When the World Endurance Championship announced its partnership with US broadcaster Velocity, the future of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in America seemed a little more promising. No more channel hopping. No more inconvenient interruptions or push-backs from Fox, who didn’t quite seem to grasp the fact that Le Mans is the biggest event in racing. All 24 hours of racing were promised to be aired non-stop in one place.
And, yeah. It’s proving to be a little too good to be true.
See, it all started with the fact that Velocity has exclusive access to airing Le Mans in the US. So, even though Velocity is partnered with MotorTrend.com, you’re kinda screwed if you’re one of the growing number of people who got rid of cable in favor of streaming. You can try to watch on Velocity’s website, but if you don’t have a TV provider (or have a provider that isn’t actually listed on their site), then… well… sorry!
Maybe you thought you could cheat the Velocity machine by purchasing access on WEC’s website and streaming it via VPN. Bad news there, too:
So you sigh and, if you somehow have Velocity as a part of your cable package, you turn on the television and get ready for the advertised twenty-four hours of non-stop race cars.
In this case, “non-stop” means “not swapping between channels”, not “no commercial breaks”. This caught fans off-guard, especially when the side-by-side commercials were swapped for just straight-up commercials. That means you might be missing some pretty key moments of racing action—or at least have to endure the annoyance of capitalism interfering with your sports.
Call us spoiled with our commercial-free Formula One coverage, but it really blows coming back from commercial break to find that Felipe Nasr’s car is hanging from a crane and you have no idea what the heck happened.
Or, maybe you’re coming back from a break to dive into a lengthy studio telecast with Tom Kristensen who gives you a play-by-play of something that happened two hours ago. Listen, I appreciate the help, but I am here to watch race cars! There has to be a more optimal time for a studio break than immediately after five minutes of commercials.
And that’s not even mentioning the poor streaming quality. Velocity’s broadcast has been choppy, the kind of stop-and-go issues you get while an online stream buffers. It’s not the end of the world, of course, since the broadcast is still going, but it’s not the kind of deal you’re expecting when you sit down to watch a race on cable TV.
I’ve gotta say, though, there’s been some pretty great gems to come along with the Velocity broadcast, coming from someone who usually opts for the Radio Le Mans coverage. Such as, “the cars might not like like they’re going very fast… but they are.”
It is, honestly, Velocity’s first rodeo. There’s not much Americans can do this year except grin, bear it, and make sure The Powers That Be know how they can improve things for next year.