RODDA: PPV & Short Track Racing

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Ron Rodda

LINCOLN, Calif. – The growth of pay-per-view and streaming of short track races has been rapid.

There are many companies involved in that business, but one of the major companies is Speed Shift TV.

Speed Shift has gone from 57 streamed events a few years ago to 351 in 2019.  Since its beginning in 2014, Speed Shift has grown dramatically and now has 26 people working for the company.

Their needs have grown to where having dedicated servers is necessary to prevent crashing, a problem when servers were shared.  The Speed Shift business model changed from a pay-per-view approach to monthly subscriptions, where fans have access to almost every race streamed by the group.

There will still be a few events that will be pay-per-view, but a day or two later the race will be archived and available to subscribers. Speed Shift has branched out to broadcasting races in Australia and New Zealand that resulted in nearly 20 percent of their subscribers living in one of those countries.

Speed Shift pays tracks an agreed upon amount for the rights to broadcast their race while the larger events that are initially pay-per-view result in the track getting a percentage of the sales.  If it is a national sanctioning group, then both the sanction and the track receive a percentage.

Building archived races is key to drawing subscribers and four or five are added each week to the on-demand list.  As an example, the third weekend of May Speed Shift has nine live events scheduled and another four on-demand.

Three Pennsylvania tracks, Kutztown, Port Royal and Lincoln, are broadcast weekly while Anderson, Ind., and Marshalltown, Iowa, are nearly weekly.

Promoters seem to be strongly for or against streaming.  Dennis Gage, the promoter of Silver Dollar Speedway and Marysville Raceway, is taking a look at streaming.  The first weekend of May saw the first points race streamed from Silver Dollar and the success of that weekend has led to Gage considering additional streaming.

“When promoters get together and discuss pay-per-view, there are two positions,” Gage said. “I love it, it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread or I hate it and I’ll never have it at my race track. That’s always where we end up and some pretty prominent people in the business end up taking one of those two sides.”

At age 71, Gage admits to being an old school promoter. He had a set price per night to stream a race for a couple years and Dean Mills was the one to give it a try.  Mills Video Productions, in concert with Speed Shift, broadcast both nights and all parties were satisfied with the outcome.

Placerville promoter and creator of the Sprint Car Challenge Tour, Scott Russell, is taking the growth of streaming one step further. Russell and Mills are taking a look at starting a production company for Northern California tracks.

“It’s kind of a double edged sword,” said Russell. “It does give exposure for the facility over the country and beyond which is a good thing and makes lot of sense in streaming.  The con is local people may choose to stay home and coming to an event is what is going to keep these tracks alive, people coming and spending money for food and beverage.”

Last Saturday’s points race at Placerville was the first try at streaming under the Russell/Mills partnership.

“This is the year to see if this is something we really want to tackle and at the end of the year we will decide if we want out have our own company,” said Russell.

As to the issue of fans staying home and watching the race being streamed, statistics gathered by Speed Shift TV address that topic. Asked to guess the percentage of viewers within a two hour radius of a given track, Gage guessed 50 percent. Sprint car driver Andy Forsberg estimated 60 percent were two hours or less from the track.

Forsberg went on to voice a concern that when most people stay home and watch the stream, there is a loss of income not only to the promoter but the fairgrounds, creating the possibility of tracks closing.

The data regarding the two hour radius is very surprising.  Speed Shift TV has done in depth analysis on that topic and the average is just three to four percent of viewers are within that radius. It might jump to nine percent in a more densely populated area, but for an entire season the number of viewers within a two hour radius hit that three to four percent average.

Chet Christner is one of three partners who are the foundation of Speed Shift TV and he believes that his company is more of a marketing company than a streaming company.

“We are not a streaming company, we are a marketing company,” Christner explained. “Prime example is Marshalltown Speedway.  Look at how many people know about the racing there as a result of the broadcast.

“Every week Toby (promoter Toby Kruse) has people who tell him they saw the racing on line and wanted to come see the track and the racing.  He gets a lot of visitors away from the area to watch the racing. We market the track, the event, the series, and the racing. That’s what we are really doing and the streaming is how we do it.”

Christner also addressed the concern with fans choosing stream over being at the track.

“If a nearby race fan is watching a stream instead of attending the event, it is extremely likely it’s because they are either at work, going to work or got home from work too late to attend.”

There is no doubt that live streaming will continue to grow in the future.  Tracks that make it work for them make it possible to gain from the relationship with this newer industry.