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.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.


Anonymous said...

JD what's wrong with Beadle's high heels? Inquiring minds want to know.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Where in that column does it talk about anything on that show, including Beadle's attire, being a problem?

ESPN has created a new product that is doing quite well and decided to move it up on the schedule.

Something had to give and that something was NASCAR Now.

Anonymous said...

"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?"

Sounds like a criticism to me. Unless your making a Seinfeld reference.

glenc1 said...

I've been wondering what kind of idiots were watching that brainless program. Thanks for the info. It's the most worthless half hour I can think of (other than maybe 'Jackass' or 'Dumbest Thing on wheels'.)

bknotts said...

If the rerun is at 9 or 10 PM PST, we might actually get to watch it on the West Coast. No such luck for Race Hub.

RPM said...

You can't blame Beadle for being camera friendly and entertaining. Beadle has that "IT" factor much like Bestwick. If SportsNation outdraws NASCARNow then both NASCAR and ESPN need to take that into consideration when the next contract renewal comes up. The only other route I can see is ESPN needs to get Beadle interested in NASCAR. Start running the Top 10 thru Bristol and make it a regular feature on SportsNation.

You have to break the stick and ball mentality and Beadle has as good a chance of anyone. She has off the grid sports coverage experience with PBR. She knows how to grind one out on the road to get the job done and that's what NASCAR is all about.

It would be interesting to hear her do a pre/post race interview and go from there.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:38PM,

Not that there's anything wrong with that!


Anonymous said...

That's a shame :(. It'll be interesting to see how the ratings suffer or not with this change for NASCAR Now.

I don't see any criticism in what JD wrote there anon 9:38. He was explaining what the show was about and why it might be attracting the audience it is.

PammH said...

I'm pretty much done w/NN after the 3pm move, except for the Mon show. I'm also done w/their pre-race shows. I could barely tolerate them when AB was w/RW & BD, but Nicole is not enough pull for me.

Anonymous said...

It only serves to support the idea that ESPN and sports journalism have NO relationship.

EK said...

Did you forget ESPN stands for "Entertainment and Sports Programming Network?"

I personally like Michelle Beadle's "high heels" much better than Colin Cowherd.

She has to look good enough to distract viewers from looking at Colin Cowherd, the man with the voice (and face) for radio.

TLE said...

ESPN just needs to bring back RPM 2 night. I didn't miss a night it had a great time slot, format and host.

GinaV24 said...

I'm not surprised at this move all. Unimpressed, but not surprised. Since I had to tape the show anyway since I work until at least 5 p.m. eastern, it is only a small blip on my radar, but it is the principle of the thing that's the real issue.

Ever since ESPN got back into the NASCAR game, its almost as if they continue to look for opportunities to thumb their noses at it.

It's a poor way to treat a property, but it is also obvious that NASCAR is NOT a HOT property to ESPN at all.

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous how little programming time ESPN is willing to give NASCAR. They cut off coverage of Pocono Sprint Cup race without even showing the points standings. And for what...more useless yacking about stick and ball games! They will stick with coverage of ball games to include post game coverage and run over Nascar coverage, but when a race exceeds their predetermined time slot, they have no problem shutting it down.

James said...

Gina > RIGHT ON > I thought ESPN finally was on board, but this just proves that they are really not interested in the fan base. I personally like the Monday show,they can keep the rest!. Nicole Briscoe is another example of the cutie pie bust, when she would not leave the Kasey Kahne Williams Grove wreck alone and she keep asking the "world" why do the drivers "DO THIS", I knew. NASCAR had best take heed, if the network does not want to support the fan base, do not let them broadcast the "SHOW". Another fine example of the management in Daytona, not caring about its fans. I really wanted to believe that this was going to turn out good, but I am a slow learner! NASCAR needs its own network, or it will be an after thought soon. I am getting tired of all these analyst and commentators "swammy acts" the fans should not have to support them like a pension. Lets give everybody who ever was involved a job. By the way, I do not think Ray Evernham, is getting his due, like AB, Ray or Ricky Craven, make a huge difference in any appearance they make. Why, no agenda, smart, not afraid to tell the truth!

JD < Thanks again for a place to vent.

52 yr. fan said...

The Frances took the ESPN
dollars and could care less what
is done to support the sport. The
same thing will happen when new
contracts are being negotiated.
TV presentations will fit the ESPN/
FOX scheme of things and not what
fans desire.

JD, you should subtitle your column "we watch in spite of, not because of" as stated by one of the Planeteers last week.

Roland said...

ESPN = Every Sport Pre-Empts NASCAR

If they got rid of the replay of PTI and Around The Horn on ESPN 2 at 6 and moved SportsNation to that timeslot it would really free up the jam packed afternoon schedule on the deuce. But then again youd have SportsNation going up against Sportscenter. So put NASCAR Now in that timeslot since ESPN hates the show. Works for me. Who even watches those shows anyway? Im still trying to figure out what Around The Horn is supposed to be and PTI is a basketball show.

Its a real shame though, cause NASCAR Now is a fantastic show. Its not cheezy like anything Speed does, its not biased towards NASCAR like Hub, and the pre race show gives me more info than Raceday ever will.

This show was heading for cancellation during the Eric Kusileas/Doug Banks era but thankfully Nicole, Mike, Shannon, and AB saved the day. I think what gives this show more credibility is that unlike NFL Live we dont have an analyst in studio. So the show isnt about opinion its about reporting news, which they do a great job of.

Ill still be watching, Im free at 3 anyway, but I know this is the last straw for many viewers. What a shame.

Buschseries61 said...

Nascar Now will just have to go on DVR mode then. I feel bad for the people that work on the show, all that hard work just to change the time slot and lose many live viewers.

My brother, who fits the demographic, watches SportsNation. Once he's done watching SportsCenter attentively, he uses SportsNation as his chance to zone out after school.

glenc1 said...

Roland, PTI is not a 'basketball show'. I watch both it and ATH occasionally. *Both* of them pretty much talk (argue) about whatever sport is 'in season'. In the winter I did get bored with them because of the basketball. And frankly, I cringe if racing is a topic because none of them (and they admit it) knows anything about it. Clearly they must have ratings (as I assume SportsNation does, even if I can't fathom why--see my previous cranky comment.) I have no issue with any of the personalities. What baffles me is, they *rerun* them often within an hour or two--it seems haphazard depending on their live sporting events. Sportsnation also gets rerun (at least, I assume they're not making more than one of these things a day). If you have time to rerun them (and it could be ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPN News) why can you not find ONE half hour for NASCAR Now in the 'after work' hours for most of us? When ESPN News is showing pretty much the same half hour over and over, I just don't get this; maybe someone can explain.

Anonymous said...

TLE hit the nail on the head! RPM Tonight,i still miss that show.They crammed more real racing news into a half hour show than any of these dog and pony shows available now.
Nascar,(all)open wheel,drag racing,off road,power boat,motorcycles,heck i believe they even mentioned the Iditarod.Where is the real racing coverage,people with laptops want to know!

Anonymous said...


I always thought ESPN was an acronym for "Extended Sports Programming Network" (not "Entertainment"). At least that's what I think it originally meant, way back when it first hit the cable. Perhaps John can lend some historical insight?

Having said this, it's obviously more Entertainment than Extended Sports now, so I guess it fits.


Anonymous said...

ESPN = Even Sportsnation Pre-empts Nascar

Ir42nate2bhere said...

ESPN is a business, and a rather successful one. They can pretty well know NASCAR gets x at 5pm, but Sportsnation will get x+ at 5pm. I'm sure we all had a favorite show get cancelled, or moved to a lousy time, that's show biz.Personally i wish the show would end up on ESPNews at 6 PM, where it would not get interruped except for breaking news. But then, the "I don't get that channel" issue would happen. So we suck it up and move on. "Tough blow for NASCAR", i doubt it, just an inconvenience. And i see no problem with the home in Conn. in this era, all the other sports deal with Bristol , NASCAR has to also.

KoHoSo said...

As a fan on the west coast, this doesn't affect me much as I already had to record NASCAR Now since it runs while I am either still at work or driving home.

Still, I would like to point something out even though I am not happy about this move in how it reflects on our beloved sport and how it makes ESPN look bad as a broadcast "partner."

Folks, this is how television and radio have worked ever since somebody figured out how to sample the audience and Madison Avenue figured out who was the most impressionable and had the most disposable income (or the willingness to dispose of said income). Like it or not, TV channels are not charities -- even PBS keeps tabs on what gets the best ratings and schedules accordingly.

I guarantee you that even a theoretical "NASCAR Channel" would move a news and discussion program in favor of something more "light" to get better ratings and more overall attention.

Does this whole thing suck? Yes it does especially when so many have given up higher-level cable packages and DVRs to make it through The Great Recession. This is especially true for those like me that believe NASCAR Now is a more serious and less biased program than Race Hub.

Still, no matter whether the channel in question is loved or hated, they have to go where the money is. The competition is too tight in this 500-1,000 channel world we live in along with the almost unlimited choices provided by he Internet.

There are plenty of things I hold against Disney/ESPN. As much as I don't like SportsNation (especially its male host), I can't hold it against ESPN for making a move that will certainly gain higher ratings than what currently runs in that time slot whether it be NASCAR Now or World-Class All-American Championship Chicken Shaving.

Anonymous said...

In other news, here is a headline from an AP story: "Pay TV industry loses record number of subscribers".

That all trickles down to ESPN. They really have to do whatever it takes to pump up the ratings. If SportsNation can get more eyeballs in ESPN's target demographic, more power to them.

Putting content online does have its drawbacks. If people can get what they want online, why subscribe?

OSBORNK said...

Most of us are looking and disliking the change through the eyes of a NASCAR fan. I think ESPN looks at it through the eyes of the casual general sports fan. NASCAR fans are a small percentage of the population. Programing that appeals to us will be bounced around or cancelled as ESPN and other outlets search for the largest number of viewers. The know that the hardcore fan will put up with a lot of abuse but they have to coddle the casual viewers of other sports to attract them.

Anonymous said... all this talk of ratings and demographics--don't forget what TNT spends its races doing--*promoting* all of its entertainment programming. NASCAR Now was one of the ways to promote the races on the weekends, both Nw and now Cup. You'd think it would be in their best interests to promote a sport they spend a lot of money to purchase the rights to. Even if it's old men buying Cialis, that's still an advertiser who wants something for their dollars.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't ESPN have enough channels to avoid slipping this show into a dead timeslot? Why can't the show move to ESPN News? That channel is incredibly underutilized

Anonymous said...

This is another example of Brian France & his Ralph Mouth style of leadership. His father & Big Bill were the Fonz. This group of NASCAR leaders won't lead without polls they are to worried about being popular. The threat of moving NASCAR NOW then because of a bottle blond with animal welfare issues would have been met with firm negotiating from them & mentioned on air by drivers.

Joe said...

At 5pm, wasn't it already a DVR show. How many home at 5pm to watch it live???

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Hey JD Don't forget tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be the 20th Anniversary of JD McDuffie's fatal crash at Watkins Glen.

PS: Don't get the idea that I am glorifying his death in any way.

Another PS: I have nothing to say about ESPN's decision to downgrade NASCAR Now, because if I say it I will regret it tomorrow.

Palmetto said...

I can't stand Cowherd on the radio. I'm darned if I'm going to look at him, regardless of who else is on the show. He's from the "I'm always right and everyone else is always wrong" school of talk radio.

I kill my ESPN web feed as soon as 'Mike and Mike' finish. I'd love to see how much the audience drops off between shows.

Anonymous said...

Apparently on ESPN Sunday Sportscenter - they did a brief piece on the Pocono Race.

The Sportscenter anchor mis pronounced Keselowski's name and said " he must have been on a ton of pain killers with that foot"

ESPN is a great partner NASCAR - you need to demand an apology. That is crap !

bryan said...

I always thought ESPN was an acronym for "Extended Sports Programming Network" (not "Entertainment"). At least that's what I think it originally meant, way back when it first hit the cable. Perhaps John can lend some historical insight?

It is "Entertainment". 'Don't know where you got 'extended'.

bryan said...

For the person who thinks the E in ESPN is 'extended':

boutitbenza699 said...

i bet the folks at Speed are smiling right now knowing that ESPN's treatment of NASCAR Now is so bad that more viewers are likely gonna quit watching NASCAR Now and start watching "The Hub" and want to see Jimmy Spencer ether give someone a towel or a Cigar. in the words of Jimmy, give ESPN a Crying Towel while give Speed a Cigar.

Sally said...

You know, if it means that I can record the program at the same time consistantly every day, I think I might have actually gained something!

Anonymous said...

So it's been 20 years since we lost McDuffie? I was at the Glen that fateful weekend.Nascar then started to use the "Bus Stop" to slow the cars down at the end of that straight. I've been fortunate to have raced on just about all of the track configurations at that historic track. Great place. The loss of McDuffie was deeply felt by Richard Petty.

Darcie said...

It really bothers me that a mindless drivel of a show, SportsNation, gets so many viewers. I've watched a couple of the shows, and just cannot stand the total stupidity of the things they do. It just seems like a show that caters to the lowest common denominator of sports fans. Kind of like the drunken sops who sit at sports bars gobbling wings and drinking beer for hours on end.

As for NN, for those of us who attempt to tape the program, many times it's delayed because of some event going overtime. I cannot count the number of times last season, when I went to watch the show and all I got was the end of the Little League World Series, or some other sport that ran long.

So, NN is now the black sheep of ESPN programming, and SportsNation is their darling. Like I said, I just wonder who finds that program worth their time?

Anonymous said...

Steve S.
People, look at the stands! Look at the TV numbers! Look at everything na$car, it's sliding downward. The programing sells commericals based on viewers and na$car isn't pulling their weight for the amount they are charging for their rights and ESPN is in business to make money and if that time slot isn't producing with na$car and Beadle's 'high heels' do, then it's a business decision. Sorry that's how it works and I am a racing fan that is disapointed with the current product coming out of Daytona or Charlotte or where ever the HQ is now a days,

GinaV24 said...

Darcie, I totally agree. I happened to catch one of the news programs and they were running the highest rated Nielson shows for the week (I think it was for Monday night) 90% of it was reality programming - which personally doesn't appeal to me - but apparently appeals to a lot of people.

The only programming I watch on ESPN is Nascar and some football games (although ever since they move MNF to ESPN, I usually forget that there is a game on - I was too used to ABC).

I never watch around the horn, PTI or SC - for me, they are annoying and boring but then I don't particularly care for talk radio. I cancelled my subscription to sirius radio because the NASCAR coverage had become so unappealing to me and that was the main reason I subscribed in the first place.

Obviously this show gets ratings and that is what ESPN is trying to achieve.

NASCAR successfully shot itself in the foot by trying so hard to appeal to the casual fan that they aggravated many hard core fans into either a) leaving or b) becoming more like casual fans.

Obviously since I'm posting here, I'm still watching but I don't watch with the level of intensity or enthusiasm that I had for many years.

I'll DVR Nascar Now (at least the Monday show since that is the one I enjoy the most) but I've been a regular viewer of Race Hub since it came on. I like Steve and they catch me up with all the news anyway without me having to play "find the show" on ESPN.

James said...

Just saw this article on Jayski, under article links, its worth reading, as it addresses many issues we see here brought up by the planeters.

Corning Leader:
ESPN ready to rock its NASCAR coverage at Watkins Glen International by Shawn Vargo

Anonymous said...

The next backwater destination ESPN will likely place NASCAR will be their new network, The Longhorn Network.

All kidding aside, Comcast / NBC is starting to make more moves, getting a portion of Major League Soccer rights for Versus (which will be relaunched under a new name starting next year) and NBC.

I would expect them to be a big player when NASCAR's TV rights come up for renewal. An additional bidder may save Brian France's backside.

glenc1 said...

Gina, I know you must've loved Jimmy giving Jimmie the crying towel...I sure did. Sometimes Jimmy's segments are idiotic, but I can't help but laugh in spite of it. When he was going on about how Steve Wallace was hitting *parked cars* it was impossible not to laugh. And I must say, Steve was a good sport about it, in spite of what people think of him. The Kurt Busch radio segments are amusing, though that's mostly because Kurt himself comes across so funny. But I digress--if a show like Racehub with its intentional silliness can be on every day at the same time, you'd think ESPN and its family of networks could find a little home for NASCAR Now at a decent hour. I guess we should be grateful it exists at all.

Ian Schrader said...

Honestly, aside from the Monday show I seldom watch. I'd rather get the same info from Twitter or Race Hub. That said, I don't think ESPN has taken NASCAR seriously since pre 2001, when it was something that really helped keep the network relevant. Now NASCAR just seems to fill whatever empty time slot is available.

GinaV24 said...

Glen, yes, I certainly did. People always complain about Gordon whining, well, Johnson and most of the other drivers aren't any different.

And I do laugh at KuBu, mostly because he's unintentionally funny esp when he's speaking in $5 words making no sense at all.

Didn't Dale Sr make the comment about Jr in one of his early races that he "hit everything BUT the pace car". Steven W has less talent than Jr ever did (and I'm not a Jr. fan). Hitting parked cars, indeed. Yep, that one made me choke on my iced tea with laughter.

AveryNH said...

As a teen of whom Sports-Nation is directed towards i must say this move to five P.M. is a head scratcher. Between Beadle's looks and Cowherd's absurdest viewpoints it might as well belong on Comedy Central. But I'm a near daily viewer of ATH and PTI. I enjoy the Monday round table and will flip back and forth between the two the rest of the week depending upon what peaks my interest most. NASCAR Now moving to 3 doesn't throw a wrench into my viewing like some of those commenting on here. But as i said I don't understand the move on either end from the teenage NASCAR fan to the teenage sports fan.

Vicky D said...

I can't even stand that show for a minute before NN came on. This is a slap in the face for Nascar fans. 3 PM in the afternoon for heaven's sake. We were wondering what happened to the show this week, now we know.

Anonymous said...

If it means it will be on the same time everyday, I'm all for it. The NFL and college football shows and Outside The Lines all air on ESPN at that time of day. So are they devalued?