Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nationwide Series Enters The College Football Zone


It's that time of the year again. Time for our annual discussion about the impact of college football on NASCAR's number two series. The Nationwide Series was called an "unpolished jewel" by ESPN president George Bodenheimer back in 2006.

Since that time, ESPN has used the February through August coverage of the Nationwide Series to maintain the network's presence in the sport. Once college football begins, the series takes on an all too familiar position. On September weekends at ESPN, the Nationwide Series becomes the redheaded stepchild.

This week's race is from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. There is a live college football game scheduled at 3:30PM ET on ESPN2 Saturday. Three hours later, the Nationwide Series pre-race show begins on the same network. Rarely have we seen football games end in a three hour "window" over the past couple of seasons.

The actual race coverage begins at 7PM and is scheduled for three hours. At 10PM, Cincinnati and Fresno State will be ready for kick-off of ESPN's late college football game. Once again, the Nationwide Series is the meat in a college football sandwich.

At 2:30PM on Saturday, Mike Joy and the SPEED TV team will cover Nationwide Series qualifying. There is no TV coverage of practice. SPEED will handle the Nationwide Series programming and news coverage right up until the pre-race show. That's the only way to get it on the air.

Infield Studio host Allen Bestwick is all too familiar with having ESPN2 viewers join the pre-race show in progress. While some may argue that the race is the key, that's not really true this time of year. Nationwide Series sponsors need exposure and telling the stories and updating the news during the pre-race show is key to meeting that goal.

At the end of 2008, some homes that carried the ESPN Classic network switched that channel to ESPNU, the college sports network. On many systems, ESPN Classic is now part of a pay tier or simply unavailable. This network was the emergency valve for Nationwide races when college football was interfering with coverage. No longer.

As the familiar college football scenario begins to emerge, ESPN responds by trying to shift attention to the Sprint Cup Series. The resulting Chase overkill proved to be a mess last season. The Nationwide Series simply slipped away as an afterthought.

There are several more years to run on the current ESPN contract with NASCAR for Nationwide Series coverage. NASCAR content can't move to ESPN3.com due to online rights issues. ESPN has no plan to launch a third general sports channel and moving the final three months of Nationwide Series races to SPEED is not an option.

So, buckle up and get ready for three months of a bumpy ride on ESPN2. Saturdays dedicated wall-to-wall at ESPN for college football will come momentarily to a screeching halt while the Nationwide Series drivers run a race. Then, in the blink of an eye NASCAR is gone and ESPN returns to the network's bread and butter of college football.

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18 comments:

OSBORNK said...

NASCAR is in a no-win situation when it has to compete with College Football. When the Nationwide series comes on TV, you can almost hear the remotes clicking as viewers switch to a football game. Professional athletes, whether they are football, basketball or drivers, don't have the enthusiasm and excitement of the college kids. The professionals are doing their job and the college kids are playing a game. The difference shows.

In my house, college football wins over racing but racing wins over professional football.

David said...

I'm inclined to think sandwiching the race in between two football games would be a good thing .. but as you said, football never ends on time and we all know they'll be in a hurry to get to football as fast as they can.

I think the thing that pisses me off the most is that even if the first game goes over, ESPN will take its time getting into NASCAR, there is never a sense of urgency. To the contrary, if the race ends anywhere near time to go back to football, we'll be lucky to see many of the top-five finishes, let alone a race recap and it ESPN's "hurry-up" offense will be extremely evident.

I understand the law of supply and demand and ratings means more football versus NASCAR, I get that. But I refuse to understand the double standard. ESPN is always in a hurry to end its NASCAR coverage, unlike any other sport - how many times have we waited for Tennis, Soccer, or any other lesser-viewed sport to watch NASCAR programming? You have to think that with this being a holiday weekend and the Sprint Cup race being pretty long Sunday night, most people won't even tune in Saturday night for the race, choosing instead to spend the evening with friends or family enjoying the long weekend.

Buschseries61 said...

The Nationwide series will bumped and bullied around football games again.

It's already difficult enough to attract sponsorship, sponsors will find more value sponsoring the commercials on ESPN than Nationwide teams. At least it gaurantees them excessive tv time on a set channel.

Anonymous said...

As a huge NASCAR fan, I have to admit, I will be watching football on Saturday, the race will record on the DVR and I will watch it at a later date so I can fast forward thru the boring parts and commercials. I hate to admit this but it is true. I will follow twitter during the race to see what is happening but my eyes will be on football. I don't know how NASCAR can fix this problem...

GinaV24 said...

Well, I don't watch college football at least not until they get to the bowl games and even then it depends on what teams are playing.

I'm not going to "chase" the Nationwide races from ESPN channel to ESPN channel though either. Plus this weekend its the last long weekend Saturday I've got until Thanksgiving, if the weather is good, I won't waste it sitting inside for sports on TV.

I do think that it is a shame that racing and the fans get such shabby treatment from ESPN because if it is raining, it will be the race that I would be tuning in to see.

Anonymous said...

You can't really set your dvr to record because if football runs over then the race will be on an alternate channel or start late then if race is late, it will move to an alternate channel so it will be a catch as catch can to watch and no true time to record the exact time. I watch some college football and some pro but only catch some races so I guess the final is that it is really no big deal.

Lisa Hogan said...

I watch some college football (Roll Tide) on whichever network carries the game.

I agree with Gina, I'm not going to chase the coverage. If the race is on ESPN or ESPN2, I will watch.

Since I am also a tennis fan, I can't get away from ESPN much these days! Boy, they are really pushing ESPN3 website. Tennis on ESPN also brings with it the ever lovely Chris Fowler and Hannah Storm :(

glenc1 said...

I have noticed the same thing as David. They never hurry with football, I think I've seen them go back to the studio and show scores and what not and *then* go to racing. But when it's the race, it's 'do VL interview in 5 seconds and go.' I am one of those who lost ESPNCL in the shuffle, so if things end up there, I won't be watching. Oh well. I watch some college but not a ton. I would choose NASCAR over NCAAF most of the time since I don't root for a particular team.

PammH said...

I also lost ESPNCL, so I can't watch if they switch things around. But since my guy isn't racing anymore this yr in Cup Lite & the Gibbs cars are still cleaning up there, I don't have much reason to watch anyway. Unless they make it easy for me, I can do something else with my time. Same w/NN. I refuse to chase it thru the time zones any longer. If it comes on at 5. I'll tape it. Otherwise, forget it. And I love Marty Ryan, AB & most of the players. But ENOUGH! Stop disrespecting my sport.

Jonathan said...

Sweet I always love this time of year.... When on saturdays your all set drinks in hand for the race and your mood turns from Pumped to P'd off cause you dont know where to find the Nascar Nationwide Series! Once again I dont care how popular football is I still feel theres no reason we should have any college or pre season game aired over any points paying race! That would be like an Arca race being shown instead of the packers vs bears! Dosent make sense

Anonymous said...

I do not think espn treats the nationwide series any differently than nascar management does. Sponsors? "Nationwide Series sponsors need exposure and telling the stories and updating the news during the pre-race show is key to meeting that goal." Sorry, but I have not seen this being met throughout the season(s). MC

Vicky D said...

Yep, NW is treated like a red headed stepchild during college football season. But this happened last year and we chased the races and most of the time didn't see pre-race shows and maybe 5 or 10 second VL interviews and that's it. It would be better on another channel I think.

Anonymous said...

I don't care if they play musical channels. I DVR the races. I watch what is recorded and if I miss parts of the race. I don't care. Nothing live anymore. I FF to the start and delete anything after the checkered flag. Usually get through a race in 45 minutes or less as I choose to FF through the single car camera shots.

Now I like the new F1 format. I still DVR the race, but I only FF the commercials during practice, qualifying and the race.

I never thought I would spend more time watching an F1 race than a three race nascar weekend. Nascar on TV today is what F1 was three of four years ago.

Anonymous said...

I'll repeat what I said about a week ago---who at Nascar negotiated a contract that would allow being jerked around like this?

Anonymous said...

Maybe its time NASCAR considered ending the Nationwide and Truck series by Labor Day....

Chuck

Anonymous said...

Why does ESPN, or any TV network owe anything to a car's sponsor? Last I checked, the sponsors pay the car owner, not the TV network doing the broadcast. This is not an infomercial. This is a sporting event.

Palmetto said...

As JD noted at the end of his piece, college ball -is- ESPN's 'bread and butter'. While I don't like the situation, I can't blame them much for giving priority to programming they think will draw the most viewers, even if I would rather watch the 1994 swamp buggy quarter finals than a college game.

The problem is caused by NASCAR itself. Next time the N'wide TV contract comes up, the sanctioning body should consider other factors besides who can write the biggest check; you know, little things like, "Which network will actually broadcast these races?" Apparently the directors didn't care last time around, and probably still don't since ESPN has to pay either way.

tiamatsrevenge said...

I knew this was gonna happen when I found out that this tv contract had 31 of 35 Nwide races a year on espn1/2 and 4 of 35 on abc ... Geez, why not show them on ABC Family or Disney Channel?? Oh, waitaminute ... Some of the affiliates can NASCAR Countdown in favor of Disney Channel reruns (that are 4yrs old) ...

Who was the idiot that set the schedule for on-track activities this weekend at AMS ... to where almost everything ('cept the Cup race) is on Saturday?? I've got the track schedule ... They could've EASILY had Nwide practice and Cup pratice & qualifying on Friday with Nwide qualifying & Cup practice / happy hour on Saturday ...

After such a great race on Sunday in Montreal, it's a travesty and quite ludicrous that ALL Nwide activity is jammed into Saturday AND both practices are NOT on tv ...

I presume espn has a profile on Robby Benton (RAB Racing) in the can for "Countdown" ... but it prolly won't be shown as the UConn @ UMich or UCLA @ KanSt games will run over ... And the Cincy @ Fresno St game that's on after the race is gonna be re-aired after "Baseball Tonight" (which follows the live airing of the Cincy game) ...

SPEED could air the Nwide practices as there's nothing on Sat morning that can't be dumped ... I know ... Same crew, very long day/night ...


And they continue to wonder WHY they have unsponsored teams as well as Start & Parkers ... *rolls eyes*