Although I don’t watch a lot of TV, I have the TV on a lot. It’s company.
So years ago, I’m reading, or maybe I’m writing, and I hear a voiceover at the end of the program that was on: “To watch previous episodes of Corner Gas, go to the website, www.etc.” I heard that and I said, to nobody in particular, seeing as there was nobody else in the house: “Television as we know it is in trouble.”
TV, like newspapers, which have been holding on by their fingertips in recent years, depended on advertising to pay the bills. From the days of I Love Lucy up to the reincarnation of Magnum, P.I., the people who ran television (and, since the 1970s, cable companies) counted on people to sit down and watch and then be a captive audience for paid ads.
The VCR was the first real threat, where people would tape the program and then fast-forward through the ads. But most people are lazy and although that technology was utilized by some, the vast majority of people couldn’t be bothered going to the trouble.
But when programs like Corner Gas started putting their episodes on their websites, it was no trouble at all for people to sit down in front of their computers whenever they felt like it and watch a show or shows. And with the help of technology like chromecast, they can even enjoy those shows on their 60-inch widescreen TVs. And they can block out the ads, too.
And, of course, thanks to Netflix, streaming is taking over and more and more people are cutting the cable cord. Which brings us to today and the situation with IndyCar races.
To continue making gobs of moolah, cable and TV companies have opted for a strategy that would require subscribers to pay more and more for content. I have a Bugatti television package (I keep finding channels I didn’t even know existed, never mind me never watching them) but if I want to watch a first-run movie, I have to pay extra to see it on Rogers On Demand, never mind the six or seven movie channels I already have.
Once upon a time, I got TSN and Sportsnet as part of my basic cable package. Then they created additional channels (TSN2, 3, 4 and 5, for example) then made me pay more for them. I’m glad I did, particularly since to entice me, they put most of the auto racing I like on all the upper channels and only iconic events like the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and the Canadian Grand Prix make it onto those basic cable channels.
The decision this past week to put the 2019 IndyCar races on “premium pay” channels was unfortunate for many reasons, in particular the growth of interest in the sport. Digital fans must now pony up around $20/month or $200/year to watch the races on Sportsnet NOW-plus. I made a mistake in the Saturday Star when I said these races were only available on digital because they will also be on a TV channel called Sportsnet WORLD but it is a premium pay channel and it will also cost you around $20/month to have it added to your channel lineup. I’m sorry for the error but the bottom line is that regardless of whether you watch the races through your computer or through your cable TV, IndyCar races this year are going to cost you another $20/month on top of your cable bill.
Of course, by doing this, the cable or satellite companies are doing what they’ve always done, which is to bundle stuff that’s popular in with other stuff that’s not so popular. In order for me to watch the IndyCar races on, say, Sportsnet WORLD, I will also have to pay for 3 million soccer and rugby games that I couldn’t care less about. So I have a tough decision to make – to cough up the cash or not watch IndyCar.
Even though I write about racing, and could deduct a portion of that expense from my income tax, I suspect I will not pay the money. My business phone, my Internet and my cable TV all come from Rogers. I won’t tell you the total but some of you would fall over in a dead faint if you found out what I pay each month.
It’s tough to read that IndyCar is making the races available without extra charge to people in Latin America via the Indycar.com website. But that gives me an idea.
If IndyCar sent me a notice that I could watch the races on Indycar.com for $5 a race or $10 for all the extra content surrounding the race, I’d be signing up before I finished reading the notification. I don’t know why they don’t do it. It would be money directly into their pocket and Canadian fans would not be saddled with hours and hours of football and rugby streaming into their homes that they don’t want.
If they can do it for Latin America, they can do it for Canada. When the current contract with Rogers is up, they should give this suggestion serious thought.
WEEKEND RACING: It’s getting worse and worse. Lewis Hamilton will win most of the races in Formula One (anybody want to bet against that?), Kyle Busch will dominate NASCAR (he’s doing it already, winning two of two races in Phoenix on the weekend), and Josef Newgarden, driving for Roger Penske, was dominant in the opening race of the NTT IndyCar Series at St. Petersbur Sunday, giving Team Penske three wins for the young season – two in NASCAR Cup and this one in IndyCar.
When I say “worse and worse,” what I mean is that there is next-to-no parity in car racing. If Kyle Busch doesn’t win, either Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski will. Somebody else might fluke into the mix but that’s pretty much it. If Hamilton doesn’t win in F1, Sebastian Vettel or Charles Leclerc will. Max is still not ready to win as long as Hamilton and Vettel are around. And if Newgarden doesn’t win an IndyCar race, Will Power will, or Simon Pagenaud. Scott Dixon maybe, but that’s it.
Newgarden is exactly the type of driver Penske loves to have in one of his cars. He came that close from winning the pole at St. Pete Saturday and then romped to victory Sunday. He led 60 laps (of the 110 scheduled) and had a nine-second cushion at one point, finally winning by about three seconds. In the press conference afterward, he said he should have done better.
“It’s not that it was the end of the world,” he said, “but you want to be able to get the most out of the car and yourself in any given day and if you fall short of that even just slightly, it’s disappointing.”
Dixon finished second while Will Power was third. Canada’s James Hinchcliffe started ninth and finished sixth in his Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport car.
Hinchcliffe is too polite to say it, so I will say it for him: when will IndyCar get people in race control who know what they are doing?
In the latter stages of the race, someone scraped the wall between Turns 2 and 3 and ripped a banner off the concrete. It was lying on the track. IndyCar race control said, in so many words, “We don’t need a yellow to retrieve it because it is off the racing line and not a hazard.”
Somebody did run over it and shredded it. Along came James Hinchcliffe and a piece of the shredded sign attached itself to the underside of his car, screwing up his handling. James told a TV interviewer later that the car was then a handful until the end of the race because the downforce was compromised.
Two things: 1, don’t assume, when there is something on the track (which was the case Sunday) that nobody will hit it. And, 2, throw the yellow and you add excitement to the race because it bunches up the field. NASCAR has known about that for years.
For a complete story on the IndyCar season opener, please click here.
Speaking of NASCAR, they finally had to throw a caution at Phoenix when a couple of the boys got carried away and actually crashed. About time, I say. Particularly since they had a caution-free race at Las Vegas a week ago. They had five caution flags, in total, at Phoenix and I say, bring them on. We want more.
I still don’t like the new configuration of Phoenix. However, it is what it is. One more nit – why have a white line when just about everybody cuts down under it to cut the corner?
In any event, Kyle Busch scored his 199th career victory across all three of NASCAR’s touring divisions – Cup, Xfinity and trucks. Richard Petty holds the 200 victories record but he scored all his in one class – the Cup series.
Busch led the race six times for 177 laps. He won the second and third stages while Ryan Blaney won the first stage.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second while Blaney was third. For a complete rundown on the NASCAR race, please click here.
PIT NOTES: The 31st Motorsports Hall of Fame of America induction ceremony will be held in Daytona Beach Tuesday night. Automotive and racing pioneerAugie Duesenberg will be inducted in the historic category, Dario Franchitti in open wheel, engineering genius Phil Remington in sports cars, Kevin Schwantz in motorcycles, Don Schumacher in drag racing, Tony Stewart in stock cars and Linda Vaughn (a.k.a. Miss Hurst Golden Shifter) in the “at large” category, which is very symbolic . . . . . Four different drivers led the IndyCar race at St. Pete; six drivers led the NASCAR race in Phoenixx. . . . . . Am I the only one who thinks that Paul Tracy was somewhat subdued during the telecast? Let’s hope new employer NBC isn’t coaching him to be less aggressive in the booth. . . . . . The IndyCar Series might have shut out Canadian racing fans – okay, they didn’t shut out the fans but to watch IndyCar will now cost money while F1 and NASCAR remain “free” – but Canadians sure aren’t being shut out of Victory Lane. Parker Thompson (or PT, as I like to call him) won both Indy Pro 2000 support races at St. Pete and Zach Claman (formerly Zachary Claman de Melo) won the Indy Lights race Saturday and finished second in the Lights race Sunday. . . . . . Quebec speedster Raphael Lessard raced in the ARCA Series event at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., at the weekend and finished eighth. Next ride for the teenager will be a NASCAR GanderOutdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville, Va. . . . . . Edoardo Mortara won the Formula Electric race in Hong Kong with Lucas de Grassi second and Robin Frijns third. . . . In World of Outlaws sprint car action at the weekend, last year’s rookie-of-the-year Ian Madsen won the feature at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., with championship leader Daryn Pittman second and Sheldon Haudenschild third. . . . . . Eli Tomac won the AMA Supercross Series race at Daytona Beach Saturday night. Cooper Webb finished second. . . . . . Finally, in next weekend’s Toronto Star Wheels, I sit down with Canadian F1 expert Gerald Donaldson to preview the 2019 Grand Prix season. Don’t miss it.