Q: This is now year two of the ESPN3/Watch ESPN streaming, plus four live TV races. Having had the off-season and the time to reflect, how do you rate the first season? How do you deal with comments, critiques and criticisms? What is the plan for 2012?
A: All good questions. How would I rate the first season? I'd rate it as a challenging start that wasn't a surprise to us, but with a very strong finish and a very strong overall result. It was frankly the worst-case scenario to begin a new TV relationship with ESPN after 12 very successful and very positive years with SPEED. We'd trained everybody that the second Saturday in March, go to SPEED to watch the 12 Hours of Sebring.
For anyone who had access to ESPN3, they loved it, and thought it was one of the best broadcasts they'd ever seen. It had all the content and a high-production value broadcast, with minimal commercial interruption and great announcers. There were all the pieces you'd want to enjoy that type of event.
If you couldn't get ESPN3, you were extremely upset. You made your opinion known, in large numbers. That was a challenging start.
The reality is, more people saw the 12 Hours of Sebring on ABC – the next day – than the many years of SPEED combined. It's the economies of scale of having a major terrestrial network broadcast versus having a cable sports channel broadcast.
When you take the learning from that debut event at Sebring, a lot of money was spent on marketing the “How to Watch” the ALMS on TV.
The overall results from the season proved a leading-edge example of being able to live stream on ESPN3, and having either ABC or ESPN2 for all our broadcasts. The on-demand capability from the ESPN archives and our own website. All those options versus the net results, how many families, sets of eyeballs, tuned in and watched the ALMS on TV last year versus years before. No one can argue this point as it's published by Nielsen, and it was a 67 percent increase over 2010 results. That's a staggering number for any sport.
Now most people will say that's because they had all the ABC broadcasts. To which we say, that's absolutely correct. That was the value represented in our new TV platform.
We've got the learning and awareness generating from last year, and we're not throttling back at all on our efforts to make people aware of how, where and when to watch. The quality of our broadcast is second to none.
Headlines out of the Consumer Electronics Show that I saw deal with Internet broadcasting and the fact that we will all soon be going to the Internet for what is today called "television." Your home computer and television screen will become one in the same. Not just the computer streaming, but also the status quo of network broadcasts, we have the best of both worlds. If we wanted to watch last year's races, it's a couple clicks away. There are very few sports/motorsports that can boast that and offer that connectivity. What was a leading edge example should become more mainstream.
Q: The other big tech thing you're looking at for 2012 is your new website, and enhanced social media plans. What's going on to improve those platforms?
A: You mentioned it, and it was the next topic to bring up. It's a completely new website, that will launch March 1 (screen shot is LEFT). Companies always talk about recent upgrades, but for us, it's been two years since a serious makeover. Through the expert advice of McMurry and several consultants across different aspects, for video integration and social connectivity, the website that is represented by ALMS.com, and I don't want to sound repetitive, should be an unprecedented upgrade that provides content and connectivity to our fans in ways that have never been seen before.
We always have live timing and scoring and live chats. Those elements are taken for granted. But featuring in-car cameras during the race, that will be something our website provides that for the fans in ways we have never been able to do before. We'll have unique content done by our own production services group. Behind the scenes, deep into the series looks, episodic content refreshed on a weekly basis.
Social media should have a very substantial content expansion with guest bloggers and professional media that will be tweeted out and Facebook posted. I know just enough about it to be dangerous! I have been asked to do a personal blog, and I'm excited to do it.
We're all just waiting for Christmas right now. Santa Claus can't come soon enough when it comes to the launch.