I’m fully aware that a portion of the greater sim racing community can be a tad delusional at times, but I think this example right here isn’t going to be topped anytime soon by virtually anyone with a functioning brain. Earlier today, I received an anonymous message from someone using a temporary email address notifying me of the upcoming Sim Racing TV station, a legitimate television channel you’ll be able to check out in the near future as part of the basic Freesat package so long as you’re paired up with Sky UK as your telecommunications provider.
Totally disregarding the fact that SPEED Channel – a 24 hour motorsports network focused on real life auto racing – was taken off the air due to slumping ratings and restructured as the all-encompassing Fox Sports, someone within our community believed that an entire station centering around virtual race cars – aimed at a drastically smaller audience than those who loved Speed Channel in its prime – would somehow be successful in any way, shape, or form. At the moment, they are focused on selling advertisement space.
This is by far the stupidest fucking thing anyone has ever done in our community; an incomprehensibly bad idea that will go down as little more than the result of too many Red Bulls consumed in too short of a time span. I understand that occasionally, we run into sim racers with more money than brains, but there is no logical reason as to why Sim Racing TV would even have a partial chance of success. And rather than continue to throw out insults at the creators in a late-night tirade, I’ll instead explain why there were at least four reasons this idea should have never left the drawing board.
YouTube exists. I have no desire to wait until a very specific time in the evening to watch an EmptyBox commentary, or a review from Shaun Cole of The SimPit, and have their work split up with intrusive commercials. YouTube lets me catch an iRacing event a few friends are racing in as it’s happening, or, even better, I can dig through the archives to view the entire broadcast at my own leisure.
Traditional television doesn’t let you do that. And if a league is streaming their race in high definition via YouTube, yet the commentators suck or the racing itself isn’t very competitive, I can turn it off and find another sim racing-related video that does entertain me. That won’t happen on a dedicated TV station. You’re forced to sit through it until the next program comes on, and given how long some of the GT endurance races can be, you’re looking at basically the entire day consumed by one virtual race.
Not all sim racing-related content is created equal. Let’s be real here – a whole bunch of leagues broadcast their online races, but not all of them do a stand-up job of it, to the point where I feel like chilling on the sofa and taking in an online event as a spectator. In fact, most live events range from barely acceptable to downright horrible, as commentators fight with poor audio quality or suspension of disbelief issues, such as deciding whether to pretend obvious server issues are “rain delays” in an effort to save face for their developer of choice.
Finding unique quality content to fill an entire 24-hour cycle will be next to impossible for Sim Racing TV, especially considering a lot of guys within the community – myself included – produce content in their spare time and don’t adhere to a set production schedule compared to something like Mythbusters or The Simpsons. From a logistics standpoint, this is going to be a pain in the ass for SRTV overlords, and given sim racing doesn’t have a huge following, you’re looking at trying to woo a fraction of a fraction of auto racing fans.
The popularity of real world auto racing is in a sharp decline. Above is a shot from the 2015 IndyCar event at Auto Club Speedway in California. Despite establishing itself as the greatest IndyCar race ever and setting a series record for the number of lead changes, just take a look at those grandstands. If the target audience of Sim Racing TV is downright indifferent to the existence of auto racing in general – whether it be on television or in real life – how in God’s name do you expect these same people to care about virtual racing featuring a bunch of faceless nerds on an iRacing server?
Sim Racing as an eSport has simply not taken off to the extent of other competitive online games. Look, I enjoy watching my bros participate in streamed league races regardless of the sim they choose to drive, but let’s be realistic about the audience numbers – I’ve tuned into iRacing Peak Anti-Freeze Series broadcasts on Tuesday nights, and seen the number dip as low as 250 active viewers. This is pathetic, and simply does not warrant a dedicated television channel.
There are more people involved in the actual competition – such as stewards, spotters, setup builders, and livery designers – than there are spectating the event. Factor out the number of family members, teammates with an iPad next to the monitor, and/or close personal friends viewing these broadcasts for the hell of it, and that number drops below 100 on the official account of the simulator itself. On the flip side, League of Legends – what many consider to be the most popular eSport at the moment – saw 8.5 million people tune into the 2013 World Championship matches. TheVerge.com notes that this number was almost sixteen times the amount of viewers than the 2012 London Olympics received a year earlier. Based on that data alone, who do you think deserves a television channel: Sim Racing, or League of Legends?
Now to ensure we’re not manipulating numbers and intentionally misleading people about the overall popularity of sim racing, some events, such as the Mercedes-Benz sponsored RaceRoom Racing Experience DTM championship, were broadcast live and reeled in an impressive number of viewers on Facebook.
However, this is largely in part due to the one-off spectacle the German car manufacturer held, placing participants in identically prepared pretend cockpits, and leveling the playing field by refusing to allow custom car setups – a staple of competitive sim racing. With the stream appearing on the prestigious brand’s official Facebook page, it’s no wonder over two hundred and fifty thousand people took a gander at the commotion – every small European child with a Facebook account probably “Liked” their page out of boredom. The chances of a large promoter holding an entire season of these events is slim to none, relegating simulator broadcasts to the depths of YouTube. Coverage and support of most online competitions simply doesn’t look like this.
Sim Racing just isn’t popular. I genuinely love this hobby, but we can’t deny that we’re an obscure niche interest compared to first person shooters or real-time strategy games. Piloting a car around a race track next to a handful of other opponents is difficult, and doing it without any seat of the pants feeling thanks to sitting in front of a PC monitor is even more challenging.
There are traditionally only 2,500 people on the iRacing service at any given moment, and most of the individuals currently racing on this lovely Monday evening are the same who populated the servers in the spring of 2012. This genre is a hard sell to virtually anybody. You buy a bunch of expensive hardware, only to crash in the first corner. The common masses which flock to Call of Duty or League of Legends, they don’t like that. They will never like that. It will always be Ray Alfalla and Greger Huttu stomping around on iRacing; there aren’t a thousand people who practice every day to take their spot – hell, there aren’t even thirty.
We aren’t an eSport. We’re lucky if a modern simulator eclipses one thousand concurrent players at the same time. You basically need to sign up for a league to race other human opponents, as public lobbies are virtually non-existent in isiMotor simulators. If we were swimming in viewers, and sim racers were being recruited by amateur racing teams en mass, then sure, a dedicated television station is by all means justified. But none of this is happening in the slightest.
We don’t need a sim racing TV station. There aren’t enough potential viewers to make it a viable option. It’s a complete nonsensical decision, and I genuinely feel bad for anyone delusional enough to sink money into this endeavor. If you are curious about checking out the full advertisement pitch, you can download the PDF File here: