Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hail To The Chief


Lots of fans emailed and tweeted about the media interview that Brian France gave in Homestead. In this wide-ranging discussion, France took questions on lots of topics. Some of them concerned television and online media. That is our focus today.

His opening remarks before the question and answer period directly addressed the ratings struggles of the Sprint Cup Series on TV.

Here are his words on that subject:

Obviously we would like our TV ratings on an upswing, and when they are not, we are working on all kinds of things to look and see what is a better formula for us. Clearly we moved start times back, to accommodate our race fans at the at-track experience. We did that. We also did that to uniform start times between the East Coast and the Midwest and the West Coast.

We took ourselves out of some more homes by doing that; also by switching networks on ABC to ESPN. So we did some things to try to help in one area that might have had an effect in another. So we'll be looking at all of those things in the off-season.


Once the questions began, this was posed to France about TV:

Earlier you mentioned wanting to grow the audience and expose NASCAR to as wide an audience as possible. With that in mind, why does the move from ABC to ESPN where you go down some homes, why does that make sense for the sport going forwards? And are you comfortable with having it on ESPN next year, and as you look to reach younger fans, is there a way to get more of the races online or things like that?

This was his answer:

Well, we are having a lot of success with some of our digital efforts. So that being one.

ESPN is our partner and they have been an enormously good partner, and they actually have a younger demo on ESPN network than does their sister network, ABC.

But obviously, so you know, we are going to look with everybody at ESPN to make sure that we have the right times, the right promotion, the right everything, that puts the sport in the best possible position to have had the biggest audience. Our interests are completely aligned in that.

And I suspect we'll sit down in the off-season and talk about that and we are going to share everything with them and they have been a great partner. By the way, I think the broadcast has been as good as I've seen in a long time. I think the energy level and the calling of the action, the on-air talent, I think is top-notch right now on their network, and they have been working at that for a few years to get all of the things just right, and I think they have.


Click here to read Jeff Gluck of SBNation's blog posted immediately after France concluded his remarks. Gluck works the NASCAR trail full time and his impression of the NASCAR Chairman was interesting. Here is an excerpt:

What stunned me was that France – who has tried to be more engaged than ever by holding "town hall" meetings with drivers and follows the results of a 12,000-member Fan Council – seemed to have no clue what many fans think.

France also went out of his way to effusively praise ESPN – the network that has riled a vocal group of fans who believe it makes races unwatchable with excessive commercials and difficult-to-follow action.

France isn't in a position to bash NASCAR's TV partners, of course, but being so complimentary seemed like a slap in the face to fans who are begging for more watchable broadcasts.

Again, while I only agree with part of the anti-ESPN crowd (the part concerning far too many commercials), you'd think France would at least be aware there's a decent number of people who want to feel like they're being heard on the topic.


Like so many others, Gluck misses the point when he used the term "Anti-ESPN crowd." There simply is no such thing. NASCAR has many television partners and all of them produce content of one kind or another. Each of those events, programs or series elicits opinion.

While FOX and TNT had some bumps in the road this season, the focus at this time of the year is clearly on ESPN and rightfully so. They paid the big dollars to get the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series events of the year, including the ten Chase races.

After a crisis meeting with NASCAR several weeks ago in Charlotte that included ESPN President George Bodenheimer to address the TV issues, absolutely nothing changed. The final three races of the season were a confusing mess of uninformed announcers, disjointed pictures and far too many on-air voices wanting to be heard.

Fans of Joey Logano and Juan Montoya could only stare at the TV as ESPN chose to ignore the Homestead incident that took them both out of the race and the confrontations that followed. During the race Twitter, scanners, and chatrooms offered key information that was available to the public. On the track cars hit the wall, front-running teams pitted and drivers reported debris that brought out cautions. None of this made the telecast.

Instead, four lines of graphics stayed on the TV screen for the entire race. It was the ultimate electronic crutch for a production team that had long since thrown in the towel. Read the ticker to see where your driver is running. Check the Championship points on every single lap. Look down for the scores from other sports.

At the end of the race, with the title on the line, this was the quote from ESPN's Marty Reid that will be heard every time the video is replayed:

That hammering you hear is the sound of the nail in the final coffin on the chase contenders hopes of upsetting Jimmie Johnson.

Reid's poorly chosen words may come to summarize the ESPN efforts down the stretch. Despite France's comments to the contrary, the 2010 Chase for the Championship was the worst-produced ESPN coverage of a major professional sport in decades.

Finally, in reference to France's remarks about the digital agenda, he has presided over an organization that has never made practice, qualifying or races available online. Internet partner Turner Sports recently forced the issue by streaming ESPN's Homestead coverage at NASCAR.com for free to anyone. It seems they have had enough.

On the radio side, the Sirius NASCAR channel 128 has never been available online. Original content produced every day is simply delivered to a small group either in their vehicles or capable of downlinking a satellite signal. Instead of solving the distribution problem, the sanctioning body instead concentrated on focusing the Sirius message on positive aspects of the sport and the dismissal of all other viewpoints as anti-NASCAR.

If this is what France means as his digital agenda it is sorely lacking. Without online streaming of all NASCAR television programs, Internet and cell phone access to Sirius 128 and a full time "Race Buddy" style offering for every Sprint Cup Series event in 2011, the technology wave will have left this sport in the dust.

When times get tough, all eyes turn to the top. After this past weekend, the spotlight is on only one man who needs to announce substantive changes across the board in almost every aspect of the sport. That's what comes with being the NASCAR Chairman. Hail to the chief.

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

30 comments:

MeekloBraca said...

Hey JD can you post or find a picture of Brian France when he was presenting the trophy to Jimmie this past weekend? Ive never seen a man who is in charge of such a vast empire look like a bigger schmuck. A golf polo with an un matching sports jacket with his massive bear gut hanging there. Absolutely disgusting.

Don said...

Regarding the lack of digital coverage. As I've said before, economic hardship has caused me to drop all but basic cable. Having gone this long, I do not see the need for anything more when times improve.

Instead that money will be allocated to internet services. The lack of digital coverage has driven me to find the free underground coverage. That younger demographic that France speaks of is much more adept at these kinds of things and they, like myself, will see no need for official pay online transmissions after having so long without them.

The close points race presents a dilemma for France. On the one hand, it justifies his chase format (for the first time in five years). On the other hand, we have the staleness of a multi-champion. If there were such a thing as "The Call", I'm certain it would have gone to Harvick and the Childress team.

France is an ineffective leader, and his inner circle lacks creativity. The France family owns the company and Brian has a valid reason to be at the top, but at least two layers of management beneath him needs to be dismissed.
Indycar turned around in less than a year with the proper CEO, and given that NASCAR is in better shape they can turn this around by Daytona if they act now.

51 yr. fan said...

There's not a chance in you-know-
where that Brain Farce and
ESPN are going to do anything
postive to change our sport. Our
hope now would be that Fox has
been monitoring the REAL fans
and their legitimate requests.
Hopefully they will flush their demographic desires and put a
product out that is worth watching.
Anyone want to bet on it? Me neither.

Be thankful for this great country, family, and The Daly Planet.

Darren said...

Oh...where to begin?

1. 'The Chase' is/has been a disaster. Jimmie Johnson is NOT the best driver ever. He's not in the top 10 drivers of all time. He is a driver that has the smartest crew chief that directs all resources to the tracks that make up 'The Chase', and Johnson carries out the strategy. Someone was bound to hit on this strategy, Knaus does it better than anyone, thus 5 straight championships. Jimmie Johnson is a made for T.V. champion, and a total fraud when held in the reflection of Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon, Waltrip, etc. The biggest problem is the fans know this, and NOBODY is buying what NASCAR is selling.

2. Racing is different than 'stick and ball' sports, so it can't be broadcast with that mentality. What's so hard about that? Let the racing do the talking, let the ebb and flow of a race tell the story. Less is more from a production standpoint. Bells and whistles distract from the racing. Are 12 people really necessary to tell us what to think? Do we have to go to a cut away car every time a mechanical situation comes up? People know what a hot dog wrapper in a grill looks like. When ESPN is knocking down subscriber fees galore, are all the commercials really necessary? And the answer to the problem is a PxP guy that gives us "The nail in the final coffin"? Really?

I could go on and on and on...but I'm done, as in DONE. I'll watch the big races on the tracks I like, but the every weekend/all weekend long routine is over. Congrats, NASCAR. You suceeded in killing the love of a die hard race fan.

OSBORNK said...

Since King Brian thinks everything is going wonderfully, we can only expect things to continue to get worse. Like in AA, first you have to admit you have a problem. If Brian and his cronies were forced to sit in front of a TV and watch and listen to a couple of races sober, things might change.

James said...

Your words are the voice of the real NASCAR fan base. Your position on each issue remains clearly the facts that make the viewer continue to believe that someone is being the gatekeeper for the rest of NASCAR Nation.

It has been one disaster after another. NASCAR used to support the teams not steal their sponsors. The only group making any money is NASCAR as the teams have all suffered in this downturned economy. The stories about Big Bill helping out the independents to keep them in the show, are the legends of what NASCAR stood for and made the fan feel they were a part by only supporting companies that supported the series and teams.

From digger to the rest of the thought process that moves the direction of the sport it has been one large nightmare.

It was not that long ago that ESPN brought NASCAR into the homes of the fans. The fans were seeking a source of information about the sport that they loved, from persons inside the sport. NASCAR has always been full of secrets, which was part of its appeal. Obviously that was not enough. But can you imagine a Pro football game with the announcers sticking to an agenda, while the game is being shown and not allowing the on field action to be the story?

Its time NASCAR looked in a mirror and said we are killing this sport.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart to allow fans a place where we can post what is truly in our hearts, please do not ever stop.

S_Banerjee said...

Brian France is a cancer on the once-great sport his forefathers put their blood and sweat into. He has shown repeatedly over the 8 years he has been in charge that he has zero perception of auto racing and needs to run a stick-n-ball team somewhere.

Anonymous said...

BF obviously lives in an alternate reality. He obviously has an impression of Espn that neither me or hoards of bloggers share. Does anyone believe that BF actually watches the hours of Nascar related coverage on television every week? He reported that "Green" was a major issue with the viewers. He must be hallucinating if he truly believes that. Nascar bloggers unload on a multitude of issues every week. Has anyone ever blogged about 'green' relative to Nascar? I like Brad as a person,but he and Rusty are totally useless. At Phoenix,did you hear Rusty refer to Foyt as A.J. Fart? Honest, I'm not making this up.It was right at the beginning of the show. Tim Brewer made a few good points Sunday,but he too,should go. Thirty-six races and he's doing a show & tell on "Bear Bond"?!? Marty Reid is just hopeless.These shows on Espn are the way they are because someone wants them to look that way. The Logano/Montoya deal was criminal the way it was handled. Race Hub,somehow managed to dodge it too last night with their boring show. There's obviously a huge gap between Nascar's impression of the race coverage and that of the viwers. Until Nascar and the TV Execs conclude there is a problem requiring fixing---change will not occur.

The Mad Man said...

How about Bri-Bri handing the trophy to Johnson backwards? Pure genius there. Or maybe a lack of sobriety? Possibly.

Any changes made to the BSPN coverage will not be to the remaining fans' benefit. It will be made to BSPN's and NA$CAR's benefit. We'll continue to have the same shoddy coverage and commentary we've come to know and loathe. Times will get changed to suit BSPN's schedule, not that of the fans.

In Corporate America, you either listen to the consumers or you're out of business. As NA$CAR is a corporation they should be listening to the consumers, which is the racing fans who watch at home, listen on the radio, or watch at the tracks. But as we can see by the poor TV ratings and lack of attendance at the tracks, NA$CAR is not listening and the fans are taking their time and money elsewhere.

I give NA$CAR 3-5 year before they fold unless Bri-Bri and his cronies are replaced by some folks who actually know something about racing and will listen to the fans instead of voices in their heads.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR is Brian France's possession, for Brian to do with as he pleases. And let us not forget that, for Brian IS doing as he pleases with no regard for anything but what Brian wants. We must be insane to hope for and expect the same people to do things differently next time.

GinaV24 said...

Hail to the chief, ha! That's a good one. This guy can't manage a simple interview and is completely out of touch. The picture you chose is one of the more flattering since usually he looks disheveled and unkempt, which in my mind equates to the way he manages NASCAR.

Digital coverage of the sport is a joke. I'm not planning to renew my Sirius radio subscription. There simply isn't enough NASCAR content that I can stomach to be worth the fee.

The whole ESPN debacle continues to infuriate me. I guess that the people they are trying to attract are the ones who get all their information off the ticker that runs continuously. I don't watch ESPN at all except for NASCAR.

I have to wonder if, like others, I could simply do without the extra cable expense.

I have no expectations that Brian France will do anything that is in the best interests of race fans. The reason for that is that he just doesn't get it.

I go to enough races that for me the early start times work. Considering that they had the later start times for several years and the ratings weren't that great either - actually they started falling when the chase and the COT were implemented and the TV coverage became chase, chase, chase practically from the first race, but we can't blame anything bad on choices that NASCAR or the TV partners did, can we?

It must be the fans fault. Blame the customer, that's always a great idea.

Donna in FL said...

38 years of NASCAR fan life has come to this. Don't ever tell me I'm not a "true fan" when I point out NASCAR's mistakes in the last 8 years and when I'm trying to suggest solutions. I'm another fan who has submitted a comprehensive year end report to NASCAR in detail, it wasn't pretty but it was written as constructive criticism.

bevo said...

The reason everything looks fine to Brian is due to him being surrounded by nothing but Yes Men. When he leaves that cocoon he interacts with people in the media who have heard the message loud and clear that their jobs depend on toeing the company line.

I have no problem believing his surprise to the question in the press conference. He is so insulated from any outside influences he genuinely believes everything is sunshine and gumdrops.

I can assure you he has not read or heard about the Darren Rovell article yesterday and it's blunt message that NASCAR will forever be a distant sport behing the NFL,MLB and NBA.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/40315086

Mike (Detroit) said...

Hard to believe Mr France's comments. When Sponge Bob and WWE wrestling beat NA$CAR in ratings week after week after week. I have a bad feeling it will get worse before it gets better. Brian France orbits his own little world. Remember it is up to NA$CAR to bring a product to the table that grabs your interst, and makes you want to follow the sport. Everyone on this blog knows how to solve this television coverage problem. Turn NA$CAR off and don't turn it back on till it's fixed. It is the strongest message we can send. I know it's a hard thing for a die hard race fan to do, but we can't keep drinking this sour milk. YOU people pay the bills and deserve a much better product than NA$CAR is pumping out. Brian France will go down in history as the man who killed NA$CAR. Thanks JD and everyone on this blog who made me laugh and feel welcome here.

Buschseries61 said...

What a terrible mess. His appearance speaks for itself. He might as well wear a paper bag, his dress is so poor and unprofessional. NASCAR's struggles began in 2007 and this season was the turning point that forced the participants and management out of denial. The decisions that NASCAR makes this winter are very critical. His Homestead comments showed no promise, just vague updates and stupid statements. Until the proper changes are made, there is really nothing else to say.

Anonymous said...

JD, you always lay it out so well. I am too negative about the state of nascar to add anything else, except to say it would be so easy to fix. MC

Zetona said...

Seems like if your name is Brian and you're in charge of a major motorsport, you're no good at your job. This all reminds me of IndyCar's Brian Barnhart, whom no one likes. The difference is that IndyCar journalists like Robin Miller openly criticize his poor decisions and sympathize with the fans, whereas all NASCAR journalists have been doing this week is ranking Jimmie among the all-time greats and generally praising things that have angered a large portion of the fanbase.

GinaV24 said...

I just went back to read Gluck's column from the link you had posted.

He really does miss the point on all this.

I looked briefly on Jayski and all the articles are pretty much the same. All hail King Jimmie - the greatest 10 race trophy winner of them all.

Since this was the focus of all the broadcasts and the chase, I guess everyone is happy but the fans and we all know we don't count.

Jonathan said...

i dont agree with Mr. Brian France on his comment about liking the televison coverage that NEEDS to change we NEED online coverage next year plain and simple! Nice to see the ratings for homestead go up! Nice to end the season on a high note and I think all those who said there done watching Nascar will be back you just dont stop liking racing cause one guy keeps winning hate to say it those comments were just heat of the moment comments and come Daytona 500 time the fans will be ready for racing like no other! A new front end on the cars next year is a step in the right direction so I feel Nascar will be back in a big way!
3.9hh
3.3/6
5.605 million

Great ratings for Homestead

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Brian France is just a sleazy looking creature who has no business running NASCAR. Brian France has ruined NASCAR and he is not even realizing it. His Chase is a sham. It is a manufactured championship season (Jimmie Johnson 5x champion). The TV networks are getting by with abysmal coverage while BZF cashes his residual checks. And when he makes a media apperance, he looks like a slob. Hail to the Chief, i'll do that to the President of the US, not King Brian.

I'm going to second what SBanjeree said about BZF, He is a cancer to our sport.

And if i want to come back to NASCAR, Jimmie needs to have his lims torn off and BZF needs to be jailed or gone

SBTF
A real PO ex-NASCAR fan

Anonymous said...

Dont know if anyone watched Wind Tunnel on Sunday. But Daves favorite e-mail address you fans who "complain about television coverage".

Vicky D said...

What a terrible picture of BF. Yes, the tv coverage is getting worse and worse. I don't think BF will make it any better and I really enjoyed reading Darren Rovell's column.

Anonymous said...

LISTEN TO THE FANS BRIAN - they make or break the sport.

Don't you have some "Lieutenants" who have some sense and can guide you? Listen to them.

Hendrick Motorsports shuffled the deck today, NASCAR and TV networks need to do the same for 2011.

Anonymous said...

BZF - go and invest in an NFL team and get out while you can.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan,

Was that overnight ratings you posted? Jim Utter Tweeted this today...


Sunday's Ford 400 season finale at Homestead got a 3.6 final rating on ESPN, down 8 percent from a year ago on ABC (3.9)

Anonymous said...

B.F. stands for bumbling fool. What is he drinking? It sounds like it's better than Kool-Aid.

Nick Doyle said...

JD,

Thanks for the link to Jeff Gluck's column, one that I'd have otherwise missed. In it, Gluck quotes Brian France:

"I think the broadcast has been as good as I've seen in a long time," [France] said.

That strikes me as the key to the entire situation. I cannot believe that Brian France has actually watched the entire telecast of any of the races this past year -- at least not without having watched the race live.

He is in denial, and I have serious concerns that he may have an underlying alcohol (or drug) problem. I truly hope not, but it would help explain many of his actions and his demeanor on the few occasions that I've seen him on camera.

Someone in a senior position in NASCAR needs to pull on a pair of "big boy" pants and have a sit-down talk with the boss before thing really get out of control.

Regards,

Nick

dwight said...

It appears that your active readers have decided that what is needed is a trainer and wardrobe consultant for Brian France. And a number of them seem pretty upset with Jimmie Johnson bacause no one can get it together to beat him.

As for ESPN, Sunday might be thier worst NASCAR broadcast ever. But it's not just a racing problem. They have fallen into the same bad habits of tunnel vision and narrow focus across the board. Earlier this week, I watched a basketball broadcast where they spent the whole time talking about the star on the bench in foul trouble at the expense of the game which was happening on the floor. It seemed like deja vue.

Darcie said...

I just read a report that during the Chase races, 7 out of the 10 races had a ratings drop of 20%. That is horrible, and I don't know how BF can look at those numbers and think everything is fine. BUT, their prime demographic, males 18 to 34 had an 8% increase for the final race. I just bet BF looked at only those numbers. What a sham.

This sport is dying, and the "put on a happy face" crowd, including most Nascar sports writers, the idiots of Sirius and the ESPN bozos keep sweeping that under the rug. Nascar got what I think they wanted, a five time consecutive champion, and I honestly feel they think JJ's dominance is great for the sport. At least that's what I'm hearing/reading from those supposedly in the know. Even our darling, Rusty Wallace, who said after last season that JJ's dominance is not good for Nascar, now has slugged down the Nascar Kool Aid and believes that the Drive for Five is great for the sport. Yeah, right.

I also love the pats on the back BF was giving himself on the changes they made "for the fans" Bull Crap !!!! IF he were truly listening to the fans, he would have dumped the Chase, the Top 35 crap, Lucky Dogs, wave arounds and made ESPN put the races back on ABC, where most people have access. But, BF's reality is based on things other than real things, maybe based more on mind altering substances.

Unless there are wholesale changes to the sport, unless there are major changes with Fox, TNT and ESPN, unless they make it possible for someone other than JJ or a Hendrick driver to succeed and unless they dump the Chase, fans will continue to abandon the sport and Nascar will be as relevant as a boil on BF's behind.

Anonymous said...

A spoiled child who inherited a position well beyond his comprehension or ability.

If his Father and Grandfather were alive, he would be in the woodshed.