Monday, May 4, 2009
Side-By-Side Commercial Issue Now On Full Boil
The twists and turns of the 2009 NASCAR season have run from bankrupt auto manufacturers to declining TV ratings. NASCAR itself is clearly in a fight to retain the national status that the sport gained over the last ten years.
The problems of the NASCAR on Fox gang are easy to understand. The economy has forced Fox to sponsor everything possible in each Sprint Cup Series telecast. We mean everything.
From full-length movie trailers to endless "sponsor inserts" during live racing, the look of NASCAR on TV has changed this year. It is not for the better. Sometimes, as with the Phoenix race, it is just almost painful to watch.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that caution flag pitstops are now often just as critical as the actual racing. This leaves almost no time available for the easy insertion of commercial breaks that sometimes run three minutes in length.
Between the "Cheez-It Bite of the Race," Aflac trivia questions and endless Ask.com mentions, there is a reality that is becoming very clear. Drowning in the Digger toolbars, AT&T Race Breaks and the Terminator Salvation Drivers Fighting Back Award are the NASCAR fans.
Let's face it, NASCAR is not going to return dollars to the TV networks that were paid to air the races. So, the TV networks have bills to pay and they are going to do just that regardless of what it costs the sport. So far this season, that price has been very high.
Over on the Versus TV Network, the IRL continues to go to commercial breaks and keep a second video box on the screen that shows the racing. The ability to absorb the commercial message and still see and feel the continuity of the racing is wonderful. ABC did it during that network's earlier IRL coverage.
The days of fans getting long chunks of NASCAR racing between two minute commercials on TV are simply gone. While the Camping World Trucks and even the Nationwide Series are not exactly in this situation, the Sprint Cup Series is completely mired in a sponsorship quagmire.
Perhaps, the answer is to adopt the side-by-side commercial approach for NASCAR. What else can solve this dilemma and stop the fans from leaving the TV telecasts in droves? The issues of COT's and boring racing are not up for discussion here, because fans aren't really getting enough racing content to let them decide for themselves.
The only way to bring fans back into NASCAR this season is to let them see the racing and the pit stops during the commercial breaks. The current situation of showing four or five minutes of racing and then leaving for three minutes is not working. The end result is that the financial dilemma of the current Sprint Cup TV network is slowly killing the sport.
In the past, TDP has addressed this issue and heard all kind of excuses from both the TV networks and NASCAR. Click here for the 2008 TDP column. The difference is that was during a time when the sport was healthy and side-by-side commercials would be a luxury. Now, this technique may well be key in limping through the season with what is left of the TV audience intact.
There is really no one to blame here, it is just a set of circumstances that requires attention. If this discussion does not take place soon, fans will continue to be faced with highly sponsored telecasts that only allow a glimpse inside the racing on the track. Rarely is there even time to follow-up on the storylines mentioned in the various pre-race shows.
TNT is up next for the Sprint Cup TV and then ESPN steps-in for the final seventeen events. What kind of audience is delivered to TNT after the Fox portion of the schedule is yet to be determined. Even more troubling is how many fans will be left by the time ESPN takes the air in July.
It's time to use existing TV technology to solve at least one issue that can help NASCAR through this difficult season.
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