NASCAR Hops on the Streaming Bandwagon with Kangaroo.TV
Do you ever catch yourself watching the Jumbotron at a sporting event instead of the action in front of you? Kangaroo.TV is giving you a good reason to start keeping an eye on the screen—just not the big one you’re used to. On September 9, 2004, Kangaroo ran the first in a series of tests with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to offer attendees handheld "spectator devices" that allow them to follow live content such as in-truck video feeds, team audio communication, timing data, and scoring information as well as a digital version of the media guide.
The tests involve seven NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events during the 2004 season, where Kangaroo devices will offer content from Speed Channel, the only 24-hour network devoted entirely to NASCAR. According to Alain Charette, EVP of corporate development for W.A.V.E.S., which developed Kangaroo.TV, the company has made 1,000 units available for the testing period, distributing them to interested fans in certain seating sections and suites based on availability. Kangaroo provides a vending trailer and offers the units at "various pricing points to help optimize the business model," says Charette. "Some fans receive it for free if they participate in a survey or focus group."
W.A.V.E.S., founded in 2001 and headquartered in Montreal, stands for World Audio Visual Entertainment System and was started by Marc Arseneau, who has long been a fan of motorsports and was a Formula driver, so the NASCAR partnership seems a natural fit. W.A.V.E.S. was acquired on April 14, 2004 by Kangaroo Capital Inc, the name under which the company now operates. The NASCAR/Kangaroo relationship began two years ago, long before the acquisition, when Charette's team presented NASCAR with the idea. "NASCAR was interested, but I guess they were solicited by several other companies and solutions," Charette explains. "They decided to wait and see what these solutions and initiatives would become over time. We kept talking with sponsors, tracks, and finally eight months ago we started serious discussions leading to this trial program."
The Kangaroo unit used by NASCAR is a small, lightweight (approximately 1 pound) device that boasts a four-inch color LCD TFT (transflective) screen, four video channels, 48 audio channels, and a weatherproof clamshell design. And with a battery life of about six hours, it will last a full race and then some. For this trial program, additional equipment was kept to a minimum because Kangaroo was able to use existing video, audio, and data feeds in the TV compound, and Speed Channel provided images for the duration of the testing. The only equipment Kangaroo needed to provide was the encoding and broadcasting technology, which they housed in a 10x12-foot trailer space.
The response thus far has been extremely positive, and Charette says that fans, teams, sponsors, and track operators have been enjoying a new way to explore NASCAR. The device delivers "second by second multiple video, audio, in-car communication, and timing and scoring information," he says. "Racing strategies are better understood and the experience is by far more complete than just watching the action." Fan favorites include replays, in-car views, and pit-to-car audio communications.
The process has not been without its share of bumps in the road, and Charette cites timing as the biggest challenge. Because of all of the partners involved—including NASCAR, track personnel, television partners, and others—coordinating the test program proved to be a complicated, although ultimately rewarding, experience.
Charette and Kangaroo have their sights set on a slew of possible events in the future. "Our primary focus is on series-type events such as motorsport, golf, tennis, and Olympic," Charette says. "Kangaroo is also applicable to several stadium type events such as football & baseball and to cultural events such as festivals or VIP events." In the meantime, Kangaroo is working diligently on the NASCAR project, with the hope that it will move from a trial relationship to a "long-term contract with NASCAR to the Nextel Cup, Busch, and Craftsman series," says Charette. "We are very optimistic. However it is not a done deal yet, and we still have lots of work ahead of us."
Thanks to a collaboration between NASCAR and Twitter, fans were able to stream live video from behind the wheel with their favorite drivers. That's only the latest example of how NASCAR is using social networks to boost engagement.