Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 Flashback: NASCAR Issues Still Confusing ESPN

Update: Well, it's over for another season. The Chase is done and some time has passed. Before the banquet, we thought it only fitting that we offer one last opportunity for comments about the clash between trying to cover the race and trying to cover the Chase in the same live telecast.

This specific column was a response to ESPN attempting to blame everything under the sun except ESPN for the ongoing problems with TV ratings and fan reaction to the coverage.

The content below was originally published on October 5, 2010:

October 2nd was perhaps not the best Saturday for ESPN programming executive Julie Sobieski to address the network's NASCAR issues. Once again, poor scheduling had allowed a college football game to preempt the pre-race show and start of the Nationwide Series race from Kansas. That was nothing new for fans.

Earlier in the week, Sobieski had stood by while the NASCAR Now program was preempted on the day of the recent RCR appeal. This original ESPN series has taken it in the teeth this season. Shows have been cancelled so often fans have come up with a new slogan for the network.

ESPN: Every Sport Preempts NASCAR

Click here to read about Ms. Sobieski's recent concerns. Bob Pockrass from put together an article that certainly got the attention of many fans.

Let's face facts. Ms. Sobieski is trying very hard to dance around a huge topic that has plagued ESPN since they rejoined the sport in 2007. Despite some outstanding reporting, a solid daily news show and an extended post-race the real NASCAR problems have all come from the live event coverage.

Sobieski is confused simply because she will not look in the mirror and see her own reflection. The problem isn't the fans, it's ESPN.

While memories of Brent Musburger and Suzy Kolber have faded, they have just morphed into the production catastrophe that is ESPN's fourth attempt at covering the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races of the season. It's flat-out awful.

For many, the commercial run with ten laps to go in the Dover race was the straw that broke the camel's back. Those fans sent us nice notes and left to watch the NFL. ESPN is burdened with too many commercials, too much scripted storytelling and an impossible job of trying to sell a Chase within a race.

In Kansas, the first in-race commercial came before lap ten. That has been the rule this season. Fortunately, ESPN allowed the end of the race to play out without interruption. That has normally not been the case. Let's look at the reality of ESPN's commercial overload.

Like most cable networks, ESPN has what is called a dual revenue stream. Money is made not only from commercials, but from the fees paid by cable and satellite companies. This has allowed ESPN to pay billions of dollars in rights fees to get a wide variety of programming while also remaining very profitable for its Disney shareholders.

The ultimate irony is that fans watching at home are getting hit twice. First by all the commercials in the event and then by having to pay their cable or satellite provider just to watch ESPN every single month.

You can click here to review the recent TDP column calling for side-by-side commercials in the sport and the truly positive effect that would have on the TV ratings. Sobieski never mentioned this topic.

ESPN has been NASCAR storytelling since 2007. Back then, it was endless hype and a pre-determined script that the production team brought to the table. They failed miserably. Last season Dr. Jerry Punch stuttered and stammered his way through the Chase as the play-by-play announcer and was immediately sacked after Homestead. Instead of being fired outright, he was allowed to return to pit road as a reporter.

In the new world of ESPN, something called "hyper-focus" is king and that is exactly what the NASCAR TV team did to Jimmie Johnson last year. It got so bad, it was laughable. Analyzing his pitstops lugnut by lugnut. Watching his car get fixed in the garage while a Chase race roared in the background.

The TV battle was the reality of the race vs. what ESPN chose to show of it. Often, those two did not match. The Chase is everything and the race is nothing. Ask the teams that fade from view despite hard racing and good performances. Unfortunately, they are not Chasers. Suddenly, they simply do not matter to TV.

Whether it's a script, a network agenda or just the love of celebrity there is no doubt that ESPN has disconnected from the fans once again this season. Names like Earnhardt, Logano, Sadler, Newman and Martin should not be invisible on TV unless they are leading the race.

As the TV Chase coverage clearly showed last season, featuring the Chase contenders from the pre-race show through the checkered flag results in nothing but a decline in viewers. Those Junior, Joey, Mark and Ryan fans did not change their shirts and hats because their driver did not make the Chase.

There is no doubt that ESPN has talented people on the production team. There is no doubt that the on-air staff means well and is working hard on this series. None of that matters if the producer and director again narrow the focus of the coverage on cars and drivers selected in advance to meet a scripted NASCAR and ESPN agenda.

What are your feelings of how ESPN is handling the Chase coverage this season? To add your opinion on this topic, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

I watched NASCAR on ESPN in their earlier contract, and I was a faithful viewer who really enjoyed the race broadcasts. I did not think of it as a golden age at that time. It was merely what I expected of a professional broadcast at the national level. The on-air people were knowledgeable, professional, and seemed to be enjoying the race as they presented it. The pictures were good and complemented the on-air team. The whole production was coherent and presented the story of the race as it unfolded.

When that contract ended, I stopped watching ESPN because I had no interest in anything else they covered. When NASCAR returned to ESPN in 2007, I no longer recognized the network. ESPN now seemed to believe that they were more important than the sports they covered. They were running commercials that seemed to have no other purpose than to glorify some of ESPN's own employees.

The race broadcst was an endless parade of talking heads competing for air time but contributing nothing. ESPN failed to understand that NASCAR fans tune in to see the race, not a bunch of branded personalities.

ESPN apparently believes that it knows what the story will be even before the starting flag waves. They decided before the race what will be important and what is not. That's another sign of arrogant decision makers.

I think that ESPN's biggest problem is that there is nobody in a decision-making position who is a NASCAR fan or who understands the typical fan. It seems they don't respect NASCAR or its fans. I don't watch other ESPN programming, but TDP posters have often related instances of ESPN's on-air personalities making derisive comments about the sport. I can't understand why such remarks would be tolerated unless management tacitly agreed.

I have no faith that ESPN will figure out the problems. I have worked for organizations with arrogant management, and they are unwilling to look in the mirror for problems. They always look outside for someone else to blame for whatever is wrong. If they haven't figured it out by now, they are clueless.

ESPN's concentration on a few favorites gets even worse during the chase. This is driving fans away and is making sponsorship of NASCAR teams a poor investment unless they are one of the chosen few. I presume ESPN doesn't care about the effect on sponsorship.

What I don't understand is why NASCAR tolerates the exclusion of so many teams and sponsors from TV coverage. NASCAR created the top 35 rule not to protect drivers or teams but to protect SPONSORS. They wanted to guarantee that a sponsor who supported a team would get a return on their investment through TV coverage. A mistake or a problem in qualifying would not cost a sponsor advertising space during the race broadcast. They were guaranteed advertising time in return for their support of a team.

Considering their logic for the top 35 rule, why does NASCAR now tolerate the virtual exclusion of the majority of teams by the broadcast networks? What good is it to make the race if the car/driver is not included in race coverage? Brian France seems even more committed to emphasizing the chase and making the situation worse.

Fox and ESPN have caused me to greatly reduce my viewing time because of really bad race coverage. Although Mr. Daly has made occasional refernces to big changes coming to Fox/Speed and ESPN, I remain skeptical. I'll believe it when I see it. In both cases, network management is too arrogant to admit they were wrong. They may tinker around the edges, but I would be very surprised to see any major changes.

I expect viewership will remain flat or continue to shrink and NASCAR will continue to lose overall status compared to other sports. Sometimes things have to get worse before the powers that be seriously take stock. Like a substance abuser, they have to hit bottom. I think NASCAR and the TV networks haven't hit bottom yet. I just hope it happens in time for the next TV contract negotiations.

Sally said...

I don't know when or who decided that 'the chase' is more important than the race, but they miscalculated drastically. As you pointed out, JD, a fan doesn't suddenly become a fan of a different driver just because there are only 10 races left in the season. Many media members like to berate fans by telling us that, if our driver was running up front he would be covered, so "shut up and watch". No thanks. What they forget is that, if I was at the track in the stands (which I used to be), I can watch my driver wherever he is running. I can keep track of drivers not up front at the time moving either forward or back, and track their progress. I can't do that when I'm at home. I only get to see whatever driver TV has decided I should watch. Contrary to ramping up the 'excitement' level, the 'chase' has turned me off completely. I realized halfway through the race Sunday that I just don't care. Don't care who wins the race, don't care who wins the title. Trying to make sense of a race when all I see is in car shots, closeups of 1 or 2 cars running in isolation from the others on the track quickly makes the race incoherent. I realize that not every race is a barnburner, and that's fine. I still want to see the race as it happens on the track. Even the 'old' Bristol used to have part of the race when the action settled down. That's when TV could use their pit reporters to do somethin other than just cover pit stops. There are stories out there, but you have to find them , not invent them or wait till they drop in your lap. I never thought that indifference would be how I regard Nascar races, but that is what is happening. I feel as if I've lost a friend of 30 years. It's hard for me to remember that ESPN used to be the standard for covering races when they were in desperate need of programming years ago. My how the mighty have fallen.

earl06 said...

Pretty much spot on, John.

Let everyone know if anything ever changes, will ya? There's plenty of folks that would like to watch, but don't anymore.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this at Jayski:

TV Ratings down for Kansas: the overnights for this past weekend show the NASCAR Sprint Cup race having a 2.1 ratings and 4 share on Sunday, being televised on ESPN. In 2009, the race was televised on ABC and had a 2.6/5 with a final rating of 3.2/7 with 5.25 million viewers.

Says a lot there doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

ESPN just doesn't get it and I'm afraid they never will. Quite simply, if you just showed the race happen, mention the info that we can't figure out from just watching, and let things develop, you would have a winner.

Instead, they are choosing to focus on specific things that they decide should be the focus...while not showing certain aspects of the race. All I'm asking for is simplicity and I will be happy. Just show me the race!

Instead, they litter the broadcast with commercials so there is never any flow to a three-hour plus event. They skipped to commercial and missed most of the lead changes the other day, which makes absolutely no sense. In football or baseball, you can show commercials revolving around the important action of the game...why do you absolutely HAVE to go to commercial no matter what DURING a race?

And I still don't get certain media members bashing anyone critical of the coverage. As the ratings plummet and interest wanes, there are pretty obvious reasons for that.

Yes, NASCAR has to take some blame. But the product ESPN is putting out in atrocious.

51 yr. fan said...

Well said JD. Unfortunately your
column and all comments will fall
on deaf ears. We have complained
for the last few years and little
has been done to deliver a better
product from all parties. I live
in the heart of NA$CAR and for 50 plus years attended the myriad of
venues and watched the sport grow.
Sadly; Brian France, ESPN, and FOX
have killed my admiration for racing.

There is no longer banter at the
gas station, water cooler, or
family gatherings. Friends who work
on race teams have lost their spirit and love of racing. It's now just a job.

Your column and the internet are
pretty much my connection to racing. Keep up the good work!

glenc1 said... pretty much covered every point.

I keep thinking that commercials are a necessary evil, and they are, but I always forget that they are essentially 'double dipping' us, as our cable & satellite costs rise so they can pay access rights (which I was reminded of recently going to MSG & seeing 'MSG is greedy', as if I'm too dumb to figure out that DISH is greedy too...) Everyone has to answer to shareholders.

But in any case, I think you (and the well-written anon 4:25) have pretty much said what I've been thinking. All sports occasionally mess up their coverage, but with NASCAR on ESPN it seems consistently poor. Fox is only slightly better, but that's another column... :) Back in the 'golden age' I thought the worst thing about coverage was the refusal to criticize NASCAR; little did I know how much worse it could get.

Like a fool, I still watch because I do care, but I am probably doing other things simultaneously. I even care about the small teams and their stories. How often do you hear Travis Kvapil and Long John Silver? Or Regan Smith & Furniture Row? I'm sure much could be told about how they do a lot with a little, but ESPN would rather show us Jimmie Johnson getting lugnuts. I can't see myself giving up on the sport, but I've certainly cut back on watching pre and post race.

Bruce (BruSimm) Simmons said...

Hey, in that "Golden Era," I don't think Disney owned ESPN then. Now they do and the heavy handed approach to content marketing with minimal investment is more evident. This is the stamp of Disney, as they've learned what works best for their success over the years and they apply it to ABC, and now ESPN. Not to go off-topic, but does anyone find it funny that Disney decides to invest heavily in Hulu, and then Hulu starts a paid-model and starts to limit the amount of time free content is available?

This same mentality, with little interesting in understanding the sport of NASCAR is their fatal flaw that will kill the sports TV ratings as more and more people turn to Twitter and Turner's online offerings.

The "Leader of the Band" needs to get their act together and get someone on board who might even remotely care enough about the sport to get the cameras off of the lone, leading car and watch more racing amongst the other teams. Because right now, as far as I can tell, there seem to only be 10 or 12 cars in any race and the rest of the field is just obstacle fodder for everyone involved.

'Nuff said.

West Coast Diane said...

What Anon 4:25am said!

And....David Newton, Pete Pistone read this re: cars out of top 10-15don't deserve to be covered.

Anon 4:25am said:

"What I don't understand is why NASCAR tolerates the exclusion of so many teams and sponsors from TV coverage. NASCAR created the top 35 rule not to protect drivers or teams but to protect SPONSORS. They wanted to guarantee that a sponsor who supported a team would get a return on their investment through TV coverage. A mistake or a problem in qualifying would not cost a sponsor advertising space during the race broadcast. They were guaranteed advertising time in return for their support of a team.

Considering their logic for the top 35 rule, why does NASCAR now tolerate the virtual exclusion of the majority of teams by the broadcast networks? What good is it to make the race if the car/driver is not included in race coverage? Brian France seems even more committed to emphasizing the chase and making the situation worse".

Kim said...

I've been a fan for only 3.5 years. For the last two races I have multitasked while the race is on, with one eye on RaceView so I can see where Kasey is running.

I work night shift and stay up for the races - but had Kasey not been on the pole in Kansas I would not have stayed up.

All they have to do, and this is all they have to do , is show the commercials in a side-by-side window. Give us the entire race. Going "through the field" now and then would be icing on the (now rather singed) cake.

I'm disappointed after three years and I never saw Nascar in the "golden age".

Unknown said...

Disney has owned ABC/ESPN since 1996.

I still believe the problems lie in the chase and boring race tracks. NASCAR needs to go back to their roots. Forget tv ratings, look at the attendance.

OSBORNK said...

Anon.4:25AM said it better than anyone I have seen. Beyond the cluelessness of management, technology has given them far to many toys to play with. The golden age didn't have the closeups and in-car cameras to mess up the flow of the coverage along with to many cameras. If they took away many of the toys, I we would see a better broadcast. I want the race coverage to make me feel like I was there as much as posible. The director apparently has the attention span of a two year old.

I tune in to see a race and not the Chase. The championship was originally simply a reward for being the best for the entire year and not for having a good finish after sandbagging during the summer.

Anonymous said...

JD - your analysis is spot on.

And its not the 1 p.m. start time Julie!

Let me add when espn was added with the new contracts a long time ago (is it only 4 years? seems longer) I was thrilled, I knew it wouldn't be exactly the same, but, I expected better than what we get now.

The on air talent is umm, shall we say lackluster. Thank heavens they put Dr. Punch back on pit road, awesome change. The rest not so much.

I believe espn & its production staff have the central core problem of not liking or enjoying NASCAR as a sport. Hey we all see ( or don't get to see) how NASCAR Now gets treated & by extension how us fans are treated.

The inability of a network to schedule a race so it is shown in its entirety is unconscionable period. Other sports are not treated this way on such a regular basis.

The constant useless Tim Brewer segments under green, are insulting to even the casual fan. Yup TB we know tires need air. Got it. Week after week.

The hyper coverage is not going over well during the race. Save it for pre - or post race. I know the "Chase" is awkward to cover. In stick & ball only those in post season get to take the field, yet we get a full field. If TPTB ever dare change it I will never watch a race again. Its not the way we traditionally do our sport!

It is very simple, Tell the Story of the Race on the Track as It Unfolds. Not how you (espn) want it to be. Points as of lap 3 make you sound like rank amateurs.

Make sure what you show us is what the on air talent is talking about.
And make it the racing on the track please.

I don't know why I keep fighting for my sport so hard, TPTB don't care as long as they get paid...
I really do not know why I bother espn does not care a rip about NASCAR Fans or NASCAR.

And last but not least-
(caps for emphasis)


Thank you

glenc1 said...

just to add on to the whole TV showing sponsors issue--I don't believe TV is mandated to show anyone...but that doesn't mean they shouldn't try and make an effort when they can. To suggest that the 34 or 78 team should just 'run up front' to get noticed isn't in any way realistic, and probably is an insult to the hard working people behind those efforts--you can't expect them to run with teams with 30 million dollar budgets (or whatever it is these days) and multiple teams to share info with. There have only been a few newer teams that have managed any success over the well established multicar teams (Red Bull is about the only one). But eventually they'll have to rescind the 4 car limit, because you will only have 25-30 teams who can even afford to run as sponsors leave and the field won't be full.

Ritchie said...

I agree with certain parts of this article, and others I don't.

I do agree that the commercials are an issue, and no commercial should ever be shown during the closing laps of a race. Also, the first few laps of a race should be a no-commercial time.

The idea that NASCAR Now is a throw away show that can be taken off of the air anytime it is in the way of Sportsnation is completely wrong. NN is a very important part of the NASCAR season for me and should be treated as being far more important than Sportsnation.

The coverage of the race its self is where I begin to disagree with Mr. Daly. Its not that I so much disagree with him, its just that I feel like I am watching a different broadcast.

As I watch the race, I often see Ryan Newman, Dale Jr., Joey Lagono, and Mark Martin on my TV. I see them battling for a 20th place every week. Am I recieving a different ESPN programming feed that everyone else? I'm not saying they spend 5% of the race each driver, but they do show them and talk about them.

All I am asking is for Mr. Daly or someone to not use vague phrases such as "Earnhardt, Logano, Sadler, Newman and Martin should not be invisible on TV" (which as I said is not true at all) and tell ESPN exactly how much time they should spend on each driver.

Sunday's race was 174 minutes long and had 43 driver competing. In order to be fair, every driver should have received approximately 4 minutes of coverage.

At what point in the history of NASCAR on TV has that every happenned?

14_Patti_14 said...

You know what has been really funny. I watched a few NFL games this weekend too and they have a lot of commercials too.

BUT! You don't miss any of the game because of it. That and there's some really cool instant replay that they can do after each play. So comparing the two is tough, because they run one play and then huddle then run another play. So there's a stop of action.

So ESPN must figure out how to present commercials without interrupting the fan experience. There's no need to cover the whole field, frankly if you are running in 25th and aren't in the Chase then life sucks. Hell we never even heard about Clint BOwyer at Kansas. I think they mentioned him once.

Anyhow. I still think ignoring the West Coast demographic that's still in church at 10am is a bad idea. But according to other sites and other fans, we West Coast people aren't fans anyways. Like people like me don't count. I go to Fontana every year, I watch every race. Thank God I don't go to church.

Darcie said...

Nascar is in denial. And for ESPN, it's not the start times, stupid. It's a combination of things, and a 1pm start is not even in the top 10. The reasons are bad coverage, booth monkeys that have their scripts to follow despite the real stories on the track, too many commercials, bad direction and camera shots and their love affair with just a few drivers. Of course, a vast majority have left not because of the TV coverage, but because of numerous issues that Nascar refuses to admit they have. For Nascar my mantra is, it's NOT the economy, stupid. It's the COT, straight line racing, the Chase which is NOT a playoff system, Nascar welfare of Top 35/Wave arounds/Lucky Dog, points racing, boring tracks, white-washed/corporate licking drivers, super teams winning too much, no brand loyalty with the race cars, and finally, the main problem with Nascar, Brian France. A majority of the fans do not like the Chase, and that will especially be magnified if Jimmie Johnson wins another Cup.

Now, to address ESPN specifically, I cannot believe that they're blaming the 1pm start time. In year's past, they blamed the scattered start times as a major problem, but now that they have a fairly static start time, they're blaming that again. Sorry, but those on the West Coast who say the 1pm start time messes with their Sunday morning plans, I don't buy that. I used to live out West and had no problem with the early start. And, the West Coasters sure don't seem to have a problem when their football teams play out East. The ratings for the Chargers, Raiders and the 49'ers sure don't suffer when they play in NYC or Miami or New England. Those ratings are just fine, so ESPN can just toss that theory in the can.

What can Nascar do? Well, their only choice, if they don't want to go up against football is to end their season the first week of September. That way they're not up against baseball playoffs, the NFL and the NHL. Short of that, Nascar needs to make major changes to the sport to get it back to what it used to be. Dump the Chase, change the points system so that winning is the ONLY thing that counts, shorten the races to make things more interesting, get rid of the Top 35 so that every team has to work to qualify, bring back brand identity in the cars and finally, get rid of Brian France and his gang that can't shoot straight.

Anonymous said...

Patti said 'Thank God I don't go to church'...

was that intentionally funny?

I have sympathy, but I'm not always home when the race starts, so I record it (the old fashioned way, I don't have a DVR.)

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments. But, as angry and vocal as we fans get at the horrible coverage, I think it is time for the SPONSORS to speak up and press Nascar and ESPN for better broadcasts. They are the only ones who will truly be able to make a difference.

GinaV24 said...

Anon 4:25 a.m. -- you said it very well.

Of course ESPN isn't the only entity confused. NASCAR has to shoulder a lot of the blame here as well. The current management simply does not understand what the fans want to see. They appear to continue to believe that enough gimmicks will "fix" things and bring the fans back.

ESPN wants to have it their way and like Anon 4:25 a.m., I don't watch ESPN except for NASCAR and that is become more sporadic. Over the past few years, I've simply become more and more annoyed.

I'll probably follow this sport until my favorite retires. After that, I doubt that it will be even a remote priority in my life.

What was it someone said on the blog on Sunday? Just give Johnson the trophy now and we can all have 7 nice autumn weekends back -- well, you know what, that would work for me. That's the level of disinterest I feel at this point.

This coming week is Caliboring --- oh boy, I'll bet I can find something else to do.

GinaV24 said...

Wait, one more comment related to the fact that yes, I pay for the "pleasure" of having ESPN on my cable network, I have a sirius radio subscription and the NASCAR channel 128 which is the main reason I subscribed in the first place has COMMERCIALS.

It annoys me every single time -- and that is not just during the race. I paid for radio so I wouldn't have to listen to commercials.

Double-dipping at its finest -- must be NASCAR

Anonymous said...

NASCAR & their media partners are all equally clueless. I think many fans are tired with the Chase, and it has left a great impact.

The only positive improvements to the broadcasts since 2000 are the ticker and 'through the field'. Networks spend too much effort creating new toys. The cartoon rodent on FOX, invisible 'Restart' pylons on TNT, and infamous Draft Track on ESPN. Many of these gimicks have happily gone away, but do any of the networks understand the core of their broadcast?

ESPN clearly does not. Should a segment of a Jimmie Johnson interview be played while cars are racing on the track? No, I would watch NASCAR Now for that - if it isn't canceled.

Does ESPN need 12 people at the racetrack, filling air time talking and talking?

Does ESPN understand the significance of the checkered flag? They spend plenty of time calculating the 'points as of now'. Yet when they do count at the finish, ESPN has the camera pointed at the crew or in-car camera. Why did I watch for 3+ hours to miss the end of the race?

Is ESPN aware how important it is to update the field during a long green flag run? We are lucky to see a 'through the field segment' of just the Chase contenders.

The Mad Man said...

I use to watch ESPN in the old days and throughly enjoyed the race coverage and commentary. They had some great folks in the booth that kept me informed as well as entertained. Then ESPN lost out on the contracts. Well, when it was announced that ESPN had once again gotten the contract for part of the season, I had high hopes. Those hopes were quickly dashed. Poor camera work, poor and highly biased commentary, shilling from some of the commentators for the teams they own and the make of cars that their teams run, pushing marketing and storylines over the racing, the list goes on.

Then of course there's the problems with commercials. Both ESPN and ABC had used the side by side format with great success with the IRL to show commercials and keep the fans watching the races. This was a fan's dream come true. But no, that was not to be. Brainless Brian said that there would be no side by side commercials because of the "sponsors branding". So fans have to suffer through the plethora of commercials to see maybe 10 laps at a stretch if their extremely lucky.

If ESPN wants to improve their race coverage overall, put Bestwick in the booth and dump the rest of the infield clowns. Give us the side by side split so we can still see the race while the commercials are being run. Show us all the racing that's going on not just what's in this week's script from Daytona Beach. There are 43 drivers and 43 stories happening each week. Not just the dozen or so Chosen Ones and those whose sponsors pony up mention money to get on the air.

If you really want to improve the play-off races, get a competent camera crew, director, and commentators handling the races. What ESPN has right now is a hodge podge which seems to be the worst of the worst of everything. Commentators who are incompetent or biased, camera shots and angles that show little of the racing that's going on, commentators contradicting each other, shilling for one brand of car, and the constant shilling for the official fuel and tire providers during the entire broadcast from both pit road and the booth. If a driver gets 4 tires and 2 cans of fuel, tell me that. I know who provides the tires and fuel. I don't need a constant reminder of it as I will not use their products.

And quit talking down to the race fans. We're a lot smarter than the bunch of bozos bringing the show from Daytona Beach. At least we know what racing is supposed to be.

tommy1946 said...

ESPN coverage is terrible. Not just the Chase Story which is more important to them than the race, but the video is beyond terrible. Closeups of only one car for lap after lap leaves me dizzy. Bumpercam shots for no apparent reason other than ESPN paid someone to place them there. Prolong coverage of someone's pitcrew studying a cut tire while the race is under green flag is inexcusable. Played up stories about so and so bumped me and I'm going to be mad! Wow! ESPN grow up! I bet 90% plus of these mad drivers do nothing, so quit wasting our time pretending that there is a story there. I seem to get a better visual of the race from the hyped up radio broadcast than from the TV. Unfortunately, here in the mountains of Penn, the radio coverage is not dependable. I can no longer stand to sit and watch a Sprint Cup race. I'll continue to watch football, rake the leaves, go shopping, etc., and just check back for for race results and highlights. When enough fans do the same, we will lose our live coverage or it will go pay for view. Seems like the race fan has already lost and we are just here at the edge of the wilderness with our muffled cries unheard. Thanks, Mr. Daly for your ears and support in trying to improve coverage of our selected sport.

Anonymous said...

@ Ritchie -

AMEN and well-said. First of all, what is there to say about cars that are either parked after 15 laps or getting lapped every 15 laps.

If you insist on the booth telling "the story of the race as it unfolds", that would involve focusing the bulk of the attention up front, since a competition is about who wins, right? If you insist on every car getting equal coverage, how can you follow the story of the race?

Believe me, my driver has had his share of bad runs, and I've watched many a race primarily by ticker only, but I don't blame the coverage for that - their attention belongs with whoever the "players" are in the race that day.

As for the myth that radio does a complete full-field run-down, what they actually do is just a verbal ticker all the way through..."Jimmie Johnson is your leader, followed by Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick is in third .....the first car one lap down is Mark Martin in 23rd, followed by .... and in the garage or out of the race are Dave Blaney, David Gilliland...."

How is that any different than what TV gives you with the ticker? There is no "how he got there" anywhere in that.

OSBORNK said...

I think the best way to improve the coverage is to cut the budget in half and hire a good NFL broadcast director. This would get rid of over half of the talking heads, most of the in-car and close-up cameras as well as Tim Brewer. Sometimes less is more. If they cut the budget in half, you could drop a lot of commercials and let us actually see the race.

Anonymous said...

I can't say too much, because for the first time since 1979 I didn't watch the race. The reason? I've had it. With management, the COT, the media, booth personnel, the rule book, the "boys have at it", etc. I've simply had it. I watched a football game, and the day went pretty well. I never felt like I wanted to slap somebody in the face, never had a desire to curse. A good day all round. I think I could get used to this, so I'll try it again this weekend.

Charlie said...

Espn what would you do if you were me.
Let us say my Nascar Driver is Robby Gordon the #7 car. I go to a Nascar souvenir shop and buy a Robby Gordon Hat, Jacket, die cast cars and posters. My room at home now looks like a Robby Gordon theme park. I have spent hundreds of dollars. When I go to a race I rent a scanner and put in the frequency of Robby Gordon so I can hear my driver. The race starts and my eyes follow Robby Gordon. I listen to the crew chief and spotter talk to Robby and listen to what he says back. This is my driver and I like him and like to see how he does in a race. When he is leading a race I cheer.
Now the last 10 races and the Chase begin. My driver is not in the Chase. Ok Espn what do you think I will do, switch drivers to one of the drivers in the Chase? No way. Robby Gordon is my driver and I will stick with him through thick and thin. Just because he doesn’t make the Chase will not make me switch. Remember Espn my room is full of Robby Gordon souvenirs that have cost me hundreds of dollars and I like this driver.
Now the Chase starts and your telecast forgets about Robby Gordon. I see his name go by on the ticker and maybe a few minutes on Tv if he is in the same camera shot as a driver in the Chase. Tell me Espn, should I still watch the races you produce when you’re not talking about my driver or showing him on Tv? For example, I watch the ticker and I see he went from 34th to 15th but you never tell me why or how he got there.

Espn tell me why I should watch the last 10 races if you are going to ignore My driver, Robby Gordon.

Chadderbox said...

1. Brian's Chase is a failure.
2. ESPN is barely earning a C - grade for their Coverage of Nascar Races. I am giving them a C - because they show up and try their best every week. When I factor in the declining ratings their final grade is an F!

Right now Brian France is getting an F.
Right now ESPN is getting an F.

If Brian France and ESPN like the way things are going then they should just keep doing what they are doing. Keep up the great work guys.

Is Julie Sobieski a fan of Nascar? Does anyone know? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Interactive viewing is the way to go. Allow the viewer to choose the car to view during the race, like race view at does.

Tracy D said...

For the first time ever, I didn't record/tivo a race. Didn't care. The boring Richmond race in September (where I was in the stands) and the Chase have done me in. I really don't care one fig for the Chase and couldn't care less. I'll be back in February for Cup, maybe. This is from a fan who attended four or more races for years!

Now the trucks, I'm there.

glenc1 said...

JMO--I don't think most of us believe we think TV should give every team equal time every week. I think that's an exaggerated point. I wouldn't expect them to spend more than 10 seconds for a S&P car. But NASCAR is a unique sport as far as sponsorship goes. I used to loathe Eli Gold, but he would say 'if you're a fan of Rusty Wallace, he's in the garage.' I used to gripe that he thought only Rusty Wallace fans cared what happened to Rusty Wallace, but I did want to know what happened to him, and at least Eli could tell me. As for 'what is there to say?'...there's lots to say, the same things you can say about what's going on behind the scenes of the sucessful teams. Personnel moves, sponsors, how they thought they were going to run...the same things you talk about with any other team. How they're even able to keep going every week. That's a story, whether you like it or not, and yes, I care about it even if I'm *not* a fan of that guy. If you watch qualifying and practice, SPEED manages to fit a lot of that reason it can't be done during a race.

The other day one of the shows--might have been NW qualifying, I think it was ESPN (maybe someone else remembers), actually mentioned that a team had a new sponsor and they wouldn't be very happy with their run. And the cameraman actually went and focused down on the hood and showed the new sponsor anyway. I nearly fainted with shock. But it shows they know why it needs to be done.

AncientRacer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Ancient Racer, those long posts with links are not going to work in this format. If you have a blog or would like to offer a longer response, drop me an email.



GAK48 said...

NASCAR has boxed themselves in a corner. The championship has become so important that the race is irelavent. The racing this year has been better than ever for the mostpart. Unfortunately the only way you will see that race is live at the race track.

There is always good racing at any event. The fans do not watch the leaders unless they are racing side by side. They are watching the cars that are racing side by side.

The tech garage on ESPN is generally insulting to any NASCAR fan. The in car cameras and tight shots are aggravating. The fan wants to watch the race not a bumper or a drivers feet!!

Television personnel: Imagine being a fan on row 30 at the start finish line. This is what the race fan sees. He sees most of the track and can follow the action around the track. The bumper cams, the race car cams, the ground level cams are great for replays but do not use them during green flag runs and ruin the race perspective for the TV audience.

The chase has destroyed the racing for the last 17-18 races. The drivers at the top of the standings are experimenting for the last 10 races because there is little or no pressure for a great finish. They are assured a spot in the chase with a large points lead. This is a great advantage over the drivers in the 8 - 16 spots who are fighting for their chase lives.

Hard racing is prevalent at the beginning of the year for the first 3-4 races, at or near the Richmond cutoff for the bottom end of the chase guys and the first 3-4 races in the chase until the fast cars separate themselves again.

The old system rewards the best car for the year; the true champion. This system rewards the drivers that are good at the final 10 tracks. Give a lot of credit to JJ and Chad, they have figured this system out perfectly and have the best cars and equipment when they are really required.

Please side by side commercials and racing. 25% commercials!!!

Anonymous said...

Let me state up front that I stopped watching last week. I have had enough. I still check here and Jayski’s to see what is happening, but no more wasting my time watching the race. My hat’s off to JD for hanging in there and not getting so discouraged that he says, “I’ve had enough”. Who could blame him? Do I see major changes? No. Something will change (management has to show their importance someway – anyone read Dilbert?), but has anyone seen any clues that the suits know anything remotely close to the reasons the ratings and attendances are declining? Status quo, boys and girls, status quo. MC

Darcie said...

JD I have a question for you. Is there any way whatsoever, that Nascar, Helton, France and company, has ANY say into how ESPN handles their broadcast? By that I mean, has France told ESPN that they absolutely must focus on the Chase and hype the Chasers because they know fans don't support it? Is it possible that ESPN feels pressured to do the broadcast that they do?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Paul Brooks is the executive in charge of NASCAR's TV rights and media properties.

There is no experienced TV executive who interacts with the existing NASCAR TV rights holders in terms of content and direction.

ESPN has a VP of Motorsports, a Coordinating Producer of NASCAR, a Senior Producer of NASCAR, a line producer of NASCAR, an Associate Producer of NASCAR and an Associate Director of NASCAR.

That help you figure out where the imbalance might be?


Anonymous said...

And to think of all the complaints NBC used to get. I would gladly take them anyday over what we have now with ESPN. They aren't even putting the importants Chase races on ABC!

RWar24 said...

I have never been a fan of all the talk of points and championship during race coverage. This goes back long before the Chase began in 2004. Points as of Now drives me up the wall. When I tune in to watch a race, I want the coverage to be focused on the race and all the action that is happening on the track. As stated many times before, the race takes a back seat to the Chase and the Chase drivers and it does nothing but discourage the millions that don't like the Chase. When the coverage alienates the fans, this is the result. Cover the races the way it should be covered, and the Chase and the manufactured hype that goes with it will take care of itself. Heck ESPN and Nascar might just be surprised how it all would turn out.

Jeff said...

The start time has nothing to do with the reason, I've skipped E$PN's coverage the last 2 weeks and tuned in to MRN. I just can't stand the TV broadcast anymore, I end up PO'ed and yelling at the idiots on TV, the dog thinks I'm crazy half the time, so we set in the backyard, radio on and enjoy the race again.

Dot said...

Great column JD.

I do want to rant about the commls. I did notice that BSPN didn't show commls during the last 10 laps. I think someone was asleep in the TV truck and woke up too late.

Why aren't they counting the cars BSPN chooses to show us as advertisements? Think about it, we are watching 4 hours of commls from green to checkered flags.

I guess it's too late for any significant changes to the TV people at BSPN this year. I still can't believe nascar allows this lack of coverage to go on. As someone wondered in an earlier post,is it nascar/bf pulling BSPN's strings? I hope so. I'd hate to think there's another emperor connected to nascar.

One more thing. It is NOT the earlier start times. I like when races start in the morning on my side of the country,PDT.

Anonymous said...

I know not everybody has laptop but just buy race view turn down the sound and listen to your favorite driver and enjoy the race just like sitting in the stands with a scanner,,,,,

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you guys have said about ESPN management/producers/directors not understanding our sport. And that's the crux of the matter. NASCAR fans believe it's THEIR sport, not ESPN's, not NASCAR's, not Sprint's, but OURS. I know the highly paid executive of today doesn't like to hear "back in the day" stories. But I've got news for ESPN: You need to watch tapes of the races from the 80's and early 90's. I've got boxes of them and I'll be glad to let you borrow them if yours are lost. Bob Jenkins, Jerry Punch, Ned Jarrett, Larry Nuber, et al, covered the entire race for the benefit of the FANS, NOT the sponsors. All 43 cars were covered; maybe not in depth, but each one had a story. And fans were interested in those stories. C'mon, who ISN'T going to root for the guy who had to borrow tires from another team just to qualify and actually made the race? By bringing the television audience the entire race as it happened everyone benefitted: NASCAR, sponsors, teams, and especially the fans. It's that very type of coverage that enabled NASCAR to gain the popularity they did during those years. So take a lesson from your own history ESPN. Go back to your old tapes and let Bob Jenkins and the gang show you how our sport supposed to be broadcast.

Tom said...

I have given this issue some more thought and given my complete lack of interest this "post"-season, I have come to realize even more that blaming ESPN for my disinterest is a cop out.
Are the broadcasts good? Not really. They are better than last year, and probably about as good as they can get, based on what a network "needs" for commercial time. I just don't get angry at the TV folks anymore (with the exception of DW).
What does make me angry is the organization of NASCAR itself. This latest "kangaroo court" ruling on Bowyers car is the latest example of the complete control that a few must have over the many. Complete, yes, but also stunningly incompetent control. I have never seen a regional sport want the national limelight so bad, and then once obtained, so completely fail to hold onto that stage. People, NASCAR became famous for what it was doing in the 90's, why go and change all that? I do not believe that the sport can go back to that, because now every attempt to go "back" there smacks of contrived crass commercialism. Clearly the chase is killing the sport...interest dips EVEN MORE when the "playoffs" get here? The only positive thing to happen in years is the double file restart, which is the racing standard, the old way was a gimmick. Wake up NASCAR, people are bailing on you weekly! You have lost many of us 25+ year followers over the past few years! I know we are not your "targeted" group going forward (we die!), but we are not talking about the racing in front of our kids anymore either!!

Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...

The ultimate challenge is that ESPN is a Stick-and-ball sport network and NASCAR is not and never will be a Stick and Ball sport.

If NASCAR had more 'stick and ball' characteristics, then ESPN would be a GREAT Marketing Platform, but it's plainly obvious...

Stick and ball fans expect some sort of action every 3 downs, every 7 pitches, or every shift change.

The american sports fan has a VERY SHORT attention span and long-form races simply don't have a built in mechanism to meet that fact.

Is NASCAR an incredible platform for it's current fans and it's marketing partners? Absolutely, though maybe not quite as powerful as 5 years ago.

Is NASCAR a platform that can capture NEW fans out of the Stick-and-ball fanbase? In it's current format, unfortunately, probably not.

Anonymous said...

Our son runs a camera for ABC, ESPN and he says the races are boring, what does that tell you.

Anonymous said...

Nascar races in their current full screen commercial format of 5 minutes of racing, 3 minutes of commercials, 5 minutes of racing, 3 minutes of commercial are DVR-only viewing for me and will continue to be such unless they add side by side ads like the IRL has.

Especially with the NFL Ticket and RedZone channel there's enough football to watch live without interruption on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Get a clue TV networks. Keep the race on the TV from start to finish and I'll watch live. Otherwise I'll watch football live and watch the race at night on the DVR so I can fast-forward through the ads.

Anonymous said...

ESPN's "golden age" production team almost moved en-masse to FOX. Though over time a lot of them have left by now. CBS's on-air talent seem to mostly end up at FOX also. ESPN's return was starting from scratch, and they ended up making the same mistakes NBC did.

Why doesn't it seem like anyone has anything of substance to say? All the pre-race shows! Between SPEED's couple of hours, the network that is showing the race, their hour or so, there is nothing left to talk about until the race actually starts. And no race that I've ever seen or announced, at the local track that used to be around here, had something to talk about every moment of every lap. THAT'S the time to talk about what's going on in the sport, or about a team's recent misfortunes, or chances of winning a championship, or the history of the sport, in general.

FOX's "Crank It Up" segments were probably created to give the fans a break from all of the talking.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR and their broadcast partners are far too busy with "selling" their sport to accurately present and embrace what it is: a lifestyle that is owned by the fan.

Maybe they're afraid of that reality. Camp out at a race sometime and see what I mean. Not in the high dollar lights out at 11pm infield, but out into the rowdy muddy fields. The people out there are, like it or not, the CORE of the NASCAR nation.

I'm not saying fans are a bunch of inbred hillbillies: but neither are they all making 250k a year. It goes farther than demographics, more like "psycho-graphics".

Bill France understood the fan in part when he said "NASCAR fans are the kind of people who go out and win wars."

NASCAR fans are also the kind of people who don't like to be talked to like they're idiots. But that's precisely how NASCAR and their broadcast partners treat them. Whether it's marching orders from Daytona or broadcast partners putting on a manufactured show for the benefit of impressing the sponsors, the broadcast spends far too much time trying to convince the fan of what the sport is. They want Kyle Busch to be liked, or Jimmie Johnson to be more revered and so they shove the story down the throats of fans who are gagging on it.

The sport should be presented the way the FAN is seeing it and feeling it. You do that, and people will put up with the commercials and stop longing for the "good ole days".

The France family may have started NASCAR but it's the fans who really own it.

The biggest problem in letting the fans see the sport the way they want to see it is that NASCAR and the broadcast partners are too chickensnot to let the advertisers see it. So they dress up their announcers in high dollar suits that the casual fan would only wear to weddings and funerals. They never dare venture to the infield or let fans speak freely on websites. The France family today are too arrogant to let the sport grow organically so they just pour more and more BS onto it, overly pruning it as they go until it looks like a Frankencar.

If I was producing the broadcasts I'd immediately include things like: booth announcers on camp chairs and casual clothes. Forget the same techical reports we've seen time and time again. I'd have a reporter in the stands and during the yellow flag get LIVE fan feedback on the race with nothing more than a 30 second delay to bleep out the profanity. If they're hatin on Jimmie or Busch so be it. I'd have coverage of the craziness in the campgrounds from the night before. I'd cut the length of races by a third. I'd offer juicy bonus points for leading at halfway so that the excitement doesn't only happen at the end. I'd keep the Chase format but I'd change the schedule more frequently and every few years throw in a wildcard track like Rockingham, or even Iowa where teams don't have so much data to rely on.