Thursday, September 10, 2009

Updated: Tough Two Weeks For "NASCAR Now"

Note: With the fact that NASCAR Now did not appear in its scheduled timeslot again last (Wednesday) night, we are going to continue this post for one more day. In addition, even more big breaking news will be pushed to the overnight shift with the RPM and Yates merger announcement. It turns out that this really was a rough two weeks for NASCAR fans wanting news and interviews on TV.

This is the first season of US Open tennis on the ESPN networks. The live coverage forced several daily shows to move off of ESPN2 during the weekdays. One show was called Sports Nation and the other was NASCAR Now.

On the weekdays, Sports Nation was moved over to the ESPNEWS Network and kept in its 4PM timeslot. NASCAR Now was simply cancelled. The late night re-air of the show was now the only time to see it.

Fans setting the DVR to record NASCAR Now then found that tennis had often run long and pushed the entire TV schedule back. Instead of trying to hit NASCAR Now on time, ESPN ran all the scheduled shows before it got to NASCAR, even if those shows were re-airs.

While the US Open is a great event, NASCAR deserved better treatment. It would have been easy to move NASCAR Now to ESPNEWS. The 5PM timeslot would not have been a problem. The Sports Nation show is an interactive talk show that features an ESPN radio personality and a female host. NASCAR Now is a program that documents a major American sport.

ESPN paid hundreds of millions of dollars to NASCAR in order to get in a position to show the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races. These two weeks are crucial in terms of getting interviews and information out to the fans as the dramatic Richmond race approaches on Saturday night.

Fundamentally, this was a bad time of the year to move the sport's only daily TV show to the overnight shift for two weeks. Kudos to the staff who tried very hard to put as many NASCAR interviews and features online as possible, but it certainly is not the same as a thirty minute TV program.

ESPN has worked very hard for the past three seasons to revamp this TV series. NASCAR Now has become a very watchable and respected program. Changes in on-air talent and the format of the program have paid off.

Perhaps, ESPN will put this learning experience in the books and realize they took away the best promotional tool for the Chase in their possession. The Thursday version of NASCAR Now airs at 1AM ET Friday morning...hopefully.

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