Thursday, March 10, 2011
New Faces But Same Issues For Showtime
Update: Got some email this week from fans who had just watched "Inside NASCAR" on Showtime. They were upset that profanity from the team radios was used. In fact, that uncensored radio traffic is a centerpiece of the show and something that Showtime promotes on a regular basis. It's only one of the issues associated with this TV series. Here is our column previewing the 2011 version of the show originally published February 9.
Last year NASCAR trumpeted a multi-year agreement for a new weekly TV series that would be produced from the downtown Charlotte, NC studios of the NASCAR Media Group for 2010. Inside NASCAR was going to be a flagship mid-week show with a twist.
Showtime would offer the series to its universe of subscribers and then make the show available online through both the Internet and cell phone streaming technology. It was Sports Business Journal reporter Michael Smith who offered the following information back in 2010 before the series began.
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.
Unfortunately after the studio set was built, the announcers were signed and money changed hands the other shoe dropped. Click here to review "Showtime Throws NASCAR a Curveball" from TDP last January.
The powers that be at Showtime contradicted the NASCAR Media Group and told us they never intended the series to be distributed outside of the Showtime universe. You want to see it, subscribe they said.
The upshot is that a very good NASCAR TV show is only seen by a very small group of fans. That was the worry going in when the deal was announced. Healthy national cable TV networks may have 90 million homes or more across the country. Showtime is available to less than 19 million subscribers and something big is looming on the horizon.
"Netflix streaming added 3.1 million subscriptions during the fourth quarter of 2010 and now has more than 20 million subscribers," said Gary Kim of IPCarrier. "That's more than the total subscribers of premium channels Starz and Showtime, which have 17.3 million and 18.2 million subscribers, respectively. What that means is that Netflix is competing with the premium cable TV channels."
Once you shake-out the Showtime viewers who are there only for the original entertainment shows and movies, the remaining number of viewers for a sports series like Inside NASCAR is tiny. This season, there are also other things that are getting smaller.
Despite adding Kyle Petty as a panelist, Inside NASCAR is downsizing from one-hour to 30 minutes in length. Chris Myers hosts the show with Randy Pemberton, Michael Waltrip and Brad Daugherty as the original panel members.
The Showtime folks are entertainment-oriented and it shows. The big feature of the series is the re-airing of the profanity-laced team radio traffic without editing. The Showtime PR folks refer to this as uncensored scanner audio and boast it is a Showtime exclusive.
“The show aims to bring NASCAR fans deeper inside the sport than ever before,” said Ken Hershman, General Manager of Showtime Sports. “We delivered precisely that in season one. Now, with the new half-hour format, Inside NASCAR will become the fastest show on television.”
If Inside NASCAR has a challenge this season, it will be to provide commentary from four panelists, weekend race highlights and the infamous uncensored scanner audio in a 30 minute format. It has not gone unnoticed that two of the panelists participating in this shorter program are named Waltrip and Petty.
Our original suggestion was to make the show available online at the NASCAR.com website on Fridays, two days later than the 9PM ET Wednesday original air date. Online viewers would get to see what Showtime can do with NASCAR content while Showtime subscribers would still have an exclusive two day window for viewing re-airs.
Perhaps as the Showtime universe of subscribers continues to be affected by Netflix, offering this one series online will become a smart business and public relations decision. After all, that was the original idea when Inside NASCAR was created.
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