Sunday, September 27, 2009

Round 2: NASCAR vs. NFL

Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya put on a great show from Loudon last week but that was not enough to keep NASCAR fans watching on TV. The first week of the NASCAR vs. NFL match-up resulted in record low TV ratings for ABC and some serious head scratching.

There is no doubt that the NFL is on a roll. They are a sophisticated league with great media awareness and a dynamic television package. This Sunday, the same match-up happens as Allen Bestwick takes the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show and goes up against a huge slate of regional 1PM NFL games.

Bestwick has his usual partners alongside in Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Wallace is always opinionated while Daugherty has overstayed his welcome. He is now merely a cheerleader who is a little too excited and a little too loud. That is a shame because his presence originally made a strong statement back in 2007.

ABC's pre-race show repeats what fans have already seen on ESPN2's NASCAR Now and SPEED's RaceDay morning programs. After three hours of pre-race information, there is very little Bestwick can do to keep fans from watching the first hour of the NFL games.

Sometimes, the NASCAR on ESPN team actually replays the same features from the Sunday morning NASCAR Now program on the pre-race show. The live ESPN news reporters sometimes also offer the exact same information from that morning, often using the exact same words. The bottom line is that it is simply not working.

By the time 2PM rolls around and NASCAR gets the cars ready to start, many fans are engrossed in the NFL games and simply record the race for later viewing. Without the side-by-side commercials, that later viewing usually involves fast-forwarding through about one-third of the entire race. That is the percentage of commercials to content.

While the NFL is an organized TV assault that is simply designed to dominate, NASCAR TV is a quagmire of agendas, egos and issues. This Sunday there are eleven hours of national TV that will contain primarily NASCAR content. That is a powerful platform for one brand and for one single event.

Recently, Mike Helton confirmed that NASCAR is looking at moving the start times back to 1PM for Sunday races in the Eastern Time Zone. As fans may recall, it was David Hill from Fox who made the loudest argument to push the times back as far as possible for TV purposes.

By now, it may have dawned on NASCAR that Hill's TV network is offering one of the 1PM NFL games that has pushed NASCAR to the back burner. Hill and his bunch are long gone from NASCAR and probably chuckled as they thumped ESPN's offering on ABC last Sunday.

Dover is a dynamic racetrack with great competition and non-stop excitement. Again this year the challenge of getting that feeling across to the TV viewers falls to Jerry Punch. This track requires a lot of work from the play-by-play announcer as the action is non-stop. Punch will have Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside.

The ESPN production team cannot go to the Tech Garage for Tim Brewer under green flag conditions. They cannot play back driver soundbites while racing is under way. They cannot take in-car cameras live under green. The potential to miss critical action during the Chase is too great.

This is going to change the way the race is produced. A focus on hardcore racing action throughout the field is the only way to keep the existing viewers interested and perhaps get some back who have been watching football. No bells, no whistles and no lapses in intensity from the announcers.

The NASCAR vs. NFL challenge is even harder under this 2PM scenario because the race continues even as the second round of NFL games gets underway at 4PM. Again, viewers have a choice and it is up to the ESPN producer to reset the scene at that time and provide a recap for TV viewers who may be just checking on the race.

Dover may offer a solid opportunity for NASCAR to make a dent in the NFL dominance and bring fans back simply because of the great racing. The challenge for the ESPN team is to stand back and let it happen. Not doing too much in TV is often a bigger challenge than not doing enough.

There are great stories unfolding, the track offers good racing and the teams are poised to tackle one of the biggest challenges of the Chase. Round 2 of NASCAR vs. the NFL should be a good one.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, we will be live blogging the race at 1PM right here on TDP.


Smokey_14 said...

I need to say this right now. NASCAR Performance on SPEED is the best NASCAR tech-splanation show, period. When Larry Mac, Chad Knaus, Bootie Barker and Doug Richert explain race strategy, what's under the hood of a car, or anything else in the technical side of NASCAR, they know what they are talking about because they know what it's like, being crew chiefs for their race teams week in and week out. I thought they nailed it tonight with how car inspection (pre-race and post-race) works. I really liked it. I dare Tim Brewer and ESPN's stupid tech center try to top that. Overall, NASCAR Performance on SPEED is all the NASCAR tech-splanation that I need. This show, and tonight's episode put Tim Brewer and ESPN's Tech Center to shame.

Sophia said...


Agree about N Perf. I just wish they would run it before the race instead of TWO HOURS of Rday. NP deserves a PERMANENT time slot.

What the heck am I saying? We can't even get consistent time slots for the races which adds to the fuzzieness of NFL vs NASCAR. I hardly watch NFL except in bits and pieces casually. It usually always wins out..but with ESPN *&^% annoying camera work, Sunday may see me watching 4pm game. Bengals vs Steelers...just to read the local Tweets as folks go nuts over the game. :) and my room mate is huge Steelers fan..thankfully we've two LRoom tvs

I think more folks would tune in to watch the races if they 'understood' more of what's going on via NAS Perf over the pre race puff/filler pieces tho I do understand we are talking two different networks. Just sayin.

Anonymous said...

Na$car needs to make up their mind who they want to keep---the pre-2000 fans or the post-2000 fans. The days of trying to dick around in the middle are over.

Anonymous said...

Even if I had a TV it would be NA$CAR regardless. If I get frustrated I have Netflix DVDs still to watch or Hulu :) Heck there's gotta be paint drying somewhere *giggle*

I only like Hank Williams Jr's MNF song and I might tune in the last bit but for the rest of it I can do without it.

I'm hoping DTV does their "mistake" again and does the radio audio. Even though it won't match the pictures they give me the pictures in their call of the race.

Yes NP was great tonight! They speak to us like the grown race fans we are and even as "basic" as some of the information is we walk away learning something. Unlike with Tim who speaks as though we're all 5 and have never heard of NA$CAR before he came on. And we walk away not learning a thing all thinking "Thank You Captain Obvious!!"

More often than not in his "explanation" he's said the EXACT same thing the booth just said!

Anonymous said...

Finally a song on NRD that I recognize hehehehehe

ken said...

I think a 1:00PM start time would help but it won't help with the greater problem. The way commercials are shown and the fake 'debris" cautions give viewers numerous opportunities to switch over to football where they get interested and don't switch back. If the comercials were side by side with the action and if all cautions were true cautions, there would be less temptation to change channels. Of course, nothing helps if the telecast is done poorly or the race is a boring follow the leader event.

Dot said...

@ Anon 2:38, Ditto.

Why oh why did NASCAR listen to Hill about the start times? Prior to the big TV deal, I loved that the races started at 9:30/10AM.

Too bad NASCAR only saw $$$$$ instead of what the fans wanted.

Dot said...

@ ken, I read elsewhere that prior to 2003 there were mostly single digit cautions during a race. After that, double digits.

Didn't the Emperor take over in 2003?

Andrew said...

@Dot - There are definitely a lot more debris cautions flown now then there used to be, which is probably the reason for the double-digits. Now that could be due to any number of things - more cars on the track, more damaged cars still running and dropping parts, or "show" cautions, to name a few.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up for the live race blog.


Dot said...

@ Andrew, you forgot one. To show more commls. :)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Please move your comments up to the new live blog post. Thanks.