More eyes on moto

Steve Giberson

Ryan Dungey at a recent stop of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

MX Sports Pro Racing and Alli Sports announced this week that audience viewership for the first half of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season had set series records. The boost has been attributed to adjustments to the sport's live television and multimedia approach.

According to figures released by MX and Alli, the Championship has seen a 67 percent increase across all platforms so far this year. Races have found growing audiences on Fuel TV and NBC Sports, but the most sizable increases have come online. The group says its 400,000 live-streamed starts is an 80 percent jump, and traffic to the series' web site is up 300 percent, with a 200 percent increase in video views.

"Four years ago we made one of the most important changes to the sport, we moved the series from Sunday afternoon, which has been the traditional race day, to Saturday in the hopes that it would allow us more opportunities to have same day and live television. And we're just now seeing the fruition of that decision," said MX Sports Pro Racing president Davey Coombs.

"We have a lot of fans that don't get the series on their domestic networks. Marrying [TV and online access] has been key," Coombs said. Broadcasting live races and utilizing social networks to announce real time results, event schedules and details have improved the sport's relevancy with fans used to video recaps long after the checkered flag waved. "It's hard to be taken seriously when you're on a month later, which was the case five years ago," Coombs said. "Getting live with every race makes us look like a major league series. Fans want to watch riding, but also want to see their favorite athletes performing immediately."

Recently, however, the demanding physical nature of motocross has hampered fans' access to those athletes, Coombs said. Several top riders are sidelined with injuries, including 2011 supercross and motocross champ Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed, and Trey Canard. And while the action is what attracts fans, running four races across two classes in a live setting has caused some resistance from riders on the circuit who are pushed through the events as quickly as possible.

But obstacles aside, said Coombs, the athletes understand what's necessary to facilitate live television. The Championship series resumes Saturday, July 21, with the Caterpillar Washougal National -- the eighth of 12 stops on tour.

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