‘Internet TV is watch it where you want, when you want, download it … and it has become very significant for the sport of sailing’ says World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) Chief Executive Officer Jim O'Toole.
Over the last five years the sport has gone from having small clips like the Volvo Ocean Race starts, the Rolex Sydney to Hobart start and the America’s Cup, to being viewable 24 hours a day on the internet via YouTube channels and a selection of IPTV platforms. The World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) has developed a unique package to deliver content to its ever-growing fan base.
O’Toole explains. ‘The WMRT IPTV coverage of racing is built around two hours of programming each day - the WMRT Morning Show and the WMRT Today Show, our daily magazine programmes.
‘The shows have proved to be very popular, not just with audiences but also with the sailors, the event promoters and with sponsors.
‘They increase our digital footprint and reaffirm the World Match Racing Tour as a leader in providing multimedia content for fans.
‘In media terms, our commitment to the wireless mesh that we have created for taking images off the water, has been I think our big achievement this year.
‘This is an exciting sport and we have to be able to get better pictures off the water. Now WMRT create our own wireless network on the water by using wireless nodes positioned around the race course, on committee boats, on pursuit boats and in fixed positions and these basically suck up the imagery, which is then sent to the editing suite on the land. This vision can then go straight out to the internet or to a live broadcaster.
‘We started off with three extra cameras in France and in Germany we improved the technique a little more. By the time we got to St Moritz, with the light and the air that you have there it was just stunning, absolutely beautiful imagery coming off the water… and I am proud of that.
‘‘That was a big step towards us being able to move towards regular live television as well as live IPTV.
‘Presently you are right in the heart of the action and the next stage is to increase the on-board audio, which we have tried for some of this year and we’ve had a great reaction to it.
‘It’s now a case of ‘how do we build in the ability for fans to listen to sailors actually talking to each other on the boat’?
I am really pleased with the audience numbers and the feedback we are receiving. It will be an ever improving process - some people want more sailing in these shows while some people want more background. Our fans have been able to follow the events through stories and blogs but they want to see the action.
‘There is no other way, unless the event has a sufficient TV budget to go to live TV, like the Monsoon Cup this week.
‘The Monsoon Cup is going to have 14 live broadcasters around the world. It’s just a phenomenal performance. The Korea Match Cup also had a large TV budget but we are pleased that the IPTV products are now significant for all the other events on the Tour.
‘However, our media package is just one part of our overall offering.
‘WMRT are well placed as we are a well-funded, well-supported business.
‘We have an owner that has a very clear vision and strategy and the WMRT will be unveiling some major developments before the start of the 2012 season.
‘We have modified our Tour Prize Bonus pool to assist the young rookies while providing greater certainty for Tour Card holders and this allows them to sign three year sponsorship packages and build a brand, together with their sponsors.
‘We continue to see a lot of talented youngsters coming through the ranks. I have been really encouraged by the young talent coming through, such as Keith Swinton, Reuben Corbett and we may see more British teams.
‘One of things we did this season was to change the point system so that there was a smaller differential between first, second, third, fourth and fifth etc and it rewarded the mid field. If you are consistent, if you are finishing fifth and sixth all the time, then you are getting good decent points and you can build up your points and prizes.
’I am pleased with the commercial developments, with the Garrard deal and with another global deal that will be announced just after Christmas.
‘We have made good progress on the sponsorship front in a competitive market place but we have done the hard yards with a lot of research, in terms of creating the product and polishing the product.
‘I am also very pleased with the relationship with promoters. When we took over the business two years ago you can imagine there was a little of ‘who are these guys and how can they tell us to run our own events?’ but that relationship has solidified. The new venue acquisition process will yield some very positive benefits over the next two seasons.
‘We have also launched our own magazine - Match Race 360.
‘We are building a community of match race fans around the world.
‘The process we launched in October 2010 has thrown up some great potential host partners around the world. We will be making some very positive announcements about new venues soon.
‘This week here at the Monsoon Cup, the 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Champion will be crowned.
‘The World Tour offers over US$1.75million in prize money with points awarded at each event culminating in the crowning of the ISAF Match Racing World Champion’.
‘Next season all teams competing on the Tour will have an added incentive to reach the season finale where the US$500,000 bonus prize pool will be awarded across a more even spread from first to ninth place, with the ISAF Match Racing World Champion pocketing US$75,000.
‘Our Tour Card Holders are our single biggest asset – throughout the season they are the headline acts that attract live spectators, TV and IPTV viewers around the world to watch our Championship events. The new WMRT Invite Policy is designed not only to safeguard that asset but also to reward our Card Holders for their performances on the water and professionalism off it.’
The Monsoon Cup will be sailed in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia from 22-27 November. This final event of the World Match Racing Tour will decide the 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Champion.