Saturday, September 29, 2007

Busch Series Gets Whacked By College Football on ESPN2

NASCAR fans looked nervously at the clock on the wall when the LSU vs. Tulane college football game hit halftime. They were nervous because it was already 2:10PM Eastern Daylight Time.

This week, once again, ESPN2 was relying on the luck of the Gods to slip a live Busch Series pre-race show and then the race itself between two college football games. Things did not work out too well.

When ESPN purchased the rights to the Busch Series as a part of their new NASCAR contract, TV veterans were scratching their heads. They wondered the same thing. Where would they put the series when college football began?

The Daly Planet even ran a column suggesting that perhaps the network might use the failing ESPN Classic network as an outlet for NASCAR programming and call it ESPN3. While ESPN Classic started with a bold agenda and even some original programming, it has slowly been scaled back until now it is slaved to only re-airing the programs already in the ESPN Library that the company owns. As a distribution channel, it would be much more valuable to funnel live events than continue to re-air programs from the past twenty-five years.

Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree presented a great NASCAR Countdown pre-race show for this event in Kansas. Unfortunately, it aired on ESPN Classic as a last minute switch because the LSU vs. Tulane game was still in-progress. The entire thirty minute show never aired on ESPN2 at all.

The continued success of the Busch Series is vital to NASCAR as a whole. As most fans know, this season has been a struggle for the series in terms of fan attendance and TV ratings. It is all the more important, as the series reaches the final races, to put the best TV programming possible on-the-air.

There are going to be lots of excuses from ESPN, but the bottom line is clear. They bought this series, aired it all year without a problem, and knew that college football was coming in September. Suddenly, the NASCAR series that has provided live racing since February is second-tier programming. Why?

The reason is simple. ESPN wanted their NEXTEL Cup package and the Busch Series came along for the ride. Once college football began, it was as though the past seven months of hard work and live coverage of this series was simply tossed aside as if it never happened.

NASCAR fans have been watching the Busch Series all season on ESPN2. The NASCAR on ESPN2 Busch Series telecasts have generated over one hundred hours of live TV for ESPN2 and ABC combined. The series has produced great racing, lots of good stories, and several new drivers and teams that we will be hearing from in the future.

This situation of "hoping" college football games will end in three hours continues through October and into November. How is this fair to NASCAR fans who suddenly find themselves put on the back burner because of football? The Busch Series is a ten month sport for hard-working NASCAR teams and drivers.

Somehow, after seven months of the season, it becomes trapped with nowhere to go because of circumstances that were known back in 2006 when the contract with ESPN was done. Maybe some NASCAR lawyer might want to open a manila folder and see exactly what happens when not only the pre-race show but also the green flag and a lot of laps are pre-empted by a slow-playing college football game.

Then, the lawyer might want to check his watch. Its only a matter of time until it happens. There are only so many "near misses" in TV land. This one was close.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.


Busch Series Fan! said...

Wow we didn't know Nascar Countdown was on ESPN Classic and we missed it. Brad Dougherty did a better job than Rusty broadcasating the race too.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad this has become a regular problem Satu days on ESPN2.

Vince said...

Unfortunately my cable system, Charter, has put ESPN Classic on a more expensive tier of programming. We get ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News and Speed all on the expanded cable, but for some reason not ESPN Classic. So anything that gets moves to Classic is missed by us.

Anonymous said...

Brad did a good job, but he sometimes interrupted Jerry Punch. Probably just nerves. Still, he had great enthusiasm and he seemed to see things on the track quicker than his partners.

I heard the news this evening that Dale Jarrett said he may not be returning to Cup full time in 08 (and maybe not at all), so thankfully he should be another ESPN option.

Also heard that Tony Stewart cursed out an ESPN cameraman with the F word live on TV at practice this morning and NASCAR is investigating. I don't see any comments about it in the live Busch thread. Anybody record it? ESPN has a story about it but no video on the site.

A points penalty could affect the chase, but Stewart is already on probation for cursing so he may pay for this with points. He needs to get over his ESPN issues. Cursing out a person doing their job is not acceptable no matter what Stewart's grieveances against the network are.

Anonymous said...

WOw, Wonder what ticked off Tony this time though the part of me that DOES NOT LIKE ESPN is smiling but the mature part of me is ticked as that is not cool to drop the F bomb on tv in general.

Also here ESPN CLASSIC was bumped up RECENTLY to a more expenisve Tier on TW..two of our tvs are Digital but not everybody has ESPN should not do this...they act like because we have one of their stations we have access to ALL OF THEM...NOT.

but I have said it before, NASCAR should be just as upset because the fans, sponsors and ratings will be affected but as we know by now after months of whining and kvetching, NASCAR NO LONGER CARES WHAT THE FANS WANT.


Anonymous said...

A Sporting excerpt:
During ESPN2's broadcast of Saturday's first Cup practice, Stewart dismissed an ESPN cameraman with a vulgarity, after Stewart had concluded a conversation with fellow driver Robby Gordon.

Stewart's antagonistic comment, "Get the (expletive) away from me," was heard by the television audience, prompting ESPN broadcaster Dr. Jerry Punch to apologize to the audience for the airing of the inappropriate remarks.

"I think what occurred speaks for itself," said George McNeilly, ESPN's senior director of corporate and consumer communications. "It was an unfortunate incident, and we apologized immediately after the words were spoken. We apologized to our viewers, and the matter is in NASCAR's hands.

"We had a photographer who was shooting video, and he was doing his job."

Anonymous said...

As most fo you said. ESPN Classic on ym cable also has been moved to a higer tier. Meaning, I don't get it anymore.

An idea for ESPN. They have their regional networks, ESPN PLUS. Why not just air college footbal on tthat network and keep ESPN2 free until the Busch Series races re over with for the day. Schedule Busch Races to come beofe college football games. Make use of the ESPNU, ESPN Plus, and all the other ESPN network they have.

Its an idea for next year.

Erik said...

The Busch Series is now swimming with much bigger fish. NASCAR knew this going into this deal from the beginning. Previously, with the TNT/NBC and Fox/FX package, there weren't any live events that would bleed into the NASCAR coverage.

Even in the spring time, there wasn't that much going on ESPN2. Though, now in college football season, the situation has changed.
NASCAR would had to have been brain dead not to realize that ESPN airs a whole bunch of college football in the fall.

There isn't a good solution to all of this as well. ESPN has college football timeslots locked in place. There will always be an 12pm eastern game every Saturday. There isn't any way getting around that. If NASCAR is wanting to race on Saturday afternoons, they'll need to push start times back, or maybe race early in the morning like they do for rain outs. College football isn't going away.

Daly Planet Editor said...


What are you talking about? How do you know what ESPN and NASCAR think? If you have an opinion, give it to us. If you are a spokesman, then tell us.

There are plenty of good solutions to this problem, and they have not been put in motion by ESPN in a timely fashion. This is the first year of this multi-year contract, and you can look for changes to be made during the off-season.

All NASCAR fans without ESPN Classic lost the pre-race show. Had the game gone a little longer, they would have lost the beginning of the race broadcast.

One delay early in the game for an injury or even a weather delay would have pushed the game into live racing. If ESPN Classic was carrying a Busch Series race in the heart of the season with it airing nowhere else, the roar would be a lot louder than it is right now by simply missing the pre-race show.

This is a big issue that will no doubt come to the forefront over the next several weeks as it continues to happen through the football and NASCAR Busch Series season.

Anonymous said...

JD, will there be a column about the race broadcast itself?

Anonymous said...

@JD--I totally agree.

I have Classic and am usually home during the Busch races so I catch it even if a network change happens.

But those without it or access to the 360 site can be SOL. I know that NA$CAR has shown some of the races (not sure if they do prerace) but IIRC, the "new" NA$CAR site really only works if you have cable internet. I know folks with DSL who have a whale of a time with the site and forget about it if you have dial up.

I know a lot don't "care" about the prerace so for a lot of folks missing the race can be huge.

I forget the race now, but a few races back, we *did* have a pickle. Tennis (IIRC) ran over so they told us to go to Classic (I forget what was on ESPN--probably championship nose picking) for the prerace, so we did that and then at the bottom of the hour, they told us to go ESPN for the actual race and then when tennis was over, the race was back on ESPN2.

Anonymous said...

Comcast has ESPN Classic on the sports package of digital cable, which you have to pay even more for ... Some of us still only have analog cable that gets us extended basic ... We only get ESPN & ESPN2 ...

Verizon Broadband internet actually carries (allows access to) ... But, those of us with dsl are screwed over because you need higher speed dsl or cable internet ... did have the pre-race show ... But, it was on a delay as they were still interviewing Roush when on MRN was already on the Invocation and ESPN2 was just introducing the invocation ...

I knew last year when they announced that the Walt Disney Company was going to be the exclusive tv company for the Busch series that we would wind up getting screwed over ... They hardly show any of the races on ABC which everybody gets ... There are still a lot of people who do not have cable or satellite ...

At least with News Corp and Time-Warner, we knew they'd never throw the race onto some limited access cable channel or website ... Yes, I know that a lot of people did not have F/X when that contract started in 2001 ...

Giving the exclusive broadcast rights to Disney was just plain stupid ...

Sandie is right ... There was a tennis match not too long ago that had us in a panic ... Trying to find &/or espn classic ... Then throwing the race onto espn for the start ... Then onto espn2 after the tennis was over was a nightmare ...

Tony's expletive was discussed on the Cup race thread as it happened during Cup practice ... That's why you didn't find it on the Busch race thread ...

Lisa Hogan said...

“Comcast has ESPN Classic on the sports package of digital cable, which you have to pay even more for ... Some of us still only have analog cable that gets us extended basic ... We only get ESPN & ESPN2 …”

Different cable provider, but same circumstances. When programming is moved to ESPN Classic, I’m shut out.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:41: "Tony's expletive was discussed on the Cup race thread as it happened during Cup practice ... That's why you didn't find it on the Busch race thread ..."

There was no Cup race thread when I posted yesterday about Stewart's comments. Now people are discussing it in the Cup race thread posted today, but not yesterday.

Thanks John for adding a qualifying/practice thread in the future to have a place to discuss event's like Tony's if they occur.

Anonymous said...

nascar is getting to where it is fixed hendrix is paying nascar for championships.all hendrix drivers do is cheat whin like little 4 years old.mainly gorden ;johnson.they always get their way.nascar needs to treat all drivers,crew cheifs,all the same.hgstewart should've won the race today due to rain but because of hendrix crying ,johnson& gordon crying like little babies their going to finish the race so johnson&gordon would have a chance to win.not likeing nascar anymore.