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Niche Sports — Such as Drifting — Find Growing Audiences Online

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“There are crashes sometimes. There are controversial judging calls that might go one way or the other,” Masiero says. “We have this element of our sport called ‘One More Time,’ which means the judges can’t determine who won, so they make them go again. The crowd really loves this part. It’s very difficult for the drivers, so telling that story can be compelling.”

The series is shot with GoPro cameras mounted on each car, so the audience gets a first-person viewpoint. The championship schedule runs from April to October, with events spread out roughly monthly. At the time of this interview, only the first round of the season -- in Long Beach, Calif. -- had taken place. For that episode of the series, Formula Drift’s creative team was lucky enough to focus on driver Daijiro Yoshihara before the race. Yoshihara went on to win that round.

“It just happened to work out. Because we had to release the first video before the first event, we had to take a leap of faith in terms of who we were going to interview,” Masiero says. “Going with the theme of talking to these drivers and showing it from their point of view, we weren’t able to do that with any kind of on-car footage because there hadn’t been an event yet. Daijiro is one of the more popular drivers in the series and he was a previous champion who had a little bit of a rough year last year. We chose to do him for the first event and he actually won this past weekend. It’s going to be pretty cool to see us build that story, because it’s difficult for someone to win two championships in our series. It’s only been done one time.”

Dailymotion’s international footprint played a big role in why Formula Drift chose to work with it on an original series.

“Dailymotion has a larger international audience than some of the other video properties, and we really wanted to get them assimilated with what drifting is. There’s no other way to tell it than to actually show the really good content to keep you engaged and walk through what exactly drifting is,” Masiero explains. “We wanted to create content specifically for Dailymotion and its audience. So what we do on our end is we promote it through all of our social media channels, our Facebook, Twitter, and on our Formulad.com. We push people to Dailymotion to subscribe so they can keep up-to-date with this exclusive stuff. It’s really to build the Dailymotion audience. A lot of our Formula Drift people know about the competitions, but this is something that they’ve never been able to see before.”

Conversations about a possible series began over the winter, but they weren’t finalized until the end of March, just before the U.S. championships began.

“We had had an ongoing relationship with Dailymotion and it had been brought up that all of these platforms are looking for exclusive content,” Masiero says. “They had mentioned some stuff that they had done with UFC, and we said, ‘Hey, we could do something like that for you guys.’ They threw out some numbers of what that would look like for us to produce those, and we were able to come to an agreement on that and in terms of the level of promotion on both or our ends for this to be successful. So that’s kind of the big picture on how that came together. But, ultimately, this deal would never have happened if we did not already have an existing relationship where Dailymotion was familiar with our content and some of its user base had already been familiar with our content and seemed to like it. I think it’s more on their end saying, ‘Oh, wow. We’ve got this stuff that people really like. Why don’t we give them more of that?’”

The series helps both companies build an audience. “We’re trying to make it good for both sides,” Masiero explains. “We push traffic to Dailymotion so they can get an influx of our guys, and they make it exclusive on Dailymotion, pushing it to their whole network to show them what drifting is about.”

"Battle Tested" wasn’t the first niche sport show to debut online, but with an exclusive distribution agreement, an international fan base, and clever production, it’s scoring big on points. Look for the series -- and the motor sport of drifting -- to continue thrilling a widening online audience.

This article appears in the June/July 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Battle Tested: Dailymotion Builds an Audience for a Niche Sport."

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