Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ABC TV Station Problems Continue For NASCAR


Last Saturday night, as the field sat waiting for a fluid spill to be cleaned-up, there were many things going through the minds of NASCAR fans. Everything from Jeff Gordon's fuel level to Ryan Newman's restarts was fair game for conversation. It had been an action-packed NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race, and it was just what the ESPN on ABC TV crew wanted.

As the clock struck 11PM Eastern Time, the field was just about to crank it back-up and put the topper on three hours of live NASCAR racing on ABC. The Lowe's Motor Speedway looked great under the lights, and this race was going to help decide how the Chase for the Championship might be decided.

In Topeka, KS the NASCAR fans were watching their local ABC station KTKA. This station prides itself on serving the public interest, and was recently named the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Station of the Year for 2007. Quite an accomplishment.

Across the country, as NASCAR fans began to sit-up straight and get ready for the Trophy Dash, things in Topeka took a strange turn. The scoreboard at the Speedway showed six laps to go, but in Topeka there was only one thing on the minds of the staff at KTKA. It was time for the Channel 49 News at 10PM Central Time.

On the air came the dynamic weekend news team at KTKA, despite the fact that everyone at the station could see on the incoming ABC Network feed that the live NASCAR race was still clearly in progress. One simple touch of a button would have moved KTKA viewers back to the live NASCAR race. It never happened.

On the 49abcnews.com website, all hell broke loose. Here are some comments:

"Never have I been so shocked and livid at a TV station. To not show us the end of the race is absurd. Sorry Clint (Bowyer), we cheered you on as long as we were allowed. ABC owes us more than a small apology." (beckyandron)

"Two times in the last three weeks this station has ended their coverage prior to the completion of the race. This is clearly a sign of the times and really leaves me wanting the coverage of the races to go back to NBC." (anon viewer)

"Good thing I have Sirius Radio so I could hear the last laps of the race as it was running. Would you have done this during a Chiefs (NFL) game?" (anon viewer)

"Way to go and p**s off a bunch of potential (news) viewers KTKA! Station of the Year, huh? Were you just trying to get ahead of viewers switching to another channel?" (newhorse49)

"Does anyone really know what happened Saturday night? Please give us a truthful answer. Over three hours waiting to see the outcome and some incompetent...turns over to the news." (hillbilly)

The race coverage never returned. The newscasters never even mentioned the race. Later, the station released the following statement. "49News wants to take a moment to apologize to all the NASCAR fans in Northeast Kansas who did not get to see the end of Saturday's race."

In terms of dealing with the TV reality, the station was a little bit less than forthcoming. "An error between ABC and KTKA caused the last ten laps of the race not to be shown. ABC went to "black" for a longer than usual time, so we "took" the feed for the 49News at 10PM, even though the race was not over."

Despite the fact that one Master Control Operator might have switched the station over to the news, there was every opportunity to stop and switch back. In taking a look at the TV content in question, the choice between a live NASCAR race on ABC and the weekend news in Topeka should not have been a tough one. The big problem was not the first error, it was the refusal to fix it.

Complaints against the ABC Television Stations at first began to trickle in to The Daly Planet, and then it began to pour. Pre-empting the first thirty minutes of the night races for news, inserting sponsored news breaks on red flags, and leaving at 11PM Eastern Time for news regardless of whether the race was over or not were the common themes.

KTKA is only one example of stations in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Florida, New York, and Idaho that have had problems carrying the ESPN on ABC NASCAR package this season. Why this simple and straightforward sports feed has been a problem is a mystery. The one thing very clear is that these problems are real and continuing.

Clint Bowyer is having the season of his life. His run at Charlotte kept him in The Chase and really showed that he has come into his own in the NEXTEL Cup Series. Unfortunately, the people in his close-knit community of Emporia, KS did not have an opportunity to see the hometown boy finish the race. Along with many others in that part of the country, they were watching the Channel 49 Weekend News on KTKA...The TV Station of the Year.

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

32 comments:

Lisa Hogan said...

Going to be interesting to see what ABC's response is going to be to their renegade affiliates.

Andy Pandy said...

Sure, KTKA, ABC went to "black" for a longer than usual time, and you happened to have the news team sitting at their desks, so you went with them instead. Good thinking! How lucky can you be?

Those stupid redneck NASCAR fans should fall for that one.

Anonymous said...

More to the point...what is NASCAR.... aka Brian France.... going to do about the horrible coverage from ESPN/ABC that we have been dealing with this year!!

Erik said...

ABC has no say as to what a local affiliate does. They can get on their knees and beg the affiliates show the preshow and entire race, but its still up to the affiliates to do whatever they feel is best interest of the entire community.

This is just another rude awakening to the NASCAR Nation as to where they stand in pecking order of sports. Just watch ESPN on ABC College Football coverage this Saturday, and count the number of affiliates that break away if the games run long.

If NASCAR fans don't like it, they can complain to the station managers. Though, I am sure those guys always hear many more complaints than compliments about anything the station does. It'll take quite a few of them to break through the noise.

Newracefan said...

If it happens in Phila area Direct TV here I come

Anonymous said...

The station's excuse is ridiculous.

They clearly intended to cut out of the race for news.

Apparently, ABC's agreement with its affiliates is not nearly as stringent as the ones written with CBS and NBC, which may not arbitrarily dump out of network porgramming and require specific permission to do so.

And, Erik, I see you're back to your typical defend-your-employer behavior. Figures.

Anonymous said...

best interest of the entire community.

Bull. You mean "best for the station's Sales Department--the people that sold the spots on the newscast that would have been JIPed, collapsed, or not run at all.

Bill H said...

Luckily I don't live in a broadcast market being 90 miles outside of NYC, so with DirecTV I am able to have all the broadcast channels out of NYC (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW) and also have the same ones out of LA. I pay an extra few bucks, but if there is ever something interrupting the one in NYC, I just switch to the one in LA (and just to be redundant, if a storm comes I can hook the TV up to the Basic cable that comes with the high speed connection and get the same channels out of Albany).

Prepared: BillWebz

Sandie said...

I've been lucky and haven't had that issue here in DFW (knock on wood) but heaven help them IF it happens. I have Trackpass so I have as a back up but still!

@Erik--PLEASE how is preempting a pre-race show in the best interest of a community? The SCHEDULE had the pre-race NOT the news so those wanting news were elsewhere. And that same community can't wait 5 freakin' minutes for news? Is there really anything happening in the world that is so important that they can't wait for a race to finish and a few quickie interviews?

SophiaZ123 said...

John

this is mind blowing (the cutting OFF the END of the race)

More mind boggling is NASCAR and Brian France do NOT CARE!

NASCAR fans deserves better and John, I hope your new site will be easier to keep out trolls. GOODNESS.

For the folks screwed out of their race finish, it was a REPEAT of the Heidi moment.

John, I hope you can eventually tell us that NASCAR really cares about this and does something so the ABC affiliates.

Illpolo said...

No Erik, it's more like ABC/ESPN has no idea of what they are doing in its' first year in covering the sport. Regardless of your strong bias against NASCAR (and the strange reason why you would take the time to read and post on a NASCAR media site), this is more an indication of not knowing how to handle something new from a company standpoint.

I'm sure you love reading and responding to those of us who have a strong personal interest in having the sport covered at a high level, but many NASCAR fans don't care about where auto racing lies in the pecking order; they just want to watch a few hours coverage of a race that most would easily consider to be one of the top-five most watched sports in the country.

stricklinfan82 said...

Is this epidemic of ABC affiliates pre-empting NASCAR unique to just ABC affiliates or did you guys living in Los Angeles and other affected cities go through similar instances when the Cup races were on Fox and NBC?

Also, have these same anti-NASCAR ABC affiliates pre-empted ANY other networking programming like football or basketball games to show the news as well or is NASCAR the only sport that has been affected?

Photojosh said...

Wow, and I was thinking I was annoyed at the way that ABC started rolling the credits while the victory lane interviews were still going on.

Who wants to see some crap ass "b team" weekend news anchors anyway? In all seriousness, did anyone look at the ratings before making a decision like this? I suppose I could be wrong, but I would think that ANY major sports event would bring more views than the "little kitty stuck in a tree" weekend news that most local stations show.

Anonymous said...

I posted this on a different thread, but it appiles to this discussion as well so I am posting it again here.

Okay folks here goes. I have worked in broadcasting at network affiliates, and at independent stations. The key word in the phrase 'network affiliate' is AFFILIATE. These affiliates are paid by the networks to air certain programs at set times. An affiliate can air the program and get paid full rate by the network, not air the program and not get paid, or air the program at a different time (say at 1:30 am instead of the scheduled time of 8:00 pm) and either get a reduced payment or no payment at all. The question I have, is the prerace show considered a separate show from the race coverage by the network, or is it part of the entire race coverage 'package'.
Actually this entire situation (prempting prerace shows, leaving the race before it is over, prempting an entire race for another sporting event/show) was something I was worried about as soon as it was announced that NASCAR was leaving ESPN/TNN/TNT for the deal with FOX and NBC. I knew that some affiliate somewhere outside of the NASCAR southeast core was going to not air a race because the had a pre-existing contract to air something else during a race broadcast. The fact that the situation being discussed/debated here has not happened (alot) before now is suprising.
There is my two cents worth. Have fun with it.

Kevin in Indy said...

To Anonymous 8:11 PM:

Brian France was not at the race. He was attending the rivival of the Broadway musical "Pirates of Penzance" starring Elton John and Charles Nelson Riley. He doesn't seem to care about his responsibility to is family's legacy. His dad & grandpa would be disappointed.

Wayne M said...

All NASCAR programing belongs on Speed/Fox!

Anonymous said...

Brian France will be happy so long as he keeps cashing the payment checks from the networks. He doesn't care how poor the coverage is, just so long as they show some cars occasionally, mention NASCAR in a favorable light, and he gets to dictate the content. After all, he did say he knows what's best for racing.

Anonymous said...

Problem is, those checks are going to dry up if he continues to allow things to deterioriate as they have.

That would be bad for us, too, not just him--so I hope someone slaps him around before it is too late.

Bill H said...

Is NASCAR actually getting any money from the broadcasts now or did they get all their money up front when the networks paid for the rights to broadcast?

BillWebz

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Wayne M
grani girl

Anonymous said...

There's nothing like seeing a TV station's General Manager throw a $12-an-hour Master Control operator under the bus instead of taking the blame for a major screwup himself.

Andy Marquis said...

I remember when FOX 5 cut off the Daytona 500 for "Breaking News."

We had two inches of snow and they had special live "BLIZZARD 2003" coverage.

It was years until I watched local programming on FOX 5.

But ESPN man. They're AWFUL. I wish they would just go away. I want a postrace, not them talking to Jeff Gordon and ONLY Jeff Gordon.

And they're coverage is so biased.

They don't show ANYTHING that happens on-track. GRRRRRR!!!

I could commentate better than those guys, AND I COULD.

Who the hell is David Gillyand and Eric Amarillo and Matt Kensess?

ESPN, just go away.

I, for one, was really anxious for ESPN to come back after all the frustrations I've had with local stations covering races (living in D.C., everything in Congress is more important than NASCAR). I was really glad to see all the Busch races on ESPN2 on cable and the Cup races on ESPN where the communists at FOX 5 couldn't cut out.

Instead, same problems. Missing finishes when the race is on cable and there's really no excuse for it, and the races (mainly IRL0 being on channels we don't get (ESPN Classic).

ESPN's been a huge dissappointment. I'd rather watch the races on TNT Wide Open and deal with Bill Weber than deal with missing lead changes and wrecks because Junyer just made a pass for the 34th position.

SS in Miami said...

striklinfan82, in Miami, FL, WSVN (FOX) is fine, they don't interrupt races. WTVJ(NBC) would wait for the race to come out of commercial, then break in with weather or whatever they thought was important, but only a few times over '05/'06 season, but they did leave the race in a box in the bottom corner of the screen. WPLG(ABC) does NOT air the pre-race shows for Saturday night races and does NOT care in the least, I posted their response on the article about the LA station not carrying the pre-race. When Hurricane Wilma was coming in October '05, WTVJ aired the race on their website because they had hurricane coverage on the station, why they didn't air it on their partner station instead of 20+ year old movies, I'll never understand.

stricklinfan82 said...

Anonymous said...
I posted this on a different thread, but it appiles to this discussion as well so I am posting it again here.

Okay folks here goes. I have worked in broadcasting at network affiliates, and at independent stations. The key word in the phrase 'network affiliate' is AFFILIATE. These affiliates are paid by the networks to air certain programs at set times. An affiliate can air the program and get paid full rate by the network, not air the program and not get paid, or air the program at a different time (say at 1:30 am instead of the scheduled time of 8:00 pm) and either get a reduced payment or no payment at all. The question I have, is the prerace show considered a separate show from the race coverage by the network, or is it part of the entire race coverage 'package'.
Actually this entire situation (prempting prerace shows, leaving the race before it is over, prempting an entire race for another sporting event/show) was something I was worried about as soon as it was announced that NASCAR was leaving ESPN/TNN/TNT for the deal with FOX and NBC. I knew that some affiliate somewhere outside of the NASCAR southeast core was going to not air a race because the had a pre-existing contract to air something else during a race broadcast. The fact that the situation being discussed/debated here has not happened (alot) before now is suprising.
There is my two cents worth. Have fun with it.

October 18, 2007 6:44 AM


That's not totally true with every TV show on every network.

At Watkins Glen last year, Cleveland's NBC affiliate aired an Indians baseball game instead of the race. They asked for permission to air the race in its entirety later in the evening but (according to them) NASCAR and NBC said no, because the TV contract did not allow for that. The only option they had was to air the race live, so they joined it in progress after the game was over. So apparently affiliates can't always do "whatever they want", as some have speculated.

I hope that all of these affiliates that are screwing over NASCAR fans are incurring these financial penalties that some of you have talked about, and aren't getting away with "slipping one past the bosses". Hopefully the attention this blog has paid to this issue will keep affiliates from trying to get away with NASCAR pre-emptions in the hopes that no one will notice.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, in some way it is a referendum on the actual clout NASCAR wields an a national scale. The TV ratings reflect a stagnant rate of growth in popularity beyond our core group of racing fans. In truth, I really do not care whether some insurance broker in Seattle ever watches a race. If the ratings have peaked, so be it. Move on.

However, once KTKA made a commitment to show the race,it was an implied bargain with viewers. It was rude and inconsiderate to cheat the fans out of the finishing laps after they invested the time to watch up to that point. KTKA had a moral commitment even if they do not regard NASCAR as a mainstream sport. Beyond the contract language and legalese, it smacks of the lack of common decency in corporate America.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why ABC bothered to spend the money on NASCAR if its stations won't show it. Seems like a waste.

Anonymous said...

All you people who have been jerked around by different stations should contact the sponsors of their newscasts, and explain you no longer watch their news and why.

Anonymous said...

Stricklinfan,
There is a big difference between tape delaying a race, and not airing it at all. The race broadcast ultimatly belongs to NASCAR. You always hear that legal disclaimer at the end of the race that it cannot be rebroadcast or retrasmitted without NASCAR's permission. That is why the station can't just re-air it anytime they feel like it.

However, an affiliate is free to not to air it at all, cut it short, join it in progress, etc.

Even the NFL was only able to get just the home market of the teams playing network affiliates to stick with a game to the conclusion. It doesn't apply nationally.

Anonymous said...

As long as France is lining his pockets you might as well p--- up a rope, he'll never do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Erik said...

ABC has no say as to what a local affiliate does. They can get on their knees and beg the affiliates show the preshow and entire race, but its still up to the affiliates to do whatever they feel is best interest of the entire community.
----------------------
Guess you are incorrect huh Erikuncctps

Anonymous said...

ucbtqhHeidi lives in Kansas now? KTKA's action in truncating the race does seem to break an implied convenant with its viewers as to what it will be carrying. Moreover, it could be a very shortsighted act in light of the apparent popularity of the racetrack in Kansas and since the station may not know how many advertisers or potential advertisers it has angered. I feel certain that local advertisers who had paid for commercials on the race broadcast were not pleased by KTKA's actions, and might have a claim for a refund or make-good. It does seem to me that KTKA's action shows that it places its interests above those of its viewers - which hopefully local residents will make known when its license comes up for renewal.

Bobby said...

These decisions are made by affiliates.

Under the old track-by-track deals, this was a problem with our local ABC affiliate. From 1991 until 1997, they would actually pre-empt the March Atlanta race and air it on tape-delay at midnight as to show a syndicated television package, the ACC Basketball Championship Game (the race started at 1:15; the ACC Championship started at 1:45 or 2 PM). The station has the ACC basketball package and pre-empted all ABC program on Wednesdays and on weekends to show ACC basketball. In later years, complaints led to the channel joining the race in progress, after two-thirds of the race had ended. Other markets (including ours) also had the ABC affiliate in another market which we were part, but that affiliate was dropped in 1992 to give MTV a new position, and once that happened, racing, golf, and other sports fans began complaining because the practice meant no sports, no results, just ACC basketball. Even the mayor (an avid golf fan) complained and it was to no avail.

Capital Cities did nothing to them.

The local ABC affiliate moved their offices and news operations 100 miles to the north a few years ago, and currently does not have a Saturday night newscast. They are the 4th-place station in the market.

Disclaimer: The Atlantic Coast Conference basketball package is a joint package of Raycom, Inc. and Lincoln National Corporation. Bobby holds shares of Lincoln National Corporation.