They are the only ones in the country, John Lashley says.
The only ones live-streaming NASCAR events online, with reporters doing interviews from the newly NASCAR-sponsored Tucson Speedway.
“It’s the only one in the U.S., and here it is, a little high school in Tucson,” said Lashley, the Speedway’s president.
Bobcat TV is run by students at Cienega High School, right here in the Old Pueblo.
Every Saturday, Tucson Speedway hosts a race. And every Saturday, Bobcat TV is there, live-streaming the race.
“It’s a good thing,” Lashley said. “We’re very, very proud of Cienega and our affiliation with Bobcat. It’s an absolute win for Tucson, and for the little school district in Arizona to have national recognition through a big powerhouse like NASCAR is great. They just don’t accept anybody.”
On Saturday, the speedway hosts the “Roasted Rattler,” featuring super late models, pro stocks, modifieds and hornets. The races start at 7 p.m., and Bobcat TV will be there.
Here’s a closer look at Bobcat TV’s relationship with the track and with NASCAR.
What is Bobcat TV?
Bobcat TV is a student-run group that covers all of Cienega High School sports, and its students have jobs ranging from on-air talent (play-by-play, color commentators) to the technical side of things (directors, camera operators, editors). It’s all streamed online.
Bobcat TV is headed by Jason Miller, a faculty adviser and teacher at Cienega. Prior to teaching, Miller had experience in radio and as a freelance reporter for the Star, The Vail Voice and other publications .
What is their connection to Tucson Speedway?
In December, Lashley and Bobcat TV came to an agreement, letting them begin live-streaming events at Tucson Speedway on Ustream, a popular online video streaming service.
“They came over and wanted to try this out,” Lashley said. “Filming an action venue is a heck of a lot different than filming a wedding, or filming still things. You have to sort of get into it and know what’s gonna happen.”
Once they developed a comfort level, they started venturing down into the pits, interviewing the race car drivers, pit crews and fans, streaming all of it live. In February, at a race called the Chilly Willy, Lashley said, people were watching from Canada, California, New Jersey and “really, all over.”
What is the arrangement with NASCAR?
Once NASCAR came into the mix a couple of months ago, making Tucson Speedway a NASCAR-sponsored track, the speedway’s relationship with Bobcat TV had to be altered a bit.
“NASCAR has a proprietary interest in everything that goes on at the track,” Lashley said.
In 2013, NASCAR signed a lucrative, $8.2 billion, 10-year deal with Fox and NBC for television rights.
“They don’t want to be in a position where they (Fox and NBC) can come back and say, ‘You sold this for X number of dollars, and you’re allowing these people in Tucson to broadcast, and it’s affecting our theoretical income stream.’ ”
So Lashley powwowed with NASCAR people, and came to an agreement — a 19-page agreement — that would allow Bobcat TV to still live-stream the events but on a NASCAR-owned site, FansChoice.TV, which streams a number of racing events.
In the end, Bobcat TV came out pretty nicely, as NASCAR sent them camera equipment, at no cost to Cienega, so the signal would be better, cleaner and user-friendly.
The Bobcats couldn’t be happier.
“It was like they were opening Christmas presents,” Lashley said.