Saturday, April 24, 2010
Showtime Backlash Continues To Grow
We originally talked about this issue in January. The NASCAR Media Group had announced during the Charlotte media tour that it would be producing a brand new major TV series for the 2010 season.
It was only weeks earlier when SPEED had confirmed the cancellation of the long-running Monday night one-hour review program that had aired in several forms and with several titles. In 2009, it had been called This Week in NASCAR.
After several stops and starts, TWIN seemed to be picking up steam with the trio of Steve Byrnes, Michael Waltrip and Chad Knaus. The Monday show that began as Inside Winston Cup Racing on SpeedVision had ultimately come to revolve around Michael Waltrip. Now, it was time for Waltrip to take his act to a new home.
In a surprise move, Showtime was the destination for Waltrip and friends. Inside NASCAR was the new series and it featured Chris Myers as the host with Randy Pemberton and Brad Daugherty alongside Waltrip on the panel. It also featured a brand new element.
Here is an excerpt from a TDP column on that subject:
What is worse than producing a bad TV series that everyone watches? The answer is producing a great TV series that no one watches. Welcome to Inside NASCAR on Showtime.
It has been well documented that the Achilles Heel of this new series is not production, but distribution. There are almost 90 million cable TV homes in North America, but Showtime appears in less than 18 million of them. Showtime is a premium service designed for adults who enjoy entertainment programming.
The marketing arm of Showtime is second to none. The company knows how to promote and it involved all types of social media networking in the campaign surrounding Inside NASCAR. One of the most effective tools is the show's Facebook fan page.
In only a few short months, the Facebook site has over one hundred thousand fans. However, upon closer inspection it is clear that many of those fans don't have Showtime in their homes. So, what do they want? It's easy to scroll down the comments and answer that question. They want TWIN back on a non-premium cable network and they want it now.
After patiently starting up and explaining the show, the Facebook pot has started to boil. This is the latest post from the network's moderator:
This show was never on SPEED. It is not TWIN or any other old show. It is brand new as of February. People keep mentioning how we stole it or moved it, but it's an original series on Showtime. Can't we all just get along?
While Showtime is technically correct, the site of Waltrip sitting on a panel and cutting up while reviewing highlights and talking about racing is an all too familiar one. Many fans firmly believe Showtime and NASCAR are at fault.
Here are some recent fans comments from the Inside NASCAR Facebook page:
Elaine: Just another way for NASCAR to make money off their fans. Will not buy Showtime just to see this.
Patrick: I think it is highly stupid NASCAR once again is trying to steal money from the fans who pay everyone's salaries, SHAME ON YOU!
Karen: It's bad enough I pay extra to get SPEED and FX and TNT and ESPN. Not going to pay for Showtime for one program!
Terri: I am sure Showtime paid you (NASCAR) big bucks to carry it but my question to you is... when is money more important than the LOYAL fans that have supported NASCAR year after year?? Shame on NASCAR!
Rather than slowing down, the backlash and the number of critical comments seems to be growing. As the season continues and more storylines emerge, it's no wonder fans seem frustrated. This situation has been made even worse by the fact that SPEED replaced TWIN on Monday's with an amateur talent contest actually hosted by Waltrip.
Fans get the double whammy of having to subscribe to Showtime to see Inside NASCAR while everyone can see Waltrip introduce cloggers, magicians and singers in the very hour many seemed to cherish. Fast Track to Fame is certainly interesting television for a motorsports network.
So, here we sit with nothing resolved and lots of great TV being seen by almost no one. Fans have a point. They are not going to spend money and subscribe to a premium network for a one-hour weekly show. Showtime also has a point. The network paid the piper and now owns the program. It's a standoff.
Nothing is being hurt in this equation more than NASCAR. The sport could really use broad distribution of a quality mid-week TV series like this now more than ever. It seems ironic that the real bottom line in this equation is money. Showtime spent it and they want the fans to help them make it back.
Where do you stand on this issue as a fan? What side do you take? Is there really anyone to blame? We would appreciate 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.
Click here for a direct link to the Facebook fan page for Inside NASCAR on Showtime.