Friday, June 27, 2008

ABC's West Coast TV Mess: NASCAR vs. Kid's Shows


It is always interesting when the ESPN gang produces a NASCAR race and sends it out to the fans through the ABC Television Network.

In theory, the broader reach of over-the-air broadcast TV gives greater exposure to events like the Nationwide Series race on Saturday afternoon from Loudon, NH. In reality, maybe not so much.

Now in the second year of the current NASCAR TV contract, the apparent disconnect between the ESPN-produced NASCAR events and the ABC local TV stations could not be greater. Where NASCAR is concerned, this situation is poised to throw a wrench into what is shaping-up as a critical season for the sport.

One good case in point is the situation with ABC's West Coast affiliates. TDP readers have already alerted us that the ABC stations in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR will be pre-empting the first thirty minutes of the Saturday Nationwide Series telecast.

This continues a long history of ignoring ABC "must carry" sports events by KOMO-tv in Seattle. This was the story about the Talladega race earlier this season that was joined-in-progress. KOMO-tv decided not to move thirty minutes of children's programming to carry the ABC Sports telecast of NASCAR.

Other ABC stations from San Diego to Sacramento and from Los Angeles to San Francisco have no problem adjusting their TV line-ups to catch the NASCAR telecasts that begin at 11:30AM Pacific Time. Why then, would other ABC stations in the same time zone be unable to do exactly the same thing?

The Nationwide Series is struggling, and ESPN has a big investment in this series in a very direct way. The company has many years left on its NASCAR TV contract and the promotion of the Nationwide Series by ESPN is one big reason they landed the final seventeen Sprint Cup races.

Last year, the wheels fell-off the ABC train when the Sprint Cup portion of the season rolled around. This is one TDP story about the mess caused by just a single night race. Many ABC affiliates decided their own local station agenda was bigger than that of either NASCAR or the ABC Television Network. Know what has changed since then? Nothing.

Last season we suggested that all three parties, NASCAR, ESPN and ABC sit down and review these issues. This sport is very different because of the problems associated with rain, red flags and numerous cautions. Veteran fans know a race running an hour longer than scheduled is not uncommon. In the broadcast TV world, an hour is an eternity.

While the problems on Saturday may be limited to some West Coast stations, ESPN is only a couple of weeks away from beginning their coverage of the Sprint Cup Series. Ultimately, the final ten races on ABC will be key to whether NASCAR ends another season on a high or low note where this new TV contract is concerned.

The ultimate reminder for the ESPN and ABC team of just how bad it got last season is this blurb from a TDP column after the final race in Homestead:

Sometimes, the poor ESPN guys just cannot buy a break as they try to navigate their way through the twisted world of the ABC local stations. On this Sunday, KABC in Los Angeles the number two TV market in the country somehow forgot to show the first thirty minutes of the live NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

Can you believe it? Even with thousands of angry calls pouring into the KABC switchboard, the fans could not convince the Master Control Operator at the station that he probably should switch to the live final NEXTEL Cup race instead of running the children's show the station was airing.


Someone at ESPN is in charge of "clearing" these ABC stations for the NASCAR races. Someone at NASCAR is in charge of making sure that ABC carries the NASCAR events as scheduled in the TV contract. Somehow, it just does not seem all that hard to do correctly.

It is the NASCAR fan who is directly affected by these ABC local station problems. Last season, many fans reported to TDP about their efforts to call and email the stations involved only to be met by a wall of silence.

When we tried to pursue the matter, ESPN told us it was an ABC issue. ABC told us it was a local station issue. Several local stations happily told us they were independent businesses and would continue to do exactly as they pleased.

On Saturday afternoon, the cycle will being again.

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29 comments:

glenc1 said...

guess I'm early on here...but a few things occur to me. Does it matter whether it's a kid's show (who have a lack of good programming period) or something else, say, a local real estate show? When I was young, I learned early on the difference between local and syndicated and network programming. As far as I can see, it's up to the local station to show what they think *viewers* want in a particular time slot. Yes, I think ABC should pressure them for live sports, but it's really up to the viewers to convince them that if they were *showing* NASCAR that enough of them would be watching to combat whatever ad dollars they're getting. Back to the money trail again. And I believe there's an issue of advertising revenue of national vs. local shows, but I don't know how that works nowadays (and I get confused on how west coast programming works). But essentially--the stations are right--their agenda IS bigger than anything else they decide isn't in their interests, since they have the power to choose. How ABC can control that--not really sure what kind of leverage they have.

I think there are requirements for children's and community service programs--they must be fit in somewhere, although I don't see why some shifts can't be made. I feel for the left coasters, mind you, but I just don't know what can be done if the stations are determined to be contrary.

Anonymous said...

I can't say I'm surprised. I can't remember the last time a minor league baseball game, or a CFL football, or IHL hockey game was shown on network television, but I'm guessing those weren't given a big priority, either.

At the end of the day, the Nationwide series - even with a lineup of Buschwhackers - is still the minor leagues. So it shouldn't expect major league treatment from the national broadcast networks.

Daly Planet Editor said...

glen,

Thanks for the comments. Local stations sign affiliate agreements with ABC. Some stations are actually owned by ABC itself.

Sports programs are easy to handle. The events are scheduled well in advance and in this case most of the ABC West Coast affiliates handled this race with no problem.

KOMO-tv would have to decrease their 8AM Saturday newscast from one hour to thirty minutes in order to air three hours of children's programming and then the race telecast. They chose not to do that.

Since KOMO-tv is not owned by ABC, they are betting that the ABC Network will not make this an issue, and just swallow the fact that a "must carry" ABC sports telecast is going to be joined-in-progress.

The irony of it all is that this issue has been in play since 2007, when the new NASCAR TV contract began and these problems began to appear.

All three parties, ESPN, ABC and NASCAR have done nothing to solve this issue since last season. That is the real slap in the fact to fans.

It makes a statement when other Pacific Time Zone ABC affiliates are able to handle this program with no problem, but KOMO-tv cannot.

Anon 1:14AM,

Comparisons to stick-and-ball sports do not work with this program. Local stations do not judge content for the network.

This is a "must carry" telecast for ABC affiliates that has been on the NASCAR and ABC schedule since January of 2008.

This is simply a rogue ABC affiliate who is saying to ESPN, NASCAR and the ABC TV Network that they are powerless where Seattle, WA is concerned.

Needless to say from my email, area fans are not pleased and are not looking forward to this continuing as the NASCAR season moves over to ABC down the road.

JD

Ken said...

I think the station is following the money. I have heard that the local news is the most profitable telecast a station has and they apparently make more money with the local news than with NA$CAR programing. The number of NA$CAR fans is apparently small enough or silent enough that the station feels it can get by with what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Someone at ESPN is in charge of "clearing" these ABC stations for the NASCAR races. Someone at NASCAR is in charge of making sure that ABC carries the NASCAR events as scheduled in the TV contract. Somehow, it just does not seem all that hard to do correctly.

I'm surprised that NASCAR allowed a network that wouldn't guarantee it would clear all of its programming to bid on the package in the first place.

And if ABC did guarantee carriage, then NASCAR needs to seek legal relief.

Anonymous said...

JD - You should post the list of the West Coast stations that ARE airing the pre-race show & race as a way to congratulate them ...


It's not just Portland and Seattle, but also Spokane that are pulling this stunt ... Seattle & Portland are owned by a West Coast conglomerate (Fisher Communications) whereas Spokane's owned by Morgan Murphy Media company ...


On today's tv schedule for Seattle ... The big 3 affiliates have different MOs ... KIRO-tv (CBS) picks up "The Early Show" from 5am to 7am & then goes to local news from 7-8:30am, then kiddie programs from 8:30am to 10am, 10-10:30am is paid programming, with golf at 11am ...

KING-5 (NBC) picks up "The Today Show" from 5-6am & local news from 6-9am & then Wimbledon til noon & Golf at noon ...

KOMO-tv (ABC) has paid programming from 5-6am, local news from 6-7am, "Good Morning America" from 7-8am, local news from 8-9am, then the infamous kiddie patrol from 9am-noon ... They pick up the Natiowide race at Noon (just in time for the pre-race ceremonies) ...

I'm actually surprised that KXLY in Spokane is showing the race ... I thought they'd airing "Hoopfest" but they're showing it on their HD channels ...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I don't understand what the big problem is. Isn't the TV station showing the race in its entirety? Last time I checked, most people complain about the prerace shows (no matter which entity is broadcasting) - so why all the controversy?

A station wants to make money before showing a complete race. I don't have an issue with this at all.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:12PM,

As you can see from the story, the issue is not the ability of the station to somehow "judge" the content of the program.

There are a lot of NASCAR fans in the Pacific Northwest who deserve to see the exact same ABC Network program that the rest of the nation will be viewing.

To believe that KOMO-tv can simply somehow "snip off" the NASCAR Countdown show is incorrect. There are many Pacific Time Zone ABC stations that are having no problem handling this 11:30AM Pacific start time.

It should be interesting to see how ABC and NASCAR react to this major market stepping aside for a contractually obligated network TV program.

JD

Anonymous said...

JD,

"NASCAR react to this major market stepping aside for a contractually obligated network TV program."

Isn't the race the contractually obligated TV program? I don't think a prerace show is part of the deal (or is it?)

Anonymous said...

Most of the "West Coast" still thinks NASCAR is a redneck sport watched by uneducated people and that's the problem!!!

Anonymous said...

They could care less about a "Southern" Sport?

Anonymous said...

There is TOO MUCH "prerace" programing and not enough "postrace"!!!

Anonymous said...

ABC affiliates can "snip off" weekday PRIMETIME programming for local special interest telecasts. Network primetime programming is far more important to ABC than a Nationwide race.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:33PM,

Not quite sure what you are trying to say. If there is a local disaster or something that falls within the guidelines for not carrying network programming as intended, the local station usually delays the program and airs it later that same day.

My understanding is that KOMO-tv, who has a long history of stormy relations with ABC, actually tape-delayed Monday Night Football for some time a while back because it did not fit their agenda.

Anon 1:02PM,

That contractual obligation is between NASCAR and ABC/ESPN. They must show the green flag to the chekered flag. This was set-up basically to allow the NASCAR TV partners to be flexible in their pre and post-race shows.

The relationship in this story is not about NASCAR, but a continuing problem between the ABC Television Network and several West Coast ABC affiliates.

It is ABC itself that provides the "kid's program feed" that is in direct conflict with the NASCAR race. Figure that one out!

My point was to try and push this agenda to the front burner before the big Cup races started to once again have problems with the ABC affiliates as they did last season.

Just imagine, the Los Angeles ABC station did not even know that the final 2007 Cup race from Homestead was on-the-air until viewers started to call the station.

The best part about that item is that the station is actually owned by ABC itself...wow.

JD

Anonymous said...

I've seen an ABC affiliate pre-empt network primetime programming for a Billy Gramm crusade. It wasn't a local disaster or severe weather.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Add insult to injury ...


Espn360.com does NOT have the Countdown on their site ... Most of the time they do ...

Anonymous said...

Due to the cluster-chuck of a mess the networks made of the races last year, I'll do what I've been doing each weekend-keep track of the Cup races with TrackPass (and Race Buddy.) In all honestly, I rarely watch the Nationwide races anymore. Partly because of the inconsistency with the coverage but mostly because my favorite #1 Cup driver is not in them.

Regarding the Cup races....I have gotten so used to TrackPass that I rarely look at them on the t.v. I do record the races, too, but unless my favorite driver has a good race, I never watch it.

My attitude is that if the networks obviously don't give a rats-a** about the fans, why should we care about them and their advertisers? To heck with 'em.

JManrulez1 said...

You said it JD. The requirement is from green to checkered. As far as it sounded like, those stations airing kids programs or whatever are still carrying green to checkered. And how many people actually watch pre-race as compared to the race itself?

Here in Hawaii, our FOX affiliate decided to show Saturday baseball on a tape delay basis because they were showing coverage of a parade. They could've put it on CW, which the affiliate also owns and is on a digital tier, but because of the lack of reach, they put it on the FOX affiliate. But they aired it tape delayed basis.

To me, it isn't a big deal until they decide to cut actual "racing" coverage from their program lineups.

josh

Daly Planet Editor said...

josh,

I hear what you are saying but I would suggest that we should all make it a big deal.

NASCAR has been doing fine with the TV coverage until the ABC stations came along. You did not hear any complaints this season with the Fox stations.

ABC has a contract with their affiliates to carry programming designated as "must carry."

Comments to the contrary on this site are misinformed. When many West Coast affiliates have no problem dealing with this issue, there is no reason people in the greater Seattle area should bear the brunt of this ego-driven behavior.

JD

Dot said...

Fortunately, I am not affected by the ABC programming prior to the Countdown.

The kid programming issue needs to be addressed. Back in the olden days when there were about 10 channels to watch, this made sense. Now with kid only channels all over cable, any program should be aired in its entirety. They aren't missing out on anything if KOMO doesn't show 30 minutes of kid programming.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has had their problems. The first year FOX had NASCAR, Boston station WFXT, TAPE DELAYED, yes I said tape delayed, almost every race because of Red Sox conflicts. That was a huge area that had no live coverage and tape delay on any event was a slap in the face for someone who pursued NASCAR so aggressively. I'll take the TNT, ESPN, ABC issues as it is better than listening to the CIRCUS attitude FOX gives us. SPEED, which used to be good, has been ruined by the FOX approach

Anonymous said...

KRKO-AM is the affililate for MRN / PRN / Indy Racing radio in the Seattle market & it doesn't always air the races ... They're also an ESPN affiliate ...

Last week's Nationwide race was pre-empted for some stick & ball sport (I think it was the Everett Aquasox minor league baseball) ...

They've even tape delayed the racecasts til the next day ... One of them was a race at Daytona (Pepsi 400) & they played it the next day ... What's the point?? People already know who won & who wrecked ... The excitement is gone ...

When the races do get pre-empted on KRKO, it's usually for the Silvertips minor league hockey, Aquasox minor league baseball, or WSU football / basketball ...


The sad thing is ... KRKO was all gungho when Marysville/Arlington was the preferred site for ISC's racetrack ... and then when it was Bremerton ... But, since the idiot politicians put the kabosh on the track, KRKO's dumped NASCAR to the curb in favor of stick & ball sports ...

KRKO's owners/mgmt doesn't understand that the radio broadcasts DO indeed serve a valuable purpose ... and not just for people who aren't near a tv ... With the 2006 Daytona 500, MRN told listeners what was going on between Smoke & Kenseth throughout the race (prior to the infamous "wrecking" incident) when NBC was avoiding it ...

Anonymous said...

I watched the race on KOMO 4 today and a very lengthy post-race show. However, the kid's programs were on during the normal "pre-race" stuff. I emailed KOMO 4, reminding them that kids don't buy stuff - their parents do, and I would no longer be purchasing anything from their sponsors. I also won't be watching their channel for news, etc. - if they can ignore me, then I can follow suit with them.

Thanks so much for the Daly Planet - you're the greatest!

NASCAR Oldie said...

ABC statins in the midwest aren't immune. WKOW in Madison, Wisconsin, ran a thunderstorm warning scroll across the top of the screen during the entire Nationwide race this week. It was impossible to monitor the race order and, of course, the commentary pretty much ignored the race except for the leaders and accidents. Sigh. I sent comments to ABC and the station asking why they didn't run the thunderstorm warning across the bottom of the screen. No response so far.

Ann_Ominous said...

I would think that the real way to get the local networks attention is to write/call/email the advertisers on the program that is being aired instead of NASCAR and tell those companies that you will not be buying their products until you get your network scheduled coverage.

Desmond said...

Thanks for the interesting comments. ABC7 here in Los Angeles did air NASCAR Countdown, but remember that it was on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday night. We don't know if ABC7 will air the pre-race show on Saturday nights this year.

I remember reading about the WFXT tape delays. Unfortunately, an idiot went to federal prison due to threats made against the station. WFXT no longer airs Red Sox games, all games not on national TV are now on NESN.

Desmond said...

Sorry, I meant Saturday afternoon.