Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sunday TV Showdown Looming

It's that time of the year again for NASCAR. Sunday afternoon, the Sprint Cup Series will go head-to-head with the NFL for TV ratings. It's a moment of choice for fans of both sports.

While the action from the Saturday night race in Richmond was certainly an attention-getter, the NFL also had a memorable opening weekend. This is the time of the season when ESPN is alone in presenting the Sprint Cup Series races.

It's a tad ironic that ESPN just unveiled a massive new NFL TV package. It has already resulted in new programming on multiple ESPN networks and substantial expansion of existing series. ESPN and the NFL have cemented a relationship that will exist for a very long time.

This was also the week that ESPN2's NASCAR Now, the only NASCAR-themed program on any ESPN network, was relegated to the 3PM Eastern timeslot. Even the later airing for West Coast viewers was cancelled. Since 2007 this series has aired on weekdays at 5PM ET.

Last year we had this discussion and found many NASCAR fans to be upset. While the Chase for the Championship format was designed to counter NFL interest, it was not the Chase fans disliked. Instead, it was the way ESPN covered the final ten races of the Sprint Cup Series season.

Fans of drivers outside of the Chase found no TV coverage of those teams, unless the car was leading the race. Literally from the time the green flag fell there would be four hours without a full field recap, any reference to non-Chase teams or even updates on how non-Chase drivers got to where they were running on the track.

Often, drivers would seemingly appear from nowhere to win the races. It was a fundamental disconnect between a TV network covering a Chase and fans who were watching a race. Nothing could shake ESPN from focusing on the top Chasers for the entire telecast.

One basic truth about the NASCAR fan base was seemingly missed by the ESPN production team. Fans do not change driver favorites when the Chase starts. That group of fans wearing Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle or Mark Martin gear wants to be provided the same amount of information about those teams as they have been all season.

The argument that the Chase drivers deserve the lion's share of the TV coverage has been proven wrong by the disastrous TV ratings and negative fan response over the last four years. Time and time again, it's been suggested that ESPN take the Chase races and simply produce them as events, letting the scoring ticker and the pit reporters handle the Chase point updates.

One new wrinkle brought to the table by ESPN this season is the side-by-side commercial format. Branded as NASCAR Nonstop, the new format will be used for the second half of each Chase race. The first half of each race will feature full-screen commercials as usual.

This is at least a bow to one of the biggest problems TV has with the sport. In order to pay for the races, the Sprint Cup Series networks have to hammer commercial breaks into live events without being able to stop the action. NASCAR Nonstop is at least a first step that will hopefully convince ESPN to use this format full time for 2012.

The other big advantage for ESPN is the presence of Allen Bestwick. Love him or hate him, Bestwick is superb at directing traffic on the air and working to keep fans updated on the information about the race. This will be his first time trying to walk the tricky line of the race vs. the Chase.

It really helps to have someone in the lap-by-lap announcer position who has direct experience in the role. That is something Dr. Jerry Punch and Marty Reid did not. It was a bold move by ESPN just days before the network's Sprint Cup Series coverage began to move Bestwick into the TV booth. We will see on Sunday if it pays off.

What is your mindset as you try to make the decision about Sunday TV viewing? Putting aside the usual complaints about the Chase, Brian France and Junior how about sharing with us what you will be watching on Sunday and why.

To add your opinion on this topic, just click the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

Well congratulations JD, your persistance has paid off. ESPN will air 9 of the 10 chase races online as well as the espn app, PLUS RACEBUDDY, and Nationwide races as well as Nascar Now will also be available online and through the app.

Daly Planet 1, Espn 0

Kieth said...

Its a shame that the agencies who determine vewership for programming can't measure DVR recording. Personally, I watch the race and record the football games I want to watch due to the ever increasing stoppage of play for commercials. Others may do the opposite, so I wish the ratings were a little more accurate.

As discussed here, racing is not a sport that has planned TV time-outs, so I choose to watch the race live.

Anonymous said...

The chase better be GREAT to keep me from channel hopping to the NFL.

NASCAR ratings have been up for 2011 but NFL football is back, don't look for increased ratings for the next 10 races.

Anonymous said...

Great news! So happy to see that they decided to play together nicely and allowing the races to be made available. Now for FOX to play nicely & the groups to keep it going ALL YEAR LONG! <3

I'll be watching racing, it would take a lot for me to flip from it. Even if it's "boring" I generally just multi-task and do something else while keeping an ear out.

If something good is happening I'll see it on Twitter & SBNation or elsewhere will have a clip :)

Charlie said...

I will be watching the Green Bay Packers at 1 pm. I will probably record the race and may watch the last of the race after the Packer game is over. Espn has changed how fans are presented the race. They zoom in on a car, talk about that car and driver and then move on to another car and driver. They no longer show a race as a fan in the stands gets to see it so why should I waste my time watching a poor broadcast when I can watch an NFL game where they show me the game as a fan would see it. I am not sure why Espn decided on the 2 pm time slot. Do they think people watching an NFL game are all of a sudden going to switch the Tv to the race at 2 pm, maybe, that is what Espn is hoping they will do. It would make more sense to start the race at Noon and see if they can keep the viewer from changing the channel at 1 pm.
I may watch the race on Oct. 9th because the Packers play that evening but that is just a maybe. I have followed or watched Nascar for over 30 years and I am getting to the point where I just don't care about Nascar and one main reason is how the races are shown on Tv.

Roland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roland said...

Im a Nascar fan. I will watch racing. I might be the only person left in this country who does not care for the NFL. I can watch college football till my eyes bleed. I love it. But never got into NFL. Id rather watch Espn self destruct during the chase than watch those overpaid sissies. Call me when the Super Bowl is on.

I am however a massive Atlanta Braves fan, and even though its getting down to cruch time and we are slowly giving up our once massive lead in the wild card,any race takes precedence over the Braves game. I would even record a playoff game. Not missing a race.

ChrisK said...

I'll be interested to see how well the NASCAR Nonstop works. If all they do is follow the leader around, it will be pretty useless. It also depends on how large a box they put the race in.

Also, they probably won't use it during the local commercial breaks. I'm not sure how often those come along though.

Zetona said...

Anon 9:13, where did you hear that? A cursory glance at the ESPN3 website shows no NASCAR listings. They do, however, have Sepak Takraw!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks for your patience. There is a new post up on the RaceBuddy and Watch ESPN news.

We will keep this focused on the NASCAR vs. NFL debate going on across the country this week.

It's a tough one!


Jonathan said...

Its all Nascar all the time here.. Plus I will be at the race Sunday so. NF WHAT???? LOL

SD80MAC said...

Roland, you are not the only guy who does like the NFL. I am a race fan only. I do not watch any kind of football or other stick and ball sports. And I watch all kinds of racing that involves vehicles with 4 wheels that turns left or/and right.

GinaV24 said...

good job, JD. This is awesome news. A lot of my viewing will depend on 2 things - how well does ESPN actually cover the race and how nice is the weather?

I like football and have definitely turned the channel from NASCAR to football if the ESPN coverage is annoying me or when they are in commercial break. The side by side commercial format may help keep me from doing some of that.

But if ESPN simply pounds chase, chase, chase coverage on me, regardless of the actual race taking place, I won't sit inside on a nice fall day and watch an entire race. I'll watch the beginning and the end.

Marsha said...

The NFL Red Zone became available for the first time last Sunday on my cable provider. I watched it during the second afternoon game - it was wonderful to see games not available in my area that I had an interest in. It worked perfectly because the Cup race was on Saturday night.

This Sunday I'll turn to the race when it starts (but won't be watching pre-race as I'll be watching NFL and its pre-race activities). If it is a good race and telecast, I'll stick with the race; otherwise, it will be back to the NFL. When rake leaving season is here, I'll more likely listen to Cup on the radio while outside.

Since we now also have the NFL Network, don't know if it will result in football overload. Time will tell, but for now, I'm very excited about the new NFL opportunities.

And, I am a very long time Nascar fan, but coverage on just a few drivers has caused me to drift from telecasts the past few years.

allisong said...

I am a NASCAR fan, first and foremost. Beyond that, I watch a few IndyCar and F1 races. I am not a fan of any other sports, not even casually, so I won't be flipping over to anything else, including the NFL.

Bring on the Chase!

Anonymous said...

Sorry NASCAR, you are just the ugly girlfriend to me. You have a nice personality, and fun to be around, but now the smoking hot babe of the NFL is now available, I'm now off with her.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my Sundays with you, though the NFL has you outclassed in just about every way possible.

GinaV24 said...

IMO, ESPN has got to focus on the race, not the chase if they want to get the long time NASCAR fans to stay engaged in the race.

the other variable as far as watching the race for me is - what track will they be racing on? Some simply aren't worth spending 4 hrs of my day on - at least in my opinion.

Happily I plan to be at both Charlotte and Martinsville this year.

Anonymous said...

JD, you are so right about ESPN being overly obsessed with the Chase teams and no one else. The other 31 drivers might as well not even show up to the race, based on TV converage. I'm surprised this hasn't been taken care of ealier. You would think the sponsors of the non-Chase drivers would be furious and demand NASCAR do something about it.

Anonymous said...

Richmond was on the opening day of college football season, and a look at the stands told the story.

As for the NFL, once again fans will vote with their remotes for the product they want to see. In the past the results have been obvious, I suspect they will be again this year.

Anonymous said...

Will start watching the races then will stop if the race is boring as they have been until last few laps. Also as long as they talk about only a few drivers as they always do then sponsors will continue to leave NASCAR. Why spend money when your product gets almost no coverage

I know this blog is about tv media coverage but I find it unbelievable that reporters are not all over the menard spin. One just said that they have not heard the radio feed from menards radio. A huge story and they have not even taken the time to listen to the proof. But they ask harvick and plan to ask menard. Come on, like they will say sure he did it on purpose. I guess I have completely misunderstood the job of NASCAR reporters. Ls

John in Chico said...

Don’t know what the problem is here, motor racing comes first in this house period.
Without expanding on the dedication it takes in this sport, the precision that everyone involved has to preform, from the frame shop through to the paint shop and of course the drivers and crews. There’s no coach standing outside every turn telling the driver what to do next, they make their own decisions, many times a lap, without steriods even.
Stick and ball buys their tools, by the case, motorsports makes their equipment to extreem precision and exacting standards.
San Jose is going to vote on a billion dollar stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, a publickly owned facility for a privately owner team. How many major league race tracks are there that are not privately owned? Zero.
When the season is complete we’ll tune in the Raiders and the 49ers and wait for on-line testing or the first laps of practice at Daytona.
Haven’t seen a driver climb the stands trying to assault a fan or better yet pull out of a “game” for a hang nail.
Stick and ball can’t compete, sorry. Our athleats don’t die in their 50’s as a result of the damage done in their “playing” days.
Motor racing, all forms, far exceeds anything professional “sports” does.

Anonymous said...

The Race ....Talk to me about NFL in November

Anonymous said...

JD, watchespn doesn't show commercials, so will NASCAR Nonstop be featured on watchespn or just the actually TV broadcast?

Anonymous said...

I'll watch NFL anytime over what we get from the race. I'll keep up with the race by reading the comments on this site. Why? cookie cutter tracks, cot, gas milage races, fake debris, ZOOM IN CAMERA SHOTS, BUMPER CAMS, ROOF CAMS, REAR CAMS, IN CAR CAMS, SIDE CAMS, UP YOUR CUSS CAMS, A.D.D. CAMERA SHOTS, CHASE. Like Charlie said, when they start broadcasting the race to the home viewer like a person at the race would watch, then I will be back. Also, I will no longer watch anything with a KW, DW, or MW. I had enough. MC

Jimm57 said...

I'm with John in Chico 100%. He hit the nail on the head. I plan my week around Nascar, and altho I may be disapointed in the actual broadcast, there's nothing like hoping the 48 will spin himself out AGAIN!!

Anonymous said...

My need to split my time between two states at the moment has actually given me the ability to enjoy better race coverage. At home, I have standard cable TV and a wireless internet card (5 gig a month limit with unreliable streaming) meaning when I'm there, I TiVo and watch the race while listening only to the TrackPass scanner. I follow Twitter on my phone.

However, away from home like I am this weekend, I have DSL plus DirecTV, meaning I get Hotpass along with whatever looks good and works in TrackPass and RaceBuddy. I pick a driver for Hotpass and toggle the "previous channel" function on the TV between that and the race. I have the DVR recording both channels so I can go back later to review something I might miss. On my laptop I'll have my driver's scanner in one browser and a leaderboard in another. Twitter's on the phone. Football? No interest ever.

The thing is, what I do isn't unusual. Many fans follow races using multiple media sources. It's too bad that they aren't ALL tracked for ratings, but people these days are so obsessed with privacy that it may never happen. I do opt in to tracking whenever possible -- with my TiVo at home and on my laptop. I've allowed the Nielsen folks to track my activity for years, and while I don't know for sure if they track interest in things like TrackPass and RaceBuddy, I like to think they do.