Thursday, September 8, 2011
ESPN Downgrades "NASCAR Now" Stock
ESPN controls all the stock options for the weekday Sports Nation studio show that currently is the rage among male teens. Michelle Beadle does her best Jenny McCarthy impersonation channeling MTV's cult classic Singled Out in her interaction with co-host Colin Cowherd.
Sports Nation has all the attributes ESPN loves. It is produced at ESPN, the footage is controlled by ESPN and the series can be used to showcase ESPN's own programming.
Between the forced humor, Beadle's high heels and the endless mix of random sports videos it almost defies description. In short, it's a TV show about nothing. Where have we heard that before?
Come September, ESPN will be making a move with the series. With Beadle's stock rising and the teen-age boys howling, Sports Nation will move to 5PM on ESPN2 every weekday. It's ESPN's version of the after school special.
Unfortunately, there is one little problem. That timeslot has been occupied from February through November by the NASCAR Now program for years.
Produced to support one of ESPN's major sports series, NASCAR Now offers an hour on Mondays and thirty minute versions Tuesday through Friday. There is also a preview show before every Sprint Cup Series race for the ten months of the season.
Apparently, all of that simply does not matter right now. What's hot is hot and NASCAR Now's stock is being downgraded. The show will move to a 3PM Eastern timeslot starting in September. The re-air will be after midnight Eastern Time.
This is a tough blow for NASCAR. ESPN is NASCAR's biggest TV partner and the daily show was a integral part of the new TV contract that started in 2007 and runs through the end of 2014.
Essentially, what ESPN is saying with this move is that fans should record the show and watch it when they arrive home from work. We call that DVR theater. It's basically akin to falling off the TV radar.
The real problem for NASCAR Now is 750 miles away from Bristol, CT and tucked inside a TV studio in Charlotte, NC. SPEED has a Monday through Thursday one-hour show called RaceHub that covers the exact same material as NASCAR Now and is located in NASCAR's backyard.
While ESPN may try to spin this topic as moving a show with solid ratings into a better timeslot, the damage is done. There was a very loyal group of fans that watched NASCAR Now and interacted with the hosts and analysts online.
This is also the time of the year when NASCAR Now starts getting batted around. This week it's Little League baseball and then comes US Open tennis coverage. Jostling the show around in the very heart of the racing season got so bad last year that fans started calling it NASCAR Not Now.
With the 5PM shows often pre-empted, last season fans tried to record the only scheduled airing set for early morning East Coast time. Over and over again, NASCAR Now never popped-up on the DVR. By the time October rolled around, TDP readers suggested ESPN stood for Ever Seeking to Pre-empt NASCAR.
Even though it had a rocky start, hats off to those who persevered with this series and made it into a very viable NASCAR news program. Strong field reporters are now mixed with solid studio hosts and a wonderful variety of analysts.
Five years after ESPN returned to NASCAR, it's tough to swallow the fact that the network's daily news program is being pushed to a meaningless timeslot in the very heart of a critical season for the sport.
On the other hand, ESPN's relentless pursuit of the late teen demographic has finally paid dividends with a show centered around social media, sports videos and a cute girl with attitude. At least NASCAR now knows where that demographic is hiding.
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