Wednesday, October 8, 2008

ESPN's Stick-And-Ball Feeding Frenzy


Wednesday marked another milestone in ESPN's feeding frenzy for the rights to college sports. This time, it was the Big West Conference signing a five year deal with the media giant.

Over the last several months, ESPN's senior executive John Skipper (pictured above) has been leading the charge to add more-and-more live events to the company's line-up of college and pro sports. The biggest deal of the season was in August. Skipper signed an agreement with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) that was monumental in nature.

The SEC had been poking around about starting a free-standing cable TV network just like the Big Ten Conference had done. ESPN's response was to make them an offer they could not refuse. On the table went a deal for 15 years of coverage on the ESPN networks for all kinds of SEC sports. The check attached to it was made out for 2.25 billion dollars. That would be billion with a "B."

This is the exact same ESPN that recently made mincemeat out of the newly unified Indy Racing League. They sent Tony George and his IRL teams packing to the relative obscurity of the Versus digital cable TV network. Skipper wanted the Indy 500 and four other races on ABC. The remaining thirteen IRL races were suddenly not even on the ESPN radar. There was no more room for auto racing.

"The Indy 500 is something we were focused on," said ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Scott Guglielmino. "It really boiled down to that." The rights fee paid by ESPN for the Indy 500 and the other four races combined is less than 4 million dollars a year. How is that for a clear indication of where priorities lie?

In a September 29th interview in MediaWeek, Skipper elaborated on the new ESPN philosophy. “We have found that what sports fans really care about and why they come to ESPN properties is to watch live games,” said Skipper.

With this new focus, Skipper's shopping list in incredible. He wants more college product, additional professional golf and tennis events as soon as possible. As a longtime soccer fan, Skipper also plans more extensive coverage of the World Cup in 2010. But, that is not the biggest fish in the ESPN ocean.

The ultimate goal is to combine ESPN and ABC to cover the Olympics. Skipper is working on a bid for the 2014 and 2016 games. ESPN saw the success that an entertainment-driven network like NBC had with Beijing and they want a piece of the pie.

Currently, ESPN is in the second year of a TV contract with NASCAR. ESPN steps into the Sprint Cup Series in late July and has a good run for a couple of weeks right up until college and pro football season hits. Then, finding more than a forced NASCAR blurb on ESPNEWS or SportsCenter becomes very hard to do.

Other than NASCAR Now, the sport is nowhere on any other ESPN shows from The Sports Reporters to PTI. Some ESPN shows still continue to make fun of NASCAR and celebrate the stick-and-ball culture of ESPN as a whole. When the football blizzard of content begins, NASCAR gets snowed-under very quickly.

The Nationwide Series suffers the worse fate by racing on Saturdays. Fans remember the tough times last year when college football overlapped with live races and the ESPN Classic Network became the second home for the Nationwide Series teams.

One live Nationwide Series race last season was yanked totally off-the-air during the pre-race prayer. It was time for college football.

Ultimately, don't all of the Nationwide races, the Sprint and Nationwide Series practices and the qualifying sessions fit the same criteria as the 13 dropped IRL races? What ESPN really wants is the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series events and the entire Chase for the Championship to show on ABC.

As Skipper and company continue to pile-on the new college and pro sports, isn't it only a matter of time before the same eyes that just dealt with the IRL turn toward NASCAR? The results should be very interesting.

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. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

(photo courtesy of F. Scott Shafer for Wired Magazine/2005)

45 comments:

The Western New Yorker said...

JD,

I think NASCAR will be fine at ESPN, because it still brings in the ratings for them week in and week out, even if they have slightly dropped. The main reason for the IRL leaving is the fact that its ratings were anemic for so long. I would bet that the Big West would be mostly relegated to ESPNU, so it wouldn't affect NASCAR that much.

I just hope they never get the Olympics, that would ruin sports as we know it.

PammH said...

OMG, this is terrible news for Nascar..:( We are literally toast on ESPU when this starts-like it doesn't suck now. I'm gonna have to give up on Cup Lite. The plus side is I will have Sats free in the fall!! My furkid will appreciate that..:)

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why ESPN paid so much to buy the rights to show NASCAR racing, but now works so hard to minimize it, both in the way it is aired (or not) and in the comments made about it on other ESPN shows.

If they didn't want racing, they shouldn't have bought the package in the first place.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:23PM,

We first said it when the ESPN and NASCAR TV deal was announced. It is the reason that we started this blog.

ESPN and ESPN2 had been full of quality live programming for years and suddenly NASCAR was going to try to fit ten months of new programming into those two networks.

This new buying spree is going to be very interesting if ESPN does not try to change ESPN Classic into ESPN3.

JD

alex said...

With all this talk of more and more events, they'll need 2 more channels. If they don't just imagine how tight the program listings would be. One game in overtime screws up everything. (more so than currently)

I'd hate to see them try to have all of the live sporting events, and just push the majority of them to the black hole known as espn360.com

Anonymous said...

Keep adding channels. If Classic becomes ESPN3, that puts us only five away from THE OCHO!

Sophia said...

360 STINKS. NOBODY I know even has heard of this let alone has it??

Somebody called me a couple weeks ago about a Marshall football game he wanted to see...ESPN 360..nobody he worked with had heard of it. He thought it might be on our digital cable stations.

LAME, LAME, Lame.

Is NASCAR so arrogant they will let ESPN ruin this auto sport rather than say they sold their soul to ESPN???

I have heard the NW ratings are not much better than IRL...not sure that is true...IRL IMPROVED by end of season after the first season of the merger. over a million I read on an IRL site.

sad how ESPN hates autosports and OVER CROWDS their dials.

haus20 said...

anon @ 10:03 --- LOL




I would be interested to know if the terms of the new contract stipulates that the Big West Games must be on ESPN or ESPN 2 or if simply they can be on any of the ESPN family of networks.

If only SPEED had the same passion for Live Racing Programming...where is the racing version of John Skipper?

bevo said...

The next big contract that will play havoc for NASCAR on ESPN? English Premier League.

Photojosh said...

"If only SPEED had the same passion for Live Racing Programming...where is the racing version of John Skipper?"

EXACTLY my thought. With IRL having no home and the nationwide series + cup/NW practices/qualifying taking it in the shorts, you'd think the door would be open for a full on racing network. One that was based around auto racing in all it's forms.

Nah, screw that idea. Let's just have a network that does reality shows about the dangerous lives of tow truck drivers.

Dot said...

This does not bode well for us NASCAR fans.

Excuse my ignorance, but where does one find ESPU360? I think that only a chosen few get it with their cable companies. I tried to find it once, and I think that's is what ESPUs website said.

JD, Do you have any insight into the racing contract between NASCAR and ESPU from some of your buddies? For instance, are they allowed to show the NW races on tape delay like they do drag racing? (I see this coming). Are there any escape clauses? Or is this information like the NASCAR rule book? You know, we know it exists but the contents are not for public consumption.

@ Pammh, what is a furkid? Is it a pet? It sounds like a bad word. Like, ESPU shows furkid up race coverage.

@Photojosh, Ditto from Dot.

Anonymous said...

JD,
If they did go to ESPN 3, do you think it would be on Basic Plus with no additional fee? Some of us do not get Classic, so we're just
miss out when they switch. I agree with the other posters, why spend the billions on NASCAR, and not have more programming, or at least a decent calling of the races. Is there an escape clause for NASCAR, or ESPN.
bh

Karen said...

Dot said...

This does not bode well for us NASCAR fans.

Excuse my ignorance, but where does one find ESPU360?

Go to espn360.com and it will tell you you can get it through selected broadband services or if you have Verizon high speed internet. Or you can select your cable company, which isn't an option for me b/c it's not listed.

stricklinfan82 said...

I'm hoping this is going to signal the end of the failed two-year experiment that was "NASCAR on ESPN". The network has delivered nothing but negatives for NASCAR, so in my opinion it's definitely time to move on.

NASCAR probably hoped ESPN would treat it with more respect across all of its platforms if NASCAR allowed itself to become an ESPN property. NOPE! It's still just as irrelevant on Sportscenter, ESPNEWS, PTI, Around the Horn, Mike & Mike, etc. as it was before 2007. The same anchor jokes, the same lack of knowledge, the same burying of highlights or outright ignoring of the sport on these shows, and the same zero respect for the sport by ESPN that existed before 2007 haven't gone away.

All ESPN has brought to NASCAR is black-eyes for many of its star drivers and major headaches to all of its fans. Tape-delays, TV blackouts of practice/qualifying sessions, and joined-in-progress broadcasts are hard enough to swallow. Add on top of that the fact that the ESPN NASCAR production truck blatantly mocks NASCAR as being boring and covers up the on-track action with full-screen videos and other junk, and that crosses the threshold of what is bearable for me as a fan.

So.... NASCAR hasn't improved its rung on the ESPN priority ladder since moving to the network. Many drivers are completely fed-up with ESPN's approach to "covering" this sport and stabbing everyone in it in the back. And most fans are completely fed up with not being able to watch our sport on TV because ESPN is either deadbeat, busy covering another sport, or covering up the screen with full-screen junk when they are actually on the air from the track. What GOOD has actually come from this association? Who has benefitted from this, other than ESPN/ABC itself (who still gets much bigger rating numbers with NASCAR than they could with anything else they could pick up in its place on Sunday afternoons)? NASCAR loses, the drivers lose, and the fans lose. Only ESPN wins. I say enough of this garbage and it's time for NASCAR to move on from ESPN.

NASCAR, you hit a major home run with your first TV contract but you struck out BIG TIME the second time around. It was a nice try. It was a calculated gamble. It could have produced big dividents for your sport, but unfortunately it blew up in your face. It's now time to swallow your pride, admit your mistake, pick up the pieces, move on, and do the right thing for your sport, your drivers, and your fans and find a new TV home before it's too late.

To me the potential loss of over-the-air TV that could accompany leaving ESPN/ABC is a minor price to pay to free the drivers, the fans, and the sport as a whole from the prison sentence that has been trying to endure dealing with ESPN making a complete mockery of this sport practically every day for the last two years.

Move the ESPN NASCAR schedule to Turner, to some combination of Fox/FX/Speed, to Versus, to PBS, to the Food Network..... ANYTHING would have to be better than what we have right now with ESPN's ignore-the-track and mock-the-sport coverage styles.

Dot said...

@ Karen, Thanks. I don't get it here (LV) either. I would never change my cable/phone/internet package to get this anyway.

And really, who wants to sit and watch racing on the computer? (unless you're away from a TV). I like being with my e friends here during the race, but I still like seeing it on TV. Plus, roommate wouldn't like me interrupting the coverage to post a comment. I really hope this is not a sign of things to come.

@ All, Since Cup is racing on Sat night, are we playing the drinking game? I'm buying.

Anonymous said...

I think ESPN's focus on programming shows an attitude held by the general sports viewer that readers of this blog don't want to admit. The majority of sports fans see Nascar as an entertainment business, rather than a sport. They see the cars covered in sponsor logos and the driver's racing suits looking like walking billboards and think much like Tony Stewart stated: similar to WWF. The inconsistency in rules applications and perceived preferential treatment of certain drivers all weakens the arguments of legitimacy in the eyes of mainstream viewers. I've been following Nascar for a while. I remember when Fireball died. I think some of the perceptions are legitimate.

cvt said...

NASCAR, the IRL and the ALMS need to get together and negotiate a deal with Fox and Speed for broader and deeper coverage of their respective events. They need to negotiate greater clearance rates with cable operators for Speed so it is part of basic cable and move-on from ESPN.Even if that means creating Speed2.

Take the capable on-air racing staff from ESPN, TNT, NBC etc and move them over to Fox/Speed.

Autoracing is always going to be the ugly stepchild to Stick 'n Ball sports, even golf, because of the inherent cultural bias in the journo industry. Get over it and move on.

Adam T. Martin said...

Well, it feels like 1999-2000 again.

I still can't believe what they did to the IRL. Now I think NASCAR will probably suffer on the Cup coverage.

GinaV24 said...

Great, just great. I think ESPN's coverage of NASCAR is bad right now and this won't improve things anyway. JD, I know whenever it gets mentioned that many of us don't get ESPN classic that we need to talk to our cable provider, but I sure don't have much clout with them -- maybe if all the NASCAR fans banned together? I don't watch ESPN on any kind of regular basis -- I actually forget that Monday Night Football is even on because it moved onto their network. I would like to see a little more respect paid to racing and if Speed would pick it all up for the NW series and Cup, that would be awesome. I've quit watching most of the programming on Speed in the past couple of years -- I'm with Photojosh -- now we get the "dangerous lives of tow truck drivers". A program that I have TOTALLY ignored.

Tom said...

Sad. I truly believe that ESPN was responsible for NASCAR and it's booming popularity in the
80's and 90's. They had solid broadcasts, good announcers, and fairly simple, yet innovative, technical aspects (the original "Digger"). Today none of these things are true. As uninteresting as many of these new college TV deals are for me (and hey, I am a Gator alumni), I guess I am not sure it is a bad deal for ESPN. That stuff is huge, most people I know spend entire weekends watching football/basketball, and don't give a thought to racing. I think at this piont the best we can hope for is more ESPN channels, or better, a switch to another network. I was distraught about the IRL deal initially, but after researching it a little further, It may turn out all right. Turns out Bright house even has VS on HD, and I guess there is some deals to bring it to more Cable systems. NHL has been there, and the coverage (house-wise) has improved, but there is reason to be optimistic that event coverage will improve-longer post race, a weekly open wheel tv show (bring on Robin Miller!). Between satelite and fiber optic systems, the channel availabilty situation will be changing fairly radically in the next 5 years.

Tom
Inverness, FL

Gymmie said...

@dot--yes a "furkid" is your dog, cat, hamster, etc. :).
Yes Saturday is going to be interesting...like I said in the other thread, while they have the post-game shows to help with OT, who knows if it does go there, if they'll try to still have their full 30 minute wrap up show, especially after the last game. And Classic is the only available channel as everyone else has football.

PammH said...

dot-a furkid is a pet, ie, dog or cat. I'm single & don't have any children, but I do have a "furkid". think she mite be spoiled? ;)
I have stopped taping practice & quals on the four letter network. There's just no point..They don't seem to get that in general, the "casual" fan does NOT watch those shows anyway. I know I didn't the first couple of yrs I was watching racing. But found that I was missing some good info, so I started. When it's presented correctly, it's fun & informative.

majorshouse said...

It makes me wonder how much longer that NASCAR will be on the four letter network because they hate any form of auto racing. I think it is high time that NASCAR voids this contract and gives it to TNT. They gave us the best coverage of any of them. I never thought I would say that, but the entire team was good and entertaining as well, they also provided us with race buddy and that was great too. It is high time that NASCAR listened to the fans and did something because it is obvious that the four letter network definitely does not have racing's interest at heart at any level.

Anonymous said...

You know , there is a possible silver lining in all of this . ESPN has botched the NASCAR coverage about as badly as they could have . SPEED has done a fair job on NASCAR , but their regular line- up of non stop infomercials and that horrible Pinks leaves the door open for an interesting possibility .
The arena is wide open for a brand new network to step in and do what ESPN and especially SPEED always promised but never delivered . Quality AUTO RACE programming . A channel that has non stop auto racing , no infomercials , and race broadcasts that are repeated two to three times at differing hours . This idea sound familiar . It is . Thats what we were promised but never really received . NASCAR contract tied up for another year or two . Fine . Show all of the USAC races , bring along a version of Thursday Night Thunder , DIRT series ( or whatever they call themselves these days ) , Austrailian Super Cars . The list of possible race shows is endless .

chase said...

JD: Well, indeed this is lousy news BUT as most of us have been grousing about for a long time and that is NASCAR has got to negate their K with ESPN and let ESPN do their other sports rather than shift racing around to their other various channels at their whim. It is really unconscionable what is happening and either NASCAR steps up to the plate and makes this happen or else they will continue their downward spiral. I am at a loss as to suggest an alternative but my gut reaction would be to put ALL racing in all series on SPEED and keep it there - have SPEED surround themselves with the best announcers and PxP, and pit people and crank it out - after all, SPEED Channel means racing - throw IRL, ARCA, some F1, some regional series in to the mix and voila! SPEED will be a star and the masses will come back and watch. Short of this, I think we're all in deep trouble! Thanks John - but I'm glad you reported the bad news, lousy though it is.

3bud said...

When is NASCAR going to wake up to the lack of respect their TV partners show. I can not believe anything close to this would be happening if Bill France Jr. were still with us. I know not all agree but we lost alot on Febuary 18 2001. and again June 2007. They need to take a stand or there may not be awole lot to stand up for. So much going on in the world, you need your escape ,for me NASCAR has been it for many years. I hate to see the level of poor treatmeant ESPN mostly shows. Be it the drivers, fans, races, they really don't seem to get it

Ken said...

ESPN wants as many live shows on as possible and racing does not fit well because of the unpredictability of the "sport". Football, basketball and other sports have a starting time that does not vary plus overtimes are infrequent that makes finishing times predictable. Baseball is frequently postphoned when the weather is bad. However, racing's starting time can be delayed for hours due to weather and wrecks, red flags, rain delays, etc. makes the finishing times unpredictable. Racing messes up their schedule badly.

Before the end of the contract, you you think NA$CAR might start their own network to take the "burden" off of ESPN. This would be a good excuse and it might have been the plan all along.

haus20 said...

anon@7:37 said, "I think ESPN's focus on programming shows an attitude held by the general sports viewer that readers of this blog don't want to admit. The majority of sports fans see Nascar as an entertainment business, rather than a sport. They see the cars covered in sponsor logos and the driver's racing suits looking like walking billboards..."

I must ask, have you been to a stick & ball sporting event lately? Have you noticed the billboards everywhere around the stadiums? Have you ever checked out the names of the stadiums, fields and arenas? Companies pay upwards of $20 million for the naming rights to the stadiums. Have you seen Manchester United's uniforms lately or any other professional soccer teams uniform for that matter? It is nothing but company logos and sponsorships.

I think it has less to do with that and more to do with a lack of understanding of the sport. No matter what the sport is, if you don't understand what is going on or how the game is played, you will have a lack of interest in the sport. For example, cricket is very popular in England and other countries in Europe as well as around the world. However, I have no interest in watching the sport. I have tried, but I don't know what is going on and I don't understand the rules therefore I am lost when I watch it. The same can be said for NASCAR, until a few years ago, I had no interest in watching cars go "around in circles" for 4 hours, but then I had some friends who were fans and they helped to instill an interest in the sport. Since I had an interest, I started to learn about it. Now I prefer Nascar over most any other sporting event on TV.

It is all about having an interest and and understanding of the sport. You can create interest by producing good competition and rivalries in the sport. You also create interest through the quality of the broadcast of your sport. If you watched the last 10 laps at Talladega, you would have thought that DJ was the PxP guy. JP was barely heard from. The announcers can make or break a broadcast. When hardcore NASCAR fans are turning off the broadcast, what do you think the casual fan is doing?

3bud said...

Things pop in my head I have to get them out before they disappear and I'm not good at typing, that being said,I know Bill France Jr. was not really running the show the last years of his life, what I mean is if he were I don't beleive he would have let the shabby treatment we see happen at all. His family needs to try to atleast keep some of His and Bill France Sr. vision alive. 60 years in the sports world deserves that much.

Tracy said...

This reminds me of the "we dont' get no respect" syndrome that seems to attach to many a popular form of entertainment. And yes, Nascar is entertainment as well as a sport. I'm highly entertained! But I can say that I feel the same way about a great baseball game with a pitching duel or a slammin' book. I belong to a writing organization that represents 9,000authors who garner 54% of the mass market publishing pie. The numbers are rock solid and its profits support many other aspects of the publishing industry. But its members feel highly slighted, and rightly so, by the media. They're denigrated regularly as the purveyors of porn, as the biddies of bodice rippers. The "we don't get no respect" label fits and it seems as if there's nothing they can do about it. But they fight back every chance they get. And it doesn't hurt to be financially successful for the corporations that publish them.

So what do we, as people who enjoy Nascar or a good romance novel, do to fight back? We buy the books, we go to races, we let the powers-that-be know we demand our fair share of respect for our racing or literary favorites, as the case may be. Don't just post on this blog. WRITE Espn. Write Nascar. Let them know how you feel. You may not get a response (more than likely), but it's the only way to let your voice be heard.

Sorry, I get this bee in my bonnet now and then. . .

steadicam_clay said...

ESPN foolishness is not a loss for NASCAR. It's an opportunity.

For the consumer, looming on the event horizon, is free, over the air, digital TV.

The picture is as clean and crisp as cable. The audio is perfect. Channels are broken up into groups of ten. For example, the available channels between channel "2" and "3" is 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, etc.

It's easy to see possibilities. For example, ABC could put Sticks on one channel, Balls on another, and NASCAR on another.

I think it's absolutely nuts for ABC, ESPN, Disney, NASCAR, and all the rest of 'em, to not take advantage of this opportunity while they have the chance.

3bud said...

haus20, once again you nailed it.

Jo said...

JD
Great article. The most telling thing was your sentence about soccer & Skipper. He wants more soccer. Great. Theres a marginal sport,but still considered a sport by espu because it involves a ball.

the espn channels do not have enough room to air live what they have committed to Now, how when the feeding frenzy is over, will they have room? espn3,4,5????

It is high time for NA$CAR to admit it was a mistake & break that contract, set the fans & drivers free & get back to SPEED.

We are a Sport that espu ridicules, & casually hates. On espu family of channels, save NN, there is only derogatory, cursory mention (if any). We are the red headed stepchild or rented mule.Its time to go.

We all know that - would someone please give King Brian & Co their meds - so they may join us in reality land & save the sport?
Or has Brian been so busy being a NYC resident millionaire he has forgotten what pays the bills & got his family started?

Adam T. Martin said...

"Tom said...
Sad. I truly believe that ESPN was responsible for NASCAR and it's booming popularity in the 80's and 90's. They had solid broadcasts, good announcers, and fairly simple, yet innovative, technical aspects (the original "Digger"). Today none of these things are true. "

That was when the broadcasts on ESPN/ABC were classics (Bob, Benny, John Kernan, Ned Jarrett). Now new management is always throwing it's weight.

You need to remember, NASCAR and ESPN cannot break the contract until 2014. Sorry to say that.

ESPN/ABC can only go up in quality for now. Until then, we need to start listing improvements for them and remain vocal till we get the point through.

Anonymous said...

Isn't ESPN somehow violating the terms of contract with Nascar when it treats it like the red head step child?
Speaking of ... someone put a bug in Dale Jr.'s ear. He's rollin', let him hook up with Tony Stewart and start their own dang coverage with no points for f-bombs and media obsessions with radio chatter. That would be some real race coverage there. I'd bet we'd even get to see some midget, IRL etc. if those two went into broadcasting.
SPREAD THE BRAND BOYS!!

Jayhawk said...

Given that college football is about ten thousand times more exciting and interesting than stock car racing as NASCAR presents it, I think ESPN's decision makes perfect sense. Watching paint dry is more exciting that NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jayhawk...
Hummm...your female....RIGHT?

Wisconsin Steve said...

NASCAR shouldn't be surprised by any of this. They had these same problems in the 1990s with ESPN, only back then it was arguably worse. I remember several races being pre-empted or dumped early or tape-delayed or joined-in-progress, which was maddening for me since my cable operator didn't provide ESPN2 back then.

Of course, the difference now is NASCAR's popularity is far beyond what it was then. You would think NASCAR would now be a priority to ESPN.

Apparently its not.

Anonymous said...

Versus isn't an obscure "digital cable" network. Not in all markets, at least.

When I lived on the west coast, Comcast offered Versus in it's basic cable lineup. Now that I live in North Carolina, Time Warner also offers Versus in it's basic cable lineup.

I may be familiar with only two cable television markets, but in both cases the Versus network was not digital (except for the HD channel, of course).

Not that I disagree with your point. If I remember correctly, ESPN offered "only" $280M for the rights to nearly half of a NASCAR season for six years. While that was a 40% premium over what NBC thought was too substantial a pricetag, it still pales in comparison to the deal with the SEC.

KoHoSo said...

Just some random thoughts and open questions...

With the Big West now being mainly a basketball conference with no football, I would not give it so much worry specifically. I have pretty much given up on watching the Nationwide Series for various reasons (mostly for too many Buschwhackers) to care whether or not E$PN carries the practices and qualifying for that series. Even then, it would only affect the first two months of the NASCAR season until March Madness was over.

I wonder...does E$PN's lust for soccer have anything to do with America's rapidly changing demographics? While the growth in NASCAR interest seems to have plateaued, I would think there will be nothing but potential growth in soccer interest considering this country's current immigration patterns (which I am stating only for fact and with no inference intended as to whether that is bad or good).

On the subject of PTI, I will stick up for Michael Wilbon. While he plainly admits that he is not an informed racing observer, he has always been generally curious, inquisitive, and courteous on those admittedly rare occasions that the program discusses any form of racing. It is Kornheiser who is the bad one, and the one time Dan LeBetard was charged with asking questions of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. still makes me cringe when I think about it.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with all of this as it relates to E$PN, and I'm not sure how much I really care. As a big IndyCar fan, I am changing my mind as time passes and becoming more and more glad that, no matter how obscure, the coverage on Versus can't be any worse than what E$PN/ABC has provided ever since the American open-wheel split. I don't expect the world, but I do expect to be shown some inkling that my patronage as a customer (fan) is at least occasionally appreciated by the sanctioning body, telecasters, and the major sponsors. Even with the great improvements E$PN made over last year's debacle that tried to pass as racing coverage, I still mostly feel like I am not wanted at almost every portion of their broadcasting day except when college football is on (as I love that sport as much as I love my racing). I guess that there's just not enough of us to make the final pushes needed to get things back to the competent days of Bob, Benny, and Ned and those times when NASCAR fans were the true kings in the mind of the France family. If I continue to not feel wanted, it's only going to take the retirement of a few more drivers before I completely throw in the towel after what now stands at 23 years of being a loyal and dedicated NASCAR follower.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 3:45PM,

Versus is a digital cable network. It comes with the digital cable box and on some systems is housed in an additional cable sports package for a extra fee.

Since Comcast bought the network and moved it to Philly, they are working hard to get it expanded and available everywhere.

This is Comcast's attempt at building their own version of ESPN just like Prime Network was TCI/Liberty Media's attempt in the early 1990's.

Versus is working hard to develop the production and operations needed to support the kind of sports product it will be seeing in 2009. I wish them good luck.

JD

Tracy said...

Anon at 1:45: what do you mean, "your female?" (It should be "you're," btw.)
Cut out the sexist remarks. A ton of women post here. Doesn't Nascar boast that something like 49% of fans are female?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the money spent getting all these college games make a more pay per view for ESPN.Last year the Big Ten was free on DISH, now it's $29.95 per game through ESPN...Does that make sense now for them getting more of the college games..

Maybe ESPN will want to PPV Nascar next...??

haus20 said...

to anon @ 11:09, I think you may be a little off on your Big Ten statement. Since the Big Ten has its own network, I don't believe their games are apart of the ESPN College Game Plan pay per view package any more. Also, if NASCAR pay per view was commercial free, I may be interested. Of course it would depend on who was in the booth...

Bobby said...

The ESPN/SEC deal is not just ESPN and ESPN2. The deal also gives Disney Television Distribution the syndication rights to the SEC's syndicated football and basketball package, and SEC baseball. Already the reaction is heavy in South Carolina, where deposed rights-holder Raycom O&O's are plenty (WIS, WCSC, WFXG, WBTV, WMBF, WTOC). None of the O&O's are likely to bid on the DTD package.

Last year we learned how "unfaithful" ESPN was in moving from Broadcast Network to ESPN2 Kansas after the race ran long (weather) in order to protect Desperate Housewives, a show I've referenced as one which has a "franchise" tag.