Thursday, February 4, 2010
Showtime Throws NASCAR A Curveball (Repost from 1/26/10)
When it became clear that SPEED was ending the 14 year run of This Week in NASCAR, it was sad. Other than ESPN's Monday afternoon offering, there was no NASCAR weekday talk show that featured conversation and debate about racing topics. Then, Showtime answered the call.
Click here to review the NASCAR.com post announcing that Inside NASCAR would begin on Showtime in February and offer a Wednesday hour talk show. Ultimately announced as the cast was Chris Myers, Brad Daugherty, Randy Pemberton and Michael Waltrip.
Cable TV networks like SPEED, TNT and VERSUS are in well over 70 million homes in the United States. Showtime serves around 17 million. In NASCAR TV terms, they are tiny. Throw in Showtime's mature-themed entertainment programming and suddenly there was a situation brewing.
The question was, will NASCAR fans be able to see Inside NASCAR on what is called an "a la carte" basis. That means being able to break-out a single program or series from a network for viewing. Basically, without subscribing to the Showtime network, could fans access Inside NASCAR? Luckily, that point was quickly addressed.
Here is an excerpt from the Sports Business Journal's Michael Smith addressing those points:
Showtime's new weekly Inside NASCAR show will be available via the Internet and mobile phone, which required clearance from NASCAR's rights holders in that space.
NASCAR Media Group, which manages those multimedia rights, had to clear the broadcast of Inside NASCAR with its TV, web and mobile partners before giving final approval for the new show.
NASCAR's TV broadcast rights are with Fox, Turner Sports and ESPN, while its web rights are with Turner and the mobile rights are with Turner and Sprint. All of those deals run through 2014.
Since that time, we have been communicating directly with Showtime to get updates on just how fans could access the new TV series and what costs might be involved. Tuesday (Jan 26, 2010), we got our answers from the premium network. It was not good news.
First of all, Inside NASCAR will not be available via cell phone. Showtime as a TV network is still not available in that fashion. So, the company is simply not going to break out Inside NASCAR on an "a la carte" basis. The cell phone or hand-held device option is out.
Then came the big news. "We do not offer full episodes of any Showtime programs online," the network told TDP via email. While episode 1 of this series will be posted at SHO.com as a preview, none of the additional episodes will be available online.
It's understandable that Showtime has a business to run and getting new subscribers is the number one priority. But with no actual races, few other sports and an adult-themed line-up of premium programming, Inside NASCAR may wind up only being seen by that portion of the current 17 million Showtime subscribers who are race fans.
Perhaps, the NASCAR Media Group may yet play a role in getting online distribution for this product. After all, they developed, pitched and sold the TV series to Showtime. Now, NMG is getting ready to produce it at its new Charlotte-based studios.
It may well be in NMG's own best interest to have another round of conversations about getting the only weekday primetime hour of NASCAR conversation on any kind of national TV out to a broader audience. The series debut is February 10.
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