may seem like a slap in the face.
A quick internet search on the current state of privacy in social media might help lessen the sting. Once it’s understood how much is truly given up by using services that make money from users’ information, paying a service not to do this starts to make a lot more sense.
For those who understand that content is paid for no matter how it’s consumed and who value their privacy, the newest way to watch every NTT IndyCar Series practice and qualifying session this year heralds a first step into a new and growing landscape where value is recognized and paid for.
Fans who want to see the sport they love flourish may relish the ability to directly support it. INDYCAR Pass gives them the opportunity to do just that.
Ben was hooked after witnessing Dario Franchitti's victory at the 2009 Iowa Corn Indy 250 and began providing media coverage from IndyCar events in 2015. If IndyCar is on track, he can be found live-posting and updating The Apex's Race Reports from his iPad Pro.