Thursday, May 1, 2008
Historic TV Simulcast Calms Angry Fans
Thursday was a very interesting day in the history of NASCAR TV.
What began with an on-air scheduling problem for ESPN2 has resulted in a series of moves that can only be described as amazing.
The Internet posts began to appear early on Thursday detailing the fact that ESPN now had an NBA playoff game on Friday night. It had to be aired nationally. With the ESPN network busy with other events, ESPN2 was going to be the only option. That was going to cause a problem.
The result was a decision by ESPN executives to move the Nationwide Series race at the Richmond International Raceway on Friday night from ESPN2 to the ESPN Classic Network.
This TV network served on many occasions in 2007 to handle NASCAR product when the two main ESPN networks were live with other sports events. The results for NASCAR were not good. The network is non-HD and has very limited distribution on a digital tier that often requires additional monthly cable fees.
It was shortly after this decision was announced that emails began to pour into The Daly Planet that NASCAR was not happy. A highly-rated and much anticipated night race at RIR was going to be moved to a relatively small cable TV network whether NASCAR liked it or not. What other options were there?
That answer came just a bit later in the form of a mind-bending announcement from NASCAR and the TV networks involved. Veteran NASCAR fans might want to sit down.
Simply put, SPEED Channel will simulcast the entire ESPN production of the Nationwide Series race from Richmond.
“SPEED is happy to lend a hand to NASCAR and one of our fellow NASCAR television partners,” said SPEED President Hunter Nickell. “It’s a great way for SPEED and ESPN to come together to best serve the race fan.”
So, that means the Friday night race will be on both ESPN Classic and SPEED live for the fans with ESPN announcers and commercials. That's right, it will be Marty Reid, Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree. The NASCAR on ESPN gang will be live on SPEED.
Shortly after that email, things began to shake on the Internet front. As most fans know, Turner Interactive in Atlanta, GA is the company that runs NASCAR.com and has done so for years.
ESPN360.com is ESPN's video streaming website that serves almost every kind of sport and is one of the newest projects for the family of ESPN new media.
On Friday night, both NASCAR.com and ESPN360.com will "stream" the live broadcast of the Nationwide Series race for free to Internet users. This makes the race available live on two TV networks and two Internet websites.
Incredibly, that was not the end of this issue. ESPN then made sure to say that after the NBA game is over, ESPN2 will either join the rest of the race live or will immediately begin a full-length replay of the race if it has ended.
So, let's try to sum this one up. The Friday Nationwide Series race from Richmond got "bumped" to ESPN Classic. We knew this early on Thursday.
Several hours later, the same race is going to be live on SPEED Channel, NASCAR.com, ESPN360.com, ESPN Classic and ESPN2 when the NBA game is over. In the late stages of the race, the Nationwide Series could be airing live on three national cable TV networks simultaneously.
Update: SPEED will not carry the 7PM NASCAR Countdown show, so that thirty minute program will be appearing on ESPN Classic and ESPN360.com only. Instead, SPEED will originate a half hour version of NASCAR Live. SPEED will then join the ESPN crew at 7:30PM for the entire race.
As we mentioned earlier, this certainly has been an interesting moment in NASCAR TV history. The reality of it will not really hit home until fans tune into SPEED to find Marty Reid and his ESPN2 microphone flag and graphics. It should be interesting to see what SPEED chooses to scroll on the bottom of the screen during the race.
If you have any suggestions for SPEED, please feel free to pass them along below.
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