In a mini-series, Carl Evans considers livestreaming’s role in the sport
Live streaming of British point-to-pointing took a significant step in the 2020/21 season.
From October’s opening meeting at Bishops Court in Devon to the finale at Kingston Blount, Oxfordshire, in June, point-to-point meetings relayed the action to digital devices around the world.
Using personal computers, lap tops or mobile telephones, viewers could tune in and watch the action onscreen, a technological breakthrough once thought impossible without the backing of the BBC.
Not every fixture that went ahead in England took up the service – and there was no racing in Wales or Scotland due to Covid restrictions on sports venues – but as the season progressed so did confidence in the service and improvement in the delivery. Feedback via social media suggested viewers were generally pleased with the results, albeit there were some technical glitches.
It was Covid restrictions which lay behind this sudden expansion in livestreaming. When the season launched outdoor sporting events were limited to a behind-closed-doors policy. For point-to-pointing that meant attendance was restricted to riders, trainers, one groom per horse, media and official. In a bid to keep the public engaged – and more presciently, the owners who were paying the bills for the horses who were running – the benefits of providing film of the action took on new importance.
Towards the season’s end limited numbers of paying spectators were admitted to fixtures, yet livestreaming continued. A couple of fixtures arranged pay-per-view, but the majority opted for voluntary contributions, invariably through the Just Giving platform.
These two systems defrayed the costs involved in livestreaming, and there were reports that one or two meetings made a profit on the service, while others were left counting a loss.
What is the difference between a broadcast and livestream?
Most people think live streaming and live broadcasting are the same thing, but while they serve the same function, they differ too.
Google provides a wealth of information on the topic, but dreamcast.net describes broadcasting as “the sending of signals across a broad area that can be received by anyone tuning into the frequency. It has been the standard mode of operation for television and radio.”
Of livestreaming the same source states: “Whereas the concept behind live broadcast is that only one signal is transmitted over a wide area, the concept behind live streams works on a one-to-one basis.” In simple terms, the action is sent to individual devices such as laptops or phones.
“The reach of live broadcasts is much larger than the reach of live streams,” says dreamcast.net, “One of the major reasons for this disparity is the fact that broadcasting is a much older technology than streaming.”
Developments in technology and improvements in fast internet accessibility will in theory lead to improved livestreaming of events – sympathies to those who are still suffering with very slow internet speeds – and they offer point-to-point organisers a feasible way of getting the sport to a wider audience. Incidentally, the term ‘livestream’ is a misnomer when it comes to point-to-pointing, since the pictures you witness have been delayed by five minutes – this removes the possibility of off-course betting and ties in with the integrity of the sport.
dreamcast.net says two-way communication that can lead to engagement with viewers is one advantage of livestreaming. It goes on to say: “A live stream is much cheaper than a live broadcast. Whereas live streams can be created with just a basic camera and a strong internet connection, creating a broadcast requires specialized equipment and much higher costs in general.
“There are fewer restrictions. While you only have to take care of a few rules and regulations when you’re live webcasting on social media platforms, there are a lot more rules and regulations you have to take care of when it comes to a live broadcast.”
On Friday – Devon & Cornwall at the forefront of last season’s livestreaming breakthrough