Sunday, November 11, 2007

ESPN vs. SPEED Every Single Day This Week

NASCAR has done an admirable job of keeping their two primary TV partners at arm's length this season. That is until now.

The countdown to Homestead has officially begun, and the pressure is on both ESPN and SPEED to be the "NASCAR TV network of record" for 2007. This coming week will tell the tale, as both networks go head-to-head every single day.

Last Friday, ESPN suddenly issued a press release changing the NASCAR programming on ESPN2 beginning the following Monday. The network had decided to expand the NASCAR Now program to one hour in length from Monday through Thursday. NASCAR Now will air from 6 to 7PM Eastern on those days. Erik Kuselias will host these programs with the exception of Thursday's show which will feature Ryan Burr.

This change "suddenly" came about on Friday along with a much higher profile for NASCAR across the ESPN networks. Rumors were flying about a NASCAR phone call to ESPN that may have awakened them from their college and pro football slumber. There was only one week left in the NASCAR season, and ESPN was doing absolutely nothing in the way of new programming to lead-up to the championship weekend. Then, suddenly, there was a whole lot going on.

SPEED has been surrounding ESPN with weekend NASCAR programming originating from the tracks themselves. SPEED's big problem had been during the week. This vacant landscape is filled with "lifestyle" shows and only the venerable Inside NEXTEL Cup on Mondays fills the gap.

Next week, SPEED will be also be adding one hour shows during the week. INC will air on Monday as normal, with a Krista Voda update from Homestead as the race set-up begins. Then, SPEED will add an hour Championship Show on both Tuesday and Wednesday at 8PM that will review the past three NEXTEL Cup seasons.

On Thursday, SPEED will carry their normal The Chase Is On show with Steve Byrnes and Carl Edwards that will originate from Florida. Following this thirty minute show, the Survival of the Fastest Phoenix episode will debut.

Then, on Friday, things get very interesting. SPEED steps-up and begins live coverage from Homestead at 10AM Eastern Time. They will be on the air for five hours. On the final weekend of the season, SPEED gets the Truck, Cup, and Busch practice sessions live in that order.

Prefaced with a thirty minute version of NASCAR Live, and ended with the Go or Go Home show, SPEED has all the live action from Homestead right up until Cup qualifying. At 3PM, ESPN2 takes to the air with live qualifying that is scheduled to run until 5PM Eastern Time.

Right after ESPN2 leaves the air on Friday, SPEED returns with Truck qualifying. Then, they begin their final Truck Series race with a one hour review of the season. After that, its the Set-Up pre-race show and then some racing. They finish the night with the popular Trackside show live after the race for a full hour.

Saturday continues to generate some fascinating NASCAR TV coverage. ESPN2 has added a one hour version of NASCAR Now at 9AM to preview the final Busch Series race and the entire season. This special show will be hosted by Erik Kuselias from the ESPN HD studios in Bristol, CT.

Due to college football's "Rivalry Week" on the ESPN Networks, SPEED then will carry the morning NEXTEL Cup practice and the Busch Series qualifying live. With a version of NASCAR Live before and after this on-track coverage, SPEED steps into four and a half hours of live coverage on the Saturday of Championship Week.

ESPN2 continues to live dangerously, scheduling the final NEXTEL Cup Happy Hour of the season only three hours after a live college football game. As we all know from this year's NASCAR TV problems, those games run at least three and a half hours in length. Look for Happy Hour to be joined in-progress, just like last week.

The NASCAR Countdown show begins at 4PM, and then the ESPN2 live coverage of the final Busch Series race follows at 4:30PM Eastern Time on Saturday.

Sunday will bring a one hour NASCAR Now at 10AM on ESPN2, and then the final NASCAR Countdown at 3PM will lead directly into the NEXTEL Cup race itself. A special NASCAR Now will then appear on ESPN2 at 10PM to wrap the weekend.

SPEED is actively attacking Sunday with a big line-up of live TV. Dave Despain will host a special edition of WindTunnel at 11:30AM from Homestead. This one hour show will lead into an expanded three hour edition of NASCAR RaceDay, SPEED's franchise pre-race show. Once again, the final hour of this program will directly overlap with ABC's Countdown. The network ends the night with what promises to be a very interesting version of Victory Lane scheduled for 8PM Live.

The issue on the table for the final night of the season is that ABC has the American Music Awards scheduled for three hours beginning at 8PM Eastern Time. The race itself actually gets underway at 3:45PM.

Race fans know that this facility has lights, and that precludes the fact that darkness will end the event. Should a slight weather delay or red flag period cause things to run past 8PM, it certainly will get interesting for ABC.

This is going to be a fascinating week of NASCAR TV, and we are going to ask you to comment on these programs here at The Daly Planet. NASCAR fans have been wonderful all season with their observations about this 2007 television "package." These seven days of history-making coverage should feature TV networks at their best after a long season of experience.

There will be stories added here each day that will allow you to compare ESPN and SPEED as they cover this final NASCAR race week. This should be a lot of fun.

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


Matt said...

The shows haven't even aired yet and I already know who the edge goes to. SPEED wins hands down. Why? Because unlike ESPN, which will have all their preview/news shows from a studio in Bristol, CT, SPEED already has Krista Voda in Homestead. That means that all programming, including the post-race coverage, will be live on scene instead of live via satelite. If ESPN can have an entire studio in town for World Series, Super Bowl and NBA Finals games, why not for NASCAR? Once again, ESPN does just enough to get by, nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Dave Despain's Wind Tunnel from Homestead last year was terrific. A NASCAR Roundtable with a set of different guests every 15-20 minutes or so. I wouldn't have minded an extra half hour.

I'll check out the SPEED championship shows. I hope on Fri, Sat, Sun, that ESPN2 and SPEED cover some fun and/or interesting features (like the St. Judes story before the Busch race the other day). Especially with a three hour Raceday. For instance, Juan Pablo Montoya is participating in a black-tie charity event in Miami this Thursday that benefits Columbian charities. It was selected as an official NASCAR event. I want to see clips of that event and that kind of stuff on TV this weekend.

I would also like to see some NASCAR business stories: Aren't the Yates and Haas cars still sponsorless? Or a story about merchandising and how they take care of all that in the offseason. I saw an interview with Jeff Gordon that says he only has two weeks off after the season before he has to start doing commercials and photo shoots for next year. Why so early?

Or I saw on that DEI, Budweiser, and JR Motorsports contractually agreed to start selling 88 AMP drink merchandise this year because they were afraid a bootleg market would be created if they didn't. I haven't seen that on TV; is that setting a precedent for drivers who change rides? (Must be, official Kasey Bud shirts are on sale now too.)

In summary, I want both networks to use the extra time to the fullest - not just repeat a bunch of stuff we've all heard over and over and talk just to fill airtime.

Anonymous said...

ESPN wins hands down. Why? Because no one gets Speed. Obviously, some people get it, but it's not on basic cable in most systems. Heck, if I want Speed I have to pay for four other channels: Fox Soccer, NFL Net, Fox College, and Tennis. I'm not going to pay for five channels to watch one.

I don't think it matters where the shows originate from. ESPN will have reporters in Miami all week. Just because the guy asking the questions is in Bristol, doesn't hurt the show.

To respond to the fist poster: ESPN does go to a NASCAR race. They went to Daytona, and every show originated from there. Hey, NASCAR chooses to have their "Super Bowl" for week 1. That's their tradition. Unlike the Super Bowl, World Series, and NBA Finals, NASCAR's last Nextel Cup race is generally a formality, as it will be this coming week. No one watching the Super Bowl, World Series, or NBA Finals is going to be sitting on the edge of their seat to see if the guy in 1st in the standings will be able to finish in 18th place. Let's keep in mind that it's also the only sport where the guy who wins on the last day usually doesn't win a championship, thus making the final race results pretty irrelevant.

I know as you all do that ESPN has done a pretty rough job at times this year, but until NASCAR makes it so that winning matters, you can't expect the networks to make a big deal.

Daly Planet Editor said...

SPEED is in 72 million cable homes and is the fastest growing cable network in North America. It was launched in 1994.

ESPN2 is in 90 million cable homes and was the fastest network to that mark from the sign-on. It was launched in 1993.

Anonymous said...

I get SPEED on basic cable.

Lot of TV this week. I'll try to record a lot of it and go back and see what's worth watching.

JD, you mentioned a NASCAR network in the future. This weekend an NHL Network showed up out of nowhere on our sports tier (which we don't subscribe to). I didn't know they had a network.

If the NHL has its own channel, then I can see why some people think NASCAR should get one too. Sounds like all the sports are going to have their own networks.

Anonymous said...

I also get SPEED on basic cable.

I will try to catch both shows. usually ESPN or SPEED will have a late night re-play. since I'm on the west coast, I can catch those.

SophiaZ123 said...

We get SPEED as a variety digital tier with about 14 stations.

STINKS more people do not get brother used to get it on COMCAST basic then he moved..but of course still gets SPEED. NASCAR is the ONLY sports he watches along with other races but mostly NASCAR.

So, it really stinks for folks stuck with ESPN..they have no choice ..but that's whey NASCAR should be angrier...I thought the deal to have things on ESPN or ABC was so MORE could see the racing.

Well, putting beginning of racing on the Internet is not a good idea (not everybody has highspeed) nor changing it to ESPN Classic (Also many folks do NOT get that or it's been moved OFF digital here to the SPORTS tier)

So this none makes sense.

Somebody really needs to change the rules so we can get ala carte cable. I do not need a bunch of shopping, religous, stations...and if we do not have enough infomercials, one station is NOTHING but infomercials 24/7 and one is nothing but repeating graph of weather.

Yet more cable outlets can't put SPEED on basic cable.

I hope ESPN improves their coverage for the sake of the sport but I will not watch espn this week unless they CHANGE THE HOST from Erik.

and Ryan Burr lost me when he tried to ingratiate himself to Bruton Smith (IMMEDIATELY after the buying of NH announcement) to spill his plans by asking him the same dumb question 4 different ways. I turned the station back to SPEED after that embarrassment and never looked back.

Except I did catch Marty Reid for two days but ONLY because I heard about it here.

I would've watched it a 3rd night on the midnight reruns but ESPN2 was busy showing Crocheting sweaters tournaments or some such nonsense.e

drh277 said...

This morning while I was watching NFL countdown they had Boomer do a Nascar plug, I could not believe my eyes. Something has changed at ESPN. Somebody is scared at ESPN, I think it is quite comical.

Speed is available in 72 million cable homes, but some cable companies put it on a pay per view tier. So if you do not pay extra for it, you don't get it. ESPN2 is on every basic cable package.

JD do you work for Speed?

Anonymous said...

I can get more out of 10 minutes of viewing Speed than I can 10 hours of ESPN. As an aside, I cannot believe ESPN's audio at the race track is so poor. You can hear everything BUT the commentators. They might as well not be there!

Anonymous said...

I will probably not watch any of the coverage because I have become so fed up with NA$CAR.

I have been a fan since Wide World of Sports days. Now NA$CAR is running its sponsors out of the sport and also running its long-time fans out of the sport.

The top-35 rule and official/exclusive sponsors have got me so angry that I will probably be spending a lot more time away from the TV on the weekends in the future.

I didn't watch any of yesterday's race or lead-up coverage. My favorite drivers were all sent home, even though they qualified faster than many teams who raced.

NA$CAR protects certain sponsors/teams and ignores/bans others. NA$CAR gets the money and the fans get the shaft.

I sincerely hope that NA$CAR makes some changes next year, but I don't have much hope that the fans will come back into their thoughts.

If the top-35 sponsors rule doesn't change, I will be a former NASCAR fan.



Anonymous said...

ESPN wins hands down. Why? Because no one gets Speed.

Doesn't matter. SPEED's product is still better.

And I think if you ask race fans, you'll find that a lot more get it than you think. Just because YOU don't get it doesn't mean that millions of others don't.

SPEED treats NASCAR as seriously as ESPN treats NFL.

ESPN treats NASCAR like a throwaway that they don't understand and wish the management hadn't bought.

That's not going to change tthis week. Post all the "ESPN's better now" messages you want, but this network has managed to alienate a massive part of the sport's fan base with its poor coverage this year.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Back in 1994 when SpeedVision was going on the air, I was a TV consultant. The company hired me to help with the on-air transition and put operating systems in place for production and programming.

I worked for them for three months in Stamford, CT. Since then, SPEED was bought by the Fox Cable Networks, the production and programming groups were moved to Charlotte, NC and the Engineering and Operations groups were moved to Los Angeles.

I do not work for SPEED or ESPN, and am not being paid or compensated in any way by any TV, radio, or other media company.

The issue of a NASCAR TV network will go to the front burner when the NASCAR Hall of Fame building is complete in Charlotte next year.

NASCAR Images is moving into that building and they will be the key to originating a cable TV network and InternetTV website.

Currently, having a cable network is the hottest thing in sports for teams and leagues. They realize that with the flexibility of digital cable and the unlimited channels they can have a pathway directly to the home without a third party (private network) that their message and sport must pass though.

This season ESPN pushed NASCAR to the brink with NASCAR Now ignoring their own Busch Series, ignorning the Trucks, and ignoring all the regional NASCAR action. They also had almost no behind-the scenes features or personality profiles.

As many readers have said, and I have preached since February, you cannot cover NASCAR with one reporter (Shannon Spake) in the Mooresville/Concord area and no TV studio.

As ESPN learned the hard way with RPM2Night, when every single NASCAR team is within driving distance of Mooresville, NC...Bristol, CT just does not cut it.

How many times have we seen the NN host on the Bristol set along with one or two analysts? The Insiders appear from undisclosed locations, and then one report from Spake is the only tie to Mooresville.

Meanwhile, on the Internet, you can easily find that all kinds of things are going on involving hard news, personalities in the sport, and charitable causes.

As I said in my early columns, imagine if you were just doing a Washington Redskins daily local TV show, and your studio and staff was in Bristol, CT. Even with one reporter in DC, it would still not make any sense or be a good show.

Now, put several hundred NASCAR teams and several thousand employees on the ground within 60 miles of Mooresville and then put one TV reporter on the ground and everyone else in CT. No matter what ESPN "says," it still makes no sense and was a failure this season.

The irony is, this happened to them before...and they did not learn a thing.

I understand that wholesale change is coming to NN for 2008, and it will be interesting to see what moves the network makes now that they seem to have gotten a wake-up call of some type.

Anonymous said...

After watching last night's NN this morning, I'm sorry to say the show regressed from last week's shows with Marty Reid. First, Ryan Burr kept insisting to everyone that Jimmie Johnson had the title wrapped up though everyone -Stacy Compton, Tim Cowlishaw, and Jimmie Johnson himself - kept saying even though it looks very good, it's racing and strange things can happen.

Ryan even ended the interview by telling Jimmie "I'll be talking to you next week." (Guess we know who next Sunday's host is.) What a jinx! Jimmie politely said "I hope so" but he was probably rolling his eyes after the cameras went off.

Once again, NN went back to its repetitive content. They had their own race highlights wrapup with interviews (from the ABC postrace), then showed Shannon Spake's wrapup that is being used on SportsCenter and probably ESPN NEWS. Both of those packages had some of the same Jimmie Johnson/ Jeff Gordon interview footage. Why did I need to see the same interviews twice within 30 minutes? Couldn't they have expanded on race highlights not involving Jimmie and Jeff instead?

It doesn't make me look forward to their expanded shows this week at all. I'll watch tonight. If it's the same old thing, I'll wait until next year to bother with a hopefully improved NN.

Anonymous said...

A NASCAR TV network will just send people totally over the edge. Here in PA I don't get the Big Ten Network or the NFL Network and I'm paying 80.00+ to Comcast for digital & HD (NO Pay Channels) Even if the NASCAR channel only does special shows and not the races I think well over 75% of the people will have to fork more money over to the cable people. The Internet coverage would be fine with me, but I think the majority of the posters here can't find SPEEDTV listings, or let alone any of the free race stuff available on FOX, and other websites during the races.

haus20 said...

anon in PA ---- you are getting ripped off by Comcast.

Anonymous said...

If SPEED moved up a tier or to digital on cable here, I would pay for it because I cannot stomach the ditzes on ESPN, male and female. SPEED wins this battle, hands down, for me, even before this final week. ESPN's failure to broadcast practices, live, as they happen, is an insult. Actually, I barely make it through the race, and have not even tried to watch the Countdown since its first, miserable show.

SPEED may have a lot of hype on some of its shows, but it does cover NASCAR weekends.

Anonymous said...

I hope on Fri, Sat, Sun, that ESPN2 and SPEED cover some fun and/or interesting features (like the St. Judes story before the Busch race the other day).

Anonymous 11:06 PM brings up a good point. Both SPEED and especially ESPN have waited far too long in the year to show personality/feature stories that they should have been showing all along. Wendy V. has her "real deal" once a week and that's it. It's sad and in some way, I think has damaged some of the newer drivers.

Many fans pick "their" driver not just for driving ability but because there's something they like about them personally. For a number of drivers, being interviewed or profiled on SPEED or ESPN a few times a year is the only way to get noticed. And if you don't get that fanbase, you can't get sponsors.

Look at David Gilliland. Other than being famous for Rusty not being able to pronouce his name, what else did we learn about him on TV other than he's a struggling rookie (struggling like many other rookies who eventually were successful)?

I have not learned a single thing about this driver this year from TV. And I've watched/recorded most race/qualifying/practice/preshows this year.

The only reason I know anything about David is I'm one of the few people who managed to find NASCAR Drivers NonStop on ESPN despite the horrible scheduling and no PR. I saw he was a quiet guy with a sweet wife who drives his kids to school and plays with them at Chuck E. Cheese. Is he one of "my" drivers? No. But I ended up liking him and b/c I know a little about him, I take more interest in him during a race (when they mention him, rarely.)

And as for the other rookie (other than JPM, whose story naturally got PR) David Ragan? ESPN 2 brought him to the studio once, I think. But, again wouldn't know a thing about him except that I watched Driver X, the Roush Gong Show TV series, two years ago.

So it's too little, too late for me in this area of coverage this season for both SPEED and ESPN.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
A NASCAR TV network will just send people totally over the edge. Here in PA I don't get the Big Ten Network or the NFL Network and I'm paying 80.00+ to Comcast for digital & HD (NO Pay Channels) Even if the NASCAR channel only does special shows and not the races I think well over 75% of the people will have to fork more money over to the cable people.

November 12, 2007 11:15 AM

I believe NFL and Big Ten networks use a "pay" system where cable networks MUST pay them more to carry the channel on basic cable. If NASCAR does not use a "pay" system, like the golf channel, the NASCAR channel would be more widely available. that's why everyone gets the golf channel.

Anonymous said...

Bad overnight ratings news for the ESPN on ABC primetime portion of the Phoenix race (7-7:30 PM): it dropped more than 3 million viewers from last week. I don't know what that means for Homestead coverage, in terms of rushing off the air next week. ( will probably have the overall race ratings later and maybe someone will post them.)

Primetime Race ratings last night:
5.77 million viewers; A(= Rating for Ages)18-49: 1.8/5

Last week's primetime race portion:
8.90 million viewers; A18-49: 2.6/7

America’s Funniest Home Videos ratings (ABC 7:30-8) last night:
7.61 million viewers; A18-49: 2.4/6

FOX's football and post game show ratings last night (7-8 PM) (combined average):
13.78 million viewers; A18-49: 5.5 rating/15

For those posters who said in the race comments that yesterday's post race had too many commercials and you turned it off: I was curious, so I went back and added it up. They actually didn't air an abnormal number of commercials (10 minutes 10 seconds in 28 1/2 minutes of post race), they just "frontloaded" them into the post race, probably causing viewers to leave.

After interviewing Johnson/Gordon and coming back from ads, ABC stayed on air for less than two minutes for one interview before going right back to two minutes or more of commercials - and did that twice in a row. That may have driven some viewers away and probably contributed to the lower ratings; hopefully they'll remember that for the future.

Illpolo said...

For ratings, also factor in that all season long they have done 3-5 minutes of postrace and then ended their habit I would turn the TV off right after the race, listen to the radio until they go off the air, and then wait for Victory Lane's postrace coverage.

When they've done it this way all season long, it's hard to believe they would stay with the postrace out of the blue with only two races remaining.

Anonymous said...

Scene Daily says:
ABC's broadcast of Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway earned a 3.4 overnight Nielsen Media Research rating, Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Daily reports.

The figure is 17.1 percent lower than the 4.1 NBC earned overnight for the same race last year.

AndyPandy said...

to anonymous at 12:32 PM:

Everyone gets the Golf Channel on Comcast because the Golf Channel is owned by Comcast, as is Versus.

Anonymous said...

AndyPandy said...
to anonymous at 12:32 PM:

Everyone gets the Golf Channel on Comcast because the Golf Channel is owned by Comcast, as is Versus.

November 12, 2007 6:07 PM

I am not talking just about Comcast. It is available on basic cable with other companies also, like Cox.

batchief said...

drh277, you better do your homework, I have Mediacom for a cable provider in eastern Iowa and do NOT get any of the ESPN channels on basic. I pay extra for extended basic to get them and Speed.

Newracefan said...

Yes Comcast is expensive but it's the only game in town. As far as Speed vs ESPN give me SPEED. I'll continue to watch NN for Marty Smith, Angelique, and David Newton I'll skip pretty much everything else except DJ CObb esp if Erik is involved. Speed, I watch everything and now I'm bummed because I have to work friday and I won't have much time to watch what I tape cause Sat and Sun has good stuff too.

Anonymous said...

I don't really care at this point who wins this battle. All I know is that this weekend means that I am now one race closer to the FOX/SPEED package that I am come to appreciate so much more with the advent of the "new" ESPN package. Too bad, I was so thrilled that ESPN was back....but the ESPN I remembered no longer exists. :( Maybe I was just romanticizing it.

Anonymous said...

I really feel for those who don't get the speed channel, I won't watch anything espn puts on except for the race, everything else I watch on speed.