Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fan Council Asks About Split-Screen Commercials

The discussion continues after the little surprise added to the FOX production of the Sprint Cup Series race from Dover. Without warning or mention, the same type of split-screen or "side by side" commercial viewers see in the IndyCar telecasts appeared on FOX. That is a screen-capture above.

Later that night, a FOX spokesman told reporter Dustin Long of hamptonroads.com that this was a concept that came up in discussions last week. Veteran readers of TDP know that it is actually a topic that has been on the table for more than five years.

Regardless of the overall quality of the telecast, the biggest hurdle for NASCAR in this new TV contract has been commercials blocking the racing action. It's nothing new, but the situation is now compounded by two key elements.

First, the networks run lots of inventory to pay-off the rights fees they paid to NASCAR. This was the most lucrative TV contract in NASCAR history and what fans see as they sit through commercial after commercial is FOX simply paying the bills.

Secondly, the communication choices available to NASCAR fans now go far beyond the race. Immediately after the live event, there are countless review shows on SPEED and ESPN that replay and detail the happenings in the multi-hour race. It's a lot easier to watch a one-hour review show that has all the highlights and soundbites.

The elephant in the room is the Internet. A growing number of fans on Twitter and Facebook are interested in being actively involved with others during the telecasts and that has put the spotlight once again on the fact that about one-third of the laps are covered by commercials in the Sprint Cup Series.

When a commercial begins, NASCAR fans flee. This new generation of NASCAR fan does not want "play interrupted" for a commercial. It does not happen in professional football, baseball or hockey. Only NASCAR has live action or "play" interrupted by commercials every four or five minutes.

It's not quite clear where the push to try this new approach came from, but it's getting even more interesting. The Monday NASCAR Fan Council survey that went out to members of that panel contained specific questions about the single split-screen FOX commercial break.

In fact, the email even contained the video of the entire commercial. Fans were asked how they liked it, if they remembered the advertisers and what effect that commercial format had on fan's attitude toward those sponsors. Needless to say, the fans we chatted with were all for it continuing.

One key question was how did this split-screen commercial format make fans feel about the NASCAR on FOX telecast itself? That's a great issue. It has always been a strong feeling that this commercial format retains fans during the commercials and instills a strong feeling of fan loyalty for sponsors who participate.

The NASCAR on FOX gang has a little break while SPEED handles the All-Star race, but when the monstrously long Coke 600 rolls around, it will be interesting to see if more of the commercials are presented in this style.

It's very clear from the flat TV ratings that change is needed. If this move by FOX late in that network's season can help TNT and ESPN to embrace this format, then it's certainly worthwhile.

We want 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.


Anonymous said...

I hope that they do it in the future. I think they'll get more eyes that way. As stated, when commercials come on folks channel surf to see a bit of whatever is on the other channel, go potty/make another sandwich, etc.

Generally with commercials I'll catch up on Twitter. When the split screen came on I'm all "WHOA". At first I thought they had done it earlier & had missed it with my multi-tasking but saw tweets from others & realized it was the first time during the race they had done it.

Yes some will be "annoyed" by it or will still do things during the breaks, but giving us the option instead of essentially making it for us.

OSBORNK said...

I think the DVR will make the networks have to use the side by side commercials to give the advertisers value for their money. I think the advertisers will ultimately decide that they would rather share the screen with the race action than have their commercials be skipped over with a DVR and missed completely.

The side by side would also make the viewers more likely to watch the race live because there would be little to gain by watching it delayed.

GinaV24 said...

I feel slighted -- I didn't get the survey on this topic from the fan council, so I'll just add my 2 cents here.

I use my computer to follow the race with trackpass, this blog and twitter up and running BECAUSE I can't follow the race on TV. I do usually leave the set on but with the sound muted.

I was completely shocked when the side by side commercial came on since we've kept hearing how "the sponsors don't like it". Well, do they like the fact that most of the time, I walk away from the TV set knowing I have 4 or 5 minutes to put laundry in or do some other chore?

big difference - I didn't leave during the side by side commercial.

Anonymous said...

ESPN has announced they will have side-by-side commercials calling it "NASCAR NonStop" for races in the Chase. They'll be in the 2nd half of the races. Normal commercial breaks in the first half.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's official ESPN has announced they will do sploy screen commercials for the last half of all 10 NASCAR Chase races. It is on NASCAR.com.

This was supposedly planned independent of Fox's decision on Sunday, but I'm sure that's why ESPN chose now to announce something like this.

PammH said...

Welp, BIIIG announcement from BSPN this morn. Split screen for Chase races, but only for the 2nd half of the race. Saw the preview on YouTube, racing screen is very, very small. We shall see...

Anonymous said...

"This new generation of NASCAR fan does not want "play interrupted" for a commercial. It does not happen in professional football, baseball or hockey. Only NASCAR has live action or "play" interrupted by commercials every four or five minutes."

There are some very good reasons why this happens. The NFL, MLB, and NHL actually work with the TV broadcasters to ensure they are back from commercial before play resumes.

earl06 said...

Split-screen is better than leaving the action completely, but I see a couple potential drawbacks.

First, this might give the network license to take more breaks, which is not good at all.

Second, they can't follow action on the track very well when they aren't in commercial, what will we see on the split? 3 minutes of Greg Biffle's bumpercam? We'll still be relying on replays coming back from commercial anyway.

I'm still not sure this is as much of a gain as most people think it is. I've watched it in IndyCar for years, and it really doesn't add much. After the novelty wore off, I didn't pay attention to it anyway.

This would be different if it was like TNT does at the Daytona race. That keeps me focused on the screen. I doubt this will for long...

Sophia said...

Racing screen IS very small in Indycar too...on big tvs so smaller one's especially...still if there is a spin or accident you are aware of it.

or a giant in car bumper cam :)

If they could improve the cam work between the commercials, iMHO that's the BIGGEST ISSUE.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Still there. Thus I watch baseball live now :) Or listen live

Sam said...

It's a nice change..one that's been needed for a long time. Like it's been said there aren't many time outs or big gaps of nothing happening like baseball for example.

They still need to change the booth monkeys. That's priority #1.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great, can't wait. I always liked Side by Side on TNTs broadcast of the Brickyard.

Anonymous said...

OSBORNK nailed it on the head. I DVR the races now solely due to the commercials. I would rather watch live, and rather not miss laps. I can understand the hesitation of sponsors in the past, but with every cable company offering DVRs, NOT doing split screen is the stupid decision.

Anonymous said...

Quote: " Saw the preview on YouTube, racing screen is very, very small. We shall see..."

It's nice to have it to know you're not missing anything, but does anyone really watch every second of the race? Even if you're there in person, you can miss a couple of seconds. You have to open a beer!

Daly Planet Editor said...

A full update on the news about commercial changes will be up shortly.

Anonymous said...


James said...

Again, I say someone is finally listening! ANYTHING is better than what we have had. Thank you Planeteers

Anonymous said...

We will still get a break from the motormouths in the booth, right? So there IS no downside.

52 yr. fan said...

Looks like ESPN and NA$CAR are
getting the message. Thanks for
being the messenger JD!! Wanna bet
Brian will try to give credit to
his Fan Council.

Let's support the advertisers to
let them know they made the right

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Kudos for a NASCAR rights-holder trying something to keep long-time fans and to entice new ones ...suggestion to ESPN: steal what you can whenever you can (See: TNT) the fans new and old will only benefit

Sally said...

Fascinating that Nascar insisted there was absolutely no way they could/would use the side by side coverage, and suddenly, it's just fine?