Thursday, March 18, 2010

NASCAR on SPEED Vs. March Madness

Most fans remember how the NFL thumped NASCAR last year when football season began. Friday, NASCAR opens up after a two week break and goes head-to-head with the powerhouse NCAA basketball tournament on CBS.

SPEED is handling the Friday TV from the Bristol Motor Speedway and it will be Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds opening the day at 12PM ET with Sprint Cup Series practice. Over on CBS, it will be Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis hosting the coverage that also begins at noon. Those three are pictured above.

ESPN2's NASCAR Now Friday edition hosted by Nicole Briscoe was bumped back to 8:30PM ET because of the NIT college basketball scheduled on that network. Marty Smith and Mike Massaro will be reporting from Bristol, TN.

That leaves SPEED to go it alone through Sprint Cup Series practice, two sessions of Nationwide Series practice and Sprint Cup Series qualifying. At 6PM, host John Roberts welcomes Jimmy Spencer to the SPEED Stage along with Randy Pemberton for the NASCAR Live program. Hermie Sadler and Bob Dillner will be reporting.

Perhaps the most interesting match-up will be at 7PM. CBS has a choice of four games to distribute from four nationwide venues that feature Duke, Michigan State, Georgia Tech and Florida State.

Meanwhile, SPEED's Trackside gang counters with Bristol guests David Pearson and Kyle Busch. Pearson has been quite memorable his last few times on TV with his opinions on topics from the COT to the behavior of the new breed of drivers. Kyle Busch and his fiance have been very busy connecting with fans directly on Twitter. It should be interesting to see what Busch has to say about his first social media experience.

This is another all-day affair for SPEED. The network has really grown nicely into the host role. Regardless of the fact that SPEED is not televising either the Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series races, the entire TV team seems to work very hard to make practice and qualifying sessions meaningful to viewers and fans.

How about leaving us a comment on how much TV you will be watching on Friday and whether you are going to choose basketball over NASCAR? As the Friday coverage moves on, we will also use this post for your comments about SPEED's telecasts from Bristol.

NASCAR's Showtime Troubles (Repost)

Inside NASCAR airs at 10PM ET on Wednesday night. We are trying to get it distributed on a wider basis. We welcome your comments on this issue.

What is worse than producing a bad TV series that everyone watches? The answer is producing a great TV series that no one watches. Welcome to Inside NASCAR on Showtime.

This series is the showpiece of the NASCAR Media Group's new downtown Charlotte, NC facility. A new studio set, control room and offices are all dedicated to this project that has a multi-year contract. Inside NASCAR is going to be around for a while.

Chris Myers hosts Inside NASCAR on Wednesdays at 10PM with Brad Daugherty, Michael Waltrip and Randy Pemberton as the panelists. Myers recently gave up his fulltime Fox Radio slot because of this commitment. Click here for those details.

Recently, I was asked in an interview on The Race Reporters about the current health of Inside NASCAR. You can click here to listen.

My response was simple mathematics. If you put 95 people in a room but only show 17 of them a TV program, what do you expect? The program can be fantastic, but effective distribution is a key element of any TV project. There are approximately 95 million cable TV homes in North America. Showtime is only in 17 million of them.

Click here to see a short clip of Inside NASCAR. It has proven to be a quality show with solid production and a great mix of personalities.

A key component of the original deal between the NASCAR Media Group and Showtime was meant to solve the distribution problem. It seemed to be a perfect solution. Maybe, it was too perfect.

This is an excerpt from reporter Michael Smith's January 2010 story for the Sports Business Journal:

Showtime's new weekly Inside NASCAR show will be available via the Internet and mobile phone, which required clearance from NASCAR's rights holders in that space.

NASCAR Media Group, which manages those multimedia rights, had to clear the broadcast of Inside NASCAR with its TV, web and mobile partners before giving final approval for the new show.

Inside NASCAR will be available on Showtime’s Web site, Plans for the show’s mobile distribution are being formalized, but NASCAR Media Group COO Jay Abraham said the show will be available in its entirety on mobile handsets.

So, the idea was to bridge the gap between relatively small amount of Showtime subscribers and the relatively large number of NASCAR fans by making the entire series available online. Unfortunately, Showtime had other ideas.

In an email to TDP, Showtime said the company never posts complete episodes of programs online for regular viewing. The email also confirmed there is no cell phone outlet for Showtime programs. That includes Inside NASCAR.

So, the only way to see Inside NASCAR is to subscribe to Showtime. That is a tough sell. There are few sports-related programs on the premium network, which is clearly oriented toward adult entertainment. For the time being, Inside NASCAR is playing to a small slice of Showtime's already small TV universe.

Despite the reality that Showtime paid the bill and therefore can control the content, the shame in this equation is that many NASCAR fans are missing a high quality mid-week TV show that really fills a need. With the demise of This Week in NASCAR on SPEED, primetime on weekdays is lacking a program of this type.

Maybe with the continuing success of the series, Showtime and the NASCAR Media Group can revisit some ideas for broader distribution of the program to better serve the fans and the sport.

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