Is the New ALMS Broadcast Schedule Truly ‘For The Fans’?

“The Double Stint”

by Kim Ellis

I am completely at a loss for words. I just finished watching two of the videos on the Official ALMS YouTube channel. These videos explain the new partnership between the American Le Mans Series and the broadcasting outlets ABC and ESPN for the upcoming race season. Several weeks ago, I received a press release from the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron where they announced their ‘exciting new broadcast schedule’ (their words, not mine). I, like almost every other ALMS fan, quickly noticed a glaring omission. The premier race of the ALMS season, namely The 12 Hours of Sebring, is not televised live. Anywhere. For those of you that are not yet ALMS fans, let me put this into a perspective that any red-blooded American can fully comprehend. This is akin to the National Football League deciding not to televise the Superbowl one year. But, as Scott Atherton, President of the American Le Mans Series, is quick to explain in defense of the new partnership, the 12 Hour is covered live and in its entirety on ESPN3. If you are unsure of whether or not you get ESPN3, let me save you a search through your TV guide channel. You do not. No one does – not on their television at least. You see, ESPN3 is only available via the Internet. So, if you want to see this race live, you will either need a reliable, high-speed Internet connection or a ticket to the race. For the first time since the inception of the American Le Mans Series in 1999, the 12 Hours of Sebring will not be televised live on any traditional television media outlet.*

Scott and the ALMS argue many points in support of this drastic measure. ESPN3 and ABC are available to more than 116 million households in the United States versus only 65 million households which receive SPEED. They say that broadcasting a race live via the web is forward-thinking, cutting edge, and embraces the technologies of tomorrow. I have two major problems with this rationale:

First, and most obvious, most fans do not yet have the equipment to utilize this technology to its fullest potential. They might not have a fast enough Internet connection, or a powerful enough computer. And, it is even less likely that they will possess the necessary equipment, cables, connectors and most importantly, technical knowledge, to connect their computer to their TV screen to see the race on something larger than a computer monitor. And, can you seriously see a family of five crowding around a computer monitor to watch the race?

Second, until I received the press release a few weeks ago, I had never even heard of ESPN3 ( When I asked my Facebook community what they thought of the new broadcast paradigm, almost half of them were not even aware of it; and my Facebook community is made up almost exclusively of racers. Given those two facts, honestly, how many new fans does the ALMS expect will go looking for a race that they are relatively unfamiliar with, on a channel they have probably never even heard of, that isn’t even on TV? Do you seriously think that someone who has yet to become an ALMS fan will go through that much effort to watch this race? I will answer that for you. No, they will not. As a matter of fact, I am not even sure how many current fans will go through that much effort. To use another football analogy, I have a feeling the effect of this will be similar to when the NFL blacks out a local game on television because the stadium didn’t sell out. Instead of creating more fans and selling more tickets, it will drive away many of their current fans and upset the rest.

Now, I am beating up the ALMS rather harshly here. So, let me change gears for a moment and say a few things in their defense. First of all, initially Sebring was to only be available on ESPN3. Well, as it turns out, ESPN3 is only available to broadband customers. Satellite and phone company customers, such as ATT and DirecTV, among others, cannot get ESPN3. This quickly upset many of the fans who would not be able to get the race at all on their current ISP. The ALMS did respond to the backlash, and I have recently found reference on their website that the race will be broadcast on as well. Thanks guys, while not yet perfect, it does show that you are listening. Second, I do realize the intent here. The goal is to make American Le Mans Series races available to a much broader audience. Not everyone gets the Speed Channel, and even of those who do, not all of them watch it. Moreover, for the average non-race fan, the Speed Channel is rarely part of the rotation when channel surfing. Putting the races on a major network, such as ABC, definitely exposes more American households to ALMS racing. It opens the door for more sponsorship money, which guarantees the continuation of our sport well into the future. More money attracts more teams. Better funded teams put on more spectacular races . I see the ALMS’ line of reasoning here, and I do agree that it makes sense. However, Sebring is the biggest race of the year, not televising it, even for one year, creates more problems than it will solve. There are fans that plan their whole year around this race (I know this, because I am one of them). Do not turn your back on current fans to create new ones. That is bad business no matter how you rationalize it.

The ALMS motto for years has been ‘For the Fans’. The 12 Hours of Sebring, as a race, has more fans than most of the other races combined. If that is the case, then televise it….’For the Fans’.

*There will be a two-hour race re-cap televised on ABC the Sunday after the race and It will be broadcast in its entirety on both ESPN3 and The race will remain available for viewing on ESPN3 for two weeks after the race and on for the duration of the race season.

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    • Tim G. says:

      I have just heard about no live boadcast for the 12 hours of sebring and I’m just shocked! Surely this can’t be the wave of the future!

      • Kim Ellis says:

        Interestingly enough, in my article, I come down very hard on the ALMS for this broadcast decision. However, I don’t completely disagree with their decision. I disagree with how they chose to implement it. I think webTV could very well be the wave of the future, however the key word in that sentence is *future*. I don’t think that everyone was ready for this. And, to force fans to get ready or get out practically overnight is frustrating to those that are in the second category.

        • Vernon Thompson says:

          You may think that web-TV is the wave of the future, but I’ll be damned if I do.
          Apparently ALMS and you both think that the whole world walks around with a bloody “Smart Phone” in their pocket; [correct me] they don’t put it in their pockets, they wave it around like it’s a badge of office for the world to see.
          I’m betting that most of the ALMS fans are in the same position my wife and I are in, where we pay through the nose for Satellite TV [or DSL or whatever], and are being cheated out of, probably one of the better series of motorracing in this country.
          All I can say is that perhaps ALMS needs to take their racing series down south and drive around the Tequilla Patron factory for all the good their doing us!!!
          Just another disgruntled ALMS Fan… :o (

        • Danny says:

          Kim, you are dead right on all counts. Except one…at the last minute ESPN3 renigged on being able to watch on the website. Something about contract issues with ESPN3 makes it so that only happens in overseas markets from now on.

          So now, we’re truly relegated to watching the entire series this year huddled around a computer and a proprietary website…a website btw, that crashed last night around 5pm in DC area and we NEVER GOT THE STREAMING TO WORK AGAIN!! So, in the end, no streaming, no TV, and the most lame recount of a 12 hour long race by ABC Sports that I have ever seen!!! What a complete EPIC FAILURE FOR ALMS.

          I thought they were looking for more fans? I try all the time to get new faces involved in this series…not anymore…I had friends actually laugh at me when I told them they had to watch it on thier computer! In one fell swoop, not only did ALMS abandon it’s current fans, it eliminated the possibility of gaining any new ones. They also killed the age-old tradition of going OUT to a sports bar and watching with all your buddies?!? THAT, is epic.

  1. Rick says:

    Love it!! Go ALMS!

  2. Brett Harrington says:

    The article is inaccurate in terms of viewerships that the TV channels have. Speed TV is available in 82 million homes.

    • Kim Ellis says:

      Brett, thanks for the update on the availability of the Speed Channel. I based my numbers for the article on Scott Atherton’s statements from his YouTube videos.

  3. Tim Mahoney says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more. This a huge gamble by ALMS and will alienate long time fans/spectators like me. I always look forward to Sebring (and it’s excellent coverage on Speed) as an entry to the motorsports season. Despite the NASCAR overload the sportscar team at Speed is top notch. What personnel will ESPN3 put up for race coverage?

    Maybe Atherton is a visionary,maybe he’s just desperate to show some semblance of audience growth. He seems to be ditching his core audience of (reasonably affluent) racers/fans/consumers for a chance at internet anonymity. I hope I’m shortsighted and flat-out wrong. Otherwise chalk up another win for Grand Am – Good Luck Mr. Atherton….

  4. Race Man Dan says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Kim. I was looking forward to relaxing on the couch in front of my somewhat big screen TV to see Sebring. But it’s not showing live on TV. It’s on my computer, which is less of an experience, a smaller screen, in less of a comfort zone. It can’t be watched from the comfort of my couch!

    Scott Atherton, you may have a “potential” reach to more customers “by the numbers” on (WHAT?!?!), but in truth, you are alienating your loyal fans and customers. Too many companies these days turn their back on loyalty because some dimwitted marketer points out that you can potentially reach more people through the Internet and smart phones (but are they paying attention?). It looks like some of the younger folks on Scott’s staff have his ear, telling him about “the wave of the future,” with the only reasoning being that it’s “awesome.”

    Awesome aside, don’t alienate loyal customers! That’s just plain stupid. If you’re trying to build a following for your series, don’t count on a younger, short-attention-span audience. They are too busy doing what younger folks do – hooking up, chatting, Facebooking, Tweeting – the modern version of vacuous pursuits that young folks do.

    Meanwhile, ALMS fans of all ages are gobsmacked to be treated so cavalierly, and being rewarded for their loyalty by having no live TV coverage of Sebring to enjoy. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Wakey, wakey!

  5. Osteomeatl says:

    What a stupid decision to not broadcast this race. I have attended the race at Sebring every year for the last 20 years. For the last 6 years or so I have driven home around 7 pm , turned on the TV and watched the end of the race. Today I drove home from the race to find out it wasn’t covered on speedvision. I will not be attending any more ALMS events.

  6. Phil Winterfeldt says:

    Hi Kim,

    I have a fios connected pc with a high def 24″ screen. I will watch the ALMS races on it. I won’t pay for fios TV as the ALMS is the only thing I watch other than the news on broadcast tv. Soooo, some of us are glad to have


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