Audience Profile

You can’t avoid the avalanche (no pun intended) of information about global warming – it’s everywhere. And without getting into the politics or science behind it, one thing is clear, the business community is responding to the discussion.

Racing isn’t particularly thought of as green, in spite of the occasional tip of the cap in that direction with fuels. LeMans has encouraged the use of newer technologies for turbo diesel engines resulting in significant investment from Audi. The IRL has moved to 100% ethanol. A1GP has moved to an ethanol blend and expressed an intent to utilize further green friendly technologies, and F1 is discussing rules for the 2011 season that could see these technologies put to test in the “highest form of motor racing.”

While NASCAR remains on the other end of the scale, with old technologies and leaded fuel, Peter DeLorenzo has announced the development of a hydrogen-fueled series. That seems like a big bet as; there isn’t much consensus as to which technology will be most broadly deployed long-term. A few years back, the AMA employed unleaded fuel, moving in the right direction.

Motorcycling will be interesting to watch because bikes are generally thought of as getting good mileage and, therefore, greener than cars. But a dirty little secret is that bikes have been dirty relative to cars – mostly due to the lack of catalytic converters. So where do they go from here?

Certainly in the near term, hybrids look to be a consumer friendly technology and will likely find their way in with the “first movers” of racing. And it’s clear the auto manufacturers will want to boost their green credentials as politicians put increasing pressure them to clean up their act. If I were a betting man, that’s where I’d put my money…

But perhaps the biggest sea change will come from sponsors, who will begin to associate themselves with properties that promote green living. What bank, insurance company or soda company wouldn’t? In discussions with major sponsors over the past year or so, the number of requests to see the environmental policy of the racing series represented has skyrocketed. In the future, it will be more difficult to be associated with the laggards in environmental change because there is no downside to being seen as being more environmentally friendly.

SO, the conclusions for rights holders are:

• Its going to happen, so get with the program. Your rulebook is your friend;
• The green platform you create will define your niche and serve as a competitive advantage over the laggards;
• Sponsors will demand it going forward, so the laggards (even NASCAR at some point) will be under pressure to show progress;
• Its not just about engine technology and fuel;
• The biggest opportunity is utilizing your platform to change consumer attitudes and behavior towards green technology;
• Start…now. If you don’t have a policy, start there. If you do, keep moving;
• And you can hire Hardcard to help. We’re up to speed in this area.


The emergence of web 2.0 as a distribution alternative for traditional TV content has received a great deal of attention recently, and for good reason. Technology has indeed caught up with the convergence vision that tech industry leaders have been prognosticating about for years. In many households, mine included, watching video content on a computer or iPod that has been delivered via the Internet is occupying more and more time.

For a media rights holder this is both a daunting challenge and new opportunity. In motorsports there are a couple of interesting scenarios playing out on different scales and in different ways.

MotoGP, the third highest-viewed global TV sports property, behind F1 and soccer, has a claimed worldwide viewing audience that exceeds 300 million. For Dorna, the commercial rights holder for MotoGP, television rights revenues are a significant component of a very successful enterprise and an asset they protect and manage with great vigor. In addition to their far-reaching TV deals, Dorna has developed a terrific, fee-based website,, that provides rich, ancillary content and race coverage to an even wider base of passion-fueled MotoGP fans.

In spite of this astute media rights management by Dorna, there is a website that broadcasts the Chinese network’s MotoGP broadcasts live via the Internet without permission from Dorna. And, being in China, there is not much recourse for Dorna at this time.

On a smaller scale, here in the U.S. beginning in 2007, AMA Motocross moved its U.S. TV distribution from the VS. cable channel to Speed Channel. This change will very likely increase TV viewership for motocross and there are some interesting new aspects to the structure of this deal.

Motocross, being somewhat of a niche sports property, is not in a position to receive a television rights fee and, in fact, must pay towards the production costs of the programming. This has allowed motocross to bring in non-TV-media partners to produce and distribute content from the events through the Internet. These online TV rights would have traditionally been held on to by the rights-paying TV partner who would have not likely exploited them.
The complexities of effective media rights management with the myriad of new media opportunities will continue to increase. Savvy rights holders will need to be looking for ways to exploit these and may be able to use them to offset the trends of decreasing TV revenues, increasing TV costs or non-availability of TV time.

Ok – let’s start at the top. You can accuse me of being biased. Hardcard is formally engaged by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to advise on motorcycle related projects. So there.

Nonetheless, the prospect of a motorcycle race at IMS is the most important news for motorcycle racing in the US in many, many years.

Why? It’s simple. Indianapolis is racing in America—and to much of the world. There are few facilities, if any, that come close to its history, grandeur, size and penetration into the mind of the casual sports fan. Indy legitimizes.

Ask around about NASCAR’s experience after its first appearance at the Brickyard. That event was one of the key reasons for NASCAR’s mainstream legitimacy. And EVERYONE knows the Indy 500. It is the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

As for bikes? If MotoGP gets to the famous Speedway, look for a new MotoGP record attendance number for six of the seven continents it visits with a legitimate shot at topping some of the outrageous Spanish round attendance numbers. That’s how big this could be. And for legitimizing motorcycle racing, it will benefit motorcycling in the US. That’s good for all of us.

You see, Indy infuses Mojo, hosting only three major events a year with little or no activity beyond that. This is in stark contrast to the demand for 100% utilization most facilities face. The few series invited into Gasoline Alley immediately join an elite and exclusive club and the nation’s mainstream media, gearheads of all types, casual fans and captains of industry take notice. And when they do, they’ll love Nicky. And his parents. And his brothers. Go. Watch. Kiss the Bricks. Let’s all hope it happens.

Cable, network, broadband, YouTube, wireless…it’s enough to make your head spin. As a group of executives with many years negotiating media deals for content providers, we at Hardcard can tell you that it’s a tough world out there. It’s tough and, potentially, very expensive to make an impression for niche sports like motorcycle racing.

More people tune into watch the Teutul’s build bikes than watch legitimate heroes drag elbows at Mid-Ohio, pirouette down the Corkscrew or blaze through Daytona’s banking at speeds and proximity that is heart stopping. Worse, both are minor compared to the average sitcom on network television.

So, where does it go from here? The landscape will continue to fracture. You can’t fight that tide. This will result in increased pressure on cable and network executives to air programming driving large audiences. They will, in turn, escalate costs to niche content providers or abandon them altogether. Content providers must be ready to respond to rapid changes in the distribution environment already underway.

In a recent interview Bill Gates shook his head in disbelief that more people don’t seem to see the future of content delivery via the internet. We’re almost there now. Tivo’s and DVR’s have empowered viewers significantly (see related blog) such that scheduling is no longer the issue – we can already watch things when we want. So the next evolution is the capacity to watch things where we want. The Internet is the means to provide that capacity.

As compression technology improves and broadband becomes more widely available there will come a point when the viewer cannot distinguish between content delivered via traditional distribution (cable, satellite or over the airwaves – if anybody still does that!) and the Internet. That moment, for better or worse, is coming. When it arrives, content providers will have the option to control distribution to hundreds of millions of homes (and even more hand held devices) rather than be dependent upon traditional media distribution partners. Are you ready? Is racing ready? Remember, it wasn’t long ago that a phone had to be plugged into the wall.

In 2006, ESPN released the results of a poll that measured motorsports popularity amongst their “race fan” viewers. The results were predictable in some ways and surprising in others. For the motorcycle racing community, though, they were very promising.

    2005 ESPN Sports Poll – Race fans favorite style of racing

1. NASCAR – 59.5
2. NHRA – 13.4
3. Motorcycle events – 9.7
4. F1 – 6.3
5. IRL – 6.1
6. Champ Car – 1.4
7. Other – .04

Motorcycle racing, once the stepchild of motorsports was gaining popularity, not just as a result of the growth of motorcycling in general, but also because of added mainstream acceptance and viewership. It had ascended above all forms of open wheel motorsport.

NASCAR predictably lead the rankings but with an astounding share of the race fan universe. NHRA also had strong numbers, but motorcycle racing gained ground on the quarter-mile crowd from a similar poll conducted in 2004.

Ironically, during the 2006 season, no motorcycle competition aired on the ESPN properties outside of the X-Games. ESPN2 is the exclusive home of the NHRA.

Presumably we will see this survey post results from the 2006 season, as NHRA was a force behind ESPN’s motorsports research. It’s likely that the two-wheel world of sport will have strengthened even more.