Thursday, January 22, 2009

ESPN's Feinberg Confirms No Side-By-Side Commercials In 2009


Here we go again. Thanks to reporter Dustin Long, ESPN's top motorsports executive has spoken about the topic no network will touch. That is why side-by-side commercials work on the IRL races but not on NASCAR events.

As the Vice President of Motorsports, Rich Feinberg has presided over an often turbulent re-entry into NASCAR by the various ESPN television networks. He has been responsive to viewer issues and made many changes to on-air staff and production agendas over the past two seasons.

Here are some excerpts from Feinberg's conversation with Long about who is responsible for making the side-by-side concept work. Is it the network, the sponsors or NASCAR?

"It has to come from all three," Feinberg said. "We as a broadcast entity have to believe that it's something that is good. The sponsors have to be on board because, let's face it, they foot the bill for the whole thing, right? So, their interest in dual messaging, in one box is my commercial, which I paid you millions to run for your viewers to hear and in other box is competition. They've got to buy it, and NASCAR has to buy it."

"The reality of the question of why not in NASCAR and you are doing it in open-wheel, the simple answer to that is that our rights agreement with NASCAR precludes us from doing that."

"That doesn't mean someday we won't do it and we won't figure out a way to do it in NASCAR and with our partners. We've all got to come together to do it. It's a very tricky and challenging situation. I can understand how race fans want it. I love it as a race fan."

"Going to commercial while the race is going on is risky business and we've all be criticized for that too. It is a business and we've got to pay the bills somehow. And I understand but it's just not as simple as us standing up and saying we're doing it."

"You as the sponsor, if my box is going to be 60 percent smaller for commercial, then you're going to charge me Mr. ESPN 60 percent less, right? Our answer is no because the rights fees (with NASCAR) didn't go down. So, I understand the simple race fan not in our business isn't there to figure out our business and our industry and looks at the screen and says why can't they do it? And I welcome explaining it ... because the more race fans understand that it's not as simple as just saying we're doing it, it's an economical, it's a business thing."

"I think if we did it we would want to figure a way to do it consistently like we do on Indy car as opposed to a one-time stunt kind of thing (TNT's Wide Open Coverage), that gets you a little bit of media and I guess you're serving the race fan for one of your 17 Cup races or one of your 35 Nationwide races but then the first thing they're going to say is, well, aren't you going to do it again? It's a tough thing to do. It's an economic formula and sponsors want their message to come across as loud as they can. That's what they pay millions of dollars for commercials for.''


This is a very good and candid assessment of the side-by-side situation from Feinberg. Thanks again to Dustin Long from the Landmark Newspaper Group for the interview. Basically, fans can once again expect the regular commercial rotation and insertions into the live races with the exception of the summer Daytona race should TNT choose to offer the Wide Open Coverage once again.

Has the commercial load in the NASCAR races changed the way you watch the events? How many of you purposefully record the races and watch them later specifically because you are able to fast-forward through the commercial breaks?

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29 comments:

Erik said...

Great interview. Only if we can get the same straight up, non-sugar coated talk from NASCAR's brass.

Richard in N.C. said...

Mostly because of Bill Weber, I don't feel compelled to watch every race live any more - except for 8 or 10 races each year, like the Daytona 500 and Richmond. I am now more willing to go do something else when the race is on if I can have at least frequent access to MRN or PRN and record the race for later viewing. If I end up watching the race after it is run, I do fast-fwd thru the commercials. I have not had a chance yet to read D. Long's article, but the above excerpt does not explain why EESPN uses side-by-side for IRL? Because they think it is a good idea and IRL does not have the power to say no? Because they can convince IRL sponsors, but not NASCAR sponsors to go along - many of which sponsors could be the same?

PammH said...

All I can say is that not many folks are listening to the fans-big suprise! I go potty, let the dog out, switch to MorPRN, zero in on Jr's auto...anything but listen to commercials!! And the folks who are now taping the races & FF thru them-the ads get NOTHING!!! Wake up people!! Just my 2 cents..

Gymmie said...

It depends on the week for me. Sometimes I watch live to keep up with the postings here at TDP but other weeks I'll watch off tape. When I watch on tape, I check the posts and make mental notes on various things that really get the readers riled up.

Generally I'll watch NRD off the DVR about an hour or so into it. For NN and the Network Pre-Race I see what the other posters say and make my watching decisions on that. Sometimes I've deleted without watching other times save a segment or two hadn't watched any of it.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do this year yet. Other than racing there aren't a lot of shows I watch live and have to sit through commercials. I'm rarely completely caught up on the DVR so I usually always have something on there to watch.

I've been thinking that some of the "big" races definitely live but others I might watch on Tape Delay. And if I do want to blog live I have TrackPass to keep up with the drivers radio and MRN/PRN.

But if RaceBuddy is back I'll watch those <3

Rick Remixx said...

i do pause the race for about 40 minutes before it starts and then watch it and skip pass the commercials

SallyB said...

I used to schedule my entire Sunday around watching the races on TV. Many thinks have altered that for me. Later start times, lackluster racing, too many gimmicks both on track and in the coverage, have made me change things. I now tape most of the races and find other things to do. If I happen to find it convenient to catch the last few laps, I might watch live. Otherwise I can FF through most of the race and ALL of the commercials. With my rapidly waning interest in Nascar, this satisfies my racing 'itch' and lowers the aggrivation level considerably.

Dot said...

I never did really like the side by side commls during the IRL races. More often than not, they were under yellow so there was no racing to miss. Plus, no sound of the race.

I don't mind commls for the most part. They come in handy for bathroom breaks and getting food. If I need to be away longer, I just press pause. Love the DVR.

To the sponsors who make funny or memorable (sp?) commls, I will pause them for roommate to see or even rerun them. Just an FYI.

Sophia said...

um Richard, you DO know Bill W is only on 6 races the entire year, correct? ;-) I'm just sayin'

Too much trouble to tape 5 hours and wear out the heads ff but do for the tracks I like when I might be gone.

Haven't gone the DVR route due to NAVIGATOR software issues in this area (LONG LONG STORY)

Once the weather is nice I can assure you I will not be on the couch or recliner to watch MORE COMMERCIALS than ever. I keep forgetting to try out the new country station in the house in case they still carry CUP races as it's a stronger signal now(don't listen to that music OR FM except for sometimes Classical Music)

We do welcome IRL races and they are over in about 2.5 hours.

but as some have mentioned, my waning NASCAR interest and aggravation of bells and whistles and shoddy camera work have mucked it up too much. PERIOD.

I would rather read online to keep up with the drivers I like and HOPEFULLY will watch TWIN on Mondays depending on how the SUITS screw up that show this year...but I love Steve and the "Odd Couple" :)

Since I refuse to drink the NASCAR kool aid, I am playing the entire season by ear.

I will probably stop by here as I can learn MORE about what's going on than by tv commentary...well, at least on ESPN..and FOX camera work stinks (especially the finish)

I WILL still watch the Truck races. Unless they have ruined those for this year.

Richard in N.C. said...

Sophia, Only 6, seems like more. No, it was Weber on NBC that broke my need to watch every race live - got me out of the habit, and I can virtually always find the Cup race on MRN or PRN.

Sophia said...

oh, ok..gotcha Richard.

I gotta be honest, I am not going to satellite radio or being stuck to a computer to listen, but if I had my choice MOST ALL races i would love to listen to on Radio...save me lots of aggravation...then just watch highlights on SPEED report or something. I only have access (I THINK this year) to CUP on radio.

Great way to listen and multi task or lay on the patio on a nice day.

Photojosh said...

It's just a shame that the advertisers don't get it at all. I'm their target market. I watch virtually all the races, I like to support the people who support my drivers, and I'm your average "middle class" dude. I watch 80% of the races on the DVR and skip the commercials. And the 20% that I watch live, I'm always going to the can or kitchen.

I just don't watch commercials.

HOWEVER, when I watch IRL (or "wide open racing" nascar) I see far more commercials. I don't fast forward with the DVR and if I'm watching live, I just hit pause when I have to hit the can or get a snack.

Bottom line, I would watch way more sponsor messages if the racing stayed on. As it stands now, their TV commercial money is wasted. Way to pay attention NASCAR.

ri88girl said...

SURPRIZE SURPRIZE SURPRIZE! King Brian at it again.

Adam T. Martin said...

I'll only be watching my favorite tracks this season. Really, the corporate choke hold has really ruined my experience over the past 4 years.

Hope Versus isn't like this.

alex said...

This baffles me. Most people take a bathroom break, get food, or fast-forward through commercials, not sit there soaking up whatever is being advertised. Side-by-side commercials keep people watching the race, thus more exposure to the advertiser.

Dan said...

I've said it before here, I almost never watch a race live, as it happens. Most of the time it goes on the DVR so that all of the commercials and, occasionally, some of the race can be skipped. Doing it that way frees up a significant amount of time. If I do start watching a race while it's still in progress, I try very hard to time shift it with the DVR to miss as much of the commercial load as possible. Even with TNT's coverage of Daytona, when the commercial audio comes on, the TV gets muted. The bottom line is that I DO NOT want to be marketed to. With today's technology, as long as I'm somewhat vigilant, I can easily avoid almost all of the "stuff" that is shoved in my face during a race.

In my opinion, I think that TNT's coverage gets things right on two counts. The first is Race Buddy. This feature is DVR-proof - you have to watch the race live in order to use it. For the time being, I'm willing to skip Race Buddy for the reasons listed above, but as this offering matures and adds additional features/content, it might become harder to resist.

The other thing that TNT is doing right, IMO, is its Wide Open Coverage. This is where I think that the TV networks and Ad agencies are missing the boat. Try as I might to pay full attention to the small screen with the race, I'm still peripherally aware of the commercial that is being shown. No, the commercials don't get my full, undivided attention, but they also aren't the warp speed blur of the DVR FF.

Maybe my viewing habits place me a very small minority, but if I'm not alone in the way I consume his TV "product", then Mr. Feinberg is delusional about the value he's offering to his advertisers.

bevo said...

Yep, much better to have 100% of the screen watched by fewer and fewer potential customers because of DVR's than to get 60% of the screen with 100% of the viewers.

alex said...

I know it's not the same because of the new TV contracts, but TBS did side by side at Charlotte in fall 1997 and it seemed to work well if I recall.

Anonymous said...

If wide open coverage "worked", TNT would use it every week.

You can't get something for nothing. Advertisers pay the bills, and the TV partners aren't charities. Like any business, their only purpose is to make a profit.

If Brian France didn't ask so much for the TV rights, it would be a heck of alot easier getting side-by-side. But right now, the only way the advertisers will be willing to pay the high commercial prices is with tried-and-true, full length ads.

The economy isn't in a state where companies can risk their slashed ad budgets on something new. The conservative approach will always win out.

If NASCAR can get 6 million people pay about $100 a year, that can more than cover the rights fees for the Sprint, Nationwide, and Camping World series including production costs.

Every race can be on PPV, without commercial breaks. Any in-race ads and an increase in the audience would be a nice profit for the broadcasters.

Anonymous said...

Again, I have to teach Mr. Feinberg an economics 101 class. It is NOT the sponsors that foot the bill, but the fans that BUY the sponsor products that foot the bill.Amazing how some people get to that position without graduating high school.

Ken said...

Side by side commercials would increase the time I spend watching the races. I couldn't skip the commercials totally as I do now. I find something else to do while the first half or two thirds of the race records and then I can skip through the commercials and boring parts of the race and still see the end live.

Nan S said...

JD asks:
"Has the commercial load in the NASCAR races changed the way you watch the events? How many of you purposefully record the races and watch them later specifically because you are able to fast-forward through the commercial breaks?

If I know that a show has a ton of commercials,like Nascar, or American Idol, then I record the show and skip the commercials. Also, Nascar races can take 4 hours and I don't want to devote that much time to watching. By fast forwarding through sections of the race and skipping commercials I can watch it in a reasonable amount of time.

Kevin said...

Feinberg's comments make perfect sense. NA$CAR is charging ESPN big bucks for ESPN to have to the right to broadcast the races. ESPN essentially doesn't have any choice but to charge advertisers big prices to pay their own bills to NA$CAR. The only way the advertisers are going to pay those prices is if they get full-screen ads.

I personally don't want to see "wide-open" coverage or an equivalent, because I use a DVR. I fast-forward through commercials. So, the ironic thing is that if ESPN were to introduce a split screen option, it would force me to watch more advertising than I watch currently. I think the vast majority of people still don't use DVRs (I have no idea why not, other than for economical reasons), so it makes sense that advertisers will get better bang for their buck with full-screen advertising. However, as more people get DVRs, advertisers are going to be forced to make some changes in order to reach that market.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, would it be completely unworkable to use full-screen commercials for say the first 3/4 of a race and side-by-side for the remainder - or would that be too big a technical problem? Thanks.

Also, would it be reasonable to assume that NASCAR, the networks, and/or ad agencies have done some market research on which type of commercial format seems to be most effective?

cdh said...

I'm not sure how it is now but when I used to watch World Cup Soccer there were almost no commercials. Just ad space at the top of the screen. So you could watch a whole half of game play without commercial interruption. I thought that was the best thing ever. If the networks could do that for Nascar then I'd watch the entire race and see the ads. Instead I just FF the commercials. There is no way I'll watch any race live.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I watch a race live is because of Trackpass and listening to the drivers talk to the pit.

If I DVR a race I can usually scan/skip through in half an hour or so.

Kyle said...

To answer your ?s JD,

Has the commercial load in the NASCAR races changed the way you watch the events?
Yes, I am buying Race View this year (BTW: Have you heard of anything new for that service_?)

How many of you purposefully record the races and watch them later specifically because you are able to fast-forward through the commercial breaks?
I don't, but I know many who do.

....

I just need something that I can keep updated with the action. I fully understand the reason why we don't have side-by-side in NASCAR. I liked it when a race was both on ESPN Deportes and ESPN2, because I could just mute the TV and tune to Deportes and watch the race, then tune back to ESPN2 in about three-four minutes and unmute.

.....
Also, Anonymous 11:21 AM. The sponsors do foot the bill. All the consumers do is foot the sponsors bill to foot ESPN's bill. If you want to get technical.

yankeegranny said...

I am looking foreward to my second season with Race View, I only watch TV if there is a caution. I listen to the radio which is so much better than the TV talking head. Can't wait for the season to start and I will watch all the races except the road races.

Anonymous said...

i would not mention the commercials so much if you did not get them during the actual racing, brought to you by...stuff. It's just not effective. It annoys me. They'd be much better off doing side-by-side. I'd appreciate the advertising products much more.

Steve L. said...

I did NOT watch one single commercial last year. I don't know when the last time I have watched one in the last few years.

I give the race about an hour head start on DVR and by the time I get caught up to 'live' time, it's at the end of the race. If I get caught up before the end, I pause and wait a while so I can FF through the advertisements.

I even FF through the side-by-side's with the IRL races.

Isn't the race itself a big commercial? Ads all over the cars, all over the track, all over the screen. One BIG commercial!