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.
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