NASCAR.com RaceBuddy Doubles Down, Goes 360 Degrees
TNT RaceBuddy on NASCAR.com opened its season with a single-day–record 1.1 million streams delivered, a gain of 187% over last year’s 375,000, and clearly demonstrated that the days of old versus new media have given way to old plus new media. HDTV race coverage and 10 additional camera views online offers a potent multiplatform mix.
“TNT on-air supports RaceBuddy every race and promotes it multiple times,” says Justin Williams, director of business operations for NASCAR.com. “It’s a great companion viewing experience.”
It’s also twice as good as last year. TNT RaceBuddy has doubled the number of available camera views from five to 10, including two Mosaics and eight individual camera angles. Four in-car cameras and two Battle Cams that highlight head-to-head competition are complemented by a Backstretch Cam and Pit Road Cam.
According to Tom Sahara, senior director of IT and remote operations for Turner Sports, NASCAR.com doubled the feeds thanks to improvements in encoding and satellite-transmission technologies like MPEG-4, H.264, and DVB-S2 second-generation DVB transmission. Harmonic Electra 8000 encoders play a key role.
“We are putting the feeds together on a multiplex into one outgoing satellite path back to Atlanta,” says Sahara.
In Atlanta, commercial tags and other sponsor elements are added into the streams, something that previously was done at the production compound.
Williams says RaceBuddy offers more than just additional cameras. Viewing size and resolution are 20% larger, and there is also improved DVR functionality.
“We had DVR in years past, but now we have key moments logged in ,” says Williams. Users can now scrub over the timeline and see text descriptions of those moments, making it easier than ever to tell one left-hand turn from another.
For backend operations, the ad-serving technology has been improved and integrated into the feeds, courtesy of control-room enhancements that make the operations more akin to a TV broadcast.
The challenge with online ad delivery is that, though understanding that ads need to be part of the package, consumers expect them to be delivered differently from the 30-second spots that dominate TV. That is one reason NASCAR.com offers commercials and race coverage side by side, so viewers never have to miss a moment.
“We find it to be the right mix for fans and advertisers,” says Williams, “and it plays nicely because you aren’t taking away from the experience.”
A final plus for racing fans this year is a new proprietary camera shooting video in 360 degrees. Located in pit row, it allows viewers to choose their own point of view as video is played to a server and then controlled via a streaming player.
“The difference from previous 360-degree camera systems is, you don’t have to download the movie or be constrained to particular views,” says Sahara.
Williams says the new 360-degree camera adds to the overall experience, delivering a vantage point fans have never seen before.
“We have been focused on the quality and quantity of our streams and always look to best ourselves year over year,” he adds. “We had great HD streaming a year ago, and now we’re just going bigger.”