Recently, Freecaster.tv announced that they would be charging to watch their live UCI World Cup broadcast. The response from the MTB community was passionate, but often mis-informed. Vital MTB decided to go straight to the source to find out about Freecaster's decision to charge for World Cup viewing. Below is a quick Q&A with Raymond Dulieu, founder of Freecaster TV.
What prompted Freecaster to charge a 2 EUR/3 USD fee to watch your live, online World Cup broadcasts?
My objective, when I created Freecaster in 2004, was to offer free access to action sports to the largest possible audience. When we launched, there was no YouTube. The assumption was that if the audience was large enough, we would be financed by advertising. In 2009, both traffic and viewing time surged. We used 1000 terrabytes just for LIVE stream and replays for one year. And that is when the advertising market plummeted. We were hoping to see a resurgence of advertising revenues in 2010 but our viewing figures are too small for outside industry brands. The bike industry doesn't have endless resources and were in no capacity to sponsor us sufficiently. With not enough revenues in sight, the only source left available to us are the fans. Just as they pay for their favourite print mag, we think that if they value what we do, they might accept the principal that we can't provide that service for free.
Any idea as to why sponsors (inside or outside of the industry) have not stepped up to support your live coverage?
Companies such as Braun shavers supported us for years, but our viewing numbers are just not there for such large companies. For them 80.000 LIVE viewers is a drop in the ocean. The bike industry doesn't have endless resources and they currently invest primarily in producing their own web clips. The LIVE coverage we provide is a bonus, not a priority for them. The same logic applies to print titles. How many have outside industry advertisers?
Do you feel like the decision to charge for the live broadcasts will hurt your viewership?
Yes it will hurt viewership. For the first XCO race of the season, despite FREE access to codes courtesy of Scott mountain bikes, only 3500 people redeemed their vouchers. That is 10% of last year's audience.
What will the fee give viewers?
The fee is 2 EUR / 3 USD. It will give access to either the XCO or the DHI race. I'm looking whether we can technically allow access to LIVE and replay for the same code. I know that people who will have purchased a LIVE code will share it with others who will want to see the replay and at such low fee, every viewer counts.
Many comments about coverage from the 2009 season refer to the lack of cameras on course and their placement. Explain how the coverage works. Is Freecaster in charge of cameras and placement?
Freecaster is not producing the TV signal and is not responsible for the position of the cameras. We share our viewers' frustration and do all we can to improve the situation but those are decisions only the UCI can make. UCI invests a lot of money already to produce with 6 cameras without any brand to sponsor the World Cup. They too have a limit in how much they can invest for the sport.
How can I pay to watch the World Cups on Freecaster? I've heard you're working on "season passes" and other option. Is that true?
Considering some people had issues accessing the streams in 2009, I didn't want to offer season passes right away. We are looking to offer that option yet have limited tech development resources. We're just 3 people at Freecaster. I also thought that people would prefer paying via SMS rather than PayPal and thus credit card. We will now offer that option too. Ultimately, I hope that other companies will follow Scott Bikes' example and purchase codes from us to offer them free to their fans.
If money was no object, what would your dream World Cup broadcast look like?
The dream webcast would be to have the same level of TV production as at the world championships and to add multilingual LIVE commentary. This is unfortunately unrealistic.
Visit www.freecaster.tv and support the UCI World Cup Mountain Bike live broadcasts.