Friday, January 4, 2008

NASCAR's "TV Czar" Walks Into The Talladega Night


A lot of people thought it was kind of funny when NASCAR opened a Los Angeles office. Still trying to organize the on-track television issues within its own sport, TV veterans were skeptical that NASCAR and LA had anything in common.

The late Bill France Jr. allowed his son Brian along with NASCAR executive Paul Brooks to begin a relationship with the Hollywood community. While this on-going curiosity between the two groups resulted in NASCAR drivers participating in more mainstream movie and TV projects, one success story stands head-and-shoulders above all others.

Love it or hate it, "Talladega Nights" was a hit because it poked fun at exactly the same things that paid for Jeff Foxworthy's bass boat and kept Ron White nicely lubricated. Will Ferrell and crew made NASCAR funny without profanity and without violence. They dipped into the "You Might Be A Redneck If..." genre and pulled out a winner.

Suddenly, NASCAR's Brooks and France had gone from the laughingstock of the sport to watching as "Ricky Bobby" was interviewed on Larry King Live...for the full hour! That one film with NASCAR at its core made over $47 million in its first week.

Hidden in the list of six Executive Producers for "Talladega Nights" was the name Richard Glover. It appears on the credits just below that of the film's star, Will Ferrell. Glover is not a Hollywood writer, a veteran stunt man or even a high-dollar investor. Dick Glover was the NASCAR executive that helped make the entire project happen.

Just like Lesa France-Kennedy, the President of ISC, Glover is a Duke grad with a degree in Economics. His career started with the NBA and the Washington Bullets, where he showed his organizational skills as the Chief Administrative Officer. Moving into TV, he ran almost everything at Titan Sports involving TV and helped that company grow into a little dynasty you might have heard of...the WWE.

For many media executives there is only one place to go for the ultimate career challenge. That place is ESPN. Glover joined the company with the mandate to grow new business and push the TV-oriented staff into the world of new media. If you have stopped by ESPN.com, read ESPN the Magazine or maybe ordered a Pay-Per-View ESPN game, you have been touched by the new ventures grown by Glover.

Most executives that are good at developing new business for Disney get squeezed like ripe oranges by the ESPN and ABC "content machine." Glover spun through the Programming Department at ESPN, the Olympics at ABC, and eventually handled all the ESPN and ABC Internet properties including ABCNews.com, which is no small task.

Right at the point when many of us thought he would wind-up as the right-hand man to ESPN President George Bodenheimer, Glover exited stage left. Where he went had many scratching their heads, and wondering if Glover had finally made a bad career move. They did not have to wonder for very long.

Glover joined NASCAR in 2003 as the VP of Broadcasting and New Media. He understood, along with former NASCAR exec George Pyne, that the power of the sport lay in organizing all the TV and media rights to the races under one roof. Needless to say, that would be NASCAR's roof. Leaning back on his Duke economics training, Glover also made sure it was a multi-billion dollar new roof.

The former ESPN employee brought that network back into the NASCAR game in a deal that included ESPN's arch rival Fox Sports and stuck TNT in the middle as a buffer. He used the SPEED Channel example of the Craftsman Trucks to get the entire Busch/Nationwide Series carried on ESPN2, and then cemented the deal that all the "Chase" races be live on the ABC Broadcast Network. To keep things from getting nit-picky, he gave the All-Star Race to SPEED as their only "Cup-level" event.

Now, the bow was neatly tied on this TV contract. Turner Interactive continued to manage NASCAR.com, and Marketing veteran Jay Abraham continued to run NASCAR Images, the sport's TV production company. Then, a bombshell announcement came down from Brian France about a new consolidation of NASCAR's media interests.

In late September, France announced that he was going to create a new division of NASCAR. All the broadcasting, new media, licensing, consumer products and even the automotive aftermarket projects would be put under one NASCAR senior executive. The title of this new position would be President, NASCAR Media Group. It would be one of the most powerful executive positions in professional sports.

Mr. France decided that the best man for the job would be his long-time friend and right-hand man...Paul Brooks. In making the announcement, Mr. France never even referenced Dick Glover. Perhaps, the writing had suddenly appeared on the wall.

On Friday, less than four months after that announcement, Mr. Glover made an announcement of his own. He would be taking all his sports television and NASCAR knowledge to a new company. As the only NASCAR senior executive with hands-on national TV experience, Glover will be walking away to become the CEO of...a comedy website.

In what may be the most ironic moment in NASCAR TV history, the website is owned by a gentleman you may remember, named Will Ferrell. Glover is literally walking away from NASCAR and into the Talladega night. He is leaving NASCAR to run the YouTube of Comedy. Funnyordie.com looks like thousands of other websites themed to allow users to upload a specific kind of content.

What it does not look like is the type of place where someone who was instrumental in steering the NASCAR ship should be heading. NASCAR's Paul Brooks offered these words about Glover's contributions to the sport, and his departure.

"We'll be fine in moving forward," said Brooks. "It sounds like a good opportunity. Dick always wanted to lead his own company. We'll certainly miss him." The only thing Brooks did not say was exactly where the door should hit Glover on the way out.

Now, NASCAR starts the search for a strong-minded and experienced individual who can ride herd on the TV networks and turn the ratings around for this sport right away.

It is January 4th of 2008. The countdown clock at Jayski.com says we are under 44 days to the Daytona 500. Sprint Cup teams begin testing at Daytona...on Monday.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by for your daily dose of NASCAR TV.

14 comments:

SrRaceFan said...

The only comment that comes to mind is "What was he (Glover) thinking?!"

Lisa Hogan said...

Things that make you go hmmmmmm

prof pi said...

Not so much a matter of "what was he (Glover) thinking?" as what does he know, being on the inside, which would compell him to leave? Perhaps that the decline in TV ratings is a really big deal and King Brian Know-it-all France is clueless about how to fix it. If I were a CFO in a company which paid billions, literally, and that is B as in a thousand millions, for TV rights predicated on growing TV audience only to see the numbers not only dive but dive at an increasing rate, then I'd want some of our money back. At the start of the '07 season King Brian said they were aware of the declining TV numbers in '06 but had taken steps to fix all of that, anyone remember that? Only to see the '07 numbers drop even faster than the '06 numbers. I think NASCAR has a BIG problem and Glove got out before the lawn mower hit the big pile of doo-doo.

Newracefan said...

Can you say Scapegoat

Anonymous said...
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SallyB said...

Maybe this just shows that Brain France isn't the only Nascar exec that has delusions of being e 'Hollywood media mogul'. With Nascar heading down the 'entertainment' rather than 'sport' presentation, I'd say his experience with Nascar is just perfect for him.

Jo from Tampa said...

WOW maybe Mr Glover was reading this last season & decided the time to go was now...Maybe Glover realized the cot,espn, fan reaction is real, time to exit fast...

As far as Talledega nites - well everyone has a blemish on the work record somewhere. As a long time fan of stock car racin I was unimpressed, bits were funny the rest junk

However, with the track record JD laid out - Probably got tired of Brian & buddies nixing ideas not in sync with theirs. I mean if he saw the problems and tried to address them and brian says there is no problem - how long would you stay? About 30 days after buddy of b got job as boss- just long enough to get a new job.
Hmmmmm.....

Angry Nascar Yankee said...
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Richard in N.C. said...

On the other hand, maybe Glover did not want to work through Brooks- or viewed such as a demotion? OR, maybe the Frances want someone who might be inclined to be tougher on ESPN than an ESPN alumnus? Hopefully the Frances do realize that ESPN's handling of NASCAR coverage has not been what they were led to expect. I would hope that NASCAR's discussions with ESPN, behind closed doors, have been more frank than Brian France's public comments.

PammH said...

rats jumping the ship?? not a total suprise on my part. Expect to see more of those in the coming yrs...:(

Noeticus said...

Gee, you don't suppose it could have anything to do with Brian's bright ideas for making NASCAR just another "professional entertainment" sport like football, bssketball, snd baseball? After all, we obviously have to have a "playoff series" - but we'll call it something catchy,like-hmmm-how about "The Chase"! And obviously we need to spend a lot of time explaining our sport to all the new yuppies we want to cater to, so we'll cut away from the race a lot to explain drafting and brake systems and all that other car stuff...who cares about the race anyway, after all, it's really all about getting the right entertainment stars to make an appearance and plug their latest movie, album, whatever. Wake up NASCAR - the real fans are tired of the theatrics; just give us back our REAL rac coverage (and without a Chase) and watch the TV ratings start to climb back to where they were before the Wonder Boy Brian era...

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Usually when one exec leaves a company, others follow because they don't like what they see.

King Brian and his little empire are on a train hauling a** down the track. Eventually it's going to crash and he and all of his little peons will be put back in their places. By then it might be too late to fix it.

I'd jump off this train, too. More power to Mr. Glover and I hope he does well in his new endeavor.

GinaV24 said...

Well, I sure wouldn't have wanted to go do anything with Will Ferrell --I haven't liked any of his comedy and I hated Talladega Nights. Honestly, I thought seeing a fictional character being interviewed on Larry King AND selling souvenirs at the track was really stupid and demeaning to NASCAR and it's fans.

But leaving the current regime of NASCAR seems to make good sense considering the stupidity of the current management team. Time to go! Funny, there's a lot of fans who are certainly doing it too.

glenc1 said...

After seeing Talladega Nights, all I could say to my friends (who thought it was funny) was 'that's two hours of my life I won't get back."

But to the subject at hand...I don't think we really know why Glover made the decision. When I read the story the other day, I thought perhaps Glover was taking the fall, but this makes it sound as if this is a way into a better gig (Ferrell isn't just a comic, I do think he's smart.) But what we get out of it will largely depend on what the new staff will do. And it sounds like that's still a big question--I'd like to think they will use this as an opportunity to improve things somehow, but that will only happen if they've accepted that there is a problem. I don't see how they can continue to ignore it as the rating keep slipping.