Thursday, January 15, 2009

NASCAR's Dirty Little Secret: Few Trucks For SPEED


All three of NASCAR's national touring series are having the same tough economic time as the rest of the nation. Sponsors are gone and funding is tight as Speedweek in Daytona is less than forty days away.

While several websites, including Jayski.com, have a profile of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams that plan to race in 2009, the picture for the Camping World Truck Series is not so clear.

TDP has been following the TV telecasts of the truck series for the past two seasons. The team at SPEED has consistently presented some of the most compelling live racing coverage ever seen in the sport.

As has been documented many times, SPEED comes into the races with far less equipment and focuses on the action on the track with a small but dedicated team of TV pros. The results are simply fun to watch.

Now, the reality of the challenges facing NASCAR where the trucks are concerned for 2009 has been documented in a mainstream media publication. Scene Daily staff writer Jared Turner penned a short commentary addressing the truck series issue in a very straightforward manner. Here is an excerpt:

Let’s start with a theory that is actually more like a fact: For a racing series to be optimally competitive, it must first have enough competitors. Sounds simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple fix to the waning participation haunting the newly named NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Barely a month away from the start of the 15th season for NASCAR’s No. 3 series, you can count the number of Truck drivers with confirmed full-time rides on two hands. And the number of drivers with a confirmed full-time primary sponsor is even fewer.


So what does this dearth-of-sponsorship-induced madness mean for the series that has traditionally produced some of NASCAR’s most colorful characters and electrifying competition?

It means that while there will certainly be more than seven or eight trucks on the grid for the series opener at Daytona on Feb. 12, don’t expect there to anywhere near a full 36-truck field at the majority of the 25 scheduled races.


You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Turner finally stepped forward and introduced a topic that should get a response from NASCAR rather quickly. While fans have a pretty good idea about the overall health of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, the condition of the patient where the trucks are concerned is being kept very quiet.

SPEED has invested a lot of time and effort where the Camping World Truck Series is concerned. That is the only NASCAR series carried from start-to-finish on the network. SPEED is both a blessing and a curse to NASCAR.

The blessing is the weekend dedication to the sport when SPEED carries the pre and post-race programming for the Sprint Cup weekends. Over the past several years, SPEED has also carved-out a niche as the home of well-produced qualifying and practice coverage for all three national touring series.

The curse is that SPEED is distributed on digital cable TV packages that cost more and the network is also right in the middle of a transition to High Definition. Many NASCAR fans don't have SPEED and those that do want it in HD.

NASCAR has been very quiet on the pending problems with the trucks and Turner's commentary is a good launching pad for tackling the reality of this issue. Whether or not there is a point at which the truck series may actually suspend operations for 2009 is yet to be seen.

After racing in Daytona, the truck teams will turn and make the very long run to the California Speedway for a race the very next weekend. That may be the first true indication of just how healthy the series will be for NASCAR, truck series fans and SPEED.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The curse is that SPEED is distributed on digital cable TV packages that cost more and the network is also right in the middle of a transition to High Definition."

JD, that is not always true. SPEED channel comes free with my basic cable package at no extra charge. I also get SPEED HD for free with the basic HD package. I believe my situation is not unique and this is the same with various other cable operators.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Nope, SPEED is distributed in a digital cable package.

Take for instance Comcast, who in my area of South Florida offers a basic package ($20) and a standard basic ($40+) package. Neither has SPEED.

SPEED normally comes in the digital package with a digital converter.

Comcast here offers the digital basic package for around $50 a month. No SPEED, only the Comcast-owned Versus network is included.

To get SPEED, cable subscribers must choose the next level digital preferred package at $80 a month.

So, there are three lower-priced basic packages (both standard and digital) that do not include SPEED.

Luckily, the preferred digital package will eventually offer SPEED in HD. Some areas already have that feed.

The appeal of an ESPN or a TNT is that they are almost always included in any cable deal.

SPEED has worked very hard over the years to battle to the position that they now hold as a strong digital sports network.

Moving to HD is only going to bolster the appeal of the channel in general, but with the money crunch it may be that some folks do not choose to upgrade or spend on the digital packages.

If you want, we can start to compare how SPEED is offered across the country. We have readers from all over.

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...

Got a couple emails about this point.

Some cable systems are all digital, so their information says "basic package" and may include SPEED.

There is certainly a move to add SPEED HD as part of a big HD updgrade to most systems. As you may know, none of the original "basic" packages have HD or the digital channels. That was my point of reference.

As we always find when we talk cable TV systems, the variety of options and terminology is very different from place to place.

Hope that helps,

JD

Anonymous said...

"To get SPEED, cable subscribers must choose the next level digital preferred package at $80 a month."

OK, well in my area SPEED is offered in the same standard package as TNT and ESPN. (Standard package for $40 after the local channel fee of $12) And a digital box is not required. This is so, because COX (my provider) used to own SPEED in the very early days. SPEED launched in the same package as TNT and ESPN, and has always remained in that package even when SPEED changed ownership.
With SPEED being in the standard package, my provider was quick to recently also add SPEED HD at no additional fee, if you already have basic HD service.

How many others have this same setup with SPEED in standard cable? I can't be the only one...

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, Time Warner in NC has SPEED on its 3rd (digital) tier - and when digital was added a cable franchise consultant told me he understood SPEED was put on the digital, rather than the expanded basic (2nd), tier to try to encourage viewers to add the digital tier. I believe we do now have a SPEED HD channel.

Anonymous said...

It also does not help that truck races are not well attended. I mean if folks want to keep the sport going, they need to fill the stands.

majorshouse said...

I guess I am one of the lucky ones since I have a satellite dish because with all of the channels I wanted, it was a better deal, less money and more channels than what I would have gotten with Time-Warmer cable.

glenc1 said...

years ago, I told a friend that SPEED was not available on our (then) cable standard (2nd tier). He thought I was mistaken, that I just didn't want to pay more. True was, it wasn't available *period*. This was 2001, or so. Eventally SPEED was added to the lineup (T-W, digital) but by then I was on DISH. I think much of it was regional--in the southeast, I always believed it was more common than here in the Northeast. But T-W basic is $10 a month--channel 2 through the Weather channel (23), standard is more like $45, with the sports channels, etc--not sure cause I haven't paid that in a while.

David said...

JD sent my email to you about NASCAR and their head in the sand attitude about Broadcast media and the NASCAR channel and a cohesive message to alot of "NASCAR Journalists." They all thought I was nuts. The problem with the Truck Series and NASCAR once again hiding is astonishing. Is NASCAR the Southern Version of Madoffs Ponzi scheme but with Fortune 500 companies and TV Networks???

Count Culo said...

I live in Douglasville, just west of ATL and Speed is on the 2nd tier offering from Comcast, no box needed to watch it. But that really seems to be an exception... I know folks all over the country that would LOVE to have Speed, but not bad enough to go to an $80+ cable bill to get it.
Sure hope something good shakes out for the truck series. That's generally the best racing of the weekend for me.

CC

Daly Planet Editor said...

Great comments folks! I will ask SPEED VP Rick Miner about the status of the SPEED HD roll-out and put together a column for next week.

Also, I will get an update from Erik Arneson at SPEED about the total number of premium vs. digital basic cable numbers.

In the meantime, let's see if we can get 30 trucks to Daytona!

JD

Rockin Rich said...

I wonder how much of the unfolding issues with the Truck Series Marcus Lemonis was aware of when he he bought into it, (at what I understand was a greatly reduced price. I sure hope that he can bring the energy, entrepreneurial talent, and financial resources needed to keep the series afloat. I don't think he has the deep pockets that R.J. Reynolds brought when they stepped in to, (as it turns out), save a floundering NASCAR back in 1972.

Another interesting, (but not relevant here), side discussion would be how the Daytona Beach Bozos have priced Busch, and Craftman out of sponsoring their respective series, and then had to settle for far less than they were initially asking.

I believe that the kind of competent leadership that RJR brought is needed again here to keep the trucks going. It's very evident that that kind of leadership doesn't reside in Daytona Beach.

On the Speed, and cable issue, I have to concede that one of my favorite "whipping boys" actually has come through for the racing fans in this area, (with a caveat of course).

I live in Waynesboro, Va., which is "served", (using a very loose definition of the word served), by Comcast, (ComCrap), out of Staunton, Va. About 4 years ago, they moved Speed from their fledgling digital offerings tier down to the standard "basic extended" tier, (extended beyond the minimum local over the air channels, and a few other cable only channels).

I haven't opted to get digital because the only channel I would get that I want and don't have is ESPN Classic. I would like to have access to the 80's & 90's races they show, as well as for the occasional switchoff of NASCAR events when BSPN over commits their schedule. It's just not worth it to me to pay the additional money to get that one channel.

majorshouse said...

I love the truck series, but at this point would rather see a smaller field and great racing, not to say that this series doesn't provide great racing, but I can also remember a time in the Cup series where the auto manufacturers cut out support and we did not have the size fields that we have now and the racing was much better then. I think it is time that NASCAR got back to being a sport rather than this huge business that it has become before it loses itself.

Anonymous said...

Speed is on " expanded basic " at $45 per month, no digital box required, on Comcast in western Kentucky.

Anonymous said...

I've got DirecTv and have had Speed HD since it rolled out last January I believe. I've got the second most expensive package (sorry..can't remember the name)and have had it nearly a year. I enjoy the racing they have on there...that is when they actually have racing on.

Earl said...

SPEED is on basic cable here in Western NC (Charter Comm.)

I wonder what effects there are from SPEED abandoning its role as a racing-oriented channel to become a reality TV channel.

Five years ago, I watched as much as 20 hours a week on SPEED. When you watch that much, you become familiar with the programs and when they're on. Now, outside of F1 coverage and a few sports car races, I might watch 20 hours a year. It's been years since I flipped over to see if anything good was on. Since I passionately dislike the direction the channel has gone in the last few years, I make a conscious effort not to support it.

Anonymous said...

John:

In the Detroit area, Comcast provides SPEED on the enhanced basic tier on analog channel 33 (no STB required). My TV is 15 years old (obviously non-digital/non-QAM/non-ATSC) with the cable jacked directly into the antenna input. In fact, I can even pick it up on my 28 year old old-school JVC VCR, which isn't even cable campatable (no channels above 36).

Greg

Anonymous said...

The truck series is in a world of hurt. They may not have a full field for Daytona and almost surely won't for subsequent races.

The purses are terrible. Sponsors have no reason to enter this series, long time drivers do not have rides, Camping World got the sponsorship for next to nothing as NASCAR had to "settle" to even have a title sponsor.

It looks like all gloom and doom for the truck series - no bright light at the end of the tunnel here.

Anonymous said...

I've stated it before and will say
it again. "There is no better
racing than the truck series". It
reminds me of the old Nascar.

zhill's fan said...

I live in the Tampa,Fl. area and have Bright House Cable. To get SPEED you have to upgrade and use a converter at approx.$80 per month which includes basic and the next tier.

diane said...

One of the things I like about Nascar is big fields. I think in the near future you won't have 3 Nascar divisions. It will be Cup and one other support series.

GinaV24 said...

That's not too good since the trucks, as you noted, produce some of the most enjoyable racing there is. I think one problem from the attendance point of view is that they race on Thursday's and I know for myself when I travel to a race, especially if there is some distance involved, I may only get there for the weekend so as not to blow up more vacation days from my already meager pile. I'd like to see them race live, but I've been happy that I have Speed -- I know I had to upgrade my cable to get it as well on Comcast.

Count Culo said...

Just FYI, Comcast is known in my social circles as ComCOST....
CC

Anonymous said...

I still wish I could get Speed HD on Dish Network. Every time I ask Dish customer service, they give me the run around. I really enjoy the truck series and the Speed broadcast, but I have become rather spoiled with HD. JD, when you talk to the folks at Speed, can you ask them about that?

Anonymous said...

"Speed is on " expanded basic " at $45 per month, no digital box required, on Comcast in western Kentucky."

Same with me. No digital box is needed with COX Southern California. I can get SPEED channel on any TV in the house - digital or not.

If SPEED is transmitting in digital, my cable co. must be down-converting it to put it in expanded-basic cable.

Now as with all cable HD channels I do need a box for SPEED HD, but SPEED HD is provided in the same package as all the other HD channels for just the price of the HD box.

Kevin in SoCal said...

When I first got DirecTV 5 years ago, Speed (and ESPN Classic) was included in the basic package. I recently moved and Speed (and ESPN Classic) was now bumped up to the next level. That was ok as the next level included the DVR service.

I sure hope the truck series survives as well. Its the last series the Cup regulars havent totally invaded, and it has a great mixture of all different tracks, not a majority of 1.5 mile speedways like the Cup and Nationwide does.

Erik said...

SPEED is in my premium digital cable TV package. Ironically, ESPN Classic is in the standard (expanded) basic package.

The cable providers have so much power to make you or break you depending on what package they deem you are worthy. They are the gatekeepers. And in this economy, people are having to count every penny.

No SPEED HD yet too out of the 80+ HD channels. Though, the MLB Network is being added next week.

I probably should call and complain, but don't know how much good that would do.

Anonymous said...

JD -

I have had Speed for 10 years on COX San Diego basic analog serivce at first, then "Expanded Basic" (2nd tier?) analog beginning a few years ago. The signal coming off the pole outside my house still contains analog signals and will for a couple years:

"Originally Posted by Cox Cable Customer Support, re: DTV February 17, 2009

Cox recognizes that some customers will still have analog-only TVs at this cut-off date. Therefore, Cox will continue to offer analog broadcast signals for at least three years after this deadline for those customers that have not upgraded all TVs to Cox Digital Cable. The signal will be down-converted from its digital format, enabling customers to receive digital broadcast programming in an analog format."

I don't have a cable box, I jack straight into one of my TVs that is 18 years old and get SPEED. I now have an HDTV also, and I will be upgrading in order to get all the HD channels, but COX does not charge extra for HD once you get the digital service. (They charge more than enough to begin with!)

Currently COX provides the over-the-air local HDTV signals on its basic cable also, because my HD set gets them from the cable without an antenna.

Confusing? I thought so ;-)

As for the trucks: COUNT ME as one of thse who rushes home from work on Friday nights to catch the last few laps of the truck races live!

I fervently hope NASCAR can find a way to assure the health of this series, because as a 30-year veteran watcher, this is the best racing in NASCAR.

Dan in San Diego

Kenn Fong said...

J.D.,

$50 a month gets me the DirecTV package indcluding speed and a lot of other channels, includingNFL, MLB, Golf, and Versus, and four flavors of ESPN (Interestingly, the 4 flavors of ESPN run this way:

206 - ESPN - The Mother Ship
207 - ESPNews
208 ESPN Classic
209- ESPN2 - The Deuce
210 - ESPN (unused, but labeled for future use)
211 - ESPN (ditto)
212 - NFL Netwrork
213 - MLB Network
603 - Versus
607 - Speed

Golf is also included, but I forgot the channel number.

I don't have an HD TV so I don't care what's HD that's included or not.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

Paul said...

On Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, you have to have the digital service plus a sports package to get SPEED. On Cox, another large cable system, SPEED is on the basic tier.

bryan said...

On the Big Dish, Speed is only digital. It's available in several packs, NPS's cheapest being the digital sports package at $23 per month.

Racingwench said...

I have TW here in Upstate NY.
I have to pay an additional $1.95/month for the "sports" tier which is where Speed is located. Well worth the investment here. Speed has just been added to our HD selections as well.
As far as the truck series they have provided the best racing and the closest points races for the last couple of years. It would be a shame to have this series go under.

alex said...

I'm in Atlanta and have Charter cable. I have basic cable, no HD, no digital, movie channels, fancy stuff, etc.... Just the basics. SPEED is right there with ESPN/2/Classic and a couple other sports channels. While I don't know a whole lot about their tier structure, it would seem that SPEED is available to all of their cable subscribers.

About 6 months ago I had Comcast in Atlanta, same basic package, and SPEED was still included with the other basic sports channels.

Anonymous said...

When networks report their numbers, is it actual viewers who bought the necessary package, or is it reported in terms of availability where as long as the channel is offered in some form or fashion in a cable system, the network takes credit for that cable system's entire subscriber base?

Gymmie said...

I've always had digital here and Cali and I know that SPEED was on Expanded Basic and Digital out there. The car dealership where I bought my car had the analog box and I could watch SPEED there when I took my car in for a check up. My friends' in the Bay Area couldn't get it at all unless they upgraded to basic (same Cable Company--Comcast).

Here I checked the TWC page and it says that the SPEED on 56 is on the Expanded Basic Tier. So it's the same here. Digital SPEED is 187 and SPEEDHD is 788.

But I hope that the Pick 'em Ups survive. I'd definitely hate for them to go away. They always put on a great show and darn near every race ending has you on the edge of your seat.

Desmond said...

Kenny, the Golf Channel was on channel 605. It changed to 218 on Wednesday, just hours before the first PGA Tour event of the year (TGC has cable/sat. rights to at least the first two rounds of all events).

As for the health of the truck series, it is a complete shame. Much of it can be blamed on sponsors insisting on at least partial sponsorship of the Cup cars, or at very least the Nationwide teams that are owned or affiliated with Cup. No one wants to sponsor a truck series team anymore for some reason.

3bud said...

I've got DirecTv so SPEED HD is not a problem. But the possible low truck counts I am afraid could be. Lets hope the best racing can keep on trucking!

Gymmie said...

My friends' in the Bay Area couldn't get it at all unless they upgraded to basic (same Cable Company--Comcast).

oopsie...basic should be digital

Raceday11 said...

Charter Communications is the King of "Low Def" in East TN. We don't receive FOX or SPEED in HD at any price. Thanks to DirecTV, I get both in HD.

Newracefan said...

Hopefully the trucks will survive, some weekends it's the only decent race on. I now have Comcast HD DVR so I have the the cable bill from hell and have everything and then some. Before the upgrade I had Speed with expanded basic (I think) and had no need for a box not to mention a smaller bill. Ahh The things people will do to make sure they do not miss anything Nascar because of silly things like work.

Anonymous said...

I can't be the only one here in Charlotte NC, but anyway SPEED has always been included in a basic package from Time Warner and recently SPEED HD was added to the free HD service(if you pay for the digital DVR package). Finally Time Warner gets something right.

-cdh

Anonymous said...

If all of you people would get Dish Network you wouldn't have to worry!!!
Cable Smable!! Yea rain comes sometime, but never the outage cable has!! Support Nascar teams also buy using a sponsor product Dish/ Direct TV!! Now if Speed would have something besides ...low life,pass time,and all that crap~!!! How about something GOING FAST... You know SPEEDING!!

Anonymous said...

Folks.. ditch cable!! Directv has great rates and has speed included in one of the lower rate versions! I have used Charter and comcast and had issues with both. I have been with direct for a while now and love it.

As for the coverage of the truck races... it's awesome... speed does a great job at all of the nascar stuff... I wissh that abc,nbc and tnt would go away... fox and speed by far outshine the others for any nascar event!!

And if you haven't attended a truck race... GO... I love seeing the trucks in atlanta... great racing at night under the lights!!

Erik said...

Wierd. My cable company mailed me a customer service survey, with a self addressed stamped envelope. I filled it out a few days ago mailed it. They do a pretty good job. They're a small, locally owned company, that kept the same rates since at least 2000, while continuing to add channels and services.

The one thing I placed in the comments section was for them to add SPEED HD. They recently just announced they added the MLB Network HD and a couple of other channels a few days ago.

Low and behold, I flip though the channel guide and SPEED HD has now shown up unannounced. If you want something, it really helps to ask for it.

tiamatsrevenge said...

Comcast out of Seattle / Everett has SPEED on the extended basic package (aka analog) which includes channels 2-99 ... Regular basic is channels 2-29 + 99 (which is the CBC out of Vancouver, BC) ...

Fox Sports Northwest is channel 30 / ESPN 31 / ESPN2 32 / SPEED 33 / Versus 34 ... With no converter box required for viewing ...


IF you get digital cable with the converter box (& possibly a DVR), you get SPEED in the digital package ...

SPEED hasn't been added to the HD package as of yet ...


Comcast was in the process of starting to convert ALL of the channels to digital ... and was going to give analog customers a converter box for the main tv & 2 piggy back boxes (they pick up the unscrambled signal off the converter box, but are hooked up to the back of 2 other tvs) free ... But, they backed off on that as customers were in a panic & confused over the govt mandated Feb digital conversion ...

mike c. said...

Here in Northern Va, SPEED is offerd on basic 2 for COX, basic 1 for Comcast, and on Verizon FiOS which I have it is on FIOS TV Permier.

With Fios we have 3 Speed channels 1 is analog one is digital amdthe third is in HD.

Big Jon said...

There are interesting extremes here. On one hand you have people spending money that may or may not be disposable, not easy credit or money taken from equity or retirement, for high-def TVs and DVRs for skipping commercials. Then you have fans trying to spend very little or no money monthly but want all their favorite channels. If fans want cheap broadcasts of all races, commercials will pay for most of it. If fans want to skip commercials then there is no business reason for either networks or advertisers to broadcast races. And for those longing for the old days, the old days had no live races on any TV network! Perhaps we'll see that again. PPV may be the only future.