Wednesday, April 2, 2008
TV Troubles For Nationwide Series In Texas
Things are always just a little bit different down in Texas.
Two good examples of that are the Thursday afternoon practice and the Thursday evening qualifying sessions for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
The cars take to the track at Noon Eastern Time and after a short lunch break they end practice at 3PM. All 44 cars return to the track at 7PM for a qualifying session that should last about an hour. The Nationwide Series race itself does not take place until 3PM on Saturday.
SPEED Channel starts coverage of the activities in Texas on Friday and that network will handle the practice and qualifying sessions for the Sprint Cup Series. Unfortunately, that is the only series they will be televising.
As NASCAR fans and TV viewers can see from the ESPN programming schedule, there will be no TV coverage of the Nationwide Series practice sessions or qualifying on any of the ESPN family of networks. So, other than the race itself, there will be no TV coverage of the Nationwide Series in Texas.
Thursday, ESPN2 has "stripped" programming scheduled from Noon until 2PM Eastern. This means programming that runs every weekday at the same time like Oprah or The Price is Right. In this case, the show is called First Take.
Back to the Nationwide Series, it seems once again they are just the odd man out. SPEED has a certain number of practice and qualifying sessions they get to televise in the NASCAR contract and they do a good job.
Unfortunately, this leaves ESPN to prioritize between regular weekday programming, live sporting events, and the remaining NASCAR practice and qualifying sessions. The network's perspective on this Texas issue is very interesting.
Update: ESPN was outstanding in taking the time to address this issue, and responded to The Daly Planet with the following statement:
"We have the rights to televise all of the races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but do not have the rights to all practice and qualifying sessions. We did not have the rights to the sessions at Texas. By the time they were presented to us, we already had other programming commitments."
ESPN's response is appreciated and sheds some light on the reality of TV programming issues. It also sheds some light on the inability of NASCAR to step-in and solve these problems.
With ESPN having other commitments, and SPEED already televising all the practice and qualifying available to them in their NASCAR contract, isn't there a problem that remains unsolved? Isn't NASCAR the group to solve it?
As we mentioned earlier, the Texas Nationwide Series qualifying session takes place on Thursday at 7PM and should last about an hour. Ironically, it is a thirty minute version of NASCAR Now that is on ESPN2 at that time followed by an off-season version of the NFL Live program.
This week, the Nationwide Series entry list includes well known drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch. It also highlights the young guns like Brad Coleman and Kelly Bires. In between, Nationwide regulars like Mike Wallace and Marcos Ambrose are squeezed-in with Cup-whackers like Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer. This field is loaded with exactly the type of racing diversity that NASCAR likes to put on the track. Qualifying is going to be a good show for the fans in the stands.
TV viewers will have to tune-into the NASCAR Countdown show at 2:30PM on Saturday to get a perspective on the action from practice and qualifying.
With all of the positive changes this season involving the NASCAR TV partners, it is disappointing that this issue could not be solved among them with NASCAR's help.
Note: This column was updated at 6PM on 4/2/08 with the ESPN statement. Thanks again to our friends at ESPN for taking the time to offer fans a response.
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