Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Fly In The Ointment Named Irene


The late Howard Cosell used a phrase when things started to get interesting on the football field. "We have a developing situation!" he would yell.

Well, that certainly is true for the planned ABC coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Bristol, TN this Saturday night. Hurricane Irene is chugging up the Eastern Seaboard.

If the race was scheduled for ESPN, there would not be an issue. Cable TV just keeps rolling right along when bad weather is striking an area of the country. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for both local TV stations and their network news big brothers.

Looking at The Weather Channel map pictured above, the timeline of the current storm puts it coming on shore in the outer banks of North Carolina late Saturday afternoon. As hurricane veterans know, that spins lots of "feeder bands" of thick rain and high winds out from the storm.

Those are the kind of regional weather issues that cause local stations to cut into or preempt programming for updates and radar views. Having a significant number of ABC stations in the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland breaking away at that time to track the storm throughout the evening could impact the race coverage.

The bigger story looming on the horizon is that if Irene continues on her current path we are going to see New Jersey, New York and most of New England impacted by a major hurricane. That story may take on new meaning Saturday evening.

Thursday afternoon a state of emergency had already been declared in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Evacuations of hospitals and nursing homes had begun in areas of New York City. There is little doubt Friday will bring an even more heightened state of urgency.

By the time Saturday evening, primetime for TV networks, comes around there is going to have to be a decision made to either show the race from Bristol or move to national network news coverage of the impending storm situation.

Remember, broadcast networks and TV stations operate to serve the public. These are government regulated over-the-air businesses that are under a lot of pressure to serve as the information conduit to the public in time of need.

Luckily, there is a very viable alternative available and it can all be traced to the NFL preseason. In several markets, the ABC stations on Saturday night are already contracted to show a preseason game. That meant that ESPN had to provide a way for those markets to see the race.

The solution was to use ESPN2 in those areas for NASCAR. The same kind of technology ESPN uses to handle blackouts for events like college basketball was brought into play to get the race into the homes affected by football.

Simply put, ESPN uses zip codes to switch groups of viewers from one signal to another. Thanks to the NFL, the live race will already be underway to selected viewers. This opens the door to lots of solutions.

If an ABC station decides to dedicate the evening to live storm programming, then perhaps ESPN will use some switching technology and make an effort to get the ESPN2 program authorized for viewers in that area. Of course, the priority is not NASCAR for some folks and that is absolutely understood.

Should ABC decide to dedicate primetime on Saturday to the hurricane, ESPN can simply use ESPN2 and show the race nationwide. Either way, it's an interesting comparison between the two very different systems in the country for distribution of TV content.

We will use this post for updates from ESPN about this situation as they happen. In the meantime, please feel free to leave us a comment by clicking on the comment button below. As someone who has been through three hurricanes here in Florida, I hope all our readers affected by this storm stay safe and sound. Remember, there is always another race.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

I Live in eastern nc my cable company has two abc stations one for central and eastern nc. hopefully the storm doesnt affect much in the central portion of the state. if not i will be checking out jtv

Vicky D said...

I hope all the folks living in the storm's path take heed and get ready for this hurricane. Living in Houston we have gotten our share and they are not fun or exciting. By now I'm sure the stores will be out of bottled water, batteries & some foods that can be eaten cold. Good Luck up there! When Houston has an approaching hurricane all tv stations go to 24 hour coverage so the viewers in NC, MD, and northward might not see much of the race.

glenc1 said...

This is, I must confess, one of those times when I really don't care about watching a race. I hope people don't overreact, because I think we can be assured that ABC is going to be showing hurricane coverage (assuming it stays on track, which has so far been very accurate...) It would be nice if ESPN could step up and fill in, but I'm sure they have other things scheduled and they've proven that NASCAR is not important to them. I just checked & see that they've moved the Giants/Jets game to 2pm Sat, and MLB has some unexpected double headers Saturday instead of Sunday. It's going to create a lot of issues, I'm thinking, for TV coverage in general. But the population of the East Coast being what it is, I think they are going to be the priority (and frankly they should be.) Most of us probably know people who are effected.

GinaV24 said...

I'm in western NJ and Irene is expect to bring 5 to 10 inches of rain and high winds to my area. I'm not as worried about the race being pre-empted as I am of losing power and internet/cable.

In that case it won't matter which channel they are showing the race on since I'll be sitting in the dark anyway.

Oh well, it is what it is.

Patricia said...

I live in the Boston area and had not given thought to the fact that my local station will most likely put continuing coverage of the storm on all evening. I was thinking that the Bristol race would take my mind off of what was going on around me. You know, the "how will this affect me" scenario.I also hope everyone will be safe but I am also hoping ESPN will pick up the coverage so we can have a choice of what we want to watch.

glenc1 said...

ya know...I just checked ESPN's schedule for Saturday night. The 'family' of networks has high school football, some 'trick shot magic' show and news. No reason whatsoever they couldn't move things around. I get the whole zip code thing, but on a national level...it still might make sense.

larry said...

There is a race? I'll try to remember...

Bill said...

Ironic that this is one, if not the most popular Cup race of the season, although the current surface at Bristol has yet to yield the level of excitement of its predecessor.

While that and the economy may have diminished this race's popularity somewhat, racing at Bristol has slowly improved as teams gather more data, and drivers get better acquainted with the track's different feel.

Ratings-wise, this event still is one of the biggest on the schedule, and NASCAR needs to lean on ESPN to keep the race on the air in some way, shape or form.

I would be surprised if any network affiliate in Irene's path didn't provide continuous coverage; these events, however costly for the affiliates, can swing local viewership ratings for more heavily-sponsored brodcasts, such as the daily local news.

I have family members that live in Irene's path who have already sought higher ground. They are NASCAR fans as well, and will want to keep track of both.

ESPN has resources that afford them many options; let's hope they exercise one of them, except please don't put the race on ESPN Classic! I don't get that channel!

Anonymous said...

God bless all in the path of this storm. No one is going to care about racing when this storm hits. Not only that, there is a chance that the East Coast tracks could be severely damaged, impacting future races.

As an aside, what is NASCAR thinking when they have Snookie dropping the green flag at Richmond? How much farther can NASCAR stoop???

Buschseries61 said...

We're supposed to be hammered on Long Island. 7-8+ inches of rain & 75-90+ winds. All the networks are already breaking into regular programming to give hourly updates or show conferences.

ESPN is just better off switching from ABC to cable. That said, like Gina, I'll just be happy to have power.

KoHoSo said...

I want to wish all of the Planeteers in the affected areas the very best.

Anonymous said...

The markets in the affected region should air the race on their digital subchannel if they find it necessary to provide constant weather information to their viewers.

Palmetto said...

ESPN's 'Mike and Mike' reported several East Coast baseball teams are rescheduling Saturday - Sunday games into Sat. double-headers. They also reported the Giants / Jets pre-season NFL game is being moved from Sat. night to Sat. afternoon.

Good luck to all from NC on up. In my National Guard days I worked three hurricanes, including Hugo. It was still a Cat 5 100 miles inland. Never again; 'hurricane party' is shorthand for 'See if you can find his next of kin.'

robbiejr said...

I can sympathize with those of you who might lose coverage of the race for the storm. I live in Oklahoma City, so whenever there's even a thunderstorm, all our local affiliates break into programming to show off their high dollar radar systems. While that's extremely welcomed when there's tornado activity, it's really aggravating when there's not.

My hope is this hurricane isn't as bad as all the media is making it out to be. They've been known to do that. But in the event it is, I also hope everybody is safe and secure.

snlfan said...

@annon 12:17

Every Television Station is now on Wall to wall coverage.

This includes the secondary Cable channels in our area

Vicky D said...

Those folks in the affected areas before the storm hits full force will see the weather people out in the rain and wind giving their update reports. And then there's always Jim Cantore of TWC out in the middle of it also. And you see the doggy in the rescue boat etc and all the news loops over and over and over. Good luck to our NE friends.

Gary said...

NASCAR should move the race start time up as early as possible on Saturday for all sorts of humanitarian, post-race travel, commercial and economic reasons.

Buschseries61 said...

Good lord, its become nonstop coverage now. I'm looking foward to the Nationwide race as an escape.

Bobby said...

Time Warner Cable of the Midlands South Carolina will mute out the entire audio feed and run a continuous red strip with weather alerts. So moving to ESPN2 won't do a lick. Furthermore, the 30-second rates for this race are more expensive as a broadcast network race, and the 30-second ad rates for local affiliates is also affected. Local businesses spend more for a 30-second ad for this race than they can for Richmond or Charlotte, and more than many races on Fox.

James said...

Here on Lake Ontario the weather is beautiful today, and I hope we are far enough west to miss the storm. For those in the storms path, GOD BLESS, and I hope it misses you. No matter the weather let us all pray we can enjoy Atlanta together and share a good laugh afterwards.

OSBORNK said...

In NC and VA, I don't think it will matter by race time because ther power and/or cable will be out. Besides, who wants to watch a contrived race when they can look out and see a spectacular show brought to you by nature. Most of the people in the Northeast will still have power and cable but are not NASCAR fans and could't care less.

Pray for those involved in the hurricane said...

Compared to the damage and chaos
of a hurricane -- my comments dont
really matter.
And anyway same old thing NO
respect by the boys in the booth
and the director of the telecasts..
That means.. NEVER SHUTTING THE
HELL UP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! saying
the same crap over and over and over
and over again...and that is just
qualifying

PhoenixHotZonie said...

Palmentto @12:40 pm.....Ditto!

sbaker17 said...

With all the bluster that DW and R. Wallace can provide, we race fans should be used to something like this.
Just hope those in the path of Irene come out of the storm safely. Most material objects do not count.

Anonymous said...

Bobby do not understand - why would TWC mute the audio? and this would seem to be a local problem in SC only. And if the race is not seen on a particular affiliate at all the 30 second ad rates mean nothing. ESPN can still broadcast this race on ABC is most of the country but use digital sub channels or ESPN2 as needed. Then those that want to watch the race still can.

Bill said...

Palmetto @12:40 pm. Just to clarify: Hugo was still a HURRICANE 100 miles inland, but it wasn't a Cat 5 hurricane! In fact, Hugo was never a Cat 5, but it did slam into Charleston as a Cat 4.

I drove from my home in N. Myrtle Beach to my folks' home in Charlotte to avoid Hugo, but my car was still crushed by a tree, as Hugo was still packing hurricane force winds as it roared through CLT. What a mess.

I've been through several hurricanes, and they are no fun at all. For those in this thing's path, please take the necessary precautions and play it safe.

PhoenixHotZonie said...

Well...Tell me something good.

Tonight has lots of hyperbola on the espn tv channel. However you know what they say 'When the green drops...walks.

I like NASCAR night racing.

Oh yeah, it's 112 degrees outside and no rain or monsoon in sight tonight.

PhoenixHotZonie said...

Interesting stat Rusty wins 9 times at Bristol. Yet I have never heard him say...Thanks Mr Penske for the equipment and the support team to make it happen.

PhoenixHotZonie said...

Oh brother espn is really pumping...da da da da da...Hey racefans you buy my gear at...

Well you get the idea.

I like NASCAR night racing.

Anonymous said...

The last we saw, Stevie Wallace in the 66 was ahead of the 16, but the 16 finished ahead of him! What happened on the last lap? They were bumping and banging, but we never saw the pass!

Ir42nate2bhere said...

For whatever it's worth, 6ABC in Philly just signed off it's morning news at 10 AM and did not announce any programming changes or wall to wall local Irene coverage coming tonight.

Anonymous said...

On NASCAR NOW, they announced that the Cup Race will be carried on ESPN 2 in the areas where they expect or see that the ABC affiliates are carrying Hurricane Irene storm coverage

" J.T."

Buschseries61 said...

ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS have had nonstop coverage since 7am this morning here in New York. My ABC station is not airing the little league world series and it will be shown on an ESPN station instead.

Bobb said...

I also live on on Island with DirecTV - and while I do not want to watch the Little League World Series I cannot find it - so far - on any ESPN station w/DTV. WABC-7 as said - is all Irene and will be til Sun afternoon. Guess theres always Hot Pass.

oldnewenglander said...

I'm getting the LLWS on ESPN, despite the programming guide saying it should be high school football.

GinaV24 said...

I know they moved the little league championship games over to ESPN and to the ABC digital channel here in the Philly area. Of course I have no daggone idea what channel THAT is even though I'm sure I have it.

It's starting to rain harder now at 3:35. I'm watching programming other than the news -- by now I know the worst will happen later tonight and there's nothing I can do. If the power stays on and they show the race, I'll watch to distract myself.

GinaV24 said...

thanks for the info about NN announcing the change in station for the race, J.T. Since ABC has been nonstop weather coverage and I don't expect it to end until this blows out of here.

Ken-Michigan said...

I wish good thoughts to all of you on the East Coast while Irene churns to the north.

Way too often NASCAR fans are left wondering and checking where to find the race on TV. At some point over the years, fans kind of give up.

ALL of the NASCAR races need to be on ONE station / ONE network, week in and week out.

Call it SPEED or NASCAR Network, but it's way overdue.

red said...

planning to watch the race here outside philly but if we lose power earlier than expected & i miss the race, such is life. i'm more concerned about our daughter in NJ.

anyone hear from Lou in dover today?

Anonymous said...

I live in Northern Virginia and the Nascar race is showing hurricane coverage instead of the race :( ESPN channels are showing The World's Strongest Man Competition and football...booo! Alternate ABC channels are not showing the race. We are really disappointed to not see the race being aired on an alternate channel. ABC should give up their NASCAR coverage because they are lousy at providing coverage for it! Wait...found it on ESPN 2 (Channel 211 for Direct TV). It's not HD so it looks fuzzy...but at leasts its something.