Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Danica Changes The TV Dynamic
It really doesn't matter if she wins. It really doesn't matter if she gets along well with others. It doesn't even matter if she hides in her bus until driver introductions. The only thing that matters is that Danica has arrived.
According to multiple reports including the AP, NASCAR and ESPN have been given an early Christmas present. Danica Patrick is coming to the Nationwide Series full time in 2012.
The script for ESPN could not be written much better. It looks like Patrick will stay with her JR Motorsports team and the former Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief, Tony Eury Jr. These two have a colorful relationship that also lends itself to TV.
Listening to Eury deal patiently with Patrick and her open-wheel vocabulary and skill set has been nothing short of comic gold. Whether trying to get Patrick to run up and bump the car in front of her in the Daytona draft or teasing her about her high-fashion choice of footwear, Eury and Patrick have clicked.
ESPN is the exclusive TV network of the Nationwide Series in a deal that runs through 2014. Trying to promote a Reed Sorenson vs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. championship match-up as the reason to tune-in has been a challenge this season since NASCAR changed the rules.
The popular theory is that Patrick will run for the Nationwide Series driver's championship in 2012, while also running a limited Sprint Cup Series schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing. That instantly provides a storyline that crosses over into the mainstream media.
Powerhouse personalities like Danica trickle-down in the media where TV exposure is concerned. With her change to NASCAR, Danica will now be regularly interviewed during televised Nationwide Series practice and qualifying sessions. She will come to know and interact with the ESPN and SPEED pit road reporters, whether she likes it or not.
Patrick will also be exposed to the daily TV shows NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and RaceHub on SPEED. While Patrick has been on NASCAR Now in carefully arranged interviews, it should be interesting to see how she reacts to the more casual style of RaceHub.
Many top NASCAR drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards have worked hard to learn how to deal with the constant TV presence in NASCAR. It's one thing to speak with reporters who are going to then write stories for websites and blogs. It's quite another to forge an on-camera relationship with full time NASCAR TV reporters who must be relied on for sponsor exposure and balanced coverage.
As fans know who have recently watched the TV coverage of standalone Nationwide Series races, there is often not a lot of glamour to be found. Patrick may find herself in some very different company on the road with the Nationwide Series gang.
Anyway you slice it, the value of adding "Danica the brand" to the Nationwide Series is going to change the TV dynamic. One fan already emailed to ask if Danica was going to be the ESPN in-race reporter for every Nationwide Series race next year.
I wonder if that conversation has already taken place somewhere in an ESPN advertising sales office? Stranger things have happened.
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