Thursday, October 9, 2008
Edwards vs. Harvick Might Give TV Ratings A Shove
There are 53 Nationwide Series cars waiting to qualify for 43 starting slots on Friday afternoon at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Whether qualifying is rained-out or not, we can expect two cars in the field to be piloted by Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick.
Sprint Cup Series qualifying has already been rained-out and the starting field has been set by points. Edwards and Harvick will both be there as well.
Even as you read this, the news story of Edwards confronting Harvick, putting hands on him and then ending up in a RV driver headlock is continuing to make its way around the world. As it turns out, the only Thursday action between Chase contenders was off the track.
Friday night ESPN2 gets this unlikely duo in the Nationwide Series race and on Saturday night they are back at it during the Sprint Cup event. Where TV ratings are concerned, ESPN could not be happier.
Regan Smith and his yellow line controversy is just not going to bring more TV viewers to NASCAR. However, reading stories online and in the local papers that two well-known Chase drivers were exchanging profanities and bodyslams might just do the trick.
Harvick's Nationwide and Shell ads run all over the TV and Carl Edwards has been seen on everything from Alias to The Chase is On over on SPEED.
Dr. Jerry Punch and his on-air crew of Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree played it cool on Thursday evening when discussing this incident. Edwards was apparently more dismayed at Harvick's choice of words on TV then he was by his own choice of actions at Talladega. Jarrett and Petree said these things will happen and drivers tend to sort things out on their own.
Of course, ESPN would like to have these two wait to sort things out until sometime after 8PM on Friday night. That would be during the live Nationwide Series race. It should also be very interesting to see how the NASCAR on ESPN crew approaches both drivers during the 3PM Friday coverage of Nationwide qualifying. Which pit reporter draws which driver should make for some memorable TV moments.
While the Craftsman Trucks have seen a ratings increase in terms of households, the total numbers of viewers for that series on SPEED is dwarfed by the Sprint Cup TV exposure. ESPN has seen on both the ESPN networks and ABC that ratings are basically flat this season for their two series. Even a wild Sprint Cup Series race from Talladega got the exact same ratings numbers as last year.
Friday night the Nationwide Series on ESPN2 is going up against the Red Sox playing the Tampa Bay Rays in the MLB playoffs on TBS. Meanwhile, Louisville is playing Memphis in college football over on ESPN. Finally, NBC rolls-out a new Deal or No Deal at 9PM.
On Saturday, the Sprint Cup Series moves over to ABC for the 7:30PM race telecast. Right next door on CBS is Florida playing LSU in a very big college football game. It might not surprise anyone to know that ESPN and ESPN2 are both going to be in live college football as well.
This is the tough TV environment into which Punch, Jarrett and Petree must wander on two consecutive nights and find a way to make viewers tune-in and more importantly, stay tuned-in. When they talk about big time TV pressure, this is it. The only remaining night race, a Chase event and in the middle of an on-going economic mess.
TV crews are like NASCAR teams, they either band together and put it all on the line for each other or slowly dissolve into small groups of special interests. ESPN will have eleven voices on-the-air, top flight facilities and a good track for racing.
How the NASCAR on ESPN team emerges from this weekend will probably set the tone for the rest of the season. Just like some drivers who are racing for a ride, there may also be some folks who are going to be working hard to keep their TV slot intact for 2009. It might not only be the racing that gets intense.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to drop by.