Scary, that’s all. Watching today’s stages of Rallye de France in live TV was downright scary as hell. It’s one thing to stare at the split times and listen to WRC Live radio show reporting from the studio and the stage ends, but it’s a whole new deal to actually watch as the cars make their way through the stages, knowing that you’re not seeing a delayed footage or a report. When you watch the usual video reports you know in advance what happened, who survived and who failed, but in live broadcast you only know what you see happening before your eyes. And when your favourite (or least favourite) driver starts the stage, you feel that cringe and anxiety; will they make it through the stage in one piece, how fast will they be, can their tyres last? All of a sudden, rallying becomes this superbly exciting new thing to watch and enjoy! And all while stages are still in their usual format, so no gimmicks, artificial shootout stages and whatnot.
Seeing that, one thing comes to mind. There is no need for stages to go all bananas and turn into some cheap show to please the crowds. They are fine as they are, really. Instead, sport itself must work harder to promote itself, to explain its rules and regulations and most of all to present the drivers, their characters and teams to the general public. Don’t change the format, change the tone, glue the people to their TVs and computer screens and they’ll devour the stages as they are. Hype must be built around the sport, instead into the stages.
Rallye de France 2013 will not only go down in history as Sebastien Loeb’s final WRC event, but also as the event in which live TV finally got recognized, acknowledged and accepted. If anyone needed further confirmation that TV in rallying is a very good thing, that is. Even though it wasn’t meant to be consumed like that, I watched the footage and listened to WRC live radio broadcast. It was, in short, perfect. And perfectly simple. Two different media formats clicked. George Donaldson and Colin Clark were reporting from the stage ends and Becs Williams watched the TV footage in studio – the information we received was finally complete. We had it all. Stage times, drivers’ comments and live footage. And it was exciting, so much in fact that I caught myself switching between windows on my computer because I was afraid to watch some drivers tackle the stages. You know, spectator’s curse and all that.
Based on all that I think it’s finally time to say “Good job” to everyone involved in production of this live TV deal. I like to believe that this was a joint effort by FIA, WRC Promoter GmbH and the organizers of the Rallye de France. And a clear sign of what we can expect next year. At the very least. Perhaps reality is different, perhaps it was a solo initiative by the French organizers, I do not know for certain. One thing is sure, though – TV is good, or rather TV is absolutely awesome addition to World Rally Championship.
If your country is not among those listed to carry live TV footage from this week’s rally, jump over to this post and try your luck on one of the alternative sites. Granted, it’s not a perfect solution and WRC really must grow and expand to even more countries and territories, but for now it will do. It will have to.