Friday, November 9, 2007

"NASCAR Now" Doubles Your Pleasure


Fans have been asking a lot of questions about the lack of additional NASCAR programming on ESPN as the final ten days of the season wind-down.

NASCAR itself has been very sensitive to the fact that TV ratings were just not stacking up to what the sanctioning body had expected from the powerful combination of ESPN and ABC.

Normally, ESPN works the final draft of their program schedule about ninety days in advance. Things in sports sometimes change, and this allows for the changes in the start times of live events and the contingency planning for on-going sports series.

Friday afternoon, ESPN made an announcement about changes in their NASCAR programming. It was not for next February. It was not a Christmas special. ESPN has made programming changes on a Friday for the following Monday. That's right, only three days later.

Suddenly, ESPN has found the incentive to expand their racing news show, NASCAR Now, to one hour in length for the Monday through Thursday editions next week.

On Saturday, prior to the Busch race in Homestead, there is going to be an additional one hour NASCAR Now at 9AM. Finally, after the Cup race that weekend, there is going to be a full one hour NASCAR Now wrap-up show at 10PM Sunday night.

In what some fans may consider a surprise after the last week of shows, Erik Kuselias will host all of these programs except the Thursday show. Ryan Burr will step-in for that broadcast. Marty Reid was not mentioned in the ESPN press release.

For NASCAR fans, any additional programming from the network that is covering both the Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series is a bonus. ESPN has all the resources at their fingertips to finally get their NASCAR Now act together and send NASCAR fans off into the "eleven week vacation" with some good memories.

I just can't help but wonder who at ESPN answered the phone when NASCAR called. The one thing we know for sure...they certainly got the message loud and clear.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

JD, do we know who will have hosting duties for these expanded shows?

Anonymous said...

Well, that's fabulous news. It does seem a little funny that ESPN wouldn't have their on air broadcasters actually TELL US during their live broadcasts from the track instead of having us find out this information on your blog (sigh).

Baby steps, baby steps (sound of banging head against monitor).....

Now, the big question of the day: Who's going to host this extravagana?????

Daly Planet Editor said...

Mr. Kuselias will host all the programs mentioned except the Thursday show.

JD

Anonymous said...

and there is no chance that will change?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Oh good gravy?! You are kidding, right?! Please!

What in the world did we ever do to ESPN? To Nascar?

Well, sorry ESPN, the ratings are certainly not going to increase with that news!

John, you have a twisted sense of humor :-0

SophiaZ123 said...

????????????????????????

After teasing us with Marty Reid, we get Erik the CLUELESS ..I KNEW It.

I will NOT be watching NASCAR NOW again. I enjoyed the last couple of nights but I KNEW it was a bait and switch.

Lisa Hogan said...

I think that I will just say no thanks to the extra coverage. I will not end this season with the sound of Erik in my head!

Anonymous said...

come on now... we should at least give one episode a chance...

keep in mind...ESPN cannot just ditch Erik. After all, it is his job and source of income. But, based on his performance he may not return next season.

Also, JD, I heard NASCAR Now will be year round and air through the winter. Is this true?

Rick said...

Anonymous said...

ESPN cannot just ditch Erik. After all, it is his job and source of income.

November 9, 2007 8:28 PM

ESPN has fired people before, when it was their job and source of income. And others were probably less deserving of being fired than Erik.

PammH said...

LMAO!!!! That's ESPN's concession to little coverage @ the end of the yr on NN-to let Mr. Clueless host?? My goodness, they really do hate the fans, don't they?? I will watch the Thursday show & read poor JD's recaps here. Really sad when ya think about it...:(

projectpappy09 said...

I really don't care who is hosting at this point, all that matters is ESPN cares enough to add more NASCAR programming to their schedule, likely due to what they have read on websites like this. Can't wait for more coverage!

PammH said...

projectpappywhatever-have you NOT seen NN this yr?? EK is WORTHLESS as a host, so more coverage w/him hosting is a very sad consession to the Nascar racing fans! I feel that they have totally thrown a bone to the real fans, which has no meat on it. As Kyle Busch said earlier in the year, "it sucks!"

Rick said...

EK being host is definitely sn insult to NASCAR fans.

elena said...

There must have been a memo sent to all ESPN talking heads. I'm watching the Army game and they are talking about JJ and Jeff. The same thing yesterday. I had the tv on to ESPN as I was going about my day at home and in all the talk shows, they included NASCAR as part of the preview of games for the weekend. It's obvious none of them are race fans, but that' okay. They are showing a little respect for the sport and not just ignoring it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

elena,

As I mentioned in my article, I don't know who at ESPN got the NASCAR phone call, but it certainly seems to have gotten Bristol in a tizzy.

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I guess it is too much to hope that someone stuck Erik K's name in the release out of habit and that some more knowledgeable person might actually carry NN? After weeks of not watching NN at all, I have really enjoyed the 2 NN shows I made a point of watching after reading here that Marty Reid was on NN. I am not certain whether added NN shows, but with Erik K, is an improvement or not, and I am not sure whether I will watch or not - but I do know I will check to see what is on SPEED first. ESPN and NASCAR NOW are becoming curiouser and curiouser.

Cire said...

Why are people here including JD writing as if ESPN added a ton of programming? They added a whopping 30 minutes to a stale show everyone hates?? I fail to see what ESPN did? You think NASCAR actually called ESPN and in return they add a measly 30 minutes to their show? I think not. This is nothing from ESPN..nothing at all. They have been doing some hour long NN shows already.

Anonymous said...

Cire said...
Why are people here including JD writing as if ESPN added a ton of programming? They added a whopping 30 minutes to a stale show everyone hates?? I fail to see what ESPN did? You think NASCAR actually called ESPN and in return they add a measly 30 minutes to their show? I think not. This is nothing from ESPN..nothing at all. They have been doing some hour long NN shows already.

November 10, 2007 1:36 AM

I think you have misunderstood. they added 30 minutes to every show.

Anonymous said...

This has all become very tiresome, and almost akin to begging. NASCAR television programming is substandard and will only cause more fans to find other means of obtaining information and entertainment. Sirius Radio has been a blessing.....

Colin Baird said...

We need more of Erik Kuselias about like we need kidney stones.
One would be about as enjoyable as the other.

SallyB said...

Adding 30 minutes to every NN...but with Eric K as the host? That's like being told you can have as many cookies as you want, but every time you get one out of the jar you will get smacked with a baseball bat. It sounds like good news, but....

Anonymous said...

Instaed of NASCAR, I'll bet their getting some calls from advitisers concerning the the ratings and maybe wanting some money back. Maybe their looking for a huge number for the last race to save some face.

Anonymous said...

Anon @6:44 -

I thought your theory probably was on the right track until I came across the following blurb on jayski this morning. Brian France provided this quote after being a panelist at a business summit at Phoenix yesterday:

"...France seemed unworried about TV ratings, which are down this season. "Television ratings for almost everything are down - prime time, daytime, sports, whatever else," France said. "We're probably a victim of that to some level. You have to remember we're still posting big audiences, and our TV partners are very satisfied. We'd love to be growing at better rates, but we're not contracting at all. We're pretty satisfied that story lines in the future and things go on that we'll be fine...."

Notice he doesn't say that perhaps ratings are down because of sub-standard coverage provided by our TV Partners.

thomas said...

I think the Iraqi Minister of Information would be proud of King Brian's statement. King Brian says nothing is wrong so that is good enough for me. The arrogance of King Brian never seems to amaze me. Nepotism is a bad thing. What qualifies King Brain the run NA$CAR other then being the grandson of Big Bill?

Erik said...
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Erik said...

I agree with anon@6:44. Its funny you think the call from NASCAR was a threat demanding ESPN does something to improve their coverage. I know that is what you hope would happen.

Actually, its more like NASCAR waking up to the fact that their ratings continue to tumble. The races under the Fox package were down nearly 10%. Unfortunatly the excuse of NBC not promoting the races enough Brian France used to explain away the ratings drop during the chase didn't pan out.

The trend of the ratings drop Fox propargated its way to TNT, ESPN, and ABC. The ratings drop has nothing to do with the coverage, but just the fact that NASCAR popularity is dropping.

France is scared to death. His entire empire is built upon growth. TV advertisers and car sponsors are seeing a continuing decline in TV ratings as well as a marked dropoff in attendance at the tracks even for the "major league" Nextel Cup series. Atlanta had empty seats. Texas had several entire sections in the backstreach that went unsold where they tried to cover it up with sign.

It wont be long before those sponsers decide that an investment in NASCAR isn't getting the return as it used to. Plus, the overall economy may be weakening. Companies will need to scale back to the levels of the 90's, or even pull out altogether.

Brian France is on his knees begging ESPN for help. And ESPN is going to try to bail him out.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Erik,

Your lack of TV experience is showing. National cable television networks like ESPN do not alter their program schedule for six out of seven days next week unless something very big has just happened. Whatever just happened to ESPN on Friday...was big.

I don't know if you watch a lot of ESPN and the other networks, but the company is on fire with NASCAR. Suddenly, overnight, NASCAR is being mentioned on every live show, on every network, on all the news, and the program schedule has been turned upside-down for next week. Gordon and Johnson are suddenly halftime guests on Monday Night Football.

The programs moved by ESPN to make way for the hours of NASCAR Now had been sold and scheduled for months. The schedule had been published for months and is now wrong in every TV listing publication nationwide.

This isn't cable access, or even a Regional Sports Network that is adding some programming because their local team made the playoffs.

This is an unprecedented change made by an established multi-network corporation that has been doing this for over twenty-five years. Its not like they just missed something.

You are absolutely right in your facts and figures about NASCAR, but that is not the point of this article.

Something un-planned happened that resulted in wholesale program changes, hurried press releases, company-wide integration of the word NASCAR into everything, and it happened on Friday.

The ESPN official information lists the fact that all the NASCAR TV announcers will be pitching-in during the week to create the extra content needed to fill these additional hours.

With the recent wholesale changes we have seen on NASCAR Now with Marty Reid, it should be interesting to compare how ESPN goes through this final week of the season.

You may remember, Erik, that all of this began with The Daly Planet pointing out that there was no additional programming in support of the Homestead Championship Week anywhere on the ESPN schedule.

In fact, there was no NASCAR Now on ESPN2 scheduled for the Monday after the final race. I appreciate your thoughts and your interesting but slightly off-base "legal defense" of ESPN.

Once the season is over, it will be fun to compare what is in store for next year with schedules and on-air talent as opposed to what happened this first season.

JD

Newracefan said...

Wow JD I knew it was big but not until your post at 9:17 did I realize how big. I am going to choose to think that this blog and the fans that post here played a part in the decision. The unfortunate part was the inclusion of Erik K. I can only hope he is just the anchor in Bristol and they keep throwing it out to somewhere and someone else. I will watch/ tape and hope for the best.

Daly Planet Editor said...

newracefan,

Let us just say in clear terms that something has hit the fan and it was not because things were going really well.

Sometimes, it takes a moment like this to get a big company to wake-up to the fact that something is being under-served.

No one is saying that info was wrong, or that things looked bad, or even that the on-air presentation was unprofessional.

What we have been saying since February was that NASCAR should have been integrated across the ESPN networks and programming just like any other major professional sport that the network had acquired.

Unfortunately, racing encountered a mentality that worships stick-and-ball sports above everything else. That is fine, but not at a network that just paid hundreds of millions of dollars to NASCAR to broadcast hundreds of hours of live and tape delayed programming.

Just like any big company, the challenge for the top executives is to rally their forces to prioritize this sport in a way that fits the network's commitment to it.

I have friends who are absolutely stunned that ESPN changed their program schedule by adding a half hour to the NASCAR shows, and then adding two new shows specifically to serve the Busch and Cup championship races.

If you only had any idea how much that cost, how much chaos it will cause behind the scenes, how much shifting of company technical resources, manpower, and facilities this is causing you would just go....WOW!

Maybe we will be remembering this week as the moment that ESPN woke-up to NASCAR. Wouldn't that be nice?

Anonymous said...

Please check what ESPN will have to give back when they don't hit their ratings numbers for their package coverage. I think this has much more to do with the blitz, than this blog.

Anonymous said...

JD
I submit that it was NOT NASCAR who called Bristol, but instead it was the HEAD of AD SALES in NYC screaming that he's gonna have a boat load of make-good commercials to run if the NASCAR production execs don't get the ratings up on the series, AND SOON!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Speed Chanel will be broadcasting daily for the NASCAR Championship Weekend Races next week.
Do you think that might have been noticed by ESPN?

Anonymous said...

ESPN also cancelled or moved (didn't check) the car auction that was scheduled on Nov. 18 from 8-11 PM on ESPN so that NASCAR Now could air at 10. That's probably the biggest move of all.

Erik K hosted the NASCAR Now show last night.

Good to hear about the integration of NASCAR into other ESPN coverage, though I haven't seen NASCAR mentioned on PTI in weeks. Maybe next week. Also, NASCAR is a much bigger presence the past couple of days on ESPN.com main page than it has been.

Monday Night Football had Jeff Gordon as a guest in the booth last season after the move to ESPN was announced (Gordon was gifted with a Belgian wafflemaker by Tony Kornheiser, for his new Belgian wife.) Back then it looked like a sign that NASCAR was going to be important on ESPN.

The downside of all this attention is if the ratings for the next two races aren't strong, then some in ESPN will argue that NASCAR is not worth the attention. Brian France is right that TV ratings are down in general, but to have ratings dropping virtually every single week of the season (and that's compared to already decreasing ratings in 2006) is not and should not be considered a normal ratings dropoff.

BTW, Brian has an excuse for low ratings every year. In 2005 it was because Jeff and Jr didn't make the chase. in 2006, it was because NBC didn't promote NASCAR. In 2007, it's that ratings are low everywhere. I eagerly anticipate his reasoning this time next year - if he's still CEO.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks for the comments, an update on the programming on both ESPN and SPEED during championship week will be published on Sunday after the race.

SPEED does have extensive plans, and already has facilities in place. It is my understanding they may start integrating live updates from Homestead as early as Monday. This will let the fans watch as the track and facility is prepared for the final event.

Get ready for a very interesting week in TV land!

Erik said...

JD,
Lets get real about the program schedule change. Sure, some strings were pulled, but its not as significant as you make it out to be. Its not like it takes an act of congress. ESPN 'magically' found time to air the rain delayed Michigan race.

Depending on how long the baseball playoffs went and how the games were scheduled would affect when ESPN can air Baseball Tonight.

Heck, the big TV networks make programming changes all the time when they decide to cancel primetime series, which will shuffle around their schedule.

Sure, ESPN has to rearrage things, but its not a unprecedented event.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Erik,

Of course its unprecedented. ESPN has never been in this situation with NASCAR. This was not live event programming that changed, it was a realization that ESPN had completely missed grasping the reality of Championship Week in Homestead.

The only additional content that was added was the "support programming" of NASCAR Now. It was only added after something happened. If it was a meeting, a phone call, a memo...whatever.

This did not happen because of the World Seies or the NFL Playoffs. It only happened because ESPN realized, for whatever reason, that this entire week was under-served. Maybe they found the SPEED programming guide.

My friends tell me that the only facility conflict that is tough is putting a one hour NASCAR Now program into the ESPN Bristol facility on a college football Saturday. There is going to be some overtime piling up on that one.

It should be fascinating, for the first time, to watch SPEED and ESPN go head-to-head from Homestead all week long beginning on Monday.

AnnOminous said...

Yea, JD, ESPN got the call to add more NASCAR programming.

But whomever was calling must of been using a cheap cell phone that DROPPED the call and the part about getting rid of Erik as the host was missed!!

As long as they've got Erik hosting the ratings are going to be in the toilet, doesn't matter if it's a half hour or hour.

Actually, rating will probably be worse for the last half hour as folks get fed up with Erik and change the channel.

Daly Planet Editor said...

hey um..ann,

You never know what might happen or change, especially if some of the staff were involved in the shows with Marty Reid.

As I have said all season long, I read Mr. Kuselias bio on the website and he seems like a very nice family man. I have heard him on the radio and he is very passionate about both football and baseball.

I really thought after working very hard on a sport that clearly was not his primary interest, ESPN might have rewared him my giving him a shot at Dan Patrick's radio timeslot.

Maybe the new year will bring him a new assignment where he can put his personal experience and interests to good use for the company.

AnnOminous said...

JD, I'm not wishing bad things to happen to the man, well, other than no longer being on NASCAR Now. It's fine with me if lots of big windows open up for him with that door closing.

Erik can go do football and/or baseball, that's fine with me. I've never liked baseball (probably the humilitation of having teams argue that the other team had to take me), and I lost all interest in football when the Oilers left Houston and the Southwest Conference broke up and my alma mater did not get invited to join a "Big" conference.

If the folks at ESPN have not heard that Erik is the reason so many folks are not watching NASCAR Now, then just aren't listening in the right places.

Daly Planet Editor said...

OK, I promise to use spell check from now on. Stop emailing!

More news on the ESPN changes shortly....

Anonymous said...

They can "expand" it to 2 hours for all I care, I still will not watch! Why expand a BAD show? NASCAR Now is the worst sports related program on TV, by far! ESPN treats NASCAR fans like a bunch of dumb rednecks and NASCAR Now is a disgrace to the sport!

YES, ESPN SUCKS!!!

Richard in N.C. said...

There is a divide here that I have not seen quantified - which is how many NASCAR fans are enjoying the races in an alternate manner to ESPN-ABC broadcasts such as by satellite TV pay broadcasts, the internet, or (as I do frequently) by a combination of the internet and radio. Also I have not seen anything about SPEED's ratings this season versus last year. One would have expected with its resources and experience that ESPN-ABC could at least hold the audience that NBC had for 2006, but they have not, which I believe is an indictment of how ESPN has handled NASCAR. I am afraid that ESPN's well of goodwill with the fans from the past has actually worked against it when its current coverage failed to meet viewers' memories and expectations. As both a NASCAR and ESPN fan, this year's ESPN coverage of NASCAR has been a double disappointment. Also, TNT was a disaster which ESPN has failed to overcome.

Vince said...

JD, I have to disagree with the last sentence of your post. About ESPN getting the message loud and clear. I think not! As long as Erik or Ryan are hosting this show, they still haven't gotten the message. These two have zero Nascar knowledge and I doubt if either of them have ever attended a race. I will not be watching this show until we have a Nascar insider hosting this show. Bob Jenkins, John Kernan, etc. Until then, ESPN just doesn't get it......

Anonymous said...

JD:
I do believe that the Daly Planet has had some influence with the TV media folks, even if they consider you to be an annoying stone in their shoes. On behalf of the fans, thank you.

I have had a little taste of the logistics of broadcasting. You are right, the changes are major.

Perhaps the best long term outcome will be a little respect for NASCAR and its fans across the ESPN slate of programs. I won't miss the snide comments about racing fans.

Kevin in Indy said...

Well, it looks like I'll just watch the Thursday edition. It would be great if Speed would have a daily show this week.

Anonymous said...

JD will probably fill in the details, but SPEED is having hour long championship preview shows Tuesday and Wednesday night (Monday is INC, thursday is The Chase is on).

Daly Planet Editor said...

There are new columns up on the main page with all the details about the TV for the week, and the shake-up at ESPN.

JD