Sunday, October 28, 2007

ESPN Pushes NASCAR To The Back Burner


This is a hard topic to discuss without opening a big can of worms. Unfortunately, after this weekend's efforts by ESPN to present live NASCAR racing, this issue now must be discussed.

It also desperately needs the input of NASCAR fans speaking clearly and in concise terms about what they expected from ESPN this season, and what they have gotten.

Back in the spring, The Daly Planet ran a column suggesting that ESPN use their faltering ESPN Classic Network to handle the logistical problems that the network would encounter with NASCAR all season long. We were almost laughed off the Internet.

What we suggested was that the company use the actual ESPN Classic "channel" to create an temporary "ESPN3" Network to handle the logistical nightmares that routinely come with NASCAR.

Anyone, like me, who has been sitting in the rain at Daytona at midnight still waiting for the Pepsi 400 green flag can relate. Rain and red flags cause problems for this sport with TV, and always will.

That said, NASCAR has done a great job over the years of picking TV networks as partners that did not have other programming issues that conflicted with the races.

We all remember the days of TBS Sports, TNN, and even NBC. Fox and TNT are good examples in the current contract. We are not talking about coverage issues, but just a big "broadcast window" being made available to cover the races even if it rains or the event runs long.

Now, NASCAR finds itself involved with ESPN2 on the cable TV side and ABC on the broadcast side. Both of these networks had been functioning just fine before NASCAR came along. They were full of quality programming, and profitable.

When the NASCAR contracts were announced, TV types like myself were left scratching our heads and asking the same thing over-and-over again. Where are ESPN and ABC going to put all that programming? Over the last several weeks, it has been made very clear to NASCAR fans exactly where they are going to put it.

Very slowly, the network has pushed NASCAR to the back burner on the ESPN/ABC stove. Race fans know exactly what I am talking about. Now, with empty stands at Busch races, TV ratings for NEXTEL Cup down, and a continued distain for NASCAR on SportsCenter and other ESPN shows, one thing is very clear. The NASCAR pot on the ESPN back burner is cold, and no one seems to care.

The year began with ESPN losing Friday NASCAR practices and qualifying to live Women's Tennis in-progress. Sometimes, it was fun just to hear ESPN tennis announcer Cliff Drysdale try to segway between an Elena Dementieva backhand and trying to promote the Busch Series at Nashville. This was the first sign that things were going to be interesting for NASCAR on ESPN. There would be a lot more to come.

When ESPN2 began their live Cup coverage of practice and qualifying, veteran fans noticed that ESPN had quietly eliminated the first Cup practice. Suddenly, it was clear to NASCAR fans that this big company of multiple networks was juggling a lot of programming that had nothing to do with NASCAR.

Then, a funny thing happened. ESPN got caught with other live events like the Little League World Series in-progress at race time. Since NASCAR was going to start the races anyway, ESPN had to show them somewhere. Where did they move them?

That would be directly to ESPN Classic. Somehow, the laughter that The Daly Planet heard when we suggested this network for NASCAR programming was quickly dying down.

As the college football season got underway, things got ugly quick. Scheduled between two live games, the Busch Series was sitting in "No Man's Land." When the preceding football game ran long, there was only one network where NASCAR could go...that's right...ESPN Classic. Think about that for a moment.

The Busch Series has sometimes hopped between three ESPN networks in one single race. ESPN, ESPN2, and the good old ESPN Classic. NASCAR fans who are trying to watch the race live can sit and click the channels when told, but this is 2007 and every move from network to network kills all TiVo's, DVR's, and even the old VCR's loyally grinding away so fans can come home and watch "their" sport.

This weekend, ESPN's scheduling woes had already eliminated the practice and qualifying for the Busch Series in Memphis. This was tough, because this stand-alone race featured a wide variety of drivers trying to get in the field. Qualifying would have been outstanding at a great track for the Busch Series like Memphis.

Then, as luck would have it, overtime in college football once again pushed the Busch Series pre-race telecast to ESPN Classic. Announcer Marty Reid is an ESPN veteran, and he led a small group of viewers who were watching live and had ESPN Classic through the start of this thirty minute show. But, on this day, there was a problem.

ESPN Classic already had a live college football game scheduled in thirty minutes. This meant that a very interesting moment for both ESPN and NASCAR was finally about to occur. If the game that forced NASCAR to ESPN Classic was not over, ESPN would have to choose between college football and NASCAR. ESPN had three live in-progress programs for only two national cable networks. Can you guess who lost?

In Memphis, the caps were off, the heads were bowed, and the prayer before the race was underway. Then, suddenly on ESPN Classic...NASCAR was no more. College football on ESPN took to the air right in the middle of the NASCAR prayer. Does it get any worse than that? In the middle of the prayer and without Marty Reid saying a word.

NASCAR fans quickly grabbed their remotes and switched back to ESPN2...only to see live college football. Switching to ESPN...live horse racing. Ladies and gentleman, The NASCAR Busch Series had left the building...and the network...and the airwaves.

NASCAR had been told where it stood very clearly, and only a nice tackle by a young man from the Iowa Hawkeyes ended the ESPN2 game a short time later and allowed NASCAR to once again return to the air. But, the point had been made clear to race fans.

The stick-and-ball world of ESPN will never come to NASCAR. This season, the sport has lost its practice and qualifying both on the Busch and Cup sides. It has been pre-empted for news about sports, even though ESPN has its own ESPN News Network.

Races have been shifted between ESPN's cable channels like no other sport. Crucial races on ABC have been pushed off broadcast network TV to protect the ABC News. Races have been ended with no interviews, no follow-up of events, and have even left crashed cars on the track with absolutely no explanation. It has been insane.

Then, to add insult to injury, no live post-race coverage from the track is offered on ESPN News because they are caught-up in the very same college and NFL football coverage. Can you image that?

All the ESPN NASCAR people are in-place at the track, the satellite feed is up and there are stories to tell, but the lack of communication at ESPN between those who produce the events and those who produce the news is mind-boggling.

When viewers tune-in to SportsCenter, they are greeted with ill-informed anchors who often openly mock the sport itself. Last week many time champion Jeff Gordon was called "Gordo" and when a pit crew member dropped a catch-can, the anchor said with a snide grin..."whatever that is."

Let's face facts, aside from debating the quality of the coverage, the "network logistics" of this season on both ESPN and ABC in this first year of their NASCAR TV contract have been a disaster.

Rain and red flags have been a part of NASCAR for decades. These simple issues should not be throwing for a loop the company that considers and promotes itself as the "Worldwide Leader In Sports Broadcasting."

While Iowa Hawkeye fans are thanking junior defensive back Drew Gardner for a game-saving and possibly season-saving overtime tackle, NASCAR fans should be thanking him as well. Without his help, the Busch Series race in Memphis would have started with absolutely no national TV coverage from ESPN.

Just how much more of this treatment can NASCAR fans take? Apparently, we will all find out together. Next Saturday, the Busch Series is again following an Iowa Hawkeye live football game. Let's hope Mr. Gardner stays healthy.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. Please read the rules for posting on the right hand side of the main page, and thanks for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

145 comments:

Anonymous said...

JD,
ESPN and NASCAR had to have known there could be scheduling problems when they entered into their contract. What do you think each expected to happen in these situations?

Makiki

Daly Planet Editor said...

Makiki,

When you comment on this site, please give us your opinion of the topic that is being discussed that day.

When you have a moment, come back and tell us what you expected and what you have seen this season.

Its the opinions of the fans that drive the content on this site.

JD

Lisa Foster said...

I think you summed up the situation pretty well.

I think ESPN/ABC know they have their audience in a hostage situation. They all know that they are for most people the only outlet for television coverage. I don't think they have any incentive to improve or change their broadcasts.

I feel like with everything they do; prempting for other events, lack of post race interviews, cutting their pre-race coverage,ect.,

they say to us "We're ESPN, and if you don't like the way we do things
tough..."

I wish, without much hope, that NASCAR would step in and say or do something to them to make them change.
It seems it's too late for this season, though.

Anonymous said...

'Let's hope Mr. Gardner stays healthy' - that sums it all up, sadly.

This is an excellent opinion article. I don't have much else to say to add to this except I support your view.

I do not understand why ESPN doesn't see the value in using ESPN Classic as a fulltime ESPN3. Otherwise the channel is going to become irrelevant. This summer our cable provider moved ESPN Classic off standard cable and almost 90 channels up the digital tier. It's now near ESPN NEWS. I bet if it had been ESPN3 and full of current sports programming it would still be on standard cable.

Busch Series Fan! said...

Great article JD. We were beside ourselves on Saturday trying to find the race as it moved around the channels. And not interviewing David Reutimann immediately after his first Busch win was really bad for the network. Maybe Nascar & ESPN will tweak the broadcasts before next year! Yeah right!

Anonymous said...

ABC shelled out a huge sum for the broadcast rights to carry stock car racing that the network doesn't seem to care one bit about.

All I can figure is, they never intended to take NASCAR seriously; they just wanted to keep anyone else from having it.

(Exhibit A: Practices that ESPN chooses not to air while also keeping SPEED from airing them. How childish.)

I find it amazing that NASCAR, which is (and always has been) ruled with an iron fist by the France allowed ABC to sign a contract that does not include such basics as "must carry" all events and "must carry live in its entirety" provisions.

Then again, for the money ABC paid, maybe they assumed the network would want to air (and showcase) the properties for which it paid.

Ritchie said...

John,

You asked us to give an opinion of how ABC/ESPN handled this situation. I am completely dumbfounded and confused, yet angry, and annoyed.

I am dumbfounded and confused because I cannot comprehend how a media business can enter into an agreement with NASCAR, pay huge sums of money for the rights to broadcast those events, and then treat it like it means nothing to the company. I know they have a lot of money and it may have been a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, however it seems that they would have better things to spend their money on than to purchase NASCAR broadcast rights and then set out to mock and ruin a sport.

That leads to the angry/annoyed emotions. The mockery is the worst. I can almost comprehend not caring about racing, so ESPN simply ignores it. However, to mock something means that you have to feel a bit threatened by it. It takes effort and resources to mock something. Therefore, ESPN appears to have spent billions of dollars to purchase a product that they want to ignore, then wasted existing resources (Sportscenter/Around the Horn) to mock and deride a sport they broadcast.

If I wan't so angry, I would pity them.

Anonymous said...

You asked: Just how much more of this treatment can NASCAR fans take?

Well, this fan has about had it as far as watching the race goes. ESPNs coverage, when it's on and when I can find it (not necessarily the same thing) is simply terrible. I've tried watching with the sound off and PRN on.. but I end up ignoring the pictures and just listening to the radio broadcast.

I suspect next season I'll follow the Fox coverage and then when ESPN takes over, I'll listen solely to radio coverage, if at all. This year I'm done.

I hope Nascar can, and is willing, to do something -- either exert some pressure on ESPN to step up their game or, better yet, cancel the contract and give the broadcast to a channel that actually wants to show the races. (Speed?)

I'd even be willing to pay a certain amout for watching each race via pay-per-view or over the Internet.

If Nascar's idea was that fans are so loyal that they'll put up with anything in order to watch --- wrong!

Anonymous said...

John

I agree with everything you wrote in your article. I would hope that NASCAR will do something different next year as far as practice and after the race interviews. You have suggested to have NASCAR on ESPN Classic, which is a good idea except that many people are not able to get Classic, me included. Our cable tv doesn't have it. I think the contract should be rewritten and have SPEED cover practices and the after race interviews.

Thank you

Marilyn

Anonymous said...

I've tried watching with the sound off and PRN on.. but I end up ignoring the pictures and just listening to the radio broadcast.

I have had the same experience and wonder if that's more an indictment of ESPN's coverage or due to the superiority of radio's broadcasters' ability to describe a scene.

Either way, ESPN ought to be embarrassed that it's come to this at all.

Kevin in Indy said...

I am so thankful that I have DirecTV's HotPass so I don't have to put up with the ABC-ESPN crap with Cup racing. I think the anaonymous poster at 7:36AM hit it on the nose. ABC-ESPN did not want another network having NASCAR so they bid on it. Brian France is a joke. If his Dad or Gramdpa were still around, they'd kick his tail (maybe to the tune of Brian's favorite broadway show-tune, whatever that is). He took the money and ran. Now we're stuck with this crap. I'VE GOT IT! This is really a marketing ploy by "Broadway Brian" to increase the attendance at the Busch Series races! By making it impossible for us to follow the races on TV, we'll say 'to hell with it" and just go to the races instead. Wow Broadway Brian, you're a genius!

Kevin in Indy said...

BTW,
John, this is the first site I check everyday. Thanks for making this site what it is!

Kevin

bevo said...

It looks like a lack of direction from the top of ESPN/ABC. One hand doesn't know and or care what the other is doing. It seems like there is no communication all the way down to the production level. I don't know if it's turf battles or what but the lack of coordination is unbelievable.

Ron P said...

John,
What I as a Fan expect from ESPN and NASCAR Coverage:

1. Show the Race, and all the cars, not just the ones in the chase or the Flavor of the Day Driver.
2. Show the Re-Starts!
3. Commentators Who actually know what they are talking about and are watching in the race, not TV screens with what the producers think they need to see, or say.
4. Commentators talking about what is actually going on on the track this week!
5. No Rusty Wallace.
6. No Mr. Jerry Punch.
7. No Bimbo's in Fire Suites asking "How does this make you feel?"
8. No Hype, You don't need any, Trust me 43 cars going 210 Miles an hour in to a 23 degree banked turn is exciting enough.
9. No Aerosmith Songs.
10. No Aerosmith Videos.
11. No Music Videos of any kind!
12. Just show the race and the drivers.
13. We want Alan Bestwick in the booth, I don't care if you people don't like him or if he pee'd in your cheereos, Race Fans Love him and he know what he is doing. Put him in the booth and Rusty out to pasture. If you don't like him too bad! get a Helmet.
14. ESPN to Get a Clue!
15, A daily Show that actually covers the Whole NASCAR SPORT, Trucks, Weekly Series, Bush (Nationwide) Cup give it to us all.
16. No Erik!
17. No forced Diversity, You say you have to put Diversity into your programing? Fine, Put Bill Lester in the Booth!, Put Liz Alsion in the Booth, Put Delana Harvick in the Booth! Hell put Juan Pablos Mom in the Booth I'm sure she know more about Racing then you do!!
18. No ex Stick and Ball players at all!!!
18a. No more Hollywood Actors, Politicans or any other phoneys that "Just happen to be in the booth" We Don't Want Them! and you don't need them!
19. Show the Race.
20. Throught the field means through the entire Field, Not the Top 15 Cars, or the cars that are in the case.
21. Less Commercials!
22. Show the RACE.
23. Did I mention NO Aerosmith!
24. A Prerace show that is Pre Race not Pre Hype!( Clue: watch Speed's Pre Race Show then copy it! don't use Basket Ball Players or Football Anouncers either! I hear that Dale Jarrett will be free next year, there is a good start! You all ready have Stacy Compton, use him!)
25. If the race goes long deal with it! It's a sporting event it has no time limit, I'm sure you won't cut of a Football game because it went long....Oh wait you do do that don't you.
26. See 25 and Show post race interviews..... of the Top 10 Finishers.
27. Show all the cars taking the checkerd flag!!!!
28. Show us the Complete Race Finishing Order!
30. No Brent Musberger!
31. Watch Fox and NBC/TNT, see what they do and do it! Just don't show as many Commercials and Boogty Boogty! as they do and No Music Videos, No Aerosmith. No Muscians! Please see Comment #8 again!

Had enough yet?

I'm sure we could go on like this for days!

ESPN, You NASCAR Coverage is horrble, Please listen to the fans while we still exsit.
Because we won't stay around forever.
RJP

Anonymous said...

John I totally agree with you. I was in total shock when they DID NOT EVEN interview David and it was his first win ever. ESPN has never liked Nascar so maybe, they are trying to destroy it. Maybe they have a deal with HotPass so everyone will get tired of broadcasting and switch to the HotPass. Ratings just keep dropping and there were a lot of empty seats at Atlanta. I hope your comments will set a fire under someone to see what is happening to Nascar. It is so SAD. Our heroes that have passed on are probably laughing down on Nascar and the mess Brian has gotten us in. Keep up the great work you do. Love your comments.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing about the ESPN broadcaster that mocks the sport, is that Kenny Mayne was a mutual friend of the late Dale Earnhardt. He was the one that interviewed him after the win in 1998 at Daytona, and later became sort of the go-to guy that Earnhardt sought out for a joke or an interview. That's the really sad part.The other thing is, is that none of us seem to understand the motives behind ESPN 's decisions to destroy the coverage of the sport they paid huge sums of money for. I never in my life have been so mad from one week to another about the lack of respect/coverage for NASCAR. The other baffling thing is, I keep hoping that we would hear something from Brian France or someone in the front office of NASCAR, to actually confront the current issues of poor coverage. Interesting that Brian gave the "state of the sport" speech BEFORE Espn took over the telecasts. His "outlook" was very rosy, and the ratings were fine,etc. Not a word since. Of course, I guess you have to WATCH the sport to take any sides.....

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Hey Folks,

Kev - Thank you for your kind comments.

Ron P - That is one of the best posts of the year.

It certainly is interesting that the two common things that appear in almost every comments section are the positive reviews for the DirecTV Hot Pass, and the question of why Brian France has not directly addressed these TV issues.

As we move through these final weeks of the season, we are going to continue to focus on key issues for the fans, and then we will extend our discussion into the off-season.

JD

haus20 said...

Can Nascar break this current TV contract? I think they should have more control over the broadcasts. I would like to see Nascar create a NASCAR network. Maybe a SPEED2. This network could provide exclusive coverage of all on-track activity as well as provide a daily studio show. Obviously there would have to be some other programming, but you get the idea. Follow in the footsteps of the NFL and NBA. They both have their own networks. Something has to be done to be sure that NASCAR gets their product on TV. Right now, with all of the other live TV obligations that the ESPN's have, some practices and qualifying have been discarded and the races are subject to other live events ending on time.

In other words, NASCAR is depending too much on others to give them the coverage and publicity that they need.

Chris said...

One problem that also needs to be addressed is the start time of the races. For example the race at Atlanta started after 2pm and with the race being 500 miles the chance of running past 6pm was very good. Way can't the race start at 1:15 or earlier like they use too?

My second point: there is a show on ESPN2 called NHRA Raceday that is similar to Nascar Raceday. However, its only 30 min and the host of the show is Dave Reiff, who guess what actually knows about racing. Why doesn't ESPN bring in one of there host for this show? If they are going to give us Suzie and Brent why can't we send 1 of them to the NHRA?

One final note John have you watched Around the Track? Which airs on many regional sports networks across the country. This show airs twice a weekend on Fri and Sun night and does a great job with highlights and interviews. Done by Jim Noble who seems to me could do a great job for a bigger network. Maybe Nascar Now should take a look at Around the Track to see a well rounded 30 min show.

Anonymous said...

Not only does ESPN deride and destroy the sport on a weekly basis, but now it's filtering through into the actual interviews. Mike Massaro interviewing Mark Martin after his crash--"Mark, how much of the crash was absorbed by your body?" Mark's response was priceless-"What kind of a question is that?"It seems that the producers at ESPN are "feeding" questions to the pit reporters. A while back, Tony Stewart bashed ESPN's coverage of the Pocono race, and even went so far as to rip into their reporting staff. This was documented by the network themselves. When I sent an e-mail to Marty Smith who now works for ESPN, I asked him about that very same subject, and he sent a rather nasty response back, saying, "I know Tony Stewart, and he likes me. I am an ESPN reporter, why would he lie about something like that?" First off, I don't know if I would admit to "being a ESPN reporter", as something to be proud of right now. Secondly, Marty Smith grew up a NASCAR fan, and has to be aware of the train wreck that is happening in front of him. I don't know if I want what's in their Kool Aid or not.

Anonymous said...

If I were a sponsor of a car outside the Chase, I'd be pounding on The Brian's door to find out what he intended to do about the fact that my car was never being seen on ABC's race coverage.

Anonymous said...

Ron P really covered a lot of the issues, but I would like to address something different. Only hard core fans care about something like a practice session, or even qualifying. That goes for F1 as well as Nascar. To expect that a network like ESPN which has many sports to cover would always make way for practice, or show it live is unreasonable. I don't know why they even included it in the broadcast package. That sort of thing should be covered on a speciality channel, like Speed TV. I am a big tennis fan and have found my recordings screwed up some times when ESPN would switch from ESPN to ESPN2 in the middle of a match, if it was running too long. That's why I would rather see a match on the Tennis Channel. As for ESPN switching in the middle of races from one of their channels to another, I guess that's okay if you are watching the race live. With the endless cautions and the endless commercials, I don't watch any Nascar live anymore. So sometimes, if I record it on ESPN, I'm screwed when they switch channels.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:51 AM,

Many of the ESPN personalities are aware of the issues with the races, the pre-race show, NASCAR Now, and the lack of coverage by ESPN News and SportsCenter.

I get emails constantly from NASCAR on ESPN folks telling me that things are even more disjointed and fractured than I can convey in my columns.

ESPN is huge, and the size of the company hinders communication between departments, networks, and even managers. The result is the "NASCAR soup" that all these different cooks have created for the fans.

Watch the race, you see one kind of TV coverage. Watch the pre-race, its completely different. Then watch NASCAR Now and they don't even "connect" to the fact ESPN or ABC did the telecast.

The level of racing knowledge varies wildly throughout the ESPN NASCAR programs, and leaves the viewer thoroughly confused. Its just a shame.

darbar said...

What did I expect from ESPN/ABC in their Nascar productions? It's not so much of what I expected, but more of what I wanted them to do. I wanted programs to be shown at the times advertised. I wanted anchors, reporters and experts who knew the sport and it's players. I wanted professionally produced programs and not something just thrown together. I wanted a network who shows a knowledge and respect for the sport and it's fans. I wanted a network who could produce race coverage without gimmicks and show all the important aspects of a race and not focus on the story of the moment. I wanted races and pre-race shows shown in their entirely and not preempted by local affiliates who prefer to air their local newscasts. I wanted truthful anchors who don't insult our intelligence by saying "we've just gone green" when everyone knew that happened 3 laps ago.

Did I get any of what I wanted? Unfortunately, no. What race fans got was a network who wanted to thumb their noses at all the other networks by "winning" the Nascar auction. I got a network who's unable to program their shows and cause fans to hunt and peck to find their Nascar. I got anchors and so-called race insiders who know less about Nascar than a farmer in the Ukraine. And unfortunately, I have a Nascar who's impotent to do anything about this. In short, I, and other Nascar fans, got nothing but race coverage that sounds like it was produced by middle school students.

What can be done? Seeing that Nascar seems not to care one bit about how the fans feel, I would bet that we, the fan, will be stuck with this psudo programming for the next 7 years. And when you realize that not only ticket sales have dropped dramatically this season (did anyone look at all the empty seats at Lowes and Atlanta), but that TV viewership has dropped, one has to wonder if anyone at ESPN/ABC and Nascar is listening. Are they all just sitting in their glass towers counting their dollars? When fans now have so many choices to see/hear their races, when we have the likes of Nascar.com. Sirius radio and DirectTV, perhaps no one cares. Perhaps ESPN/ABC has gotten too big for their own good. I don't have the answers, but I do know that I certainly haven't gotten any of what I wanted from ESPN in terms of their Nascar coverage. But, in retrospect, what could I expect from a network that thinks domino tournaments and the spelling bee are sporting events?

Anonymous said...

When contracts (The current T.V Package) of this size and magnitude are signed, aren't there usually NASCAR lawyers and ESPN lawyers in the same room? Wouldn't Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy be in the room together with them? If so, wouldn't one of the most obvious questions, if not THE most obvious question asked,be,"How is my Product going to be treated on air?" Also, you would think that certain clauses in the contract would include-hell, HAVE to include overtime,multiple networks, current t.v. obligations,current programming,etc., and how that would determine if I signed the dotted line at all. With all of that said, SOMEONE in the room would have to have "red-flags" going up about their product suffering at the hands of fate down the stretch. As an example- "I see that in October, you have a tennis match on at the same time my Product is to air.How do you propose to resolve this impending problem?" Well, maybe that's what I would do. I guess I am more concerned about my well-being than others are.

Steve L said...

I think (and hope) every week that the coverage will be better the next weekend.

Being a stick and ball network they know a winning team doesn't get there without lots and lots of practice. If a college team gets beat this weekend you know that the coach will work them hard during practice to try to better the team for next weeks game.

ESPN has had half a season with the Busch Series and the rest of the year with Busch and Cup to practice covering races. I actually think they have got worse.
This last weekend watching the races was very, very upsetting. I just want this maddness to end this year.

Even if things get better on the TV side, next year we still have 36 races of watching the Iroc, no I mean the COT, for the entire season. I'm not looking forward to 36 races of follow-the-leader style racing.

With Frances' attitude of "Get used to it" as far as the COT goes, I think he is saying the same thing by not addressing us fans when it comes to ESPN's horrible coverage.

Well Mr. France, I don't have to get used to it, I may not be back next year.

Ron P. said...

John,
Thank you,
I would like to add a few more comments after rereading all comments left by the other NASCAR Fans.
To Anon at 10:59 and DARBAR, thank you for pointing out the one I missed:

32. Respect to the Fans and the History of the Sport. It's bad enough that the fans are being priced out of the events by ticket prices and the Hotels Gouging every last cent from the fans pocket.
But ESPN has "dissed" we Fans with their ineptatude and poor coverage.

I can only hope that Jim France and the other Board members of NASCAR are listening to us and see the empty seats and also see what their TV money has been wasted on.

They need to learn the old adage "You can Shear a Sheep many Times but you can only slaughter it once."

I just hope that NASCAR and ESPN haven't slaughtered too many fans, because there won't be any left to shear.

If the ESPN syndrom and NASCAR stay on thier current track it will be like in the Movie the The Right Stuff: "No Bucks, no Buck Rodgers"...............
But for NASCAR it will Be " No Fans, No Sponsors, No Races, No NASCAR........No Problem

RJP

Anonymous said...

It is seeming more and more everyday that we as fans are going to have to rise up and take a stand against what is wrong in this sport. Everyone should be aware, especially the France family, that "with Oppression, breeds Revolution." I would hate to see the anger in these daily posts, actually vented in a physical way, because there would be nothing left.But if we revolt in a conducive way, then the France family would eventually have to see the 800 pound gorilla in their living room. When my wife and I had a chance financially to go to a race every year, I went out of my way and purchased tickets to Darlington,because that was the only way I knew how to help keep tradtion. If Brian wants to rumble, then he better stand opposed, because I am willing to "fight" to the end. And when Darlington is sold out every year, and I know that it knaws at Brian, then I have won. The same should be effective with the television coverage. If there are ways to "rise up" and let Brian and Jim France know that "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!", then we need to do it, either through boycotting the t.v., sponsors,etc. I refuse to leave this world without knowing where I stand on something I love.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Daly:
An excellent column!
I do disagree with some of the posters here on the "intent" of ESPN or NASCAR. Far from "destroying" or "not taking the sport seriously", I believe that those who approved the new contract did not realize that both entities had grown and changed from 2001. This is, and was, a business decision and both sides expected a good result, but I feel that ESPN bit off more than they could chew due to their growth and changed priorities. So it is with ESPN as they find that available time slots are not either available or made available for NASCAR programming in its entirity. It's also about ego, who will be promoted and who's head will roll. It sould be a very interesting time until the Shootouts in February. (I picture the "long knives" being sharpened at FOX & SPEED to be outstanding right out of the box.)
Thanks for your giving us a forum for our thoughts!
Tom in Dayton.

stricklinfan82 said...
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Anonymous said...

JD, one thing I want to point out to you concerning your comments about using ESPN Classic for Nascar programming. That would be a huge mistake as many cable companies have now removed Classic from their tier of basic cable services and have put the channel on their high end programming packages. I know that Time Warner removed Classic in September and you can only get that channel if you suscribe to one of their most expensive packages.

stricklinfan82 said...

I was irate when I heard that ESPN was returning to this sport. I knew we would be facing pre-emptions, tape-delays, network shifts, and possibly "joined-in-progress" coverage of races because ESPN has a thousand other live sporting events scheduled for every weekend. I thought the coverage would be world-class like it was in the 90's (BIG MISTAKE), but I still hated the idea because of these logisitcal problems.

The best part of the first NASCAR TV contract was that we knew would be able to see the races live in their entirety, no matter how long they took to run because of the stations they were on.

On Saturdays and Sundays Fox and FX had nothing else going on during the first half of NASCAR season other than the races. Even extremely long rain delays didn't prevent us from seeing a second of the action on the originally scheduled network. Even Busch races on the network station, Fox, were never dumped to cable. Remember Texas in 2002 or Talladega in 2005? Those races ran ridiculously late into the day because of long rain delays and were never unceremoniously "dumped" to cable.

Same thing with NBC and TNT. NBC had other sporting events sure, but no "major events" that competed with NASCAR for air time. All they had were the Gravity Games and Beach Volleyball, which were always pre-empted in the event of a NASCAR race running long. Hell, they even pre-empted the NBC Evening News for NASCAR (remember races like Atlanta and Charlotte in 2002?) and Saturday Night Live for NASCAR (2005 Pepsi 400 at Daytona). Yes things got dicey when NBC picked up football in 2006 in preparation for losing NASCAR in 2007, but thankfully we were spared of any conflicts between actual racing and football during that one transitional year.

TNT never had anything else other than re-runs of old TV shows, so again NASCAR fans were the big winners. NASCAR was the #1 priority of the network.

With ESPN returning this year, I knew we would be in trouble. For years ESPN bumped races to ESPN2 when they ran into other live sporting events (2000 Southern 500, 1998 fall Atlanta race to name just two of many examples). For years ESPN gave us tape-delayed qualifying and happy hour shows so I expected that would happen again. For years ESPN gave us tape-delayed Busch races, and I expected to see that again, especially during college football season, so all live Busch Racing has been a pleasant surprise at least.

It's just a simple fact. NASCAR fans will only win if the races are on a network where NASCAR is the only important thing going on every weekend. We have that with Fox and TNT (though the new early start for Fox Saturday Baseball almost screwed us over at Darlington this year). We have that with the trucks on Speed Channel. That is just impossible with ESPN, because their format is live sporting events all day long on all their channels. There is no wiggle room for rain delays in NASCAR or overtime in other sports.

Using ESPN Classic as an outlet for NASCAR fans has been a nice touch that I didn't expect. Though it's not perfect by any means as seen in Memphis on Saturday, it does give NASCAR fans a place to watch the races in most emergency situations. I never expected accomodations like the ESPN Classic network shift, especially just for pre-race shows, so for that I was pleasantly surprised.

The only other stunner in the ESPN return has been the lack of cooperation with the other networks, particularly with Friday and Saturday morning practice sessions. I figured ESPN would work with the Speed guys just like TNT and NBC did for years. If ESPN didn't want to televise a practice session, no problem, Speed would pick it up in their absence. I figured we might even see the ESPN boys in the booth during the Speed broadcasts, like we saw with Weber, Kyle, and Wally during the TNT races. Unfortunately ESPN does not play well with others and the only losers are the NASCAR fans.

ESPN doesn't want to air Friday morning or Saturday morning practices - TOO BAD, SPEED CAN'T HAVE THEM EITHER.

ESPN can't televise Happy Hour live because of college football - TOO BAD, ESPN WILL TAPE-DELAY IT UNTIL 6, THEN MOVE IT TO 12:30AM, THEN DUMP OUT FOR BASEBALL TONIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT AND THEN FINISH AIRING HAPPY HOUR AT 2:30AM.

Bottom line - I knew the fans would lose with ESPN coming back, and we've actually lost worse than I expected to when you add in no practice coverage on Friday and Saturday mornings and the poor quality coverage of the events they did cover.

IPingUPing said...

Any TV networks mission for partnering with a sports series should be:

- Deliver consistent live coverage of the event from start to finish.
- Deliver commercials in keeping with the context of the event. (See: Soccer)
- Provide viewers context of the action, before, during, and after the event. (See: World Series)
- Speak to the new fans in a thoughtful way while not alienating diehard fans.
- Be a thoughtful steward of the franchise you own and understand you have a critical stake in it's long term success.

I'm sure there are a few others, but I would grade ESPN/ABC as follows:

Consistent Live Coverage: C
(Need to get better at the end of races, and not bounce from channel to channel)

Commercials: B
(Same basic load as last year, but Neil Goldman should know how to manage better).

Context: D
(Too much draft track, too much flavor of the day, too much Junior).

New vs. Diehard: C
(Even the drivers are incredulous at some of the questions they are asked. See Mark Martin yesterday)

Thoughtful Steward: D
(Things like less practice coverage, to read qualifying graphics, etc. If they turn people off from NASCAR, they are costing themselves money too!)

Dan said...

Am I the only one who cannot stand to hear Suzie Culver talk? What are they doing with Brad D. and her trying to talk about racing? Send Brad back to college BB and Suzy back to the NFL sidelines where I can mute her comments. The bar has been set by Fox and their team of quality folks who know racing and make it interesting. ESPN is no where near this level. I never thought I'd be begging for TNT coverage of a NASCAR race! Where's good ole "we kid because we care" when you need him?

Anonymous said...

Brian France's disconnect is most troubling. Other than appearing at the Nationwide press conference, I believe the last interview he gave about NASCAR was the smiley, happy interview he gave to the Wall Street Journal in September. The WSJ, by the way, seems to be the favorite media outlet for those who don't like to talk to the media (See: Teresa Earnhardt.)

I'm not at the tracks, so I don't know if he's there, but David Poole's little joke in his Observations article the other day made me think Brian France has become the invisible man.

So maybe he's planning a move. We'll have to wait until Homestead to see. Last year at Homestead he went on Trackside and ripped Nate Ryan at USA TODAY for writing an article that actually (gasp!) noted NASCAR was having some attendance and ratings issues and had the stats to back it up. France said it shouldn't have been published the week of the finale. (If any DP readers live in the Charlotte area, you'll remember Tom Sorenson of the Observer ridiculing France for this the next day.) We'll see if he's on Trackside in a few weeks doing the same thing. If he's not there, then we'll know he's on his way out.

Bill H said...

You know what they say about hills and things rolling down them. If you want to make a change, don't complain to ESPN, ABC or even Nascar. Go to the top of the hill and complain to the car sponsers. Tell them how y ou aren't seeing their drivers on TV, how they aren't getting their money's worth. These guys have people on the payroll who just watch all the NASCAR stuff and time how much TV time they get, they should already know they are getting less than last year. If the Fans start complaining also, they will complain to NASCAR, and NASCAR to ESPN (hence the rolling effect). Remember that NASCAR changed a 30+ year qualifying formula because sponsers weren't getting their moneys worth and missing out on qualifying (top 35).

BillWebz

Scott said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAmen!!!!!

ESPN/ABC had my hopes up, pre-season, and I looked forward to what they had to offer. They DID have something to offer......boredom, and the chance to recall the glory days of Bob Jenkins, Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons. I don't think any network today compares to them, in many ways.

My comments on the announcers:

Dr. Jerry Punch - boring!

Mike Joy - You make it fun for us!

Bill Webber - go back to pit road!

Tim Brewer - stupid(there is a reason I've never heard of him and I've been a fan for a looooong time), and drink some water it sounds like your cotton-mouthed all the time.

Rusty - shut the hell up!

Allen Bestwick - one of the best, I love him!

Dave Burns - I ignore everything you say.

Wally Dallenbach - start selling cars or something...

Suzy Kolber - you suck. You have never said anything informative about any sport.

Brad Daugherty - you suck.

Larry Mac - as dorky as you are sometimes, you are smartest guy on TV when it comes to this sport!

NASCAR Now - The absolute worst NASCAR program ever shown!!!

I wish ALL of the networks would quit trying to "teach us the sport". Quit trying to lure more fans and try to please the ones you have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My advice to NASCAR fans.....Don't watch on TV(maybe for a replay or something), turn on the radio and follow it from NASCAR.com and the Pit Command. Its a lot more exciting!

William said...

I'm surprised that so much has gone on and so much time has passed without comment from NASCAR Corporate. Do they not care how their sport is covered? Big and Little Bill cared passionately about this issue. I'm shocked that something has not been done. As I was walking out of the track last night, I had my scanner on. So much dead air, nothing until the victory lane show came on. It was very strange because I've often heard coverage until I got to my truck. It's mind-boggling that in a character driven sport that they can just cut away after interviewing 2-3 people after a race. I'm trying to come up with a good sign to show my displeasure to Brian at Miami.
Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Why do you people think the world should revolve around NASCAR? There are other sports out there. It amazes me that we are in the midst of the best college football season in a long itme, yet people think that a live college football game is less important that a PRACTICE for a lesser series. In the words of Allen Iverson "We're talking about... practice." Unlike NASCAR, college football's regular season actually matters.

Speed has removed quality racing (if some of you watch the Aussie V8s, you'd ditch NASCAR in a heartbeat) from their lineup in order to make the entire weekend focused around NASCAR, yet people here still complain.

ESPN MADE NASCAR, you wouldn't complain about not seeing four practices a day if it wasn't for ESPN. Don't get me wrong, ESPN has gone down the tubes the last few years, but they are not the ones at fault here.

Anonymous said...

Comment to William about your sign at Homestead: The old red circle with a slash through it and Brian's name in the middle is pretty good. Anything worse, and you might be sleeping with the fishes..... Or thrown in with the Talladega 18. Sad thing is, like I've said before, Brian never goes to the track, and he never watches it on t.v. But if you go to California at a party for Paris Hilton, he'll be there. He'll be the one drinking and driving......

Anonymous said...

What some great posts today! I thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with Anonymous @ 7:36, Ritchie, Kevin in Indy, RonP and Anonymous @ 10:51. Y'all had some absolutely brilliant ideas, comments and viewpoints!

I was one of the many fans who tried to follow the Busch pre-race show and then the race itself this past Saturday. When I couldn't find it, I gave up and went outside to pick pecans for a couple of hours. Seriously-I did.

A question that seems to be the underlying theme on this lovely blogsite is 'When will the France family take notice and do something about the poor coverage?' Seems the answer is never, doesn't it? They got their money so why should they care?

Sort of off the subject here but I have to ask, is is it just me or does it seem like the powers-that-be are bent on making NASCAR into a goody two shoes, squeaky-clean, politically correct sport that won't offend anyone? Is their letting ESPN and ABC have all of this 'coverage' part of that scheme?

I don't know about anyone else on here but I'm taking the lack-of-decent-coverage topic to Infield Parking today. If the message board on IP were more organized, I'd already know if this is being discussed on there but trying to find a specific topic is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. No, I'm going straight to the Infield Parking driver pages with this and also to my favorite NASCAR team's homepage where I can put it on that message board as well. Then I'll see about relaying the information to the sponsors as well. Hopefully others who haven't already done the same will follow suit and visit their driver/team/sponsor pages, too.



Anonymous in Austin, Texas

SophiaZ123 said...

Great Article, JD and really summed up the frustrations.

What did I expect? TO SEE THE CARS ON THE TRACK and hopefully information on all 43 cars on the track if something went wrong.

So many great things already said here.. Ron P. Outstanding on your long details but many other great comments as well.

I have to add that to me the most baffling thing is the fact NASCAR has not intervened with the problems. That Brian France is HAPPY with this?

If he comes on some show and pontificates all is well, the fans will be even more outraged.

This passed weekend turned me into a lunatic on this board. As a strong Reutimann fan, I was thrilled to see his first win but we did not even see him get out of the car???

Also, I also agree with others NASCAR AND ESPN had to know there would be scheduling conflicts.

As you have said JD, NASCAR isn't a timed sport...it runs until it's over.

As far as screwing up ABC's precious primetime??? Hmmm...for years 60 minutes was delayed 15 minutes to one hour, ROUTINELY due to long football games. THAT was ok to do and if the shows didn't get caught up with shortened commercials, our local news ran at MIDNIGHT as opposed to 11pm.

This is NOT the first time a sport has always gone over time.

Also, the fact that SPONSORS are not banging on the doors to see where their cars are on what should be PRACTICE and QUALIFYING ON SPEED, is most puzzling.

Are they being held hostage as well as the fans to crappy coverage?

JD, I for one did not expect to be so frustrated, to have to play channel roulette with stations many viewers do not GET or an ISP deal nobody has heard of or gets (ESPN 360 !! NOT a substitute for TV)

I expected NASCAR to ask these potential problems to be addressed before the contracts were SIGNED.

The fact we are still SCREAMING at ESPN should be dawning on all of us, that we are trashing the messenger, maybe. (Myself included, by the way)

The WIZARD OF OZ behind the message is NASCAR.

The guy with the power to WANT TO CHANGE THINGS FOR THE BETTER is Brian France.

He does not CARE and it's so obvious, and pitiful.

For the first time in the 3.5 years of being a fanatic about the races, we did some household shopping during the races this weekend. Stuck in tapes both days for parts of the races that I did not watch upon return.

I listen in the car for an hour Sunday. Though I prefer MRN guys, I got more information on radio than on TV.

I DID NOT EXPECT the LACK of DETAILS on ESPN but I am repeating what others have said now.

THanks for this site.

I just wished SOMEBODY would have listened, and even more


that SOMEBODY CARED FOR NASCAR.

We may not have the big NFL ratings but ESPN knew THAT going into the gig as well.

I am not looking for any real changes. Not even for next year.

Brian France OBVIOUSLY thinks things are fine.

jmb said...

Great piece, JD. I hope you send it to every bigwig in NASCAR. Maybe one of them may even read it. At my advanced aged (I'll admit to over 60) I have finally come full circle with NASCAR. I started out with NASCAR back in the days when the only way you could follow it was on the radio, and that was only if you could pick up some southern stations. Oh, once in awhile you'd see little bits in the newreels at the movies, but they were few and far between. I can still remember the first time ABC showed parts of races on their "Wide World of Sports" show. It was so much fun actually getting to see those men I had been listening to for so many years. I was one overjoyed person when the time came that you could see the whole season on tv. Since ESPN took over this season with all the problems that have been well documented on this site and every other racing website on the internet, and all the racing magazines I subscribe to, they have sent me back to my roots. After the first ESPN race, I was hunting radio broadcasts. There is one station in my area that covers MRN feed some racedays (when no local sports are being covered), so I went back to radio broadcast with the tv muted. Then I decide to subscribe to Sirius, and found that I didn't even have the tv on while listening, because of them only showing one car at a time. I watch all the SPEED NASCAR shows, and I get to see more of the races than I ever did during a whole 3-4 hour ESPN broadcast. Plus I actually get news of what's going on in the sport every day on the radio. Do I miss actually watching races? Of course I do, but I don't miss the aggravation and fury that starts at the beginning of every ESPN broadcast. What I wonder about is how can the powers that be at NASCAR continue to ignore (pubicly anyway) what is going on and how alienated their longtime fans are over this situation. I'm sure the folks over at Sirius are overjoyed with ESPN, because I know I'm not the only one who has gone this route.

Rich said...

Maybe it's time for NASCAR to start their own cable network. I'm sure that the monies brought in from advertisers would be more than what ABC-ESPN paid them. I'm sure there's enough going on each week to fill in an ample programing schedule. It's time for a change. Anything would be better than what we have now. Rich

Diane said...

Excellent article and excellent postings. Ya'll have hit it right on the head. Nothing could be worse than ESPN/ABC coverage of Nascar. To reiterate and to agree with what others have said:

1. We want 2 practices and qualifying.
2. Suzie what's her name can go anywhere, just go away.
3. Brad Dougherty adds nothing to the broadcast.
4. Rusty Wallace has totally lost all credibility. He should know better. He can't even pronounce drivers names correctly and in the Busch races, he totally focues on his cars and in the Cup races he focuses on the #2.
5. If I have to see that air-draft thing one more time I think I'll scream (I already do at the TV).
6. We don't care about the stick/ball sports so lets not hear commentators discuss them during ANY part of a NASCAR broadcast.
7. Give me Bestwick in the booth.
8. Give me pit reporters who ask good questions unlike the one Massaro asked Mark Martin yesterday. (Good for Mark - I'm glad he called Massaro on that one and made him look like a complete fool.)
9. Mussberger belongs covering a NASCAR race like a polar bear belongs in the Amazon.
10. Rusty needs to go, anywhere, just go away.
11. We want to see the entire finishing order.
12. We want to see through the field, all the way through the field.

I also think that ESPN should watch the programs on SPEED and TNT and FOX and copy them. Those networks do a wonderful job. I thought NBC was pretty bad last year and the year before and didn't really care for Benny Parsons as a commentator (God rest his soul) but now I wish they were back. That is something I thought I'd never say.

Good job everyone. I wish the PTB would pay attention to this article and the postings and realize they need to make changes badly.

Anonymous said...

ESPN MADE NASCAR

That's a good one. Funny!

Not even close to being true, but funny!

Thnaks for the laugh.

bevo said...

rich -

The big problem with NASCAR starting their own network is clearance on cable systems. Wouldn't be a problem with DirecTV but it's a whole different world in cable. Look at the problems the NFL Network is having and in a smaller case the NHL. InDemand has problems pushing their content through cable providers.

Rich said...

Bevo, It was just a thought, There's got to be a way to change this broadcast situation.
I'm sure ABC-ESPN reads these message boards and I also know they have received a lot of complaints on their web site. To me it seems that they ignoring what we the viewers are telling them. I haven't seen any improvement except for a few more green flag starts.

Anonymous said...

I understand your frustration folks but have you guys ever tried to watch an NHRA drag race. Try to watch a qualifying show that normally is scheduled to start around 11:00 or so central time and then is delayed by sportscenter or scrable or poker or something equally as interesting, even when the timeslot is 7:00 football normally delays the show at least a half hour or more.

Get over it folks ESPN has been doing this to race fans long before NASCAR came to the ESPN channels. At least NASCAR fans (and I am also a NASCAR fan) get Espn classic sometimes.

Anonymous said...

John's piece was excellent. As a lifelong NASCAR fan, I have been floored by how terrible the broadcasts have been. After having the pleasure of listening to Mike Joy, Larry Mac, DW and Dick Berggren, stomaching Rusty/Doc/Kolber/Daugherty has been nauseating. To those who defend ESPN's performance this year: we have been treated to excellent broadcasts (comparatively, at least) from every other network that has broadcast races. With ESPN's resources and access to competent personnel, race fans should NOT be turning off broadcasts in the middle of the race.

Additionally, as John pointed out, it has become clear that ESPN has repeatedly shuffled it to the back burner. The presence of Erik Kuselias and Kolber/Daugherty/Musberger--individuals who clearly don't have the knowledge to cover the sport competently and who are merely "ESPN personalities"--on the station's NASCAR programming reinforces this further.

To say that I have been disappointed is an understatement. I have posted on here before about the incompetence of Rusty Wallace and Dr. Jerry Punch, as well as the idiocy of the completely clueless Daugherty. ESPN has many, many issues it needs to fix. As a fan of all types of racing, I am shocked at myself when I have been forced, at times, to actually turn off a Busch Series broadcast because I am unable to handle the bells, whistles and overall ignorance of those bringing me the action.

Next week's race at Texas will mark the first time I actually mute the TV while watching a live sporting event. I look forward to listening to the race broadcast on MRN/PRN.

John, I would be interested in hearing the possibility of NASCAR mandating changes in the way ESPN broadcasts next season. I understand there are contractual provisions that must be followed, but is there any indication that NASCAR left itself any leeway in case ESPN botched its chance this badly?

Busch Series Fan! said...

Be careful what you wish for you just might get it is what I am worried about. We know what we have (and lack thereof) with ABC/ESPN but if Nascar got a hold of a cable channel who knows how much they would want to charge for that service! No thank you but everyone has such good points and several great ideas to improve the broadcasts. And I have never seen so many posts since I've read this website and it was during the Busch broadcast either.

William said...

Brian has shown up on Raceday at Miami the last couple of years, I expect that he would this year but maybe not...

MelissaAnne said...

John-
Excellent column, as always. Please, can you tell me where to write/call? I have been to the ESPN site to try to find a contact/comments/letters to ESPN mention, and I cannot. I am willing to call and write and email, as I am sure many folks are- I just am not sure who to send it to.

Desmond said...

There have been rumors that ESPN Classic will be discontinued for quite some time, beginning last spring when production of original programming ended.

Why can't ESPN make it official and indeed make it a third channel. Maybe it can move all the end-of-season Nationwide Series (as it will be called in 2008) there as part of the new program lineup.

Anonymous said...

ESPN MADE NASCAR - That's not true and in fact NASCAR did quite a bit to build ESPN. It's obvious by their treatment of NASCAR race coverage that ESPN no longer needs NASCAR!!! ESPN/ABC puts up with NASCAR to keep another network from getting NASCAR's competitive ratings at critical times of the year. It's obvious by their feeble attempts to fit NASCAR into today's ESPN culture that they care nothing for NASCAR; they're all ESPN all the time.

I quit watching ESPN when they quit covering NASCAR and only watch it now because I have no other choice to view the races during their portion of the TV contract. I have no other need for it.

Sports reporters in general are ignorant of auto racing, but most that I've seen give respect to NASCAR reports. I can't imagine ESPN management being quite so cavalier as to allow their sports news reporters to do less, but they certainly seem to be doing just that.

John, your article hit the nail on the head and I am willing to do what's necessary to draw more attention to ESPN's travesty of NASCAR broadcasting this season.

Keep up the excellent work.

Desmond said...

Sorry. I meant all end-of-season Nationwide Series races.

Richard in N.C. said...

JOHN- I expected ESPN to (1) be an improvement over NBC and (2) to give NASCAR the same quality of coverage it gives football, baseball, and basketball. What I have found most distressing is that it appears that neither ESPN or NASCAR care about what is presented to the fans - or at least do not care about what the fans think of what they are given. I can understand juggling coverage, occasional mistakes, and the like- but I cannot understand using inexperienced on-air people (e.g., Erik K), using people in the wrong slot (e.g., Allen B.), or frequent mistakes. The last time I looked, Disney's investor webpage highly trumpeted its coverage of NASCAR- but it does not appear that the troops at ESPN got the message that NASCAR is important. At the same time, NASCAR must bear part of the blame for the sizeable fan discontent with ESPN as it apparently has not done anything to improve matters. I am continually mystified as to why ESPN keeps shooting itself in the foot and NASCAR sems to just stand idly by and watch. The print media is also an accomplice in this sad saga since they seem willing to only criticize NASCAR for fans turning away from TV coverage. Thank you.

Rich said...

Ok, i get everyones point about NASCAR doing their own broadcasting. I do remember however when CBS aired limited and partial NASCAR coverage on the WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS(Hope I'm not aging myself,it was in black and white) We've come a long way in i,proving the coverage over the years and now that NASCAR has grown in popularity the coverage seems to have gotten worse. One way to get their attention would be to comp,ain to their advertisers. Start writting in to AARONS, GM, GILLETTE, COKE, ETC, and tell them you're going to boycott their products until the coverage improves. Then I think you'll see some action. Hit them in the wallet. Rich

Bobby B. said...

Nowadays, ESPN as a whole is a joke. All you have to do is watch an episode of SportsCenter and you'll see that. They used to have classy anchors like Bob Ley, Charley Steiner, and Dan Patrick. They REPORTED the sports, but made it fun. Now you have pompous windbags who have never thrown a ball in their lives speaking in angry tones of voice and criticizing the athletes for jobs the windbags themeselves could only dream of doing. They may have never played sports in their lives, but they sure do know EVERYTHING about EVERY sport. If you don't know that, just listen to them and they will tell you they know everything. I hate this "Mike and Mike" and Jim Rome era of sports broadcasting. ESPN Classic needs to become ESPN3, because it's now a joke as well. They used to show awesome old games and races in their entirety. In addition to being a huge NASCAR fan, I'm also a huge baseball fan. They very rarely show baseball on Classic anymore. They do, however, have time for plenty of boxing matches everyone has seen, poker, and Cheap Seats reruns. And ESPN doesn't care. They need a complete overhaul of their NASCAR team. It just makes me sick to see how a network can decline so much in such a short amount of time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all the comments and want to add a few. I always have the TV on mute and listen to either my driver on Track Pass or to the announcers on MRN Radio. They are the absolute best; Joe Moore, Adam Alexander and Barney Hull. There are also much less commercials and very rarely is a restart or caution ever missed. It would be nice to translate their competence to the TV, but don't hold out much help. I too would certainly take Larry Mac and ole DW over some of the current announcers. And Nascar needs to promote Alan Bestwick!!!!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Hey Folks,

Let's talk about a couple of things to keep this discussion on-track.

A NASCAR TV cable network would compliment and promote the races on the other networks, like the NFL Network does with its games.

The idea of an NASCAR Network was kicked around for years, and I proposed this to George Pyne back when he was running the show at NASCAR. Since he has moved on to IMG in NYC, things have been quiet on this front.

So, let's keep the focus on ESPN and ABC for this posting, and then we will talk about other issues like a NASCAR TV network in the off-season.

Also, the reason I proposed ESPN Classic is because all original programming on that channel had been ceased, and it only re-aired existing shows from the ESPN Library.

Following the incredible collapse of the ESPN Cell Phone project, and the "closing" of the ESPN Original Entertainment group, many of us thought ESPN Classic might fold as well.

To keep it propped-up, and to keep it meaningful, I believe that ESPN should have simul-cast every NASCAR show, race, program, post-race, pre-race, and anything else NASCAR-related on this channel all season long.

If ESPN had gotten fans used to switching to ESPN Classic for post-race interviews, it would have saved face for ABC. The lack of post-race information has doomed the ABC package. They never get to "pay off" the stories they have been building for hours.

This also would have worked for Busch Series races on ESPN2. Maybe some fans might actually have like to hear from David R. after winning the most recent Busch race. If the live post-race show had been on ESPN Classic, they certainly could have.

Now, back to your thoughts on ESPN and this season of NASCAR TV.

Rich said...

JD, You're right about the topic being the race coverage. The question is what can be done about it? We have filled the boards every week with the same complaints. It's now becoming redundant. Any ideas anyone? We are being held captive by the network, because we are fans and will still watch the race even though the coverage is terrible. I never look forward to the winter break between NOV.and FEB.,but this year I'll almost be a relief not to have NASCAR on for a while. Rich

Anonymous said...

What makes me laugh is that ESPN/ABC coverage of NASCAR is so bad that it even has people here saying that Fox was great! That's some achievement, making Fox's NASCAR coverage look good.

And a lot of people here are lamenting the fact that NASCAR absolutely does not care. Well, we should stop watching, like my fiancee tells me when I scream at the TV every week. She's right. Why reward a sport and a network that thinks so little of its customers?

Rich said...

Ok, Let's start a grassroots movement to boycott the last race of the season. Everybody tune out or find an alternate way to view the race. I'll listen on mrn/prn. If the viewer nunbers take a big hit, maybe they'll rethink their position come Daytona in Feb. As they say POWER TO THE PEOPLE. without us, the fans, they have nothing.

SophiaZ123 said...

Well, we keep watching because I have no radio for Busch races though did turn off half the race.

I do listen more on radio especially lately and did not watch the part I taped when listening to the radio yesterday.

Also, aside from swapping recipes from here on out, I don't know what more I have to add to this horrible coverage and LACK OF ATTENTION post race/

People say write the sponsors. If the racing ratings are a fraction of FOOTBALL, would the sponsors still care?

W/o a large ORCHESTRATED campaign to fight the same fight, I think ranting off individually to sponsors may not work and petitions...do they ever do anything? Electronic mail is often not read and even snail mail..would it be taken seriously?

I mentioned weeks ago we are being held hostage by ESPN because it's the only way most folks have to watch the race.

richard from NC is repeating what I and many others have been incredulous about with this statement.

What I have found most distressing is that it appears that neither ESPN or NASCAR care about what is presented to the fans - or at least do not care about what the fans think of what they are given.

I can only be thankful for this site but after awhile, how long can we repeat things are getting worse?

S

Anonymous said...

If I go to work, and I want to do the best job I can, it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Now imagine going into work, and your boss tells you to cut corners, and hurry through your projects. If you are proud to be an employee of that company, and you don't want people bad-mouthing you either behind your back or even in front of you, what kind of sense of self respect would you garner? Imagine Marty Reid's thoughts as to the network going black during the invocation. Imagine "hyping " the Carl Edwards/Matt Kenseth fued, and then after the race, not even follow up with interviews from the two drivers. One would think that eventually these employees would ask questions to their superiors, about how they look bad in front of millions of viewers every week.
I just don't know how much longer this madness can continue. Remember several years ago, when a gentleman e-mailed NBC so much, that it shut down their world wide servers? He is currently serving time, but God what a message he sent about NBC having too many commercials.

Lisa Hogan said...

I am normally a positive and patient person. I decided to treat this season as ESPN’s rookie season in NASCAR. I expected to see practice, qualifying, races, and post-race. I expected to see cars on the track. I expected ESPN to place experienced NASCAR personnel in the logical positions.

When ESPN started the season, with the Busch coverage, I knew that I was in for a long season.
From the first NASCAR broadcast, I was insulted. It was clear that ESPN had no respect for my sport or the fans. The majority of the people they threw on air, to talk to me about my sport, had limited knowledge, could not speak the language, and seemed to have no interest in learning. This has gotten worse as they just threw more inexperienced people on air as the season went forward.

There are a lot of fans who do not have access to ESPN News or Classic. There are also a lot of fans without access to high-speed internet connections. There are also a good many fans without access to cable TV and they have been in a bind for years.

I believe the frustration for fans has built to such a high level because we don’t have the other networks carrying Cup now and cannot end the race weekend on a positive note.

Anonymous said...

Viewer numbers are already taking a big hit:

"ABC's broadcast of Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway earned a 3.5 overnight Nielsen Media Research rating, Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Daily reports.

The rating is 16.7 percent lower than the 4.2 NBC earned overnight for the race in 2006. "
-Scenedaily.com

haus20 said...

I guess my idea regarding the Nascar Network was my response on how to avoid ESPN pushing Nascar to the back burner - take them out of the picture. Nascar would control the dissemenation of its product not another party with other priorities.

The NFL network and the NBA network broadcast games as well as add supplemental programming.

Unless there is an ESPN3, NASCAR will continue to be the ugly red-headed step child of live sports prgramming. (No offense to red heads.) Even then, there is no guarantee that NASCAR will not be preempted. Classic already shows some live football games on Classic on Saturdays...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Daly:
I see that Nielsen is reporting a 3.5 overnight rating of the Atlanta race as opposed to last fall's 4.2 rating. Even though the broadcasting deal was unveiled in December, 2005 when the overall ratings were up, it seems the ratings for the ESPN portion of this year have been consistenly down (as opposed to the up and down ratings for FOX and TNT).
With an extremely-corporate company like Disney running the show, how does that bode for the remaining six years of the NASCAR deal?
Also, aren't the senior VP and the president of the NASCAR broadcasting divisions former executives of ESPN? If they still are, I can't help to think that other NASCAR executives are livid with the subpar effort by ESPN so far, and those two above-mentioned individuals would be attempting 24/7 to improve the situation, rather than taking an attitude of "NASCAR just doesn't care".
Just my musings...
Tom in Dayton.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to David Reutimann! It would have been really nice to have seen your post-race interview, but ESPN2 would rather show people filing into a football stadium.

Brett said...

Here is my idea for ESPN. Even though it will never happen. ESPN has ESPNU, Devoted to college sports. They also have ESPNEWS, devoted to just news. Well with all the different motorsports ESPN has aquired (Cup, Busch, NHRA, Champ Car, IRL, Rally and others) why not make a motorsports ESPN network just devoted to motorsports. ESPN Motor Network. OR jsut ESPN Motor.

Playing Time said...

John, this may not be germane to the column, if so I apologize for making you delete this post.

When I tuned into the first Busch Series race this year, I expected to see a race. What I saw was a broadcast with a race in the background and a group of talking heads concerned only with feeding their own egos and getting their own 'PT'. Oh, by the way, I had thought Brent Musburger was dead. I was wrong. And then it got worse. Bad worse.

Eternal Smarmy Pansies Network is the name. Two decades ago, Keith Olberman-before his circuitous journey to MSNBC-openly derided NASCAR on Sunday evenings after the race. His schtick - mocking and belittling everything and everyone involved in NASCAR with his smarmy comments has inspired a new generation of New England-type sports commentators. All these new generation people at Eternal Smarmy Pansies Network have taken notice of Olberman's climb to 'respectable journalism' (his words, not mine) and feel they can do the same by imitating The Keith. Now Olberman is the lowest rated cable talking head still on the air and has completely and utterly lost his feeble mind, but no one in Bristol CT seems to notice. They only hope their career enjoys the same meteoric rise to "The Big Time" as Olberman's career did. HA! Won't happen.

As far as NASCAR is concerned, I can only conclude that the Eternal Smarmy Pansies Network caught Brian France in a compromising position with a nanny goat the last time he was in Orlando. After, I post this, I will go to NASCAR.com, click on the Contact Us link {mailto:customer.support@nascar.cust-serv.com} and email another rant of this sort about the $4!tty job of "broadcasting" a Cup car race the Eternal Smarmy Pansies Network-and by proxy-NASCAR is doing. I cannot suspend disbelief long enough to watch another "broadcast" from the Disney group of "broadcast networks". I'll wager my home that
Big Bill, Bill Junior and Walt are spinning at the 9200 rpm redline in their graves.

Justin said...

ESPN is in an extremely tough situation. They have been consistent whenever a live sporting event runs over by showing the end of it. The best thing they can do is switch Nascar over to classic if another live sports event goes over. Yea, it sucks that Nascar gets the short end of the stick sometimes, but so do most other sports that follow another live event on Espn. This happened last year on NBC when the Notre Dame football game ran over, and NBC took the air just as the field was getting the green. Tough situation for ESPN, not sure what the solution is.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your article and an opportunity to comment. Just about everything I would say, has been said. I comment mainly to add to the numbers of fans who are disgusted with ESPN. My cable does not give me the 3rd ESPN channel.

Why not just show it on streaming video on the Internet? They are already making a boat-load of money and can even make more with commercials. I watch some network tv programs on the Internet (free). The NYT is now going to have their Internet version free. They discovered (by watching competitors), that you make money by the number of hits, and if you charge, you don't get as many. Now by having it free to the public, they can charge their advertisers a ton of money.

I have watched tennis matches, golf matches on the Internet free. I already pay for cable, Sirius, the Internet, and that's enough.

I don't care for most of the ESPN reporters. Fox does such a good job.

For how long is the ESPN contract? Is it iron-clad? Does NASCAR think there is a problem that needs to be addressed?

GinaV24 said...

John, the thing is who do we complain to? NASCAR doesn't seem to care. Their fan feedback mechanism is a joke and so is ESPN's version. Watching racing on ESPN is like watching paint dry -- when you can find out where the paint is. It is so incredibly obvious that NASCAR isn't important when during green flag racing someone is talking about another sport rather than the one being broadcast. I have complained through the feedback process, but NASCAR is the only one who can actually do anything to fix these problems -- and they already have the MONEY in hand, so why should what the fans are saying matter to them?

Anonymous said...

I think I have discovered from reading many of the posts, that one-size solution does not fit all.

For those who have ESPN 3, they can go there, for those with Internet, you could have videos of the practices and interviews there.

What may actually happen is that NASCAR and ESPN lose so much viewership that they will finally have to address that there is a problem.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the fans that have posted their negative opinions of ESPN's coverage. It sucks! Everyone in the booth and pre-race needs to be replaced. Rusty is absolutely terrible. He should be spending more time getting his Busch Team (son) straightened out. Alan Bestwich or should be running the show. There is no one better him. They need to show post race interviews, I don't care if it goes long. Show the cautions and show the restarts. They always have a caution when it goes to commercial. Maybe it's because there are too many commericals. Don't repeat the same sayings each week. They make you sound like idiots. Don't show the same technical examples every week, we're not stupid. We know what a spring rubber is.

Anonymous said...

from Glenc1

Years ago (98, 99) I wrote a few opinion pieces on the Internet about how the media covers NASCAR. I learned that for every one who loved ‘insert analyst name here’, there was someone else who couldn’t stand them. However, most of the people in question at least had *knowledge*, the issue was more on the delivery. Today, ESPN’s Busch and Cup broadcasts lack cohesiveness and quality, so poor analysis stands out more. They’ve brought in people who lack knowledge and put those *with* the knowledge in the wrong assignments. But people here are trashing the people, not the decisions. I doubt Suzy Kolber *asked* for this assignment; I don’t think we need to insult her; we should be blaming the people who made her do this, her bosses at ESPN. Ditto on Brad Daugherty, who has his moments but is in the wrong place. Brent Musburger never belonged anywhere that I can see, but I think Tim Brewer is okay. His delivery needs work but I’ve actually enjoyed watching his explanations; and I was certainly familiar with him before this assignment. But I believe we’ve become so negative we’re trashing Mike Massaro for one odd question; when he ought to be the least of our concerns. That starts in the booth.

To be honest, I thought Rusty was all right doing the IRL last season. But too many ‘I tell you whats’ and ‘driving his brains outs’ later, I am waving the white flag of surrender. His annoying habits have just become overbearing. I think all Jerry Punch needs is a better director and producer controlling the broadcasts and what’s on screen—they can start by covering the entire race, not the story of the day (although Fox has been guilty of the same thing—I would not hold them up as bastions of perfection). Possibly bring Jerry as the color man with Alan Bestwick as the head analyst and…my pick for Rusty’s replacement, Dale Jarrett. The odd thing is, going back to my opening, a friend told me people on message boards absolutely trashed Alan when he was on NBC. I thought he was fine, and was quite surprised to hear it, and even more surprised to find the overly articulate Bill Weber in his place after his hockey accident. Dale Jarrett has actually proven he deserves a shot.

As for the ESPN360/Classic/deuce discussion…ESPN’s job is to cover as many live events as humanly possible. I don’t think they can schedule based on expecting a double overtime or several long tennis tiebreakers. However, when disruption becomes more of the norm than an exception, if they’ve over-extended themselves which someone suggested, they need to be flexible about allowing SPEED to cover the events they can’t. And perhaps making Classic the ‘go to’ network would have been a good idea. But people need to get real; where I live, SPEED is only available on the digital tier too, so you shouldn’t be surprised to have to pay extra for more detailed coverage. That’s true of college football, golf and the NFL as well. And I wouldn’t make too much of empty seats, particularly at Busch races. Non-companion races have never filled the stands (I’ve been there). Atlanta flipped its configuration and has too many seats, even for Cup. That happens to NFL teams too (smaller cities who’ve overbuilt know the blackout rule very well.) I don’t think TV coverage has much to do with that; it was bound to level off, and cost has more to do with it than anything (and a poor economy in some areas.) Now *ratings* are what we ought to be talking here, and I do think they ought to be concerned about that—some of the numbers are significant.

I don’t like it, but I don’t believe ESPN is doing any more than reflecting the culture with the music and ‘hype’. The ad market wants those young, hip viewers because they spend money. Again, the least of my worries. When the drivers list guys like Eminem as their favorites, you can’t expect the networks to ignore that ‘young male’ demographic. Advertising pays the bills. But I would think those execs would be concerned about the poor coverage too.

To be honest, race fans do seem overly obsessed with practice. I’ll admit watching when it’s on, but I agree with the person who said such things should be on a dedicated network. But again, if ESPN made the commitment, they ought to follow through or pass it to Speed. Finally, the absence of any concern from the NASCAR executives is the most troubling thing of all.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 4:28PM,

The reason ESPN simply cannot go to the Internet is that NASCAR.com has the rights to NASCAR racing on line.

The ESPN360 service is a pay service that is available only in a small amount of homes and requires loading ESPN software and viewers.

NASCAR.com is right on the heels of ESPN, and sends me emails regularly about their video coverage. The only problem is, they are Internet guys and they must do what Turner Interactive tells them to do.

Turner has made the NASCAR.com website a nightmare, especially for the video portions. They just changed the live leaderboard and rendered it almost useless.

My suggestion for NASCAR.com is to immediately remove all pop-ups on the entire site, and make the remaining Busch and NEXTEL Cup races free for all to view.

This would give fans an alternative to ESPN and ABC, and promote the NASCAR.com InternetTV alternative to the sport. Why not?

It would be the perfect time for some executive at Turner to stand-up and say, come over here for the races and they are free.

The only way to affect change...is offer a solution. Other than putting a dish on your house for Hot Pass, the only viable solution for the ESPN/ABC problem is for NASCAR.com to open their site to all fans for the rest of the season.

That would get the attention of the advertisers, the sanctioning body, and finally ESPN itself. Let's see if anyone at NASCAR.com has the guts to stand-up and pitch-in.

JD

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

All ESPN needs is an experienced Executive Producer who understands NASCAR, and has worked motorsports on TV before, in charge of the NASCAR coverage and everything changes for the better.

haus20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stricklinfan82 said...

Anonymous said...
Why do you people think the world should revolve around NASCAR? There are other sports out there. It amazes me that we are in the midst of the best college football season in a long itme, yet people think that a live college football game is less important that a PRACTICE for a lesser series. In the words of Allen Iverson "We're talking about... practice." Unlike NASCAR, college football's regular season actually matters.


No one is suggesting that ESPN should pre-empt live college football games for NASCAR practice. We have offered several sensible suggestions, such as airing Happy Hour live on ESPN Classic where there is no college football or letting Speed Channel air it live if ESPN has better things to televise (like TNT and NBC did). When NASCAR airs on Fox we get to see every practice LIVE. When NASCAR airs on TNT we get to see every practice LIVE. When NASCAR aired on NBC we got to see practices live. When ESPN airs NASCAR, we get to see one practice session, and that practice session is usually on a tape-delayed basis. And you expect fans to be okay with the treatment ESPN is giving us when it's far worse than what we dealt with when Fox, TNT, and NBC covered our sport?


Speed has removed quality racing (if some of you watch the Aussie V8s, you'd ditch NASCAR in a heartbeat) from their lineup in order to make the entire weekend focused around NASCAR, yet people here still complain.

What complaints are you talking about? We never complain about Speed's fantastic practice and qualifying coverage and NASCAR themed shows like Trackside.

The only time we complain is when ESPN locks Speed Channel out of covering any practice sessions during the "ESPN portion of the schedule". We get practice coverage for 5 months pre-ESPN and when ESPN comes in town we get no TV coverage through the end of the year... and you don't expect anyone to complain???????

ESPN MADE NASCAR, you wouldn't complain about not seeing four practices a day if it wasn't for ESPN.

ESPN did not make NASCAR. CBS was the first network to cover a race live and flag-to-flag so if we have to thank anyone for being able to see races in their current format it should be CBS. Also, ESPN NEVER covered 4 practices in 1 day. They have always aired only qualifying and happy hour since 1995, that has never changed. We have SPEED CHANNEL to thank for the advent of television coverage of Friday and Saturday morning practice sessions, not ESPN.

Don't get me wrong, ESPN has gone down the tubes the last few years, but they are not the ones at fault here.

October 29, 2007 1:03 PM


Explain to me how ESPN is faultless here. THEY chose to shove Erik Kuselius, Brent Musburger, and Suzy Kolber down our throats. THEY are the network responsible for denying NASCAR fans coverage of Friday and Saturday morning practice sessions. THEY are the network that is missing qualifying runs to show talking heads in their Pit Studio yapping on the entire screen. THEY are the network producing the worst broadcasts this year.

If NASCAR is treated as the number 1 priority on TV Networks A, B, C, D, and E and treated less important than other sports like Little League Baseball on Network F, which station do you think fans are going to support? I want my races on a network like A-E, not a network like network F (ESPN). Does this make sense to you now Mr. anonymous. Fans don't want their sport on a network that treat our sport as the #16 priority! When ESPN screws over our fans in the numerous ways I have explained above, that is going to make us cry for a new TV network to take over. It's not rocket science.

haus20 said...

AMEN Stricklin fan!

Brian W said...

I prefer my racing coverage the way the indy 500 was done in the 70's and early 80's.
Simple graphics -- the computer graphics have gotten out of hand the way fonts in docuements got out of hand when TrueType came to Windows. Don't distract with technology, use it to compliment.

Excitement coming through from the announcers -- Can anyone beat Chris Economaki in the old days for real excitement-- he was happy to be there and you could tell.

Ability to communicate real knowledge of the sport -- knowing something and being able to communicate that knowledge are two vey different things. I am sure Rusty knows huge amounts from his experience, he just cannot get it across. Often we hear the announcers repeating what someone else has just said verbatim.

Balance -- There are so many points to balance it is difficult to know where to start. It is not necessary to explain every rule or nuance every race, let alone multiple times during the race. The announcers are clearly bored because they have to repeat essentially the same script each race. Watch a baseball or football game and they balance information on the game and play at hand, the history of the sport, the rules, the needs of new viewers and the needs of experienced viwers. You will not learn everything from watching one telecast, or even one season. I would argue that you should not learn everything --if older viewers are still learning they will be more interested. Otherwise they will just check the sports section tomorrow.

I've gone on long enough.
this has become one of my favourite sites, John. Thank you. Your articles are always worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Question: Assume you are a fan of football. How would you feel if they broke away during overtime or the last minutes of the game to bring you the prerace show, the driver intriductions, the field rundown, the parade laps, and finally the start of the race?

Thanks,

Jim

Richard in N.C. said...

JOHN- I am certain that ESPN's highest rights fee is for NFL, but where does the NASCAR rights fee come among NBA, major league baseball, NCAA football, and NCAA basketball? Thank you.

Also, is it unreasonable to expect that ESPN would have done multiple "what-if" simulations to figure out what air time would be available for Busch and Cup races before making its bid for NASCAR?

Richard in N.C. said...

JOHN, Let me make 1 more point. IF I understand the relationship between ESPN and the cable cos., this is also a consumer issue. My understanding is that the cable companies pay a rights fee to ESPN to carry it and its sister channels, which rights fee is among the highest in the industry. The rights fee paid to ESPN to carry it is then part of the basis for cable rates and ever-increasing cable rates. Presumably the high rights fee paid to NASCAR by ESPN was, or will become, a part of the basis for higher ESPN carry fees and, thus, higher cable rates for consumers. Thus, in my view, I am getting charged by my cable carrier for something I am not receiving - that is, NASCAR coverage of adequate quality.

Anonymous said...

No one is suggesting that ESPN should pre-empt live college football games for NASCAR practice. We have offered several sensible suggestions, such as airing Happy Hour live on ESPN Classic where there is no college football or letting Speed Channel air it live if ESPN has better things to televise (like TNT and NBC did). When NASCAR airs on Fox we get to see every practice LIVE. When NASCAR airs on TNT we get to see every practice LIVE. When NASCAR aired on NBC we got to see practices live. When ESPN airs NASCAR, we get to see one practice session, and that practice session is usually on a tape-delayed basis. And you expect fans to be okay with the treatment ESPN is giving us when it's far worse than what we dealt with when Fox, TNT, and NBC covered our sport?

Well, I don't see see very many people complaining that ESPN doesn't show batting practice before baseball games. I suppose they could go on ESPN Classic, since that network has become a waste of a sattelite feed. Most would rather see an actual game than a rather meaningless pratice (let's face it, there is little on track action, it's mostly "How's the car look for Sunday?"). TNT could put in a practice because they had no other events, just a bunch of Law & Order reruns.


What complaints are you talking about? We never complain about Speed's fantastic practice and qualifying coverage and NASCAR themed shows like Trackside.

The only time we complain is when ESPN locks Speed Channel out of covering any practice sessions during the "ESPN portion of the schedule". We get practice coverage for 5 months pre-ESPN and when ESPN comes in town we get no TV coverage through the end of the year... and you don't expect anyone to complain???????


NASCAR has hours upon hours of programming per week. There is no RPM2Nite, instead it's NASCAR Now. There is no DTM, V8, WoO, or World Rally coverage, instead it's a pre-pre-race show with ultrahyper fans holding up "Free the 8" signs.

As for ESPN, they help build NASCAR, fact. CBS only showed NASCAR sporatically, and the other networks only showed clips. ESPN was the first network to consistantly broadcast NASCAR. While CBS simply broadcasted NASCAR under a generic banner, ESPN helped to promote NASCAR, a give it an identity. I spent me childhood watch Bob, Benny, and Ned call the action. I used to love it.

ESPN in general has gone down the tubes. If it ain't Boston or New York, it doesn't matter.

Matt said...

Most everyone here has made some great points, so I will just make three points:

1) I've said this before but it bears repeating. ESPN execs should check a calender. This is the year 2007, not 1987. This is no longer a regional sport, trying to cultivate a fan base. This is a series that has national exposure, ratings that rival the "big 3" sports, and has just come off a 6 year TV deal that "grew" the sport and provided the fans with more on TV than we could have ever imagined we'd get. All the fans were expecting was the same coverage we had been getting the last 6 years-not to take a time travel trip back to the 80s, where leader-focused coverage, dim-witted reporting/announcing, and no-post race interviews were the norm on some networks.

2)ESPN's NASCAR coverage is not the time to promote "ESPN." Trust me, we aren't going to watch the NFL if Suzy does NASCAR or NCAA Football if Brent hosts the race or listen to ESPN Radio if Erik K is hosting NASCAR Now. So PLEASE, make NASCAR coverage about NASCAR. That means NASCAR "insiders" reporting, hosting, and commentating on NASCAR.

3) ESPN signed a contract to be the exclusive home of the Busch series. It was supposed to help "grow" the series. If that's true than why is all Busch Series practice and qualifying for the last 3 races on SPEED? How exactly is that better for the Busch series? Isn't that what has been going on for the last 6 years before the new contract? You signed a contract ESPN, try to live up to it.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree...it's gotten so bad that several times yesterday while Susie Sideline and Brad Basketball were "recapping the race"...the race was restarting...I've taken to watching and listening to the race on Trackpass. I can choose who I listen to, PRN, or the Nascar officials.

anyway...ESPN has really lost it....

stricklinfan82 said...


Well, I don't see see very many people complaining that ESPN doesn't show batting practice before baseball games. I suppose they could go on ESPN Classic, since that network has become a waste of a sattelite feed. Most would rather see an actual game than a rather meaningless pratice (let's face it, there is little on track action, it's mostly "How's the car look for Sunday?"). TNT could put in a practice because they had no other events, just a bunch of Law & Order reruns.

NASCAR has hours upon hours of programming per week. There is no RPM2Nite, instead it's NASCAR Now. There is no DTM, V8, WoO, or World Rally coverage, instead it's a pre-pre-race show with ultrahyper fans holding up "Free the 8" signs.

As for ESPN, they help build NASCAR, fact. CBS only showed NASCAR sporatically, and the other networks only showed clips. ESPN was the first network to consistantly broadcast NASCAR. While CBS simply broadcasted NASCAR under a generic banner, ESPN helped to promote NASCAR, a give it an identity. I spent me childhood watch Bob, Benny, and Ned call the action. I used to love it.

ESPN in general has gone down the tubes. If it ain't Boston or New York, it doesn't matter.


Plain and simple, we NASCAR fans have grown accustomed to having things like practice, qualifying, and post-race interviews for years and years. When every TV network we've dealt with has given us coverage of all of these things and then the new guy on the block (ESPN) starts taking them away, you're going to anger NASCAR fans, plain and simple. Practice and qualifying may be boring to you but for fans of the sport we can't get enough of it. We enjoy watching these events, as hard as it can be for you to imagine. I don't care if ESPN doesn't want to air every practice session, but when they downright refuse to let ANYBODY cover practice sessions of "their races" in their absence, that's where I have a major problem. Senselessly screwing over NASCAR fans for the simple reason of keeping us from watching practice on a competing network like Speed Channel instead of watching their poker reruns on ESPN2. Did a single person complain when TNT never covered qualifying or Happy Hour during their races this year? NO! BECAUSE WE COULD STILL WATCH THEM ON TV!!!!!!!! TNT let Speed Channel cover practice and qualifying of "their races", whereas ESPN essentially "blacks out" TV coverage of these events on any channel because they own the rights and don't feel like using them.

If things like batting practice had been commonly televised by networks for years and years, by every TV network that covered the sport, don't you think baseball fans would be ticked off if the new network that took over covering the sport took all that stuff away? How about if that new baseball network added innovations like showing highlight packages of baseball games from the past, DURING AT-BATS, missing live action? How about if they skipped complete half-innings to add in extra commercials in-between TV time outs? What if they cut to a studio host during play and you had to listen to him ramble on and on about the "mystique of the game" while hearing cheers in the background, wondering what in the world you're missing in the background of the actual event they are supposed to be there covering?

Maybe now you can relate to the frustrations of NASCAR fans, because this is basically what ESPN is doing to us. They are eliminating the coverage of things like practice sessions that NASCAR fans have been hooked on watching for years, and they are ignoring the actual events themselves and forcing us to watch useless garbage like "draft tracks", Google Earth shots of football stadiums, videos of David Reutimann delivering pizzas and videos of Bobby Labonte winning races in 2003 DURING THE ACTUAL EVENTS!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Guys I am still laughing big time at the assertion that ESPN made NASCAR.

It has already been pointed out but its worth repeating. NASCAR made ESPN - lets say it again. NASCAR mad ESPN. ESPN had no programming at the time so it filled the void with whatever NASCAR had to offer.

from wikipedia
ESPN began showing NASCAR races in 1981, with the first event being at North Carolina Speedway. The last of its 265 telecasts (that number includes some on ABC Sports) was the 2000 Atlanta fall race (now the Pep Boys Auto 500)\

Remember that ESPN was launched on September 7, 1979 so they started televising NASCAR some 18 months after their inception. But remember that ESPN made NASCAR.

I looked it up so you wouldn't have to

Anonymous said...

To continue with Stricklandfan's comments what would happen if an NFL telecast came back from commercial and the game was going to begin- a snap was going to happen but instead of covering it the network went to a game recap or interview? You don't think that the NFL would be mad as hell? Or perhaps if a network (any - it doesn't matter because it doesn't happen) missed a play in football or baseball. There actually was a time when local baseball telecasts came back from 90 second commercial break and missed the first pitch but that has apparently stopped.

NASCAR on ABC means so little to the disney network and I give you this example. In New York City really no network owned and operated likes NASCAR but Fox 5 at least goes with it a bit. During local breaks there was "NASCAR sponsored locally by" but on WABC channel 7 in NYC, the #1 ABC/Disney station in all of the world what did they say? I am not making this up. They said "AUTO RACING, sponsored locally on ABC7 by" - I now know how little they regard NASCAR and its disgusting.

Illpolo said...

One interesting note about the whole "What is Nascar doing about the poor coverage" question...

Back in 2006, soccer fans had to deal with the same issues that Nascar fans deal with now. When ESPN broadcast the World Cup, they decided to go with the flashy, ESPN-style of coverage for a sport that has no breaks (since the clock runs for 45 minutes straight for each half). ESPN dumbed down the broadcast and made a lot of mistakes, mainly because the main announcer they used had never called a soccer game in his life. They tried to do as many cutaways, use as many graphics, and overhype certain stories DURING the action instead of just calling the game itself. This annoyed loyal fans to the point that many were switching to the Spanish-speaking coverage of Univision.

I mention this because MLS's Soccer United Marketing division paid for the coverage (as opposed to ESPN paying for it) because no major network wanted to pay to cover the World Cup. Even though they paid, ESPN would not listen to their complaints about how they were ruining the coverage of games...ESPN took the approach that since they are the World Wide Leader, that they didn't have to bother with the complaints of soccer executives and soccer fans...they would do whatever they wanted and cover the games as they saw fit.

We don't know whether or not Nascar has been in contact about the race coverage to this point, but ESPN's attitude in covering the World Cup soccer tournament leads me to believe that they might not listen to Nascar anyways.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't see see very many people complaining that ESPN doesn't show batting practice before baseball games.

Exactly. Which is why there's no point in showing them.

However, there are many NASCAR fans--on this board and elsewhere--complaining that they don't get to see practices during ESPN's part of the season, which is why they should be aired.

Newracefan said...

After reading all the posts I can say I AGREE with most of them. What do I want out of ESPN/ABC...

RESPECT!!!!!

Respect for me and the sport. I actually can not believe the sponsers are not more vocal about the lack of coverage, millions spent on a car that finishes in the top 3 and no post race interview with the driver and one mention during the entire race. NOW THAT'S MONEY WELL SPENT.

I have concerns about using ESN classic, it is not even offered at all on Comcast (even Digital upper tier) in my area and from what I am reading that is not unusual.

Using Brent/ Suzie/ Eric etc. is actually insulting to me it implies there was not anyone "good" enough that was knowledgable of Nascar, we know that's not true; see Alan Beswick. As much as I dislike Jerry and Rusty in the booth it is their first year together and I think fans would be less verbal in their attacks if our issues were acknowledged and changes were noted in the next broadcast.
The same videos are show on Nascar Now (sometimes more then once) and qualifying and the race (during a green flag run), this is 2 times too many.
I can not think of anything specific about the race broadcast that has not been mentioned and very well by other posters.
Perhaps ESPN is comparing practice to "batting practice" as one poster stated I can only say IT IS NOT THE SAME. There is a big difference between breaking a bat and going to another and pulling out the back up car because it got crashed. The biggest reason I want to see the first practice (and I mean the cars on the track and their drivers not as a back drop for a chat) is that for at least 6 cars that is the only time I will be able to because they are going home.
ESPN also does not seem to understand that there is enough DRAMA in the sport it does not need to be created. If the stories were followed appropriatly (prime example water in the gas at Atlanta, you can't tell me Bob Dillner was they only person who knew, Blaney's car was off the track early and then back, didn't tell us that either, so if someone had followed up his issues they would have known. DRAMA: who, how, was anyone else affected- yes Denny Hamlin which crashed out the best car on the track. I could prob go on forever but I stop now

w17scott said...

Mr. Editor -
As a NASCAR fan of 50+ years, I can only say the current 'ESPN season' of racing coverage should be an embarrassment to all of the 'suits' in Bristol. And "Yes, ESPN did help 'make' NASCAR", as did Wide World of Sports, MRN and many early broadcast venues. The teaching of NASCAR was effective years ago, but today it is the educated fan that must seek out broadcasts wherever and whenever they appear - if they indeed appear at all.

Vince said...

I don't have an hour to read everybody's comments before me (but I will later), so forgive me if I repeat what others have already said.

What I expected from ESPN this season as far as the Nascar Cup coverage vs what we've gotten:

I expected what ESPN gave us back in the day when it was Bob, Ned and Benny calling the races. No fluff, we are for the most part hard core Nascar fans, else we wouldn't be watching. No fancy graphics or CGI cluttering my tv screen. A vast majority of us still have 27" tv's or less. We can't see the racing action if you're going to put graphics over a third of the screen.

I expect the announcers to treat us as intelligent informed Nascar fans. This is not Nascar for Dummies. Quit explaining everything over and over to us. You don't explain what a punt is to the viewers on MNF do you? The new fans viewing can learn it by viewing, just like we did. This isn't rocket science. They'll pick it up. You don't explain every little thing in football or one of the other stick and ball sports you cover.

We don't want or need "hosts". Again, you don't use them on MNF, why do we have to have them. Not to knock your "hosts", I won't name them, but they don't have a clue what they are talking about anyway and it shows.

Tell your announcers they don't need to be talking constantly just to fill the air. Not saying anything occasionally is acceptable.

Tell the announcers to WATCH the race. NOT the monitors! They have missed so much that I'm assuming that they are not watching the action on the track.

The pit reporting from you has been abysmal. If there is a crash or someone drops out or goes behind the wall, we want to know about it. Every week I'm seeing drivers that are laps down and I have no clue why, because nobody has followed up on what is going on in the pits or in the garage. And after a caution have someone reset the field. If someone lost or gained a bunch of positions during the caution, tell us why.

On a personal note, I think your chemistry in the booth is bad. The guys are just talking constantly and not listening to what the other guys in the booth are saying. Poor interaction between the three of them.

I know the Chase is important, but there are 43 drivers out there and they all have thousands of fans. Do a complete field run down once and a while if you can. At least top 20 or 25. If Joe Blow who is 20 laps down, falls out of the race. We want to know it and why. Way too much focus from you on just the Chase guys and Jr.

And finally, I know this is racing and it's going to run long occasionally. But if you really want to piss us off, don't do any post race interviews. We've watched 3+ hours of racing and we want to hear from at least the top 5 finishing drivers, if not the top 10. Even if you have to throw it to one of your other channels. A side note on that, not all of us have ESPN Classic. I know JD is pushing for pre-race and post race shows to be pushed to Classic if need be, but not all of us get it. I personally only have ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN News.

Thanks for listening to us and hopefully from our comments you will be able to make your coverage better for all of us next year. I, like many others think you can be better than Fox. Show us why you call yourselves "Worldwide Leader In Sports Broadcasting."

Vince

Brett said...

If ESPN had the room to add in practice and qualifying sessions they would. But it is pretty apparent they do not. I believe this rests on the shoulders of NASCAR.

It would have been more sensible for ESPN to carry NASCAR at the begining of the year, and FOX take over at the end of the year. Now the only problem with that is FOX has football in the second half of the year.

Im sure it is something NASCAR looked at. But since FOX wont give up the precious NFL ESPN took over the second half of the year.

The only possible and sensible solution is that ESPN give all the practice and qualifying rights to SPEED Channel for next year and then ESPN/ABC just show the race. ESPN/SPEED should mend fences like TNT/NBC/SPEED did.

Vince said...
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Anonymous said...

If ESPN had the room to add in practice and qualifying sessions they would. But it is pretty apparent they do not.

Then why did they buy the rights to something they don't have room to program?

And why don't they simply release it to SPEED?

Anonymous said...

Tell the announcers to WATCH the race. NOT the monitors! They have missed so much that I'm assuming that they are not watching the action on the track.

Absolutely. Contrast this with Fox, where the guys in the booth look out the window and often beat the cameras in spotting trouble on the track.

SophiaZ123 said...

Re A NASCAR NETWORK.

We could really be screwed as new cable stations are not always picked up for years!! TW still does not have NFL network or the Big TEN and my Ohio State football fans are going ballistic over not seeing the game this weekend. :(

Agree, many have LOST ESPN CLassic or do not get it at all...we are fortunate to have digital on two tvs with SPEED and CLassic. But if not the gift of a friend, I would not have ACCESS to digital and be in the dark tho I know some elong to NASCAR.com or Sirius.

But basic tv should cover the bases for us better.

I think the posts are starting to be arguments of NASCAR LOVERS (who enjoy practice and quals, of which I am one!!) and those who seem annoyed with the sport and us and I am kind of puzzled why there are here. JD Clearly states what this site is about and I get the link from Jayski

Jayski is a NASCAR site for those that don't know

:-)

I just wish we could be hopeful things WILL improve.

And unless JD or somebody tells us otherwise, I do not see that happening.

Brett said...

And why don't they simply release it to SPEED?

My guess is that SPEED is their biggest compeitior. Basically, if ESPN doesn't have the coverage they don't want SPEED to have it either. Its all about ratings and money these days.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Brian is trying to drive NASCAR racing to PPV. Diehard fans will go to exteme measures to see the races and if the network is bad enough, they will pay to see a better race.

Way back in the old days, I watched the network feed on a 10' dish and you got the entire race without commercials and could hear the announcers plans and opinions during commercials.

Anonymous said...

Brett said...
And why don't they simply release it to SPEED?

My guess is that SPEED is their biggest compeitior. Basically, if ESPN doesn't have the coverage they don't want SPEED to have it either. Its all about ratings and money these days.

October 29, 2007 8:28 PM


JD has said this before. the contract is more complicated than the and ESPN cannot simply say "here you go SPEED". Everything that has happened with practice has been planned well in advance.

SophiaZ123 said...

If NASCAR goes PPV, most of us will not be able to afford it.

Sorry not a good answer. If you don't have money for critical things...we are not going to have 40. a week for a race

Anonymous said...

the contract is more complicated than the and ESPN cannot simply say "here you go SPEED". Everything that has happened with practice has been planned well in advance.

Right. Which means ESPN bought the whole package KNOWING they would not air it all and KNOWING they weren't going to let SPEED have the events they didn't want to run.

That's another strike against ESPN.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Would it be practical for ESPN to allow SPEED to carry practice and most Cup qualifying sessions in return for SPEED carrying a specified number of commercials for the race to be carried on ESPN or ABC and/or agreeing to a specified number of "mentions" during practice or qualifying of where the upcoming race was to be broadcast?

Anonymous said...

I, for one, expected much more from ESPN. I expected COMPLETE coverage of my sport of choice - NASCAR. From Pre-Race to Post-Race ... I want behind the scene news and story lines. Hey ESPN! not everything in Nascar happens on the track! I hate having to scour the internet to find out if a driver, any driver, is ok after a crash and what happened to cause the incident ... the complete finishing order after spending hours watching your network and sitting through the commercials ... a reset of the field after a caution ... who gets the "free pass", "lucky dog" or what ever you choose to call it ... a driver gained 10 spots, well what was the pit strategy? ... and countless other things.

Nascar's Championship is unlike any other sport. The 12 Chase drivers are not on the track alone! ESPN needs to figure this out and incorporate the other 31 drivers and the other storylines into their coverage. Now, I know that Nascar really pushes this Chase thing but alot of long time fans really don't like it. Please ESPN, loosing these fans doesn't seem to make any difference to Nascar ... don't make the same mistake! There is the Top 35 for guaranteed starts in the remaining races and the 1st 5 of 2008, the Top 25 for end of the year bonus money and a share of the penalty fees collected this year and how about 11th & 12th place? they don't even get to share the stage at the banquet (I will admit that I think this one is very strange but that was Nascars decision).

If you can't find time in your schedule to broadcast practice and qualifying, please move it to one of your other channels or make a deal (if possible) with another network to broadcast the ones that you can't. And please, find a way to let us know when you are switching channels or that there might be a chance and where the coverage can been seen if it happens! (Heck, Nascar Now isn't even shown at the same time on a consistant bases) I believe one of the complaints for the Craftsman's Truck Series when they 1st started and Cup/Busch races when each track had their own deal with TV was that fans couldn't find them ... so to improve ratings and $$$, the powers that be at Nascar decided on the National TV contracts.

Maybe I'm just spoiled by the coverage I have enjoyed from Fox, Speed and others. But I want my "sport of choice" to be covered just like you do the other sports you televise. Heck, you cover sports that you don't televise better than Nascar!

Even when I'm at home, I stand and bow my head during the invocation and I put my hand over my heart during the National Anthem. ESPN disrespected Nascar tradition and my tradition on Saturday, please don't do that again.

It's starting to feel like ESPN is being passive aggressive, getting back at Nascar for loosing the contract and credentials by tanking the ratings. I'm sure this can't possible be true, but it sure is starting to feel that way!

Sorry if my thoughts seem jumbled up or if I'm rambling. Sometimes, I can't make what's in my head come out of my mouth (or in this instance, my fingers).

haus20 said...

Based on the comments regarding different cable packages and channels that people do or do not have, the simple answer is for ESPN to simply get better. Any other solution would impact fans and cause some to not be able to see certain programming.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

any new channel like "SPEED 2" or "NASCAR TV", would take a few months to a year(or more) for my cable company to get. therefore, a new channel may not be the best idea. Even with ESPN classic, I can only get that channel with one TV. And a pay-per-view option? I think that would be out of the budget for many.

Anonymous said...

In an effort to get ESPN's attention, I copied your website address. Then went to the "contact us" page on ESPN's site and pasted your web address in the comments section (along with the suggestion that this article might help them with their falling ratings - down 16% on Sunday!). Wish I could have sent them ALL the comments from your article, but they far exceed the 500 characters that ESPN allows.

Which reminds me, when a site only allows comments with 500 characters, they don't really want your opinion, do they?!

Keep up the heat please - we love it!!!

Anonymous said...

someone said
It would have been more sensible for ESPN to carry NASCAR at the begining of the year, and FOX take over at the end of the year. Now the only problem with that is FOX has football in the second half of the year.

Why would this make more sense? Fox paid for the first part of the season because that is what they wanted. Fox would be in the same situation and actually cannot broadcast NASCAR because of football and baseball - actually a real sports network unlike the AlphaBraveCharlie network.

Problem was and is that Brian France wanted last ten races on network television. How'd that work out for you Brian?

What else. Oh yeah interesting that SPEED had Busch qualifying at Memphis. Does ESPN figure if they can't carry it no one cares? There they go again disrespecting the NASCAR fan.

No way will ESPN hand off to Speed. They don't even acknowledge each others existance. AT least TNT acknowledges SPEED and at the end actually hyped shows like Chase is on.

Anonymous said...

In regard to ESPN bashing.

Oh how people forget. In 2001 TNT/NBC were taken to task for their production value and missed restarts. Also in that year people were comparing the two new NASCAR tv outlets to ESPN. TNT had input from Neil Goldberg from NASCAR on Fox on production and NBC/TNT coverage got considerably better and fewer missed restarts.

Interesting part was that the 2001 NASCAR on FOX was most of the same people from the previous NASCAR on CBS and TNN coverage so they have had experience

Erik said...

Why should ESPN give away programming it owns to a competitor? Like it or not, ESPN bought the rights to the Cup and Busch qualifying and practices. That programming has a certain value. If SPEED wants it, they would need to pay for it. Those other networks that aren't sports only networks may feel they can give it away without problems, but ESPN shouldn't expected to do it.

Also, why would ESPN do any favors to SPEED who so boldly has a pre-race show that directly competes with ABC/ESPN's pre-race show, robbing the network of additional viewers and ad dollars? For that SPEED doesn't deserve any free gifts.

ESPN has paid $1 billion just to the rights for the Big 10 games. There are other contracts with other conferences as well. ESPN's world doesn't revolve around NASCAR. That may have been true for other networks, but ESPN has a heck of alot more things going on.

It should be expected that College Football Saturday's are a busy time. Comments complaining about people not being able to set a DVR or have to change channels are just silly. Live events sometimes don't go over as planned. Things run long. ESPN should not pre-empt other live events just to start a NASCAR pre-race show on time. It doesn't do that for other sports. NASCAR doesn't deserve any special treatment. Its no better or worse than women's tennis.

That is why Classic is there, to handle the overflow. This last week, ESPN also had another live event, the Breeder's cup. That forced a live football game over to Classic. When the game on ESPN2 ran long, it had $1 billion reasons to show the Big 10 football game on schedule on Classic. Sure enough, once when the game was over on ESPN2, it went directly to NASCAR, only spending about a minute for any post-game. This was the exact same treatment it gave the Busch race, where the race was over, Reutimann made it all the way around, and started doing burnouts. That was much more time than was given the football game.

When NASCAR signed with ESPN, they should have expected this would happen. It is no secret ESPN had a bunch of live events, especially in the fall. If they wanted a network that could cater their entire weekend to a NASCAR race, they should have taken a lower bid, and went with someone else. ESPN can not be that network.

Illpolo said...

Erik, we get your point over and over again. We know ESPN has several other sports that they cover and we know that they hold them much higher in the pecking order. No one is (or should be saying) that they give special treatment to Nascar by removing college football games or whatever other sport is being played.

If ESPN doesnt care about shoddy coverage of a sport, that is their own agenda. If they dont care about huge ratings drops, that is their agenda. If they dont care that a large segment of viewers think they do a poor job of covering sports, that is their agenda.

The facts have been laid out for you throughout these comments and many other pages on this site; a Nascar race ends and ESPN goes on to the next sport with no post-race coverage like the recent Busch race and no other ESPN channel follows up, while college football ends and goes right to Nascar BUT there are other ESPN channels that show highlights from the game, comment on what happened in the game, and if possible show interviews from the coaches after the game.

As for Speed channel and their prerace show, I seem to notice ESPN does NFL pregame shows at the same time as FOX and CBS before Sunday games that only those two channels cover. It happens.

GinaV24 said...

Just one last thing, John, you seem to be pushing the idea of ESPN Classic, but as others have said here, it isn't offered by a lot of cable services. I'm here just outside Philadelphia and because my cable company is one of the little ones that Comcast gobbled up and it wasn't part of my original package, it isn't offered to me. I am seriously considering DirecTV for next year since they have the same channel selection and look like they are comparable in price to me. Between the abysmal coverage that began with TNT and then has been followed by ESPN, if I want to continue to watch racing on TV, I'll have to go to something else. I can't watch NASCAR Now, it's too stupid to bear most days, Rusty and Punch are awful, why Suzy and Brad are even there is a mystery to me, so why not switch? I usually use my computer with trackpass and listen to MRN to follow the races, and switch to the TV (on mute) only at the beginning and end of the races. I do like the idea of contacting the sponsors -- that might have some affect because talking to NASCAR and ESPN is like talking to a brick wall and about as effective.

Matt said...

illpolo hit the nail right on the head. It's not that ESPN left the Busch race with no post-race coverage to get to another live event, it was the fact that ESPN did not have the courtesy or respect for NASCAR or it's fans to go to ESPNNews FOR 5 MINS to show us the LIVE winner's interview, a replay of the last lap crash, and the results. That's all we are asking for. It seems like a simple request. ESPNNews has 6 hours of college football highlights scheduled, they could have given NASCAR 5 mins.

Richard in N.C. said...

ESPN's buying the rights to NASCAR and promoting that it would carry, at least, Cup practice and qualifying and then not doing so consistently is ill-conceived and false promotion. ESPN's allowing SPEED to carry practice and qualifying when ESPN cannot and in return receiving commercials and required on-air "mentions" is not giving away something - and ends up promoting the race on ESPN. As I recall, ESPN is paying something in the area of $400 to $500 million per year for NASCAR, which I believe is more than its multi-year deal for Big 10. From a long range perspective, allowing SPEED to carry what ESPN cannot ends up promoting ESPN since only ESPN has the race, for which practice and qualifying is just the build-up.Also, as a racing fan, ESPN's failure to be at least as good and fan-friendly as NBC has caused me to watch less of other ESPN programming. Driving away viewers is not good business.

Erik said...

The Busch Series has sometimes hopped between three ESPN networks in one single race. ESPN, ESPN2, and the good old ESPN Classic. NASCAR fans who are trying to watch the race live can sit and click the channels when told, but this is 2007 and every move from network to network kills all TiVo's, DVR's, and even the old VCR's loyally grinding away so fans can come home and watch "their" sport.

This sounds like a clear request to force other sports around NASCAR's schedule to me. Lets move everything else so a NASCAR fan can get the whole race on his DVR.

stricklinfan82 said...

Erik,

For God's sake we understand that ESPN covers a lot of other sports so they can't make NASCAR a priority.

THAT'S WHY WE DON'T WANT NASCAR ON ESPN!!!!!!!!!!!

It doesn't make sense to constantly defend ESPN by saying "they have a lot of other things to worry about". WE KNOW, THAT. THAT IS THE PROBLEM!!!!

Anonymous said...
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slithybill said...

I was thrilled when I learned that ESPN was going to televise the second half of the Cup series and the whole Busch series for 8 years. I assumed "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" would bring back their high-quality coverage to NASCAR. I had enjoyed their coverage in the 90's and remember being affected during their last race as all the on-air talent said their good-byes. I really looked forward to watching all the Busch races on one network for a change, with the same crew of announcers all season. And then this same team would cover the second half of the Cup series. And a daily NASCAR news show as well. Perfect plan, I thought.

When they announced their on-air talent, I was pleasantly surprised. Dr. Jerry Punch should be great in the booth given his passion for NASCAR and his experience in covering it. Rusty Wallace could become the next great former driver in the booth, following in the tradition of Ned Jarrett, BP, and DW. And with Allen Bestwick in the pits, how could they go wrong?

I had hoped Mr. Bestwick would be in the booth, but at least he was with ESPN now. I assumed he'd move to the booth to cover the Busch races once they got to the Brickyard and televised Cup races.

I had high expectations for NASCAR on ESPN. They won 17 Sports Emmy Awards for their NASCAR coverage in the past. Maybe my expectations were too high.

I thought we'd get the ESPN equivalent of NASCAR RaceDay (or the NASCAR equivalent of College GameDay) for their Cup pre-race show.

I thought we'd get the ESPN equivalent of NASCAR Victory Lane for their Cup post-race show.

I thought we'd get the NASCAR equivalent of SportsCenter for NASCAR Now, their daily news show. I knew they'd have trouble filling 5 shows a week with hard news, so I figured they'd do features on the drivers and other in-depth reports. Since they weren't calling the show NEXTEL Now, I assumed we'd get coverage of all the NASCAR series: Cup, Busch, Trucks, Grand National and occasionally other regional series.

Between ESPN's various channels, and with all their vast resources, I thought we'd get to see every minute of Busch and Cup practice, qualifying, Happy Hour, post-race news conferences, and even some testing coverage.

But all of my thoughts, assumptions, and expectations turned out to be wrong.

My initial sense of trouble came during the first few episodes of NASCAR Now. It was obvious that the host had no idea what he was talking about. He made the show unwatchable, as he condescendingly shouted and hyped unimportant aspects that either didn't matter or made no sense. I assumed ESPN would make a change. This was ESPN's show that, in their own words in a press release, would give us "30 minutes of fast-paced highlights, opinion, debate, analysis and the latest news from drivers, crew chiefs and insiders both on and off the track." It wasn't living up to what ESPN promised. They made a few minor changes, but nothing substantial. After the second week I stopped watching NASCAR Now. I've tuned in from time to time since then, but, depending on the host, not much has really changed.

After ESPN aired the first few Busch races I knew it would take a while for them to smooth out the coverage. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. After all, it took FOX a while for their coverage to gel, and for their on-air talent to work together as a team. It takes any large organization time to coalesce and get over their start-up pains. But I didn't expect their dysfunction to last all season. Because I remembered their earlier, award-winning NASCAR coverage, I had assumed ESPN would hit the tracks running. This frustrated me more than if ESPN had never covered NASCAR in the past.

I definitely didn't expect for ESPN to continue to have all the troubles they've had communicating basic information to the viewers. I expected ESPN to approach NASCAR the same way they approach all the other sports. College Gameday is one of my favorite programs: they treat the teams and the sport seriously, but they certainly don't take everything (or even themselves) too serious. ESPN's coverage of NASCAR has been too serious, but not in a good way. I assumed they would lighten up as the first half of the season went on, but it hasn't happened.

I gave ESPN the benefit of the doubt. I waited for their Cup coverage to start in Indy. It didn't improve. Ironically, their Busch coverage has improved. I would have been more patient with their coverage if they admitted mistakes had been made and they were trying to correct them. But they've never come out and apologized to the fans. They've never admitted when they've made mistakes. They just don't seem to care.

This season of NASCAR on ESPN has really surprised me. I expected more from them. They brought back their award-winning producer to oversee their motorsports coverage. I guess my expectations were just too high.

Thanks to my old VCR and my new DVR, I have watched just about every NASCAR Cup race since the 2001 Daytona 500. Until yesterday. I finally had enough. I intentionally did not watch the race. I did see the green-white-checker finish, but that was it. It probably won't be the only NASCAR race on ABC or ESPN or ESPN2 or even ESPN Classic that I don't watch, either.

I'm holding out for the 2008 season of NASCAR. I'm willing to give everyone involved a second chance. I hope ESPN uses this off-season to catch their collective breaths and retool their NASCAR coverage. ESPN has given us award-winning NASCAR coverage in the past. I'm hoping they will do so again. After all, The Worldwide Leader in Sports' NASCAR coverage can only get better, right?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Folks,

Just a reminder that what we are talking about are the topics raised in the column posted on the main page.

Please feel free to add your comments and even respond to other posters as long as your points continue to be in reference to what we are discussing.

Please do not ask questions in the comments section that change the topic or move the conversation away from the subject matter.

If you would like to address another issue, just email me and we will create another post for you.

There will be an open TV question and answer session live all day on Wednesday from 8AM through 8PM Eastern Time. That will allow anyone to ask anything about the TV topics and we will have several TV folks waiting in the wings to help get your questions answered.

That post will go up Tuesday afternoon and we will allow questions to be asked at that time. Its good to be first in line. Thanks.

JD

Anonymous said...

May I ask why was my post deleted? I don't believe I was out of line, I'm just adding a rebuttal to people who are responding.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the ESPN/ABC coverage has been terrible. I thought that the ESPN of old would be covering races... but not so.

I am (un)lucky enough to get two ABC channels in the LA market, however only of those is shown in HDTV. Many times the HD-ABC channel will completely skip the pre-race show for local news... not pre-empt it... they don't even schedule the pre-race show. I watched the Martinsville race in standard TV because the HD channel kept running the same pictures and stories for the Malibu fires. It wasn't for part of the race either, it was the entire race.

NASCAR wonders why the LA market doesn't welcome NASCAR to the two Fontana races. It's probably because of TV contracts that make it too confusing to try to watch it.

...Don't get me started on Rusty explaining the draft track again or what happens to an engine when a valve spring breaks. That's another story.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a clear request to force other sports around NASCAR's schedule to me.

When was the last time ESPN put a college football pre-game show on one channel, most of the game on another, the end on a different one, and then the post-game show on another channel?

Never?

Then don't do it with NASCAR, either.

That's what we're tying to get across to your bosses at ESPN, Erik.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Please read my posting above about asking questions that change the course of the comments.

Make your stand for the points you want to make and then allow others to comment.

This is not a message board or chat room, so all we ask is that if you have a question, please drop me an email with your issues explained.

There are over one hundred comments, and only two were removed. I think that shows we are doing things right.

JD

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled when I learned that ESPN was going to televise the second half of the Cup series and the whole Busch series for 8 years. I assumed "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" would bring back their high-quality coverage to NASCAR.

So did we all.

That's why what we actually got is such a disappointment.

Despite Erik's protestations, it is clear that viewers are not satisfied with the product we're seeing.

The question is whether, for 2008, ESPN will follow Erik's model ("You're all wrong, just live with it") and do nothing, or do what responsible companies do when consumers are unhappy with their product--fix it.

Cliff Nabors said...

You are all over this thing.ESPN / ABC have had the worst coverage period.Not only have they drove us crazy with the Busch series , The coverage of the Cup races are just as bad.Seems like you watch 3 to 5 minutes of racing and 10 minutes of commericals and it is NOT uncommon for them to go to commerical during pitstops , whats with that? And the break ins with "updates" on other sports is just plain mading.I think Nascar should yank both series and just start us a Nascar Network.
Thanks for listening , Cliff Nabors

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- pardon me, but I do not know how to make my point other than what seems to be in the form of a question - but doesn't ESPN have a channel dedicated to college sports (ESPN-U) that would seem to be the more appropriate vehicle to use to accomodate conflicts between race and college football game overlaps? I have ESPN-U, but I have never watched it and cannot say whether it is on my 2nd or my digital cable tier. In other words, I believe there is another ESPN broadcast path available that has not been addressed. Also, I believe there are many college football games that are of more interest to a particular region than Busch races which have a more national audience - and some college football games carried by ESPN are only carried by ESPN outside their particular "home" region because of conference contracts with other broadcasters in the conference's home region.

Rich said...

I guess evrything has been said that can be said about this topic. I only want to add that ESPN should do the same quality broadcasting for NASCAR as they do for their coverage of all the other sports. I agree with John, Nascar has become secondary to ESPN. Rich

Anonymous said...

JD,

My opinion is that NASCAR forgot they are not selling the rights, they are renting them, and they picked the tenant with the deepest pockets, instead of the kindly person who would make sure the property remained in pristine condition. As a result, the next contracts will not be nearly so but the damage has been done, and the terrible coverage is here to stay.

Mike

Anonymous said...

I've had ESPN U for a couple of months. I'm surprised it's free as it borders the extra-fee sports tier on my cable system.

ESPNU is totally booked with college football games on Saturdays. The games scheduled on there are not the same games on ESPN2 Saturday afternoons so there's no way to move a long college game on ESPN2 to ESPNU without creating a live conflict.

ESPNU has four new games listed for Saturday Nov.3 from noon -1 AM. The only breaks between games are 30 minutes for SportsCenterU.

ESPNU's Sundays right now are scheduled with live college hockey and volleyball, and it looks like live college basketball will be added on the weekends very soon.
Looking at their schedule it seems like they try to stick to college sports only and the weekends from afternoon to evening are mostly live events.

Anonymous said...

Adding to anonymous 2:54 said, I have ESPNU and my guess is one reason ESPN2 will continue to air live college football around the Busch Series is that ESPNU does not broadcast its games in HD like ESPN2. So ESPN2 probably wants to offer that option on some of its games.

The 30 minute Sportscenter U breaks are also built in case the games overrun their 3 hours slots, which probably happens frequently. Unfortunately, there's no fit for Busch Nationwide.

ESPN U is also heavily branded, it has its own tab on ESPN.com just like sports like NASCAR and NFL. so I assume it is a major ESPN initiative.

bowlalpo said...

Back-burner is a correct way to put it, but my guess it's because it's ratings-driven. College football gets higher ratings than the Busch series, which would justify the network giving shorter shrift to Busch. And with a points runaway, I can see where ESPN would farm out the race to a company channel that .01% of us get. Also, almost all of their CFB telecasts have presenting sponsors, and only a handful of Busch races do (be they the race sponsor or the shill-of-the-week that lands in ESPN's lap once a month).

In 2006, it would have made sense to schedule a Busch pre-race 3 hours after a CFB game because of CFB's speed-up-the-clock rules. But the NCAA ditched the speed-up rules at or after the time when ESPN set their 2007 schedules. We're lucky that Iowa and MSU are running teams. Two Pac-10 teams would take 4.5 hours to play a 2OT game. How would ESPN handle that?

But here's where I agree with those here; if you can't afford to put yourself in a bad position with a marquee sport, don't try to. ESPN should not have made this deal if they could not satisfy all parties and all sports.

And on Sundays, ABC will continue to give it short shrift because NY, Chicago, LA (etc.) have never watched NASCAR and still don't.

It looks like the people on this board only watch NASCAR and give other sports very little time. And of all the VCR/TiVo inability-to-switch comments, it looks like we don't even care to be at home when the races are run. So how loyal are we, really?

BTW, I thought the actual race coverage on Sunday at Atlanta was good, except for the 29 cars on the track that were ignored unless they caused a caution.

Anonymous said...

If I understand this correctly Erik says that ESPN should just cut away from a Busch race if it runs long and another sports is scheduled for that time slot - say for example a Busch race started at 4PM eastern and was only allotted until 7PM Eastern. Again Erik's says that ESPN should just CUT-AWAY from NASCAR and really doesn't care about the race cause ESPN has bigger sports to cover and really doesn't care where and even IF NASCAR will be covered after the &PM time in this example.

On one level that is actually against the long standing tradition of covering an event to finish then joining the next event in-progress.
But lets assume the former is the norm then I guess it would be OK for a an event that precedes a nascar event to be left to join NASCAR. You can do it before or you can do it after but it seems that Erik wants NASCAR coverage to join late and leave early. Where is the parity in coverage? DO not get his point.

Anonymous said...

ESPN-U is worse that Classic for coverage and its not one of the designated television networks in the current TV contract which on the ESPN side apparently only includes ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and possibly ESPN Classic (only because they televise replays)- All else are out.

NASCAR already has a 24 hour channel dedicated to Auto Racing - its called SPEED CHANNEL and has better coverage that classic. Why do we once again have to re-invent the wheel?

Ashley said...

JD,

Thank you for posting this "article" it says so much about my dissatisfaction with ESPN's NASCAR coverage. I watch ESPN for other sports, mainly tennis, and their coverage of these other sports is superb. That much was made evident as tennis fans sat through days and days of rain delays in Wimbledon, which were handled without technical difficulties but with grace under fire.

However... they obviously and outrageously treat NASCAR as the 'redheaded stepchild' on their broadcasting palette, treating the fans as ignorant sheep who will take whatever poor quality coverage ESPN chooses to broadcast.

I get the feeling that ESPN believes that NASCAR fans are ignorant. If ESPN did not feel that millions of NASCAR fans, with the highest level of brand loyalty in American sports (therefore making ESPN's advertising efforts pay off five- or ten-fold) were ignorant, then surely they would provide intelligent, informed people in the booth.

Marty Reid is God's gift to auto racing commentary--what a shame he is used in the little-watched IRL, which seems to get more respect on ESPN than NASCAR, even though NASCAR consistently pulls in bigger numbers and higher attendance than IRL events.

He would be a useful tool in the booth to replace the laughable, painful Suzy Kolber (who obviously knows little about NASCAR and has not taken the effort to educate herself), the fish-out-of-water Brad Daugherty who regularaly mispronounces words and makes inane comments, and the hellacious bevy of "bimbo" pit road reporters who make me ashamed to be a communication major. The women ESPN utilizes as pit reporters are laughably out-of-place and inexperienced and belong elsewhere--NOT on pit road, and CERTAINLY not anywhere near a microphone.

ESPN needs to deliver better coverage, and soon, to the NASCAR faithful. They are already losing viewers (a.k.a money) due to their awful coverage, and I don't know how much money ESPN is willing to hemorrhage before it changes something about their coverage or pulls the plug on it all together.

Get Allen Bestwick BACK in the booth, put Krista Voda and Wendy Venturini, two of the best on SPEED, out on pit road, and for the love of GOD, get rid of Mike Massaro.

The man will forever be immortalized by the question: "Junior, do you even remember your last pole?"

Anonymous said...

Disney signed an unbelievably overpriced contract, began promoting even before the negotiations had concluded, gave NASCAR an unprecedented marketing push on every media outlet owned by Disney, saturated the television with NASCAR content, shoved aside every other racing format in the lineup both on air and on the webpage, and yet this wasn't enough??? Moreso they're to blame for NASCAR's growing fan rebellion?

If you're looking for blame place it on the yahoos who shoved the Car of Tommorow down the throats of teams and fans alike who didn't ask for it.

Blame the now habitual practice of throwing the yellow every time a car gets sideways or spins and continues on with no contact as an excuse to insert commercials.

Blame the leadership of NASCAR and their marketing braintrust for gimmicking up the championship with a silly Chase format that (again) the fans and teams didn't want or ask for.

Blame NASCAR for insisting on exclusive categorizing and treatment as 'THE racing series' which turned off and chased away fans of NHRA, Indy, and other motorsports when instead they should have been cultivated.

NASCAR asked for hypercommercial shotgun saturation broadcasting and they got it. Now live with the results. Or die by them, whatever the case may be.