Friday, November 14, 2008

NASCAR Fans Do Not Get A TV Apology

The first person on-camera with a potential ESPN apology was Allen Bestwick on the Monday edition of NASCAR Now. Bestwick always seems to be doing the heavy lifting for the NASCAR on ESPN gang.

It was Bestwick who faced the camera early on Sunday evening and asked the Eastern and Central Time Zone viewers watching the Phoenix race to change channels to ESPN2.

Most NASCAR fans are familiar with that destination as it hosts the Nationwide Series races and the daily NASCAR Now program series. Now, several days later, it seems that the real issue for many fans was not the channel switch itself as much as the reason why.

This was the next-to-last Sprint Cup Series race and it had already been on the air for more than four hours. The laps were winding down and the rain seemed to have left the area. That left the real issue clearly exposed.

ABC Entertainment was going to start the three-and-a-half hour primetime line-up as scheduled at 7:30PM for the East Coast. NASCAR had to go. On came Bestwick who banished Eastern and Central viewers to ESPN2. The primetime line-up started as scheduled.

DirecTV's Hot Pass lost their SuperChannel that lets viewers see the race in the Hot Pass mode. Many West Coast viewers lost the HD feed of the race and complaints started immediately that the race was now in SD. Some stations did not get the memo and left for local news broadcasts instead of the rest of the race.

As we discussed on Monday, the folks recording the race for later viewing missed the ending. Those watching ABC without cable TV in their homes in the East and Central areas missed the remainder of the event. No ESPN2.

Monday afternoon Bestwick read the same terse statement that ESPN released shortly after the switch occurred. It said that the huge media company was trying to do two things at once. ABC was protecting the integrity of the primetime line-up on the East Coast. ESPN was giving basic cable viewers an opportunity to see the rest of the race no matter how long it lasted. In the eyes of ESPN/ABC, mission accomplished.

Once all the logistics were digested and the yelling died down, the one thing Bestwick did not offer was an apology. ESPN was insisting it did the best it could. "Something we did not want to do but had to do," said Bestwick. Judging from the emails and comments since that explanation was offered, it still did not sit well with many fans.

Tuesday was NASCAR CEO Brian France's turn to address this issue in an afternoon conference call with the media. Here are his comments about the ABC to ESPN2 switch:

"We didn't like it, that was not what we had anticipated but we have talked to them repeatedly in the last couple days," France said. "There were lots of circumstances that we have to consider. They have their own issues they had to manage around. Unfortunately we got the short end of that."

"They (ESPN) did not like the idea of having to pull out of ABC and operate the way they did Sunday," France said. "It is imperative we work closely together with them for scheduling."

France made the point that if not for a stoppage for rain and an extended red flag for a late accident, this situation would not have occurred. Unfortunately, that was little consolation to frustrated fans.

Perhaps, it might have been in the best interest of both Mr. France and the NASCAR on ESPN crew to say the words that so many of us say on a regular basis in our busy lives. "I'm sorry" would have gone a a long way toward closing the wounds and starting the healing process for everyone who was affected by "the big switch" on Sunday.

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Anonymous said...

If your looking to assign blame it fall squarely at the feet of NASCAR. The decision wasn't made by some weekend producer dude. It was made several years ago when the ABC/NASCAR contract was negotiated. NASCAR cut and signed a bad deal. They negotiated away the preemption of their races and gave ABC the right to move the race if they needed to. ABC was doing nothing other then working within the confines of a legal document. Why do you think that NASCAR is being so quiet and low key about this; they are letting ABC take the heat on an event that was in NASCAR control...until they gave it away.

AMS fan said...

First, NASCAR, FOX, ESPN, ABC, TNT will never go broke because of me.
I do try to support as many sponsors as I can.
Sundays race was the first one this year I still haven't seen the green flag. ESPN coverage has finally got the best of me. Usually I even watch the races a 2nd time to see what I missed. Haven't rewatched an ESPN race since the chase started.
An "I'm sorry it happened" at least from NASCAR would go a long way for me, but what the heck.
I'm sure Brian France and everyone at NASCAR cares about the fans. There is no doubt in my mind that they will do the best things for the sport and its fans. But a little sugar on top would help.
I'm excited about the truck race, it doesn't get any better.
I'll listen to the Nationwide race and record it so if anything special happens, I'll be able to see it.
As for the cup race, I could care less if I get to see it.
When FOX and TNT had the coverage, my Sundays were spent in front of the TV.
Now, it just doesn't matter.
Thanks NASCAR and ESPN.

Regina Ellison said...

I think they should ditch the coverage on ESPN and ABC and go back to just FOX and Speed Channel.

Richard in N.C. said...

I find it very interesting that no one in the media apparently was interested in asking B France whether there was a must carry provision in the agreement and, if not, why not. This seems to me an issue that should have been pursued, but was not.

In any event, it seems clear to me that ABC/ESPN showed their hand in how little they value NASCAR fans. ABC's hand was on the switch, and they chose to switch it. We aren't talking about just any race, but a race in which the Cup championship could have been decided. I wonder what the ratings would be for Homestead if the championship had been decided in Phoenix on ESPN2 ?

I also find it interesting that the FCC is concerned enough about the number of analog-only TV viewers that it sponsored a Yates car in the race to publicize the impending change to digital only. I have read that estimates are that about 15% of the population is still analog, out of the air only, which of course would be millions of viewers - not to mention the millions of viewers who might still be using "basic" cable only, which in most cases is probably filled with local stations and must carries, and no ESPN2. It does intrigue me that the FCC's attention might have been attracted to ABC's switch since it had a car in the race, although I believe that car was out of the race by the time of the shift. In what is likely to be an era of incresed regulation, ABC might have attracted unwanted FCC attention to how it operates.

Not only would apologies have been nice, but some assurance that a switch will not occur this Sunday.

Sophia said...

Yep, brian could have pretended to be sorry....he so does not care.

I will probably either have on MRN (I HOPE it's MRN and not the PRN gang on radio...don't like the latter as much) or maybe tv for background. Our FM affiliate just changed channels and went from a 5,000 signal to 50,000 hope it kept the NASCAR races.

I also looking forward to the Truck race.

This house has had some heavy news this week and I am just sorry I can't count on NASCAR for the fun distraction it was due to ES P U.

I am gonna miss the SPEED boys and the guys on TWIN.

Brian France could not be more distant from the sport...even in the photo JD posted, he manages to look like a slouched slug in a suit...not a personal attack just his 'attention' in general toward the sport.

CCC said...

If they (Nascar and ESPN/ABC) apologize then they'd have to admit being wrong in the first place. I'll hold my breath...

Dot said...

I read elsewhere that after the Heidi football fiasco that future NFL TV contracts made sure that would never happen again. Hence, the reason 60 Minutes and other shows are shown late.

I was thinking earlier about what's in the fine print of the ESPN/ABC/NASCAR contract. That's probably why we will never get an apology. Evidently no breach here so we're stuck with ESPN/ABC until the bitter end.

majorshouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

How many of you who are upset at the switch missed the rest of the race because you don't have cable or satellite or were recording it? The rest of you, why are you so angry? Did you sprain your thumb pressing the remote when you switched to ESPN2?

Anonymous said...

Does Brian care? Do not think so. Much of this has been pointed out before. If you cared about the sport you wouldn't let it get treated as a side show by your tv partners. If you cared about the sport you wouldnt horde the sponsors from teams to have them as official sponsors. You wouldn't force sponsors of teams to drop additional monies to just be sponsors. Even if the financial slow down hits the nascar/france track conglomerate it won't really impact them. They've pulled in so much $$ over the years. Its now just a burden instead of what jr and sr worked for. Hell sell it to bruton. At least he cares about it.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, DVR problems are TV wide. It doesn't only affect NASCAR. I record several shows each week and on numerous occasions, the recording either gets cut of early, or gets clipped at the top.

I actually didn't mind so much that ESPN moved the race. First, at least they have the channel to move it to. Second, at least it's a channel I get. Fox might move a race to FX, which doesn't have nearly the footprint that ESPN or ESPN 2 have.

Finally, there was a very large portion of our population this year that said, "I make the most money I can, I want to keep it." Isn't that ESPN/ABC's philosophy here? If they move the race, most race fans watching live will make the switch, and their primetime lineup isn't touched. That way, they maximize their profits. Last time I checked, ESPN/ABC is in the business of making money. The fact is, despite what the DVRers of the world might think, advertisers don't consider people watching on DVR when looking at the viewership for a show. As far as they're concerned, if you DVRed a show/race, you're fast forwarding through the commercials as well. You are essentially a worthless demographic to them. So while you may think it stinks that you missed the end of the race, everyone on the corporate end of things is thrilled.

Richard in N.C. said...

One of the key causes of the current financial meltdown was a focus on short-term profits with no view to the long-term, which sank Bear Sterns, Lehman Bros, and others. ABC/ESPN might have maximized their profit for this past Sunday, but has it left a sour taste that will drive away viewers for the future?

stricklinfan82 said...

An apology on someone's part would have been nice for sure, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. It happened, and there's nothing that can fix the damage that was done. What I want to see is some action taken to make sure this doesn't happen again. I don't care whose fault it is. I don't have inside knowledge of the situation, so its not fair for me to place blame on either NASCAR or ESPN/ABC for what happened on Sunday. Could the race have started earlier and avoided the mess? Sure it could have, but is that NASCAR's fault or did TV insist that the race start that late so there would be no hole between the race and primetime? I don't think we outsiders will ever know that for sure.

The only perspective I can offer is that of the NASCAR fan, and in my opinion NASCAR should not be on a network that can not allow even a 30 minute overrun for a race. If ABC can't offer 30 minutes of wiggle room for a Cup race, the Cup Series should not appear on that network, in my opinion.

I have had enough of ESPN/ABC as whole, so my ideal wish would be for NASCAR to leave them both. The tape-delays, practice blackouts, network shifts, and most of all the terrible on-air product have been too much to put up with.

This week (according to, the first 90 minute Sprint Cup practice from Homestead will be joined-in-progress 30 minutes in by ESPN2. The first half hour of practice for the championship deciding final race of the Chase will not be on television. Just think about that for a minute. Then the final 45 minute practice session before the championship deciding race of the Chase will be joined-in-progress on ESPN2 at some point, whenever football ends. If the game ends ridiculously early, we will only miss 10 minutes of practice. If the game runs its average length (like last year's 32 minutes over the 3 hour program block) we'll see a few minutes at most.

To me this is completely unacceptable when there is a fully able NASCAR TV partner - Speed Channel - available to provide live and full-length coverage of these sessions. Multi-hour tape-delays and joined-in-progress broadcasts should not be part of the equation for Sprint Cup practice sessions in the year 2008. If ESPN/ABC is still covering NASCAR next year (and I hope they won't be but that's probably an unrealistic expectation), the Cup practice TV issue needs to be one of the major priorities this off season, right up there with the network shifts and terrible on-air product they produce. If ESPN can't provide live and full-length coverage of a Cup practice session, it should move to Speed Channel, in my opinion.

Sophia said...

agree about the SPEED channel Stricklan but only if it could be bumped DOWN to basic for everybody.

You know I love SPEED but our TW butchered digital 'upgrade/downgrade' from Passport to Mystro is horrible. I finally called and was going to ditch digital after Homestead :-) but I had complained so often (with good reason!!) they lowered our bill 20.00 saying the upgrade should be improved by MARCH!

Granted this all started in April on on converter box in the house and 3 months later on another.

But I think NASCAR is nuts not to MAKE SPEED a basic cable station for all. F1 has a great announce team, even if you don't like that kind of racing, the boys will get you hooked.

But for all those folks in rural areas w/o cable/dishes, that need a network (because they listen on radio until NASCAR comes back to a network station)I feel a RESPONSIBLE NETWORK is needed. Can one add and addendum or whatever it's called to a 'done signed and paid for' contract?

I agree this should never happen again. SURE I saw the end live but I have EMPATHY for those that did not have a choice or those that taped/or dvr'd the race.

I am glad to see so many others up in arms about this on other sites! :-) I am glad to see this season end though.

Let's just hope FOX gets a producer/director with a BRAIN for showing the finish of a race across the f line. ABC is not so good at the either with IRL races...but that's another story.

Yes, an apology was the least they could do but did we really expect it? no

Bobby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jojaye said...

Well this time I didn't expect an apology - so I wasn't disappointed. Why apologize? Just because a significant number of fans are royally honked off by the arrogance of the "media partners"? We're insignificant rubes to them, just ask 'em.

Brian? Apologize? For not doing due diligence in contract negotiations? For not crossing every T & dotting every last i ? Please we can't expect that? Can we? Helios bells he looked like he was coming on camera from a week long drunk! I've seen men go into detox&rehab dressed better. And he's in charge?

No I gave up thinking the fans were as important as we used to be awhile ago. Soon I may give up on NA$CAR, like I did E$PN

Richard said...

Agreed JD. A little mea culpa would have gone a long way to placate angry race fans who were not able to watch the end of the Phoenix race. NASCAR does not deserve this second fiddle treatment, especially since we are in the middle of our playoffs. What if Jimmie Johnson had an engine failure? What if he blew a tire? The entire championship picture would have changed and a significant percentage of NASCAR's East coast viewing audience would have been left 'in the dark!' What a joke!

Bottom line JD is NASCAR is not a second class sport and it does not deserve second class treatment from its' television partner(s)!

Adam T. Martin said...

No apologies is completely unacceptable and irresponsible.

Brian needs to step up and live up to his role.

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Anonymous said...

Remember a few years back when NA$CAR was so excited to finally be on a major network. I think it was ABC, then too, but that's not important. This was hailed as NA$CAR's big coming out. Their finally joining the "big boy" sports.
We got this kind of thing regularly. Rain delay, shuffle it off to some other outlet.
The so-called "sports" networks, are used to the uncertainties of live sports. The main stream networks aren't.
If NA$CAR wants itself on network TV, they will probably have to accept this, from time to time.
They will also have to accept that they aren't the NFL, & don't have that kind of clout.

3KillerBs said...

So, having slapped us in the face with the switch, ABC has now shrugged it off as though lowly Nascar fans ought to expect to be abused and beg for more instead of resenting it.

I have no alternate means of watching Nascar races, but I certainly won't be tuning into ABC for anything else whatsoever.

chase said...

I continue to be amazed at Brian France's total disregard towards the fans and NASCAR in general. Assuming that NASCAR has good, solid attorneys reviewing the TV contracts, why wasn't the distinct possibility of ABC having to move the end of a race to another one of its outlets mentioned? I rather think it was and Brian continues to hide under a cover of his own making. I don't think any of us should be surprised that he did not apologize for the 'switch' because he simply does not care but to 'silence' AB and others is not good business practice. Being a fan for many years of NASCAR, between the ridiculous COTs and the lousy coverage that we have had to suffer through with ESPN - most notably Dr. Punch - I am just about at the end of my rope. Given the economic problems affecting all of us including the teams and their employees, wouldn't this be the best time for Brian to step up to the plate and make some necessary changes? Of course it is but Brian's track record precludes him from doing anything and his credibility, already in the dumpster, sinks lower and lower. Too bad for us. Thanks JD - I'm still reeling from Sunday's race and I now have to train myself to let it go because, frankly, Brian has let it along with everything else 'go'.

David said...

I expect nothing from Brian France and his good ole' boy group at Nascar... Who is the worse Commisioner/President Brian France or Bud Selig. They both seem equally not in touch with the fans but I think NASCAR is worse..

midasmicah said...

I watched a sports show on espu a day after the race and a couple of the sports columnists on the show pretty much smirked at na$car and said that na$car wasn't a major sport anyway. This is from the network that carries the sport. Well folks, that's the prevailing attitude on espu. And na$car has no one to blame , but themselves. Unfortunately, we fans are the ones who pay. Like the Titanic, na$car is sinking and those in control don't seem to have a clue why or they're too damn stubborn to admit they've screwed up. Man, not even an apology.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that other networks push back their programming for the NFL. Yet, that does not happen for NASCAR. If the fans continue to raise a ruckus like the fans did for the Jets/ Heide movie fiasco years ago. we may get ABC to change their policy. Then again, they may feel they are above anyone else due to their monlithic empire of ESPN. If they keep going they may find their viewership decling. THen thye will feel the impact through decreased sponsor dollars due to poorer ratings. Many I know have stopped watching Cup racing due to this and now turn their attention to truck racing. Money will drive their decision and we the fans affect that.

Kevin said...

I wanted to leave one last comment about the big switch to ESPN2 from ABC. I was one of those DVRing the race, and at first I was upset at ABC. Although I still think ABC does a TERRIBLE job covering the races, I now believe that we have no one to blame but NASCAR.

The fact of the matter is that America's Funniest Home Videos registered a higher rating from 7:30-8 than the NASCAR race did BEFORE it was switched to ESPN2. Therefore, clearly ABC made the right move. They knew they could get more viewers of AFHV than NASCAR, and yet still get enough to do well on ESPN2. Until NASCAR negotiates a deal to ensure that the coverage won't be switched no matter what, we have no place to complain to ABC.

The sad fact is that AFHV is now officially more popular than NASCAR. That's how bad things have gotten for us. If we expect ABC to cover the races, we need to provide a better product, and that's NASCAR's fault. As far as I'm concerned, people are never going to watch NASCAR earnestly towards the end of the year unless it's a very tight championship chase (88 being involved would help a whole lot). Even then, Punch and the ESPN gang are so boring, I still don't think people would watch. People want to watch FOX and TNT's (the new TNT) coverage, not ESPN. They'll only watch ESPN if the racing makes it worth it.

Anonymous said...

First of all I find it odd you are publishing an article that is asking for an apology when you defended ESPNS decesion in your first article. Secondly, Only ESPN should be giving an apology not NASCAR. NASCAR had nothing to do with the broadcast on Sunday. The only thing they do with TV pretty much sign the contract. They have no say in how the broadcast in put on. NASCAR puts on the race, ESPN puts on the broadcast. JD your a smart guy and you should know this. But I agree that ESPN needs to issue an aplolgy. Expect it to come this Sunday during the Countdown show.

Anonymous said...

If it had been a playoff game in any other sport there is NO WAY that ABC would have moved it. Apparently NASCAR is still a second rate sport to ABC and Brian France is letting it happen. It doesn't matter that people like me missed the end of the race because it was being recorded. ABC, NASCAR, and Brian France still got the ratings and the advertising revenue.
Maybe we, the fans, need to not watch the next race and see how ABC, NASCAR and Brian Farce like no ratings. The Championship has already been decided so it would not be a huge loss.

Anonymous said...

They have no say in how the broadcast in put on.

Oh, yes, they do.

It's NASCAR's fault they didn't design a contract like the one NFL has, where they specify that the network will carry the games live until the end.

Anonymous said...

The sad fact is that AFHV is now officially more popular than NASCAR.
Nope. The ratings dropped when AFHV replaced NASCAR. That's why it was a dumb decision.

Anonymous said...

But I think NASCAR is nuts not to MAKE SPEED a basic cable station for all.

NASCAR doesn't own SPEED.

It is owned by Fox.

NASCAR has nothing to do with what tier SPEED is carried on.

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is that America's Funniest Home Videos registered a higher rating from 7:30-8 than the NASCAR race did BEFORE it was switched to ESPN2. Therefore, clearly ABC made the right move.

Do you have a link to confirm this statement? I thought someone posted the other day that the ratings went down for Funniest Videos.

BruSimm said...

First: What happened with ABC and ESPN was no surprise. It's how they have handled NASCAR programming in the past, both distant and recent, and will continue to do such from what I can tell.

Second: Ratings are metrics. If the ratings changed for AFV, it was probably more due to the regular AFV viewers tuning in than a comparison of popularity between programming. NASCAR and AFV are two totally different beasts!

In the press conference, France tried valiantly to focus on the 2008 season and started with that and didn't say a word about the ABC thing until asked. The questions were across the board on ABC, Economics and fans, and the Sports economic health.

I can only hope they draft amendments with their TV contracts and get ABC Entertainment on board.

It's not likely, but it is what it is.

Yes: An apology would be nice, but I would be surprised if the network will give one. It's not in their methodology to give one. It would mean they were culpable.

Maybe they should just start the Homestead broadcast on ESPN2 and be done with it. Then we'd get no surprises. (joke folks... don't freak on me!!)

Adam T. Martin said...

I don't hate ESPN/ABC, I just dislike the people in charge.

Same goes for the sport and all of auto racing.

Sicklajoie said...

anon 2:12PM:
Today's "Did you notice?" article on confirmed that the race got a 3.4 and AFHV got a 4.3.

Rick said...

I posted a similar thought in the in-race comments, but will mention it again here.

With ABC/ESPN catering to and chasing after the elusive "casual" fan, they missed a golden opportunity here to show NASCAR to a group of viewers that may not have ever seen a race.

Showing lots of colorful, shiny cars going around a track at high speeds, with the season title possibly on the line, could have made ABC a few new fans from those tuning in to AFV. Fans that might watch next week, get hooked on NASCAR, and then watch next year as well.

ABC needs to realize that a race going past its timeslot is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it is not an hours long rain delay. It should be looked at as an opportunity to create new viewers for the next week.

David said...

Well much for NASCAR owning up to signing a bad deal. Im curious if they can bait ESPN/ABC into a renegotiation but then I imagine the other partners would want one too.

Are you checking out the OTL piece about GM's economic status and NASCAR?

Anonymous said...

Would you expect anything less from Brian France?
Even his Lieutenants - Paul Brooks and Robbie Weiss let him down on the TV package.
They care little about the common fan.
If this economic downturn doesn't create major changes in NASCAR it will be run into the ground.
(TV issues, attendance, lawsuits, manufacturers bankrupt, poor competition) They cannot rest on their past 60 years of success which was built by France Sr and France Jr who had good sense.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:26PM,

I think you are confusing two very different TV concepts.

ABC had absolutely no idea how long that race would go. These folks who are using the fact that the race actually ended at 8PM to make their point lose me quickly.

With another red flag, rain delay or a couple of cautions this race could have gone well beyond 8:30PM Eastern Time with ease.

What I said in my comments was that TV networks have over-runs planned well in advance. This is not something that someone just made up or decided to do.

To think that NASCAR or ESPN did not know exactly what was going to happen with a multi-million dollar live TV event is ludicrous.

I totally agree that the perception to the fan and the TV viewer is a slap in the face because of comparisons to football and other sports.

I understand the resulting anger and what I am advocating is for both NASCAR and ESPN to face the fan and say "sorry for what happened."

Companies do it all the time and stuff like this has happened time and time again with NASCAR in the new TV contract.

The Nationwide Series got pounded these last two seasons once college football started and we documented every single problem. One race skipped back and forth between three networks while in progress.

This was more a PR gaff than a big technical issue. NASCAR fans have been watching ESPN2 all season. That is where both the Nationwide Series and NASCAR Now air.

This network switch is just an opening that fans are using to pour anger out for all kinds of issues and in many cases, rightfully so.

I hope that helps explain the two issues. One, the fact that TV logistics are decided well in advance. Two, NASCAR and ESPN should have been falling all over themselves to directly and personally apologize to the fans affected.

Thanks for asking the question.


Anonymous said...

Im curious if they can bait ESPN/ABC into a renegotiation but then I imagine the other partners would want one too.

Unless they had really bad lawyers (who didn't know how TV works) when they negotiated the contract, they already caved on forcing ABC to carry all the races in their entirety live.

What makes you thnik they'd have the guts to force the issue now?

red said...

i expect nothing from brian france.

and that's exactly what i get.
it would be tough for me to lower my expectations of him any further and still register him as part of nascar.

my perception of him as a leader is that he has removed himself from the operations of the sport to such an extreme extent that he has lost touch with what the sport is about at any level. his recent comments about the state of our sport (and it is OUR sport, not his!) clearly say to me that he is too remote, too distant from what's been happening these past 18 months in nascar to speak intelligently to the fan base.

so, i didn't expect any apology from brian france and, surprising no one, i didn't get one.

(hell, i'm still waiting for a series of apologies from espn -- and those ain't happenin' in this lifetime, either.)

glenc1 said...

as if this hasn't been said enough...I just have to say it again. NASCAR is NOT the NFL--it gets *nowhere near* the ratings that the NFL does, and I doubt it ever will. You can't compare what the networks do to accomodate football compared to racing. It will never happen that way (plus, as JD pointed out previously, racing is a broadcast nightmare--they have more unpredictable delays than many other sports.)

There is no way at this time they can ever satisfy everyone--the people without cable/sat, the people who TIVO, the people who want HD...we all know if there's a dedicated network it will not be accessible to everyone (either logistically or financially). You can't force cable or sat companies to change their tiers; they'll do whatever will make them the most money in the long run. I just think there is no way everyone is going to win and be happy. Both the networks and NASCAR have difficult choices to make. But yes, an apology would have been something (not that, like most of us, I'm surprised that it didn't come.)

BruSimm said...


Do you recall the term of time (tot) that ESPN / ABC contracted with NASCAR to televise the sport?

(I'm wincing, waiting for this answer...)

unhappy racer said...

ESPN sucks!!!!!
Fox and Speed are the ONLY way to go!
I don't even care to watch anymore!

Richard in N.C. said...

I have yet to see ANYONE report that Brian France was asked whether or not there is a must carry provision in the contract with ABC/ESPN and, if not, why not. Did NASCAR get a larger rights fee for not insisting on a must carry provision? Who knows. It seems quite clear to me that the print media is much more interested in beating up on NASCAR than getting the facts.

Now I see that ESPN is trying to get the BCS contract when FOX's deal runs out - and then ESPN will want to charge higher carry fees to the cable companies and have them passed on to cable subscribers. I am convinced that ESPN will only improve and care about its viewers when it has an effective national competitor. ESPN is right where CNN was about 10 years ago when CNN felt it could do anything it wanted because it was the only game. Powere corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

glenc1 said...

Richard, when I saw that crawl about the BCS I cringed...although I will admit I like some of their college football analysts...

I also cringed for JD when they showed the Christie ad right in the middle of NASCAR Now, lol...

I think you ask a valid question, but I wonder if NASCAR doesn't have the kind of clout/ratings to ask for the must-carry provision. It may have been something ESPN refused to do for any price, knowing the difficulties of rain delays, etc...but it would be nice to have an answer to that. I'd be interested in watching how Versus progresses....

Daly Planet Editor said...


Hope you are sitting down. The ESPN contract runs through 2015. It was an eight year deal that began in 2007.

The good news is that each off-season ESPN has made substantive changes to the NASCAR package that have resulted in positive improvements.

Hopefully, this off-season will be no different and bring back a stronger package on both the Nationwide and Cup side.


stricklinfan82 said...


I'm a little confused and perhaps you can help me better understand this situation. You have used the terms "brick wall" and "sports window" to explain the dumping of the race at 7:30 PM Eastern. In those explanations you basically said (if I interpreted correctly) sports only has a certain window on ABC, and if that window expires and the event isn't done, primetime has to take priority and sports must go away, period. Sports can't penetrate the "brick wall" that on Sunday was 7:30 PM Eastern if I understood your explanation correctly.

Having understood you saying that, I don't quite understand your argument against people like me who said something like "NASCAR should not be on a network that can't allow even 30 minutes of wiggle room for a long-running race".

Instead of simply saying ABC simply had no choice, you seemed to imply that a judgment call needed to be made by the network. You used thoughts like "future rain delays", "another red flag for track cleanup", and "ABC didn't know how long the race would take to finish."

Here's what I would like to have clarified, did ABC have any wiggle room to make a "judgment call" on Sunday and stay with the end of the race, or was it black and white that they had to leave the race at 7:30 no matter the circumstances?

Big Jon Medek said...

NASCAR "is" Brian France's (family's) sport. They basically own it. Stock Car racing is "our" sport. The only real fix is for the mega-corporation "NASCAR" to go out of business so that a competitor can fix "our" sport. Think NASCAR will never die? Ask ex-Lehman Bros. people who worked for a 108 year old company. Ask General Motors. Spending our money on local tracks and drivers makes more sense then the growing disaster that B.France has wrought. His father and grandfather must be spinning at 9000 RPM!

GinaV24 said...

Well, I didn't really expect an apology. Not from Brian France who most of the time can't seem to find his posterior with both hands and surely not from ESPN/ABC. Heck, if its not in their contract that they have to carry the entire race, then that was NASCAR's stupidity and ABC did what was in their best interests. The fact that NASCAR fans are upset, well, from their perspective I'm sure it's a case of "who cares?"

Currently I have cable with everything except ESPN classic and HBO and all that jazz. However, I can guarantee that if things get tight for money in my household that CABLE will be the 1st thing that gets cut. Considering that I get more and better information on what's happening in the race by using my computer and listening on the radio, I don't really need ESPN in any variation.

2015 -- heck, that's an eternity! I figure my favorite driver will have retired by then, so I may not need anything NASCAR at all in a couple of years.

Daly Planet Editor said...


There is no such thing as wiggle room in national TV. Things are arranged well in advance in accordance with the ground rules for the live event.

ESPN has been doing this for twenty-five years. That is why the on-going debate about who and how and why is kind of ridiculous.

This is not a local community TV station with a live parade running long. This is the highest level of national broadcast TV and to even try to compare this situation to stick and ball sports is a losing battle.

There was no possible way for ABC, ESPN or any fan to know how long the remaining portions of the Cup race would go. Period. With a viable TV option, they left on time according to the network guidelines for the show running long. Period.

You saw the Speed vs. Gilliland accident. It happened fast and stopped everything for twenty minutes. Once the field restarted, anything could have happened.

We are veteran fans, we know oil downs, a rain shower or another late race red flag for clean-up could easily have pushed that event beyond 8:30PM.

I totally understand why fans are upset. That is why my columns about how poorly the perception of what happened has been managed by both ESPN and NASCAR are on this site.

No official has stepped-up and said "We knew we had until 7:28PM and we thought we could get it in. Sorry about that and we will correct it for next season." How hard is that to do?


stricklinfan82 said...

Thanks for the clarification JD. If the rules were black and white that the race was going away at 7:28 PM no matter if there were 10 laps to go or 100 laps to go, then the fans should have been warned days in advance and Brian France certainly shouldn't have been as surprised as he sounded.

It would have still been a slap in the face, but if the fans had been warned well in advance to set their DVR's/VCR's for ESPN2 at 7:30 in the event of an unforseen overrun, the anger would have been much less in my opinion.

A few years ago NBC bailed on an NHL playoff game in overtime for a 90 minute horse racing pre-race show and moved the conclusion of the game to Versus. Hockey fans like myself were irate and caught off guard by the dump. Just like many NASCAR fans on Sunday, hockey fans that weren't home to watch the game live on that Saturday afternoon missed the conclusion because they didn't know the Versus switch was coming.

Ever since that day, when the NHL playoffs roll around and an infinite amount of overtimes is a real possibility, the TV contigency plans have been clearly spelled out on for all the fans to see. They clearly state if NBC will stay with the game through regulation only and then switch to Vsersus, if they will stay through only one overtime before switching, if they will stay through only two overtimes, or if they will stay through conclusion no matter what. There is no longer any guesswork and there is no more getting caught off-guard for hockey fans.

If this ABC television network that has no wiggle room for NASCAR delays is going to stay in this sport beyond this year, it would go a long way for them to simply follow NBC and the NHL's lead and just tell the fans what's coming "just in case" so we aren't caught off guard, in my opinion.

There is no need to keep the fans out of the loop. We are the people that are affected the most by a network switch, so if it's in writing somewhere what the contigency plans are in each scenario that could play out on a given day, why not let us know them in advance as well?

BruSimm said...

Groan. 2015? I need a beer... A big one.

Honestly, despite our disdain for this scenario, I think it's unreasonable to expect every broadcast to alert us to when their cut-off time is.

It's a nice aspiration, and I can appreciate the sentiment, but it just ain't gonna happen.

As my cat would say, phffft.

delenn said...

I would accept ABC having no wiggle room apart from one tiny thing.

A little old race that Fox stopped with live until stupid o'clock, and then bought hourly updates for more hours after.

ABC's activities show where they think Nascar lies in the overall list of sport.

If Brian does nothing, he will make their thoughts come true. The man is a liability.

ri88girl said...

"France made the point that if not for a stoppage for rain and an extended red flag for a late accident, this situation would not have occurred. Unfortunately, that was little consolation to frustrated fans."


I've said it before, and I'm saying it again. If Bill France Jr were still running the show, this would never have happened, and if something like it did, ESPN would have been out on their ass by the following race. If we want better coverage, we need to pound NASCAR. Two years of complaining on this and other sites has done little to help elevate ESPN to better coverage, because we don't really effect their bottom line. NASCAR does if they pull the contract. NASCAR may not have a conveniant Email address for everyone to dash off a rant to, BUT THEY DO HAVE A PHISICAL ADDRESS IN DATONA, WRITE TO THEM THERE- DELUGE THEM WITH REAL PAPER ANGER WITH A STAMP AND MAYBE THEY WILL UNDERSTAND THAT OLD SCHOOL POINT.

ESPN are weasels. From the head to the tail of that organization. Every one a weasel. Even, AB. It hurts me to say this, but as great as he is as a broadcaster, he is still allowing his network to walk on the fans he serves with narry a word. Maybe he should have taken it upon himself to make the appology on NN which is HIS show. Even a backhanded appology would have done. I can hear everyone screaming 'no ones going to shoot the hand that feeds them' Well what I say to that is sometimes in human relations you should, for the greater good. Take one for the team AB

Anonymous said...

someone said that NASCAR does not own the telecast and should not offer the apology and that ESPN should.

just like (most) every other sport NASCAR owns the telecast. Listen at end of any telecast "This copyrighted may not be .... etc etc"

and it is written 'copyright NASCAR media group.' (or something like that) These two copyright statements are seen/heard on EVERY telecast - ESPN/FOX/ABC/TNT/SPEED

So who owns the telecast and owes an apology?

Because NASCAR doesnt own SPEED (as mentioned Fox does) NASCAR can not force Speed to basic tier. That is not going to happen.

dave said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dave said...

For those who record and / or those who do not have cable, I can understand your anger, and I understand your argument. Whoever made the decision to switch is a fool.

That said, there is one good thing that may have come form this. ESPN seems to have learned how to switch from one network to another.

Why might this be good, you ask? Well I'll tell you.

Since last year, I have been SCREAMING at the TV at the end of each race. Putting the often times, idiotic, coverage during the race aside, very little pisses me off more than ESPN's coverage, or lack thereof, at the END of the race. A few questions for the winner, maybe a few more to 2nd & 3rd place finishers and perhaps a mic stuck in Tony's face and they're gone. Wrap it up, throw in one more commercial and they're on to whatever.

Maybe, as a result of this incredible blunder last week, it dawned on someone at ESPN that they could indeed switch to another of their networks in order to continue their coverage. What a remarkable idea!


How's this for a programming idea....cover the race ( the WHOLE race - just for something different ) and at the end of the race, when you have to throw on World News Tonight, have POST-RACE coverage on another network. You know that you have the technology to switch. ( think of it like a college basketball game and the light might come on ) You could have an entire post race show, filled with commercial breaks. It might even set ESPN apart from those other one network, networks that can't do it. It might even INCREASE viewership. It might even make money.

Brilliant idea. And you don't have to thank me for it.