A couple hours ago, Roadracing World broke the story that AMA Pro Road Racing will not be aired on TV during the series’ first stop of the year at Laguna Seca this weekend — and for bonus points, AMA racing action likely won’t even be seen on the screens around the track, including the team hospitality suites and pit boxes. The word you are now looking for is “shitastrophe” — it’s in the dictionary, right next to the DMG logo.
You may remember that the AMA season started with a bit of concern, as America’s premier road racing series was without a TV contract beyond the venerable oddity that is the Daytona 200. This left teams, riders, and fans in a bit of a lurch.
For the teams and riders, the questionable state of television coverage for the 2013 season meant an added difficulty in finding sponsorship dollars, after all the nearly non-existent fan attendance at races was only palatable for sponsors when reconciled the money spent would include the stayed-at-home-instead TV viewership.
For the fans of American road racing, the lack of TV coverage created an even more philosophical debate: if a rider races on Sunday, and no one is able to watch it on TV, did it even happen? Go ahead and take your time on that one.
We all breathed a sigh of relief though when the news came through that AMA Pro Road Racing, i.e. Daytona Motorsport Group, inked a TV deal with CBS Sports. With the channel not available on most basic cable packages, the CBS Sports deal wasn’t the best possible outcome for the situation, but it was better than no deal at all, and still par for the course with WSBK being relegated to beIN Sports just a couple months earlier.
Well as RRW is now reporting, the deal is a bit worse than having to add some more channels to your cable box, as the CBS Sports TV contract evidently didn’t include all the races of the 2013 AMA Pro Road Racing season, and for reasons beyond human comprehension, Laguna Seca, the perhaps most heavily spectated race on the calendar, will thus not be broadcasted on TV.
In the few calls I have had with teams in the AMA, the news comes as a shock, though some are less surprised than others. The fallout for riders and teams though is the biggest concern, as some contracts were made with certain expectations from sponsors having a chance to be on the small-screen.
What doesn’t find its way into a courtroom, or worse in a the reimbursement of much needed funding, will certainly end up in the loss of goodwill at the bargaining table next year — as if prying dollars out the hands of potential sponsors wasn’t hard enough already.
In a series that is already unable to fill the stands with fans, and has trouble employing even last year’s runner-up in the Superbike class, the complete loss of TV coverage for American road racing would likely be the death blow to the sport, and today’s news puts some dangerous writing on the walls in that regard.
Even AMA Pro Racing’s bold move of offering races online for free (subscriptions available for viewers outside the US), a maneuver that I was just getting ready to praise in another article, will be too late to save the series, as YouTube still doesn’t have the sway as the venerable television set.
We stand now at a precipitous moment, where if AMA Pro Road Racing isn’t aired on television, than the exodus of whatever money that is left in the sport will exit with an audible whooshing sound. For most fans, a lack of TV coverage means a loss of interest, and for most sponsors, the lack of TV means the lack of any real marketing ROI, which could make the 2014 season look like a very expensive AFM/WERA/CCS round.
Gill Campbell, CEO/General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, probably said it best when talking to Roadracing World, “I am speechless. I don’t know what to say. When it is the premier motorcycle [road racing] series in America that is unable to produce a television program from their largest single spectator event of the year and the largest motorcycle gathering of the year, I think that is extremely sad and lacking in forethought.”
We couldn’t agree more. It will be interesting to see what happens at the AMA’s scheduled rounds after Laguna Seca, very interesting indeed.
Source: Roadracing World