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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