Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Only TV Ratings Solution Is Change (Repost)

Update: Reposting for some Twitter users who have never read the TDP columns on this topic. There have been many over the last four years.

We have talked for over a month about what would happen this season when NASCAR finally went head-to-head with the early Sunday NFL game at 1PM Eastern Time. Well, the results are in and they are not pretty.

ESPN’s telecast of the Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 19, earned a final national US household coverage rating of 2.3, averaging 3.6 million viewers. Last year’s telecast aired on ABC and earned a final U.S. 3.2 rating. (Thanks to for the information.)

This is the lowest-rated Chase telecast ever and that resulted in a spirited conversation on Tuesday between journalists, bloggers and fans on Twitter. With good racing at Loudon on a beautiful day, the question is what happened to the TV viewers?

As we all know, the answer is the NFL. Leading up to Sunday, we asked on this blog, on Facebook and on Twitter how many people were going to only watch NASCAR. The response was very few. Some hardcore fans put racing first, but many had an NFL game involving their favorite team and would be watching football and checking on NASCAR.

The bottom line is that the NFL TV partners did a better job. They put compelling telecasts on the air that contained two key ingredients that have dogged ESPN during the Chase for four years now. The NFL action is never interrupted by a commercial break during the three hour telecast and the focus of the coverage is the game itself.

Here are a couple of fan comments from Sunday only minutes after the race started:

"Why do they go to commercial after the first 8 laps and come back and then go back to commercial?" (from Gymmie)

"Commercial overload is slowly bleeding the life out of televising this sport. It is slowly killing the goose that lays the golden egg." (from Bevo)

"Well, if this becomes a commercial fest I don't think that the remaining NASCAR fans watching will have a problem changing the channel to an NFL football game." (from Anonfan)

Veteran fans already know the issue at hand. Cable and broadcast TV networks use commercials to drive revenue in NASCAR because there is no structure to the telecast. Sports like NFL football actually come with an attached commercial format. When the clock will stop for commercials and how long those breaks will be is coordinated in advance.

The bottom line for the NFL is to make sure that a commercial never runs during play. NASCAR is the exact opposite. Green flag exciting racing may draw the fans, but seeing only four minutes of action before going to yet another two or even three minute commercial break has only one effect. Viewers reach for the remote.

It's a bit ironic that the NASCAR on ESPN production team has dedicated themselves this season to utilizing a split-screen effect to show two sets of cars racing for position. Even on the short tracks, these two video boxes show viewers two stories playing out simultaneously.

The answer to solving the commercial dilemma is to give fans what they are missing. Utilize the same split-screen style to show the commercial break in the bigger video box and keep the racing action in a smaller second box.

This solution kills two birds with one stone. Fans will not reach for the remote because the racing action is still on the screen. Secondly, sponsors can be assured that their commercials have a much better chance of being viewed rather than having the remaining NASCAR fans performing the "NFL two minute check-in" at every commercial break.

The second topic today is storytelling. While the NFL simply tells the story of the game, ESPN has to juggle the story of the Chase and the story of the race. It has never worked out. Memories of last season's Jimmie Johnson lovefest are still fresh in many minds. It was a disaster.

Click here to read TV's Rock And A Hard Place published last November here on TDP. You may enjoy reading the fan comments as well. ESPN has tried to put the Chase before the race since 2007. Something has to give.

Sure, ESPN had twelve announcers in Loudon. Sure, ESPN played recorded driver interviews during green flag racing. Sure, ESPN only updated Chasers. Sure, ESPN struggled with wave arounds, lucky dogs and restart orders. The good news is, those things can be fixed!

Fundamentally changing the commercial presentation and refocusing the Chase telecasts on the races themselves is something that has to come from ESPN with help from NASCAR. It's simply time for change. There is nothing else left to do.

We invite your comments on this topic. To share your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


slander said...

The big problem I see is that every time that there have been changes, the product seems to get worse...

Maybe it's time that they rolled back the changes they've made to, I don't know, pre-2001, maybe?

Anonymous said...

How about if the networks broadcasting NASCAR simply pulled a "Tivo" and when they come back from commercial, restart their coverage right where they left off? What's wrong, can't they buffer the action?

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't the commercials - it's the overall presentation of the races.

From the over-emphasis on Chase drivers, to cutting away from pitstops before they are done, to switching randomly to action on the track, to not reporting penalties or why a particular driver dropped 20 positions, to making every single race boring enough to sleep to.

Seriously -- NASCAR is probably the most adrenaline-filled sport on TV. The cars are going 190 miles per hour, drivers are risking their lives in every corner, the cars are often inches apart, the racing action is intense, the drivers explode in rage or elation constantly, the fans in the stands cheer wildly.... and yet Marty Reid and the Sleep Patrol manage to make me doze off nearly every single race.

I thought Reid would be an improvement over Jerry Punch. Just goes to show you how many more problems ESPN has.

Say what you want about FOX - they have their problems, too - but I've never ever even come close to falling asleep while watching a FOX presentation of NASCAR. Meanwhile, you might think ESPN is covering a golf tournament.

If you think about it - being able to make high-speed racing boring takes serious talent. Who else could turn fast cars into midday naps?

Anonymous said...

I don't think the problem is just the commercials. It's the calling of the race.

I have so much respect for Dale Jarrett. What an awesome career he had.

I really find Andy Petree to be likeable. He just seems like the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet.

I think Marty Reid enjoys his job. He seems like a guy with few enemies.

But let's face it, folks: It doesn't matter how fantastic the booth guys are as people -- the simple fact is that they are ruining our sport! They not only add nothing to a race - they detract from it with their insipid banter, useless stale comments, lack of excitement, and overall poor presentation of the action on the track.

Good ol' DJ - he's a bonafide racing legend and a fan favorite. But, oh, man, oh man does he have nothing to say in the booth. I bet if you sat down and talked racing with Dale it would be outstanding conversation. But put him in a suit with a microphone and listening to him is like listening to the guy from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.... Bueller? Bueller? He just adds nothing to the show.

And Andy Petree. How could a guy who has won championships, had a personal relationship with Earnhardt Sr, and worked on cars his whole life come across as so impossibly dull on the air? Do you think for a minute that if he was on your couch at home and you were talking racing he would be so dull? Yet, put him on the air and the banality runs out his mouth at a breakneck pace.

And Marty Reid. What can you say about Marty Reid that isn't already said on the side of sleeping medication bottles: May cause drowsiness.

You make the point that the commercials in NASCAR interrupt the action -- but I think it's the ESPN announcers who interrupt the action -- by sucking all the life out of the broadcast and making NASCAR as boring as reading the telephone book for entertainment.

When Mike Rowe commands more attention talking about his jeans in a commercial than Marty Reid commands talking about the final lap of a race, you know something is wrong.

I hope ESPN releases all these guys and hired people who know how to call a race with enthusiasm, expertise, precision, and insightfulness - it sure beats cliche, catchphrases, generalities, and that miserable dialogue they dare to call "banter."

Seriously: Give me announcers who know how to present a race and I'll sit through 10-minute commercial breaks waiting for them to come back on the air.

Jonathan said...

Your spot on but its evident ESPN will never change! Espn knows what its doing trust me!

Terri said...

I love the optimism, but it will never happen. dSPN has their $$ from Nascar and they're going to do what they want.

John O'Shea said...

Well said JD. Call the play by play like they do on radio and let the Chase fall into place at the end of the race. Side by Side TV screen would be great help.

Maybe NASCAR should stop worrying about competing with the NFL and just concentrate on what would work better for it's own sport. If that works, they will do better against the NFL naturally.

In Canada, there is the NHL and then everything else. I'm assuming in the US, there is the NFL and everything else. Does any other sport really compete against that or do they try to stand on their own merits?

Anonymous said...

Thank God for the DVR. I suppose the ratings do not consider DVR use, the people who watched the Football Game live or maybe an 'hour delayed' and then watched the NASCAR race later.

earl06 said...

All I can say is I hope they find a fix for this soon. Boring NFL telecasts were one thing that drove me to NASCAR 15 years ago. Now the opposite is true.

What happened on Sunday is inexcuseable. 8 laps...commercial, flip over to NFL...flip back, going to commercial again...another flip to NFL. At this point, most folks said "screw it" and didn't flip back to NASCAR again. Why would they?

KoHoSo said...

Another wonderful piece, Mr. Daly!

...the question is what happened to the TV viewers?

While going up against the NFL was, always has been, and always will be a factor, it is not the only reason. After all, going from a 3.2 to a 2.3 in the Nielsen ratings in one year certainly cries out strongly that there is more to it. Despite the good racing this time around at New Hampshire, the overall story is that there is diminishing interest in NASCAR due to a lot of different factors that we have been listing all year in the comments section of this blog. I believe one of those we have not touched on so much is that many fans now believe they are not getting a fully honest product from NASCAR while there is little question that the NFL is almost wholly contested on the up-and-up. Trust is a big factor whether it be in the contest itself or knowing whether or not one is going to get the best possible coverage of an event. NASCAR is losing that trust and the proof is in the A.C. Nielsen pudding.

...refocusing the Chase telecasts on the races themselves is something that has to come from ESPN with help from NASCAR.

It seems to me that the mindset in Bristol over the past few years (and surely reinforced by the Mickey Mouse folks back in Burbank) to go for "story" over "action" is now so entrenched that it cannot be changed no matter the sport. It even affects their college football coverage to a certain extent which I, for the most part, enjoy on the "ESPN family of networks" depending upon the announcing crew.

My strong opinion is...the best (and possibly only) way to get ESPN to return to focusing on racing all the way to the end of the season as they did back in the glory days of Bob, Benny, and Ned is very simple -- get rid of The Chase. With the kickoff of NASCAR's "don't call it a playoff" dropping like a rock in the ratings, it should now be painfully obvious to everybody that Baby Brian's attempt to make car racing just like stick-and-ball sports has failed and it's time in this particular area to go back to they way things used to be.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't have said it any better myself. It is in the hands of NASCAR & tv partners to make this work. If they don't care, why should I?

Anonymous said...

A couple of weeks ago i e-mailed Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer addressing this subject and lamenting the lack of coverage of fan outrage on a host of problems,including mainstream media silence on these things.His anwser,call Espn and complain to them.Another neutered newsman.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'll be the lone wolf on this but even with a perfect telecast NASCAR/ESPN is only going to increase it's rating a bit.
Stick and ball sports are simply easier to telecast. They all have pre defined breaks and/or timeouts (well maybe not golf).
NASCAR has no such thing and even under caution things are happening.
Yes they could do side by side coverage but I honestly don't see that making a massive difference.
The sport will simply never be in the same league (no pun intended) as the NFL.
Yes, fine, make some changes, but temper expectations also. I love NASCAR but I recognize it's a niche sport to a certain extent. It just doesn't have the broad appeal that the NFL does.

Anonymous said...

There are many reasons why the sport's ratings are dropping. Some are due to the telecasts themselves and some are due to the product on the track (including, as one commenter already said, trust - or lack thereof - with the sanctioning body).

The telecasts on Fox and ESPN are simply horrible. There is too much information constantly moving across the screen. On Fox, the broadcasters (Larry Mac and DW especially) want to be the story. On ESPN, many of the on-air crew have no credibility with the viewers (Spake, Little, Daugherty). The camera work leaves much to be desired and the direction is so robotic one would think there isn't an actual person doing it anymore.

Commercials have always been an issue. As someone who has watched the sport since the early 1980s, I can handle them to some extent. But why the broadcasters don't implement a system like TNT does for the July Daytona race simply defies explanation and logic.

As for the on-track product, many long-time race fans have simply stopped watching. Look-alike cars, look-alike tracks, and sound-alike drivers do not warrant much attention. Add in the fact that NASCAR now manages the competition with debris cautions instead of letting the race play out on its own, and people have gone on to other things.

Even with the ugly racecars and bland personalities behind the wheel, NASCAR can regain credibility by ending the fake debris cautions. Waving the yellow whenever it gets strung out might seem like a good idea, but it opens the door to too much criticism and makes the sport seem less than up-and-up. I still say mandating cautions at specified times (after 100 consecutive green flag laps/miles) and not sticking their fingers in every aspect of the competition would be a big help. Have at it on the track, lay off it from the control tower.

They are at a point where it's beyond immediate repair. The damage that has been done will take years to fix, if it can be done at all.

GinaV24 said...

JD, your summary nailed all the issues the fans have been complaining about, but I don't have much hope of change. It seems the powers that be in charge of NASCAR refuse to get it.

I do NOT watch commercials during the race. I always switch channels and if I get frustrated enough, I simply go away and do something else until it gets closer to the end of the race. This behavior is something I didn't do before the chase, before the ugly car and before ESPN came back into play. 12 people broadcasting the race? Geez, can you say overkill?

As you say, the NFL broadcasts don't swamp me with what they think I want to know -- they simply broadcast the game as it unfolds. No crystal ball needed and none of this -- "if the game ended now". Well, if it still has the 2nd half to be played, things can change - just like they do in racing. Its not over until its over.

I really enjoy the split screen effect that ESPN is using - ala TNT's racebuddy battlecam.

Also, as you pointed out, I'm sure with all these people someone could could come up with a smart solution to use the commercial in the corner scenario -- then the race fans and the sponsors would get to have their cake and eat it too.

Anon 3:07 a.m. - I don't know that I want the broadcast team to start timeshifting stuff. Although I also hate the words "while we were away".

JohnP said...

Great article JD. I has said on Facebook I'd be watching the NFL at1pm and I did. Eagles, and note this. I'm not even an Eagles fan. It was just a good sporting event. I like a exciting sporting event, no matter who wins, and not the "story". I enjoy the battle. That's what sports is. I checked in with Nascar on NFL's very brief commercials and usual got a commercial in return for my effort. However, being a Stewart fan I finally got drawn into the race with about 80 to go because Stewart was leading. (what i'd give for a quart of fuel in that car). But quite frankly, that's the only thing that drew me in. Any other leader would not of had that effect. I'm a die hard Nascar fan that is so so close to totally throwing in the towel and spending my time doing more worth while activities. Close to a 30% drop in ratings in one year for the first race in the stupid Chase is huge. Some fans believe the season is over and Harvick won. I'm close, oh so close, to being one of those fans and simply ignoring the Chase for 10 lucky racers that have no problems. My guy, Stewart, now has no chance of a Championship because of one bad race. That's the way the Chase works. So my insentive for watching anymore races drastically goes down because they REFUSE to broadcast the ACTUAL sporting event of that day like the NFL does. I'm not leaving Nascar, Nascar is leaving me.

Charlie said...

The Nascar Tv ratings may slip a bit more this weekend. Not only is there NFL on this Sunday but the FedEx Cup in Golf wraps up this Sunday. The winner of the FedEx receives 10 million dollars.
I will be watching Golf and record the Nascar race.
One problem with Espn is their bottom ticker. If you decide to record your NFL team and watch the race the bottom ticker will tell you the results of the NFL game as you watch the race. So you either have to put a piece of tape over the bottom part of your Tv or record the race and watch your NFL team. Same with Golf this weekend. Espn will show you the results of the Golf match during the race.
I would say the bottom ticker keeps some people from watching the race live. Get rid of the ticker and more people may watch but that will never happen. Espn doesn't care, they have no pride in what they do for Nascar.
Would running commercials side by side with the race work and keep more people viewing? Yes it would but you have to have a company that has pride in what they do and Espn does not have that so their not going to add this feature.
Nascar is still having problems with debris cautions. Fake or real. Last weeks race on about lap 147 coming out of commercial there was a caution. Allen Bestwick greets the viewers and says, we are under caution, Nascar has been eying debris for the last few laps and finally threw the caution flag. Pit stops then followed. Espn did not show the debris. If Espn knew that Nascar was eying debris for the last two laps how hard would it be to show this debris. Not showing it just makes the viewer wonder if there really was debris or was this just something to do to bunch up the field again.
Espn could do more to improve the telecast if they cared and had pride in what they do but they don't.
Just remember Espn will be with us until 2014 no matter how bad they broadcast Nascar.

Todd Crane said...

NA$CAR created the problem, ala, fake cautions, the cot etc, and espn just makes the problem worse, It's not how many commericals they run, it's how often they run them, plus ALL their in house promo's, which suck too. I've been a fan since the early 60's, and now I watch a few races on tv a year. Brina France is the single biggest problem with NA$CAR...I know I'm not alone here..oh yeah, I started watching the NH telecast, and after about 3 minutes found out that the race was secondary to the "chase" HA!

yankeegranny said...

The FIX;
Show the d***** commercials on a split screen during pit stops, or on a full screen during cautions.

Get some announcers on a par with MRN radio. I keep the TV muted and listen to the race on MRN. Boy can those guys call a race. Is there any reason we even need to see the Booth Baffoons's faces at all????

Start the race at 1:00, not 1:15. You lose a great percent of your audiance by doing that. If you switch to the NFL and the game is good, why would you switch to the race?
Please keep the chase. I do not want to know who is the champion Sept.1. Why would I not watch the NFL if my driver does not have a shot at the championship?
Until then, I will watch Jr on Raceview and keep the sound turned off on the TV.

Anonymous said...

If there were picture in picture commercials I'd put the TV on ESPN and never change the channel. Since there aren't I just watch football all day and DVR the race to watch in a nice short 1 hour format at night without the ads, Tim Brewer, and the crappy videos.

You'd have to be nuts to put up with this crap and watch half of a race live with all those breaks!

Anonymous said...

The race would have gotten better ratings if it was on ABC,like my schedule said.I had the race on tv and the NFL on my computer.
I am losing interest in Nascar,the chase itself turns me off,resetting points,that's turning a lot of viewers away,the ones I talk to anyway.


Vicky D said...

Yes, last year's ESPN Jimmie Johnson's lovefest is still fresh in my mind and I feel that this year Marty Reid is given a new script every week before the race and now goes with that. I thought he called better races last year maybe because he didn't read the scripts beforehand. One idea is to bring Randy LaJoie back to the NW races and let DJ rest up for the cup races on Sunday. Someone mentioned that we don't get up to the minute information on drivers who have retired/parked/wrecked from the races. I still want to hear an interview from a driver who wrecks out and see how he's doing. How hard can that be? Less commercials would be nice but I guess that will never happen.

Anonymous said...

You make a big jump when you go from TV critic to a thesis that blames TV coverage for loss of interest in NASCAR. How ESPN presents a race TV coverage wise is not any bigger a factor than popularity of other sports (which you note, but assume can be countered by better tv production), decline of TV ratings in general, changes in way ratins are calculated, decline of NASCAR on its own, slumping economy, etc, etc, etc.

To come out and suggest the biggest factor accounting for lower TV ratings is having coverage "without focus on the race" I think is tenuous and vague at best, and plainly wrong at worst.

As for the NFL/Commercial analogy - NFL is the single most commercialized, chopped-up, flow-killing, thing to watch on TV and yet people still eat it up.

If you want to increase NASCAR viewership you're going to need to start some more organic, grass-roots thing that makes people fans of the sports, not tweek around with TV coverage. TV-centric blog or not, you're making kind of silly statements if you think ESPN has anything to do with some hypothesized decline of NASCAR.

Kevin said...

I have to disagree with this article. I used to think commercials were the problem with NASCAR races and the declining ratings. I was wrong. If anyone's watched an NFL game, you'll know that NFL games have even more commercials than NASCAR. Sure, you don't miss the game, but they're frequent and long. It's unbearable, actually.

Of course, this is coming from someone who DVRs 95% of everything I watch. That's what I do with NASCAR. Newsflash people: DVR the race AND the game. You can watch both, commercial free. What could be better??

Anonymous said...

Yankeegranny has the perfect solution. SHow the commercials on a split scteen during pitstops and full screen during cautions.

I've never understood why they have to show 10 minutes of cars cricling the track at caution speeds. Show the restart and then go to commercial.

Sunday I watched the first 8 laps.. commerical. Flipped to NFL.... came back.... 10 laps.. commericial.. flipped back to NFL and stayed there.

How the h**l can they justify 5 minutes of actual racing and then commercials/inhouse promotions/etc.

I have been a NA$CAR fan since the late 70's but have gotten so frustrated with the COT (Crap Of Today) poor broadcasting, and this ridiculous Chase that I really no longer bother.

Thank you Brian for freeing up my Saturday and Sunday afternoons!!!!!

Vince said...

What is the major difference between last years broadcast of the NH race and this years broadcast? That one is easy. It was on ESPN this year and last year it was on ABC. I know several lame stream media members have already said this doesn't matter, because almost as many people have ESPN as have ABC. I will call the BS card here.

Because of the economy, many many people have just plain dropped pay tv in favor of OTA broadcasts or getting what they can off of the Internet with Hulu and the like.

I'm one of the ones that has dropped pay tv. I don't see the value in paying my cable company $60-$80 a month just to watch a handful of channels I care about.

But aside from the pay tv vs the "free" tv issue, I didn't even bother to listen to the race on the radio this past weekend. Why? First off, the Chase. It is a marketing driven contrived championship. It is not the mark of a true champion and never will be for me. Get rid of it.

Next, and I really hate to say this, but the season is just too long. You can't compete with the NFL and never will be able to. So why try? Start the season in Feb. Race at every track once and end the season Labor Day weekend at Darlington. Problem solved.

Finally the main thing that has me turned off lately is the MEDIA. Come on you guys. Grow a pair! I can count on one hand the media members that will actually go for the hard story.

Get down and dirty. Ask the tough questions. Go for the tough stories. Do some research.

Most of you guys write fluff pieces and you all sound the same. I used to be able to read a piece with out looking at the by line and tell you who wrote it. Not any more. You are all clones of the Nascar marketing/PR machine. And stop with all the HYPE already. You guys grab the story of the week and hype it to death. Be original.

Just my opinion.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Couple of points here:

ABC moved the races to ESPN because there is no longer a significant difference in the number of broadcast homes vs. cable.

The argument that the race would have higher ratings if it was on ABC does not make a lot of sense with the current numbers.

Kevin: The big difference between NASCAR and the NFL in terms of commercials is that the NFL stops the action on the field for commercials during the game. The amount of inventory may be similar, but other than caution flag periods, the NASCAR TV partners must insert commercials over racing. Therein lies the problem IMHO.

Panwhale: We have been following the sport since the new TV contract begain in 2007. We have been on top of the TV issues every single day. Certainly, the changes within the sport have effected the perception, but you are off the mark with your logic. You can't evaluate what you can't see. ESPN is averaging four minutes or less of racing between commercials that are two minutes longer or more. NASCAR fans will judge the COT, the Chase and wave arounds only when they can see them on the track.


LVI56 said...

Great article. I have to agree with the story telling, a race that focuses just on the 48 is a boring race. At the same time, commercials are not very well placed.

I'm one of the diehard Nascar fans who doesn't miss watching a race live. The only time this year I will be missing a race is for a big air show, even then I'll have my DVR set to record. I hate football and whatever other ball sport. And even if the broadcast might be bad from time to time, I still watch, because I'm a fan and that's what fans do.
Now for the people stuck in the middle between nfl and nascar, well I have no idea...Why do more people watch NFL than Nascar? It's always been that way it seems, no matter the racing or the broadcast. What's so great about football that has everybody hooked? We need some of whatever that is over in Nascar to keep fans hooked on the races.

Anonymous said...

I didn't switch to the NFL - I've simply lost most of my interest in NASCAR. Too long of a season, too much coverage, managed competition, inconsistent "officiating," announcers more suited to golf games than auto racing, no innovation or creativity in the cars, start-and-parkers to fill a field, no true underdogs, and a silly meaningless "chase" that does nothing to reward "regular season" accomplishments or consistency.

NASCAR, in its quest to become as big as the NFL, has lost its way by seeking the glitz and losing sight of the racing. But kudos for the safety innovations.

JIM said...

Once again the root problems are missed. When the cars began to change, begining with Ford using a car that was not a 2 door(Taurus) and Chrysler same thing. Qualifying became meaningless, the top 35 is a joke, the rules enforcment is a disaster, "The Show" mentality replacing a RACE, the Chase was not needed or wanted. Now its spec cars and its WWE/NA$CAR staged performance, but you better not cross the line and say that because big brother(NA$CAR) is watching. It wasn't broken but King Brian wanted change and he got it. It all started years before the start of this years NFL season!

David said...

"Maybe NASCAR should stop worrying about competing with the NFL and just concentrate on what would work better for it's own sport."

Have to agree with this comment more than anything. Only problem is I don't think the France family can do that. Even Jeff Burton commented change for change's sake isn't a good thing, it has to be good change.

I don't mind ESPN covering the Chase drivers more, without the Chase, there would be 3 people to cover for the Championship? It's not like the Lions or the Browns get a lot of coverage on ESPN come November do they?

Speaking of the Chase, if Brian goes and creates a 15 guy playoff, then everyone can expect ratings to go down the rest of the season too. What's the point of watching the first 26 races if 1/3 of the field will be a part of the Championship for the last 10?

The more they tweak with the Chase, the more the traditional fans say bye-bye, and the product as is, isn't enough to attract new fans - double edged sword.

I do think doing something with the commercials would help. Hell, everyone seems to think NASCAR throws cautions just because, why not throw them as "TV Timeout?" Let's be honest, the TNT deal probably only happens because it's the Daytona race July 4th weekend, ratings are probably down enough that no one wants to advertise in that race anyway, and it's never truly commercial free because of the local cable breaks.

I would love side-by-side or sponsored sections of the race.

I do think the commercial load seemed higher, probably because it was a 300 mile race instead of 500, but they could do a better job of getting commercials in during cautions, even the IRL typically goes to side-by-side during yellow flags.

One interesting point - Ryan McGee who works for ESPN, tweeted that they would be talking about big topics on tonight's NASCAR reply was "the ratings?" and he said "No, bigger."

Charlie said...

Just a side note -
Last week I recorded the Nascar race on my VCR. I have a button on my remote that skips ahead 30 seconds with each push of the button.
To skip the commercials I would hit the button 5 times for each commercial break and that worked great. The commercial segments are 2 1/2 minutes.

One thing I did while watching the recorded Sunday race last week was to mark down how many times they said "Chase or Chaser" during the Green Flag broadcast. For the first half of the race they said it 33 times. The second half they said it 30 times. I would have bet almost anything that they would have used the word Chase or Chaser more in the second half of the race but I would have been wrong.
I should have counted the words Championship and Seed. These two words were used a lot.

Anonymous said...

JD and all -- you are right about the commercials running side by side with the race. NASCAR is a sport of continuous action and begs for continuous coverage.

As for the COT. Dump it and give me car that look like cars I can buy. That has always been part of the attraction of Stock Cars; the fantasy that they are like YOUR car.

As for the chase, fix it. I do not watch Football regularly. I do not watch Baseball or Basketball regularly. I could care less about the regular season in any of them or where teams stand.

I do, though, watch during the playoffs. The losers have gone home and one of the teams that remain will win. I do have my favorites of course and I am disappointed if they are not in the playoff mix, but I still watch.

The same could work in NASCAR. Here is my idea. I have written of it before and I have talked about it too to whomever will listen.

1. Regular Season ends at 14th race out. Regular Season Champion is crowned and the top 12 are locked in. All points except earned chase bonus points cease to exist for the succeeding 3 races. Three spots in the Chase remain to be filled by...

2. Wild Cards. One Wild Card Chaser is chosen in each of the next 3 races. One each race. The one chosen in any race is the top non-chase finisher in that race.

3. The Chase proper begins as now with the 10th race out. All non-chasers go home. Everyone is reset to ZERO + any bonus points earned. In each race of the chase low man leaves the island which leaves...

4. A championship race with six entries. Winner take all.

That builds excitement and it is the way performance competition TV shows work. It is custom made for the casual fan and creates drama.

Of course a bad week can sink a driver -- so what? So, the start and parkers cannot come and get paid for qualifying -- so what? It is the survival of the fittest the best and the luckiest.


saltsburgtrojanfan said...

What are the problems with the ratings, I agree with you John, Vince and KoHoSo. It's the product.

The cha$e needs to go, It will never be a true measure of a champion for me. The old points system was fine until they wanted to be like the stick and ball sports and have some sort of playoff. IF IT AIN'T BROKEN, THEN DON'T FIX IT.

Then there are the drivers. There was Tim Flock and Paul Goldsmith, Richard Petty and David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace.
All hard nosed, lunch pail, hard workers. All of them had to fight their way to Cup. And once there it was usually with a low budget team like Junie Donleavy and Bud Moore to get experience.

The Drivers as a whole are vanilla and boring. They are just PR puppets. The fans need a hero and we are sadly lacking that in our current crop of drivers.

And then there is NA$CAR itself. They come across many hardcore fans as paranoid, money hungry, egomaniacs. When the drivers don't like what NA$CAR is doing they basically say SHUT UP AND DRIVE. Let me ask NA$CAR would Dale Earnhardt, Sr. stand for you guys saying shut up and drive, I doubt it.

Then there are the TV partners. The network coverage is beyond abysmal, except for TNT. Fox and E$PN's camera angles are horrible.
The announcers on Fox except for Mike joy are horrid. ESPN's announcers are good but I personally would like to see Bob Jenkins as PxP. Jerry Punch is back at pit road and he is relishing his original good role. NA$CAR is not holding the networks responsible for the abysmal coverage. The NFL holds the networks responsible so why can't NA$CAR. Oh i forgot, Money rules.

Then there is the COT, enough said.

NA$CAR will continue to be an afterthought to many fans until they go back to the good old days.

They ruined what was a good thing.

Just my two cents

JohnP said...

After reading the article you wrote from Nov 16 2009 I found a comment of mine. Here it is.

""The wife follows Carl Edwards. She's watched Nascar full time since 1996 also. Won't even come in the room except for updates now. So sad what the ESPN/Nascar mix has accomplished. It was a sport that we enjoyed together. Now it's gone gone gone""

Well, it got worse over the last 10months. After watching almost every single race together since 1996 she does not even ask for updates anymore. Does not care. This household has gone from two full time viewers to one time part time viewer. It was ESPN last fall that cut the interest Greatly. Then, it was Fox earlier this year that offed her as a fan. And that's just the way it is from the viewership trench's of the households.

Anonymous said...

Soccer broadcasts around the world manage to show all the action without a commercial break in 45+ minute stretches.

NASCAR needs to add in quarter and halftime breaks into the race. Basically, a planned extended caution.

That way, TV is guaranteed to get in their commercial time at set points, so it would not occur during green flag racing.

Plus, the advertisers will still get the full screen ads.

All sports have changed to allow for TV commercial breaks, and learned to live with the effects of extended breaks in the action, which sometimes may slow the momentum of a team after just forcing a turnover. NASCAR should do the same. Yes, TV does affect the game. Learn to deal with it.

At the very, very least, NASCAR should work with TV with the restarts. Football has an official that has constant communication with the TV production. He will hold up the resumption of play until TV is back from commercial break. NASCAR should not drop the green flag until TV is back. If that means an extra caution lap, then so be it. It is not by accident that you rarely miss a play in the NFL.

KoHoSo said...

One thing that has occurred to me while reading all of the excellent comments in reaction to this entry...

During the time that NASCAR exploded in popularity, there seemed to be no need to mess around with how the commercials were spread out. The old crew at ESPN plus TNN and CBS certainly went to commercials during green flag racing yet I do not recall regularly screaming at my TV set when they did so.

Do we really need a solution as radical as (for one example) pre-set cautions in which to run advertisements when such a thing was not necessary in the 1980's, 1990's, and early 2000's? Do we really have to go through the brouhaha that would ensue if NASCAR attempted to force its television partners to use IndyCar's gimmick of Side-by-Side? (which they can get away with only because open wheel racing in North America went so deep into the toilet after the mismanagement of Tony George)

I know that something needs to be done in this area as well as many others to stop the bleeding of the NASCAR fan base. However, I worry that further desperate changes will do even more to push away long-time fans and continue to have the sport held in low esteem by the next generations coming up.

I hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy especially since I have recently hit 45 and would be perceived by research and marketing companies as somebody set in his ways and un-accepting of any type of change. However, I truly believe that, in almost every aspect of NASCAR, this is truly a case where, other than safety improvements, things were better back in the so-called good old days and we need to return to them quick in both television coverage as well as the on-track product before the top level of our beloved sport becomes completely intolerable.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 3:38PM,

Unfortunately, there is no possible way to accomplish in reality what you are suggesting.

NASCAR cannot halt action under green to allow for commercial breaks. Likewise, they cannot extend a caution period.

Affecting the outcome of the race by allowing for TV commercials would bring outrage from the teams and fans.

Trust me, this topic has been brought up many times before. NASCAR will not even hold the caution one extra lap for TV or radio.


Anonymous said...

If NASCAR is unwilling to make any changes for TV, NASCAR needs to figure out if it really wants to be a big time, televised sport. Those two go hand-in-hand.

NASCAR's refusal to do so will be its demise.

Back in the good 'ole days, when the TV contracts were dirt cheap, not many commercials were necessary, so it was a much easier task spreading things out.

Now, that NASCAR wants NFL type of dollars for TV rights, the networks need their commercials, though NASCAR does not want to take the same steps the NFL has done with making the sport itself commercial friendly.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Well, the problem is that affecting the race changes the strategy and elements like fuel mileage and tire wear.

Just as with the IRL and F-1, there is no opportunity for TV to play a role in starting and stopping the action.

It's a good thought, but not likely to happen.


Anonymous said...

A perfect example of my biggest issue:

In the opening laps of the race on Sunday Jimmie Johnson went three wide on track in the middle of the corner and ESPN cuts back to show the tail end of Tony Stewart's pass for the lead?! By the time we got to Tony the cars were already single file and it took another lap of watching that before we went back to the real action back in the pack. Everytime it gets good on track, they cut to a shot of the leaders running single file. And every network does this, not just ESPN. Then inevitably they cut back after the wreck happens, and we see a replay confirming that we just missed the action. Please!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of NFL so it's not what is driving me away from watching the race. Too many commercials are a part of it, but I skip them with my Tivo anyway. I think it's more the overall show that is put together. The broadcasts for the middle TBS races have been exceptionally bad the last couple of years with the ABC/ESPN broadcasts not far behind.

I can't remember who was let go (Bill Weber maybe) but ever since that time, the announcing has been lacking. I seem to be catching the early races on Fox and then just watching highlights the rest of the year.

I think all the changes turn off the long time die hard fans, but the announcing is the part that is really broken in my eyes. Bring in DW and the Fox crew all year long and I'd never miss a race. I know you won't win everybody over by doing that, but I think some dynamic personality and a proven team is what is missing from the broadcast.

An additional aspect of it is how corporate and censored all the drivers have become. You can't listen to a single interview without getting a laundry list of their sponsors. Sponsors want to hear that, but fans don't. It's just overdone at this point. Additionally, a few years back Stewart was extremely vocal towards Goodyear which I'm sure Goodyear didn't appreciate or enjoy. However, the results have shown some great tires providing some great racing. A few years later, Denny Hamlin posts some pretty vocal comments on Twitter that NASCAR doesn't like resulting in a fine and a now silenced Hamlin. Things like Twitter give Hamlin an outlet to connect with fans which causes them to tune in or better yet go to the track.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else agree part of the problem is how difficult it is to follow the cars these days? We've got all these multi-color schemes that seem to change every week. It's just difficult to follow most of the time. Even the TV announcers seem to get confused a lot. I'm sure the cars look great up close but on TV with wide angle shots they're really hard to identify in a pack.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the commercials overload, I would like to hear the reasoning from someone at espn. If I remember right, a few weeks back someone from espn said something about not getting the full amount from commercials during nascar races as opposed to the full amount from NFL commercials. Also, someone this past weekend made the comment that NFL commercials were a lot better than nascar commercials (I have to agree fully to that). So, are we caught in a downward spiral? espn cannot sell high dollar commercial spots = less money; nascar gets a cut = less money; espn has to show more commercials to break even = less ratings = fewer buyers for commercial spots = cheaper commercials = more commercials = less ratings and so on? My guess is espn is taking a beating on their contract with nascar. nascar could care less cause they got their money. TV fans lose. MC

FloridaMatt said...

I wonder how much of the commercials seeming worse than 20-30 years ago is due to the changes in the commercials themselves. The space filled by a one minute commercial is now occupied by 2, 3, 4, 5 different commercials, each trying to hit us with its message in the limited amount of time. And that means the same commercials have to be shown over and over, sometimes even within the same commercial break, sometimes even back-to-back.

The NFL seems to be able to have more different advertisers during one game, making it less likely to have to beat the viewer into the ground running the same 10 commercials over and over.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like they should show an NFL game in split screen with the race. That'll attract the masses!

Anonymous said...

I have been a Nascar fan for about 25 years. I have lost almost all interest and find the races boring and "tricked-up" to ensure phony competition- ie. lucky dog, wave around, debris cautions. But it is not the TV production or the number of commercials that drove me away. It was simply that I have moved on to something else--usually an outside activity that is good for me and keeps me healthy. It may be that the cycle for Nascar is simply running dry.

Anonymous said...

I think there are several ways to make NASCAR better, starting with the behind the doors political games that ISC and Speedway Motorsports play. I don't think it's a wise idea for NASCAR to be able to own a controlling portion of race tracks, because it makes schedule change too difficult. NASCAR should have a revolving schedule where they only visit 5 tracks at the most more than once, and fill the schedule with new and old tracks--The Rock? Also, something that would make NASCAR more relevent is shortening the schedule. Formula 1 has a max schedule of 20 events, yet look at their championship battle going on right now, without a playoff system. Shortening the schedule would make every race count that much more, and would more or less cause the Chase to be insignificant.
As for the commercials and ESPN crew, I agree with the general sentiment that we need more broadcasters who have a genuine passion for the sport, and have no problem voicing it on TV.There should be only a play-byplay announcer, with a color commentator, and the pit reporters, that's it. Nice and simple and less clutter. The commercials are what run the sport, so I can't criticize too harshly. NASCAR should not alter its race for TV. Think about it, ESPN has access to the radios used by NASCAR, and I'm sure NASCAR discusses when they're going to throw the green flag. Why is it so hard for ESPN to scan their radio, and adjust their own schedule.

Justin said...

NASCAR needs to look at how it was 15 years ago and just go back to that, but keep the safety improvements and double file restarts. People suggesting to make the season shorter and races shorter really bothers me in a way. I remember when NASCAR was is in its hay-day I was so sad when a race was over and was devastated when a season was over. No one back then even thought for a second about making races or the season shorter! Now when I am watching a race, I feel like I am just looking forward to the end of it because of how terrible the racing is with this COT, the chase, the bland cookie cutter tracks, commercialized drivers, and just everything else that is over commercialized as well. I used to deny this, but unfortunately I have now accepted that NASCAR died with Dale Earnhardt Sr. Please go back to the way you were NASCAR before it is too late!!! Say what you want about how they broadcast the race, but the racing on the track is the most important asset. If the racing gets good again and gets away from this artificial garbage, everything else will fall into place.

MRM4 said...

Going to a split screen for commercials is a no-brainer. I don't know why NASCAR is so reluctant to allow this except for the Daytona race in July.

Anonymous said...

Blaming commercials is taking the easy way out. Its the chase that is driving away the longtime fans like myself. It's gimmicky and silly. The NASCAR slogan was everything else is a game. I've noticed they brought that back. Too bad the chase is a game! It's artificial and not exciting. Ratings have steadily dropped since the chase was added. You can't just blame tv and the NFL for that. There's more to it. Just look at attendance. Dump the chase and bring back some old school tracks.

Don said...

I don't watch football, and I've been a NASCAR fan since the mid Sixties. I rarely watch NASCAR these days.

I've been out of work for over a year. I don't have cable. There are many like me. I already pay to get the broadcast channels that used to come free, now I've learned that I don't need the rest. Hell if I pay for ESPN or TNT again. I can spend that money on the internet and get more out of it.

I few weeks ago NASCAR was on ABC; a rare opportunity to see a race after July 4th. I turned on the TV at the assigned time, and they were talking instead of running pace laps. I waited, and waited, and waited. After fifteen minutes, I turned the sound off and went on with other things. I glanced up a couple of times, but they had already lost their chance to grab my primary attention. They already had a pre-show, if the race is supposed to start at 1:00 then the green flag better be waving by by 1:05.

Anonymous said...

If TNT's Wide Open coverage actually worked for everybody, no doubt we'd see that adopted for every race.

My guess is TNT had to cut some deals with the advertisers for lower rates or additional spots on other races which effectively makes that type of broadcast something that can only happen once a year.

Darcie said...

I'm a bit confused here. Why do the announcers make such a big difference? To be honest, I don't pay attention to them, they're nothing more than background noise to me. You can put the most talentless announcer on an NFL broadcast, and it doesn't change the game for me. I don't listen much to the talking heads, I just want to see the action on the field. I don't need some guy telling me that it's second down, four yards to go. They put up all that info on my screen. I don't need Dale Jarrett or Darrell Waltrip babbling in the background. I just want to see the freaking cars racing around. What I DO pay attention to is when one of the booth bozos makes a fool of himself, regardless if it's a football bozo or Nascar bozo. At those times I just shake my head and think that if that's all it takes to sit in the booth and babble, any old fool could do it.

But as I have said all along, the NFL puts on a great show. Heck, this season has already pulled some great suprises with supposed contenders falling on their collective behinds and some supposed "dogs" starting out 2-0. Nascar isn't putting on good shows, with a rare exception from time to time. Brian France and his just as incapable buddies have ruined the sport with their ever changing rules, the terrible racing COT, the Nascar welfare system of Top35/lucky dogs/wave arounds, and the Chase which has done more damage to the sport than any of them will ever admit. Add to that the incomprehensible TV coverage, well, it just adds up to a dying sport.

Can things change? I'm not sure. ESPN is dictatorial in their refusal to listen to fans. They use Nascar to recoup the money they paid for other sports by overloading their race coverage with commercials. They are myopic with their focus on one storyline or driver. They refuse to see there are 43 total drivers in every race, many deserving their own story.

So how about this. Let's try an experiment where one race is shown with no talking heads---only the sounds from the track. Or how about instead of a pre race show, they show a whole block of commercials, start the race and have mandatory cautions after every 50 laps where they can again cut away for mass commercials? Short of doing a split screen, or putting all races on commercial free pay-per- view, there's no other viable solutions.

By the way, I'll be watching my Wisconsin Badgers and Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend. And in two weeks, you can add in my Pittsburgh Penguins.

Anonymous said...
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Craig said...
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bevo said...

My only minor quibble about comparing NFL game coverage to NASCAR as far as storytelling is concerned is the obvious exception of Monday Night Football (also ESPN) and occasionally NBC with Sunday Night Football - like last weekend's "Manning Bowl" overkill.

In order to reverse the trend of ratings the first step has to be NASCAR reducing their rights fees from the broadcasters. Lowering that contract will reduce the pressure of commercial loads. That in turn will allow the networks to use split-screens or short crawls like soccer telecasts use.

The other requires a huge change in NASCAR culture. The emphasis has to return to individual races. Every race has a champion. This is the built-in advantage auto racing has over every other sport. Each contest in those other sports just settles the issue between two teams and that's only important for positioning in the post-season. In a race it's a fight between 43 teams every week. Emphasize that, utilize that in the promotion of each race. The Chase has ruined fall races.

Chadderbox said...

When I am watching commercials during an NFL Football game I am not missing the game.

If an NFL broadcast went to commercial as the team breaks the huddle and comes to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball on 3rd down and then came back from 3 minutes of commercials and we missed 3rd down, 4th down, the punt and change of possession and had to listen to Joe Buck tell us what we missed, well that would not work (OBVIOUSLY). But, that is what we get during a NASCAR telecast, over and over and over again.
Time for split screens! Time for NASCAR broadcasts to update the product! There are so many ways they could change the broadcast! Doing the same old thing doesn't work anymore. Technology is so much better these days. Use it!
I agree JD - time for a CHANGE!

Anonymous said...

Okay, Brian and I got together and have it all figured out. 1. Replace pit crew with NFL quality cheerleaders - woohoo! 2. Break the race down into 4 timed quarters and in each quarther reverse directions (race is no longer dependant on number of laps). 3. Between commercials during quarter breaks, focus on cheerleaders doing tire changes, filling gas, cleaning windows, etc. woohoo! If commercials are needed during quarters, a nascar official has to go out on the track and dare cars to stop - show on replay when back from commercials if anyone hit official - suspense! I wait for my cut of the money rolling in! MC

Adam Wood said...

If I had the opportunity, here are the changes I would make to NASCAR:

1) Side-by-Side commercials with race broadcast, similar to the IndyCar Series.
2) Move all Cup races to free over-the-air broadcast TV. This would include the Gatorade Duels and the All-Star Race. In addition, races moved to Monday would not be permitted to move to cable.
3) At least 75% of Nationwide races that are on Saturday afternoon must air on a network TV station.
4) Institute TV blackouts. This way attendance at the track will improve.
5) Come up with ways to dry the track faster after rain delays. Anyone heard of a 2.5 mile tarp? Better yet, lets run rain tires at road course races in Cup.
6) Make the chase more of a playoff system with eliminations and rotating races.
7) Each race should have a Twitter Feed at the bottom with tweets related to the race.

Roland said...

The problem with ratings is 2 fold. Espn is awful, we all know that. But theres that old saying "You can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig". Well the pig in this instance is the racing. The races are just not good anymore. I can count on one hand the number of races that had me on the edge of my seat this year. You can bring BP back from the dead and team him with Bob Jenkins and Ned Jarret and have them broadcast commercial free races, but is that really gonna make me tune in more than now? no. I dont care whos announcing the race or what network is covering it, why would I watch something that is extremely boring? Why would I watch ugly cars race around boring tracks in races that are too long? If nascar will reinstate the old car and get rid of the gymmicks (Debris cautions, wave arounds) maybe we could get back to the great racing that brought in so many new fans in the 90's and in 00's

But the racing is not the only problem. ESPN is just horrible. They embarrass themselves every week with the quality of broadcasts they produce every week. Now im not that really passionate about the camera angles like most people on here are, but it does push me over the edge when the clueless announcers are rambling about one battle, while the producers show another one, or when full screen replays are used during green flag racing (Speed is horrible for this), and when the announcers are interrupted by random/meaningless radio chatter.

I think if Fox put in the same effort they put in to their NFL broadcasts, the casual fan would be more impressed and less likely to turn the channel. What Fox despratley needs is professionalism. TNT needs to change nothing except Adam Alexander. Hes seems a nice guy, but hes a much better pit reporter. Very Jerry Punch-esque.

Which brings me to ESPN. What more can I say that hasnt been said? Marty Reid is brutal to listen too. I find him more annoying than Rusty, and we all know how annoying Rusty is. Marty is so lost. He cant get 3 words out without giggling or stringing together awkwardly spoken sentences. What about his dorky green flag calls? Its like he plays a game of how many words can i squeeze in between the time the pace car pulls off and the green flag, to which he almost always butchers the delivery. Just say the race is under way and end it. People keep mentioning the words "Marty" and "script" in the same sentence, but in all honesty he needs one. Cause his play-by-play is more like play-by-stutter-by-play. Harsh but true sorry to say. Andy and DJ are not outstanding, but they get the job done. AB is the anchor of this sinking ship. He really needs to be in the booth with Nicole in the studio. Rusty and Brad need to go. Rusty is just #%&*^%0$ awful. I cant stand him. His favorite word is "I". Always has to be about Rusty he always has to answer the questions first. I like Brad as an individual, but he isnt a crew chief or a driver, and has no experience to draw from in his commentary. Ray is great, a nice refreshing change. Tim Brewer just isnt made for TV. Theres a reason hes not in the pit studio. I think Ray should pull double duty in the studio and tech center. We would learn a whole lot more.ESPN needs someone to fill a role that Jack Arute does on Versus for the Indycar's, not a guy who appears on camera 45 seconds a weekend to tell us what tires do.

Well its 20 minutes after i started typing this thing, my fingers hurt but my consious feels so much better. I wish people would listen to us tho. We all scream every week about the same old things and nothing ever gets done. What a shame

Anonymous said...


I think as a tv-centric point of crtique towards nascar you're still giving espn too much credit for affecting general nascar interest.

I think espn sucks. Bad camera angles. Confused, frustrating narrative from marty reid that ignores competitive reality and dumbs the sport down. These are common problems with much of sports broadcasting.

Nascar will be fine. True fans will watch. Viewership numbers is more a function of sport health not a referendum on tv production. This is important to keep in perspective considering your editorial bent.

Anonymous said...

First of all I believe that the damage was done when Nascar went to the "COT" even though it is safer. This car just haven't produced good consistent racing on the track like the old car did. One team figures it out and they leave the rest of the field in the dust. The racing on the track is not that exciting anymore.Parade of cars following each other with two sec. intervals is not racing to me and certainly not going to attract new fans. Boring is the word to describe this and know one is going to watch that . You top that off with loads of commercials and everything just sinks. So if Nascar can make this car better(more downforce) and racier it would provide some great racing on the track which would generate excitement resulting in better TV ratings.

Anonymous said...

I have been a fan of NASCAR racing since the early 1960's and followed it ever since. The TV networks and NASCAR apparently believe they can do whatever they want and I will continue to follow anyway. They are wrong.

NASCAR is not in competition with the NFL or any other sport for my time. I stop watching NASCAR when it is no longer worth my time or aggravation replaces enjoyment.

Fox has alienated me with rampant egos, favoritism, and horrible camera selection. I had looked forward to ESPN's return but got a rude surprise. I tried to watch with an open mind and allow them to work their way back to a quality broadcast. I finally drew the line last year during the chase.

This year's ESPN coverage was marginally better at times but still tried my patience. The final straw for me this year was at Richmond. Seven laps into a short track race, as the field is still bunched up and tires are just coming up to pressure, ESPN takes a long commercial break. When I finished screaming at the TV, I grabbed the remote. I checked back every half hour or so; and as often as not, I came back to a commercial. I didn't even try to watch the full race at New Hampshire. I just checked every once in a while to get an update.

Unlike a previous commenter, I expect big things from a broadcast team. I expect them to keep me informed on things that happen off-screen. That includes problems a driver had that dropped him back, tire and fuel strategy, etc. I do not tune in to hear mindless drivel, points as they run, or technical explanations pitched to the newest viewer. ESPN has too many talking heads who contribute nothing.

If I was put in charge, there would be a three person crew in the booth: Allen Bestwick doing pxp, Ray Evernham for crew chief perspective, and Ricky Craven for driver issues. Dr. JP would continue his fine work in the pits. I would also look for a couple additional quality pit reporters. That's it--everybody else is looking for new jobs. I would also order Bestwick to call the race as it unfolds. There is no story line until you see it develop in front of you. There would be no tech garage/cutaway car and no infield center with more talking heads.

I have no serious problems with today's drivers and personalities. I prefer the old ways of driver development and advancement, but those days are gone. I can still find heroes and villains when I choose. The level of competition seems comparable to the past. There were lots of snoozers in the good old days when somebody stunk up the race. I think too many of today's fans tend to forget the non-competitive races in the past.

Let me offer a minority viewpoint in support of the COT. I like it because it takes NASCAR's thumb off the scale. The term stock car is a joke that lost its meaning 40 years ago. I grew sick of the constant whining and complaining by the different manufacturers and teams who said everyone else had an unfair advantage. Everyone was always lobbying NASCAR for a redesigned nose, a tailpiece, less spoiler, etc, etc. NASCAR always had its thumb on the scale by deciding who got what, and they did a lousy job. Some brands were downforce cars and others were speedway cars. I recall some teams who actually changed brands depending on what track they were running. The COT eliminated all the whining and politics while taking NASCAR's thumb off the scale. I didn't find anything particularly attractive about the warped and twisted bodies it replaced.

I accept the COT, drivers, and level of competition. My issues with NASCAR are fake cautions and other devices which destroy the integrity of competition. I don't watch professional wrestling, and I won't watch NASCAR if they are going to manage individual races to "improve the show."

I have greatly reduced my time watching races because of the poor quality of the TV broadcasts. I will return to full time viewing only if and when the broadcast quality improves.

JohnP said...

I had a very interesting conversation with a long term Nascar fan yesterday and the waining interest in the sport. Thought I'd relay their thoughts because I've seen no articles or comments from this point of view. And of course, I could of just missed them. I'm going to paraphrase here what they said.

""It's just not about the horrible broadcasts, it's about walking the Stage. Before this da** Chase there was excitment for a lot of fans on what 10 drivers were going to walk the walk and give their speach in New York. Now if your on the outside of 12th there is absolutly no reason to watch. Tv refuses to show the race, when they do they refuse to cover any driver that's not already walking the stage. In years past I didn't give a sh** who won the Championship. If my driver was in 10th I'd be rooting for him big time and against the guy in 11th in points. If my driver was in 11th, I'd be rooting for him and hexing the driver in 10th in points. Now all that is gone. The fun is simply gone. We already know who is gonna walk the stage 10 weeks ahead of time. Where is the excitment in that?""

I thougt that was a pretty powerfull opinion and wanted to share. I in fact, have the same memories of rooting for Bobbie Labonte in that mid/late 90's just to get onto the stage with his brother Terry. And that simple fact, this person is right. All that excitment is dead. We already know who with 10 races to go.

Anonymous said...

Darcie wrote:

"So how about this. Let's try an experiment where one race is shown with no talking heads---only the sounds from the track."

I'd like that, but I don't think we'll get there. Number of years ago NBC tried that with a football game, and the reviews were unanimously negative. Who, you ask, were the reviewers? Who said the "experiment" did not work? Why the booth guys did! Surprise, surprise, surprise!


Cooter said...

Once upon a time I was glued to every TV race. Not so any more. I can (and do) see the race recaps, the interviews etc on numerous NASCAR oreiented shows. There's just a lot of overkill (and I love it).
I don't dislike the commercials, but sponsors should produce more than one version of each. That's when I change channels, when I can't stand to see a commercial for the 50th time.
And I never was sensitized to how lousy race broadcasts have become until Daly Planet beat the fault-finding into my head!

Anonymous said...

JD - you and this topic are referenced in Kurt Smith's column on Frontstretch today. Good piece.

Chadderbox said...

The commercials are not the only problem.

There are too many talking heads during the race. 3 in the booth yapping away, 3 in the infield blabbering away, and more on pit road. It's nuts. It's an overload on the senses. Who the heck decided we need 10 people to verbally assault the viewer??

Gimme Ken Squire and one other person in the booth and I am good. Berggren on pit road plus Dr. Punch. Bestwick inside the hollywood hotel!

I am dreaming.

Sally said...

@JohnP. Interesting. That's the same thing I've been saying since the monstrosity of the chase was put in place. I already know exactly who is going to the banquet, just not the exact order. Nascar and the media (especially ESPN) seem to feel that once 26 races are over, every fan automatically roots for only 12 drivers, and has no interest in what happens to any other driver on the track. They don't cover the race, just the 'chase'. How wrong can they be? Look at the ratings. That tells you a lot. The coverage is so cluttered with extra banners on the screen, but none give really useful information. Just today, I came home in time to see qualifying after (I guess) about 12 cars had gone. It took forever to find out who had run where because after evey car they reset the crawler with the qualifying positions. Not exactly useful. They treat every telecast as if no one has ever watched a race before. It ain't rocket science. All the joy has been squeezed out of racing, with the COT, Lucky Dog, and wave around rule. Reminds me of the little league games where 'everybody gets a trophy' mentality. There is so much wrong right now, I don't know if can be saved.

joe said...

how about that tuesday the rating results come out wednesday they come out with the rcr penalty... do ya think they are trying to get some more coverage????

Anonymous said...

One thing I've been thinking about: I believe that this year's ratings reflect more on last year's broadcasts instead of this years.

If you watched The Chase on ESPN last year, and were bored to tears by Jerry Punch's Bingo-a-thon ("there's he 48 car. And there's the 18!") then you aren't watching this year.

Even if this year's broadcasts are fantastic, I wouldn't expect to see it reflected in higher ratings until later (probably next year). Let's say, for example, that the next three races are not only great races but also amazingly good broadcasts. Well, it takes time for the word to get around, for conversations about "did you see the race this weekend" to make the rounds, and time for the word to get out that the racing is good and the broadcast is good.

Now, we all know that this year's broadcasts haven't been very good - but I believe it was last year's HORRIFIC presentations that are having the most effect on this year's numbers.

FloridaMatt said...

The broadcasters, and I'm looking hardest at you, ESPN, seem to have decided what the stories of the race are before the race. When we lived near Dover and went there every year, I'd always hope Gordon and Stewart would qualify badly, because watching them work their way to the front was often the best show on the track.

The chase makes this all the worse because it dominates the storyboard. And speaking of domination, I'm darn tired of the Rusty Waltrips of the world dominating the telecast instead of the race.

The COT is another problem -- mostly because it's essentially an IROC car whose model basis is only barely apparent, and that takes a front-end closeup. You used to be able to tell the difference between a Thunderbird and a Monte Carlo from the high seats on the far side of the track.

It will never happen, but I'd love to see the next TV contract require
that no commercial be repeated more than once an hour. And whatever happened to the days of broadcasts promising to break out of commercial if anything interesting happened?

Darcie said...

Nascar is putting another nail in their coffin with this whole Clint Bowyer business. Fans are getting really hacked off by the heavy handed tactics of Nascar picking on a very few to "make their point" to other teams. Penalizing a team 150 points in the Chase, without listening to any reasons, is just another reason why Nascar has failed, and continues to fail, in the eyes of the fans. It will be interesting to see how Nascar will penalize Bowyer for his comments today basically castigating the powers-that-be in the sport for basically taking a potential championship away from Bowyer. If Nascar retaliates against Bowyer for his anti-Nascar comments, you will see a huge fan backlash. Why can't Nascar listen to reason and allow a team to respond to their violations before they hand them out? No, it's just another sign that Nascar and their controllers are way out of hand and out of touch with reality. I'm just happy that the media IS covering this issue instead of ignoring it.

BTW, anon 4:34, one of the BEST posts of the year. Great Job!!!!

OSBORNK said...

NASCAR has been hit with the Professional Wrestling disease. When people realized the final results were manipulated and the skill of the athletes were not important, they tune out and go away.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone watch Showtime's INSIDE NASCAR this week? I really like the show, but Mikey Waltrip is turning into Goofball #1 again. In the first dozen-or-so episodes, he kept his wackiness in check. Now he's running around the studio with a gas can, interrupting everyone again, and playing the fool. I hate it. Absolutely hate it.

And while we're on broadcasters - can someone explain to me what Brad Daughtery adds to any broadcast other than racial diversity? I don't mean to be insensitive, but he is like an annoying fan more than a real analyst. He is awful on the pre-race show, a waste of commentary on the Showtime show, and absolutely annoying as heck on NASCAR Now. I think because the guy is a bonafide college basketball legend, that no one has the courage to tell him he's awful!

Chadderbox said...

I agree that Nascar is unable to copy the NFL in the sense of holding up the restart for commercials, or having time outs, halftimes etc. Fuel mileage and green flag stops have to remain part of the challenge. Wouldn't a split screen during commercial breaks help alleviate this issue.

If CHANGES to the coverage of NASCAR races does not change then I feel the ratings will continue to fall throughout next year too!

If CHANGES are not made to BRIAN'S CHASE then I feel the ratings will continue to fall next year too!

It's time to clean house at ESPN, FOX and Nascar.

A visionary with experience is needed to step up and do something great for the sport!

Chadderbox said...

I agree - Brad Daughtery is not needed! Another talking head put in my face every race to blabber away about nothing during breaks. Please tell me who thinks this is necessary?
If he were to never appear on a race broadcast again I would write a letter to ESPN saying "thank you".

Anonymous said...

As a fan there are several issues with the coverage. The amount of time spent away from the racing is a big one. We all know that the need to sell adds to pay for things. Well if you recall a while back the tech is there to put logos and sponsor stuff on the racing surface. So as they race the logos come up as the cars pass. Same kind of tech they use in football for Down & Distance, First down markers etc.

Why not split screen the add's and the race coverage? I recall that was done, but never got a feel for how it translated to fans or ratings. Heck I don't even recall which network did that.

What kind of numbers did they get online from the race buddy stuff ? I know I watched a few that way.

Going head to head vs Football is a looser, don' let ego screw you up on that one NASCAR.

To the People bitchn about the COT, have you ever seen a "Twisted Sister" car up close ? They don't even look right on TV. Slanted roofs, left and right fenders are different and they look like a car had drunken sex with a catfish and they made that car. The COT is a leveler, its now a Spec car series. They look more like a real car than the TS car ever did.

They have to work on many aspects of the broadcast, make them more compelling to watch. I am not a huge fan of the Chase, but I under stand why they did it.

People that wish for the good old days seem to just want to see people wrecken and that is not racing. The racing now is as close as it has ever been with great finishes.


Ziggy said...

Well, I read about 75% of the comments up to this point & I believe that the real problem does not have anythig to do with the broadcasts (it's basically the same since ESPN/CBS started, I know I'm that old) but it's the racing itself. Being involved in NASCAR fantasy leagues for the last 5 years it pretty simple to see that you will find the same 8-10 drivers finishing in the top 12 evey week. Result: boring races, same old same old. YAWN.

Add to that the squeaking clean corporate image of the drivers, no brand identity, nothing stock about those National Association of STOCK CAR Racers = less interest. Used to be I'd plan my weekends around televised races. Not any more.


glenc1 said...

I've waited a while to respond to this one. Just wanted to think about it; we've gone over it so many times it just seems like we're spinning our wheels. I think one of the major problems is too many talking heads. We don't need SO many people covering this--they're talking in the booth while they could be telling more of what's actually happening. Brad and Rusty are unnecessary. I didn't mind the Marty Reid experiment, but I still think Bestwick is better. If they must keep a 'studio' host, put one of them with LaJoie or Evernham. I like the *idea* of the tech garage, but find someone who didn't crew chief 30 years ago and use the segment for more useful info (see NASCAR Performance). For heaven's sake, get NASCAR to agree to some split screen ad time--not *forcing* it, but finding partners to work with them, as TNT does. That's the only way to resolve the ad issue, unless you decide you want 'commercial cautions' or some nonsense.

I have no issues, as some have said, with the car or the drivers, although I think it would seriously help if they could make the cars more unique to their brands (which they are supposedly working on). But in any case, the sketchy 'Jacques Debris' cautions certainly goes to a lack of credibility. So does their extreme fear of criticism, both from the drivers and from the media. For those who say the media needs to step up--can you say 'hard card?' I guess you could find a journalist who does it all from the TV and doesn't go to races, but that usually means they are bloggers, not real journalists who cover what they see in person. NASCAR needs to get over their control issues and let the people cover racing as they do other sports, warts & all. I do think *some* races could be a little shorter, Pocono is ridiculous for example (even though I love the track.) Most I would leave alone.

I pretty much agree on the irritating focus on the Chase. It's overkill, as is ESPN's insistence on harping on the same stories over and over. Let's bring up Hamlin's knee a few more times. And every dispute ever had between two drivers that they themselves may have gotten over long ago.

I guess overall, they don't seem to know how to let a race tell its own story. We hear things over and over, don't find out what's going on with anyone not in the Chase, we get bored, we turn away.

Scott Orr said...

The solution is simple: NASCAR must mandate coverage rules in its broadcast contracts, just as it now mandates carriage of the invocation, national anthem and the Command.

There is nothing wrong with the races themselves that better coverage won't fix.

Go to the track and you'll see--the racing is fine.

But until NASCAR forces the networks to cover them the right way, the networks will continue to apply stick-and-ball thinking to their coverage.

Anonymous said...

its almost 01:30 PM ET and Cup practice at Dover is about over. One more practice to go and there is no scheduled tv coverage.

And you ask what is wrong with NASCAR on TV.

Speed has Barrett-Jackson and ESPN has - I dont really know - I guess its football but bottom line is no final practice. Very sad

Anonymous said...

SPEED has one network and ESPN has ESPN/ESPN2/Classic/ESPN News/ESPNU - thats 5 networks and yet no final practice?

Chadderbox said...

I personally do not have a problem with the racing on the track. I am looking forward to going to Daytona this coming February like I do every year. I remain a Daytona season ticket holder(15 years) and a Homestead season ticket holder. I am definitely not going to stop going to the races.

Watching it on tv the last 2 years has been driving me nuts. The coverage has been getting worse with no sign of improvement as the ratings continue to decline.

The ratings and the Chase are the problems!

One must admit there is a problem before the problem can be dealt with. The last I heard, Brian was not concerned with declining ratings. How long do the ratings have to decline before Brian comes up with another idea like "Brians Chase"? That's what I call it now!