As you can guess by the featured image (and website name), this is going to revolve around the TCR International Series – not because it’s actually “perfect” in all phases of the game, but from a fan’s perspective, they’ve really hit it out of the ballpark despite only being around less than three seasons. Understanding there are a few complaints with the driving standards, officiating and that touring cars may not be for everyone, TCR is still setting the standard on content distribution and all around growth despite still being in it’s infancy as a series and concept. So let’s look more at that concept.
In mid-2014 it was announced a new formula for touring car racing was going to be launched for the upcoming 2015 racing season. TCR, at the timed called TC3, essentially photocopied Stephane Ratel’s GT3 concept where manufacturers (or teams designated by manufacturers) built and developed cars and sold them to the privateers to help keep overall costs down for the teams and ensure the cars were still quick, safe and raced well via BoP. Almost immediately it was a hit. 17 cars from 5 different makes raced in TCR International’s inaugural race. The International championship was launched to provide a cheaper-version of the World Touring Car Championship and from there it’s spiraled. Not even three full years after the concept kicked off it’s first race, there are no fewer than 16 series running some sort of TCR-spec cars worldwide. Manufacturers have flooded to the category with the likes of Audi, Honda, SEAT, VW, Alfa Romeo, Opel and more building cars for the category. Kia and Hyundai are also deep into development and testing of their new challengers with more manufacturers sniffing around that haven’t been announced yet.
[epq-quote align=”align-left”]What a novel concept. Getting the content out quickly and easily and to the viewers is a necessity in 2017 and TCR is hitting it out of the ballpark[/epq-quote]
So that is a high-level view of why TCR has been successful with teams, drivers, manufacturers and series throughout the world so quickly. Keep costs relatively low, keep competitive, close racing a common theme and you have a recipe for success. While a lot of interest from teams and manufacturers is important, you still needs fans to consume the content. Racing always has been and always will be a marketing practice, so obviously, market to those peeps that can afford to purchase the street versions of the cars racing on track. While most fans cannot afford a street Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini that screams during a GT3 race, most can afford a version of the Honda Civic, VW Golf or Seat Leon.
This is where TCR is really winning. While many other series are still stuck in cable TV-land, TCR International puts every race on Youtube live, non-geoblocked, for free. And they still have TV distribution in place while also keeping the races available immediately online if you can’t watch live. What a novel concept. Getting the content out quickly and easily to the viewers is a necessity in 2017 and TCR is hitting it out of the ballpark. Mix it in with their social media content and easy-to-find info on their website and you have a winner.
One series that has a great opportunity in front of them that can model what TCR is doing is Indycar. The series has been showing practice sessions online for a few seasons and gets a couple of races on TV over the air each year. They are still tied to a cable-package for their non-OTA TV races, but the NBC Sports deal ends with the 2018 season. Despite getting over 800,000 viewers for the Youtube broadcast of Fernando Alonso’s rookie test at Indianapolis Motorspeedway and the great numbers they are seeing through the Indy 500 and other practice sessions, it’s probably still a little unrealistic to expect a full online streaming, free-to-view package immediately. Where INDYCAR has the advantage, that few others do, is they can now prove to their advertisers and partners that 1) online streaming actually works for getting eyes on the sport and 2) cable TV subscribers are on the decline. Indycar has the current fan base large enough where they could forego a cable company to do their race streaming and offer a season-long online subscription to it’s fans like we see with the FIA WEC and Virgina Australia Supercars series. The momentum is only going up for INDYCAR and with the new car, incredible driver lineups, fantastic racing and easy viewing options for fans, the series is set to grow to heights we haven’t seen since the 1990s. Why wouldn’t INDYCAR look at what TCR is doing, what the WEC and Supercars are trying to do, and go for it? By 2019, there will be plenty of data to back up a decision like that.
The internet now controls content and we’re lucky a few series are starting to realize what’s going on and pave the way for the rest of the sport. Let’s get more to hop on that bandwagon early and get to where we should be.