So I was perusing the front page of Oppo the other day and a post caught my attention. The post commented on the existence of ESPN style broadcasts of sim races.
Broadcasting sim races is not a new concept, but its popularity has increased recently. iRacing first brought up the idea of broadcasting sim races with their then two world championship series. They entrusted the commentary to PSRTV, who still host the NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series broadcasts. Initially, it started out as a group of guys who enjoyed commentating races, but has since grown into a green screen orchestra with pit analysts and teams of people making a nearly sustainable income.
PSRTV is probably the longest running broadcast organization within iRacing, or maybe sim racing in general, but others have come along and established themselves as major players. The Oppo post referenced LSRTV, which specializes in covering smaller leagues and short track series. They recently picked up the contract for the iRacing Oval Pro Series and have set themselves as a noted broadcaster for Oval events. The biggest player in the broadcasting of sim racing recently has been Racespot TV.
Racespot TV has done more than establish itself as one of the premiere Road Racing broadcast services. They introduced broadcasting sim endurance races with broadcast crews that would cover the event for the full 24 hours. Racespot TV partnered with Indycar to introduce (or re-introduce) Indycar drivers to competing in their sim racing league. Racespot also helped bring to the forefront series like the Masters of Endurance league and other long duration racing organizations which helped motivate the development of the driver swapping feature.
This brings up a new trend in sim racing. I call it the privatization of sim racing. iRacing provides a sim racing platform and organizes official races to allow people to experience their product. These series run many times per day and allow people to essentially have “pick-up” races where you can nearly find a race any time of day. This provides a good atmosphere for casual sim racing, but it has its faults in officiating and competition consistency. Certain groups decided to improve on iRacing’s product (mainly through rules and organization) to create special racing leagues.
These private leagues have recently grown in traction with desirable features like human oversight, broadcast deals, and exclusivity. Many of these leagues have human admins who participate as race control, act as stewards, and assign penalties. This is far superior to iRacing’s computerized race control and current protest system, but I want to stress that these league administrators are examining 1 race per week vs iRacing’s 1,000s. The surge of sim race broadcasting has given great exposure to iRacing, the leagues within it, and sim racing in general. The prospect of being on “TV” are very enticing to people and helps expand the interest of these leagues, thus increasing the competition. Likewise, this broadening of competition has made these leagues fairly exclusive. Many leagues only have 40 spots for a race and dozens of people try to join. These leagues have stiff requirements that necessitate you to have a good history on iRacing in order to be approved to take part. This exclusivity benefits the league, iRacing’s exposure, and you as the participant. This way only good, clean, and competitive racers are in the series. Talented drivers lead to competitive races and great action for the broadcasters to capture and put out over the airwaves.
So what does this mean, could these private leagues eventually replace the World Championship series officiated by iRacing? I don’t think so, not in the short term. iRacing as a company has the clout to create partnerships, generate prize money, and form new World Championship Series. It would take a private league many years to build that kind of relationship. iRacing has proven with the two (soon to be three) World Championship Series that they are currently running, that they will dedicate resources to make sure that the races run smoothly. Each World Championship has specific rules and is overseen by stewards to assure the rules are being followed. As long as they can keep this quality of racing and maintain their partnerships, there is no reason why iRacing cannot run world championship series without the help of private leagues. That being said, I think a few leagues will rise above the others and establish themselves as the new Pro Series for certain cars. RaceSpot and the 16th Street Racing League have more or less established themselves as the Indycar Pro level on iRacing. We will see who else follows.
If you are interested in watching a sim race broadcast here are a few of the channels that I know and the types of racing they usually broadcast. Feel free to submit more.
Racespot TV (Road and Endurance Racing, iRacing Road World Championship):
Live Sim Racing Television (LSRTV) (Short track and stock car Oval)
Pro Sim Racing Television (PSRTV) (iRacing Oval World Championship)
V8SCOPS (V8 supercars)
AllProRacing (Small Leagues and 1 time Events)
Global Sim Racing (smaller Oval and Road Series)
Checkered Flag Interactive (mix of trucks and short track)
*this post is not endorsed by any of the organizations mentioned within.
image credit: iRacing.com, virtualr.net, youtube.com, indycar.com